Sony A99II unofficial guide, tips and tricks
Besides the advanced customizable autofocus functions, The Sony A99 II has some more hidden features that you might want to familiarise yourself with.
I’ll start with some of my settings after a few weeks experience with the A99 M2.
12fps and Bulb Mode
Cont. Priority AE (12fps dial)
This mode uses a fixed fast aperture (camera does not change the aperture during shooting) and allows you to shoot images continuously at high speed. Pressing the middle button of the multi-selector (even while the shutter button is pressed) changes your focus from whatever focus area mode you’re in (like wide) to the centre of your image. This way, you can switch from wide mode to the centre your subject and follow technique during shooting. A very powerful feature.
Make sure you set the mode dial (front lower left dial) to C (Cont. Priority AE). The camera will lock-on focus and exposure while shooting. If the focus mode dial is set to MF or S (Single-shot AF), the focus is locked on the first image.
Remember that ISO Auto range can be changed in this mode dial function, so I’d advise setting the upper limit to ISO 3200 or 1600.
Besides that I have my camera set to:
AF drive speed to slow (the camera takes a bit more care with AF, resulting in a larger number of in-focus shots)
AF track duration is set to 3 or 4
Setting the A99II to Bulb mode is also an often requested feature. This mode allows you to shoot trails of light with a long exposure.
You should use a tripod to get good results.
Set the mode dial to M
Turn the rear dial clockwise until Bulb is indicated.
Select the aperture value (like f/8) using the front dial.
Press the shutter button halfway down to adjust the focus.
Press and hold the shutter button for the duration of the shooting.
After shooting, noise reduction will take about as long as the time that the shutter was open. Remember cannot shoot anymore while noise reduction is in progress.
If Bulb mode isn’t accessible, make sure:
Cont. Priority AE is OFF
Smile Shutter is OFF
Auto HDR is OFF
Picture Effect is not set to HDR Painting or Rich-tone Mono.
Multi-Frame NR is OFF
Drive Mode is NOT set to Cont. Shooting, Cont. Bracket or Self-timer Continuous
You’ll need to assign this function to a button for it to work.
MENU – Custom Settings (the wheel pictogram) – page 6 – Custom Key Settings – assign the Eye AF function to the desired button.
The Eye AF feature will let the camera focus on the subject’s eyes while you keep the button pressed.
Point the camera at a face, and push the button to which you have assigned the Eye AF
Press the shutter button while pressing the button
The Sony A99II may not be able to focus on the eyes depending on the circumstances, like when no
Eyes can be detected within the autofocus area. In such cases, the camera focuses on the face.
You cannot use Eye AF when the focus mode is set to C, set it to A.
When the camera focuses on the eyes and Smile/Face Detect is on, a detection frame is.
Displayed on the face after it is shown on the eyes. When Smile/Face Detect is off, a detection frame is affixed to the eyes.
Auto Obj. Framing (not available in RAW)
Menu – Camera Settings – page 7 – Auto Obj. Framing – desired setting (On or Off)
When the A99II detects and shoots faces, macro shooting subjects or subjects that are tracked by Lock-on AF, the A99 M2 automatically trims the image into an appropriate composition and saves it.
Live View Display
MENU – Custom Settings (the wheel pictogram) – page 2 – Live View Display – desired setting
Live view shows your images as they’ll appear out of the camera, with effects of the exposure compensation, white balance, Creative Style, or Picture Effect on the screen.
Setting Effect ON (default setting and Intelligent Auto, Superior Auto, Sweep Panorama, Movie or Scene Selection): Displays Live View in conditions close to what your picture will look like as a result of applying all your settings. This setting is useful when you want to shoot pictures while checking the results of the shot on the Live View screen. Live View is always displayed with the appropriate brightness even in Manual Exposure mode.
Setting Effect OFF: Shows Live View without the effects of exposure compensation, white balance, Creative Style, or Picture Effect. This is useful for precisely checking your composition in particular conditions. Like when you use a third-party Flash, such as a studio flash, Live View Display may be dark for some shutter speed settings.
You’ll need to assign this function to a button for it to work. Can be useful for portraiture or macro shots where you want to have full control over the effects of your aperture settings.
MENU – Custom Settings (the wheel pictogram) – page 6 – Custom Key Settings – set the Aperture Preview function to the desired key.
With the screen or viewfinder, you may see an image with an aperture that differs from the shooting result. Since the blurring of a subject changes, if the aperture is changed, the blurriness of the actual picture will vary from the image you were viewing before shooting.
While you press and hold the key to which you assigned the [Aperture Preview] function, the aperture is stopped down to the set aperture value, and you can check the blurriness before shooting.
Shot. Result Preview
MENU – Custom Settings (the wheel pictogram) – page 6 – Custom Key Settings – set the Shot. Result Preview to the desired key
With the monitor or viewfinder, you may see an image with an aperture that differs from the shooting result. Since the blurring of a subject changes, if the aperture is changed, the blurriness of the actual picture will vary from the image you were viewing before shooting. While pressing down the key to which Shot. Result Preview is assigned; you can check the picture preview with the DRO, shutter speed, aperture and ISO sensitivity settings applied. Verify the shooting effect preview before shooting.
Some effects cannot be previewed depending on the shooting settings. Even in that case, the settings you have selected will be applied to the images you shoot.
e-Front Curtain Shut.
MENU – Custom Settings (the wheel pictogram) – page 5 – e-Front Curtain Shut – desired setting ON or OFF
Yes the Sony A99 II has an electronic front curtain shutter! This shortens the time lag between shutter releases.
Remember that when you shoot at high shutter speeds with a large diameter lens attached, the ghosting of a blurred area may occur, depending on the subject or shooting conditions.
When a lens made by another manufacturer (including a Minolta/Konica-Minolta lens) is used, turn this function off. If you set this function to On, the correct exposure will not be set, or the image brightness will be uneven.
Lens compensation features
The Sony A99 II has a range of built-in lens compensation functions. I can see this being useful for journalism and sports shooters who want to quickly get their jpegs to their editors with the minimum amount of editing.
MENU – Custom Settings (the wheel pictogram) – page 6 – Lens Comp – Shading Comp – desired setting ( Auto or Off)
Compensates for the shaded corners of the screen caused by certain lenses.
The Shading Comp function is only available with certain A-mount lenses.
Chromatic Aberration Compensation
MENU – Custom Settings (the wheel pictogram) – page 6 – Lens Comp – Chro. Aber. Comp – desired setting (Auto or Off)
Reduces the colour deviation at the corners of the screen, caused by certain lens characteristics.
The Shading Comp function is only available with certain A-mount lenses.
MENU – Custom Settings (the wheel pictogram) – page 6 – Lens Comp – Distortion Comp – desired setting (Auto or Off)
Compensates for the distortion of the screen, caused by particular lens characteristics.
The Shading Comp function is only available with certain A-mount lenses and with some cannot be turned Off.
Memory card issues
Some people have reported problems with certain memory cards. These problems include:
Unable to magnify images on the card.
Buffer related problems.
Inability to read the memory card.
SD, SDHC, SDXC memory card and Memory Stick PRO Duo, Pro-HG Duo, PRO-HG HX Duo media are all supported.
Before contacting Sony support desk, make sure you:
Format the memory card once you’ve inserted in the camera.
If you’re using fast burst speeds, use a fast card (32GB 95MB/s read and 45mB/s) write is my recommendation to take advantage of A99 II FR and Buffer.
If you’re using larger cards (64 or 138GB), make sure you get the fastest available.
An SDHC UHS-I card (stands for “Ultra High Speed”) is recommended for best performance in burst mode.
Sandisk Extreme Pro SDHC UHS-I cards seem to work very well.
There you have it; Sony A99 II advanced features guide late 2014. The more I use it, the more I realise how customisable this camera is.
There is a steep learning curve, though, but referring to the manual and reading tutorials like this one will help you grasp its’ full potential.
If you have any more questions on the Sony A99 II, feel free to comment.
Sony A99II autofocus tips and tricks
The new Sony A99II autofocus capabilities are probably one of the significant improvements over the A99.
Its advanced AF system has 79 phase detection AF points and includes 15 cross points within the central area of the sensor.
The new A6500 represents better value-for-money and has an autofocus system that in some ways exceeds the capabilities of that in the A99II. But the added flexibility and customizability of the latter will appeal to many actions and wildlife photographers.
We’ll go over some settings that influence the performance of the focus area settings first.
Autofocus functions and Focus Mode dial
AF functionality is quickly set by the dedicated Mode Dial on the bottom left on the front of the camera.
The usual choice of Single-shot AF (S), Continuous AF (C), Automatic AF (A, which switches automatically between S and C) or Manual Focus.
Tip: Set this to Continuous AF for action photography.
AF Track Duration
The extent of subject-tracking duration can be fine-tuned in five steps in AF-C mode.
A low setting is best for slow-moving subjects with predictable movements.
A high setting delivers more responsive focusing for shooting different subjects at different distances, such as wildlife or sports photography.
These settings are also available in Full HD movie shooting. Tip: It might be a good idea to assign this to a button you don’t use much, or at least adjust this setting depending on the shooting conditions.
AF Drive speed
AF drive speed is switchable between slow and fast.
This method is best used for critical focusing. It’s linked to the rate at which the camera acquires key focus, either when the lens has to bridge a significant change in focus distance, or when the conditions force the camera to hunt when trying to lock-on.
Different lenses behave differently, for instance; a wide prime lens has much less travel than a telephoto.
The main advantage of the slow mode is to cut down on hunting in low light and with tricky subjects. Overall focus speed is only slightly affected.
Slow mode just takes a tiny bit more care, when approaching focus lock, not to overshoot or miss minor details in certain conditions.
Sports and action photography might benefit from using Fast.
Note that switching from slow to fast does not necessarily mean you’ll get better results, as focus acquisition might differ only in the order of microseconds, which may be insignificant.
Drive mode settings
Much depends on your drive mode settings.
I found that in Continuous Shooting Lo, the camera performs better with AF Drive Speed set to Fast.
In Continuous Shooting Hi, I got the best results when AF Drive Speed was set to Slow.
AF range control
This feature is accessible via the C button.
The AF range control allows you manually to select a foreground and background distance to which the AF system will not respond.
This is similar to the focus limiter on some zoom lenses that restricts the range of distance the camera will attempt to focus on.
Tip: This in-camera feature is especially useful for shooting fast-moving subjects with a complex background that commonly distract camera AF systems.
Center Lock-On AF
Turning on Center lock-On AF in the menu enables a feature where you can use the Multi-controller centre button to tell the camera on what to focus.
Procedure: frame your image so that your subject is in the centre, press the Multi-controller to select that is what you want to focus on, and it will follow your subject.Pressing the Multi-controller middle button twice will cancel your selection. This software can recognise and track an item based on colour and position.The active AF area is illuminated in white upon focus lock as a visual reminder of which point was manually selected.
Tip: An interesting aspect of this feature is that if you lose track of the subject, it can resume the Lock-on AF function when the subject re-appears on the screen.
Activating the Center Lock-on AF with the Multi-controller centre button (when Center Lock-On AF is set to ON) will override your selected Focus Area when your subject moves beyond the area and reverts to the Wide Focus Area.
Deactivating it will go back to your selected Focus Area. It is not always dependable for fast-moving subjects, but it is a great way of reverting to Wide Focus area in whatever Mode you are (except Lock-on AF Wide) when your subject moves beyond that field.
This does change the function of the Multi-controller middle button in all modes (except Lock-on AF Wide) as when it is OFF; it acts as a centre focus button.
Tip: After some experimentation, I found that switching it OFF yielded better results, as I prefer having the option of a dedicated centre focus button as opposed to a lock-on follow focus button. Before going to the selectable Focus Area settings, you should know that all selective zone Focus Area settings are easily adjustable on-the-fly to other areas using the Multi-controller.
There are a six different Sony A99II autofocus area settings selectable.
For subject tracking in action photography, the Expanded flexible spot placed in the centre and physically tracking your subject after locking on with a half-press of the shutter button will generate the most number of in-focus images.
Tip: This mode activates adjacent points if it is in danger of losing focus, a very useful feature.
Wide focus area
The default option is the 79 point Wide Focus mode.
When using this mode, the camera decides which of the focus points to use to set the focus.
This method is somewhat random, in the sense that it will lock-on to any movement in your image.
If you have a lot of activity going on with different subjects, it will switch to any of the 79 focus points depending on what the camera thinks you want to lock-on too.
Great if you don’t mind what is in focus (as long as something is) but not so great if you want to track one subject.
The 72 AF points are divided into 9 zones.
The three horizontal zones count 9 points while the two vertical zones adjacent to the centre each count 7 and the four corners each have 8.
Zone mode lets you choose one of these 9.
The camera will autofocus in the same way as the wide focus area, but only in the selected zone.
Tip: Works well if you find the wide focus area setting too unstable in focussing on what you want, but you still want the camera to do some follow focusing without physically moving the A99II itself too much. Remember that you can always quickly switch to different zones using the Multi-controller.
Setting your focus are to one centre spot, limits it to focussing on that centre spot in the middle of the frame.
If all else fails, using centre spot focus and tracking the subject yourself (keeping it in the middle of the frame ) is a proven technique of keeping focus.
Tip: Expanded flexible spot does the same with the added benefit of switching to adjacent points.
Flexible Spot is a manual AF area selection mode and lets you manually set the main AF point by using the Multi-controller to highlight one of the 15 points.
This is comparable to the Center mode, except without the benefits of the dedicated centrally mounted AF sensor.
Related: Flexible spot points
A similar setting For both Flexible Spot and Expanded Flexible Spot is Flexible Spot Points.
You can select if you want to use all AF area points or just 15 points spread out over the entire AF area.
Tip: I’d recommend setting it to 15 points and Expanded Flexible Spot if you want to use a Flexible spot zone, as this area setting activates surrounding AF points if it loses focus anyway.
Expanded flexible spot
Expanded Flexible Spot mode keeps focusing steadily even if the selected AF point loses track of the subject, by activating eight surrounding AF points that recognise the subject.
This is my favourite setting for action photography, as it gives you the most control over what the A99 MII is focussing on
It’s easy to run through the flexible spots (more so if you’ve set the limit to 15 Flexible Spots). Tip:
switch to other zones by using the Multi-controller
pressing the Multi-controller button puts focus on the centre of your frame
Lock-on AF: Wide
Using all AF points, the camera will try to identify your target and follow it as the target moves in all directions.
It adjusts target frame size based on subject characteristics and makes use of the optimal AF point for the smoothest possible autofocus. Just press the shutter to activate it.
Tip Works well if your scene is not too busy, and is what I would call one of the advanced functions of the A99 M2. If you’d like to know more about the Sony A99II autofocus system and other features, you can check all my posts here.
Link to this post!