Sony Fullframe Flagship Showdown a9 -vs- a99 II

Published: May 22, 2017


Who’s the Winner in the Battle Between Sony’s Flagship Fullframe Cameras?

Here’s a look at how the fullframe Sony a9 E-mount flagship and Sony a99 II A-mount flagship cameras compare depending on the way you shoot and the lenses you may already own.

OBJECTIVE: Sports Photography or Birds in Flight
WINNER: Sony a9

While Sony a99 II’s Hybrid Phase Detection AF system with 79-point dedicated AF sensor working in tandem with a 399-point on-chip focus system and 12 FPS with continuous AF and tracking gives a99 II is extremely impressive…but Sony a9 has a BIG edge for action thanks to 20FPS continuous shooting up to 362 fullframe JPEGs or 241 RAWs before hitting the buffer all with continuous AF and best-in-class AF tracking with no blackout across a whopping 693 Phase Detection AF points that cover 93% of the sensor. WHEW!!!

OBJECTIVE: Landscape Photography

While a99 II tops a9 in resolution 42mp-24mp, I’d rather not shoot through a mirror if I can avoid it. Image quality loss from translucent mirror is about the same as using a high-quality UV filter (of course you’d be much worse off slapping a $15 UV filter over your lens). Sony a9 also has sharper lenses for landscape. The G Master trinity FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM, FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM, FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS all top the optical performance of their A-mount counterparts. Add in the new FE 12-24mm F4 G and E-mount simply offers the best glass for landscapes – but for those of you who want to argue it’s all about the pixels, let’s call this a Draw. Of course to be honest, Sony a7RII is a better choice for landscapes than either of these…

OBJECTIVE: Portrait Photography
WINNER: Sony a9

Sony a9 and a99 II are both great choices for portrait photography each offering great lenses for portraits, but the FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM, FE 85mm F1.4 GM, FE 90 F2.8 Macro G OSS, FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS and FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS all top the optical performance of their A-mount counterparts. A-mount wins with the incredible 135mm 1.8 ZA, over the Zeiss FE Batis 135mm 2.8. Huge edge goes to a9 for Eye AF that’s FINALLY fast enough to really work!

OBJECTIVE: Using Minolta AF Lenses
WINNER: Sony a99 II

Sony a99 II is the clear winner if you’ve got lots of Minolta AF lenses (or screw drive Sony A-mount glass). While Sony’s LA-EA4 adapter will allow AF with screw drive lenses on E-mount bodies, LA-EA4 uses the rather antiquated AF system from a65 which is not nearly the speed or coverage you get from a99’s Hybrid AF that combines a dedicated 79-point PDAF + 399-point on sensor PDAF system.

OBJECTIVE: Using E-mount Lenses
WINNER: Sony a9

If youwant to take advantage of the superior quality of E-mount glass stick to Sony a9. While Sony E-mount’s thinner bodies allow you to use of A-mount glass on E-mount cameras, the reverse is NOT true. You can’t use E-mount lenses on A-mount cameras.

OBJECTIVE: Using Adapted Lenses
WINNER: Sony a9

Because of its thin 18mm Focal Flange Distance, Sony a9 allows you to adapt virtually any fullframe lens. The same cannot be said for a99 II since A-mount has a 44.5mm Focal Flange Distance that makes it far less viable for using adapted lenses. (Read More: Guide to Understanding Flange Focal Distance)

OBJECTIVE: Battery Life
WINNER: Sony a9

Until now, bigger was better, but Sony NP-FZ100 Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery changes the game! While only slightly larger than the previous much-maligned NP-FW50 E-mount battery it packs much more life than the larger A-mount battery.

OBJECTIVE: Lowest Noise at High ISOs
WINNER: Sony a9

Sony a9 wins again thanks to larger pixels and no light loss from the translucent mirror used in a9 II.

WINNER: Sony a99 II

Sony a99 II sensitivity rated at -4 EV @ f/2.8 AF is not merely best for Sony – it’s best-in-class – beating both Canon 5DM4 and a9 by a full stop.

OBJECTIVE: Street Photography
WINNER: Sony a9

Weighing in at 23.68 oz, Sony a9 is nearly half a pound lighter than the 29.92 oz Sony a99 II. Plus a9 is thinner and smaller for a stealthier appearance on the street so it won’t attract as much attention from the people you want to photograph…or thieves…

OBJECTIVE: Stealth Silent Shooting
WINNER: Sony a9

While Sony a99 II is very quiet with EFS enabled – it’s not silent. Sony a9 Silent Shooting mode (also found on a7s, A7RII, a7SII, a6500) makes it a much better choice for courtrooms, film sets, the back swing of a tennis serve or golf putt or anything such as a wedding where Total Silence is Golden!


Both a9 and a99 II offer down-sampled 4K video – but if you’re serious about video, save your money and buy a Sony a7SII with native pixel-for-pixel 4K and S-Log3 instead.

OBJECTIVE: High Speed shooting with Studio Flash
WINNER: Sony a99 II

If you’re shooting fast action with a studio flash like Profoto D2 or Profoto Pro-10 2400 AirTTL that can support continuous high frame rate, Sony a99 II can sync at 12FPS while a9 tops out at 5FPS when using strobe.

OBJECTIVE: Connectivity
WINNER: Sony a9

Both cameras offer the same multi-terminal wired tethering and both offer WiFi connection but only a9 will allow you to transfer RAWs via WiFi. Sony a9 is the only Sony camera with an Ethernet port that allows remote editing used by many sports photographers, photojournalists, wire services and photo agencies.



Order Sony a9 ($4,498) from B&H Photo | Amazon | Sony


Order Sony a99 II ($3,198) from B&H Photo | Amazon

And the Winner Is….

Sony shooters who now have great flagship cameras in both A-Mount and E-Mount!

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20 thoughts on “Sony Fullframe Flagship Showdown a9 -vs- a99 II”

  1. Why not include the A7Rii here though? The A7R II should have one 3 of the comparisons:
    Landscape, Portrait and Lowest Noise at High ISOs.

  2. Actually, Mark, I’d call portraits a draw. While a7RII has better resolution, Eye AF is FINALLY ready for prime time on a9. As for low-noise at High ISOs, I never pass final judgement on that until I’ve seen the release firmware and RAW support is available from Adobe. Based on how the a9 RAWs look in Capture One, I may change my opinion on that one too…

  3. OBJECTIVE: Sports Photography or Birds in Flight
    WINNER: Sony a9

    i,m not sure…..ofcourse the A9 have better specs , but the A9 has no 300mm 2.8 and no 500mm F4
    you can use the LA-EA3 adapter ,but you have in stead 20FPS , you go to 10 FPS the A99II dont need the adapter

    1. If more people owned the Sony version of either of those lenses, I’d agree with you Gustav. But since I know how few A-mount 300/2.8 and 500/4 lenses Sony sells, I didn’t give that much weight. I’m actively lobbying for a FE 400/4 that sells for a more affordable price than the A-mount 500/4.

    2. Tend to agree with Gustav, and would point out that the A99II will do similar buffer @ ~250 RAW in 18MP mode (which is similar to A9 resolution), so the apples-to-apples comparison is not that far apart,A9’s physical buffer is not any larger… Which brings up the biggest compromise with the A9 — loss of nearly half the resolution vs A99II. Much bigger compromise than the virtually imperceptible (to the eye) down side of the SLT mirror. Really sort of an applels/oranges comparison. I think it really all comes down to a person’s lens investment. If I owned a pile of nice E-mount glass the A9 would be attractive… But I don’t (I have A-mount Zeiss & G from16-600mm (the 600 is my only Minolta). So, while the tech advance is exciting for the future, that model doesn’t interest me in the least, as far as a potential purchase.

      1. 18mp is APS-C – not fullframe – so that’s really apples and oranges.

        As for resolution, a9 was built to compete with 1DX II and D5, both of which are 20-21mp and none of those users were asking for 40+ mp

        1. But you make my point, exactly, Brian. You get nearly same resolution in APS-C mode with A99II (including buffer size) as A9. Huge deficit, regardless of what type of shooting you’re doing, yet your “comparison” repeatedly harps on loss of “image quality” by the SLT mirror. 1/2 of 1 stop of light for the SLT mirror in the A99II — not loss of “image quality” — superior resolution is maintained, and llikely superior dynamic range and maybe even ISO… Your repeated “image quality loss” statements are not only baseless, they’re erroneous. So you’d “rather not shoot through a mirror” — who could not agree with that? Would love it if the A99II was mirrorless and provided the additional 1/2 of 1 stop of light… but the comparison to using a clear filter is also baseless, and erroneous.

          The A9 undoubtedly represents a major technology milestone, with the silent shutter, and improved AF (yet to be seen how it compares directly to SLT — we’ve heard this before with E-mount; I pre-ordered a A6300 due to that hype — first thing out of the box I attached the LA-EA3 and 70-400G2 and the AF hunted like crazy in bright sun. Back to Amazon it went.).

          I appreciate what you do, Brian, and don’t really know where I’m going with this comment… I just shook my head when reading your conclusions. Every decision in photography is a compromise. As an owner of the A99II (and A-mount user since its inception in the Minolta film days), it wins every comparison to every other body on the market, for my use (landscape, wildlife, and portraiture). Not a single one of your “objectives,” in my usage (which does not include E-mount lenses (curious why you have an objective for using E-mount lenses, but not one for using A-mount lenses 🙂 )). After using the A99II for a few months, I pondered the A9 as a second body, but instead purchased a second A99II.

          I just didn’t see this as an accurate side by side comparison, since the major deficit on the A9 side was mentioned in passing, while the SLT was blown way out of proportion and declared erroneously to reduce image quality. And then you reply to me defending my apples/oranges comment with comparisons to Nikon & Canon bodies… Sorry, I just SMH again 🙂

  4. This “comparison” is laughably biased. Have you even shot a sports event with the a9 yet? The a99II with its nearly double megapixel advantage is the best all around cf the two and will save you $1300. The a9 promises a great deal but has no one reciommending it yet except paid Sony shills. Let’s hear from an experienced sports or wildlife photographer who is not on the Sony dole before we throw roses at it. (And that tired old canard about SLT “light loss” impacting IQ in any real world way is just a joke. Did you know that the a9 takes a 1 stop dynamic range hit as compared to the a7rII?)

    1. If you’re going of of Bills *estimated* PDR measurements, it isn’t a full stop and it is within a half of stop of the A99II.

  5. Brian, thanks for the great overview. In someways I wish the A9 was closer to the A99II is specs (and price!) but I’m too invested in the E-mount glass. Regarding low-light AF, isn’t true that the -4EV focusing of the A99II is only the center point?

    I’m very curious to see how the A9 does in real world low-light shooting. With the way Sony’s mirrorless works the specs don’t really tell the whole story. Unlike SLRs (and SLT?) the working aperture has a big effect on speed and accuracy.

  6. The a9 is certainly interesting, but I shoot a lot of birds with the a99ii + 500/4 … often with the 1.4x TC … and even at 700mm, I often can’t come close to filling the frame. I think of the 42MP sensor almost like a cropped sensor compared to the 24MP. I get more pixels on the subject … my crop factor just happens in post instead of in camera. Does that make an sense?

  7. TheDogPhotographer

    I love Sony and use the A7Rii for my dog portraits and had the a6000 for action, but let’s be honest it’s pretty horrific for dogs coming towards you. The A99ii came out and I thought great 42mp and 12fps, but the 70-200 A mount (which I’d need) is a bit soft at 200mm @2.8 looking at reviews. So the Minolta 80-200 2.8 APO looks to perform better in speed and sharpness however the limited focus points is a problem. The A9 came out and now using the A7Rii for a couple of years the concern is body toughness and weather sealing. The eye piece is torn and the outer part of the card door is coming off. For £3000 that shouldn’t be happening. The specs are amazing for the A9 but how’s it going to keep up in a year or two? I don’t baby my kit at all. I’m tempted with the 1dxii untill Sony improves the body of the A9. How much better is the image quality of the A9 compared to the 1dxii? I crop a lot due to dogs changing direction a lot.

    1. My wife tells me that I’m pretty brutal on camera equipment unless you judge me on a scale of photojournalists. Wear-and-tear varies depending on the user. I’ve never torn an eyecup in 9 years shooting Sony – then again replacing an $11 Eyecup is comparable to replacing the windshield wipers on your car. Meaning it’s pretty small in the scheme of things.

      As for your first question, Sony a9 + FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS is an incredible combination – both in terms of AF and image quality.

  8. Brian excellent comparison yet try shooting an A9 when it 10 degrees out and you need to wear gloves. I highly doubt you will see to many A9’s at the upcoming Winter Olympics next year. The A9 can go head with Canon Nikon pro bodies up to 70-200/2.8 and during summer out door sports and in the body is still to door. Even if Sony were to announce a 300/2.8 and 500/4 E mount lenses the body is still to small

  9. Thank you for a great comparison.
    I am not tied to any current lenses. With that in mind what would you recommend for me ?
    I do mainly bird photography and want to at least be able to print a 11×13. I want to be able to look at my photo on screen and zoom in and see the face of the bird or rather the eye very sharp
    I know some of this will also be due to the lense.
    Could you recommend a body if price wasn’t an issue (even though it is)
    And my next choice that would be the cheaper version?
    The bodies I have read abt are A9, A99ii, A7iii, A7Riii and lastly A7Rii.
    Another post mentioned A7Siii
    Thanh you for your help

    1. Since you threw out the “price isn’t an issue” caveat, that’s easy. Sony a9. Hands Down. Period.

      The answer to cheaper version: Sony a7 III. Not the same AF Speed and half the FPS, but a good value.

      I would NOT go the A-mount route with a99 II. It should be obvious the future is E-mount.

      There is no a7S III.

      1. I do a lot of bird photography, and I have both the a7riii and a9, and I almost always use the a7riii for birds. Bird photography (especially birds in flight) is like sports photography except imagine you’re only interested in capturing the ball (football, soccer ball, baseball), and you want the ball to be sharp so you can count the stitches and read the logo on it. The balls (or birds) are almost always so small in your frame and you’re always trying to get more pixels on your subject because you know you’re going to want to crop pretty much no matter how long a lens you use. At least, that’s the way it seems to me.

  10. I have a couple of a99iis and the 500mm f/4 and 300mm f/2.8. I shoot mostly wildlife, and I practically never used the 300mm … always looking for more reach and more pixels on the subject. BUT … now that I have the a7riii and a9 plus the 400mm f/2.8, the a-mount gear hasn’t been out of the bag. I use the a9 when I really need the 20fps and am sure I can fill the frame, but tend the use the a7riii more because of the 42mp … again, mostly wildlife. And for wildlife, I always have one of the teleconverters on the 400mm. For the little sports I shoot, I use the a9 and mostly shorter lenses … I’m usually too close for the 400mm. Not sure whether the new firmware will change any of those decisions. I guess we’ll see. I’m pretty sure I will be selling the a-mount gear soon.

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