One of the less than spectacular releases of this past year was the SLT-a99. While many will tout the improved 24MP sensor's ISO and noise response, the real improvements that should be in the camera are STILL missing.
One thing that has been a true bother to many flash photographers is the continued use of SONY's (Minolta) proprietary infra-red pre-flash method of synchronizing and triggering electronic flashes. A few of the unfortunate historical aspects of this IR-flash control system are:
- when you have natural (sunlight) or artifical light, you can easily interfere with signal.
- if there is any kind of solid obstruction between the camera and the flash, again... interference or complete failure to trigger.
- the Optical Sighting-angles, where the IR-receiver of the slave flash unit is just out of alignment with facing the IR-trigger TTL unit (usually on the camera's hot shoe). You will not know if the flash will fire, until you actually try to use it. You very well could miss important shots, when you are adjusting the angle of your lights, to improve shadows on your subject. It's just a lot more work and frustration, having to worry about this.
The reasonable and technological solution is 2.4 GHz RF... which is an omnidirectional radio signal that does not suffer from optical impediments and can synch a flash at nearly 100-feet, w/o failure. First time, every time. You can even trigger your flash on the opposite side of a wall.
Now, there are a few third party RF-remote flash trigger/TTL systems out there, such as the Pixel "KING" (for SONY) or the newer Phottix "Odin" (for SONY). Issues with these units are that they have some control over TTL flash units, but are "buggy" on the a99, because SONY has decided to go back to an advanced ISO hot shoe on that camera (see image below).
The third party folks are having a heck of a time keeping up with SONY's changes. Who suffers? We do! Let's face it,we would much prefer a true manufacturer's design at work, not some inferior add-on.
SONY really needs to step-up their game and build reliable RF-flash triggering/control into the new SLT-a99 or release something similar, perhaps an "SLT-a99-RF". This solution was recommended more than two-years ago and they still choose to ignore this wise and far more practical idea, which is leaving many SONY photographers exasperated and frustrated with this brand new $3000 release.
Anyway, the a99 does not have a WiFi link, either, so off-loading image data still requires that either the SD card be removed and put into a reader... or by using a USB wire and a laptop. That can be very inconvenient, for the user on the go. Not having to drag a laptop around is quite a benefit, if you are shooting in the field.
For something that is supposed to be "the most advanced camera"... it's still using 20th-Century technology for rather basic photography functions. Let's take it up a notch, SONY and make this "flag ship" sail in the 21st-Century!
Yes, I am disappointed.