102 Autofocus Points on Sony A99 Only Compatible with 6 Lenses At Launch

When the Sony A99 SLT was announced last month, photographers gawked at the camera’s 102-point focal plane phase-detection system that compliments its traditional 19-point AF system. If you’ve been drooling over the idea of using 121 separate focus points, here’s some bad news: the feature may not be compatible with your Sony lens.

The Phoblographer reports that only 6 lenses will be able to take advantage of the new system when the camera is launched later his month.

Poke around on the Sony A99 website, and you’ll discover this to be true. Just take a look at the Features page, and check out what the company says about the new AF-D system:

This highly advanced Continuous AF mode uses 19 AF points with reliable depth-direction focusing performance to steadfastly capture subjects and is strongly assisted by the 102-point multi-point focal-plane phase-detection AF sensor. It continues to accurately focus on the subject whether the subject is moving in depth or plane direction4.

Notice the superscript? Here’s what it points to at the bottom of the page:

4. Note that at the time of launch the following lenses support AF-D: SAL2470Z, SAL2875, SAL50F14, SAL300F28GII, SAL70400G, SAL50050F4G.

So unless you have one of these six Sony lenses, you’ll need to live with the much more pedestrian 19 points and wait for Sony to bring compatibility to your lenses.

Although Sony is saying that it will bring compatibility to a broader selection of lenses through a future firmware update, no timeframe has been given yet.

Sony scored a big win here by having the ginormous number of AF-points widely publicized without much mention of the limited compatibility. Whether or not it’s worth buying a compatible lens for remains to be seen, but in the end, how many AF points does a photographer really need?

  • Michael Lieberman

    Sony keeps on releasing a lot of cool technology that I can never imagine myself ever actually using.

  • James

    forgive my ignorance, but what do you need all those focus points for?

  • Paulo Nunes

    What’s the use of zillions of tiny AF points crowded at the center of the frame?

  • Michael Lieberman

    Most people probably wouldn’t need that many points. Especially if they’re all in the center. This comes from my limited understanding of course but, multiple points are useful if part of a subject is lit better than the rest of the subject and you can focus on one element of the subject and get the rest of the subject in focus. Also depending on the type of focus you can look at contrast so that it can look for parts that stick out from the background and more points usually means faster focus and more accurate focus but at least from what I’ve read over the years it’s diminishing returns once you get enough points. Also it depends on the type of focus points as well. Someone better educated than I could probably help you out more.

  • Sergei Zhukov

    Looks like it’s Sony’s way to make 3D autofocusing possible. Why it only covers the middle of the frame is still a mystery. Supposedly a99 will have no hunting because it knows where the subject is and will drive the lens in the right direction instantly. Yet, it’s sad that Sony decided to use crop sensor AF module from a77 and combined it with on sensor tech of Nex6. Center only – FAIL.

  • Leif

    That was my thought as well. Instead of having a variety of af points across the whole frame they put so many in the center which seems to be practically a bit useless and more like a marketing gag.

  • Mark

    What we want (at least Nikon users) is for more points to be cross-type sensors (two planes of contrast detection) instead of having most of the peripheral sensors being one-dimensional. There is no need for this many points clustered in the middle except for assisting the camera when tracking, etc. In other words, I doubt anyone in their right mind would use hundreds of sensors shooting in single point mode. In fact, on all of my cameras, I’ve decreased the focus points available to select in the rare occasion I do scroll through points. These days I find it faster to simply use the center point and recompose quickly.


    There is use out of the million points in the centre… how refined are the AF points on a Canon or a Nikon? It’s more about precision of the centre than anything else.. I get what you’re saying though, edge focusing would be nice.. if the lenses didn’t have focus zoom, vignette to compensate against and softness..

  • Samuel

    Just seems unnecessary really, for most people anyway unless sony have something exciting about to launch that has a need for such a closely grouped amount of focus points it seems a bit of a gimmick.

  • Mansgame

    It’s still MUCH better than what the 6D and D600 have with all the AF points bunched up in the middle- essentially making it act like the D40’s 3 AF points did.

  • Mr Gubrz

    i always wonder why theres no “rule of thirds” af pt zone selection
    just a stripe at 1/3 and 2/3 of af pts
    i think THAT would be useful and maybe have me move away from center and recompose

  • sayithere

    I’ve never understood why they make so many points crowded at center. In fact, I always use ONE point at the center of the frame, focuse and recompose. this is the way I shoot since the day I bought pentax ZX-5n about 15 years ago. but sometimes I think more points would be useful if it spreaded acros the frame, based on rule of third. make them all cross and double cross point. if someone make it, I will buy one.

  • Orion

    Do we really need 102 points? … technology is just making us more stupid than ever!

  • Orion

    There is no real need for that … but marketing just push nonsense to us

  • Michael Dahl

    Hmm.. 70-200 2.8 missing. That’s not exactly ideal. Hopefully that will be added very soon.

  • Mansgame

    Focus and recompose doesn’t work at an angle when using f/2 and below often times. Also, I doubt you shoot sports with your pentax.

  • how99

    all i care about is that the eyes are in perfect focus with the lens wide open (and that the lens is sharp!). i agree that all these points in the middle don’t help as eyes are often outside this area – so i am still dealing with focus/recompose.

    what i would really love is some kind of eye recognition option where it focused instantly on the closet eye — wherever in the frame that eye happened to be. then i could truly forget about focusing altogether and just compose naturally without distraction.

  • robertsmx

    AF points are most effective in the middle, and as light drops, it is those on the outside that become useless. And if you’re into action photography, chances are, you use single AF or a central zone more often than not (for similar reasons).

  • robertsmx

    Depth map/tracking, and AF points in the center stick around when the light is low (or smaller aperture is used). The AF points on the periphery are relatively weak (for that matter, check out how many active points you’d see in Nikon D800 when using aperture smaller than f/5.6).

  • Mario

    gee,..102 AF points?! I was really looking forward to buying a camera with 103 AF points or more :)

  • peter

    No one realized that if you shoot photo of a running cheetah it will be better to have 9 af points that really cover full screen then 102 in the middle so u only cover him with 1 of this 102 … Im sure he will be sharp as hell

  • samael9

    Does seem kinda silly that the system wasn’t developed to initially include the 70-200G, which I bought along with the A99 this week. But I can confidently assure the audience that the AF freakin’ rocks with this combo, despite the lack of AF-D at this moment. They’ll get it in a firmware update soon enough. They ain’t stupid about this stuff.

  • samael9

    Hehe… Just saw your post. Would’ve been nice with this lens, but, good things are always worth waiting for. I’ve been drooling over the A99 since the rumors began leaking. Almost bought an A900, but am glad I made it through that decision. The A99/70200G is fantastic. Can’t wait to put on my CZ2470. I tried one in the store and it is juicy-cool too!