Sony’s new flagship 24mp Sony a9 offers continuous shooting at up to 20 FPS with NO BLACKOUT with AF/AE tracking up to 60 measurements per sec (4-5 times the speed of Canikon) and Silent Shooting for vibration-free shooting up to 1/32,000 of a second! WHEW!!!
Featuring the World’s First full-frame stacked CMOS sensor with integral Memory for 20x faster data readout speed, Sony a9 can shoot 241 Compressed RAW or 362 Jpeg images before hitting buffer.
Sony a9 is NOT a replacement for Sony a7 Series cameras – rather it’s designed to exceed the specs of Canikon Flagship DSLRs.
Sony a7RII still offers the highest resolution of Sony’s fullframe mirrorless line-up, Sony a7SII offers pixel-for-pixel 4K readout with no line-skipping or pixel binning with incredible dynamic range even at extremely high ISO, and Sony a7II remains the bargain in the Sony fullframe mirrorless line-up.
Sony a9 Key Features:
- • Up to 20 FPS with No Viewfinder Blackout
• 693 PDAF points cover 93% of the Fullframe Sensor
• World’s First Full-frame Stacked CMOS sensor with Integral Memory
• 241 Compressed RAW or 362 Jpeg Images Before Hitting Buffer
• ISO 100-25,600 (Expanded ISO 50-80 & 32,000-204,800)
• Dual SD Card Slots including one UHS-II compliant
• Silent & Vibration-Free Shooting
• New Larger NP-FZ100 Battery
• New 3.69 Million pixel EVF with 100 FPS Refresh Rate
• Built-in Wireless FTP + Ethernet Port
• 4D Focus 25% Faster than Previous Cameras
• Wide 14-stop Dynamic Range and 14-bit Compressed/Uncompressed Raw
693 PDAF Points Cover 93% of the Fullframe Sensor
Sony a9 features a whopping 693 Phase Detection AF Points covering 93% of the Fullframe Sensor – compared to Canon 1DX II’s 61 PDAF points, or Nikon D5’s 153 PDAF points – each covering a much smaller area. Sony a9 improved 4D Focus is now 25% faster than any current Sony camera.
World’s First Full-frame Stacked CMOS sensor
Sony has been using Stacked CMOS Sensors in smartphones and one-inch sensor cameras for the past two years but it’s very difficult to make larger Stacked CMOS sensors. Sony a9 features the World’s First Fullframe Stacked CMOS Sensor with Integral Memory allowing much faster data readout. Because data in not streamed to the edges of the frame – but straight through – the camera is able to calculate Exposure, AF/AE and Capture functions in parallel 20x faster than was previously possible.
Shoot up to 20 Frames per Second
For the first time ever in a fullframe camera, Sony a9 allows you to shoot up to a blazing 20 Frames per Second. (Canon’s flagship 1DX II max is 14 FPS and Nikon’s flagship D5 max is 12 FPS)
Silent & Vibration-Free Shooting
Sony a9 is totally silent and vibration free. Silent Shooting mode is ‘game changer’ according to members of the White House pool who are under fire to reduce camera noise by the TV networks. While Silent Shooting is already found on Sony a7S, a7RII, a7SII, a6300 & a6500 this marks the first time it’s appeared on a true flagship camera.
Silent Shooting Mode is ideal for shooting in situations like movie sets, courtrooms or funerals where shutter noise is either prohibited or frowned upon. Silent Shooting allows sports photographers to shoot in 100% Silence at times an audible shutter would not be allowed – such as the back swing of a golf putt or tennis serve.
Sony a9’s stacked CMOS sensor allows much faster readout of the sensor which improves Silent Shooting Mode from previous Sony cameras making shutter speeds up to 1/32,000th of a second possible.
While Silent Shooting Mode’s electronic shutter is 100% silent, there are many times – such as portrait photography – when you might want a slight audible indication of shutter release. There’s a menu option that adds an audible shutter release sound and/or audio signals for other camera settings:
- Menu > Camera 2 > Audio Signals > On: All / On: other than e-shutter / On: e-shutter only / Off
Shutter Speeds up to 1/32,000 sec
Sony a9 features electronic shutter speeds faster than possible with a focal plane shutter – up to a lightning fast 1/32,000th of a second – four times faster than Canikon flagship DSLRs!
Dual SD Card Slots
You asked for it, and Sony a9 now sports Dual SD card slots that allow for redundant back-up. There’s also a latch to secure the card slot cover…not that I’ve ever had one fly open on me.
SD Card Slot 1 is UHS II compatible with Sony’s world’s fastest Sony SF-G cards featuring blistering fast 299MB/s Write Speed & 300MB/s Read Speed perfect for Sony a9’s 20 FPS burst shooting, 4K video, and other buffer-busting uses. If you plan to shoot video, you’ll want to stick to 64GB (or larger) SDXC cards for the best recording Codex.
Size comparison of Sony a9 NP-FZ100 Lithium-Ion battery, left, next to NP-FW50 Lithium-Ion battery.
Sony a9 uses an all-new and larger NP-FZ100 7.2 V, 16.4 Wh, 2280 mAh battery ($79.95). After my first day of shooting, my battery still had 30% juice left in the tank after shooting OVER TWO THOUSAND continuous focus action shots with a mix of E-mount and adapted A-mount lenses. NP-FZ100 performed even better on second day of shooting with 60% battery remaining after shooting over 1400 action and portrait shots.
Built-in Ethernet FTP and PC Terminal
Sony a9 offers FTP File Transfer by both Ethernet and WiFi. It’s the first Sony camera with a built-in Ethernet Port for FTP image upload.
Built-in WiFi transfer is now possible of both Raw and Jpeg images as is compatibility with MiFi Wireless Hot spots.
Sony a9 is also the first E-mount camera that includes a PC Terminal – a welcome addition that I’ve lobbied for since the first generation Sony NEX…
Sony a9 also includes the usual Multi-Terminal, HDMI Mini, Headphone and Microphone ports
Same Width as Sony a7 Series Cameras
Sony a9 measures the same width as a7R II pictured below it. Despite adding dual cards slots, a larger battery, an Ethernet port and PC terminal, Sony a9 is the same width as Sony a7 Series mirrorless cameras. The grip is slightly deeper to accommodate the larger NP-FZ100 battery which I view as a GOOD THING since the a9’s slightly beefier grip makes the camera easier to grip when using long glass.
Sony a9 adds Joystick Controller
In addition to the multi-function Control Wheel, Sony a9 adds a Joystick Controller that allows you to quickly move the focus point or quickly navigate through images in playback mode.
New 3.69 Million Pixel EVF
Sony a9 features a new 3.69 Million pixel EVF with 100 FPS refresh rate that refreshes faster than the human eye. It’s by far Sony’s best EVF to date and so that even when panning, there’s no visible viewfinder lag. Unlike DSLRs, Sony a9 has no flippin’ flapping mirror . You can view continuously with no viewfinder blackout and autofocus and auto-exposure work seamlessly without the need for “predictive” AF/AE since the image is never lost from view.
First Tilt-Screen LCD in a Flagship Camera
Tilt-Screen LCD is a hallmark of Sony cameras – that’s not found on Canikon Flagship DSLRs.
Sony a9 Tilt-Screen LCD will come as a very welcome feature to Canon 1DX & Nikon D5 users. Unlike Canikon flagship cameras, a9 does not require using a prism finder accessory to get a court level angle-of-view of basketball or tennis.
And I LOVE this…EVF/Monitor Switching is DISABLED when the a9 LCD Monitor is tilted upwards making it much easier to shoot from the hip with the LCD tilted upwards.
Sony VG-C3EM Vertical Grip ($349) holds 2 NP-FZ100 batteries and adds a vertical release and second joystick controller. Photographers who are comfortable with the size of Canon 1DX or Nikon D5 may want the additional size of a9 with the vertical grip. Of course, photographers who want a compact, lightweight body will be happy the vertical grip is an add-on not a built-in.
Focus Mode and Shooting Mode Dials
New Dials on the left top side of the camera control Focus Mode: MF, DMF, AF-C, AF-S
Shooting Mode: Single, H Continuous (20FPS), M Continuous (10FPS), L Continuous (5FPS), Timer, Bracket
Relocated Video Record Button
The Video Record Button has been moved next to EVF which seems to be a more natural position for starting video recording with a press of your thumb. The new location also minimizes the chances of unintentional video recording when grabbing the camera. As with previous Sony mirrorless cameras, there’s a Menu Settings than allows you to limit video recording to Movie Mode Only.
A-mount Lens Support up to 10 FPS using LA-EA3
Sony A-mount lenses such as the Sony 300mm f/2.8 G II pictured above will be supported across the full 693 Phase Detection AF Points at up to 10 FPS when used with Sony LA-EA3 Lens Adapter thanks to an upcoming firmware update.
Mechanical Focal Plane Shutter for Flash Photography
In addition to it’s silent electronic shutter, Sony a9 also has a mechanical focal plane shutter option (with speeds up to 5 FPS) when needed for applications such as flash photography or when shooting under pulsing lights at high shutter speeds.
By default, the C3 Button on my camera was set to select between Electronic & Mechanical Shutter.
All-New Menu with New Custom Button Setting Options
Sony a9 gets a new menu with settings: Camera 1, Camera 2, Network 1, Playback, Setup, My Menu
Custom Buttons can be assigned to Live View Setting Effect, APS-Super35 Crop and switching between Silent Electronic and Mechanical Shutter Shooting Modes. Those who want those settings may want to program them like this:
- Menu > Camera 2 > Custom Key Settings:
- Custom Button 1 > Live View Display > Setting Effect On / Setting Effect Off
Custom Button 2 > APS-C/Super 35mm > On /Auto/ Off
Custom Button 3 > Shutter Type > Auto / Mechanical / Elec
Custom Button 4 > (Favorite Setting of Your Choice)
Eye AF 30% Faster than Previous Sony Cameras
Sony a9 offers AF-C Eye AF that’s 30% faster than previous Sony cameras. Eye AF is a great setting for portraits using Wide or Zone Focus Area to focus on the iris of the nearest eye. (Click to Zoom Into Eyes).
By default, Eye AF is programmed to the center button but I prefer to switch this function the the Focus Hold button of the lens since this puts it in a more natural position to activate.
- Menu > Camera 2 > Custom Key Settings > Focus Hold > Eye AF
For action, I use Face Detection instead of Eye AF since this gives the camera a larger tracking area.
AF Tracking Sensitivity Control for Stills
AF Tracking Sensitivity for still photography can be adjusted from 1-5 to control how slowly or quickly AF jumps off the subject when an object passes in front of it. This controls the duration that focus will remain when locked on the subject you’re tracking when it’s blocked from view. This of it as “sticky” focus control.
2.4 Times Over-Sampled 4K
Sony a9 features 2.4 times over-sampled 4K Video (24p/30p at 60M/100M) from the full width of the sensor with no line-skipping or pixel-binning.
High ISO Performance
I don’t like to make any definitive comments regarding High ISO performance until I’ve had a chance to run RAWs through Lightroom, Photoshop and Capture One (See Next Point). But based on early tests conversations with the Sony Engineers who worked on this camera, it appears that High ISO performance should come in better than a7II yet fall slightly below Sony a7RII/Sony a7S II.
Expect Sony a9 Raw file support in Lightroom, Photoshop and Capture One around the time of the camera’s release.
The Bottom Line:
Sony a9 is aimed at the needs of photojournalists or sports photographers who can benefit from silent shooting at 20 frames-per-second with the fastest focusing camera on the planet. It should also appeal to wildlife photographers for it’s ability to track fast-moving subjects with no viewfinder blackout using an EVF that refreshes faster than the human eye.
On the other hand, if don’t need 20 FPS or best-in-class autofocus but want the resolution and low-light performance of a back-illuminated sensor – you might be happier with Sony a7RII. If you’re a video shooter or cinematographer who wants pixel-for-pixel 4K with huge dynamic range even in low light and features like S-Log3, then Sony a7SII might still be the best camera for your needs.
And then there were FIVE.
Sony FE 100-400 F4.5-5.6 GM OSS (pre-order for $2,499) becomes the fifth lens in the Sony G Master lens line-up, joining the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM, FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS, FE 85mm F1.4 GM and FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS lenses. Roughly the size of Sony FE 70-200 F2.8 GM, it’s the first Sony FE lens over 300mm – but it will certainly not be the last…
- • E-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
• One Super ED Element and Two ED Elements
• Nano AR Coating and Fluorine Coating
• Direct Drive SSM Focus System
• Two Floating AF groups for Fast AF
• Optical SteadyShot Image Stabilization
• Zoom Torque Adjustment Ring
• Internal Focus, Focus Range Limiter
• Dust and Moisture-Resistant Construction
• Nine-Blade Circular Diaphragm
• Focuses to 3.2 ft/0.98m for 0.35x magnification at 400mm
• Best-in-class 49 ounce lightweight design
• Focus Hold Buttons can be Assigned Custom Functions
• Compatible with Sony FE 1.4x and 2.0x Teleconverters
Two Floating AF groups for Fast AF to 3.2 feet
Fast focus can be a challenge with long lenses on mirrorless cameras, but Sony FE 100-400 F4.5-5.6 GM OSS utilizes two Floating AF groups – both a Direct Drive SSM and a double-linear motor – for fast AF across the entire focal range. It focuses all the way down to 3.2 ft/0.98m for 0.35x magnification at 400mm – perfect for shooting tight portraits.
Sony FE 100-400 F4.5-5.6 GM OSS includes controls for AF/MF, Focus Limiter, Steadyshot ON/OFF, Steadyshot Mode 1 / Mode 2 (for panning) along with a new Zoom Torque Adjustment Ring.
Sony FE 100-400 F4.5-5.6 GM OSS is compatible with Sony FE 1.4x and 2.0x Teleconverters. Sony a9 has Phase-Detection AF sensitivity to F11 which allows use of PDAF with the FE 2.0x Teleconverter when shooting wide open at all focal lengths.
The Bottom Line:
Sony FE 100-400 F4.5-5.6 GM OSS begins to round out the long end of the Sony FE lens line-up. At roughly the size of a 70-200 2.8 and weighing just 49 oz, it offers more reach that’s perfect for shooting news, events and travel. While a larger 200-500mm might have better addressed the needs of wildlife photographers, when coupled with the Sony FE 1.4x teleconverter it offers that reach without the focus issues that plague the long end of 150-600mm adapted superzooms. With the release of their flagship a9 camera, Sony is firmly stepping into the Pro camera market as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics approaches. More long glass is sure to come…
Pros Put Sony a9 to the Test
It’s rare for me to get my hands on any Sony Camera or lens more than a week before announcement. Rarer still for Sony to put one in the hands of outsiders. Sony a9 was designed based on feature requests from leading news and sports photographers, wire services and photo agencies, so as soon as pre-production a9 cameras were available, Sony invited a select group of photojournalists and sports photographers to them to the test.
At separate events in Washington, D.C. and New York, I joined fellow Sony Artisans Ben Lowy and Patrick Murphy-Racey, and photojournalist/sports photographers David Burnett, of Contact Press Images; Rick Wilking, of Reuters; Doug Mills, of the NY Times; Canadian sports photojournalist Nick Didlick; Robert Deutsch, of USA Today; long-time Olympic veteran Porter Binks and UFC photographer Jeff Bottari to put pre-production Sony a9 cameras through the paces and with a number of lenses including the new Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS lens.
Sony engineers, product managers and my good friends from Sony Pro Support were at the event to channel photographer feedback to make final tweaks to a9 release firmware. In the nine years I’ve worked with Sony, I’ve come to expect this, but communication with camera engineers is truly unique to Sony.
The first six Sony a9 cameras in the world paired with FE 100-400mm and 70-200mm G Master lenses
Sony Alpha product manager Kenta Honjo shows up with a cartload of Sony 300mm F2.8 and 500mm F4 A-mount lenses!
Sony Artisan Ben Lowy puts Sony a9 and FE 70-200 F2.8 GM OSS to the test and searches high and low for the perfect shot…
Expanded Sony Pro Support
Sony is expanding their Sony Pro Support network with 24/7 phone support in the USA and new walk-in locations in New York and Los Angeles where Pro Support members can speak face-to-face to a tech who knows the cameras. Sony is also also expanding their network with Sony Pro Support for Canada.
- • 24/7 Phone Support in USA
• Try-Before-You-Buy Loans
• Walk-in Locations in New York & Los Angeles