Sony Announces Sony a9 ‘Reborn’ with Firmware Update 5.00 Coming in March!

Sony a9 ‘Reborn’

Sony has announced a major firmware update 5.00 for Sony a9 is coming in March with THIRTY-FOUR feature updates including Real Time Tracking and Full-time Eye AF using .

Sony refers to Firmware Update 5.00 as ‘Sony a9 Reborn’ which is an accurate term since it contains more updates than you typically find in a next generation camera model with 11 feature updates from a7 III & a7R III along with 23 all-new features – yet it will be available as a FREE FIRMWARE UPDATE!

I had a chance to shoot with an early pre-release version of the firmware last week in Los Angeles. Here are the highlights:

Real Time Tracking

With the fw 5.00 update, Lock-on AF has been replaced by Real Time Tracking. Sony a9 already had the Best AF system of any camera on the planet, but Real Time Tracking takes autofocus to another level.

Lock-on AF uses three factors to track focus:
Color | Distance | Face

Real Time Tracking uses five factors to track focus:
Color | Pattern | Distance | Face | Eye

Real Time Tracking processing and analyzes these five factors in real time to provide the most accurate Continuous AF. Ever.

…and did I mention the upgrade will be free?


Sony a9 | Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA | Real Time Tracking with Eye AF (Auto)


Sony a9 | Sony FE 85mm F1.4 GM | Real Time Tracking with Eye AF (Auto)


Sony a9 | Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM | Real Time Tracking with Eye AF (Auto)

Full-time Eye AF

As a portrait photographer, my favorite new feature is that you no longer need to Press & Hold a Custom Button to activate Eye AF. Once you enable Face/Eye Detection in the menu, Eye AF is on whenever AF is active. This includes half-press of shutter button or full-press of Back-Button AF.

Full-time Eye AF works so well that I don’t see any real need for portrait photographers to ever use the joystick again…


Sony a9 | Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM | Real Time Tracking with Eye AF (Auto)

Right/Left Eye Select

As with previous versions of Eye AF, you can allow the camera to auto-select the nearest eye, but now you also have to option to select the eye of your choosing:

Menu > Camera Settings 1: AF2 > Face/Eye AF Settings > Right/Left Eye Select > Auto/Right Eye/Left Eye

Just for clarity, please note that as the name implies, ‘Right Eye’ refers to the subject’s right eye – not camera right.

You can also assign “Switch Right/Left Eye” to a Custom Button such as the Focus Hold Button


Sony a9 | Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM | Real Time Tracking with Eye AF with Left Eye Selected

Visual Custom Key Menu Settings

Speaking of Custom Key Settings, the Custom Key Menu now includes a visual display of what you’ve assigned to each Custom Button.

1:1 Aspect Ratio

Those of you who follow me know that I’ve long been pushing Sony to add 1:1 and 4:3 Aspect Ratios to their cameras. While that request made it’s way into Sony RX1R II, they had yet to make their way into Sony fullframe mirrorless cameras. But we’re halfway there with the inclusion of 1:1 Aspect Ratio in this early firmware version. I strongly made my case for adding the 4:3 Aspect Ratio as well and it’s my hope that it finds it way into the release version.

New Transfer & Tagging App

Imaging Edge Suite gets a fourth app. The new Transfer & Tagging App for iOS and Android smart phones allows you to transfer photos to your smartphone, pre-load a caption general caption than use voice to update the caption, crop and upload via FTP or publish on social media. Whew!

[This app will also be available for a7 III & a7R III.]

Phase Detection AF all the way to F16

Firmware 5.00 will add a full stop of sensitivity to Phase Detection AF extending it all the way to F16!

Blue Peaking Color Added

In addition to the existing Red, Yellow & White Peaking Colors, FW 5.00 adds the fourth option of Blue.

Focus Area Limit

Focus Area Limit allows you to deselect AF Areas from the Menu that you do not wish to use.

Focus Circulation

Focus Circulation allows you to jump from the far right side of screen to far left side (or vice versa) or top to bottom similar to video game controls. that junction is off by default but in can be enabled in the menu.

ISO Range Limit

ISO Range Limit allows you to set a Minimum and Maximum ISO. For instance if you don’t want the camera to go into Expanded ISO you could set Minimum ISO to 100. You can also select the maximum ISO you wish to use.

ISO Display in Video Mode

When shooting video the ISO will be displayed on the bottom of the frame – even when Auto ISO is selected.

Touch Focus / Touch Tracking (New to a9)

One of the most-requested features from a7 III/a7R III comes to a9.

Contrast AF Improved from 25 Points to 425 Points (New to a9)

Sony a9 Contrast AF has been upgraded from 25 to 425 Points – just like a7 III/a7R III.

Rollover to Second Card Slot (New to a9)

Another of the 11 features from a7 III/a7R III that’s new to a9 is the ability to set image recording to automatically rollover to Card Slot 2 when Card 1 is full.


Sony a9 | Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM | Real Time Tracking with Eye AF (Auto)

Sony a7 III & a7R III Firmware Updates Coming in April!

Sony a7 III & a7R III firmware updates 3.0 are coming in April with Evolved Eye AF, Animal Eye AF and Interval Shooting (yes, an intervalometer as a menu item.)

Sony a9 Firmware Update 6.0 Coming this Summer!

Sony a9 firmware updates 6.0 will also add Animal Eye AF and Interval Shooting.

More Firmware Updates to Come!

If your favorite feature request is not included in this list, rest assured that Sony in already working on another round of firmware updates for this summer that may well include the features you’ve requested…

Order Sony a9 from B&H Photo | Amazon

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108 thoughts on “Sony Announces Sony a9 ‘Reborn’ with Firmware Update 5.00 Coming in March!”

  1. Please let Sony know we need the AF point to change from grey to some other color when moving it around the frame, as it stands it is very difficult to see in dark environments. I work as a concert photographer and that would be an awesome update. Thanks

  2. Hi. Wonder if the same tracking system will apply to the a7riii/iii. It looks like they say they will have real time eye tracking. but not real time tracking.

  3. Shang-Hsien Yang

    Thank you Brian for providing important feedback to Sony or these impressive update wouldn’t have happened. By the way, is it possible to ask them to provide a firmware update that could allow the a9 to use its own AF system and bypass the one found on the LA-EA4? It’s not like they are coming up with a new A mount camera anymore, and therefore there wouldn’t be market cannibalization problems anyway.

        1. They are. Just no AF. They just need an external focus sensor for AF. Ergo LA-EA4.

          Screw-Drive focus is extremely outdated lens technology. Like asking how to post to Facebook by telegraph…

          1. So they need to release a LA-EA5 with a99ii focus points… the a99ii can use a lot of focus points and Eye-AF with the 135mm 1.8 zeiss 😀 …

            And this new firmware will work great with LA-EA3? Will add all features to this adapter?

  4. Thanks Brian for the information. For those shooting the A99ii, could some of these features be made to trickle down through a firmware update? Notably more reliable eye af. The A99ii has it, but when I used the a9, I realized it’s not as good. Thanks

  5. Great article Thanks. Will it also be relevant when shooting video. I occasionally shoot video with the A7RIII and still trying to work out best auto focus settings when filming several people moving around without the camera ‘focus hunting’. Any tips would be appreciated

  6. Thanks Brian for the info. I really hope 1:1 ratio and maybe sometime 5:7 or even 4:5 and the “Visual Custom Key Menu Settings” comes to the a7rIII & a7III too.
    And still no color option for the joystick focus box, thats a bummer. IMO a real flaw, should have been one of the first things to add in a firmware update for all joystick alpha cameras and the search for the focus box could end 🙂
    Maybe you could bring sony to add this feature in all joystick alphas.
    Thanks anyway.

    1. I’m pushing everyone at Sony to Illuminate the Joystick AF point in orange. They’re hearing it.

      As for Aspect ratio. I’ve made a strong case to add 4:3 as well. Far more requests for that and it’s right between 4:5 and 5:7.

      1. Ok thanks, then there is hope!
        Things i wish would be added sometime is something like sRAW, smaller RAW files pixel wise, for situations where 42MP or even 24MP are too much.
        And as mentioned by others here, custom memories for custom buttons and function menu settings for different shooting situations. Ah that would be great.
        Thanks again.

  7. Great sum-up Brian!
    I’m very curious about “AF area limit” and “focus area circulation”.
    Does “AF area limit” mean that you can leave the AF areas you don’t use out of the AF area menu?
    What’s “focus area circulation”? Does it mean you can assign a button which switches the reserved AF areas in a circle without popping up a menu?

    One thing I complained the most about A9 is the way of switching AF areas. Not very efficient. “Recall custom hold” helps a lot though.

    1. Focus Area Limit allows you to deselect AF Areas from the Menu that you do not wish to use.

      Focus Circulation allows you to jump from the far right side of screen to far left side (or vice versa) or top to bottom similar to video game controls. that junction is off by default but in can be enabled in the menu.

      1. Oh, thank you for explaining!

        I love AF Area Limit. I misunderstood Focus Circulation.
        Though I’d like to see a function like “AF Area Switch” which let you directly switch among the selected AF areas by pressing, without popping up a sidebar menu.

  8. The one change I know so many photographers want is simply the AF points to not be dark grey. It would seem a simple fix and improve the usability of these cameras in low-light and dark backgrounds so much. I really hope this is on the Sony to-do list.

  9. fan of your work

    Brian,
    Any news about being able to have the crop mode give a black line similar to how it works in the Nikon DSLRs? The zoomed in approach is fine, but there are times when it is just easier to switch rapidly back and forth when you can see the whole frame and what is in the crop. I would kindly ask you to push Sony to allow us into the menus as the camera is writing. The arbitrary lock out seems silly.

    If you pushed for the second card slot rollover when shooting, thank you! That was one of my pet peeves about the Sony dual card slot implementation.

    1. Just because Nikon does something does not make it good. The vast majority of users want a full screen image in Crop mode – not a tiny image surrounded by a thick black border.

      Card Slot rollover is one of the new features Sony added with a7R III, now they’re bringing all those “new” features back to a9.

  10. Please Brian tell Sony to add to the firmware update the bright red AF bracket. I talked to a lot of people and they also agree with me. It’s so hard to find the AF bracket at night or on certain situations. I do miss a lot of shots when I am trying to find the AF bracket. I push the center button to move it automatically in the middle but it’s pretty dang archaic way of finding it.

  11. Thank you again for your work. But, ditto on the gray-colored focusing area when selecting by toggle button. Pre-toggle A7 models highlight a color when selecting areas. Need that feature again, as it causes missed focusing. Difficult to see. … thank you !

  12. Still no SLog-Profiles in the A9? Come on! Are Sony having thermal issues with the stacked sensor? What a disappointment! I still have to leave my A9 at home when traveling for video projects. My A9 video files won’t match the pro cameras (FS-Series) we carry and the recent A7S2’s photo files are not big enough for production stills. Carrying my R3? Mh, it crops when shot at 4K… Have been waiting for SLog-Profiles since summer 2017, now that would be a real rebirth!

      1. Hi Brian, can you please elaborate more on what you mean by “some functions are not possible with certain hardware” and are you referring to you own research or its partial confirmation by Sony rep? Thank you for clarification.

  13. Hi Brian.

    Nice summary, thanks ! I have two question, as a wedding photographer. For sure, the tracking and face AF seems improved, and the ability to have face/eye AF on all the time by half pressing the shutter is good news for most users.

    However, I sometimes dislike face AF or eye AF. In very low light, sometimes eye AF doesn’t find the eye, and even face AF struggles a little bit : it can focuses on the hairs, or on another face/object present into the square. In that case, sometimes a flexible spot in AF-C succeed when eye AF and face AF give up. So I mostly use flexible spot, face detection off and a custom button for eye AF if the light is ok for that.

    I don’t know if you had enough time to try that, but I have 2 questions :

    – For sure face/eye AF seems to have improved, but just in case, can we still use the eye-AF in the old way, by pressing a button while having face AF deactivated ?

    – And if that is the case, does the eye AF still benefits from the advanced tracking abilities of this new firmware ?

    Thanks !

      1. Thanks, but I need to press on, too, please. Is eye-AF still programmable to a button or as an option for Recall Custom Hold? Or do we have to switch face detect on for real time eye-AF tracking and off if we want the standard focus modes?

          1. Please, Please, don’t remove the press and hold eye af option or call it dreaded.

            Having the face detect now being linked with the eye af is great but I’m well aware how the face detect work now and most probably it will continue to work like this in the future with the help of the eye af. In other words if the af area is something different then wide it will use the face/eye which is behind the af area currently selected and ignore it if it is not. Thus, if you want to focus on an an eye which is not behind the current af area position you have to first move the af area, something which might not be what everyone wants.

            Now you just hit the eye af button, it goes to lock on wide, finds an eye and lock on focuses on it allowing you to recompose on the fly. This is great on many levels and applications.

            So please, don’t advocate removing it :).

        1. Thanks Brigitte, that was my question, but I wasn’t sure how to formulate it clearly. If the press and hold button doesn’t work anymore, I REALLY hope that it can be activated / deactivated by a simple button (and NOT several clicks).

          Patrick Murphy-Racey has been very impressed by the new face AF as well, even for action and with objects in the path, but he says that there are still a few moments when it lost it. In that case, I would like to be able to use a single point AF without opening a Face AF button, switching between on/off/registered faces. For me it would be a slight step backward in usability if it can be disabled or activated very fast…

  14. By looking at the comments there is no doubt that the number one feature people need is orange(bright colour) focus area display. If this is under consideration I have some though about how this can be done fully.

    Most important when moving the area it should light up in orange. It will be great if we have a new option which can be assigned to the multi selector button press to light up the focus area without the need of moving it – you might want an easy way to find out where it is.

    Even now this limitation can be mitigated to some extend by assigning “Focus Settings” to the multi selector button press instead of the default “Focus Standard”. When pressed this brings the focus settings display and if you move the focus area it turns orange.

    Unfortunately the “Focus Settings” display and the controls it is using was designed back in the NEX days where we did not have front and back dials. Now I think that it should be reworked like following:

    1. When initiated by a button press(most probably the multi selector button) it should immediately light up the focus area in orange, not only when moved with the multi selector.
    2. Now we can change the focus area using the control wheel but this is very tedious on a9/a7m3/a7r3 because they are too many of these. This can be changed to work with the from/back control dials like if the “focus area” is added to the function menu: front dial changes the area(wide, zone, spot, tracking) and the back dial changes size when on spot or tracking.
    3. The control wheel can be used to change the focus mode(afc, afs, dmf, mf).

    I realise that this is applicable for the third generation cameras only, but they are the ones which really need the ability to completely revamp the focus settings in one go without the need of pressing multiple buttons and going through different menus.

    Thanks!

  15. Hey Brian, could you tell them to add focus bracketing (or shifting) function? Fujifilm, Olympus, Panasonic, Nikon already have this function for some time. It’s good for macro and product photography, and sometimes even landscape photographers use this.
    This used to be possible on older cameras with an third-party app https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZOdZKWb1Fk , but now you can’t do it on new cameras since they removed the apps support.

    1. Oh yeah ‘focus stacking’ that i forgot to add to my wishes in my comments above. Would be another big big add on for existing alpha series 3 cameras. If fuji, oly, pana, nik and ph1 can do it, it shouldn’t be a problem for sony too to add via firmware!! Something i’m a bit jealous of nikon & co.

      1. Hey @Andreas, focus bracketing/shifting and stacking are a little bit of different notions:
        – bracketing: camera move focus automatically in the back and front of the set focus distance (see for example Magic Lantern for Canon cameras)
        – shifting: camera move focus automatically only in one way (This is how it’s called on Nikon D850)
        – stacking: the process of combining resulted images (you also can do this on the computer)

        For example Olympus has this 2 functions:

        1) focus shifting: as raw file (they are calling the function bracketing in the menu, but the focus only goes in one direction, so the name “bracketing” is not correct). You convert raw files to TIF/JPG then on computer you use a specialized software for ALIGN and COMBINE. (not all software have align option, for example CombineZ can only stack)

        2) focus bracketing+stacking: the camera takes 8 JPG images (1 on the current focus distance, 2 in front and 5 back). Then it will combine the 8 shots in a single JPEG file (so 9 files will be on the card). This will NOT align the images, so you need to make sure you are using a tripod, otherwise the combined image wont look to good.

        P.S. don’t be jealous on Nikon, they have the worst implementation. They focus shifting is very slow (like 1-2fps), you see a black image on the LCD (while the images are made) and you only can start the process by entering in the camera menu.
        In Olympus you have 10+ fps, you see the all the images on the LCD (like a movie), you can start the process by pressing camera shutter (or a remote control).

  16. I’d like to see a medium raw option for future 60mp cameras that would switch to full raw when in crop mode. This would allow the brilliant 24mm f1.3 to be a smaller file size through mraw at 24mm and still a decent resolution in normal raw format in crop mode. Add an 85mm f1.4 GM with the same 60mp body and you would have 24f1.4, 35f2, 85f1.4, 135f2 in two lenses. A neat kit that covers a big range.

  17. Hello Brian
    I have seen examples for animal eye-AF working for dogs, cats, lions but does it work for birds where the eyes are much more on the side of head?

    Thanks!

  18. Huge! Brian please tell your Sony insiders a big big thanks for the upcoming internal intervalometer!
    Just yesterday, my D850 sitting beside the a9 and me mumbling to myself ‘shame I have to carry a separate intervalometer for the Sony’.
    Just more proof Sony listens and acts….maybe not as fast as we want but they get there.
    Now where is the mini-a9 ???

    Only thing seriously missing after the two big updates will be an internal Smooth Reflections app.

    1. Interval Shooting is extremely well designed so it’s obvious that a lot of thought went into it.

      I have not heard any requests for Smooth Reflection lately, but I did mention that to Sony. I know most people who had the app loves it. I’m not certain about the numbers, but Sony certainly knows.

      The mini-a9 is only available from SonyAlphaRumors. You need to ask them about their release date.

      1. I have the A7RII and the A7RIII, the only reason I am still keeping the II is the smooth reflection app. As shown on the Fred Miranda site, perhaps Sony doesn’t even know how powerful this tool is. It would be nice if Sony add this feature and focus stacking in the future.

  19. Good news! I would buy another a9 right now if they add the PP, S-LOG for video.
    I can’t understand why they don’t do it but I apreciate the new features, even if they don’t implement PP and S-LOG and the orange color to AF points.

      1. Pardon my ignorance, but isn’t it all Codec? How would the hardware (fastest on any Sony camera) not be able to deliver this?

      2. Just out of curiosity, why do you say it may simply not be possible? My understanding is that the A9 had the most robust processor engine of any camera in the lineup.

  20. All the new focus advances sound great. I have a more mundane request; any way to add voice annotation to the A9, so I can tag the ID of sports players by their name or number while doing a quick review on the LCD?

  21. Tethering over WLAN is still missing… maybe Sony could add this… all the hardware chipsets for this is still available and integrated, so its only a software thing… A big deal for Clients Work.

  22. Brian, thank you very much for the concise and detailed list of the new features coming in the A9 firmware update(s). I really appreciate the effort you put into education and information!

  23. Brian is there anyway that you can push for the ability to copy and transfer body settings to another body via SD card ? I have a hell of a time every time I send a body in to get repaired or get a loaner to copy all the settings. They already have the ability to read and copy to a body custom IPTC settings so it should not be too hard to implement it.

    1. No. It’s been suggested, but as you can see from the THIRTY-FOUR UPDATES in the next firmware, so have a lot of other things. Sony engineers must focus on the most-requested feature additions

  24. Kenneth Henriques Jr.

    I have the A9 and am wondering when in March does Sony release the 5.0 update and will it be announced? Thanks in advance Brian.

      1. Not to be cheeky Brian but it would be nicer if they could simply give us a release date.

        We’re only 11 days in and I’m already tired of Googl’ing it every day (and I’d be surprised if I were the only one doing that) 😉

  25. Excellent upgrade and the path I hope Sony continues this philosophy. I left Nikon after 32 years and just added an A9 to the system (A7riii and A7iii already on board) with the 400 2.8 next. As a sports photographer who deals with everything from antiquated high school fields and gyms to major college and pro stadiums. PLEASE PLEASE add the anti-flicker to the A9 Software. That would icing the cake for journalism and sports work completely.

    1. It’s quite possible that anti-flicker is not compatible with a9’s stacked sensor design. Anti-flicker isn’t compatible with Electronic Shutter and possible that it not compatible on a9 even with Mechanical Shutter selected.

  26. AZ Abdullha REDEYE

    Hi Brian. Just update to version 5.01. Any upgrade from 5.0. Tried to figuire it out, but still can’t find it.

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