“More than a photographic camera, the A9 remains the acme of photography tech.”
- 20 fps continuous shooting
- No-coma viewfinder
- 693-point AF system
- Bang-up image quality
- Strong 4K video quality
- Inscrutable menu system
- Battery life still lags behind DSLRs
With an MSRP of $four,500, the A9 is Sony’s most expensive mirrorless camera, and likewise the best one for those who desire to capture fast action. Packed with a 24.2-megapixel full-frame sensor, the A9 grabs up to 20 frames per second (fps) and has a earth-course autofocus system for keeping upwards with moving subjects. On top of this loftier-quality foundation is blackout-free shooting, which means you lot can effortlessly track your subject in the viewfinder every bit the electronic shutter (silently) clicks away, a feat no other camera can perform.
It’southward a specialist’s camera, to be sure, one built to win over professional person sports photographers from the likes of the Canon EOS-1D X Mark 2 and Nikon D5. But where those DSLRs have gained majority in the form an integrated vertical battery grip, the A9 maintains the svelte profile of Sony’due south Alpha line of mirrorless cameras, with substantially the same dimensions as the base-level A7 III that costs less than half as much. A bombardment grip is optional for those who need to the extra runtime or better ergonomics. This means you get pro-level power (and cost), just in a form gene that tin scale to meet your needs.
But no camera is complete without lenses, and Sony’s East-mount hasn’t e’er had a skilful pick of long glass, preferred by sports and wild animals photographers. Fortunately, that is starting to change, and Sony even has a 400mm f/two.8 prime now, a $12,000 behemoth of a lens that’s a go-to focal length for many sporting events. All of this adds up to a mirrorless organization that has grown very competent for pro sports and action shooters.
Design and Usability
The Sony A9 looks quite familiar to anyone who’s seen, read nigh, or handled an Alpha-series mirrorless photographic camera. With the lens off, the black-bodied interchangeable lens camera is a meaty 5 x four 10 two.5 inches and weighs 24 ounces with the bombardment. The trunk has congenital-in five-axis paradigm stabilization, helping keep both stills and videos steady.
The A9 does offer one notable exterior difference from A7 cameras: a layer-cake dial on the left shoulder for setting drive mode and focus mode. This is a welcome add-on, addressing one of our continued complaints with the Alpha series about the lack of direct access control. You’ll too detect 4 custom keys — two on top, two on back — so setting this photographic camera up to work the way you want it to shouldn’t be too hard.
The key features on the back are the 3-inch tilting LCD touchscreen with a decent ane.44 one thousand thousand pixels and a 0.5-inch OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF) with three.vii meg pixels. There are better-quality screens out there, but the EVF is excellent. Awkwardly nestled just to bottom correct of the EVF is the movie record button. If you detect information technology hard to reach, you lot can e’er reassign the function to a custom key.
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Stadium sports photographers will exist very pleased to notice an Ethernet jack built in, in improver to USB and HDMI connections. Dual SD carte du jour slots live on the opposite side, which you may need if you program to actually employ that 20 fps burst rate. For best performance, use the fastest speed and highest chapters SD cards y’all can afford. Wireless connectivity options include Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth (for location, appointment, and fourth dimension stamps when paired with a phone) are available to share images.
Battery life has taken a pregnant jump forwards for Sony (although, now surpassed by the newer A7 III) and is rated for 480 shots with the EVF or 650 with the LCD. While high for mirrorless, these numbers are still far from what a professional DSLR can do thanks to its low-power optical viewfinder. Sony’southward dual bombardment grip triples battery life, so serious shooters may want to consider investing in it.
When the A9 launched, nosotros were treated to preproduction a unit at a special printing fifty-fifty and really enjoyed using the photographic camera for a variety of sports. Now a yr later, armed with a terminal product model, we are pleased to study than the sheen hasn’t worn off. The A9 is as engaging and entertaining equally ever, and remains 1 of the most impressive cameras we’ve always used.
Since ane of A9’south claims to fame is its high speed, we gear up off for a local racetrack to run into how well the camera could go along up with thoroughbreds. Unfortunately, Sony’s 400mm f/2.8 wasn’t bachelor for this review. All the same wanting to get as shut to the activeness as we could, we matched the 70-200mm f/2.8 Chiliad Main lens with a 2x teleconverter and — voila!
we had our 400mm (albeit, with a slower effective aperture of f/v.6).
Forth with this zoom — which we feel is 1 of Sony’south best lenses — nosotros had an 85mm f/one.4 prime, a 1.4x teleconverter, and the dual battery grip.
The sensor in the A9 achieves its high speed thanks to a “stacked” design, technology starting time introduced in the Cyber-shot RX100 Four and RX10 II cameras. The A9 marks the get-go fourth dimension a stacked sensor has appeared in a full-frame sensor. Together with the new Bionz 10 epitome processor, the A9 delivers functioning we haven’t seen earlier in mirrorless and DSLR cameras.
Working with the new Bionz X image processor, the stacked sensor can output 20 fps RAW continuously — up to a staggering 362 shots before slowing down. In comparison, Canon’s 1D-Ten Mark II can handle upwardly to 14 fps and Nikon’due south D5 goes up to 12 fps. The A9’s fast clip is thanks in role to an electronic shutter, which means there’due south no physical shutter pall — allow alone a DSLR’south mirror — to move out of the mode between frames. The electron shutter can also achieve shutter speeds of one/32,000, iv times faster than the fastest mechanical shutters.
The stacked sensor can output twenty fps continuously — upward to a staggering 362 RAW photos.
Of course, keeping upward with that speed requires a powerful autofocus system. The A9 features 693 phase-detection AF points along with 25 contrast-detect points. The phase-detection points encompass 93-percent of the frame, and that broad coverage means and increased density should translate to more authentic results. And yes, continuous autofocus is available at 20 fps.
In Jan 2019, Sony unveiled a major update to the A9’s AF system with the addition of Existent-time Middle-AF and Real-fourth dimension Tracking coming via firmware. Real-time Eye AF refines the already excellent Center-AF found in many Sony cameras. Information technology tin now automatically detect a field of study’s eyes without the user having to press a button, and users tin can choose betwixt the right, left, or closest center. Existent-time Tracking, a characteristic congenital into the new A6400, uses a new algorithm based on deep learning for object recognition. Information technology also processes color, subject distance (depth), blueprint (brightness), as well as spatial (distance) information to offering significantly improved AF tracking performance. Combined, these two new features will go on focus locked on a human subject field even if the person turns away from the camera.
We briefly used a beta version of the new firmware, version 5.0, and tin can attest to its enhanced capabilities. It made a really good camera even better. Firmware 5.0 will be bachelor in March 2019, while firmware half dozen.0 — which expands Eye-AF to include support for non-human eyes — volition arrive later this summertime.
During our initial hands-on session with the A9, a standout characteristic was the blackout-complimentary display. With every camera made before the A9, fifty-fifty mirrorless cameras operating in electronic-shutter modes, the screen will momentarily turn black when the picture is taken. So, as your subject moved, yous had to predict where information technology would go. Now, loftier-end cameras have always minimized viewfinder blackout and then as to make this procedure easier, but the A9 has admittedly no blackout at all. You can blitz along at 20 fps and still track your target as if watching a motion-picture show. This was bully even with relatively predicable motion, such every bit in our horse racing scenario.
Of course, you lot won’t always need twenty frames per second, even for sports. The A9 includes options for Low, Medium, and Loftier continuous shooting (5, 10, and 20 fps, respectively) and so yous tin can pick the speed you lot need. Wanting to test its limits, we naturally shot in the High setting, although we did limit ourselves to Extra Fine JPEGs, worried that shooting that many RAWs would have eaten up likewise much space on our memory cards.
Speaking of horses, the A9 did a not bad job capturing them on the hoof. Although nosotros’re hardly race track photographers, by setting the photographic camera to AF-C and outburst to High, we got a ton of keepers. The biggest claiming is going through hundreds of photos afterward the computer. Equally you move through them on the monitor, information technology’s like watching a 24MP tedious-motion pic. Very cool, yes, but besides somewhat daunting.
Equally we zoomed in on many images, nosotros were impressed by the rich colors and zeroing in on clumps of dirt kicked up by the horses thundering by. In betwixt races, we visited the paddock area to grab close-ups of the horses and their handlers. Overall, picture quality was top-notch, but if y’all’re after the most resolution or dynamic range, you can always opt for the 42-megapixel A7R III.
The A9 has a native ISO of 100-51,200 merely can be expanded down to 50 and up to 204,800. In our tests, images were solid upwardly to ISO 16,000, with artifacts condign more noticeable as we made upwards adjustments. Surprisingly, 204,800 is actually usable if you do some cleanups in postal service processing and don’t listen losing some resolution.
Some other cool feature is silent shooting. When DSLRs are rapid-firing, there’due south a noticeable ballyhoo-clack-clack of the mirror and shutter. With the A9, the audio of the electronic shutter is fake — you lot can simply plow it off if you lot want to. Press the shutter and you can’t even tell if information technology’s working, merely a virtual gray frame flashes continuously to let you lot know yous’re taking pictures.
User interface and video
Since this is a Sony camera, information technology’s time for the obligatory rant about the carte du jour system. Permit’s call information technology inscrutable, to be charitable. It’south getting tedious complaining nearly this carte du jour layout and terminology. We highly recommend any buyer of an A9 or other sophisticated Sony A series model to read the total printed manual available from the Sony website. We hope to live long enough to see a complete revamping of this menu system, but information technology’south starting to feel like that is only becoming less likely.
But likewise since this is a Sony, the A9 comes with a healthy dose of powerful video features. 4K video with full pixel readout is possible in both total-frame and Super35 crop modes, thanks again to the stacked sensor technology. This helps limit artifacts similar moiré while delivering sharper video quality. With a fast card and Sony’south XAVC Due south high-bitrate format, you can record 4K/30p at 100Mbps.
What’s missing are the advanced video color profiles, like Southward-Log and HLG. Apparently, Sony doesn’t see videographers gravitating toward the A9, but it’s a scrap odd that these features are bachelor in the $two,000 A7 3, but not a $4,500 flagship. That said, video quality is still very expert, and with photographers having to double every bit videographers these days, cameras like the A9 offer the versatility they demand. Nosotros can’t imagine a wedding ceremony photographer or their clients being disappointed in the color and sharpness motion the A9 delivers.
The camera has a 1-year warranty covering parts and labor.
Even with our squawks about the menu arrangement, the Sony Alpha A9 is very special. For $4,500, it should be outstanding and we’re happy to say it is. At this price, and with features similar Ethernet congenital in, information technology’s targeted to professional sports photographers, but anyone in need of a super fast photographic camera volition appreciate it. And while the 20 fps spec is a headline feature, the A9 does a terrific task with non-moving subjects, likewise, delivering rich, authentic color and more than enough particular for nigh situations.
The A9 is also more than simply a camera. It’south an instance of what mirrorless cameras are capable of, and proof that they tin can do anything a DSLR tin can — and more. The A9 is a forward-thinking production that, even a yr into its life, continues to print the states. Future photographers and tech enthusiasts will undoubtedly look dorsum on it as a turning point in the manufacture.
Are there improve alternatives?
Not really, merely you’d have a hard time taking the Catechism EOS-1D X Marker Two DSLR abroad from the many sports photographers on the nation’s sidelines. That 20.2MP full-frame workhorse costs $v,499 and has a top burst speed of xiv fps so the A9 is a relative bargain by comparison. For the record, the racetrack photographer was using a 1D Ten.
As for mirrorless cameras, there’s really goose egg that competes with the A9.
How long will information technology last?
The Sony Alpha A9 was released in May 2017 and has undergone firmware and software upgrades — and huge enhancements are planned for 2019. In January 2019, Sony announced major upgrades coming in firmware versions 5.0 and 6.0; the starting time, which we tested in beta, is due in March with the second arriving in summer 2019. In add-on to autofocus improvements, the new firmware will introduce a host of quality of life improvements.
Should you buy information technology?
Virtually of us don’t need this camera, but if shooting sports is your
past all means buy it. We actually enjoyed shooting with information technology and are sure you will too — but please read that manual cover to cover to get the almost out of it.
Updated with information on upcoming firmware releases, and our impressions of using a beta version of firmware 5.0.
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