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Sony a9 II Review

Until May 2017, the Canon EOS 1D X Mark II and the Nikon D5 were the monarchs of professional sports and press photography. Then Sony came out with the Alpha A9, which completely transformed the dynamic of the competition.

One of the most impressive cameras we tried was Sony’s first full-frame mirrorless sports shooter. It was much more compact, noticeably less heavy, and insanely quick.

Now, in 2019, the A9 of the second generation is available to purchase and is attempting to persuade professionals that they should upgrade. On the other hand, Sony has elected to keep most of the basic specifications from the previous generation of the A9 and has instead decided to implement what, on paper, appear to be just minor changes to the A9 II.

The typical user might not place a lot of importance on such little adjustments, but industry specialists who rely on absurdly fast rotations and require high-speed performance will be the ones to appreciate what the Sony Alpha A9 II has to offer in terms of its capabilities. The A9 family of cameras was explicitly developed for consumers like these, and the most recent model does not fall short of expectations in this regard.

Because there is a significant amount that is comparable to the earlier model, we have decided to focus our evaluation on the positive aspects of the most recent version to avoid repeating ourselves. Because we were hoping you could make an informed decision about whether or not it is worthwhile to update, we have detailed all of the new features and then moved on to discuss the image quality.

The A9 II is somewhat pricey (having started with a price tag of $4,500/£4,800/AU$ 7,299), although the price of the original A9 has decreased by a considerable amount. Do the little tweaks made to the Alpha A9 II make it a good investment?

Sony a9 II Build Quality.

There are a total of 43 new functions included in the Sony Alpha A9 II in comparison to its predecessor. While there are just a few tiny modifications in the camera’s physical design, the newer model is an absolute joy to operate.

One of these modifications to the design is a broader and deeper grip that makes the camera fairly pleasant to hold and operate for extended periods, especially for individuals with relatively tiny hands.

The AF-ON button has been made more prominent and noticeable, and the multi-selector joystick has been given a textured surface, making it more tactile. These changes make it simpler to locate and utilize the buttons without removing your focus from the viewfinder.

The drive dial on the A9 has been carried over to the A10. However, there is now a locking button next to the exposure compensation dial in the top right corner of the camera. This button prevents the dial from being accidentally adjusted.

In addition, the lens lock button on the A9 II has been revamped, and the area around the lens attachment has been improved with more cushioning for shock absorption. The newer camera iteration features improved weather sealing compared to its predecessor. Instead of only having hinged seals, the ports, card slots, and battery compartments all have sliders that are double-sealed.

Sony a9 II Autofocus

We could not test the camera at sporting stadiums because individuals did not feel at ease with us posting images of them on a public platform; thus, we decided to test the camera on animals instead. This type of photography necessitates a focusing mechanism that is both quick and accurate, which is especially important when photographing birds; the A9 II did not let users down in this regard.

The autofocus system that came standard on the first generation A9 was lightning-quick and completely dependable. When we looked at it at the time, we believed there was no way it could be improved, but boy, were we ever wrong.

Even when using smaller apertures with Focus Priority turned on, the new camera’s autofocus performance was improved thanks to a simple change to the AF algorithm. This change was made possible by the new Bionz X processor, which was also responsible for making the change possible in the first place.

Accurate tracking is also capable of keeping up with subjects who move irregularly (like birds flying and changing directions suddenly).

We observed that the camera’s autofocus (AF) system was unable to lock back onto the subject’s head, but it was more than capable of tracking the body of the subject. The camera’s AF system does occasionally experience difficulties when the head of the subject temporarily vanishes and then returns.

Sony a9 II Image quality

The A9 II, much like its predecessor, produces some outstandingly good performances. The 24.2-megapixel sensor produces photographs that are crisp, with vivid colors and plenty of fine details. Though, because of the fast rate of camera computations, RAW files include a more significant amount of chroma (color) noise than JPEGs do. This is something that can be corrected during the post-processing stage, however.

The ISO performance is superb, with almost no noise at the lower settings and quite acceptable levels when you rise to 12,800 and 25,600, as demonstrated in the image of a bird in the water that can be seen further down on this page.

The above image was captured at an ISO of 12,800 and was subsequently cropped by 20%. When seen uncropped, the image scarcely displayed any evidence of brightness, but when cutting the image to zoom in closer to the subject, grain became apparent.

Even if noise starts to become noticeable at 51,200 and above, you should still be alright bringing it up to 102,400; however, we recommend only going that high if you have to and if you’re shooting JPEGs.

Sony a9 II Specs

Body typeSLR-style mirrorless
Body materialMagnesium alloy
Sensor
Max resolution6000 x 4000
Image ratio w:h3:2
Effective pixels24 megapixels
Sensor photo detectors28 megapixels
Sensor sizeFull frame (35.6 x 23.8 mm)
Sensor typeStacked CMOS
ProcessorBIONZ X
Color spacesRGB, Adobe RGB
Color filter arrayPrimary color filter
Image
ISOAuto, ISO 100-51200 (expands to 50-204800)
Boosted ISO (minimum)50
Boosted ISO (maximum)204800
White balance presets9
Custom white balanceYes
Image stabilizationSensor-shift
Image stabilization notes5-axis
CIPA image stabilization rating5.5 stop(s)
Uncompressed formatRAW
JPEG quality levelsExtra fine, fine, standard
File formatJPEG (Exif v2.31)Raw (Sony ARW v2.3)
Optics & Focus
AutofocusContrast Detect (sensor)Phase DetectMulti-areaCenterSelective single-pointTrackingSingleContinuousTouchFace DetectionLive View
Autofocus assist lampYes
Digital zoomYes (2x)
Manual focusYes
Number of focus points693
Lens mountSony E
Focal length multiplier
Screen / viewfinder
Articulated LCDTilting
Screen size3″
Screen dots1,440,000
Touch screenYes
Screen typeTFT LCD
Live viewYes
Viewfinder typeElectronic
Viewfinder coverage100%
Viewfinder magnification0.78×
Viewfinder resolution3,686,400
Photography features
Minimum shutter speed30 sec
Maximum shutter speed1/8000 sec
Maximum shutter speed (electronic)1/32000 sec
Exposure modesProgramAperture priorityShutter priorityManual
Built-in flashNo
External flashYes (via hot shoe or flash sync port)
Flash modesFlash off, Autoflash, Fill-flash, Slow Sync., Rear Sync., Red-eye reduction, Wireless, Hi-speed sync
Flash X sync speed1/250 sec
Drive modesSingleContinuous (H/M/L)Self-timerBracketing (AE, WB, DRO)
Continuous drive20.0 fps
Self-timerYes (2, 5, 10 secs + continuous, 3 or 5 frames)
Metering modesMultiCenter-weightedHighlight-weightedAverageSpot
Exposure compensation±5 (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)
AE Bracketing±5 (3, 5 frames at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV, 2/3 EV, 1 EV, 2 EV steps)
WB BracketingYes (3 frames, H/L selectable)
Videography features
FormatMPEG-4, AVCHD, H.264
Modes3840 x 2160 @ 30p / 100 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 30p / 60 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 25p / 100 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 25p / 60 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 24p / 100 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 24p / 60 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 120p / 100 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 120p / 60 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 100p / 100 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 100p / 60 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 60p / 50 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 50p / 50 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 30p / 50 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 25p / 50 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 24p / 50 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 60p / 28 Mbps, AVCHD, MTS, H.264, Dolby Digital1920 x 1080 @ 50p / 28 Mbps, AVCHD, MTS, H.264, Dolby Digital1920 x 1080 @ 60i / 24 Mbps, AVCHD, MTS, H.264, Dolby Digital1920 x 1080 @ 60i / 17 Mbps, AVCHD, MTS, H.264, Dolby Digital1920 x 1080 @ 50i / 24 Mbps, AVCHD, MTS, H.264, Dolby Digital1920 x 1080 @ 50i / 17 Mbps, AVCHD, MTS, H.264, Dolby Digital1920 x 1080 @ 25p / 24 Mbps, AVCHD, MTS, H.264, Dolby Digital1920 x 1080 @ 25p / 17 Mbps, AVCHD, MTS, H.264, Dolby Digital1920 x 1080 @ 24p / 24 Mbps, AVCHD, MTS, H.264, Dolby Digital1920 x 1080 @ 24p / 17 Mbps, AVCHD, MTS, H.264, Dolby Digital1920 x 1080 @ 60p / 28 Mbps, MP4, H.264, AAC1920 x 1080 @ 50p / 28 Mbps, MP4, H.264, AAC1920 x 1080 @ 30p / 16 Mbps, MP4, H.264, AAC1920 x 1080 @ 25p / 16 Mbps, MP4, H.264, AAC1280 x 720 @ 30p / 6 Mbps, MP4, H.264, AAC1280 x 720 @ 25p / 6 Mbps, MP4, H.264, AAC
MicrophoneStereo
SpeakerMono
Storage
Storage typesDual SD/SDHC/SDXC slots (UHS-II compatible)
Connectivity
USBUSB 3.2 Gen 1 (5 GBit/sec)
USB chargingYes
HDMIYes (micro-HDMI)
Microphone portYes
Headphone portYes
WirelessBuilt-In
Wireless notes802.11ac + NFC + Bluetooth
Remote controlYes (Wired or wireless)
Physical
Environmentally sealedYes
BatteryBattery Pack
Battery descriptionNP-FZ100
Battery Life (CIPA)690
Weight (inc. batteries)678 g (1.49 lb / 23.92 oz)
Dimensions129 x 96 x 76 mm (5.08 x 3.78 x 2.99″)
Other features
Orientation sensorYes
Timelapse recordingYes
GPSNone

Sony a9 II Verdict

The A9 II was developed with the photographer in mind, primarily from the ground up. This camera is probably going to be overkill for the typical user since most of the additional functions are going to go unused and unappreciated by the user.

However, about the demographic that this product is intended for, this is a significant improvement over the first generation A9. It has the appearance of being much more sophisticated and is a far more effective tool for photographers working in the field.

The absence of XQD or CFexpress card ports, which would allow files to be saved to the card much more quickly, as well as the restricted touchscreen capabilities, both of which are the same as they were in the A9, are our only complaints about this device.

There have not been any further advancements made to the shooting of motion pictures other than the addition of real-time eye-AF to 4K video recording.

Internally, the camera is only capable of recording video in 8-bit 4:2:0 format, and there is still no support for S-Log. Externally the micro HDMI connector is the only option to output video in the 8-bit 4:2:2 color format.

Sony a9 II Pros & Cons

Good For
  • Superb AF performance
  • Connectivity for the next generation
  • No viewfinder blackout
Need Improvements
  • Functionality restrictions on the touchscreen
  • Fiddly menu system
  • There is no support for XQD or CFexpress
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