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Sony A9 Review

The Sony Alpha A9 has a substantial amount of work ahead of it. Although cameras such as the Fujifilm X-T2 and Sony’s Alpha A7R II have persuaded some professionals, notably studio and landscape photographers, to trade in their DSLR kit, convincing sports and action photographers to give up their Canon and Nikon gear has proven to be more difficult.

[Sony has recently announced a new Firmware update for the Alpha A9, and version 2.00 will give a lot of improvements and alterations to the camera.] The performance of Continuous AF has been increased when tracking moving subjects, and there has been an improvement in the stability of AF-C when zooming in and out.

Additionally, there is now the option to protect photographs to a custom button, as well as the capability to upload (via FTP) all protected files all at once, and the general operating stability has been increased.]

Because of the high level of performance required from their camera bodies, we have not yet seen a mirrorless camera that can compete with models such as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and the Nikon D5 even though the gear of those action photographers is going to be bashed about daily rather than being cosseted in a comfortable camera bag.

Sony A9 Features

The 24.2 megapixels full-frame stacked CMOS sensor is the most critical piece of technology at the core of the Alpha A9, and its performance has had a knock-on impact on the performance of other components.

Even though it has a great deal fewer pixels than the 42.2MP Alpha A7R II, it does give a slight resolution advantage over the 20-odd megapixels of the Canon 1D X Mark II and the Nikon D5. Still, the primary factor at play here is the processor’s architecture.

The integrated DRAM memory modules, a high-speed processing circuit, and the BIONZ X image processing engine are all lined up below the image sensor, thanks to the stacked architecture.

Because of this design, Sony was able to push the data through the sensor rather than around it, which resulted in a sensor that reads data 20 times faster than would have been possible otherwise. This allowed the Alpha A9 to shoot at a blistering 20 frames per second while capturing either 241 raw files or 362 images in JPEG format.

Sony A9 Build Quality

The Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and the Nikon D5 are the bulkiest and heaviest cameras you’re likely to pick up short of a medium format model. In contrast, the Sony Alpha A9 is notably more compact than either of those two models.

It follows a design aesthetic comparable to Sony’s Alpha 7-series full-frame mirrorless cameras; however, the A9 is somewhat chunkier, measuring 63 millimeters instead of 60.3 millimeters.

The Alpha A9 does not have a built-in vertical grip, one of the most noticeable distinctions between it and other professional-grade DSLR competitors. Whether or not this is a positive or negative aspect for you is entirely up to your personal preferences.

Sony A9 Autofocus

Even high-end cameras like the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and the Nikon D5 will have difficulty competing with the Alpha A9’s incredible autofocus (AF) system, which features a staggering 693 phase-detect AF points that cover 93% of the frame. This is something that Sony’s AF system in the Alpha A9 boasts.

You may choose from various focusing settings according to the subject matter you’re photographing, as is to be expected. Center mode utilizes the camera’s center autofocus point, while Wide mode and Zone mode take care of a significant portion of the decision-making process for you. The comprehensive method is ideal for general photography, and Zone mode is perfect for keeping things as easy as possible.

You can position the focus area pretty much anywhere in the frame by using the joystick to move it, and there is a mode called Flexible Spot that gives you the option to choose from three different sizes for the autofocus area. This mode is helpful because not everything you want to focus on will be in the middle of the frame. There is also an option called Expand Flexible Spot that you may use if you’re having trouble focusing. This mode makes use of additional AF points to aid you in focusing.

When you change the AF mode to AF-C, things become extremely interesting. When shooting in the AF-S focusing mode of the Alpha A9, you have the same options for focusing areas as you have when shooting in the manual focus mode, but you also have the Lock-on setting.

Sony A9 Performance

When you bring the camera up to your eye and begin firing off bursts of pictures at 20 frames per second with no blackout in the viewfinder, the Sony Alpha A9 truly does feel like the result of some supernatural process.

At first, it gives you a shaky feeling, but after getting used to it, you start to appreciate the incredible potential of the camera. There is a helpful, faint “shutter” sound that can comfort you that something is occurring, but if necessary, you can switch to completely silent operation via the menu if you like.

Those who want to use a lens adapter (which is likely given the limited range of longer focal length lenses) will see the Alpha A9’s burst shooting performance cut in half to 10 fps. If a burst rate of 20 fps is overkill for what you’re shooting, you also have the option of choosing from two slower drive modes.

Sony A9 Specs

Body typeSLR-style mirrorless
Body materialMagnesium alloy
Sensor
Max resolution6000 x 4000
Image ratio w:h3:2, 16:9
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 presets10
Custom white balanceYes
Image stabilizationSensor-shift
Image stabilization notes5-axis
Uncompressed formatRAW
JPEG quality levelsExtra fine, fine, standard
File formatJPEG (Exif v2.31)Raw (Sony ARW)
Optics & Focus
AutofocusContrast Detect (sensor)Phase DetectMulti-areaCenterSelective single-pointTrackingSingleContinuousTouchFace DetectionLive View
Autofocus assist lampYes
Digital zoomYes (2x)
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±6 (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 (One of which UHS-II compatible)
Connectivity
USBUSB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)
HDMIYes (micro-HDMI)
Microphone portYes
Headphone portYes
WirelessBuilt-In
Wireless notes802.11b/g/n + NFC + Bluetooth
Remote controlYes (Wired or wireless)
Physical
Environmentally sealedYes
BatteryBattery Pack
Battery descriptionNP-FZ100
Battery Life (CIPA)650
Weight (inc. batteries)673 g (1.48 lb / 23.74 oz)
Dimensions127 x 96 x 63 mm (5 x 3.78 x 2.48″)
Other features
Orientation sensorYes
GPSNone

Sony A9 Verdict

The Sony Alpha A9 is a remarkable piece of photographic equipment. It isn’t perfect by any means; for starters, we’re curious to see how well the weather-sealing holds up after fully exposing it to the elements. Additionally, the lack of XQD card slots and the relatively limited touchscreen control is disappointing aspects of the product.

Putting such concerns to the side, the Alpha A9 is an impressive piece of hardware. The focusing mechanism that Sony equipped the A9 with is not only astonishingly fast, but the tracking performance needs to be seen to be believed.

When you combine this feature with a burst shooting speed that is incredibly fast at 20 frames per second and an electronic viewfinder that is both large and bright and does not black out when you are shooting, you end up with a camera that can compete with the best that Canon and Nikon have to offer when it comes to photographing sports and other types of fast-paced action.

Sony A9 Pros & Cons

Good For
  • Impressive level of customization
  • A blistering display of talent
  • Unbelievably nimble and versatile AF
  • Oversampled video in 4K resolution
  • High-res viewfinder
  • Excellent results from the 24MP sensor
  • No viewfinder blackout
Need Improvements
  • No XQD card slots
  • Weather sealing is not as sturdy as that offered by competitors
  • Battery life cannot compete with those of competitors
  • Touchscreen control is quite restricted
  • The balance is not very good when using long lenses

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Movie / video mode
Connectivity
Value
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The Sony Alpha A9 has a substantial amount of work ahead of it. Although cameras such as the Fujifilm X-T2 and Sony's Alpha A7R II have persuaded some professionals, notably studio and landscape photographers, to trade in their DSLR kit, convincing sports and action...Sony A9 Review