The Sony A9 arrives tomorrow, and I’m at a bit of a loss as to what to test—so many sports shooters out there and I’m not one of them. It’s just not a camera solving an issue I have.
On the other hand, I am keen to see its new zero-blackout EVF and general usability since I expect most of the goodies in the A9 will go into an A7R II successor. And overall whether Sony has matured its thinking to really make the A9 the harbinger of the real death knell for the entire DSLR category—sports and wildlife as well as all-around shooting and high-res.
The about $2598 Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS is also coming, so at the least I can get a feel for a bread-and-butter zoom lens on the A9, although I am more interested in seeing if it can deliver high quality on the 42-megapixel sensor of the Sony A7R II.
Reader comments follow further below.
- Sony’s New α9 Camera Appears to Target the High-End Sport Shooter Market
- EVF Mirrorless vs DLSR
- Sony’s Take on the Camera Market
- Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II: Sport Shooter’s Dream?
- Reader Comments: Lenses for Sports Photography
- Reader Question: Nikon or Sony?
- Evaluated: “Sony, Fix These Things and Win” aka How Does the Sony A7R II Stack Up?
What I’m concluding so far is that the A9 is what it is: a specialized camera whose key feature is blackout-free 20 fps operation (sports, photojournalism, wildlife, etc).
No one is asking to use the A9 like an A7R II for general purpose work, to replace an A7R II for landscape or whatever because it doesn’t make sense unless somehow image quality were a lot higher (very doubtful, but I will check).
What I think will generate far more excitement is an A7R II successor for $1000 less, with many of the A9 goodies. So I think I”m better off commenting on general performance and usability aspects along with some aspects of image quality.
Matt K writes:
1. Put it to freezer and see how long the new battery lasts in the cold. I would consider this essential information for anyone shooting out there during the winter. How long from 100% to "Battery depleted" message. Just live view enabled on the back screen and lens attached.
2. Make lots of long exposures to see if the star eater -problem (spatial filtering) plagues a pro body such as A9. This will be an issue with A9r if it is present in A9 "base" model.
3. Try out whether the 14 to 12-bit reduction still happens with certain shooting modes (bulb, continuous). Not perhaps relevant to A9 users but r-model is really another case as above.
4. Put electronic shutter to harsh tests where it may reduce image quality (if it happens) like warm temperature and lots of continuous shooting. Compare IQ when in freezer and @ 30C ambient.
5. Test buffer clearing and how badly the 2nd slot slows the whole system down when duplicating images to multiple cards (essentially rendering the primary slot speed increase useless when data integrity is essential for a shooting job)
6. CaNikon 1-series owners will be interested to see how well (if at all) the AF system works in dusk/dawn conditions with low contrast subjects. Like brown animal against a dark forest scene.
7. Compare A9 image quality to A7 II to see whether the increased price holds any value in IQ over the cheaper models.
DIGLLOYD: good tests, for sure. What I have to evaluate first is time and effort required vs ROI: do I get new subscribers for the work I put in? If I put in 40 hours and get 3 new subscribers vs 30 for one kind of effort versus another, that's a critical judgment call that I must not get wrong. Equally of concern is the value of what I test over time: camera reviews go stale very quickly as the camera becomes known and new models replace it.
#1 One would have to get a thermometer, wait a proscribed time for cooling (an hour perhaps) and document the temperature while testing several other cameras to have useful info and then what... who would subscribe for that bit of data, it being just a few numbers? What if the batteries in one camera are a year old, but the Sony is brand-new? Would anyone really leave Live View on for a DSLR? (no). This kind of test to be done fairly versus how one would actually shoot. Even Ming and I came up with radically different battery life ideas about the Sony A7R II because we shoot very differently. Relevance to working style seems most important to me, and that differs among shooters.
#2 I don’t recall even for the Sony A7R II if this is an issue. But with no built-in way to go beyond 30 seconds, it’s an instant 'fail' for casual night use for me.
#3 I don’t think anyone concerned with shooting at 20 fps cares about 12 vs 14 bit. And the cases where lower bits are used are mostly clear already, though not in all cases.
#4 Electronic shutter: why would the electronic shutter be affected in any way by temperature? Sensor noise is affected, but the electronic shutter is a scanning algorithm, so I’m not following how temperature could have any effect on the shutter per se.
#5 Buffer clearing: this is a "bit" of data that once determined just floats onto the web. It is useful only in the context of at least one other high performance camera IMO. A simple test makes sense; more requires comparative info with the best from CaNikon—and it’s a sport shooters issue and will carry no review value over time; sports shooters figure it out and it’s just general knowledge fairly quickly. Sports shooters can decide the in real world work, which is allt that matters—and it’s not my world.
#6 AF performance, I already consider Sony A7R II the best in my field work for accuracy and precision.
#7 I don't see the point of comparing a $4500 camera to a $1400 camera just because they both have 24MP. IMO, the relevant comparison is *not* the number of megapixels, but the achievable image quality (thing Sigma vs Bayer sensor as the keenest example). That sort of thing I did for the Sony models so far vs the A7R II, so that makes sense to me again as in A9 vs A7R II, sampled appropriately.
I think I’ll stick at what I’m good at and where I can add real insight and value that is more than just a few numbers: image quality and usability and camera issues relevant to making an informed gear choice. No one is going to buy the A9 unless its key high-speed features are a priority.
David C writes:
For sports shooters: does it do the anti-flicker trick that canon (at least) does, i.e. no blacked out arena shots and no bringing your own lights? maybe with 20fps you don’t care (I’m not much for sports shooting except little kid softball)?
Birders and sports guys might prefer APS-C or other cropped format to cut down on the back (and wallet) pain with super long lenses. the 100-400 is about half a pound lighter than canon’s 100-400, but on APS-C the 100-400 becomes about 160-640, no contest there for football/baseball/soccer.
At any rate if the Sony A9 doesn’t scare CaNikon probably nothing can…competition is a great thing as long as it happens to someone else ;).
DIGLLOYD: I don’t see that I can bring much value to the table on the first two points. Flicker... I don’t have any suitable situations and doing it right might take many types of lighting to evaluate... to what end? Birders and sports guys will decide what they need to decide, what could I say here other than this is already known by APS-C DSLR shooters for the same reasons—if you need it you do it.