Sony Alpha A9 Review: Monsterless Monsters
Sony Alpha A9 detailed review
Sony launched the A9 in India last year, a camera that ushered in the final evolution of the mirrorless camera. One by one, Sony cracked the formula for reliable image quality, high resolution, and impressive film capture, and now, with the A9, they are trampling on the realm of sports cameras. Ability to shoot up to 20 frames per second (RAW) and the company claims that a focus system is perfect for wildlife and sports photographers. But does A9 distribute to all those accounts? Find out.
What’s in the box
The Sony A9 does ship with very few accessory sets. You will get the new NP-FZ100 battery with a charger. The box has a Sony A9 brand strap that is a little more premium than the straps you would normally get with other Sony mirrorless cameras. There is a lot of paperwork like warranty cards and user manuals.
Resolution: 24 megapixels
ISO range: 100-51200 (extended to 204800)
Image stabilization: sensor shift, 5-axis
Focus point: 693
Continuous drive: 20fps (electronic shutter) and 5fps (mechanical shutter)
Video: 4K @ 30fps, 1080p @ 120fps
Storage: Dual SD card, 1 slot UHS compliant
Weather Ceiling: Yes
Construction and design
The Sony A9 is the first Sony mirrorless camera to radically change the design of the second generation A7 camera. The company has added a joystick to drive the focus point (or zone) which adds a whole new level of convenience. The dial system has also been significantly improved, with the upper left plate having drive mode and metering dial. To the right of the Flash Hot-Shoe is the mode dial. Both dials have a lock feature to prevent accidental changes. Perhaps one of the most notable changes is the position of the record button, which has moved to the bottom right corner of the viewfinder, where the thumb can reach very naturally. The grip of the Sony A9 is deeper than the previous Sony Mirrorless camera, which is good for those with big hands.
A deep grip makes it much easier than the predecessors of the Sony Alpha A9
To the right of the grip, you’ll find a latch that, when opened, reveals dual SD card slots. The latch has the presence of a rubber seal, which ensures that the bogie is water-tight. Unfortunately, Sony doesn’t actually say how many weather ceilings the A9 has, but while it competes with the likes of the Canon 1Dx and Nikon D5, we expect the weather ceiling to be top notch.
Overall, the build quality and ergonomics of the Sony A9 make it much easier to use than anything before Sony. The new joystick with extra dials on the left makes the camera much easier. If you want to make things easier, you can always use the touchscreen to operate the camera.
The rear joystick moves the AF points around the air
The AF system on the Sony A9 boasts a new phase detection system courtesy of 693 focus points. The AF system provides 93 percent of the frame coverage. The Focus system calculates 60AF / AE per second, making it a whopping 25 percent faster than the Sony A7 Mark II. The AF system can be set to work either in different sized regions or at individual AF points, which are also available in different sizes. The AF system can also be built to emphasize focus speed or accuracy, depending on what you are shooting. You can change the settings to suit your needs, but for the most part, the AF system manages to perform really well. The ideal way to test the A9’s performance was to put it through a remote subject shooting test so we did.
Burst mode and autofocus need to work hand-in-hand if you want the resulting images to be useful. There is no real advantage to having a burning fast AF system if the camera cannot capture enough frames that are responsible for the movement and similarly, a really fast blast mode will not do much if the AF system cannot track fast moving. The A9 offers a decent balance between the two, offering a maximum explosion rate of 20 fps when using an electronic shutter. The mechanical shutter, unfortunately, has a maximum speed of 5fps. Additionally, shooting with an electronic shutter allows you to shoot as fast as 1/32000 per second, but shooting at such high speeds is not advisable, especially if the subject is illuminated by artificial light. All of this is enabled for a novel 24 megapixel full frame sensor that features a DRAM layer that allows for a quick sensor readout.
New 24 megapixel full-frame sensor with integrated DRAM allows for 20fps burst mode
We tested the camera using a variety of materials, including a dancer and you really have a mountain bike. The idea was to test the camera’s ability to track and shoot objects and to measure how many focus shots we’ve made. We shot more than 3000 frames in two situations and left with about 90 percent usable frames. The camera is loaded with a SanDisk Extreme Pro SDXC 32GB card in Slot 1 and a SanDisk Extreme Pro SDXC 64GB card in Slot 2. Both are high-speed cards. It was interesting to note that after about 40 minutes of shooting at the highest explosion rate, the 32GB card was full and the camera did not switch to the second card. After navigating through the menu, it was discovered that for whatever reason, a roll-over option was missing from the camera menu.
The camera was on the tracking spot. There were only 2 shots out of focus for 20 sequences in sequence with our dancing friend. We did 6 sequence shots like this and had a small variability, but all in all it was still very impressive. Similarly, as the mountain bike descends the steep slope, the A9 manages to track the subject effectively. While it was naturally good to track objects from left to right (or vice versa), we were also impressed with the A9’s ability to track objects moving fast enough on the Z-axis.
Tracking a dancer mid-flight? No problem!
Fast moving action tracking towards camera? No problem!
Great dynamic range and color
AF works great even in low light
You can see a collection of photo samples in our Flickr gallery.
For everyday use, the Sony A9 has all the integrity overkill. The Sony A9 is perfect for those who like sports or wildlife shooting and need speed to keep up with their subjects. Of course, even a hobbyist may want to go for the A9 and we will not discourage that. This camera will last you a long time, especially how Sony is using a very impressive sensor, capable of producing perfectly clear images up to ISO 16,000.
The last row
The Sony A9 is a huge leap forward in bridging the gap between mirrorless and DSLR form-factors. DSLRs like the Canon 1Dx and Nikon D5 retain some excellence with the ability to shoot 12 frames per second north, despite having mechanical shutters. Ergonomics, however, makes the top notch and button layout access to all the necessary features in one fell swoop. However, at an MRP of Rs 3,34990, it is difficult to say that this is the best camera for everyone. However, for those looking for adjustment or speed, accuracy and reliability in a more portable package than 1Dx or D5, this is the best camera.