Sony A9 Review | Nonetheless the Digicam to Beat

“Larger than a camera, the A9 stays the highest of photographs tech.”


  • 20 fps regular taking footage
  • No-blackout viewfinder
  • 693-point AF system
  • Good image top quality
  • Sturdy 4K video top quality


  • Inscrutable menu system
  • Battery life nonetheless lags behind DSLRs

With an MSRP of $4,500, the A9 is Sony’s costliest mirrorless camera, and as well as the right one for a lot of who want to seize fast movement. Filled with a 24.2-megapixel full-frame sensor, the A9 grabs as a lot as 20 frames per second (fps) and has a world-class autofocus system for sustaining with transferring matters. On prime of this high-quality foundation is blackout-free taking footage, which means you probably can effortlessly observe your matter inside the viewfinder as a result of the digital shutter (silently) clicks away, a feat no totally different camera can perform.

It’s a specialist’s camera, to make sure, one constructed to win over expert sports activities actions photographers from the likes of the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and Nikon D5. Nonetheless the place these DSLRs have gained bulk inside the sort an built-in vertical battery grip, the A9 maintains the svelte profile of Sony’s Alpha line of mirrorless cameras, with primarily the an identical dimensions as a result of the base-level A7 III that costs decrease than half as lots. A battery grip is optionally accessible for a lot of who must the extra runtime or greater ergonomics. This means you get pro-level vitality (and price), nonetheless in a kind situation that will scale to fulfill your desires.

Nonetheless no camera is full with out lenses, and Sony’s E-mount hasn’t on a regular basis had all kinds of prolonged glass, hottest by sports activities actions and wildlife photographers. Fortunately, that is starting to vary, and Sony even has a 400mm f/2.8 prime now, a $12,000 behemoth of a lens that’s a go-to focal dimension for lots of sporting events. All of this supplies as a lot as a mirrorless system that has grown very competent for skilled sports activities actions and movement shooters.

Design and Usability

The Sony A9 appears pretty acquainted to anyone who’s seen, look at, or handled an Alpha-series mirrorless camera. With the lens off, the black-bodied interchangeable lens camera is a compact 5 x 4 x 2.5 inches and weighs 24 ounces with the battery. The physique has built-in 5-axis image stabilization, serving to carry every stills and films common.

Daven Mathies/Digital Tendencies

The A9 does present one notable exterior distinction from A7 cameras: a layer-cake dial on the left shoulder for setting drive mode and focus mode. It’s a welcome addition, addressing thought-about one among our continued complaints with the Alpha assortment regarding the lack of direct entry administration. You’ll moreover uncover 4 personalized keys — two on prime, two on once more — so setting this camera as a lot as work the way in which wherein you want it to shouldn’t be too laborious.

The essential factor choices on the once more are the 3-inch tilting LCD touchscreen with an trustworthy 1.44 million pixels and a 0.5-inch OLED digital viewfinder (EVF) with 3.7 million pixels. There are better-quality screens available on the market, nonetheless the EVF is great. Awkwardly nestled merely to bottom correct of the EVF is the movie file button. Do you have to uncover it laborious to reach, you probably can on a regular basis reassign the function to a personalized key.


Stadium sports activities actions photographers will be very completely happy to go looking out an Ethernet jack in-built, together with USB and HDMI connections. Twin SD card slots reside on the opposite aspect, which you will have within the occasion you propose to actually profit from that 20 fps burst price. For best effectivity, use the quickest velocity and highest functionality SD taking part in playing cards you probably can afford. Wi-fi connectivity decisions embrace Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth (for location, date, and time stamps when paired with a phone) will be discovered to share footage.

Battery life has taken an enormous leap forward for Sony (although, now surpassed by the newer A7 III) and is rated for 480 footage with the EVF or 650 with the LCD. Whereas extreme for mirrorless, these numbers are nonetheless faraway from what educated DSLR can do due to its low-power optical viewfinder. Sony’s twin battery grip triples battery life, so extreme shooters may want to consider investing in it.


When the A9 launched, now we have been dealt with to preproduction a unit at a specific press even and truly cherished using the camera for various sports activities actions. Now a yr later, armed with a closing manufacturing model, we’re completely happy to report than the sheen hasn’t worn off. The A9 is as partaking and entertaining as ever, and stays one of many important spectacular cameras we’ve ever used.

Since thought-about one among A9’s claims to fame is its extreme velocity, we set off for an space racetrack to see how properly the camera could maintain with thoroughbreds. Sadly, Sony’s 400mm f/2.8 wasn’t on the market for this review. Nonetheless desirous to get as close to the movement as we could, we matched the 70-200mm f/2.8 G Grasp lens with a 2x teleconverter and — voila! — we had our 400mm (albeit, with a slower environment friendly aperture of f/5.6).

Sony A9Daven Mathies/Digital Tendencies

Along with this zoom — which we actually really feel is taken into account one among Sony’s best lenses — we had an 85mm f/1.4 prime, a 1.4x teleconverter, and the dual battery grip.

The sensor inside the A9 achieves its extreme velocity due to a “stacked” design, technology first launched inside the Cyber-shot RX100 IV and RX10 II cameras. The A9 marks the first time a stacked sensor has appeared in a full-frame sensor. Together with the model new Bionz X image processor, the A9 delivers effectivity we haven’t seen sooner than in mirrorless and DSLR cameras.

Working with the model new Bionz X image processor, the stacked sensor can output 20 fps RAW repeatedly — as a lot as a staggering 362 footage sooner than slowing down. As in contrast, Canon’s 1D-X Mark II can cope with as a lot as 14 fps and Nikon’s D5 goes as a lot as 12 fps. The A9’s fast clip is thanks partly to an digital shutter, which means there’s no bodily shutter curtain — to not point out a DSLR’s mirror — to maneuver out of the way in which wherein between frames. The electron shutter could attain shutter speeds of 1/32,000, 4 events faster than the quickest mechanical shutters.

The stacked sensor can output 20 fps repeatedly — as a lot as a staggering 362 RAW photographs.

In truth, sustaining with that velocity requires a strong autofocus system. The A9 choices 693 phase-detection AF components along with 25 contrast-detect components. The phase-detection components cowl 93-percent of the physique, and that broad safety means and elevated density must translate to further right outcomes. And positive, regular autofocus is on the market at 20 fps.

In January 2019, Sony unveiled a big change to the A9’s AF system with the addition of Precise-time Eye-AF and Precise-time Monitoring coming by the use of firmware. Precise-time Eye AF refines the already wonderful Eye-AF found in a number of Sony cameras. It might truly now routinely detect a subject’s eyes with out the particular person having to press a button, and prospects can choose between the suitable, left, or closest eye. Precise-time Monitoring, a attribute constructed into the model new A6400, makes use of a model new algorithm primarily based totally on deep finding out for object recognition. It moreover processes color, matter distance (depth), pattern (brightness), along with spatial (distance) information to provide significantly improved AF monitoring effectivity. Blended, these two new choices will maintain focus locked on a human matter even when the actual particular person turns away from the camera.

We briefly used a beta mannequin of the model new firmware, mannequin 5.0, and may attest to its enhanced capabilities. It made an excellent camera even greater. Firmware 5.0 will be on the market in March 2019, whereas firmware 6.0 — which expands Eye-AF to include assist for non-human eyes — will arrive later this summer season.

All through our preliminary hands-on session with the A9, a standout attribute was the blackout-free present. With every camera made sooner than the A9, even mirrorless cameras working in electronic-shutter modes, the show will momentarily flip black when the picture is taken. So, as your matter moved, you wanted to foretell the place it might go. Now, high-end cameras have on a regular basis minimized viewfinder blackout with the intention to make this course of easier, nonetheless the A9 has utterly no blackout the least bit. You might blitz alongside at 20 fps and nonetheless observe your objective as if watching a movie. This was good even with comparatively predicable motion, akin to in our horse racing state of affairs.

In truth, you acquired’t on a regular basis need 20 frames per second, even for sports activities actions. The A9 consists of decisions for Low, Medium, and Extreme regular taking footage (5, 10, and 20 fps, respectively) so that you probably can resolve the speed you need. Eager to test its limits, we naturally shot inside the Extreme setting, although we did limit ourselves to Extra Implausible JPEGs, apprehensive that taking footage that many RAWs would have eaten up an extreme quantity of home on our memory taking part in playing cards.

Speaking of horses, the A9 did a terrific job capturing them on the hoof. Although we’re hardly race observe photographers, by setting the camera to AF-C and burst to Extreme, we acquired a ton of keepers. The biggest downside goes by means of a complete lot of photographs shortly the computer. As you progress by the use of them on the monitor, it’s like watching a 24MP slow-motion movie. Very cool, positive, however moreover significantly daunting.

As we zoomed in on many footage, now we have been impressed by the rich colors and zeroing in on clumps of grime kicked up by the horses thundering by. In between races, we visited the paddock area to grab close-ups of the horses and their handlers. Normal, picture top quality was top-notch, nonetheless within the occasion you’re after basically probably the most determination or dynamic differ, you probably can on a regular basis go for the 42-megapixel A7R III.

sony a9 sample

sony a9 sample

David Elrich/Digital Tendencies

The A9 has a neighborhood ISO of 100-51,200 nonetheless shall be expanded proper right down to 50 and as a lot as 204,800. In our exams, footage have been steady as a lot as ISO 16,000, with artifacts turning into further noticeable as we made upwards modifications. Surprisingly, 204,800 is unquestionably usable within the occasion you do some cleanups in submit processing and don’t ideas dropping some determination.

One different cool attribute is silent taking footage. When DSLRs are rapid-firing, there’s a noticeable clack-clack-clack of the mirror and shutter. With the A9, the sound of the digital shutter is fake — you probably can merely flip it off if you happen to want to. Press the shutter and you will’t even inform if it’s working, nonetheless a digital gray physique flashes repeatedly to let you’re taking pictures.

Individual interface and video

Since this is usually a Sony camera, it’s time for the obligatory rant regarding the menu system. Let’s title it inscrutable, to be charitable. It’s getting tiresome complaining about this menu construction and terminology. We extraordinarily counsel any purchaser of an A9 or totally different refined Sony A set model to be taught the entire printed handbook on the market from the Sony web page. We hope to reside prolonged ample to see a whole revamping of this menu system, nonetheless it’s starting to actually really feel like that is solely turning into a lot much less potential.

However as well as since this is usually a Sony, the A9 comes with a healthful dose of extremely efficient video choices. 4K video with full pixel readout is possible in every full-frame and Super35 crop modes, thanks as soon as extra to the stacked sensor technology. This helps limit artifacts like moiré whereas delivering sharper video top quality. With a fast card and Sony’s XAVC S high-bitrate format, you probably can file 4K/30p at 100Mbps.

What’s missing are the superior video color profiles, like S-Log and HLG. Apparently, Sony doesn’t see videographers gravitating in the direction of the A9, nonetheless it’s a bit odd that these choices will be discovered inside the $2,000 A7 III, nonetheless not a $4,500 flagship. That acknowledged, video top quality stays to be excellent, and with photographers having to double as videographers as of late, cameras identical to the A9 present the pliability they need. We are going to’t take into consideration a wedding photographer or their customers being upset inside the color and sharpness motion the A9 delivers.


The camera has a one-year assure masking parts and labor.

Our Take

Even with our squawks regarding the menu system, the Sony Alpha A9 may very well be very explicit. For $4,500, it must be glorious and we’re snug to say it is. At this price, and with choices like Ethernet in-built, it’s targeted to expert sports activities actions photographers, nonetheless anyone in need of a superb fast camera will acknowledge it. And whereas the 20 fps spec is a headline attribute, the A9 does a terrific job with non-moving matters, as properly, delivering rich, right color and higher than ample aspect for a lot of situations.

The A9 can be higher than solely a camera. It’s an occasion of what mirrorless cameras are in a position to, and proof that they will do one thing a DSLR can — and further. The A9 is a forward-thinking product that, even a yr into its life, continues to impress us. Future photographers and tech fanatics will undoubtedly look once more on it as a turning degree inside the commerce.

Are there greater alternate choices?

Unlikely, nonetheless you’d have a troublesome time taking the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II DSLR away from the assorted sports activities actions photographers on the nation’s sidelines.  That 20.2MP full-frame workhorse costs $5,499 and has a chief burst velocity of 14 fps so the A9 is a relative bargain by comparability. For the file, the racetrack photographer was using a 1D X.

As for mirrorless cameras, there’s truly nothing that competes with the A9.

How prolonged will it ultimate?

The Sony Alpha A9 was launched in May 2017 and has undergone firmware and software program program upgrades — and massive enhancements are deliberate for 2019. In January 2019, Sony launched principal upgrades coming in firmware variations 5.0 and 6.0; the first, which we examined in beta, is due in March with the second arriving in summer season 2019. Together with autofocus enhancements, the model new firmware will introduce a bunch of top quality of life enhancements.

Should you buy it?

Most of us don’t need this camera, however when taking footage sports activities actions is your raison d’etre, by all means buy it. We truly cherished taking footage with it and are optimistic you may too — nonetheless please be taught that handbook cowl to cowl to get basically probably the most out of it.

Updated with information on upcoming firmware releases, and our impressions of using a beta mannequin of firmware 5.0.

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