Sony A9

24MP stabilized full-frame, 20 FPS, ISO 204,800, 4K Stereo

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Sony A9

Sony A9 (23.8 oz./676g with battery and one card, about $4,498) and 24-70mm f/2.8 GM. bigger. I got mine at B&H. I'd also get it at Adorama, at Amazon, or at Crutchfield.

This ad-free website's biggest source of support is when you use those or any of these links to my personally-approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Sony does not seal its boxes in any way, so never buy at retail or any other source not on my personally approved list since you'll have no way of knowing if you're missing accessories, getting a defective, damaged, returned, store demo or used camera. Buy only from the approved sources I use myself for the best prices, service, return policies and selection. Thanks for helping me help you! Ken.

 

July 2017   Sony   Lenses   Zeiss   Nikon   Canon   Fuji   LEICA   All Reviews

All Sony Cameras Compared

Sony A9

Sony A9. bigger.

 

Sony A9

Sony A9. bigger.

 

Sample Images

(more at High ISOs)

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Sony 24-240mm sample image

Sunset at the Park, 28 July 2017. Sony A9, Sony 24-240mm at 240mm wide-open at f/6.3 at 1/500 at Auto ISO 100, Perfectly Clear. bigger or full-resolution file.

 

Sony 24-240mm sample image

Kelly Fitzgerald, 28 July 2017. Sony A9, Sony 24-240mm at 240mm wide-open at f/6.3 at 1/125 at Auto ISO 320, Perfectly Clear. bigger or full-resolution file.

 

El Torito

Fountain, 21 June 2017. Sony A9 with Sony 16-35/2.8 GM at 18mm at f/4 hand-held at 1/15 second at Auto ISO 1,000. bigger or camera-original © file.

 

Don Jose's

Mexican Restaurant, 23 June 2017. Sony A9, Sony 12-24mm f/4 G at 12mm, f/4 at 1/8 hand-held at Auto ISO 1,250. bigger or full-resolution © file.

 

Tacos, El Torito

Tacos, 19 June 2017. Sony A9 with Sony 16-35/2.8 GM at 16mm at f/8 hand-held at 1/2 second at Auto ISO 250. bigger or camera-original © file. Look out; even at f/8 only the center is actually in perfect focus.

 

Fine Home with Coffered Ceilings

Fine Home with Coffered Ceilings, 22 June 2017. Sony A9 with Sony 16-35/2.8 GM at 16mm at f/8 at 2 seconds at ISO 100. bigger or camera-original © file.

 

Lions, El Torito

Lions, 19 June 2017. Sony A9 with Sony 16-35/2.8 GM at 35mm at f/5 at 1/125 second at Auto ISO 100. bigger or camera-original © file. The lions are in focus; the tile behind them is not.

 

Eucalyptus in backlight

Eucalyptus in backlight, 20 June 2017. Sony A9 with Sony 16-35/2.8 GM at 35mm at f/5.6 at 1/125 at Auto ISO 100. bigger or full-resolution file.

 

Automatic eye-recognition autofocus:

Katie watches her MacBook Air

Katie watches her MacBook Air, 04 June 2017. Sony A9, Sony 24-70/2.8 GM at 69mm, f/2.8 at 1/125 at Auto ISO 2,000. bigger or full-resolution file.

The A9 just finds the nearest eye and nails it without having to select AF areas manually — and it can do this throughout the entire frame, not just in the center. Katie's purple comforter and crazy animated cartoons on her computer screen aren't helping her skin tones.

 

Ryan at El Torito

Ryan at El Torito, 21 June 2017. Sony A9 with Sony 16-35/2.8 GM at 35mm at f/2.8 at 1/125 at Auto ISO 4,000. bigger or camera-original © file.

 

THe Deli Section at Vons

The Deli Section, 08 June 2017. Sony A9, Sony 24-70/2.8 GM at 31mm, f/2.8 at 1/40 at Auto ISO 125. bigger or full-resolution file. The full-resolution file may take a while to load for full sharpness.

The silent shutter lets me photograph without having anyone ask me what I'm doing: no camera clicks means no problems from nosey shopkeepers.

 

Ryan and Minecraft shirt

Ryan and his glow-in-the-dark Minecraft shirt, 07 June 2017. Sony A9 with Sony 24-70/2.8 GM at 70mm at f/2.8 at 1/125 at Auto ISO 640. bigger or full-resolution © file.

Holy cow: this, like all these, are grab shots of moving kids. In this case this is far more than just sharp: look at the colors. This is shot under overcast window light, and Auto White Balance magically just made everything glow. Ryan is so sharp, and the background so soft, that he stands-out in 3-D! Bravo!

 

Katie and Zoey

Katie and Zoey, 07 June 2017. Sony A9 with Sony 24-70/2.8 GM at 70mm at f/5 at 1/250 at Auto ISO 100. bigger or full-resolution © file.

This looks like a posed shot, but look again: Katie is walking very quickly, and this is but one of a long sequence of shots made as I walked backwards following Katie and the A9 and 24-70/2.8 GM automatically figured out where to focus, and then kept everything in flawless focus as we walked along, and after all that, the stabilizers still gave me a crazy-sharp image, even shot at the lowest resolution setting as I usually do for family photos. Every hair and eyelash and piece of fur is perfect, and every one of my shots is like this — except for the facial expressions. Bravissimo!

 

Introduction

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Not only do its images look great in every light and are always sharp and well exposed under very difficult and active conditions, the Sony A9 is a huge advance in sports, news, concert, motion-picture stills and corporate shooting because it does all this at 20 frames per second, tracking autofocus and setting exposure at 60 FPS in the background, and the best part is it does this in complete and total silence. It is an unworldly experience to be motoring along at 20 FPS with full tracking exposure and autofocus, get great exposure and color in each shot, and have this happen in complete silence.

It offers full autofocus over the entire frame, not just in the center of the picture like full-frame DSLRs. Autofocus is essentially instantaneous with the right lenses, and even with good consiumer lenses it can track fast-moving targets in the darkat night .

It's also the first Sony mirrorless with two card slots, and has the toughest mechanical shutter of any camera ever, "tested" to 500,000 cycles! The mechanical shutter is tough, and the silent electronic shutter has no moving parts to wear out —  ever!

Battery life is fantastic for sports shooting. While CIPA rated for only 480 shots for one-shot-at-a-time amateur shooting, in actual sports shooting where I make long bursts at 10 FPS, I can shoot 1,800 frames and only use 33% of the battery's capacity — or about 5,400 shots on a full charge! At 20 FPS I'd probably get even more.

The A9 is a landmark in photography; no pro camera has ever been able to go this fast, much less do it in complete silence.

My A9's tracking autofocus is the best I've ever used —  better than the Nikon D5 or Canon 1DX Mk II — because it locks-on to the subject and tracks it longer and farther than any other AF system. It's crazy how my A9 finds the face all by itself, locks-on, tracks and won't let go like a pit bull all over the frame, even at the sides and corners. If there are multiple faces and the closest one turns away, my A9 actually pulls focus to the next nearest face immediately, always keeping the most relevant face in perfect focus. It's completely unlike any other pro camera; the closest thing before has been the RX10 Mk III which has a similar system and also works amazingly well. The A9 never misses a shot: it finds, tracks and keeps in focus whatever it is you're trying to shoot, and does it all automatically, presuming you're using a Sony GM lens that's up to the task.

A lot of this is because the A9's AF system is always looking at the subject, while at fast frame rates DSLRs spend very little time each second looking at the subject because the mirror is flipped up making exposures half the time or more.

The Sony A9 is all about Sony's newest-technology image sensor which, for the first time ever in full-frame, lets the A9 read the image from the entire sensor at about the same time. Because it's essentially read-out at once, gone are the "rolling shutter" effects of the past.

The A9 is in a completely different world than the older Canon 1DX Mk II and Nikon D5. The A9 runs significantly faster and with more resolution, but most importantly, does this in complete silence and the finder never blacks-out or gets smeary. You won't even know it's shooting other than the thin gray frameline that blips in the finder to let you know it's capturing frames.

You won't believe me until you get your own A9. The silent shutter mode isn't on by default; you have to set it at MENU > Camera 2 > page 4/9 > Shutter Type > ELEC. In silent mode you can be blazing away at twenty full 24 MP frames per second, even in raw with the A9's huge buffer, and no one may notice you're shooting. By comparison, every single frame in the "quiet" modes of the pro Canon 1DX Mk II and Nikon D5 are so loud that I can hear them echo off the neighbor's houses. The pro DSLRs are the very loudest cameras of all.

The A9 isn't about light weight, even though it's about as light as Sony's other full-frame cameras; the A9 is about outshooting Canon or Nikon, and doing it silently. The A9 is smaller and lighter than most, but not all, DSLRs, but when you add full-frame lenses to it, it loses most of the weight advantage. With a 50mm or 55mm f/1.8 lens, some full frame DSLRs like the Canon 6D actually weigh the same or less.

Many buttons are programmable, so you can program them to do just about anything.

It has three memory recalls on its top mode dial, so it's easy to set up one for photos of things (Vivid picture with +3 Saturation), one for people pictures (standard color with +1 Saturation), and the other for anything else, like sports or a custom white balance. If three memories aren't enough, there are four more hidden ones, M1, M2, M3 and M4, which are almost as easy to recall.

The AF and advance modes (frame rates) have their own knobs, so these don't save and recall.

 

New

● All-new sensor technology allows the camera to read the entire sensor almost at the same time, so the "rolling shutter" and blackout effects of earlier cameras are gone. We can shoot at 20 FPS and the finder never blinks. This is the first time anyone has done this in full-frame; the RX100 Mk V does this, but with a much smaller sensor.

● 693 phase-detection AF points cover the entire full-frame image. Your subjects can run, but they can't hide in the sides of the image.

● Calculates exposure and autofocus at up to 60 frames per second.

● Two card slots.

● New thumb-nubbin controller on rear.

● Three memory recalls on the top mode dial, with four more presets almost as easy to recall.

● Drive mode dial.

● Focus mode dial.

● Two separate AEL and AF-ON buttons, instead of just one button with a selector lever as on A7RII, A7SII, A7II and A7.

● C3 button moved to left side of camera; it's on the right on A7RII, A7SII, A7II and A7.

● New, bigger NP-FZ100 battery lasts about 1,500 shots with burst shooting (rated 480 single shots).

● In-camera 5-axis sensor-shift stabilization claims 5 stops improvement.

● Turns on 30% faster than the A7R II; turns on and ready to shoot as quickly as I can bring it to my eye.

● Shoots 4K video using the entire 36mm width of the image sensor.

● Uncompressed 4K HDMI output (but the A9's LCD won't work in this mode).

● XAVC S high-bitrate video formats for 50~100 MBPS video.

● Under- and over-crank video from 1 FPS to 120 FPS, MOS (without sound).

 

Good

● Magnificent electronic finder: always big, bright, sharp and wonderful in any light. Super-bright in daylight, and dims perfectly indoors and at night.

● Hybrid AF system uses phase-detection for speed and contrast detection for ultimate precision and accuracy.

● Battery life seems almost unlimited (up to 5,000 shots or more) running bursts at 20 FPS with the silent shutter.

● Can extract stills from video, in-camera after it's shot. In other words, shoot 4K video and you can pull-out 8MP stills shot at 30 FPS.

● Solid mostly metal construction.

● Even the regular mechanical shutter only moves at the ends of exposures. There's never any need for a special vibration-free mode; it always works this way. Suck on that, LEICA!

● Excellent high ISO performance.

● Facial recognition works well, but only after you find it and turn it on.

● In-finder 2-axis level works great for keeping horizons and vertical lines as they should be.

● In-camera, as-shot automatic lens vignetting, lateral chromatic aberration and distortion correction.

● Almost any lens of any brand or age can be adapted to work.

● Stereo microphone built-in.

● 3.5mm powered mic and headphone jacks.

● Bluetooth & NFC.

 

Bad

● There's no auto brightness control so the LCD isn't bright enough to see in direct sunlight unless you manually set it brighter. A Canon DSLR is usually much better, but this Sony's electronic finder is marvelous in daylight, so don't worry about it.

● If you set it to record to two cards for backup as I do, and then remove one card or it fills, the camera stops shooting. It should just shoot to either card that has space, not leave you dead in the water.

● Silent electronic shutter is a game-changer, but won't work with flash. Flash sync speed is still only 1/250.

 

Missing

● No voice memo recorder, standard in every other pro DSLR — ironic as Sony was originally founded as a tape recorder company 70 years ago.

● No built-in flash.

● No auto brightness control for the rear LCD (but great auto brightness control for the electronic finder).

● No GPS.

● No shutter speed dial.

● No ISO dial.

● Not as weather sealed as the Canon 1DX Mk II or Nikon D5; the A9 has no gaskets on its card and connecter covers.

● No square, 4:5 or 4:3 crops; 16:9 only.

● No way to back up the complete camera state as Nikons can do.

● No more 0.5 second image auto review option, just 2, 5 or 10 seconds — but who cares since you are seeing everything live through the incredible real-time finder?

● Touch screen lets you select movie focus areas, but doesn't work for setting the camera in the menu screens.

● No multi-frame noise reduction (just set a slower ISO and make a longer exposure for the same effect).

● No swept panoramas (an iPhone does this better anyway).

 

Sony A9

Sony A9. bigger.

 

Sony A9

Sony A9. bigger.

 

Lenses & Adapters       top

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Lens Compatibility

Sony A9

Lens Mount, Sony A9. bigger.

The A9 uses the Sony E-Mount, formerly called the NEX mount, whose shallow 18mm flange focal distance allows better lens designs than DSLRs do — the same advantage rangefinder cameras have, as well as allowing just about any lens to mount with an adapter.

The A9 works best with all the lenses made by Sony, Zeiss and others for Sony's mirrorless E-Mount.

If you mount a Sony or Zeiss APS-C lens, it automatically uses only the central APS-C section of the full-frame sensor. You'd never know, since all the displays just look right. It's that seamless, but sort of silly to waste most of this camera's sensor area with an APS-C lens.

 

Highest Performance Lenses

The Sony 12-24mm f/4 G, 16-35/2.8 GM, 24-70/2.8 GM and 70-200/2.8 GM are extraordinary on my A9. They focus just about instantly, and are super sharp at every setting.

If you want the high performance for which you're paying a premium with your A9, be sure to get the best lenses for it.

See Sony's list of the "good" lenses to use on the A9 and my list of Best Sony Lenses.

 

Sony's Adapters

Sony's own adapters work pretty well, but know that none of Sony's A-mount lenses are as good as the latest E-mount lenses, especially when used on E-mount.

 

LA-EA2: Discontinued.

 

LA-EA3: for lenses with built in AF motors

The LA-EA3 is a great adapter and allows just about full performance with any Sony Alpha DSLR or Minolta MAXXUM 35mm SLR - but only if it's one of the very few lenses with an internal autofocus motor.

If the lens has its own AF motor, with this adapter you should get full communication and AF and everything - but top frame rate may be limited to 10 FPS.

 

LA-EA4: Recommended for all Sony Alpha and Minolta MAXXUM lenses

Katie at the Luau

Katie at the Luau, 14 July 2017. (Sony A9 with Sony Minolta 28-135mm on Sony LA-EA4 adapter at 110mm at f/4.5 at 1/100 at Auto ISO 100, Perfectly Clear.) bigger.

 

Nellie Gail's Finest Home: Poker Flats Place

Lamp, 8:01 PM, 14 July 2017. Sony A9 with Sony LA-EA4 adapter, Sony Minolta 28-135mm at 135mm at f/4.5 at 1/80 second hand-held at Auto ISO 1,250. bigger or camera-original © file.

The LA-EA4 is everything the LA-EA3 is, and adds its own AF motor to drive every Sony Alpha and Minolta MAXXUM lens for full autofocus — for every lens back to 1986. It works with lenses both with or without internal AF motors.

Sony Alpha and Minolta MAXXUM lens work great with the LA-EA4 on the A9. They focus very fast, and even Auto ISO and Program Shift all follow your zoom's focal length.

While phase-detection points only are active around the center of the frame, Face Recognition sees and focusses on faces anywhere. Oddly the face box stays gray or white, not locking-on in green unless the face is near the center of the frame, but it works anyway.

Lenses stay wide open most of the time for framing and focus and only stop down for the exposure. I program my C1 button for aperture preview.

While Sony only claims operation to 10 FPS, my 1980s Minolta MAXXUM lenses run at about17 FPS just fine, complete with trackng autoifocus and exoposure. Bravo!

 

Other Brand Adapters

While you can adapt any lens of any brand or age to the A9, they won't work as well as native Sony or Zeiss FE lenses, or Alpha or MAXXUM lenses with the LA-EA4 adapter.

Those lenses autofocus extremely well, but once you use an off-brand lens or adapter, lenses that perform magnificently on their own brand of camera may or may not autofocus that well. If you demand the best performance, just use the same brand of lens as your camera. Adapters should never be your go-to for the best performance. Don't expect the best results for sharpness or for autofocus from other-brand adapters if you're picky.

Adapters are great for fun; you can get adapters cheap for any kind of lens, but not only may autofocus be iffy, adapted wide-angle lenses usually aren't very sharp on the sides at large apertures because Sony's full-frame mirrorless sensors are optimized for lenses with a curved fields. Most other adapted lenses won't seem very sharp on the sides at large apertures due their flat fields not interfacing well with the curved fields needed by Sony's sensors on these cameras. If you get the center in focus, the sides will probably be off, and if you get the sides in focus, the center will be off. This is more of a problem with wider lenses and at large apertures; stop a lens down and the sides will come into better focus.

The A9 runs at its full 20 FPS with adapted manual-focus lenses.

 

Metabones Mark V Adapter

The Metabones Canon EF to Sony E-Mount Mark V Adapter is the best I've used.

It works with every crazy Canon lens with which I tried it, and the results were usually much sharper than I expected.

See its review for lots of sample images and details. If you want an adapter for Canon, this is the one.

Katie at the orthodontist

Katie at the orthodontist, 06 July 2017. Sony A9 with Canon 28-105mm USM II on Metabones Mark V adapter at 1/125 at Auto ISO 320. bigger or full-resolution © file.

 

Katie in the pool

Katie in the pool, 06 July 2017. Sony A9 with Canon 300mm f/2.8 L on Metabones Mark V adapter at f/2.8 at 1/1,250 at Auto ISO 100. bigger or full-resolution © file.

 

Katie at Get Air

Katie at Get Air, 18 July 2017. Sony A9 with Canon 100-400mm L IS II on Metabones Mark V adapter at 227mm at f/5 at 1/500 at Auto ISO 8,000, Perfectly Clear. bigger.

 

Other Canon Adapters

You never know which particular AF lenses will work or not with other brands of adapters. There is always firmware and software to update, so you never know. While my A9 works with my Canon Canon 100-400mm L IS II and most of my lenses including my 1986 Canon 80-200/2.8 L, with the Fotodiox adapter my 50mm f/1.0 most things work, including electronic manual focus — but AF doesn't.

I bought a Fotga adapter direct from China for $37 if you know How to Win at eBay, and it worked for 30 seconds, and then never communicated with any of my lenses again. Just get the Metabones if you are serious about this.

 

Sony A7S II and Nikon NOCT-NIKKOR 58mm f/1.2

Sony A9, Fotodiox adapter and Canon 50mm f/1.0. bigger.

 

LEICA Lenses

Lenses with goggles for the LEICA M3 (35mm and 135mm) won't mount regardless of what adapter you use: the A9's grip gets in the way.

Sony A7S II and Nikon NOCT-NIKKOR 58mm f/1.2

2017 Sony A9 and 1937 LEICA SUMMAR 5cm f/2. bigger.

 

Ryan in the garage on his way to school

Ryan on his way to school, 07 June 2017. 2017 Sony A9 with 1990 LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 at f/2 at 1/125 at Auto ISO 1,250. bigger or full-resolution © file.

This is shot in my garage, half-lit from an open door to an overcast sky, half lit by warm white fluorescent, and the third half is lit by cool-white — and it all comes out looking perfect in this quick grab shot in Auto White Balance with an amazing glow.

 

Store

Store, 07 June 2017. 2017 Sony A9 with 1990 LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 at f/8 handheld at 1/15 at Auto ISO 1,600. bigger or full-resolution © file.

Silent shooting: no one asks why I'm taking pictures of concrete. Sensor-stabilization makes it easy to hand hold at 1/15.

 

Lighting Store

Lighting Store, 07 June 2017. 2017 Sony A9 with 1990 LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 at f/8 handheld at 1/15 at Auto ISO 640. bigger or full-resolution © file.

Silent shooting: no one asks why I'm taking pictures, period. Sensor-stabilization makes it easy to hand hold at 1/15.

While LEICA lenses are the world's finest, they are not designed for the curved fields or rear nodal point positions optimized for the Sony cameras, and like all other adapted lenses, perform more poorly than Sony's own lenses because the sides and corners often aren't in proper focus.

LEICA lenses of 35mm and wider aren't as sharp as they should be at the sides. They sharpen up as stopped down, but if you want great results, use LEICA lenses on a LEICA camera, or use Sony's lenses on the A9. It all has to do with the specific alignment of micro lenses and layer configuration towards the sides of the sensor.

Specifically, there is a lot of field curvature induced by the design of the Sony sensor, and to focus at infinity at the sides with a modern semi-retrofocus LEICA SUPER-ELMARIT-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH, you have to turn the focus ring to about 10'/3 meters! With the 1959 SUPER-ANGULON 21mm f/4 whose rear nodal point really is only about 21mm away from the image plane, you have to set the focus ring to about 3'/1 meter to get things at infinity in focus at the sides!!! Because of this, I've tried and confirmed that my cheap Voigtländer 21mm f/4 works about as well on my A9 as my genuine ASPH LEICA 21mm.

Not only does the combination of a LEICA (or other traditional Nikon or Canon) lens and Sony A9 sensor induce field curvature (there are a lot of optics and micro lenses on a sensor before you get to the light-sensitive part), it also induces astigmatism: the sagittal and meridional planes diverge.

There's no need to splurge for the latest APO ASPH LEICA lenses since the LEICA's (or anyone else's) lenses, with their flat fields are never going to be that sharp across a frame that's expecting a curved field lens. Therefore, it's best to select the lightest-weight (older) lenses rather than the hottest new ones. The performance of my LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 (7-element) is the same as with the newest LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH (floating element), so I prefer to use the older, lighter lens.

Here are two samples shot with the LEICA SUPER-ELMARIT-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH at f/3.4 on the Sony A9. Click either to get the camera-original file and look at each at 100%:

LEICA 21mm f/3.4 on Sony A9

Focussed at the center, focus ring set to 8 feet. bigger or camera-original © file.

Enlarge the camera-original © file and you'll see that while the center is super-sharp, the sides are crummy — and this is the world's sharpest 21mm lens!

 

LEICA 21mm f/3.4 on Sony A9

Focussed for sharpness at the sides, focus ring set to 4 feet. bigger or camera-original © file.

Enlarge the camera-original © file and you'll see that the sides are sharper, but now the center is out of focus, even though objects at the sides are slightly farther away!

 

LEICA 21mm f/3.4 on Sony A9

Shot with a real Sony 16-35/2.8 GM lens at 21mm and f/3.2, sharp corner-to-corner. bigger or camera-original © file.

Enlarge the camera-original © file and you'll see that everything is ultra-sharp. It's not that the LEICA lens isn't this sharp; it's just that its field curvature (or rear nodal point location) isn't optimized to the Sony cameras as Sony's lenses are. Also you'll see that there is much less corner darkening with this real Sony GM lens instead of the LEICA lenses, since the A9 has lens correction data for it.

Corner color shifts with adapted rangefinder ultrawide lenses isn't as bad as seen on other cameras:

Mit LEICA 21mm f/3.4

Color shifts with modern LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH. bigger.

 

Mit LEICA 21mm f/4

Color shifts with 1959 LEICA SUPER-ANGULON 21mm f/4. bigger.

With my LEICA APO-SUMMICRON-M 90mm f/2 ASPH, probably the world's sharpest photographic lens legally sold to consumers, it actually works reasonably well because the curvature effects are less pronounced, but it's still not as good as a SONY lens on my A9, or the APO-SUMMICRON on a LEICA. It all has to do with how well sensors interface with particular lenses.

My LEICA TELE-ELMAR-M 135mm f/4 works great because its rear nodal point is far enough away from the sensor to give sharp images edge-to-edge wide open.

LEICA lenses also have the big disadvantage of not focussing any closer than 0.7 or 1 meters (2.5 or 3 feet). A huge advantage of mirrorless is that the system works great regardless of close-focus distance, so if you're going to use a lens on the A9, you ought to use one that focuses close enough. LEICA lenses were always limited by having to work with a viewfinder on the side of the camera which leads to big parallax problems at closer distances.

 

Summary

Stick with lenses sold by Sony, be they branded Sony or Zeiss, for the best results as you expect. Sony's GM lenses are especially excellent in every way on the A9.

Adapting lenses of other brands, even though these lenses may be state-of-the-art on those manufacturers' cameras, probably won't be that breathtaking on the A9 — or any other camera of a brand different than the lens' manufacturer. Stick to Sony G and GM lenses on the A9 and you won't go wrong.

 

Specifications

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Specifications   Accessories   USA Version

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Sensor

24 MP full-frame 23.8 x 35.6mm CMOS sensor.

1.5:1 aspect ratio.

Ultrasonic cleaner.

Mechanical 5-axis sensor-shift stabilizer claims 5 stops improvement.

 

ISO

Stills, regular mechanical shutter

Regular: ISO 100 ~ 51,200.

Extended: ISO 50 ~ 204,800.

 

Stills, silent electronic shutter

Regular: ISO 100 ~ 25,600.

Extended: ISO 50 ~ 25,600.

 

Video

Regular: ISO 100 ~ 51,200.

Extended: ISO 100 ~ 102,400.

 

Auto ISO

Upper and lower limits selectable from ISO 100 to ISO 204,800 in full stops (limited to ISO 102,400 for video and ISO 25,600 with silent electronic shutter).

Slowest shutter speed settable in full stops from 1/16,000 to 30s in full stops, as well as an Auto setting that varies with the lens focal length. The Auto Slowest Shutter Speed setting my be varied ±2 stops slower or faster than the lens' focal length.

 

Image Sizes

Cropped Sizes

The A9 automatically crops the full-frame down to APS-C if you mount an APS-C lens, or you can set this manually (MENU > Camera 1 > page 1/13 > APS-C/Super 35mm > ON), and either of these 1.5:1 formats may also be set to a 16:9 crop.

 

Full Frame

6,000 x 4,000 pixels (Large, 24 MP), native.

3,936 x 2,624 (Medium, 10 MP).

3,008 x 2,000 (Small, 6 MP).

 

APS-C

3,936 x 2,624 (Large, 10 MP), native.

3,008 x 2,000 (Medium, 6 MP).

1,968 x 1,312 (Small, 2.6 MP).

 

Image Formats

JPG, raw or raw + JPG.

JPG: Extra Fine, Fine or Standard.

Raw: 14-bit compressed or uncompressed.

 

Video & Audio

Stereo mic built-in.

 

XAVC S

File Format

MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 XAVC S ver.1.0 format compliant video with LPCM 48 ksps 16-bit stereo audio.

 

Rates & Sizes

3,840 x 2,160 (4K): 29.97p, 25p or 23.976p at 100 or 60 MBPS

1,920 x 1,080: 119.88p or 100p at 100 MBPS or 60 MBPS; 59.94p,50p, 29.97p, 25p or 23.976p at 50 MBPS.

 

AVCHD v 2.0

File Format

MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 video with Dolby Digital 2 channels, equipped with Dolby Digital Stereo Creator.

 

Rates & Sizes

1,920 x 1,080: 59.94p, 28 MBPS, PS; 59.94i, 24 MBPS, FX; 59.94i, 17 MBPS, FH; 23.976p, 24 MBPS, FX, 23.976p, 17 MBPS, FH; 50p, 28 MBPS, PS; 50i, 24 MBPS, FX; 50i, 17 MBPS, FH; 25p, 24 MBPS, FX; 25p, 17 MBPS, FH.

 

MP4

File Format

MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 video with stereo MPEG-4 AAC-LC.

 

Rates & Sizes

1,920 x 1,080: 59.94p or 50p at 28 MBPS; 29.97p or 25p at 16 MBPS

1280 x 720: 29.97p or 25p at 6 MBPS.

 

Under- and Over-crank (slow-mo and fast-motion)

Sony calls this S&Q, for "Slow and Quick" motion.

MOS (recorded without sound) only.

1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 30, 60 and 120 FPS in the pulled-down ("NTSC") modes.

1, 2, 3, 6, 12, 25, 50 and 100 FPS in the straight ("PAL") modes.

 

Autofocus

693 point on-sensor phase-detection.

Contrast-detection.

Hybrid AF uses phase-detection for speed and fine-tunes with contrast detection when it can.

AF range LV -3 to +20 with an f/2 lens.

LED AF illuminator, 10'/3m range.

Face recognition, but only if you activate it.

4.7x and 9.4x magnifiers.

 

Electronic Viewfinder

0.5" (13mm) OLED.

3,686,400 dots quad-VGA.

120 frames per second update rate with regular mechanical shutter, 60 FPS with silent electronic shutter.

Coverage is so immediate due to the new technology sensor that what you capture is delayed by only about one millisecond from what you saw in the finder.

100% coverage.

0.78x with 50mm lens.

Auto and manual brightness control.

5 steps of manual color temperature shift.

-4 to +3 diopters.

Eyepoint: 18.5mm from the eyepiece frame, 23mm from the eyepiece

Fluorine external coating to repel fingerprints, dust, water and dirt.

 

Light Meter

1,200 zone evaluative, entire screen Averaging, Center-Weighted, Spot, Spot standard or large or highlight-weighted.

Meter range LV -3 to +20 with an f/2 lens.

 

Flash Sync

1/250 sync speed, with Sony flashes.

Only works with mechanical shutter; no flash works with the silent electronic shutter.

Dedicated hot shoe and PC (Prontor- Compur) connector.

 

Shutters

Mechanical Focal-Plane

1/8,000 to 30s and Bulb.

"Tested to 500,000 cycles."

 

Silent Electronic

1/32,768 to 30s (no Bulb).

1/32,768 only works in M and S modes; 1/16,384 is the maximum in other modes, and there are no third-stop settings between 1/16,384 and 1/32,768.

 

Auto mode

Selects electronic shutter if needed for speeds above 1/8,000.

 

Self Timer

2, 5 or 10s delay.

Also can shoot 3 or 5 frames each time, and can make those bracketed.

 

Frame Rates

 
Electronic Shutter
Mechanical Shutter
Continuous High
20 FPS
5 FPS
Continuous Mid
10 FPS
5 FPS
Continuous Low
5 FPS
2.5 FPS

 

Frame Buffer

362 frames JPEG Large.

241 frames compressed raw.

222 frames JPG + raw.

128 frames uncompressed raw.

118 frames JPG + uncompressed raw.

 

Storage

Sony A9 Card Door

Sony A9 Card Door. bigger.

Two slots:

Slot 1 (bottom): SD, SDHC or SDXC, UHS-I and UHS-II compliant.

Slot 2 (top): SD, SDHC and SDXC, UHS-1 compliant, or Memory Stick PRO Duo.

 

LCD

Sony A9

Flipping LCD, Sony A9. bigger.

3" TFT LCD.

1,440,000 dots.

Flips, but can't flip 180º for self-portraits. Only flips up 107º or down 41.º

Does not swing left or right.

Manual brightness control only. There is a "Sunny" mode, too.

Touch screen to move focus area, but not for menus or playback.

 

Connectors

Sony A9 Connectors

Sony A9 Connectors. bigger.

On Left:

Ethernet (WLAN for FTP connections).

PC (Prontor-Compur) flash sync.

 

On Right:

3.5mm microphone jack with plug-in power.

3.5mm headphone jack.

Micro-D HDMI. The HDMI output supports 3,840 x 2,160 (25p), 1,920 x 1,080 (50p, 50i, 24p, 60p, 60i and 3,840 x 2,160 at 30p and 24p. YCbCr 4:2:2 8-bit and RGB 8-bit.

Multi/Micro USB 2.0.

 

On Top and Bottom:

Hot shoe, which is also a Sony "Multi Interface" Shoe.

Vertical Grip Connector (inside the battery chamber).

 

WiFi

IEEE 802.11 b/g/n

Infrastructure mode

2.4 GHz.

WEP, WPA-PSK and WPA2-PSK.

Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) or Manual setup.

 

NFC

NFC Forum Type 3 Tag compliant

 

Bluetooth

v4.1.

2.4 GHz.

Model No. WW361847.

 

Power & Battery

Consumes about 4.1W (5.3W for video) using the finder and 3W (5.0W for movies) using the LCD.

Sony NP-FZ100 rechargeable lithium ion battery included:

Sony NP-FZ100 Battery

Sony NP-FZ100 battery. enlarge.

 

Sony NP-FZ100 Battery

Sony NP-FZ100 battery. enlarge.

It's 7.2V, 2,280 mAh, 16.4 Wh.

Rated 650 still shots or two hours of video shooting with the rear LCD

Rated 480 still shots or 105 minutes of video shooting with the viewfinder.

 

Charging

Although I prefer a folding plug charger, this universal corded charger works anywhere with the right cord.

A nice feature is the three-segment battery status indicator. It shows about 2/3 charged here:

Sony BC-QZ1 Battery Charger

Sony BC-QZ1 Battery Charger with NP-FZ100 battery. bigger.

 

Sony BC-QZ1 Battery Charger

Sony BC-QZ1 Battery Charger. bigger.

It charges via USB in-camera, or also charges in the included BC-QZ1 Corded Battery Charger.

The BC-QZ1 is rated 100~240V, 50/60 Hz, 0.38A in, and 8.4VDC @ 1.6A out.

You can charge two batteries at once; one in the camera via USB and the other in this charger.

 

USB Power Adapter

It also comes with an AC-UUD12 power adapter to plug in the wall and make USB power.

It's rated 100~240V, 50/60Hz, 0.2A in, and 5VDC, 1.5A out.

 

Size

3⅞ x 5 x 2½ inches HWD, excluding protrusions.

95.6 x 126.9 x 63.0 mm HWD, excluding protrusions.

 

Weight

23.842 oz. (675.95g) with battery and one card, actual measured.

Rated 23.7 oz. (673g) with battery and card.

Rated 20.7 oz (588g), stripped.

 

Quality

Sony A9

Bottom, Sony A9. bigger.

Magnesium alloy top cover, front cover, internal frame and rear cover.

The grip area has been reinforced with magnesium alloy.

Sony claims weather seals around most of the buttons and dials, but there are no seals on the card and connector covers.

Made in Thailand.

 

Announced

Wednesday, 19 April 2017.

 

Orderable Since

Friday, 21 April 2017.

 

Shipping Since

Thursday, 25 May 2017.

 

Included

A9 camera & body cap.

FDA-EP18 eye cup, attached.

Black plastic hot shoe cover, attached.

Shoulder strap.

NP-FZ100 rechargeable lithium ion battery (unique to A9).

BC-QZ1 Battery Charger and unpolarized AC power cord.

AC-UUD12 USB AC Power Adapter.

Micro USB cable.

Cable strain-relief for use if you're shooting tethered.

Two printed manuals, one in English and one in French.

Warranty paperwork.

 

Model Numbers

Sony's official "ILCE-9" model number is printed on the certification sticker on the bottom. It's also how the model is listed in the EXIF information.

Sony also refers to this as the ILCE9/B in printed documents.

Its more casual "α9" designation is on the front of the camera.

 

Operating Environment

0 ~ 40º C (32 ~ 104ºF).

 

Price

$4,498, April ~ June 2017.

Sony A9

Box, Sony A9. bigger.

 

Sony A9

Box back, Sony A9. bigger.

 

Accessories

Top   Sample Images   Intro   Lenses & Adapters

Specifications   Accessories   USA Version

Performance   Compared   Usage

Recommendations   More

 

Included

NP-FZ100 battery.

BC-QZ1 Battery Charger.

FDA-EP18 eye cup.

 

Optional

VG-C3EM Vertical Battery Grip

The VG-C3EM vertical grip takes-over the existing battery bay and holds two batteries for double the shooting life, rated to 950 single shots.

Magnesium alloy exterior.

Dust and moisture resistant.

You can charge the batteries in the grip via the camera's USB connector.

 

GP-EX1 Grip Extender

This extends the left-hand grip down a little bit, making it easier to grab a camera with all your fingers. Without this extender, a man's hand typically will only be able to wrap three fingers around the camera's grip, not all four. (The thumb isn't a finger.)

 

NPA-MQZ1K Multi Battery Adaptor

This is a crazy adapter that holds up to four batteries!

Not only does it hold them all so you can just keep on shooting, it also can charge up to four batteries in 8 hours.

It may seem expensive, but it comes included with two NP-FZ100 batteries to get you started. Along with the one that comes with your A9, you're already up to three.

 

PCK-LG1 Glass Screen Protector

 

ECM-XYST1M Stereo Mic

An inexpensive stereo mic which attaches to the A9's hot shoe for much better audio than the built-in mics.

 

XLR-K2M or XLR-K1M XLR Mic/Line Adapters

Each of these includes a professional stereo XLR preamplifier that slides into the A9's hot shoe and allows using professional microphones or mixing consoles. It's pretty nifty, with auto and manual gain controls, selectable lo-cut filters, line and mic level inputs and +48V phantom power.

Each also includes an ECM-XM1 shotgun microphone.

 

Getting a Legal USA Version

(for USA only)

Top   Sample Images   Intro   Lenses & Adapters

Specifications   Accessories   USA Version

Performance   Compared   Usage

Recommendations   More

 

So long as you get yours from an authorized source, you'll get a legitimate USA version with a warranty from Sony USA.

USA versions are marked "UC2" above the UPC bar codes:

Sony A9

Box, Sony A9. bigger.

USA versions also include this piece of paper which specifically mentions the USA and has Sony's USA phone number in your unsealed box:

Sony USA Warranty Card

Sony USA Warranty. bigger.

If you do something stupid like buy from a source that is not an approved source, you may get a gray market version, which has no warranty in the USA and will lack this code on the box or the warranty sheet.

Just to keep things interesting, you'll notice that the A9 has a much larger and longer warranty sheet, no longer just a card, because this warranty now has many more exclusions and limitations than ever before. It specifically adds, about halfway down, that even if you have all this paperwork, if you didn't get your A9 from an approved (by Sony) dealer, then the warranty doesn't apply.

Buying gray market or what looks like a USA model from an unauthorized dealer is always taking a chance compared to getting a legal USA version from an authorized dealer. If you can save $1,000, then by all means go for it, but if you only get $100 off, I wouldn't risk it.

 

Performance

Top   Sample Images   Intro   Lenses & Adapters

Specifications   Accessories   USA Version

Performance   Compared   Usage

Recommendations   More

 

Overall   Autofocus   Ergonomics   Exposure

Finder   Shutter   Frame Rates   High ISOs

Auto ISO   Auto White Balance   Sensor Cleanliness

Stabilization   Silent Mode   Mechanics   Rear LCD

Playback   Data   Power & Battery

 

Overall

Performance          top

The Sony A9 is a landmark camera. It shoots faster and more autonomously than any other camera. Set it as you want it, and it will self-focus and shoot anything in any light with ease — so long as you use good lenses. Much of the fast focus magic is lost if you waste time with old lenses not optimized for Sony mirrorless cameras.

When the original A7 came out there were no great lenses for the Sony system, and today there are a good set, with more coming out every other month.

 

Autofocus

Performance          top

Autofocus is astounding, and more astounding compared to full-frame DSLRs is that the A9 autofocuses throughout the entire frame, not just the central area. I've covered this at the top; AF is the best I've ever used.

It's important to use a top G or GM lens whose internal AF system is optimized for the Sony mirrorless system; if you use an older or adapted lens, you'll miss much of what the A9 can do. See Sony's list of the "good" lenses to use on the A9.

Use the right lens, like the 70-200/2.8 GM, and players can run all over the field while the A9 keeps them in perfect focus at 20 FPS, no worries! I've never used a DSLR that can track this well and for this long with a player running anywhere in the frame.

While Sony claims only "93%" coverage, what that means is that you can focus up to any of the edges, just not actually on the edge. No one puts a subject on the edge, which would cut off the subject! The A9 focuses anyplace anything would go, so I call this 100% coverage. There's no place a subject can go where the A9 can't track it. I've always complained that full-frame 35mm and DSLRs may have a hundred AF sensors, but since they're all in the center, who cares?

Set the A9's top left dial to AF-C for continuous AF to let the system shine.

Turn on Face Detection (MENU > Camera 1 > page 13/13 > Face Detection > ON), and the A9 finds the closest eye and just focuses on it all by itself, with no need to select autofocus areas manually:

Katie watches her MacBook Air

Katie watches her MacBook Air. Sony A9, Sony 24-70/2.8 GM at 69mm, f/2.8 at 1/125 at Auto ISO 2,000. bigger or full-resolution file.

 

Katie watches her MacBook Air

1,200-pixel crop from above. Notice how the Sony A9 magically found the closest eyeball and focussed on it. bigger or the same full-resolution file as above.

It even saw through the stray hair.

With general subjects, zillion little green boxes magically fly all over your subject and the camera just focuses on it.

Set the DMF focus mode to allow manual focus override during AF-S (single) autofocus. It's so smart that it will magically zoom into faces as you turn the focus ring!

It's so fast and so good on my Sony A9 that I can track Katie on a swing —  at night with a slow lens!

Katie Swinging

Katie swinging at 9 o'clock at night, 28 July 2017. Sony A9, Sony 24-240mm at 46mm wide-open at f/4.5 at 1/160 at Auto ISO 25,600, Perfectly Clear. bigger.

 

Ergonomics

Performance          top

The A9 has so many programmable buttons that it's easy to get it set up the way we'd like.

It turns on immediately. It may take a fraction of a second as opposed to instant turn-on of a DSLR, but it also takes a fraction of a second to bring it up to my eye, so it's fine.

Cards go in with the label away from you. Oddly card 1 is on the bottom and card 2 is on the top; which you'll need to know when you set what records to which.

Unlike Nikon and Canon pro DSLRs whose physical design has been refined over many decades and whose cameras feel soft and comfortable due to their expertly designed curves, the A9 feels blocky because it is. The A9 is mostly straight lines and hard edges, and feels that way.

The mode dials lock.

In P, S and A modes the front and rear dials both control the same thing; use whichever you prefer.

 

Exposure

Performance          top

Typical for better mirrorless cameras, exposure is almost always perfect. It's very hard to fool the A9, and no big deal if you do; just spin the dedicated compensation dial.

 

Finder

Performance          top

The electronic viewfinder (EVF) is excellent.

It's sharp, bright and colorful, and it's always the right brightness day or night.

It stays in focus because the finder focus wheel is where it's not likely to get knocked.

The only gotcha is that sharpness can vary across the frame due to the finder optics; make the sides sharp and the center may be a little blurry, or vice versa. The Canon EVF-DC2 is sharper, but it lacks auto brightness control so it's not bright enough in daylight.

Even though the A9 EVF "only" updates at 60 FPS with the silent electronic shutter, I only use this mode and the EVF seems live and undelayed. It's smooth, fluid and perfect. I can't see any need for the 120 FPS EVF mode that only runs with the slow mechanical shutter.

 

Shutter

Performance          top

The electronic shutter is 100% silent and vibration free.

The mechanical shutter only moves at the ends of exposures, so there's no vibration in the image. This works by default; there's no need for any prerelease modes for autonomy or other vibration-sensitive shooting.

 

Frame Rates

Performance          top

Ryan and Zing Bow

Ryan and his Zing bow, 02 August 2017. Sony A9, Sony 24-240mm at 77mm wide-open at f/5.6 at 1/160 at Auto ISO 100, Perfectly Clear. bigger.

It runs at 20 FPS regardless of whatever crummy cards you put in it.

It runs at 20 FPS with just about every ordinary Sony lens like the 24-240mm as well as the fancy GM lenses.

It runs at 20 FPS with adapted manual-focus lenses.

 It may take a long time to write all the frames from the buffer to the card, but you can shoot with slow cards unimpeded so long as you’re patient enough for them to write to the card before playback.

I even tried an ancient non-SDHC, non-SDXC, blue SanDisk 2GB card (no kind of class or speed rating on it), and had no problem getting 20 frames per second in RAW + JPG mode. Of course the 2GB card only held two or three seconds of shooting and took a lot longer than that to write all the data to the old card, but it worked fine.

The only caveat is, as note 9 at the bottom of the specs in the brochure points out, that if you’re crazy enough to shoot uncompressed RAW that you’re limited to 12 FPS, which I confirmed, but everything else runs at 20 FPS, including compressed RAW + JPG regardless of card type or mix.

The A9 is very smart: since it can autofocus and set exposure even with lenses stopped down, it doesn't bother to open and close the diaphragm for each shot at high frame rates if it doesn't have to.

 

High ISO Performance

Performance          top

High ISO performance is superb.

The A9 looks great at just about any ISO other than ISO 204,800; use whatever ISO you need to get a sharp picture if you need it.

 

ISO 4,000

Ryan at El Torito

Ryan at El Torito, 21 June 2017. Sony A9 with Sony 16-35/2.8 GM at 35mm at f/2.8 at 1/125 at Auto ISO 4,000. bigger or camera-original © file.

 

ISO 5,000

Sony A9 High ISO Performance

ISO 5,000: 23 June 2017. Sony A9, Sony 12-24mm f/4 G at 12mm, f/4 at 1/30 at Auto ISO 5,000. bigger or camera-original © file.

 

ISO 6,400

Sony 24-240mm sample image

Fountain, 28 July 2017. Sony A9, Sony 24-240mm at 24mm wide-open at f/3.5 hand-held at 1/15 at Auto ISO 6,400, Perfectly Clear. bigger or full-resolution file.

 

ISO 25,600

Katie and Puppy

The many faces of Katie, 28 July 2017. Sony A9, Sony 24-240mm at 100mm wide-open at f/5.6 hand-held at 1/100 at Auto ISO 25,600, Perfectly Clear. bigger.

 

Katie and friend

Katie gets a glow stick, 28 July 2017. Sony A9, Sony 24-240mm at 24mm wide-open at f/3.5 at 1/80 at Auto ISO 25,600, Perfectly Clear. bigger.

Easy to shoot hand-held outdoors at night with a slow lens, even lit by a glowstick.

 

Katie and friend

Katie and her glow stick at night, 28 July 2017. Sony A9, Sony 24-240mm at 39mm wide-open at f/4 at 1/80 at Auto ISO 25,600, Perfectly Clear. bigger.

 

Sony 24-240mm sample image

Gazebo at night, 28 July 2017. Sony A9, Sony 24-240mm at 157mm wide-open at f/6.3 hand-held at 1/8 at Auto ISO 25,600, Perfectly Clear. bigger.

Slow lens? No light? No problem!

 

High ISO Sample Image Files

Complete Sample Images

Click any for the camera-original © files to explore on your computer; mobile devices rarely show the full resolution files properly. These are all shot with the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM at 50mm at f/5.6 on a tripod at various exposure times:

Sony A9 High ISO Performance

Sony A9 High ISO Performance

Sony A9 High ISO Performance

Sony A9 High ISO Performance

Sony A9 High ISO Performance

Sony A9 High ISO Performance

Sony A9 High ISO Performance

Sony A9 High ISO Performance

Sony A9 High ISO Performance

Sony A9 High ISO Performance

Sony A9 High ISO Performance

Sony A9 High ISO Performance

Sony A9 High ISO Performance

These images all look about the same at this web size up to ISO 51,200; the highlights, shadows and colors match very well across the entire ISO spectrum with just a little extra rattiness at the very highest six-digit ISOs. Some years ago this wasn't the case; higher ISOs on older cameras would look quite different from lower ISOs even at small print sizes.

As you can see, pretty much any ISO will work well for reasonably sized web or print images. Blotchiness is normal at the very highest ISOs; the camera is doing everything it can to make a picture out of essentially no light and no exposure.

 

Crops from above

These are 600 x 450 pixel crops from the above images. They will vary in size to fit your browser window; if they are about 6" (15cm) wide on your screen, the complete image would print at 40 x 60" (1 x 1.5 meters) at this same high magnification. if they are about 12" (30cm) wide on your screen, the complete image would print at 80 x 120" (2 x 3 meters) at this same high magnification.

While images at high ISOs look great at reasonable print sizes as shown above, the differences are much more obvious at the high magnification shown below or if you choose to look at the original files by clicking any of these.

Details and textures get blurrier as ISOs increase because the camera's noise reduction is removing them along with the camera's noise. Look at the camera-original files (click any image here) on your computer at 100%, and as ISO climbs we lose the subtle highlights on the iron grill mesh by about ISO 400, the edges and rust on the iron grate and the tiles behind this grate disappear at about ISO 12,800.

Better than the Nikon D5, the Creative Styles (sharpening, contrast, color saturation, etc.) are applied to the images at all ISOs. The D5 cheats and doesn't apply these settings to the images in its Pushed modes to help hide its noise, while the A9 applies our selected settings to images made at every ISO.

If you're on a tripod shooting iron and stone as I've done here — or night photography on a tripod —  obviously use ISO 100 or 50 as with every camera, never 400 or above, simply because lower ISOs yield cleaner, sharper pictures — if you're going to look at them this close.

Click any for the same camera-original © files as above to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely show the full resolution files properly):

Sony A9 High ISO Performance

Sony A9 High ISO Performance

Sony A9 High ISO Performance

Sony A9 High ISO Performance

Sony A9 High ISO Performance

Sony A9 High ISO Performance

Sony A9 High ISO Performance

Sony A9 High ISO Performance

Sony A9 High ISO Performance

Sony A9 High ISO Performance

Sony A9 High ISO Performance

Sony A9 High ISO Performance

Sony A9 High ISO Performance

 

Auto ISO

Performance          top

Auto ISO works perfectly, with the one exception that it doesn't shift as you use Program shift.

Auto ISO is perfect in all modes including Program, but if you shift the Program settings (just turn either dial for different combinations of shutter and aperture), the automatically selected ISO doesn't update if needed to keep the shutter speed from falling below the desired slowest speed — or won't decrease an elevated ISO if you shift to a larger aperture.

Therefore if you shift the program in dark conditions you may have to stop everything and change ISO manually.

It sets and does whatever I need it to — except shift the ISO as you shift the Program. The best way around this flaw is to revert to S or A modes if you need to change the selected aperture or shutter speeds in dim light.

Otherwise, it's completely flexible as I explain at its section under Specifications.

 

Auto White Balance

Performance          top

Ryan, Katie, Zoey and Sofia

Ryan, Katie, Zoey and Sofia, 07 June 2017. Sony A9 with Sony 24-70/2.8 GM at 68mm at f/4.5 at 1/200 at Auto ISO 100. bigger.

Auto White Balance is wonderful. Colors look great in every light. The snap above is in hideous gray overcast, and the colors are beaming.

This is much better than in previous years; I can shoot in shade or indoors or under mixed light and it all looks as it should, which is no easy task for a camera.

Ryan checks his Apple Watch

Ryan checks his Apple Watch, 01 August 2017. Sony A9, Sony 28mm f/2 at f/2 at 1/125 at Auto ISO 250, Perfectly Clear. bigger.

 

Sensor Dirt, Dust & Cleanliness

Performance          top

Ever since I got my first camera with a self-cleaning sensor about 10 years ago, I've never seen any dirt on any of my Nikons or Canons.

After about ten days of shooting, I now have some dirt on my A9 sensor, and manually activating the cleaner (MENU > Suitcase(Setup2) > page 2/7 > Cleaning Mode > Enter) didn't change anything.

I don't know if this is a design defect, or just dumb luck.

The sensor is never covered by the shutter with power off. I would prefer that the shutter closes when not in use (like a DSLR) to keep crud off the sensor. Throw the A9 in your bag without a cap, and it has a bare sensor.

In any case, expect to need to have your sensor cleaned every now and then, even if you never had to with a DSLR.

 

Image Stabilization

Performance          top

Image Stabilization is great.

I have no problem shooting my old manual-focus lenses at slow speeds, as shown at Sample Images.

The A9 has internal sensor-shift stabilization.

 

Electronic Shutter: Silent Mode

Performance          top

Most cameras with a silent mode operate only partially in these special modes.

In the A9, the silent mode is its usual mode once you've set it (MENU > Camera 2 > page 4/9 > Shutter Type); it's the only mode that gives us 20 FPS.

You can do everything in the silent mode, except use flash, shoot at slower than 1/8 in any of the Continuous shutter modes or shoot above ISO 25,600, and the finder updates at "only" 60 FPS and not 120 FPS.

This isn't a problem, and if it is, just swap back to the regular shutter (MENU > Camera 2 > page 4/9 > Shutter Type) and you're good.

I always use the electronic shutter.

While the silent mode is completely silent, the mechanical focal-plane shutter is about as loud as other mirrorless cameras and only operates the end of exposures, just like Sony's other mirrorless cameras.

 

Mechanical Quality

Performance          top

The top and bottom covers are alloy.

Sony claims weather seals for the knobs and buttons, but the card door and connector covers have no gaskets.

The battery and card doors are plastic.

The buttons and rear center dial are plastic.

The connector covers are just flimsy plastic caps.

The top knobs and front-rear control dials are metal.

 

Rear LCD

Performance          top

The LCD is great, except for use in direct sunlight. It has no auto-brightness control.

No worries, use the superb EVF in daylight.

The LCD flips vertically, but not very far, and it doesn't swing left or right.

Honestly I never use the rear LCD. I prefer to use the EVF for everything.

 

Playback

Performance          top

It autorotates as you turn the camera, just like an iPhone, if you set MENU > PLAY > page 1/3 > Display Rotation > On.

Oddly as in earlier Sonys, even though it's smart enough to rotate the image as you rotate the camera during playback, if you zoom the image, it won't autorotate.

There's no way to read the file number.

There is no 1/2 second auto review option (MENU > Camera 2 > page 7/9 > Auto Review) as there is in some other Sonys; only 2, 5 and 10 seconds.

While there is no diagonal scroll in a zoomed image using the rear four-way control dial just like other Sonys, this A9 has a new thumb-nubbin which works in all 8 directions.

 

Data

Performance          top

It takes 9.4 seconds to format a 64GB card — slower than other brands of camera.

Cards are not properly titled when formatted. Even weirder, the two different cards format with different titles! Slot one, the UHS-II slot on the bottom, formats cards as "Untitled," and slot two, the UHS-I slot on the top, formats cards as "NO NAME." I was wondering if it simply wasn't bothering to retitle the cards and was leaving them as they were, but no, it is retitling the cards this particular way. They ought to be titled "SONYA9-1" and "SONYA9-2" for the two slots, or let us preset a value, but no.

JPG image file sizes vary with image complexity, as they should.

Fantastic is that we have the menu option for it to create a new folder each day. I wish my DSLRs did that! For instance, everything I shoot on 03 June 2017 is in a folder DCIM / 10070603.

 

Power

Performance          top

Battery life is fantastic for a mirrorless camera, as good or better than a DSLR in actual sports shooting. In sports shooting where I make long bursts at 10 FPS, I can shoot 1,800 frames and only use 33% of the battery's capacity — or about 5,400 shots on a full charge. At 20 FPS or with longer bursts, I might get even more.

If I shoot more stills, meaning fewer shots at a time before I look at the playback, I only run the battery down to about 82% after about 300 shots, which means about 1,500 shots on a charge for that kind of shooting.

The A9 is CIPA rated at only 480 shots, while Nikon's cheapest D3400 ($497 including lens) is CIPA rated at 1,200 shots (half shot with flash). The competitive professional Canon 1DX Mk II is rated 1,210 shots (CIPA), and the professional Nikon D5 is rated at 3,780 shots (CIPA), or almost eight times as many shots.

Here's where this gets interesting: CIPA ratings are for consumer cameras, and the CIPA test procedure is working under the presumption that you're making one shot at a time, and using the flash half the time. No one buys an A9, D5 or 1DX II to make one shot at a time; we buy these for high speed bursts, where the A9 has a huge advantage.

The A9 may be left turned on and it will go to sleep after a minute, but in field use that burns the battery down more than turning it off when done each time. If I leave the power switch on, I was down to 58% after 268 shots at the end of several hours of real-world shooting. DSLRs are better here.

The weirdest thing about my A9's battery consumption is battery drain with the power off. I lose about 5% of charge overnight. If i leave my A9 for a week unused, it can be dead. It's a good idea to charge the night before any important shoot; don't expect to be able to just grab your camera after it's sat for a week as we do with DSLRs.

The A9 has a battery percentage indicator, but no long-term battery health indication.

I usually charge via USB, where it draws 425mA DC while charging.

The dedicated charger is faster. It has a great charge-state icon, but both the orange CHARGE LED and the green 3-segment indictors all turn off when the battery is charged, meaning when you come back to the charger you never really know if all is well, or something was disconnected.

 

Sony BC-QZ1 Battery Charger

Sony BC-QZ1 Battery Charger with NP-FZ100 battery. bigger.

 

Compared

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All Sony Cameras Compared

 

Versus Nikon and Canon Pro DSLRs

I've been chronicling the difference in features and performance with the Nikon D5 and Canon 1DX Mk II since the start of the review.

This Sony is smaller and faster, and silent. Its images look better at ISO 204,800.

Sony has advanced photography a long way in the few years it's been making full-frame cameras, while Nikon has fallen flat on its face. Nikon's first S36 motor-drive for the mirrorless 35mm Nikon SP ran at 2 or 3 FPS in the 1950s, the F36 motor for the Nikon F ran at 4 FPS in 1959, and within a few years made it to 10 FPS with a locked mirror (no viewing). In 2016 the Nikon D5 can run 12 FPS with viewing and AF tracking, not much improvement after 60 years — and then Sony comes out at 20 FPS with unrestricted no-blackout viewing, and it does it completely silently.

The Nikon D5 and Canon 1DX Mk II are bigger, heavier, more expensive — and tougher. They are mostly metal and have all their doors sealed, and their card doors are metal, too, while the doors of the A9 are plastic and unsealed. The Nikon D5 and Canon 1DX Mk II are also much more comfortable in-hand, with more mature ergonomic design. They cost 50% more but run much slower and are much noisier.

The Nikon D5 and Canon 1DX Mk II both have direct voice-memo recording buttons for discreet note-taking while shooting, but oddly Sony, which has been one of the world's leading innovators in audio recorders for their entire history, has no audio note recorder in the A9; hopefully there will be in the A9 Mk II.

 

Versus the A7II and A7II

The A7S II and A7R II are much the same camera, with fewer features and much less battery life. These consumer cameras lack the second card slot and the Advance Mode and Autofocus dials among other things — and they only go to 5 FPS due to their older technology sensors.

 

Usage

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See also Sony's A9 User's Manual.

 

Charging

The battery charges internally via USB or externally in the included corded charger.

Either charge method lights an amber LED while charging, and it simply goes out when done.

It's hard to see the camera's tiny charge LED hidden near the USB socket inside a cover.

USB also can power the camera indefinitely.

 

Format Card

This is hidden at MENU > Suitcase > page 5/7 > Format.

 

File Name Prefixes

Set this at MENU > Suitcase > page 5/7 > Set File Name.

I set mine to A9_.

 

Automatic New Daily Folders

This creates a new folder on your card each day.

I set it at MENU > Suitcase > page 6/7 > Folder Name > Date Form.

 

Beeps

To turn off the beeps that are on by default, go to MENU > Camera 2 > page 9/9 > Audio signals.

 

Setting What the Controls Do

Set these at MENU > Camera 2 > page 8/9 > Custom Key (Shoot) or Custom Key (PB).

 

Setting the Fn menu

The Fn menu is the options you see at the bottom of your screen when you press the (Fn) button.

Set this at MENU > Camera 2 > page 8/9 > Function Menu Set.

I like to put Auto ISO Minimum Shutter Speed and Image Size, there, for instance.

Hint: Sonys default to putting Drive Mode at the upper left position in that menu. The A9 sets this on the dial on the top left, but leaves that position of the Fn menu set to control Drive Mode — which is grayed-out because you only can set it with the dial! Therefore you have a free space to reprogram without losing any of the default choices.

There is no right or wrong, just what works for you.

 

Auto ISO

To set the minimum shutter speed if you don't assign this control to the Fn menu, set it at MENU > Camera 1 > page 7/13 > ISO AUTO Min SS.

If you choose Auto for the slowest shutter speed, it sets it based on focal length. Slow or Fast shift it by one stop, and Slower or Faster shift it by 2 stops from the focal length.

I set 1/125 for people shots or 1/500 for action.

For things that hold still, I set AUTO, or SLOW or SLOWER if it's an optically stabilized lens.

Again, there is no right or wrong; just what works for you.

 

Face Detection

This is one of the A9's most important features, but it's OFF by default.

Set it at MENU > Camera 1 > page 13/13 > Face Detection > ON.

I never turn it off.

 

Getting Awesome Autofocus Performance

This is easy: once you've enabled Face Detection, I shoot in AF-C (continuous) and leave the Focus Area setting in its default of WIDE. Now my A9 magically finds the subject, focuses on it, and tracks it all over the finder. It's that simple.

You need lenses that have fast autofocus. Sony's G and GM lenses are the best, designed to excel with the A9. See Sony's list of the "good" lenses to use on the A9.

Older lenses, or anything on an adapter, probably won't give you the performance you deserve or expect, but with the 24-70/2.8 GM and 70-200/2.8 GM I use, it's spectacular.

 

Manual Focus Override

Set the DMF focus mode on the top left dial to allow immediate manual focus override with autofocus. It's so smart that it probably will magically zoom into faces as you turn the focus ring!

The gotcha here is that DMF works in AF-S (single) mode, not AF-C (continuous) mode, so don't use it for sports.

Use a lens with a mechanical focus override ring, like the 70-200/2.8 GM, and you can just grab its focus ring in the AF-C (or any other) mode for instant override. Most lenses, like the 24-70/2.8 GM, won't give manual override unless you're in the DMF mode.

 

Focus Magnifier

I like to have the manual focus magnifier come up when I tap a button when using an adapted manual focus lens. With an adapted old lens, there's nothing to tell the A9 when to magnify unless you program something.

Set which button does this at MENU > Camera 2 > page 8/9 > Custom Key(Shoot.) > (choose a key, say Custom Button 2, the C2 button near the shutter) > Focus Magnifier.

"Custom Buttons" 1-4 refer to the buttons marked C1, C2, C4 and C4 (the trash button). For some unknown reason, this works assigned to C2 or C4, but not if I set it on the Multi-Slc Center Btn — but it's supposed to.

 

Shutter Mode (Silent Shutter or Regular)

This is the most important feature of the A9, and again it's off by default.

The regular shutter is the mechanical focal plane. By default, this is the shutter the A9 uses, it makes sound, and only goes to 5 FPS.

To select the silent electronic 20 FPS shutter, go to MENU > Camera 2 > page 4/9 > Shutter Type > ELEC.

If you set this to AUTO it will usually use the mechanical shutter and only go to the silent electronic shutter if it needs to.

I leave mine in Electronic all the time; you only need Mechanical if you want to use flash, go above ISO 25,600 or shot at slower than 1/8 in any Continuous shutter mode.

 

Did it Shoot?

If it's silent and you don't set Image Review, how do you know if it went off?

Easy: that's the gray rectangle just inside the finder frame you see blip on-screen for a moment. It blips on screen each time it shoots.

 

Self Timer

Select the Self Timer icon on the Advance Mode dial.

You can set the particulars of the Self Timer at MENU > Camera 1 > page 3/13 > Self-timer Type.

You can assign this to an Fn Menu, but turning the Self Timer on or off is done at the Mode Dial.

 

Getting 20 FPS

You need to be in the Electronic shutter; it only goes to 5 FPS with the default mechanical shutter.

It only goes to 12 FPS with uncompressed raw, but goes 20 FPS with all the other settings, including compressed raw + JPG.

It happily shoots, even in Compressed raw + JPG, to the slowest old card you can find. It may take a while to write to it, however.

 

Image Review

To have what you just shot appear on-screen right after you shot it, turn this on at MENU > Camera 2 > page 7/9 > Auto Review and select for how long you'd like each to appear after you've shot it.

I don't use this; it slows me down, and the live finder always shows me what I'm getting as I shoot it — the EVF never blanks-out at the instant you shoot as an SLR or DSLR does.

 

1, 2, 3, M1, M2, M3 and M4 Memory Modes

Once you've set the camera as you like it, go to MENU > Camera 1 > page 3/13 > Cam 1/Cam 2 Memory and save the current settings to the memory address of your liking. 1, 2 and 3 are recalled by selecting them on the top dial, while M1, M2, M3 and M4 are only recallable via the menu system (MENU > Camera 9 > Memory Recall, or some other preset possibly).

Almost everything, like AF illuminators, shutter type, resolution, image settings and white balance are saved and recalled.

Unlike other Sonys, it can't save or recall AF Mode or Advance Modes because they are now on dedicated dials on the top left — but oddly still appear as selections when you press the Fn button.

The A9 locks-up for a few critical seconds when you move the memory setting dial. A faster way to swap between modes is to turn off the A9, move the mode dial, and turn it back on. This sounds complex, but it actually works faster since it doesn't lock up when turned on in a new mode.

The top dial has only 1, 2 and 3 positions, but to select M1, M2, M3 or M4, all you do is move the top dial to any of 1, 2 or 3, and you'll see a screen with what you've selected for recall highlighted at the top. Simply click left or right to select any of the "hidden" M1, M2, M3 or M4 options, and Bingo!, you've recalled them.

If you change any settings while using one of these modes, the A9 will wake back up the same way after being turned off. If you want to return to the originally saved settings as opposed to what you've just modified, set it to another preset and then return to other, which will now come back up as saved.

 

Embed Your Copyright Information in Every Image

I set this at MENU > Suitcase > page 4/7 > Copyright info.

 

Recording to 2 cards at Once as Backup

I set this at MENU > Suitcase > page 5/7 > Recording Mode > Simult (mountain icon).

I do this, but if I pull out one card, it won't record at all!

Be sure to have a spare card if one fills, or know where to reset this setting if you run out of a second card because you'll be dead as soon as either of the cards isn't ready.

 

Under- and Over-Crank (slow-mo and fast-motion video)

Sony calls this S&Q, for "Slow and Quick" motion.

It's set on the Mode Dial, and adjusted in the menu system at S&Q Settings.

 

Clock Setting

Set this at MENU > Suitcase > page 4/7 > Date/Time Setup.

 

Recommendations

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The Sony A9 is an obvious pick — possibly the pick — for sports, news and action. Nothing is as fast, it has an AF system to match, and it's also silent. Sony is out to kill Nikon and Canon, and this certainly helps, at only 2/3 the price of the competitive DSLRs.

If all you need is silent but can make do with only 5 FPS, the A7S II and A7R II do much of what the A9 does, but with only one card slot and minus the Advance and Focus mode dials. Any of these three is great for corporate events, concerts, surveillance and meetings.

Be sure to have the right lenses if you want the best high-speed autofocus performance. People love these Sonys because you can adapt any old lens to them, but I see no intelligence in adapting a $10 Pentax 50mm SMC lens to this camera, much less using other lenses on adapters, if I want the high-speed performance for which I bought my A9.

I use hot SD cards, but even old slow cards work fine in my A9; it just may take a while to clear the buffer if you're shooting large files or at 20 FPS.

The A9 is a new chapter in photography: super-fast, and now completely silent.

I got mine at B&H. I'd also get it at Adorama, at Amazon, or at Crutchfield.

This ad-free website's biggest source of support is when you use those or any of these links to approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Sony does not seal its boxes in any way, so never buy at retail or any other source not on my personally approved list since you'll have no way of knowing if you're missing accessories, getting a defective, damaged, returned, store demo or used camera. I use the stores I do because they ship from secure remote warehouses where no one gets to touch your new camera before you do. Buy only from the approved sources I use myself for the best prices, service, return policies and selection.

Thanks for helping me help you!

Ken, Mrs. Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.

 

More Information

Top   Sample Images   Intro   Lenses & Adapters

Specifications   Accessories   USA Version

Performance   Compared   Usage

Recommendations   More

 

Sony's A9 User's Manual.

Sony's A9 glossy printed brochure.

Sony's A9 specifications sheet.

Sony's A9 resources page.

Sony's list of the "good" lenses to use on the A9.

 

© Ken Rockwell. All rights reserved. Tous droits réservés. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.

 

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03-08 June 2017