sony alpha a9

The Sony Alpha A9... The Camera To Make Me Finally Switch From Canon

Ever since I got my first a7s back in 2015 I have pondered what would make me switch from Canon. Now having owned an A7Rii for some time I was talking to someone quite recently and came up with a list of things I'd need in a Sony camera to make me ditch Canon altogether. This camera has EVERY SINGLE ONE!. Honestly, my things i'd like in a camera update were..

1. Mini joystick to move the focus point around (so much faster than the current system).
2. Around 24MP as 44MP is great but if you are shooting a lot of images the processing power and space required is obscene.
3. Faster overall, write speeds, fps etc. This camera delivers that..20FPS..bloody hell that's 8k video!

Sony have pulled it out of the bag. The new Sony A9 has all of the above and more. Things such as dual card slots, 2x the resolution in the viewfinder, better focusing coverage (you can now focus on 95% of the view you see through the screen which embarrasses SLRs). Dedicated autofocus type switch. All this in a tiny body with the usual Sony features like remote control from your phone. 

Now the release of a new crazy spec camera is always interesting but the main thing that got me hyped about this is the idea that I might be able to lug less gear around. If I could get away with it i'd carry my iphone around or something smaller but since the quality isn't there we are stuck with conventional cameras for a while. At the moment I carry around 3 camera bodies, a bit of a mix between the Sony and Canon gear as I prefer the Sony for static shots and video but the Canons were so much faster...up until now!

Current example gearbag:

Sony A7rii - 582g
Canon 5D Mkiii - 860g
Canon 1DX Mkii - 1530g

Sony 16-35mm f4 - 520g
Canon 16-35mm f4- 615g
Canon 24-70mm f2.8 - 950g
Canon 70-200mm f2.8 - 1490g
Sony 55mm - 281g
Metabones adapter for Canon->Sony - 150g

The current weight of this setup on my back (not including laptop, spare batteries, lights etc etc) is 7kg. Switching to a Sony only setup would knock this down to 4.3kg..that's a 2.7kg reduction in the weight i have to carry around whilst improving quality and speed, that's insane. Nearly 40% less weight! I'm sold, I'm ordering one and I'll let you know how it is when I get it. I've included below the full press release from Sony for those that want to geek out. 

Ciao

Sam






 

Sony Press Release

Groundbreaking Full-frame Mirrorless Camera Delivers Unmatched Speed, Versatility & Usability:

•World’s First (1) full-frame stacked CMOS sensor, 24.2 MP (2) resolution
•Blackout-Free Continuous Shooting(3) at up to 20fps(4) for up to 241 RAW(5)/ 362 JPEG(6) images
•Silent(7), Vibration-free shooting at speeds up to 1/32,000 sec(8)
•693 point focal plane phase detection AF points with 60 AF/AE tracking calculations per second
•Extensive professional features including Ethernet port for file transfer, Dual SD card slots and extended battery life
•5-Axis in-body image stabilization with a 5.0 step(9) shutter speed advantage

NEW YORK, Apr. 19, 2017 – Sony Electronics, a worldwide leader in digital imaging and the world’s largest image sensor manufacturer, has today introduced their new revolutionary digital camera, the α9 (model ILCE-9).

The most technologically advanced, innovative digital camera that Sony has ever created, the new α9 offers a level of imaging performance that is simply unmatched by any camera ever created – mirrorless, SLR or otherwise.

The new camera offers many impressive capabilities that are simply not possible with a modern digital SLR camera including high-speed, blackout-free continuous shooting3 at up to 20fps(4), 60 AF/AE tracking calculations per second(10), a maximum shutter speed of up to 1/32,000 second(8) and much more. These are made possible thanks to its 35mm full-frame stacked Exmor RS™ CMOS sensor – the world’s first of its kind – which enables data speed processing at up to 20x faster than previous Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras(11). This unique sensor is paired with a brand new, upgraded BIONZ X processing engine and front end LSI that maximizes overall performance.

This industry-leading speed and innovative silent shooting(7) is combined with a focusing system that features an incredible 693 phase detection AF points. Covering approximately 93% of the frame, the focusing system ensures that even the fasting moving subjects are reliably captured and tracked across the frame.

The new α9 also features a vibration free, fully electronic, completely silent anti-distortion shutter(7) with absolutely no mechanical mirror or shutter noise, making it an extremely powerful photographic tool for any shooting situation that demands quiet operation. To ensure maximum usability and reliability, the camera features a new Z battery with approximately 2.2x the capacity of W batteries, as well as dual SD media card slots, including one that supports UHS-II cards. An Ethernet port (wired LAN terminal) is available as well, and there is a wide variety of new settings, controls and customizability options that are essential for working pros.

“This camera breaks through all barriers and limitations of today’s professional digital cameras, with an overall feature set that simply cannot be matched considering the restrictions of mechanical SLR cameras” said Neal Manowitz, Vice President of Digital Imaging at Sony Electronics. “But what excites us most about the α9 – more than its extensive product specs – is that it allows professionals to see, follow and capture the action in ways that were never before possible, unlocking an endless amount of new creative potential.”

 

A New Standard of Speed & Focusing Accuracy

Critical to the record-breaking speed of the new α9 is the combination of the new stacked 24.2 MP(2) Exmor RS image sensor, new BIONZ X processor and front end LSI.

The immense processing power from these new components allows for faster AF/AE calculation while also reducing EVF display latency. The processor and front end LSI are also responsible for the larger continuous shooting buffer, enabling photographers to shoot at a blazing 20 fps(4) with continuous AF/AE tracking for up to 362 JPEG(6) or 241 RAW(5) images.

The camera’s innovative AF system tracks complex, erratic motion with higher accuracy than ever before, with the ability to calculate AF/AE at up to 60 times per second(10), regardless of shutter release and frame capture. Further, when the shutter is released while shooting stills, the electronic viewfinder functions with absolutely no blackout, giving the user a seamless live view of their subject at all times(12). This feature truly combines all of the benefits of an electronic viewfinder with the immediacy and “in the moment” advantages that not even the finest optical viewfinders can match, and is available in all still image modes including high speed 20 fps(4) continuous shooting.

With 693 focal plane phase detection AF points covering approximately 93% of the frame, the camera ensures improved precision and unfailing focus in scenes where focus might otherwise be difficult to achieve. The Fast Hybrid AF system – pairing the speed and excellent tracking performance of phase detection AF with the precision of contrast AF – achieves approximately 25% faster performance when compared with α7R II, ensuring all fast-moving subjects are captured.

 

Professional Capabilities in a Compact Body

Sony’s new full-frame camera is equipped with a variety of enhanced capabilities that give it a true professional operational style.

The α9 features an all-new, high-resolution, high-luminance Quad-VGA OLED Tru-Finder with approximately 3,686k dots for extremely accurate, true-to-life detail reproduction. The new Tru-Finder, which is the highest resolution viewfinder ever for a Sony α camera, incorporates an optical design that includes a double-sided aspherical element, helping it to achieve 0.78x magnification and a level of corner to corner sharpness that is simply outstanding. The EVF also utilizes a ZEISS® T* Coating to greatly reduce reflections, and has a fluorine coating on the outer lens that repels dirt.

This all adds up to a luminance that is 2x higher than the XGA OLED Tru-Finder from the α7R II, creating a viewfinder image with a brightness level that is nearly identical to the actual scene being framed, ensuring the most natural shooting experience. The frame rate of the Tru-Finder is even customizable, with options to set it for 60 fps or 120 fps(13) to best match the action.

The α9 is equipped with an innovative 5-axis image stabilization system that provides a shutter speed advantage of 5.0 steps(9), ensuring the full resolving power of the new sensor can be realized, even in challenging lighting. Also, with a simple half press of the shutter button, the effect of the image stabilization can be monitored in the viewfinder or on the LCD screen, allowing framing and focus to be accurately checked and continually monitored.

The α9 also offers an Ethernet port (wired LAN terminal), allowing convenient transfer of still image files to a specified FTP server at high-speed, making it an ideal choice for studio photography, high-profile news and sporting events and more. There is a sync terminal as well, enabling external flash units and cables to be connected directly for convenient flash sync.

 

New Features for Fast Operation

Sony’s new α9 has several new and updated focus functions that support faster, easier focusing in a variety of situations. The camera features a multi-selector joystick on the back of the camera, allowing shooters to easily shift focus point within the frame by pressing the multi-selector in any direction up, down, left or right when shooting in Zone, Flexible Spot or Expanded Flexible Spot focus area modes. The new model also offers touch focusing on the rear LCD screen for easily selecting of and shifting focus towards a desired focus point or subject.

New for Sony E-mount cameras, the α9 includes the addition of separate drive mode and focus mode dials, plus a new “AF ON” button that can be pressed to activate autofocus directly when shooting still images or movies.

Additional new capabilities include the “AF Area Registration”, which allows frequently used focus area to be memorized and recalled via custom button assignments. There is also the ability to assign specific settings (exposure, shutter speed, drive mode, etc) to a custom button to be instantly recalled when needed. The camera can memorize and automatically recall the last focus point used in a vertical or horizontal orientation as well, instantly switching back to it when that specific orientation is used again.

For enhanced customization, a “My Menu” feature is available, allowing up to 30 menu items to be registered in a custom menu for instant recall when needed.

 

Double Battery Life, Double Memory

The innovative α9 camera features an all-new Sony battery (model NP-FZ100) with 2.2x the capacity of previous Sony full-frame models, allowing for much longer shooting performance.

Also, based on extensive customer feedback, the new camera offers two separate media card slots, including one for UHS-II media. The same data can simultaneously be recorded to both cards, or the user can choose to separate RAW / JPEG or still images / movies. Movies can also simultaneously be recorded to two cards for backup and more efficient data management.

 

High Sensitivity & Wide Dynamic Range

The unique design of the α9 image sensor represents the pinnacle of Sony device technology. The 24.2 MP 2 full-frame stacked CMOS sensor is back-illuminated, allowing to capture maximum light and produce outstanding, true-to-life image quality. The sensor also enables the diverse ISO range of 100 – 51,200, expandable to 50 – 204,800(14), ensuring optimum image quality with minimum noise at all settings.

The enhanced BIONZ X processor plays a large part in image quality as well, as it helps to minimize noise in the higher sensitivity range while also reducing the need to limit ISO sensitivity in situations where the highest quality image is required.

The new α9 also supports uncompressed 14-bit RAW, ensuring users can get the most out of the wide dynamic range of the sensor.

 

4K Video Capture

The new α9 is very capable as a video camera as well, as it offers 4K (3840x2160p) video recording across the full width of the full-frame image sensor (15,16). When shooting in this format, the camera uses full pixel readout without pixel binning to collect 6K of information, oversampling it to produce high quality 4K footage with exceptional detail and depth. Recording is also available in the popular Super 35mm size.

Additionally, the camera can record Full HD at 120 fps at up to 100 Mbps, which allows footage to be reviewed and eventually edited into 4x or 5x slow motion video files in Full HD resolution with AF tracking (17).

 

New Accessories

Sony has released a variety of new accessories to compliment the new α9 camera, including:
-NP-FZ100 Rechargeable Battery – high-capacity battery with approximately 2.2x the capacity of the NP-FW50 W-series battery. It also supports InfoLITHIUM® technology, making it possible to view the remaining battery power as both a percentage display and five step icon on the camera’s LCD screen.
-VG-C3EM Vertical Grip – provides same operation, handling and design as theα9 camera, doubles battery life and allows USB battery-charging via the camera body.
-NPA-MQZ1K Multi-Battery Adaptor Kit – External multi-battery adaptor kit capable of functioning as an external power supply for four Z series batteries and as a quick charger. Kit comes with two packs of NP-FZ100 rechargeable batteries.
-GP-X1EM Grip Extension – Grip extender with same look, feel and design as α9 body. Enables more solid hold on camera.
-FDA-EP18 Eyepiece Cup –eye piece cup with locking mechanism
-BC-QZ1 Battery Charger –quick-charging battery charger. Charges one new Z series battery in approximately 2.5 hours.
-PCK-LG1 Screen Protect Glass Sheet – hard, shatterproof glass screen protector with anti-stain coating to prevent fingerprints. Compatible with touch operation and tilting LCD screen

Pricing & Availability

The Sony α9 Full-frame Interchangeable Lens Camera will ship this May for about $4,500 US and $6,000 CA. It will be sold at a variety of Sony authorized dealers throughout North America.

A variety of exclusive stories and exciting new content shot with the new Α90 camera and other Sony α products can be found at www.alphauniverse.com, a site built to educate and inspire all fans and customers of the Sony α brand.

The new content will also be posted directly at the Sony Photo Gallery and the Sony Camera Channel on YouTube. Detailed information pages within Sony.com for the new products can be found at:

•(US) – α9 Full-frame Interchangeable Lens Camera
•(CA) – α9 Full-frame Interchangeable Lens Camera

Please follow #SonyAlpha on twitter and visit @SonyAlpha on Instagram for all of the latest α camera news and content direct from Sony.

Notes:
1. As of April 19th, 2017
2. Approx. effective
3. Electronic shutter mode. At apertures smaller than F11 (F-numbers higher than F11), focus will not track the subject and focus points will be fixed on the first frame. Display updating will be slower at slow shutter speeds.
4. “Hi” continuous shooting mode. The maximum frame rate will depend on the shooting mode and lens used. Visit Sony’s support web page for lens compatibility information.
5. “Hi” continuous shooting mode, compressed RAW, UHS-II memory card. Sony tests.
6. “Hi” continuous shooting mode, UHS-II memory card. Sony tests.
7. Silent shooting is possible when Shutter Type is set to “Electronic” and Audio signals is set to “Off.”
8. 1/32000 shutter speed is available only in the S and M modes. The highest shutter speed in all other modes is 1/16000.
9. CIPA standards. Pitch/yaw stabilization only. Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA lens. Long exposure NR off.
10. At shutter speeds higher than 1/125 sec, smooth and blackout-free live view images are shown in EVF.
11. Compared to the front-illuminated CMOS image sensor in the α7 II.
12. Display updating will be slower at slow shutter speeds.
13. When the auto or electronic shutter mode is selected the viewfinder frame rate is fixed at 60 fps during continuous shooting.
14. Still images, mechanical shutter: ISO 100 – 51,200 expandable to ISO 50 – 204,800.
Still images, electronic shutter: ISO 100 – 25,600 expandable to ISO 50 – 25,600.
Movie recording: ISO 100 – 51,200 expandable to ISO 100 – 102,400.
15. In full-frame shooting, the angle of view will be narrower under the following conditions:
– When [File Format] is set to [XAVC S 4K] and [ Record Setting] is set to [30p]
16. Class 10 or higher SDHC/SDXC memory card required for XAVC S format movie recording. UHS Speed Class U3 required for 100Mbps or higher recording.
17. Sound not recorded. Class 10 or higher SDHC/SDXC memory card required.

What Camera Should I Buy? (Updated 2019)

Every now and then a friend of mine or someone on social media fires across the message "Hey Sam, I'm looking to get a new camera, what should I buy?". Now like most open ended questions there is a suitably open ended answer. I am a firm believer that a camera is a tool for creating photos rather than some bit of wizardry with a feature hidden inside to create outstanding perfect photos. With this now in mind you need to narrow down your parameters to something more tangible than "a camera" so the first question I usually ask is what are you looking to do with this camera.

What do you want to do with it?
As you start looking at different camera (and later lenses) you need to consider what kind of demands you are going to place on it. For example someone that is shooting pictures of friends on holiday in the sun is going to have very different (and significantly cheaper) requirements than a pro shooting sports indoors in the dark. 

Criteria To Consider:

Daytime or night shooting - Are the majority of your photos going to be in bright daylight or do you want to be able to shoot in a church for example without flash?


Speed - Do you want to shoot sports with lots of moving action and want a camera that sounds like a machine gun?

Insert stupid camera nerd video...


Size and weight - Are you happy carrying around the sort of thing you see on sports photographers or would you rather slip your camera into your shorts and be on your way?

Price:
Once you've considered the above the next thing to consider is budget. Now my experience over the years has been with DSLRs and in the last 2 years with Sony Mirrorless so that is what my knowledge base is built around. As I stated earlier I think of cameras as tools and base them solely on their ability to perform tasks up to the required standard. If you are looking at point and shoots everything is included in the one price whereas if you have the ability to change lenses this is where things get complicated. I would always suggest spending money on good glass (what we photographers call lenses). Lenses will last you a loooong time whereas you might upgrade the camera body over time. I have owned some lenses through 3 or so body upgrades. Something that is worth noting is you are never “stuck” with your current camera system. I would try and avoid swapping but when I sold my Canon gear I got really quite a lot of money back towards the new stuff (I keep an excel document with the details of when I bought and sold to keep track of what is expensive to run).

The Big Two…Or 3…Or 4

When I first wrote this guide there was only Canon vs Nikon.  I don’t think anyone can argue anymore that Sony has joined and probably overtaken these two in popularity. One of the first things I would consider is what your friends shoot with. If you have a mate who has a bunch of gear you can ask them how to do x,y,z or borrow lenses etc. Definitely something to consider and an avenue I guide my own family and friends down. Other than that pretty much everyone makes a good camera these days so it’s about finding what’s right for you.

Tell Me About Sony

Sony are very much the "trendy" brand at the moment (apart from Leica but they've always been cool so not really a trend..) and they have shaken up the market quite a bit. When I made my switch a year and a half ago I really felt they had got to the point where the mirrorless options were just “Better” than the DSLR options. My Sony A9 is half the size of the Canon equivalent and is packed with way more features. I’ll never forget sitting having lunch with a couple of people (one using a 1DX) and he freaked out when I pulled a usb pack out of my bag and just started charging my camera. It’s a simple feature but invaluable in my books. I’m forever in search of smaller, better, more efficient gear and now I can charge my camera from the usb port in a car! I now fully recommend Sony cameras to everyone that asks. There are some cases when they aren’t the right fit but overall I think they can provide great value and features.

Toughness:

Something that I used to think about a lot, which was a major benefit of my Canon gear was how tough it was. You really could throw that stuff around and it just kept working. The Sony seems reasonably tough but I’m not sure it can take quite so much abuse.

Wear and tear..

Wear and tear..

Sensor Size - Sensor size is something you might hear photographers talking about. Personally for me sensor size trumps megapixels every single time.   
 

Sensor diagram from Wikipedia

Sensor diagram from Wikipedia

The sensor in a digital camera is basically the "film" that captures the light and processes it. In the diagram above you can see the difference between a "Full Frame" 35mm DSLR or Mirrorless (like the Sony A7 Series) and a point and shoot like the Canon IXUS 740 HS which has a sensor very similar in size to the 1/2.5" box. When manufacturers start talking about Megapixels they are saying your camera has x number of million pixels crammed into the sensor. A small sensor is going to have a harder time dealing with this than the same amount of data spread over a larger surface. Basically I have one rule, get the biggest sensor you can that still fits all the other requirements. 

Conclusions: 

So after talking about cameras for a bit and probably not actually helping you distinguish between diddly squat I've got some recommendations in different categories.

Point and Shoot Cameras:

I love the Sony RX100 cameras because they are jam packed with all the fun features and Sony generally tries to fit large sensors into smaller bodies and prices range from £299 for the Mk i up to £800 for the latest greatest (Mk VI)(As you go up you are paying for more incrementally better lenses but mainly for the video functions like 4k in the top camera) Link below:

Bridge Cameras: 
At the moment I don't really recommend bridge cameras because if you look at the sensor sizes available vs everything else you are more likely to be better off with a DSLR and a decent all round lens for similar money and much better image quality. There are definitely some good cameras in this bracket though.
 

Mirrorless Cameras:
This class of camera has come on leaps and bounds in the last few years, mainly spearheaded by Sony cramming it's massive sensors into the tinniest bodies it can imagine and then updating them at a serious rate of knots (Canon and Nikon are finally realising this is the way forward!). These cameras come right off the bat with features like wifi for sending pictures to your phone for social media (or a quick backup as I recently used on holiday) and controlling all the features right from your palm. The lens selection is ever growing and these chaps are still small enough to not be an effort to lug around. My first pick is the Sony A7iii which jams a full frame sensor and 5-axis stabilisation (helps removes camera shake) into a very small package for £1500 (not cheap but the quality is very high for a small camera). You can get the earlier model (A7ii) for much cheaper which retains a lot of the features but has a smaller batter and no joystick. Depending on your budget Fuji make some great cameras that can be cheaper, I very much liked using the X-E3 I tried out a few months back.

Sony A7iii

DSLR:
Honestly I don’t think the future is DSLR anymore, all of the major manufacturers are moving onto mirrorless and I believe it’s where we are headed.

Price: Around £500
In this price bracket you have to be a bit careful as you are going to be sacrificing something. The first thing to suffer at this price is the lenses as good zoom lenses are a bit more expensive. What you are able to do is pick up a good prime lens (has a fixed focal length (no zoom) but kicks the arse of the standard kit lens you get with the cheaper cameras and is great for portraits if you stand a little back.) You can pick up a Sony A6300 on ebay for about £400 with the 16-50mm lens (good for landscapes and people photos). Due to these cameras being "Crop" sensor bodies you get a multiplication factor if you put a normal "full frame" lens on them. This means that putting a 50mm f1.8 lens (£180 on ebay) comes out at roughly 80mm which is great for portraits and a bit more zoom along with allowing you to throw the background out of focus. This comes out to around £580.

Sony A6300

Price: Around £1000
Once your budget goes up a bit more I would immediately suggest picking up the Sony E 18-200mm. For about £450 you get a lens that will fit pretty much all your needs (I wack this on a camera when i go skiing). It goes from pretty wide to zoomed and has stabilisation to help you hand hold shots at slower shutter speeds. Depending on whether you are getting your camera new or second hand you could combine it with a new a6000 (£473) or a second hand a6300 to come out at £900. If you are considering DSLRs Canon do a similar 18-200 but i’m not quite sure what body you would pare that with. A second hand 7dmkii would be great but seem prehistoric in comparison to the a6300.

Sony 18-200mm

Price: Around £1500
The only thing I would change at this price point is upgrade the body to the new A6500 which comes with a leap in focusing ability, in body stabilisation and the ability to shoot faster. I would still use the same zoom until you find you need something more specific. Something to consider at this price point might be going full frame instead. You can pick up an A7 for £850 and the Sony 24-70 F4 for a total of £1600 which would be good going forward. I’d definitely look at getting a clean looking (with box etc) higher up model from Ebay though.

Sony 24-70mm F4

Sony A7

Price: £2k+
In this price bracket for Sony I would go straight for the A7iii, it’s jam packed with the latest features and honestly makes me wonder sometimes why I sprung for the A9. You have now stepped up to a full frame camera body and because of this you can't use the previously stated zoom any more. You can get the A7iii Mkiii with a 28-70 lens for £1860 which will look after most of your needs but after that it get's expensive pretty quickly. Once you’ve shot quite a bit you might consider adding a prime or a different zoom.

Sony A7iii with 28-70mm Kit

And the rest..
Depending on how serious your photography is going to be after this point you will be looking at multiple zoom lenses that let in lots of light and give you that out of focus background that everyone loves (you can get this with primes for much cheaper but lose the flexibility). My staples are the Sony 24-70mm f2.8 (the lower the number f the more blurry you can make the background and the darker the environment you can shoot in) and the 70-200mm f2.8, I will not go anywhere without them. 

Sony 24-70mm F2.8

Sony 70-200mm F2.8

To Finish

I realise I have listed a lot of Sony gear but this is what I’ve chosen to use personally and feel is the best at the moment. If you feel like you align with another brand better (Fuji maybe) then hopefully you can see my thought process through the budgeting and lens choices. You can then apply this to all cameras you are considering. I definitely recommend looking for bargains second hand but you have to be a bit more careful. Cameras are like cars in that they lose a chunk of value initially but that slows down over time. Lenses by main brands such as Canon have historically held their value very well (better than Sony but I think that is improving). It makes the maths easier if you think of potential resale values down the line. An example would be my Canon 24-70 f2.8. Bought for £1429 in 2013 and sold for £1066 in 2018 which doesn’t seem that bad.

Camera Bag