Sony A9 Review: Never Miss A Shot - TeknoGadyet
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Sunday, March 31, 2019

Sony A9 Review: Never Miss A Shot

Two years ago, Sony released a high-end, mirrorless camera – the Sony a9 – that’s meant to perform the fastest capture in the field of photography. Upon holding the camera for the first time, my jaw dropped on the floor and I could not afford to pick it up as I preferred to horse around the a9 instead. Even though it had an overwhelming price tag that may leave most of the camera’s attributes and its actual existence in question, the a9 managed to trigger amusement than doubt.


This is our full review of the a9.

DESIGN:

Placing the Sony a9 side by side with the any device from the a7 series, we are pretty sure you’ll have a hard time picking which is which from afar. Design-wise, there hasn’t been much of a change from the a7 series, but the exterior has been improved with more direct controls plopped in the right places. This scheme lets photographers and videographers set the a9 faster than toggling through the LCD.


On top, the a9 surfaces the hot shoe (for external microphones, flash, or remote trigger), custom buttons 1 and 2, dials for shooting modes, exposure, AF mode, and AF drive. It’s a huge improvement, as we’ve mentioned above, but we do hope that the dials were more of the typical toggle dials rather than the press-and-turn type. This mechanism was also applied with the AF mode dial, which you have to unlock first by pressing another small button. It seems like this could be Sony’s way of protecting us to avoid the accidental toggles that might cause you miss your shots. Still, we wish these dials could be toggled easier than what it is.


The right side holds the dual-card slots and the NFC logo that signals this camera’s flexible connectivity. One of the slots can accommodate the faster UHS-II format SD cards, allowing the users to catch up with a9’s fast shooting, 4K video capture, and smoother transfer of files. The other side, meanwhile, houses the ports for flash sync, headphone, microphone, mini-HDMI, and USB 2.0. There’s also an Ethernet port right above the flash sync for instant file transfer protocol.


Granting you can charge the camera through the USB 2.0 port, transferring files through it is obviously not a good idea. Good thing that Sony has a mobile app for more convenient mobile transfer (more on that later).


Sony a9’s back panel, on the other hand, is where most of the press buttons are located. They feel more clicky and “rubber-ish,” making a7’s buttons look flimsier. Compared to most DSLRs of the other brands, a9’s buttons are more straightforward. You have the buttons for menu, custom 3 and 4, AF On, AEL, Fn, Playback, Delete, a joystick, another dial, and the touchscreen LCD panel that can be titled for low-angle shots.


Undoubtedly, talking about its looks, the Sony a9 continues to live up the a7-series’ attractive genes that’s responsible for the Sony’s sleek and premium mirrorless cameras. For first-time users who belong to the other mirrorless brands – and even those who were from the DSLR ship – a9’s layout won’t itch their heads as its operation interface is easy to get familiar with.

PERFORMANCE:

I have been using DSLR for quite some time now and my enthusiasm for mirrorless cameras has never been triggered like how the a9 did. Let’s start with this camera’s headline feature: the burst photography.


Sony actually launched the a9 in the Philippines at the Kerry Sports Manila, an indoor leisure club, with a pep squad and a boxing ring set up as the main props for a9’s exhibition. In that sense, it was already clear that the company was going to introduce a device that’s linked to fast-paced activities. True enough, the a9 flaunted its 20 frames-per-second (fps) using its electronic shutter.


Electronic shutter is the mechanism used by mirrorless camera to replace the traditional mechanical shutter. It basically switches the camera’s sensor on and off in contrary to a DSLR sensor’s mechanical, rolling curtain. The former’s technology allows the camera to capture photos silently, making it the best choice for wildlife photography and other categories that require no noise while shooting. Visibly, this structure fortifies a9’s main backbone in delivering the frame-by-frame stills of your subjects aside from its other strengths.


However, due to continuous shooting that requires faster data recording, the battery drained quicker than I thought (migrating from DSLR, it would be easy to distinguish). The 20fps activity also heated up the body, which is quite bothering if you’re shooting in a long stretch. It is advisable to purchase at least two more extra batteries for this camera.


To accompany your fast shutter, you must be good at focusing on your speeding subject. This is answered using a9’s abundant AF modes and focus points, which are more than ready to hand you that action-packed frames. The a9 relies on its whopping 693 focus points – an assurance that you won’t have to worry of missing a point. No pun intended.

On that note, it may sound like a perfect camera for sports after all. But purist sports photographers might shoot down your excitement about this product since a9’s technology somehow promotes laziness. Typically, a sports photographer anticipates the peak of the action and presses the shutter right on time to freeze a candid, moving event. With the a9’s 20fps burst mode, a photographer could just jack up the shutter speed and press the shutter until the action ends. We honestly believe that its hefty price tag was largely caused by this robotic servant that technically thinks and shoots for you.


IMAGE QUALITY:

According to sources, Sony has developed a better noise reduction (NR) system for the a9. Improving the NR system was the best choice, as a9’s fast shooting may require higher amount of ISO. Once we got to hold the review unit, I would say that my adrenaline ordered me to shoot the a9 in burst right away:

Shutter: 1/200 Aperture: f/4.0 ISO: 6400

Other than that, shooting photos and videos with the Sony a9 brings a lot of joy to the heart especially if you’re taking the art seriously. Sharpness, on top of everything, was the most notable detail we enjoyed while browsing the captured photos. You may also notice that the photos were rich in contrast and colors, which could totally flip into the opposite side of the fence when switched to flat – a setting that allows the users to play around the color grading and other image preferences.







It is worth mentioning that depending on the light meter while using shutter or aperture priority was a bit tricky with the a9. Unlike the previous brands that we've tried on, the Sony a9 tends to produce more highlights even if the light meter is set to 0. For better results, we set the exposure meter to -1 or -2 at times just to balance the image better. We don't think the LCD or the metering is at fault, though.

We also used the a9 to produce a short travelogue that showcases the camera’s videography skills. Below is a sample documentary, which interview segments, situationers, and some B-rolls had been shot using the Sony a9. Check it out:



Since I'm very particular with audio recording, I always prefer cameras that allows me to monitor its level while shooting. The a9 has it, although it doesn't show the decibel numbers unlike the previous digital cameras I have used. To counter this minor drawback, I was amazed with a9's sensor that switches the monitor from LCD to the viewfinder when you take a peek through. This is useful for users who are shooting under a bright sunlight and viewing through the LCD is impractical.

CONNECTIVITY:

We really do appreciate a9’s connectivity options: you’ve got a USB 2.0 port, NFC, Ethernet, and WiFi. The option we used the most was the WiFi because Sony has Imaging Edge Mobile (previously PlayMemories Mobile) – a mobile app that supports image and video transfers, as well as remote shooting.


If you have used the older PlayMemories, there are no adjustments needed in using the new version.

What we love about the Imaging Edge Mobile is that you may easily connect the camera by QR code, which will be posted on a9’s LCD when you’re about to tap them to each other. On the camera itself, you will be asked if you are picking the images on the camera or on your mobile.

CONCLUSION:

The most difficult thing about the Sony a9 lies on the question "Who should be using it?" Does this camera belong to the professional ones or it is also designed for the beginners?

In my opinion, I think the a9 may fit into a beginner’s hands for its ease of use. Driving an AT vehicle is always easier than MT – and a9 is a premium AT machine. Since the a9 can effortlessly drive you magnificent results with the camera’s in-born attributes, even the inexperienced photographers can capture the same level of movement a professional sports photographer can produce. On the other hand, why would a beginner purchase a P239,999 camera?

There are two things that would help you decide if this camera is right for you: money and determination. If you've got the money, by all means, take the fastest mirrorless camera in the market. But if you've got the determination to study and practice the art of sports photography, might as well consider the cheaper Sony a7 III.

Now, if you've got both, good for you.

SPECIFICATIONS:

  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 126.9mm x 95.6mm x 63.0mm
  • Weight (with battery and memory card inserted): 588g
  • Sensor Type: 35mm full frame (35.6×23.8mm), Exmor RS CMOS sensor
  • Shutter type: Auto, Mechanical, Electronic
  • Drive mode: Single, Continuous, Self-timer, Self-timer (Cont.)
  • Metering type: 1200-zone evaluative metering
  • ISO sensitivity: ISO 100-51200 (mechanical shutter), ISO 100-25600 (electronic shutter), ISO 100-51200 equivalent (video)
  • Focus type: Fast Hybrid AF
  • Focus Area: Wide (425 points (phase-detection AF), 425 points (contrast-detection AF)
  • Image size: 24 megapixels (3:2), 20 megapixels (16:9)
  • Video format: XAVC S, AVCHD format ver. 2.0 compliant
  • HDMI output: 3840 x 2160 (30p), 3840 x 2160 (25p), 3840 x 2160 (24p), 1920 x 1080 (60p), 1920 x 1080 (60i), 1920 x 1080 (50p), 1920 x 1080 (50i), 1920 x 1080 (24p)
  • LCD: 7.5 cm (3.0-type) type TFT, touchscreen

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