Sony a9 Review

@Hello.Mikee

Some quick housekeeping notes:

  • This review will be a rolling review. What that means is that I plan to add more thoughts and images as I use the camera more on assignment and and during travels.
  • This review isn’t really about the tech specs or listing off all the specs about the camera, nor is it about pixel peeping at 100% (though I will say it’s damn good!). This is a review about how this camera suits my photography needs which is defined as a wedding, travel, lifestyle and fashion photographer. Oh and I take loads of photos of my dogs too.
  • I have never shot sports and don’t seem myself shooting that any time soon.
  • Images posted here are edited to my liking in PS and LR.
  • It takes a lot of time and effort to make reviews so if I in anyway helped you with your decision to purchase, I would be so grateful if you used my amazon referral links gear used section. Thank you!

Sony a9 Review

Sony a9 Review

Gear Used in This Review

Build & Camera Controls

The build quality of the body of the a9 feels very much like the a7R II with an unnoticeable gain in weight and grip size. With that said, that’s pretty much where the similarity ends. Everything else feels more robust in the hands, I’m assuming that has a lot to do with upgrading the buttons and dials which feel much more substantial and tactile.

The back dial is much more firm so you won’t be accidentally turning the wheel when shooting. I do wish the dial was a bit bigger because now that it’s more robust, it does take a tiny bit of effort to turn and when it’s that small, it isn’t necessarily the easiest. Of course, that’s a minor complaint because in use, it’s totally fine.

The buttons themselves aren’t as recessed as they are on the a7R II making them feel more clickable. It’s funny how such small details can really elevate a product to a more premium level. I never thought the buttons on the a7R II felt toy like, but as I go back and forth, the difference is undeniable.

User Interface & Operation Speed

The a9 takes on Sony’s new menu UI. Like I’ve said before, I never really had issues with the organization of the older menus. They’re ugly but that was about all I thought about them. That thought process has chanced now that I have a camera like the a9, where it is so feature-packed, a good menu really is key. Add to that the ability to pretty much custom assign all the buttons, the quick access menu and the customizable “My Menu” configuration, you are absolutely covered in terms of finding key functions quickly.

One of the few things I hated about the a7R II is how slow and unresponsive the camera can sometimes be. I rely a lot on photo review and zoom to make sure people’s eyes are open. For large important group portraits during a wedding, I want to make sure all eyes are open and reviewing that on the a7R II is painfully slow. The a9 is now almost instant when reviewing and really fast when zooming in.

The screen on the back LCD, while only gaining a little bump in resolution, looks more clear and crisp than it does on the a7R II. You notice it when looking at the menu. It could be also because the menu in the a7R II is the older style UI, but still, the a9 looks more crisp and clear overall. Where there is a big difference however is the EVF. It’s much more clear and crisp. It’s not even that the a7R II has a bad EVF, it’s just the a9 is better.

Dual Card Slots, The Joystick and a New Dial

Yes! Dual slots! I have never had a memory card go bad on me, but I have heard countless stories of other photographers loosing images or paying for a third party to recover them, some even with just no luck. Just because it hasn’t happened to me doesn’t mean I don’t often think about it during a shoot. Thankfully, my mind is more at easy and I’m able to have a backup card. I’ve also run into companies that wouldn’t hire me unless I was using a camera with dual slots.

The only gripe I have with the dual slots is the set up. For something like shooting Raw to slot 1 (faster slot) and JPEG to slot 2, it’s a bit confusing as you have to set the record media to slot 2 in order for the JPEGs to be stored there. Yea it’s weird and seems backwards. One of the only times I’ve ever actually had to read a camera manual.

The new dial on the top left is a nice addition. Allowing for quick access to drive modes and AF modes. I do wish the locking button for that dial had an on and off switch. It would be nice to change those on the fly without first pressing in a button.

And finally! The joystick! Why it took them so long to add an AF joystick is beyond me. I, along with many other photographers, find that a joystick is the quickest and most convenient way to change your AF point while composing your shots.

Image Quality

“But it doesn’t have the resolution and dynamic range of the a7R II…” Is what I kept telling myself to keep me from investing in the a9. It’s also what a lot of people are saying in reviews and forum posts and probably for the same reason. But in all honestly, aside from the dimensions of the file itself, it’s pretty hard to distinguish an a7R II file vs an a9 file unless you zoom in at 100%. But honestly, I sometimes can’t even tell when I’m working with an a6500 file.

So if you have those reservations, you can put them to rest. The resolution is just fine and the dynamic range is plentiful. You can also be assured that the a9’s high ISO is really good. Some of the wedding images below show how it tough lighting (backlit, combination of harsh light and shadows, mix lighting, etc.), the a9 is capable of producing fantastic results with a lot of room to push and pull shadows and highlights.

Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL35F14Z Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA (added TS effect)
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL35F14Z Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL35F14Z Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL35F14Z Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL35F14Z Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL35F14Z Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL35F14Z Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL35F14Z Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL35F14Z Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL35F14Z Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL35F14Z Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL35F14Z Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA

Video Quality

I am a super amateur videographer so I won’t go in depth about the quality or lack of S-Log. What I have read is that apparently the a9 downsamples 6k footage to 4k which makes the quality really awesome. They’ve also heavily reduced rolling shutter during quick panning. Nice!… But like I said, I’m just barely starting to get into video so I definitely don’t have much knowledge about this.

Features: Crazy AF, Eye AF, FPS, Silent Shooting, No Black Out ETC. ETC.

The camera packs so meany features, it’s kind of insane.

Let’s first talk about the AF system. It’s BANANAS. It’s so quick. That’s all there is to it. And even better then being fast is, it’s freakin’ accurate. I thought the a7R II was accurate but the a9 just brings it to another level. Where the a9 really excels is when your subject is walking towards you. The a7R II was lucky at best grabbing an in focus image of someone walking relatively quick towards you. The a9 handles it much better.

Sony-a9-20-fps-Review
Sony SEL55F18Z 55mm F1.8 Sonnar T FE ZA
Sony-a9-20-fps-Review
Sony SEL35F14Z Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA

Eye AF has been game changing for portraits and it just got better on the a9. It tracks your eye flawlessly. I mean, the ability to shoot at f/1.4 and be confident that your subjects eye will be in focus is just crazy.

I also love the fact that your AF selection changes whether you’re shooting in landscape or portrait mode. This I something that is super useful when dealing with portraits.

Then there’s the 20 FPS. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll use it much, maybe just key moments at a wedding or cool action shots while traveling. I’m sure some of you are wondering why I’d buy an a9 if I don’t need the 20 FPS, but that’s just part of why this camera is amazing. Besides, when I got the a7R II, I said I didn’t need the resolution but here I am, holding onto the camera specifically for resolution.

09/05/17 Update: Wow. 20 FPS is DOPE. Yea, didn’t think it would be of much use to me but being able to shoot away as the bride walks down, during a sparklers send off, or even just while they’re dancing the night away at the reception has been a much welcome addition. Having that speed allows you to get that perfect shot. Was I able to get the shot before? Yea, I think there was always at least one shot good enough. But now, it’s more like 10 shots to choose from which in my opinion really takes away that margin of error.

Silent shooting and no black out with the electronic shutter. It’s kind of weird, but awesome! In the two weeks I’ve owned the a9, I’ve already gotten use to the no black out, it’s pretty epic. However, I still have yet to get use to silent shooting and don’t think I ever will get use to it. I am excited though that I can use it during ceremonies at quiet churches and even more excited I can be super discreet while I travel. Other than that, I need the sound. Also, rolling shutter has been greatly improved when using the electronic shutter.

09/05/17 Update: I am still not use to silent shooting and I don’t think I’ll ever get use to it. I need that sound so I’ve been using it with the fake shutter noise which is perfect. I’m sure this is great for sports and nature photographers who are in a more controlled space while shooting and need to be silent (think tennis match point!).

10/24/17 Update: One HUGE advantage that I’ve realized is the ability to shoot wide open with any glass without having to use ND filters. Shooting at 1.4 at noon is pretty awesome.

This camera of course has pretty much all the features carried down from their other cameras. Stuff like IBIS (still one of the best things ever), touch screen (I have mine off because the joystick is more than capable to change focus), 4k, S&Q (slo motion capture and play) and everything else great about the latest Sony mirrorless cameras.

Battery Life

09/05/17 Update: I shot my first wedding with the a9 in 100F weather and thankfully, there was no heat warnings of sorts even though my camera was hot. Regarding battery life, I fired off over 2k shots with about 15% remaining after 7 hours. The only thing I really made sure to do was turn off the camera when not in use during those waiting periods.

The one thing mirrorless systems lacked in the past was the battery to power it for long periods. 300 shots or so per battery just doesn’t cut it when it comes to professional work. Though tolerable, I really disliked carrying around and switching out 6-8 batteries per wedding or while traveling. It started out as a small problem with an easy solution of carrying more batteries but years later, it just got really annoying. I’ve also find them to be unreliable in terms of gaging how much more power was left in them.

All that has now changed! WOW! When I first read that the a9 is rated 650 shots, I was already beaming with joy considering it’s more than double the battery life vs the older model. To a lot of peoples surprise, mine as well, Sony is way underestimating the power of this new battery. I think they may have also found better power management solutions which is helping elongate the battery life.

To put it into perspective, I went to Palm Springs awhile back for a couple of days. Not shooting in continuous mode, I fired off about 300 shots and 10 video clips. Again, I was using single shot because I didn’t want to inflate the amount of shots I took and really, I didn’t need to shoot 20 FPS. My LCD and EVF were both sent to manual +2 brightness, airplane mode off and I sent about 20 or so photos to my phone. Also did some normal review and zoom on photos throughout the weekend. It’s now 6 days later and I’ve fired off another 100 or so shots in the last 3 days. Nothing major, just some snaps here and there. So that’s around 400 shots. My battery level reads 57% left. What?! Crazy.

Battery woes over.

Sony a9 Review
Sony 28mm f/2 & 21mm Wide Angle Converter
Sony a9 Review
Sony 28mm f/2 & 21mm Wide Angle Converter

Wish List

What is missing? Damn, that’s actually a pretty difficult question which is such a surprise considering every camera I’ve ever owned always had more than a few things missing in terms of what I needed/wanted. The a9 really does check a lot of things and then some. At the time of writing this, the only things I can think of is better weather sealing and higher resolution LCD. Regarding weather sealing, my a6500 has been drenched in Icelandic rain, I assume the a9 can handle even more but it would be nice to be officially rain proof. A higher resolution LCD screen might compromise battery performance so maybe we don’t want that just yet? This is definitely a section I’ll have to circle back to after more use with the a9.

Regarding overheating, I haven’t had a problem or signal so nothing to report here and I hope it stays that way.

Conclusion

So to conclude, the a9 is awesome. It’s not just an awesome sports camera, it’s an awesome everything camera. I am most excited about the AF system (with the better Eye AF and joystick) as well as the battery life. I know people say, “just bring extra batteries”, but looking back at traveling through a place like India, I stressed over making sure I had enough charged batteries and portable battery packs and converters to last a long day of adventure and shooting. It’s in those moments that I look back and it becomes annoying and cumbersome and something I’d rather not have to deal.

The a9 brings back some of what DSLR’s were only capable of doing. Lightning fast AF and really good battery life. It’s an exciting time to be invested in mirrorless and it can only get better from here.

And two months in shooting with the a9, I can confidently say this is indeed, a game changer.

JB Camera Designs Sony a9 Grip Case Pro Review

JB Camera Designs Sony a9 Grip Case Pro Review

JB Camera Designs Sony a9 Grip Case Pro Review

Image Samples

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll be sure to get back to you.

Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL35F14Z Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA @ ISO 2000
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL28F20 28mm f/2
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL35F14Z Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL35F14Z Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL35F14Z Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL70200G FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL28F20 28mm f/2 with SEL075UWC
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL85F18 85mm F1.8 FE @ ISO 6400
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL28F20 28mm f/2 @ ISO 6400
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL35F14Z Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL35F14Z Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL35F14Z Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL35F14Z Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL35F14Z Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL35F14Z Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL85F18 85mm F1.8 FE
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL85F18 85mm F1.8 FE
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL85F18 85mm F1.8 FE
Sony a9 Review
Sony SEL85F18 85mm F1.8 FE @ ISO 6400

More images to come!…

Comment via Facebook:

16 thoughts on “Sony a9 Review

  • Thanks for you review! One of the best I’ve seen online because it shows images from real world use and allows me to see the images the a9 are capable of producing. Do you plan to keep both the a9 and a7rII?

    • Hey Matt – Thanks for the comment and yes I am keeping both cameras. The a7R II still provides optimal quality and I needed a second FF body anyway. If I only needed one, then I might have sold it.

  • thanks for the review! what do you think of the pairing of the a9 + 28/f2? I’m looking for a lens to do landscapes and street with the a9 and that 28/f2 was on my list. seems to be a good value.

      • wow! great shots. i recently took the 55/f1.8 on vacation. i love that lens but i discovered it was a bit limiting when i wanted to shoot landscapes. so i’ve been looking at that 28. after seeing your pics i think i’m sold.

        salamat!

  • Brilliant review and honest. Thanks for sharing. I was really on the border of purchasing one but this has made my decision as a wedding photographer.
    Can I ask how do you find the a9 holds up in low light situations at weddings? Better that the a7rii?

    • Thanks! I find it to be much better than the a7RII in low light. In fact I leave a flash on the a7RII for wide shots and have been fortunate to where my last few weddings there was enough light during reception I could shoot away with my a9 and 35mm 1.4. Basically if you’ve been shooting weddings with the a7RII the a9 will make your job much easier 🙂

  • Wow This is a really nice and deep review!
    I have the a7ii currently and shoot architecture photography. I would appreciate the silent shutter for my work. I kind of wish the a9 was still up there in mega pixels. I Love to crop and kind of dream of the large files of the a7rii.
    I def plan to get a second camera though and the a7ii would become a backup. The a9 makes me wonder what Sony will officially do with an a7iii or something.

    • Hey Scott! Yea, I definitely agree in that the a7 mark 3 versions will definitely be interesting to see what Sony does with them. My hope at the very least is they transfer over the better battery and AF goodness. That alone has my my life so much easier lol. One thing I keep forgetting is that the electronic shutter is great in that there’s no vibration or shutter shock. Something I thing would be beneficial for architectural photography.

  • The only thing missing on A9 is better image quality. Sony needs to figure it out and do A7R2 IQ + A9 AF. Hopefully that’s A7R3…..

    • I was concerned IQ would be noticeable worse on the a9 vs my a7RII but it’s hard to distinguish between the files aside from the high resolution of the a7RII. Not sure what you mean by better IQ on the a9?

  • Great review. I am concerned with image quality of the A9 and 7Riii (same sensor as 7Rii). Your article addressed that. My struggling is between the A9 and the new 7Riii is the working file size. My concern is the file size produced by the 7riii will slow down the computer and increase production time. The A9 files sizes seems like it won’t have those issues. I am now working with a canon 5diii with approximately the same size sensor size as the A9. No issues working with the 5Diii file size. Since you have both the A9 & 7rii I would appreciate your thoughts on working with files from the A9 and 7Rii. Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

    • Hi there. The Sony a9 files are a breeze to work with on my 2015 MacBook Pro. My a7RII files also load well, not as fast as the a9 but not terrible. The files though are HUGE and take up quite a lot of space. I do like that I can use my crop sensor lenses on my a7RII and still have a decent amount of resolution (I think it’s something along the lines of a 18 megapixel file). Eventually I am thinking to sell my a7RII to fund the upgrade as I think it will be a much better companion to my a9 (share batteries and same layout/menu/ergonomics). Either way you go I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Good luck!

Leave a Reply to Mikee Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *