17 January 2018
While Sony’s A7-series of full-frame mirrorless cameras have attracted lots of fans, especially amongst landscape and commercial photographers and videographers, they haven’t really offered much to entice photo journalists or sports photographers away from their Canon 1DX Mark IIs and Nikon D5s. The Sony A9, however, is designed to do just that.
One of the reasons that many 1DX II and D5 users cite for dismissing the A7-series is the autofocus system. While the AF system in the A7R II, for example, isn’t bad, it can’t hold a candle to the systems in top-flight DSLRs when it comes to shooting moving subjects. The 24Mp A9 is a whole different kettle of fish and its AF system has some distinct advantages. First-up, the 693 points cover 93% of the imaging area which means that you can track subjects close to the edges of the frame, something that’s just not possible with a DSLR.
What’s more, the focusing is fast, really fast and it makes photographing tricky subjects like birds in-flight incredibly easy. We found that in Wide AF mode the camera had an almost telepathic understanding of what the subject was and it could latch onto birds in the far distance when they were just a tiny spec in the viewfinder, keeping them sharp as they sped towards the camera and across the frame. If you’re a seasoned bird photographer with targeting skills honed through years of practice that might not sound like such a big deal, but think of all the other subjects that you could potentially shoot with it and get sharp images at the drop of a hat.
Also, that incredible AF performance is supported by a maximum continuous shooting rate of 20fps. Shooting 24Mp images at 20fps is going to fill-up your memory card pretty quickly, and you need a fast card to maintain that rate, but it means you have a much greater chance of getting that killer shot than when you’re shooting at 12 or 14fps.
Some DSLR manufacturers may refer to their cameras as having a Quiet mode but often it’s very limiting and actually not that quiet. As it has an electronic shutter in addition to its standard shutter, the Sony A9 can capture images silently. Further good news is that this silent shooting is possible at 20fps, so it opens up a raft of creative opportunities. At a wedding, for example, you’ll be able to shoot in churches with vicars that frown upon photography or at the reception when the bride and groom are at their most relaxed, completely unaware that they’re being photographed.
While sporting authorities need to give the go-ahead for shooting key events, silent shooting will enable all manner of new possibilities. You won’t draw a frown for photographing a golf swing or upset a tennis player with a clacking mirror during a serve for example.
Naturally as a pro-level camera the Sony A9 commands a high price that makes trying it or using it for special events prohibitive for many, but we have units available for hire at very reasonable rates. But you’d probably guessed that.