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First look: Sony A9 review

27 April 2017

First look: Sony A9 review


Our friends over at Camera Jabber have taken a hands-on look at the new Sony A9 and think it could be serious competition for professional level cameras like the Canon 1DX II and Nikon D5. Find out more with our first look at Sony’s latest full-frame mirrorless system camera.

Inside the Sony A9 is a new 24.2Mp full-frame sensor which has memory integrated into its stacked CMOS design. That memory works with the Bionz X processor to enable an incredible full-resolution maximum continuous shooting speed of 20 frames per second with full autofocusing and metering capability.

The sensor also has 693 phase detection phase detection points which cover approximately 93% of the scene. That means you can position the focus at just about any point you can see in the 0.5-inch 3,686,400-dot electronic viewfinder or the 3-inch 1,440,000-dot screen. The points go much closer to the edge of the frame than they do with a Canon or Nikon full-frame SLR.

Sony has made the tilting rear screen touch-sensitive for setting AF point with a tap, but there’s also mini joystick controller that lets you shift focus point quickly and easily with your thumb. It’s something we’ve been asking Sony for on the A7-series so it’s good to see it on the A9.

As you’d expect, there are lots of similarities between the A9 and Sony’s A7-series of full-frame mirrorless system cameras, but Sony has evolved the design. In addition to the mode dial on the top-plate for example, there’s a dial for selecting the drive mode while beneath it is a dial for setting focus mode. Both dials need to be released by pressing a button before they can be rotated, but’s not too fiddly.

While videographers may be disappointed that Sony hasn’t given the A9 the Picture Profiles or S-Log modes for shooting video (up to 4K at 30fps), it’s good to see that the record button has been moved from the awkward-to-access corner of the A7-series to the back of the A9. This is easy to reach with your thumb when you’re holding the camera normally it means there’s no wobbling when you start and stop video.

On the subject of wobbling, the A9 has 5-axis stabilisation built-in. We haven’t had the chance to test this properly yet but Sony claims it allows you to shoot handheld at shutter speeds up to 5 stops slower than normal.



Camera Jabber’s Angela Nicholson was able to shoot with the A9 at the press announcement and we’re able to share some of the images that she shot with it. All the images were shot in a boxing gym where constant lights had been set-up to allow fast shutter speeds of 1/1000 and 1/1600 sec to be used at ISO 1600 to freeze movement.

At this sensitivity setting, there’s only the slightest hint of luminance noise in some of the darker tones when you hunt it down at 100% on-screen. 

At normal viewing sizes, the images look superb and the Muti-segment metering system does a very good job of getting exposure right, coping extremely well with bright backgrounds. The only underexposure was caused by the subjects straying from the lights when the lens was at maximum aperture in shutter priority mode - so no fault of its own.

We already know that 24Mp full-frame Sony cameras can produce high-quality images so it’s the autofocus system that’s really got us excited. Although she tried all the autofocus modes, Angela mainly shot using Wide AF and Zone AF and the results are impressive. In Wide AF mode, the A9 uses all 693 AF points and attempts to identify and focus on the subject. According to Angela, ‘it’s incredibly good. As the boxers moved around the ring the AF points lit up in green to show that the camera has found the subject and I could see that it was sharp. With the camera in control of AF point selection it didn’t always pick the boxer I had in mind, but it also didn’t jump onto the background so the results are good. When one boxer obscured the other, the camera would quickly pick-up the other person in the ring and get him/her sharp.Shooting in Zone AF allowed me to control which boxer was in focus and the A9 performed superbly.’

‘It’s quite strange shooting at 20fps with the A9 initially because the viewfinder doesn’t blackout and it’s silent because of the electronic shutter. The only clue that the camera is shooting the flickering of a frame around the image.’

The Sony A9 takes mirrorless cameras to a new level and it’s clear that high-end cameras like the Canon 1DX Mark II and Nikon D5 will be facing competition from a new corner. We’re really looking forward to getting some samples in stock soon. 

Follow this link to read Camera Jabber’s hands-on Sony A9 review and you can see more of their Sony A9 sample images here.

Image credit: Angela Nicholson/Camera Jabber