The Sony A9 is official and ready for a grand entrance with some stunning specifications meant to challenge Canon’s 1DX II and Nikon’s D5. With a 24mp sensor, 20fps burst rate with autofocus and AE, and 693 Phase detection AF points covering 93% of the frame. Sony is also pushing the advantages of a mirrorless system with it’s stacked CMOS sensor (a first for full frame) allowing 20x faster processing and enabling almost instantaneous readout of the sensor. With this technology, the Sony A9 can shoot with an electronic shutter with 1/32000 shutter speed, fully silent shooting, and absolutely 0 blackout while shooting! While it’s $4,499 price tag is certainly high, it is significantly less than the Nikon D5 and Canon 1DX even when paired with the available battery pack.
Sony has obviously listened to feedback from its other camera systems and introduced quite a few new features in the new Sony A9. We now have dual card slots boasting UHS-II support and a new battery for longer life which can be extended further with the new battery grip. A joystick allows for easy positioning of those 693 focus points and a touch screen for touch focus is a welcome addition. I will add that the touch screen did experience much of the same lag I noticed in the A6500 and is certainly not up to par with the Canon 1DX Mark II and other cameras. The screen is also a slightly smaller 3” although articulation does make for easier shooting in certain situations. The Alpha A9 also has a new viewfinder with a record 3.9m dots which was amazing to look through especially while shooting 20fps with 0 blackout and the ability to review your images without ever moving the camera from your eye.
Sony is retaining the in body 5 axis image stabilization allowing up to 5 stops of stabilization with both Sony and most adapted lenses. A new drive mode simplifies access to the high speed shooting modes as well as to the focus shooting modes. Sony has also integrated a LAN input for high speed tethered operation added to the built in wifi, bluetooth, and NFC for a host of communication options. The weather sealed body seems slightly heftier than the A7RII but way smaller than competing DSLRs. It is clear that Sony believes the smaller size and lighter weight of alpha cameras is an advantage. While for the most part I agree and maintain that the 1DX II and D5 are simply too large and heavy for certain environments, the A9 felt a bit cramped at times, especially when shooting with larger lenses.
On the video side, things look extremely similar to the A7RII although access to dual cards, touch focus, and faster sensor readouts make things slightly better. 4k shooting at up to 30fps as well as slow motion modes up to 120fps in 1080p put things on par with other cameras. We also have all the amazing video features such as Zebras, Time code, and focus peaking though S-log recording is not available. The A9 is capable of a full sensor readout with 2.4x oversampling for improved video quality. Files are stored up to 100Mbps XAVC-S but HDMI outputs will allow greater quality with 4.2.2 files.
Overall, the A9 is a mirrorless camera finally ready to go toe to toe with the biggest and baddest DSLRs from Canon and Nikon. Stay tuned as we put this camera to the test and for the full upcoming review.