Sony announces awesome new high end full frame mirrorless camera – the Sony a9 – essentially a full frame version of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II at more than twice the price

Written by admin on April 20th, 2017

Today Sony announced details of its new high end full frame E-Mount mirrorless camera – the Sony A9 – and on paper it looks great!

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Check out the specs:

  • 24.2MP Full-Frame Stacked CMOS Sensor giving 20x faster data than the a7 models
  • ISO range of 100 – 51200, expandable to 50 – 204800
  • dust and moisture resistant design
  • Blackout-Free Quad VGA 3.7m-Dot OLED EVF with 23mm eye point from lens (18.5mm from frame)
  • silent electronic shutter to 1/32,000th sec
  • mechanical shutter to 1/8000th sec
  • flash sync 1/250th sec
  • 3.0″ 1.44m-Dot Tilting Touchscreen LCD
    • touch focusing on the rear LCD screen for easily selecting of and shifting focus towards a desired focus point or subject
  • Internal UHD 4K/30p XAVC S  100Mbps Video Recording with HDMI out
    • uses full pixel readout without pixel binning to collect 6K of information, oversampling it to produce high quality 4K footage
  • full HD 1080 120p at up to 100mbps with AF Tracking
  • stereo mic
  • 20 fps Shooting with AF/AE Tracking for up to 241 RAW/ 362 JPEG images
    • 10fps continuous shootingwith AF/AE tracking even when you use A-mount lenses with a mount adapter (LA-EA3)
  • 693-Point Phase-Detection AF System with 60 AF/AE tracking calculations per second and covering 93% of the image – much better than any dSLR!
    • 25% faster performance when compared with α7R II
    • Eye AF improved 30%
    • AF down to EV -3 at ISO 100
  • “5EV” 5-Axis SteadyShot INSIDE Stabilization
  • Mag. Alloy Body, Dual SD Card Slots (one for UHS-II media), Ethernet port for file transfer, b/g/n 2.4GHz WiFi, Bluetooth, stereo mic jack, stereo headphone jack
  • Sony multi-interface hotshoe
  • all-new Sony battery (model NP-FZ100) giving double the battery life of a7R II – rated at 480 shots EVF or 650 shots LCD
  • 673 g / approx. 1 lb 7.7 oz incl. battery, SD card
  • 126.9mm x 95.6mm x 63.0mm/5 x 3 7/8 x 2 1/2 inches
  • $US4500

93% coverage of PDAF

PDAF points now cover 93% of the image area – far better than dSLRs!

The feature set is very similar to the Olympus OMD E-M1 Mark II Micro Four Thirds camera but with a full frame sensor and more than double the price, and of course, much larger and more expensive lenses with less hand-holdable telephoto reach.

The main advantage of the Sony a9 over the Olympus E-M1 is the better image quality at high ISO, so it will be useful for those shooting sports in low light, but apart from that, and the potential for more shallow depth of field and improved dynamic range, the E-M1 will be far more cost effective, lighter, less burdensome and more fun.

On paper, this camera addresses many of the issues I have with the Sony A7II - but will the many ergonomic quirks be addressed?

Sony a7II issues that have been addressed on the Sony a9:

  • rear LCD is now touch screen and in addition, like the Olympus cameras can be used as touch subject to AF but seems you may not be able to do fast AF lock and shoot as with the Olympus
  • better EVF – now the best in the business?
  • silent shutter at last!
  • dedicated AF-ON button to act as back-button AF instead of having to delve into menu to turn this mode on and off
  • can link spot meter to spot focus
  • improved autoISO – can set lowest shutter speed as well as a lowest ISO
  • internal 4K video
  • 1080HD video now to 120fps instead of 60fps allowing 4-5x slo-mo
  • 20 fps burst rate in electronic shutter mode with AF-C instead of only 5fps which is still the fastest mechanical shutter speed
  • 693 PDAF points spread across 93% of screen instead of only 117 PDAF mainly located in the central region
  • faster more accurate AF-C
  • improved image stabilisation – have to wait and see – Sony suggested the a7II was 4.5 EV but in reality was more 2-3 EV, and it was said part of the issue was the physical diameter of the lens mount limiting range of movement that was possible – this could not be addressed easily one would not think!
  • dual SD card slots at last
  • better battery life – we will have to see if the 2.2x more powerful battery translates into longer life
  • zebra settings seems to have been changed to “brightness from 0-109%, set +10% and -10% range” – hopefully for a more useful zebra functionality
  • PC sync socket

A few gotchas:

  • to realise the 20fps AF-C capability you will need to shoot with dedicated lenses designed and optimised for the Sony – Canon EF lenses won’t cut it, and even Sony Alpha lenses will only achieve 10fps
  • the longest focal length Sony E mount lens capable of 20fps AF-C is the new Sony 100-400mm f/4.6-5.6 and when coupled with the 1.4x converter you get 560mm f/8 so no real advantage over the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II with 300mm f/4 which gets you to 600mm f/4 at 2EV better ISO and with 6.5EV IS at 18fps with AF-C, although you do get to zoom but then it is likely the zoom plus TC will result in less sharp images than the Olympus 300mm prime which is amazingly sharp.
    • the target audience for this camera – pro sports shooters – generally need 3 lenses – 16-35mm, 70-200mm and something around 400mm f/2.8 – they will not be impressed with the 100-400mm at f/5.6, and using a non-native lens means they will lose critical AF-C performance
  • if you want to shoot flash, you must use mechanical shutter and thus restricted to only 5fps burst – half what you can achieve with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II with flash and still have AF-C, but if you don’t need AF-C, the Olympus will shoot mechanical shutter at 15fps
  • the electronic shutter speed of 1/32,000th second is only available in S or M exposure modes
  • IS unlikely to be as effective as in the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II
  • no 60fps burst mode as with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II
  • no Pro-Capture mode as with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II
  • apparently touch AF does not trigger shutter automatically as can be configured on the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II
  • Eye AF cannot be configured to select closest eye as on the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II
  • no in-camera user configurable focus limiter range to ensure out of range areas are ignored as on the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II
  • no long exposure timed modes as on the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II such as Live Composite
  • weathersealing unlikely to be as good as the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II
  • you will struggle to get this into a jacket pocket
  • Professional Service is unlikely to be anywhere near the level and accessibility of Canon or Nikon for major events – this is also a major factor for Olympus and the pro sports photographers

Concluding remarks:

Could this camera along with the E-M1 Mark II revolutionize pro sports photography by adding silent, faster burst rates of 20fps with continuous AF covering a much wider area of the image and with better image stabilisation?

We will not find out until real world tests are conducted.

Nikon and Canon really need to start worrying – if Sony has already leapfrogged over Nikon in full frame camera sales in the US, this camera will add impetus and could potentially make even bigger in roads in the pro dSLR market, especially now that Sigma have created an adapter which allows fast AF with Canon EF lenses, and Cactus radio TTL triggers now allow almost any flash system to be used with the Sony cameras in radio remote TTL flash mode – the barriers to change are rapidly being broken!

I expect Canikon will respond with hybrid optical/electronic viewfinders in their new dSLRs so they can move into “mirrorless” mode through the viewfinder to then offer similar features as the Sony a9 but with the option of full optical/mirror mode when the situation suits it, after all, there is no real size benefit of mirrorless cameras when in the full frame domain as the full frame lenses are so big that shrinking the camera does not make much difference. But then, they still have the issue that most of their lenses are not optimised for mirrorless shooting.

More details on the Sony main website.

 

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