Sony Announces a9 Camera: Features And First Impressions Video Review

Sony a9 camera
Sony has just announced the a9, a mirrorless camera with many specs that are unmatched in other pro cameras today. Its feature list puts it in direct competition with the top-end offerings from Nikon and Canon, clearly by design. With a custom Sony 24MP sensor, fast processing times and a huge buffer, the a9 can shoot 20 fps for up to 362 JPEG or 241 RAW images. Dual card slots, better battery life, focusing joystick and customizable menus directly address customer issues with the a7.

We covered the event live on Facebook and you can find our video coverage of the announcements here: https://www.facebook.com/digitalphotopro

Our play-by-play of the key announcement points is below, as is the full press release, plus a video of our first impressions working with the a9.

Sony a9 Hands-On Initial Review And Features

Sony has been aggressively making strides in the professional camera market for several years, with the a7RII most notable for its custom-destined, high-resolution sensor that still allowed for good high-ISO shooting. Despite the positive reaction to the a7-series cameras, the company has had its share of feedback and criticism for some decidedly non-pro pain points, like slow playback and buffer performance, low battery life, slow frame rate and several other design features that made the system less than ideal.

The a9 is clearly designed to address these points. Having attended many Sony press events since the a7RII started shipping, we’ve been eagerly awaiting an update and have spent a lot of time with assembled Sony engineers going over the list of must-address features. We’ve watched as engineers have taken notes and asked follow up-questions about the workflow of the pro photographer.

The Sony a9 spec sheet reads like a checksheet of the features we’ve been discussing with Sony and that we know customers have been demanding, as well. That said, we’ve yet to test out these new features, which we will be doing over the next few days to see how this new camera performs. In our limited time testing the camera following the press conference, we were impressed with the capture speed, buffer times, newly added focusing joystick and other changes. The top deck has been redesigned, for example, with direct control over frame rate and focus modes, saving a trip to the menus. (There isn’t a dedicated ISO dial, however.)

The camera has a 20.4MP sensor with the ability to perform full AF/AE at 60 fps and a 20 fps shooting speed with electronic shutter. During the event, Sony pros who spoke all talked about the silent shutter and the high frame rate of the camera, but little was mentioned of the fact that there is still a mechanical shutter, though we’re not sure yet what the top speed is in mechanical shooting mode. The default shooting mode is with an electronic, silent shutter that Sony says is distortion-free—something we’re looking forward to testing. Many systems that use an electronic shutter suffer from “rolling shutter” distortions that make a mechanical shutter more advantageous. The top speed on this electronic shutter is 1/32000 second. We’ve long said that the convergence of video and still technologies would lead to a world where the mechanical shutters of previous systems would be eliminated, but that this wouldn’t be advantageous until the distortion caused by the electronic shutter could be overcome.

The 693-point AF system offers 93% coverage for the sensor, allowing the camera to do face and subject tracking even at the edges.

The Sony a9 features dual SD card slots, a rear joystick for focusing as well as touch-sensitive LCD focus selection. This isn’t the same as full touch LCD screen functionality, as the touch functionality is only enabled during shooting, where a finger can be dragged across the screen to select the focus points. None of the cameras we used at today’s hands-on had this feature enabled, so we’re planning to test this, as well.

A full list of the new features is below.

The camera will cost $4,500 and will ship May 25. Pre-orders will begin April 21.

11:00 a.m.

Sony a9 Key features

20 fps shooting
60 fps AF/AE calculation
Blackout-free
Silent, vibration-free shutter
1/32000 sec. top shutter speed
693 AF points, 93% coverage
Full-Frame 4K video capture

Other features

A new battery system that doubles the capacity
Dual SD slots using UHS-II SD cards
Rear joystick for focus
Customizable menu
VGA OLED with 120 fps refresh rate

Update 11:18 a.m.

The camera will be priced at $4,500
Available May 25
Pre-orders will begin April 21

Update 11:20 a.m.

Sony announced the FE 100-400mm F4-5.6 G-Master Lens

Update 11:31 a.m.

Sony has numerous photographers on stage talking about the key features of the camera. This lens focuses down to three feet, so the photographers are talking about using the lens as a portrait lens.

Update 11:35 a.m.

Sony has announced a new Sony Imaging PRO Support program with Sony repair facilities worldwide, a walk-in center in NY and LA ,and 24/7 call center. There will also be loans and camera demos.

Sony PRO support will be coming to Canada.

Update 11:50 a.m.

The gathered pros are discussing their favorite features of the new camera. Chief among them is the silent shutter—all the news and wildlife photographers are happy with that feature. The extended battery life and the dual card slots are both features to address things that really hampered the ability of many pros to use the Sony system.

Update 11:52 a.m.

The Sony a9 has a built-in Ethernet port, which the news services use in a tethered mode for live updates to the wire services via the connection.

Update 11:55 a.m.

The new Sony G-Master 100-400mm lens is being discussed, as it’s the first Sony lens with this much reach. “Shooting with that 100-400 is a beautiful experience” —David Bergman

Press Release

Sony’s New α9 Camera Revolutionizes the Professional Imaging Market

Groundbreaking Full-frame Mirrorless Camera Delivers Unmatched Speed, Versatility and Usability

  • World’s First1 full-frame stacked CMOS sensor, 24.2 MP2 resolution
  • Blackout-Free Continuous Shooting3 at up to 20fps4 for up to 241 RAW5/ 362 JPEG6 images
  • Silent7, Vibration-free shooting at speeds up to 1/32,000 sec8
  • 693 point focal plane phase detection AF points with 60 AF/AE tracking calculations per second
  • Extensive professional features including Ethernet port for file transfer, Dual SD card slots and extended battery life
  • 5-Axis in-body image stabilization with a 5.0 step9 shutter speed advantage

 

The new Sony a9 with the new G-Master Lens

NEW YORK, Apr. 19, 2017 – Sony Electronics, a worldwide leader in digital imaging and the world’s largest image sensor manufacturer, has today introduced their new revolutionary digital camera, the α9 (model ILCE-9).

The most technologically advanced, innovative digital camera that Sony has ever created, the new α9 offers a level of imaging performance that is simply unmatched by any camera ever created – mirrorless, SLR or otherwise.

The new camera offers many impressive capabilities that are simply not possible with a modern digital SLR camera including high-speed, blackout-free continuous shooting3 at up to 20fps4, 60 AF/AE tracking calculations per second 10, a maximum shutter speed of up to 1/32,000 second8 and much more.   These are made possible thanks to its 35mm full-frame stacked Exmor RS™ CMOS sensor  – the world’s first of its kind – which enables data speed processing at up to 20x faster than previous Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras11.  This unique sensor is paired with a brand new, upgraded BIONZ X processing engine and front end LSI that maximizes overall performance.

This industry-leading speed and innovative silent shooting7 is combined with a focusing system that features an incredible 693 phase detection AF points.  Covering approximately 93% of the frame, the focusing system ensures that even the fasting moving subjects are reliably captured and tracked across the frame.

The new α9 also features a vibration free, fully electronic, completely silent anti-distortion shutter7 with absolutely no mechanical mirror or shutter noise, making it an extremely powerful photographic tool for any shooting situation that demands quiet operation.  To ensure maximum usability and reliability, the camera features a new Z battery with approximately 2.2x the capacity of W batteries, as well as dual SD media card slots, including one that supports UHS-II cards.  An Ethernet port (wired LAN terminal) is available as well, and there is a wide variety of new settings, controls and customizability options that are essential for working pros.

“This camera breaks through all barriers and limitations of today’s professional digital cameras, with an overall feature set that simply cannot be matched considering the restrictions of mechanical SLR cameras” said Neal Manowitz, Vice President of Digital Imaging at Sony Electronics.  “But what excites us most about the  α9 – more than its extensive product specs – is that it allows professionals to see, follow and capture the action in ways that were never before possible, unlocking an endless amount of new creative potential.”

 A New Standard of Speed and Focusing Accuracy

Critical to the record-breaking speed of the new α9 is the combination of the new stacked 24.2 MP2 Exmor RS image sensor, new BIONZ X processor and front end LSI.

The immense processing power from these new components allows for faster AF/AE calculation while also reducing EVF display latency.  The processor and front end LSI are also responsible for the larger continuous shooting buffer, enabling photographers to shoot at a blazing 20 fps4 with continuous AF/AE tracking for up to 362 JPEG6 or 241 RAW5 images.

The camera’s innovative AF system tracks complex, erratic motion with higher accuracy than ever before, with the ability to calculate AF/AE at up to 60 times per second10, regardless of shutter release and frame capture.  Further, when the shutter is released while shooting stills, the electronic viewfinder functions with absolutely no blackout, giving the user a seamless live view of their subject at all times 12.  This feature truly combines all of the benefits of an electronic viewfinder with the immediacy and “in the moment” advantages that not even the finest optical viewfinders can match, and is available in all still image modes including high speed 20 fps4 continuous shooting.

With 693 focal plane phase detection AF points covering approximately 93% of the frame, the camera ensures improved precision and unfailing focus in scenes where focus might otherwise be difficult to achieve.  The Fast Hybrid AF system – pairing the speed and excellent tracking performance of phase detection AF with the precision of contrast AF – achieves approximately 25% faster performance when compared with α7R II, ensuring all fast-moving subjects are captured.

Professional Capabilities in a Compact Body

Sony’s new full-frame camera is equipped with a variety of enhanced capabilities that give it a true professional operational style.

The α9 features an all-new, high-resolution, high-luminance Quad-VGA OLED Tru-Finder with approximately 3,686k dots for extremely accurate, true-to-life detail reproduction.  The new Tru-Finder, which is the highest resolution viewfinder ever for a Sony α camera, incorporates an optical design that includes a double-sided aspherical element, helping it to achieve 0.78x magnification and a level of corner to corner sharpness that is simply outstanding.  The EVF also utilizes a ZEISS® T* Coating to greatly reduce reflections, and has a fluorine coating on the outer lens that repels dirt.

This all adds up to a luminance that is 2x higher than the XGA OLED Tru-Finder from the α7R II, creating a viewfinder image with a brightness level that is nearly identical to the actual scene being framed, ensuring the most natural shooting experience.   The frame rate of the Tru-Finder is even customizable, with options to set it for 60 fps or 120 fps13 to best match the action.

The α9 is equipped with an innovative 5-axis image stabilization system that provides a shutter speed advantage of 5.0 steps 9, ensuring the full resolving power of the new sensor can be realized, even in challenging lighting.  Also, with a simple half press of the shutter button, the effect of the image stabilization can be monitored in the viewfinder or on the LCD screen, allowing framing and focus to be accurately checked and continually monitored.

The α9 also offers an Ethernet port (wired LAN terminal), allowing convenient transfer of still image files to a specified FTP server at high-speed, making it an ideal choice for studio photography, high-profile news and sporting events and more.   There is a sync terminal as well, enabling external flash units and cables to be connected directly for convenient flash sync.

New Features for Fast Operation

Sony’s new α9 has several new and updated focus functions that support faster, easier focusing in a variety of situations.   The camera features a multi-selector joystick on the back of the camera, allowing shooters to easily shift focus point within the frame by pressing the multi-selector in any direction up, down, left or right when shooting in Zone, Flexible Spot or Expanded Flexible Spot focus area modes.  The new model also offers touch focusing on the rear LCD screen for easily selecting of and shifting focus towards a desired focus point or subject.

New for Sony E-mount cameras, the α9 includes the addition of separate drive mode and focus mode dials, plus a new “AF ON” button that can be pressed to activate autofocus directly when shooting still images or movies.

Additional new capabilities include the “AF Area Registration”, which allows frequently used focus area to be memorized and recalled via custom button assignments.  There is also the ability to assign specific settings (exposure, shutter speed, drive mode, etc) to a custom button to be instantly recalled when needed.  The camera can memorize and automatically recall the last focus point used in a vertical or horizontal orientation as well, instantly switching back to it when that specific orientation is used again.

For enhanced customization, a “My Menu” feature is available, allowing up to 30 menu items to be registered in a custom menu for instant recall when needed.

Double Battery Life, Double Memory

The innovative α9 camera features an all-new Sony battery (model NP-FZ100) with 2.2x the capacity of previous Sony full-frame models, allowing for much longer shooting performance.

Also, based on extensive customer feedback, the new camera offers two separate media card slots, including one for UHS-II media.  The same data can simultaneously be recorded to both cards, or the user can choose to separate RAW / JPEG or still images / movies.  Movies can also simultaneously be recorded to two cards for backup and more efficient data management.

High Sensitivity and Wide Dynamic Range

The unique design of the α9 image sensor represents the pinnacle of Sony device technology.  The 24.2 MP 2 full-frame stacked CMOS sensor is back-illuminated, allowing to capture maximum light and produce outstanding, true-to-life image quality.  The sensor also enables the diverse ISO range of 100 – 51200, expandable to 50 – 20480014, ensuring optimum image quality with minimum noise at all settings.

The enhanced BIONZ X processor plays a large part in image quality as well, as it helps to minimize noise in the higher sensitivity range while also reducing the need to limit ISO sensitivity in situations where the highest quality image is required.

The new α9 also supports uncompressed 14-bit RAW, ensuring users can get the most out of the wide dynamic range of the sensor.

4K Video Capture

The new α9 is very capable as a video camera as well, as it offers 4K (3840x2160p) video recording across the full width of the full-frame image sensor 15, 16.  When shooting in this format, the camera uses full pixel readout without pixel binning to collect 6K of information, oversampling it to produce high quality 4K footage with exceptional detail and depth.   Recording is also available in the popular Super 35mm size.

Additionally, the camera can record Full HD at 120 fps at up to 100 Mbps, which allows footage to be reviewed and eventually edited into 4x or 5x slow motion video files in Full HD resolution with AF tracking 17.

New Accessories

Sony has released a variety of new accessories to compliment the new α9 camera, including:

  • NP-FZ100 Rechargeable Battery – high-capacity battery with approximately 2.2x the capacity of the NP-FW50 W-series battery. It also supports InfoLITHIUM® technology, making it possible to view the remaining battery power as both a percentage display and five step icon on the camera’s LCD screen.
  • VG-C3EM Vertical Grip – provides same operation, handling and design as theα9 camera, doubles battery life and allows USB battery-charging via the camera body.
  • NPA-MQZ1K Multi-Battery Adaptor Kit – External multi-battery adaptor kit capable of functioning as an external power supply for four Z series batteries and as a quick charger. Kit comes with two packs of NP-FZ100 rechargeable batteries.
  • GP-X1EM Grip Extension – Grip extender with same look, feel and design as α9 body. Enables more solid hold on camera.
  • FDA-EP18 Eyepiece Cup –eye piece cup with locking mechanism
  • BC-QZ1 Battery Charger –quick-charging battery charger. Charges one new Z series battery in approximately 2.5 hours.
  • PCKLG1 Screen Protect Glass Sheet – hard, shatterproof glass screen protector with anti-stain coating to prevent fingerprints. Compatible with touch operation and tilting LCD screen

Pricing and Availability

The Sony α9 Full-frame Interchangeable Lens Camera will ship this May for about $4,500 US and $6,000 CA.    It will be sold at a variety of Sony authorized dealers throughout North America.

A variety of exclusive stories and exciting new content shot with the new Α90 camera and other Sony α products can be found at www.alphauniverse.com, a site built to educate and inspire all fans and customers of the Sony α brand.

The new content will also be posted directly at the Sony Photo Gallery and the Sony Camera Channel on YouTube. Detailed information pages within Sony.com for the new products can be found at:

Please follow #SonyAlpha on Twitter and visit @SonyAlpha on Instagram for all of the latest α camera news and content direct from Sony.

Contact:

Matt Parnell

Sony Electronics Inc.

[email protected]

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Notes to Editors:

  1. As of April 19th, 2017
  2. effective
  3. Electronic shutter mode. At apertures smaller than F11 (F-numbers higher than F11), focus will not track the subject and focus points will be fixed on the first frame. Display updating will be slower at slow shutter speeds.
  4. “Hi” continuous shooting mode. The maximum frame rate will depend on the shooting mode and lens used. Visit Sony’s support web page for lens compatibility information.
  5. “Hi” continuous shooting mode, compressed RAW, UHS-II memory card. Sony tests.
  6. “Hi” continuous shooting mode, UHS-II memory card. Sony tests.
  7. Silent shooting is possible when Shutter Type is set to “Electronic” and Audio signals is set to “Off.”
  8. 1/32000 shutter speed is available only in the S and M modes. The highest shutter speed in all other modes is 1/16000.
  9. CIPA standards. Pitch/yaw stabilization only. Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA lens. Long exposure NR off.
  10. At shutter speeds higher than 1/125 sec, smooth and blackout-free live view images are shown in EVF.
  11. Compared to the front-illuminated CMOS image sensor in the α7 II.
  12. Display updating will be slower at slow shutter speeds.
  13. When the auto or electronic shutter mode is selected the viewfinder frame rate is fixed at 60 fps during continuous shooting.
  14. Still images, mechanical shutter: ISO 100 – 51200 expandable to ISO 50 – 204800.

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