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Sony Announces the Alpha a9 Full-Frame Speed Demon

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Demonstrating why it is a leader in the ever-evolving photographic industry, Sony has announced its latest full-frame mirrorless camera, the Alpha a9 Mirrorless Digital Camera. With improvements aimed directly at the professional and advanced enthusiast photographer, Sony has updated the now familiar compact E-mount form factor of the a7 series with a new sensor, faster burst-shooting capability, blackout-free electronic viewfinder, dual card slots, and other enhancements that will make this a camera of choice for sports, wildlife, action, and even news photographers.

Today’s announcement event, which was live-blogged by the B&H Explora team, gave some folks a chance to shoot what Sony is calling the “most technologically advanced, innovative digital camera we have ever created.” I think it will be difficult to argue that claim when you read the camera’s specs, below. For starters, it offers the world’s first 24.2MP full-frame stacked CMOS sensor. The stacked structure of Exmor RS sensor is designed specifically for high-speed shooting and, along with its enhanced BIONZ X image-processor, provides readout speed that is 20x faster than that of the a7 II. Signal processing speed is increased due to the separation of the pixel layer and the circuit layer of the sensor, and an integral memory is implemented to temporarily store the large amount of data produced. Specifically, these developments have improved the autofocus speed and precision, face detection speed and precision, and the electronic viewfinder response of the new camera.

For the photographer who requires fast burst shooting, the a9 offers continuous shooting of 20 fps with uninterrupted viewing and AF/AE tracking. A larger buffer allows up to 241 compressed RAW images or 362 JPEG images to be captured in one continuous burst. An incredible breakthrough, blackout-free shooting provides an uninterrupted view of your subject with a 60 fps live-view refresh rate. During burst shooting, the camera continues to make autofocus and auto-exposure calculations—up to 60 per second, depending on camera settings—to ensure that your moving subject remains properly exposed and in focus. Additionally, 693 phase detection AF points covering 93% of the frame track even the most erratic and fastest-moving subjects across the frame. This fast Hybrid AF system, pairing the speed and tracking performance of phase detection AF with the precision of contrast AF, achieves approximately 25% faster performance when compared with a7R II.

The new sensor and processor system provide an ISO range of 100 – 51200 (expandable to 50 – 204800), ensuring optimal image quality with minimal noise in low light, and at fast speeds. The new camera also supports uncompressed 14-bit RAW, ensuring users can get the most out of the wide dynamic range of the sensor. 4K (3840x2160p) video recording across the full width of the full-frame image sensor is supported and, 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 and the camera can record Full HD at 120 fps at up to 100 Mbps.

Other updates critical to the working photographer include a completely silent and vibration-free electronic shutter with speeds up to 1/32,000 second, a new battery system that provides 2.2x the capacity of previous a7 series batteries, dual SD card slots with one that supports UHS-II cards, and an Ethernet port for transfer of still image files to a specified FTP server at high speeds. Built-in Wi-Fi is supported, and a sync terminal allows external flash units and cables to be connected directly for convenient flash sync.

The build of the a9 will be familiar to anyone who has worked with the a7 series, but improvements designed to enhance operating speed while maintaining a compact form factor are clear. A multi-selector joystick on the back of the camera allows shooters to shift focus easily within the frame, as does touch focus on the rear LCD. The a9 also 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. New custom settings let you customize focus point usage, as well as exposure, shutter speed and drive modes. A “My Menu” feature allows up to 30 menu items to be registered and recalled instantly.

A 5-axis image stabilization system provides shutter speed compensation up to 5.0 steps. A half-press of the shutter button displays the effect of the image stabilization in the viewfinder or on the LCD screen, allowing framing and focus to be accurately checked and continually monitored.

An all-new, high-resolution, high-luminance Quad-VGA OLED Tru-Finder monitor with approximately 3,686k dots displays true-to-life, detailed reproduction. The new Tru-Finder, which is the highest resolution viewfinder Sony has ever incorporated into an a-series camera, features a double-sided aspherical element, helping it to achieve 0.78x magnification and corner-to-corner sharpness. The frame rate of the Tru-Finder is even customizable, with options to set it for 60 fps or 120 fps to best match the action. The EVF also utilizes a ZEISS T* Coating to reduce reflections greatly, and has a fluorine coating on the outer lens that repels dirt. A new 3.0" 1.44m-dot tilting touchscreen LCD is also incorporated.

A robust magnesium-alloy body maintains the lightweight and compact form important to the success of the a7 series and the camera body is weather-sealed at all major buttons and dials for use in inclement conditions. The dimensions and weight are comparable to the second-generation a7 series cameras.

Sony VG-C3EM Vertical Grip

Important optional accessories have also been announced in conjunction with the a9, including the VG-C3EM Vertical Grip, which houses two batteries and enables re-charging without removing the batteries. Also, the NPA-MQZ1K Multi Battery Adapter functions as an external power supply for four NP-FZ100 batteries and as a quick charger. With this highly touted announcement aimed squarely at sports and other professional photographers who have been reluctant to give up high-speed performance for a more compact build, do you think that the Sony a9 will offer enough to pull these shooters into the world of mirrorless photography?


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I don't have a Sony A7 but have has numerous other Sony cameras. To fix Paul's problem there is a menu option that needs to be reset. Go to the setup menu and find the "File Number" option. Change it from "Reset" to "Series". In reset it resets the file name to "00001" every time a new card is inserted.  In series, when a new card is inserted, it increments the new file number by 1 from the last file number in the old card. 

I have an A7S that has two problems I hope the A9 addresses. First when recording video interviews it shuts off after 30 minutes.  Luckily my FS5 caught enough of the action. The video should record until the memory is full. This problem has occurred 3 times. ORIGINALLY I THOUGH IT WAS A BATTERY PROBLEM, but it also happened when AC powered.

The 2nd and larger problem is that when recording video, every chip starts with the same exact file name, "C0001", and then increments by one number at a time. On your next card it starts at C0001 again.  When you have multiple cards this gets very confusing.  Also if you drag the files onto your hard drive it will replace the existing files. The only way around this is to batch change the name of each file on every chip before you drag it onto your hard drive. This also prevents you from using an SDXC backup device in the field.

Has Sony fixed these problems in the A9?

The 30 minute video time (actually it's 29" 59") is the result of an EU spec that a defines a video camera as opposed to a still camera. There are higher tariffs in the EU for video cameras so the still camera manufacturers have implemented this time limit in their firmware to hold down costs to the consumer. It will not go away until the EU changes its tariff structure and/or definition.

I don't have a Sony A7 but have had numerous other Sony cameras. To fix Paul's problem there is a menu option that needs to be reset. Go to the Setup menu and find the "File Number" option. Change it from "Reset" to "Series". In reset it resets the file name to "00001" every time a new card is inserted.  In series, when a new card is inserted, it increments the new file number by 1 from the last file number in the old card. 

Enabling the LED screen for viewing a shot also makes Canon EOS 5D Mark IV mirrorless. The LED is  touch-screen and focuses the picture frame  where touched. The full frame sesor is highly sensitive in the dark. With a Canon body having these features would let many of us take considerable time to switch to Sony. 

Wow.

$4,500 for an a9?  What will an a9r cost?  Sony is pushing toward the Hasselblad X1d system cost.

As for mirrorless replacing direct view cameras, I don't thiink so.  Trying to use a mirrorless camera in a studio wher the light is dim until the strobes fire is an exercise in futility.  All that being said, I own a a7r II, an a7r and all the G and Ziess glass made for the cameras and love using them, just not in a studio, there I use a Leica S2.

Thank you for the comment Steven...insightful

The Sony NEX-6 that I still use has a Setup menu item Live View Display where you can select Setting Effect ON or OFF.  Setting Effect On is the default where changes in aperture and shutter speed are visible on the screen or viewfinder, great for seeing where you are if shooting availible light at f2 but making it super dark when using strobes and using f8 or 11 with an shutter speed of 125th at ISO 100 .  Selecting "Setting Effect Off" gives you a clear view to focus regardless. 

It does seem a tad pricy.

Does the new high capacity battery fit the A-7 Body?   

The reason I ask is that Sony seems to disregard those of us who have plunked down our hard earned money for a current model of a Sony product only to find that it is not compatible with versions of the same product brought to market later.  Case in Point: I bought a 70 to 200mm zoom and a few months later Sony brought out 1.4X and 2X extenders.  I ordered a 2X extender for the 70 to 200 only to find that the Extenders don't fit my lens and I would have to buy a NEW model 70 to 200 zoom.  We're not talking small amounts of money here. These lenses carry a premium price.  Now; Sony brings out a 100 to 400 zoom.  To get longer than 200 mm I'm forced to buy a new 70 to 200 plus extenders or a new 100 to 400mm zoom.  Either way, it's a $2500.00 investment.  I've already spent $2000.00 on a lens that was made obsolete less than two months after I bought it.  I've always bought gear from the primary manufacturer but right now a Tamron 150 to 600mm with an adaptor looks like a darn good idea.  

Who of us advanced amateurs can afford this a9 camera unless you are in the higher $ bracket. Altho this is a very fine camera that I would like to have, I certainly can not afford it. Looks like Canon or Nikon will be next.

pretty sure the closesest canon in features is about 6 grand so good luck with that.

I shoot interiors and have to do some of them hand held. Nikon D5 does this beautifully but is pretty heavy. So I would like to switch to a Sony but they don't have a wide enough lens - I use the Nikon 14-24 a lot and Sony don't have an equivalent. I read in a comment above that you can use both Nikon and Canon lenses on Sony full frame bodies. Is that correct?? And what adapters wil do this??

1st, doesn't have an equivalent

2nd yes 

3 metabones is one of a few

Be aware that adding the adapter also increases the equivalent focal length.  I found that the Canon EF mount to Sony E-mount adapter is essentially a smart extension tube, and a Canon 16-35mm lens with gives me the same field of field of view in my a7Rii as the Sony 24-70mm lens. What you lose in wide angle, you gain in telephoto -- my 500mm Canon with Sony adapter yields 700mm equivalent.  BUT -- plan on doing a lot of hand focusing.  Many adapters with "smart" interface terminals still don't give AF that's worth a ding-dong -- especially with longer lenses.  So for ultra wide shots, I either do stitched panos or use my Canon system.

It is possible to use adapters on the Sony A9 for Nikon and Canon lenses.  As per Sony, you can get up to 10 fps with an adapted lens on the A9. At the moment, Canon EF to Sony E adapters tend to work the best.  An example of that would be the Metabones T Smart Adapter Mark IV for Canon EF or Canon EF-S Mount Lens to Sony E-Mount Camera B&H # MEEFEBT4.   https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1158850-REG/metabones_mb_ef_e_bt4_canon_ef_to_e_mount.html

Funny, people who complain are probably the ones who can't afford them. Give it 3 to 5 more years and Sony will replace Canon and Nikon as the number one camera.

Sony as a replacement for canon and nikon? Never.

Don't arbitrarily remove Slog to artificially segment your market and I'd buy two A9 today.

Fix the service issues and I might stick with Sony.  I've owned/own A7, A7ii, A7S, A7Sii, A7Rii, A6500 and RX100, and have shot/own literally all of the FE glass Sony and Zeiss have made. I've had a camera body in for service for 6 weeks only to be returned w/o being fixed.  Another was LOST by Sony service and I had to buy a new one for a shoot overseas before that was ever resolved.

Not only did Canon ship free loaners just about anywhere in the world when there any were issues with gear on a shoot, but Canon lent and drop shipped FREE C100s and a set of cine lenses for an extended time (months) for a project.

I'm hanging by a thread with Sony, and this BS about omitting Slog gamma curve from the A9 may do me in, even after investing 25k or more in gear.

Someone at Sony please weigh in about this and prove that it's not a decision, just a temporary state - SLog will be in the A9 when shipped, as it is on EVERY Sony cam up and down the price spectrum since 2013, including even the RX100!

my $.02

I shoot birds in flight with a 1DX MII. Fast lock-on and tracking, with the long lenses. Probably one of the best systems going for this type of photography. I had the Sony a7R II which I loved and the a6500. Neither one could lock-on and track as fast as the Canon, but they weren't far behind. When I didn't need the extra speed, they were great. The problem is this. If this new Sony is everything they say it is and we find it can compete with my 1DXMII or the D5's as far as with lock-on and tracking along with the 14 fps. I would consider this camera. When I have a problem with any Canon gear, it's almost fixed and returned before I even ship it out. Canon service is next to none. Sony? I've heard some horror stories with trying to get them to fix a camera or lens. Must say though, both Sony cameras that I had never given me a problem. The other issue, of course, is that I have Canon glass, but it worked fairly good with the adapters, but again not up to the speed of the 1DX. Also, Sony was weak in their selection of lenses.

I think mirrorless is the future and Sony and Fuji are coming on strong, but when the time is right, Canon isn't going to leave us high and dry, and I doubt Nikon well either. They will probably come out with a FF mirrorless camera that will compete with the Sony type cameras when they feel the new merrorless system will bypass our mirror flapping noisy cameras.  And hopefully, they will allow us to continue to use our existing lenses.  If Sony can step up to the plate with improving Warranty and repair times and prove that they can take on the big fast Nikons and Canons, more power to them. Competition is good.

I shoot birds in flight too. I prefer Browning to Sony for that

Very impressive camera, but I bought my A7 for under $1000.00 in order to get full-frame at a great price. I don't need any more camera than I have, but when (NOT if) it dies, do I, a non-professional enthusiast, have to put out $4500 to replace it? Don't think so! Nikon's DF will look much more attractive at that point, and can use the M mount and legacy lenses I have. Sony may be shooting itself in the foot with the non-pro market.

I did not play in the Super Bowl - I do not need a Super Bowl jersey.

When I do play in the Super Bowl, I will be wearing my very owm Super Bowl jersey.

wow....that price is wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy (x1000) too steep.  i was waiting for this camera to be announced before i made a decision.  sony made it for me.

Canon 1dx ii is 6 grand , and doesnt do 20 fps how do you figure Sony a9 is to expensive?

Funny how you didn't consult us professionals before you made "improvements aimed directly at the professional".
I had an a900 and several Zeiss lenses when I realized you were never going to give me an upgrade path but rather what your bean counters thoought would be improvements. So I dumped all my Sony equipment, at considerable loss, and bought all Nikon. WHAT A DIFFERENCE. I no longer have to fight with my images to get what i want out of them.
Only hobbyists and professional wannabes asked you for a mirrorless viewfinder, so now you are stuck with them! 

And $4500??!!! You are going UP in price while everyone else goes DOWN??!!! Good luck with that. 

Dumping Sony and buying Nikon: One of the smartest decisions of my life!

Good for you, Fred.  Your wife, Ethel, hinted that you were a jerk and you just proved it!

He is right. Who wants a $4500 mirrorless camera? The range of Nikon lens is so much better.

It's amazing such ignorant uneducated comments regarding this breakthrough camera.  Just wait to see how many educated talented bleeding edge PRO's want and will own this camera and many will make the switch from Nikon and Canon becuse of this exact body...if you can't see that you are clueless individuals.  People can't get what this $4500 body can from Nikon's top of the line flagship D5....which is another $2k plus much larger and heavier and shoots slower and NO silent shutter, etc.  So to respond plenty want a $4500 mirrorless camera and already know tons of people who pre-ordered!  And again clueless people you can use Nikon and Canon glass on this body too!  

Technology it seems goes both ways. I'm married to Canon once thought to give it up and move to Nikon. I sometimes wish for some  niceties that come with technology then I recall my film period and do consider I have so much all to nice better stay home with Canon I am not a full time pro but do sell my work on a T2i a 580 ex and some glass it does the trick nioce and smooth.. this prive..... some like it hot..... ;) regards. to all.

Just give me a camera with 16 stops of dynamic range and I will be happy.  Will probably spend the money to update Red to Dragon and keep my Sony equipmnent on the shelf and hope for better.

Yup, made the same move. Sold my Sony and purchased a Nikon D810. No regrets. 

Don't let Jason Laniere hear you guys.

Keeping them both, and all the other ones

Real pros just move on. Any one what a Hasselblad 500ELM, CM, I have like 5 of each, lens? . Pros just save equipment and buy more, that's all. If anyone would like to buy Bogen tracks and studio lighting let me know, I have tones of equipment from the last 35 years of a professional photographers life. Currently retired.. yes I'd say I've spent about 400k in 35 years of fun.

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