Testing the new Sony 𝛼9

This weekend I joined a small group of fellow photographers to see, touch and test the new Sony flagship camera, the 𝛼9 (or A9).

I won’t go into the technical details, there’s been a lot of fuss around the internet about it anyway, so there’s no need to bore you with the same details.

What I feel is good about it

Sony is getting very close to what a mirrorless camera should act like, if it’s to compare against the DSLR beasts. There are many people that say it already beats those, but, for now, I keep my conclusion from this other article.

Yes, the Sony 𝛼9 performs very good, and it’s a very fast camera, even in sports mode. Its high burst rate, focusing abilities and other specs are comparable to Nikon’s D850 or (a bit) older D5. (*) I’m split when it comes to the fast burst mode. Yes, it goes 20 fps without shutter blindness, so missing a good shot would be close to impossible. But the trigger is too sensitive, and I found myself already counting 10+ images when I only wanted a half-press shutter to focus.

(*) Note that my examples are from the Nikon world simply because I know their line-up better. I don’t hold anything against Canon or other manufacturers.

I took similar shots using the older versions made available by the organisers — an 𝛼7, 𝛼7R and 𝛼7-II, and submitted all to the same “abuse”. There is no contest that the newer camera outperforms its older siblings by an order of magnitude.

How it “feels”

But the size does still matter (smirk), and I’m not comfortable holding such a lightweight body coupled with a heavy 70–200 lens. It feels unbalanced and makes you pull back on it all the time. And the long lenses will never get smaller shorter, because the laws of optics are hard to change.

The grip is still too small, and forces me to squeeze my right hand fingers tighter around it, like trying to hold a small coin with all your fingertips. And I have a relatively small hand, I can’t think how bigger-handed persons could hold that without getting painful.

Couldn’t stop writing in some specs…

Price-wise, the A9 is currently cheaper than the D5 by almost 1500 USD, but also more expensive than the D850 by almost the same amount. Some specs are lower than the D850 — 45 vs 24 megapixels, XQD vs no-XQD, 51 fps vs 20 fps in RAW. Other specs are the other way around, in favour of the A9 — 693 AF points vs 153, 673 g vs 915 g, 5-way in-camera stabilisation vs none.

That stabilisation would mean the world for podcasters, youtubers and the likes, were it not for the price point (at launch, around 4500 USD, body only). Sad. You can by an entire Blackmagic Ursa Mini 4.6K at almost the same price, and the later can do 4.6K at 60 fps (opposed to 4K@30 fps), compressed in Apple ProRes 444 (!).

Notice I don’t talk about the extreme ISO values, as I don’t think a pro would go beyond 6400 in production anyway. And I find the EVF a bit too bright and pixelated (call me old-fashioned).

Related articles

In this article I write about my own experiences with DSLR, mirrorless and film cameras.