Preliminary Thoughts about The Newly Announced Sony A9 Camera.

Lou. Studio. One frame at a Time.

When I read about new cameras I  usually get caught up in the excitement about all the new features. 

I wonder what I could do with a camera that could shoot 200 images in a row at
20 frames per second.  Then I wonder which unfortunate photographer  will be required to sit down and edit through 200 nearly identical images in the search for one that may (or may not) have all the right stuff. 

I read about auto focusing sensors that range, densely, almost to the edge of the sensor  and I imagine what it  would be like to just point the camera at a scene and let it decide just where that point of sharpness needed to live. 

I 've been using  cameras with many focusing  points for many years and  I usually disagree with my camera when it decides to pick a point for me. That's why my cameras and I have agreed to mostly stick to using the center AF frame. It's a simple solution but in a way it's very elegant in that I rarely have issues getting important stuff in focus. And I rarely spend time looking at useless frames filled with perfectly sharp backgrounds and oozy foreground subjects. 

I certainly can't fault a camera for having a very high resolution EVF that also refreshes fast enough to seem....seamless. Nothing wrong with that  and certainly something I would like to have on all my cameras. I also like the idea of more external switches; like the little dial that surrounds the dial to the upper leftmost control  as I  hold the camera. I let's me choose the focusing mode. Will I use manual focus? Will I use continuous auto focus? It's easier now to go in either direction because I won't have to dive into the menus and scout around for the right column to find the switch.

Will I enjoy my new found freedom and become empowered by having a battery with twice the mph? Yes, but I'll miss the uniform battery size (and type of battery charger) across the whole Sony camera product line that I own. I'm not a manic shooter so I'm pretty happy glancing, from time to time, at the battery life indicator in the existing cameras and then pulling a battery out of my pocket , as required. Comforting too, to know that I can pull batteries from one camera and put them in another in those moments where necessity steps in and demands a quick solution. 

Who is the new Sony a9 really for? Is it aimed at a portrait shooter like myself? Is it aimed at the casual user who likes to range across cities and look for magic compositions in everyday life? I just don't think so. I'm presuming that this is really a "halo" product that won't sell in great numbers but will start to cement Sony's position in the professional camera neighborhood. By price point and spec it's obviously aimed at sports photographers and ...... well..... sports photographers. I may shoot a swim meet from time to time but I'm quick enough to catch the photos at the point of high action and not nearly patient enough to wade through tens of thousands of images taken in hopes that superior numbers will yield the frame I want. 

The one area of interest for me is video, but even there I don't see any real improvements over what is currently available in the Sony line up. The a6500 also samples the full 6k frame and beautifully downsamples to 4K and other than that and a new finder there isn't much to lure videographers in....especially at such an ambitious price point. 
Perhaps if they'd done one or two more things to the body video would be a consideration but I looked with distress at that same small and fragile micro-HDMI port and just shook my head. 
The Panasonic GH5 might not be having  the smoothest intro right  now (hello focus issues) but it's set the bar for video interfaces just by including a full size HDMI port under the flap. 

For the kind of work I do....that most of us do....I just can't see much advantage over the A7Rii. But the camera I am waiting for from Sony would be the replacement to the A7ii. And all I'd really like to see is 4K video (internal) and the option for a silent shutter. Not to much to ask and I have a piggy bank with about $1995 sitting on the floor next to my desk, just waiting. 

The Sony announcement of the a9 is exciting and fun. The camera looks really good. I'd do an even trade for my A7Rii in a heartbeat. But only because I like that 24 megapixel resolution region. It's nice to make files that don't clog up the processing pipeline or make me a prime customer for Western Digital or Seagate.

If you are a Sony shooter you'll have to make up your own mind. It's a shiny new toy. But is it "my" shiny new toy?


Michael Matthews said...

Hey -- any excuse for another look at Lou Lofton. Thanks.

Craig Yuill said...

I am interested in seeing the performance of mirrorless cameras improved, which appears to be the case with the A9. I read an article that suggested the sensor circuitry of the A9 might be fast enough to all but eliminate rolling shutter in video, which IMO would be a big plus. It will be interesting to see what photographers will be able to do with this camera.

As interesting as the announcement of the A9 is, however, one announcement from Sony seemed to me to be more important - opening up more service centres to better meet the needs of its customers. This is the opposite of what Nikon has been doing, which is closing down service centres and cutting back on customer support. Sony seems to get what photographers want and need. I'm not sure that the same can be said about Nikon. (FWIW, I mainly shoot with Nikon cameras, although I have both a Sony camcorder (which I almost never use) and a Sony smartphone.)

Anonymous said...

Kirk, I'm agnostic about the A9 and must comment on this portrait - Outstanding!! Ron

braddlesphotoblurb said...

Well Kirk I think the new A9 looks like a cool and very pro option for those who need its most likely superior abilities. Tis not for me, a new Oly Em1 mk2 keeps beckoning me from afar.
But... I guess what this new A9 really is, is a nail....a dirty big powerful nail in Canons future coffin. It's kinda like Sony sayin, "hey Canon, while you've been sittin round starin at ya naval and doin a Kodak, thinkin ya can get away with same old, same old, we've been burnin the midnight oil. WE are comin for your lunch guys, so wrap it up"!
If it works as it looks like it might, that last vestige of DSLR justification will evaporate very quickly, and the tide will turn.
Halo product indeed.

ODL Designs said...

In all honesty I can't stomach the price :) I am long finished with the $3000 plus camera bodies as the value just isn't there (for me and my photography).

I also am not sure this is the end of Canon. Their dual pixel AF is very very good, their brand recognition and professional support is all there as well. If they wanted to completed in the mirrorless segment full force, they could. I think it is just their piece of the camera pie is so big now, and the gains from system switching is so small that may just don't bother.

SOlid camera, solid tech. But I am done switching :)

tnargs said...

If the A9 is sensible for few, then the E-M1 II must be sensible for just as few. Same performance priorities, after all.

But it doesn't feel that way, does it? So, I conclude that the 'not for me' sentiment is mainly driven by expense.

And why 'just for sports and.... sports'? There's wildlife.... BIF.... playful little human creatures.... and just about any subject that would benefit from the world's best 24 MP sensor, so.... landscape.... portraiture.... streets in low light....

Michael said...

I suspect that an A9s will come next with updated video features.

Lenya R said...

Don't know about SonyA9, the world is full of greta cameras, even from Nikon, but that photograph, Kirk, is why we read your blog daily.

Chris said...

Total specification fatigue. It's a great camera, but who really needs it? Who will really need an A9r either - how many more MPs over the current 42 are really going to do anything useful to your photo abilities? Sony, presumably, will also be releasing all those great long teles that currently they don't have to compete with Canon and Nikon. I assume they are working on them (they won't be Zeiss ones somehow I think), but they have a long way to go. I, too, feel pity for photographers going through their 20 fps shots. I have 7 fps and that's bad enough. I'm also finished with cameras >$2000, and even that will seem too much very, very soon.

Colin B said...

Good considered thoughts from you Kirk as usual while all the other bloggers are frothing at the mouth with enthusiasm.

There's no doubt that the A9 is a technical tour de force but personally I feel a bit queasy looking at the specs because to me, 20 fps means we are at the end point of photography which is taking a frame grab from a video feed. This camera is perfect for me in theory as I do shoot sport - mainly football (the proper English kind!). But I rarely shoot more than 3 or 4 frames in a burst, not out of some notion of ideological purity but because I find that the results are better from anticipating the peak of the action rather than machine-gunning the scene. And apart from sport, I really don't understand why portrait, wedding or street photographers would need what this camera offers. Honestly, does it do anything that matters that people working in those areas couldn't do with something like a Nikon D750 at a fraction of the price?

People are saying that this camera marks some kind of defining moment in the history of modern photography and I feel that they may be right. But in my case, not in a good way. Am I the only one who now wants to go and grab my Nikon FM2 (or your 'old' camera of choice) and a roll of Tri-X and go out and do some proper old-fashioned photography?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a realistic, down-to-earth assessment. While most blogs are going ga-ga over this camera, you and a few others (notably byThom) have maintained a sense of reality.


TMJ said...

The Sony A9 is a showcase camera, demonstrating how how good Sony are at technological development and the features they can pack in. (I would rather they had left the Ethernet port out, wireless LAN would have been fine, and it's a smaller camera than the Nikon 810).

And I am sure the glow will shine down on all the other Sony A series. I agree about the number of AF focus points: all I want is to focus on one point, the one I choose.
Anyway, I will not be buying one, but am too waiting for the next iteration of the A7ii.

Anonymous said...

Nice post. I find the camera a bit of a head-scratcher. Basically, it's a little bit more of the same, but only a little bit more, and at a premium price. (And it's not "more" across the board -- if you put a premium on resolution, or a light weight system, or invisibility, or cost, etc., there are other more-interesting candidates.)

John Camp

Lee McCurtayne said...

I am in that category that lets me dawdle along in the tech stakes and when I tire of my short comings I sit myself down and give myself a talk about retiring the overly capable master of my displeasure. The new key player will be happy with my, self-loathing of every shot, my pedantic nit-picking, the eternal reacquiring of raws and reprocessing them for marginal gain.
The thought of buying a camera that would produce discontent at 20 fps doesn't instil self-confidence, but more like, how much Auto Flagellation can one stand.
I am afraid the A99-11 shall suffice in the photographic self-loathing department. I seriously doubt I can force the A9 to such critical misgivings.