The long-awaited and heavily rumoured Sony A9 mirrorless camera has arrived, complete with top-end specs, 4K video recording, a new battery pack and a few important professional-focussed features.
Sony is often thought of as a bit of a photography newbie and in age terms it is not even a teenager. It acquired Minolta camera technologies to help get the ball rolling back in 2006 – far sooner than when Canon started life in 1937.
Many forget, of course, that Sony’s sensors are used by Nikons and other manufacturers. But it is its own cameras that see its latest and greatest offerings first, which brings us nicely onto the A9. This is the daddy of the range and a potential proper DSLR rival.
While some photographers continue to shun its cameras such as the low-light monster that is the A7S II, they have proven extremely popular for those who value powerful optic potential in a body smaller than a DSLR.
A full review is needed to see if the Sony A9 can live up to the hype and surpass its predecessors, but we can at least ascertain what to expect from what the camera offers in terms of the sensor, features and other aspects. Here’s what we know.
1) No 70-megapixel sensor here
The rumour of the 70-megapixel sensor can finally be put to bed because the Sony A9 has a 24.2-megapixel Exmor RS 35mm full-frame stacked CMOS sensor with a virtually silent shutter and 14-bit uncompressed RAW support to get the most from each photo.
It can shoot up to 24 frames per second for a total of 241 RAW or 362 JPEG images, snap a photo at up to 1/32,000th of a second and the new Bionz X’s processor offers data processing speed up to 20 times faster than previous full-frame Sony cameras.
2) Two memory card slots, one camera
Some professionals struggle to cope with a camera that only has one memory card slot, especially if shooting a wedding or other event. Sony has obviously taken this criticism onboard because the A9 has dual SD slots, one of which supports UHS-II cards, and an Ethernet port.
3) The autofocus should be brilliant
Having a brilliant sensor is a bit of a waste if the autofocus is rubbish. In the case of the A9, it should be snappy and then some, thanks to having a ridiculous 693 phase detection points that cover approximately 93 per cent of the frame.
With the right lens, the Sony A9 should be up to the task of action photography, especially with touchscreen focus available and five-axis image stabilisation within the camera to smooth out your shaky hands.
4) The battery life should be improved
Another common criticism of the A7 camera range is the battery life, which is why the Sony A9 has a brand new ‘Z’ battery that is said to offer 2.2 times the capacity of the older ‘W’ battery, which means around 500 shots per battery (although this will vary based on usage, camera settings etc).
5) Rain is no match
Sony says the A9 is fully weather-sealed, which means it should survive harsher environments. This is useful for those who routinely shoot photos in hot, cold or wet environments where the weather is typically unfavourable for electronics. How effective the magnesium alloy body is remains to be seen.
6) 4K video is recorded at 6K
Like the Sony A7S, A7SII and A7RII, the A9 should be a very capable video camera. Not only can it shoot 4K video (3,840×2,160 pixels) at up to 30 frames per second, it is actually using 6K information and oversampling to improve the end result.
It can also manage full HD at up to 120 frames per second at up to 100Mbps, allowing silky smooth slow-motion footage.
7) Vlogging may be a problem
You may be able to stick the camera on a tripod and record yourself, but it would be easier if the A9 had a screen capable of moving 180-degrees (known as articulated or swivel displays) like on rival cameras, as opposed to simply tilting. You could, of course, pair up your phone and use the Sony app but this is more hassle.
Not that many Vloggers would spend this much on a camera, of course, but it is a shame for a flagship device so focussed on portability and power to miss out on such a feature.
8) The electronic viewfinder is superior
Another area where the A9 stands tall above the rest of the A7 range is the electronic viewfinder (EVF), which has an impressive 1,280×960 QuadVGA resolution and is said to operate with ‘very low latency’ at 120 frames per second. That should make it clearer and more capable of displaying what is in front of you.
9) New accessories, ahoy
Besides the new Z battery, Sony has released other accessories to go with the new A9. One is the VG-C3EM Vertical Grip, which provides a larger area to grip the camera and doubles the battery life, while another is the GP-X1EM Grip Extension for extending the grip but without ruining the look. There is also a screen protector to keep damage and fingerprint smudges at bay.
10) What does the Sony A9 cost and when can I buy it?
The Sony A9 will start shipping from June, 2017. It is available to pre-order now from various shops, including Jessops. Expect to pay £4,499 for the body only and at least a couple of thousand more if you want to pair it up with some tasty Sony G Master lens goodness such as the 24-70mm.