Sony Alpha A9 Review

John Riley reviews the new Sony Alpha A9 - the high speed 24 megapixel full-frame mirrorless camera, with 20fps continuous shooting and 4K video.

| Sony Alpha 9 (ILCE-9) in Mirrorless Cameras

Sony Alpha A9 Review: Sony A9 Body Front View

Clearly aimed at speed and a continuation of Sony's bid to make the mirrorless full frame camera a serious competitor to the long-established world of the DSLR, the new A9 body uses new technology to achieve new standards of performance. Let's delve under the bonnet of this new development and see if the mirrorless camera has now completely come of age and can fully meet the demanding requirements that hitherto have been the domain of the DSLR.

Sony Alpha A9 Features

Sony Alpha A9 Review: Sony A9 With 24 70mm And 70 200mm Lenses

Although the pixel count is reduced, 24.2MP compared with the 42MP of the previous and excellent A7R II, the sensor is at the heart of the new technology that makes this camera possible.

The stacked Exmor RS CMOS sensor has internal memory built in that enables readout to be up to 20x faster. Combining this with the BIONZ X image processing engine results in shooting speeds of up to 20fps, without image blackout. This assumes use of the electronic shutter, which gives speeds of up to 1/32,000 sec, without vibration and of course without the “mirror slap” of the DSLR. Because of the speed of readout, the rolling shutter distortion of electronic shutters is virtually eliminated. There is also a standard mechanical focal plane shutter that operates from 30 seconds to 1/8000 sec. In this instance, a frame rate of up to 5fps is possible.

The camera features dual SD card slots, with one of these supporting UHS-II memory cards. There's also a built-in LAN connection, which professional sports photographers will want. The menus have been updated, and there is a "MyMenu" section, where you can add up to 30 of your favourite settings. There's also a joystick on the back for quicker operation.

Sony Alpha A9 Review: Sony A9 Body Rear View Showing Tilt On Screen

The mechanical shutter is rated for 500,000 shots, although it will probably be difficult to reach this number, as the camera uses the electronic shutter when shooting at 20fps. 

The camera weighs 673g with battery and memory card included. The camera uses a new Sony Info-Lithium Z (NP-FZ100, 2280mAh) battery that gives up to 650 shots when using the LCD, or 450 when using the EVF. There is an optional battery grip introduced, that holds two batteries, as well as another power accessory that holds 4 batteries, for extended shooting.

Key Features

  • 24.2MP Stacked Exmor RS Full-Frame BSI CMOS sensor
  • Sony FE full frame lens mount
  • In-camera 5 axis sensor shift image stabilisation
  • 3 inch TFT touch panel monitor with 1.44M dots
  • 3,69m dot OLED EVF with 100% frame coverage, 0.78x magnification, 120fps refresh
  • 20fps shooting with electronic shutter
  • 5fps shooting with mechanical shutter
  • ISO range 100-51,200 with mechanical shutter (expands to 50-204,800)
  • ISO range 100-25,600 with electronic shutter
  • 4D focus and tracking
  • FTP file transfer with wired LAN connection
  • Wi-Fi wireless LAN
  • NFC and Bluetooth
  • 4K (UHD) movie shooting
  • Battery life 480 using EVF, 650 using monitor
  • Creative Styles and Picture Effects
  • In-camera HDR

Sony Alpha A9 Handling

Sony Alpha A9 Review: Sony A9 Body Lens Top View

The lenses provided for this review were the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM and the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM, both previously reviewed and found to be excellent. This camera was also used for the review of the Samyang AF 35mm f/2.8 lens. The conclusion we can reach from handling all these is that although the A9 can be a fairly compact full frame camera, it needs small lenses to be so. The larger lenses as provided make the combination pretty much as bulky as a moderately small DSLR. This is neither a good nor a bad thing, just an observation.

The overall handling is very much like a small DSLR, but with the electronic viewfinder and the lack of mirror vibration. The viewfinder is actually excellent, but in the brightest light, where an optical viewfinder would excel, it can look artificial and even be difficult to use. 

Focus is rapid and covers an impressive 93% of the frame. The camera has a large buffer, being able to take 241 RAW (compressed) images, and up to 362 JPEG images without slowing down, with full-time AF / AE tracking, when using a UHS-II SD memory card.

Sony Alpha A9 Review: Sony A9 Body Rear View With Screen Tilted

The placement of buttons and dials is well thought out, with dedicated physical controls being a huge advantage compared with delving into menus for day to day operation. The exposure compensation dial is beautifully placed, borrowing its utility from compact camera designs. Drive options and exposure modes have lockable dials and we have control dials and even a joystick. All of these have just the right amount of resistance to avoid them being operated accidentally. 

There are many other features on the camera, including 4K movie shooting, Wi-Fi connectivity, an articulated back screen that can be enabled to be touch sensitive. The highly complex number of options enable the camera to be set up to any specific requirements and it all works very well, with controls properly located to best advantage. The quality of construction is of a very high order.

Sony Alpha A9 Review: Sony Alpha A9 Battery

Battery life - Twin card slots can accept SD and Memory Stick options and use of a larger battery extends usefully the number of images that can be shot. According to CIPA standards, Sony claims 480 shots per charge when using the EVF and 650 when using the monitor. This seems reasonable and a day's shooting is easily possible under most circumstances. If more images are planned, then carrying spare batteries is always a good idea.

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Photographs taken using the Sony Alpha 9 (ILCE-9)

Mrs.SparrowhawkGolden EagleGolden EagleSay it with flowersLife’s a beachEarly Morning WalkJust UsSUMATRAN TIGERSummerAnother look at  Llanddwyn islandHorsey Windmill Norfolk EnglandHappiness comes in WavesLlanddwyn islandFeeding timeCoffee time

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pablophotographer Avatar
pablophotographer 12 2.2k 450
3 Jul 2017 2:04PM
What? Just one aspect ratio?
joshwa Avatar
joshwa Plus
13 927 1 United Kingdom
3 Jul 2017 3:04PM
Also 16:9 is available - this has been updated, thanks Josh
RJPhoto Avatar
RJPhoto 10 16 1 United Kingdom
5 Jul 2017 3:46PM
The more I read about the A9 the more I like it. At first i thought it would be just for sports and wildlife, but I can see the merits for events, weddings, portraits and fashion - silent shooting and the fast shutter means no need for an ND to get shallow DoF in bright outdoor conditions. After being a Canon user for too many years to mention I moved to Sony earlier this year after being impressed by the basic A7. The A9 is too pricey for me, but am very interested in what the new A7 III will offer later this year.
AlanWillis Avatar
AlanWillis 14 67 England
13 Jul 2017 9:42AM
I have owned the A9 since the 25th June, and taken well over 10,000 photographs with it, Many are posted on EPZ.
The no black out makes the camera easy and a joy to use. I do not think I could ever return to a DSLR.
Because it down sizes from 6 to 4K the video quality is unbeatable.
Before owning the A9, I carried a tripod everywhere, The stabilization is so good, my tripods are being neglected.
All my EPZ A9 photos are hand held. I took over 2,000 shots with one battery charge, because of the ability to use 20 FPS, you do rattle through many pictures.
Because the Drive and focus modes are on wheels, and the video can be used with the shutter button, My custom buttons cover Focus area, face detection, audio signals and APS-C/ Super 35. The AEL I use for centre lock on AF, and the multi selector I have eye AF. Centre control wheel is MF Zoom, I have format in my memory.
With 12 functions in FN, I have not used the menu whilst shooting.
I changed from Nikon to Sony a long time ago, have taken time to build up my gear and lenses, which are all Sony or Zeiss.
I have never been in such a contented position with photography.
The only justified complaint is that Sony do not have lenses such as the 400 F2.8 prime, These will materialize very soon.
I used adaptors with long lenses, for a while then eventually completely changed to native.
Anyone wanting tomorrows camera, today? This is it.


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