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Sony Alpha A9 II (9M2) Review

We review the Sony Alpha A9 II - Sony's high-speed full-frame professional mirrorless camera. Do the updates to this 24mp camera make it the ultimate pro camera?


|  Sony Alpha 9 II (ILCE-9M2) in Mirrorless Cameras
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Sony Alpha A9 II (8)

The Sony Alpha A9 II is Sony's update to the A9 - the A9 being Sony's flagship camera, aimed at professional sports photographers, and those needing high-speed shooting. The A9 II keeps the same 24mp BSI CMOS sensor, and 20fps continuous shooting, but has a few tweaks and improvements designed to make this a better camera. 

Sony Alpha A9 II Features

Sony Alpha A9 II With 70 200mm F4


The Sony Alpha A9 II uses the same 24mp stacked Exmor RS CMOS sensor as the A9. The stacked sensor has an internal memory built-in that enables readout to be up to 20x faster. Combining this with an updated BIONZ X image processing engine results in shooting speeds of up to 20fps, without image blackout.

 

Sony A9 Ii Ff Stacked Cmos Sensor
Sony A9 II FF Stacked Cmos Sensor - Image courtesy Sony UK

 

Shooting at 20fps uses 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, and an anti-flicker option can be used to help with artificial lighting. There is also a standard mechanical focal plane shutter that operates from 30 seconds to 1/8000 sec. With the A9 II, a frame rate of up to 10fps is possible using the mechanical shutter.

 

4D Focus system

The camera can shoot at 20fps continuous shooting, however, it'd not be much use if the focus system couldn't keep up, so thankfully the camera is also able to shoot at 20fps with continuous AF/AE tracking - using Sony's 4D Focus system. The camera has blackout-free shooting, as mentioned, and this is with 60fps live-view, with minimal display lag. The other benefit of shooting at 20fps with an electronic shutter is that the camera can shoot silently, without disrupting people at sporting events. There's anti-flicker shooting, with flicker detection, with shutter operation timed to suppress exposure and colour issues (at high shutter speeds).

There are 693 phase-detection AF points with 425 contrast-detection AF points, covering 93% of the frame. The camera also features AI (Artificial Intelligence) based tracking systems, to detect and track the subject, as well as Face and Eye detection focus, for both humans and animals.

 

There's a built-in LAN connection, which as been updated to 1000BASE-T, which professional sports photographers will want for ultra-high-speed image transfer at sporting events. As expected, there's also built-in Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth so you can connect the camera to your smartphone.

The menus feature 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, which as also been updated for improved grip. The camera features dual SD card slots, with both of these supporting UHS-II memory cards.

Sony Alpha A9 II With 24 70mm GMaster (3)

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 the Sony Info-Lithium Z (NP-FZ100, 2280mAh) battery that gives up to 690 shots when using the LCD, or 500 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
  • 10fps 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 500 using EVF, 690 using monitor
  • Creative Styles and Picture Effects, In-camera HDR

Sony Alpha A9 II Handling

Sony Alpha A9 II (1)
 

The Sony Alpha A9 II has a solid metal body, with excellent build quality. The camera feels extremely solid, which is reassuring considering the intended use of the camera. Professional sports photographers can end up in very challenging situations, and the tough build quality of professional cameras should be high on a manufacturers priority

There's a large grip giving a good area to get a good hold on. The rubber grip continues around to the back of the camera, where a protrusion can be found to give your thumb an area of grip. The camera body is weather-sealed, although you do need to make sure you are using a weather-sealed lens for complete protection of the camera. We used the weather-sealed Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM and Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G lenses.


Design changes - There's a slight change in the design of the top of the A9 II in comparison to the A9 with the AF mode dial locking in a different way. The rear command dial is now on top, the exposure compensation dial is locking, and the shutter release button / on/off button has been redesigned slightly.

The AF-On button has more prominence, and the video button slightly less. The joystick on the back has an improved grip making it easy to change the focus point.

There are no front preview or function buttons, which seems an odd omission when you're used to using other premium/flagship cameras (from other brands). The memory card cover has been redesigned, and both slots are now UHS-II compatible.

See our detailed comparison to see more differences between the A9 and A9 II.


The electronic viewfinder (EVF) is excellent, giving 0.78x magnification, with a high resolution (3.68m dots) and a fast refresh rate (60/120fps), and dioptre adjustment. Whilst not the highest resolution, compared to some alternatives, the view is very clear, and crisp. The rubber surround gives a comfortable area for you to hold the camera up to your eye, however, it isn't as soft as those typically found on DSLRs.

The 3inch touch-screen is tilting, both up and down, and has a resolution of 1.44m dots, with great colour reproduction and very good viewing angles. The touch-screen doesn't provide much functionality, you can use it to set the focus point, and use it in playback, but you can't use it to change settings, either in the menus or the Fn menus.

Focus is rapid and covers an impressive 93% of the frame, and we were impressed by the success rate when tracking birds. The camera has a large buffer, being able to take 239 RAW (compressed) images, and up to 361 JPEG images without slowing down, with full-time AF / AE tracking, when using a UHS-II SD memory card.

With the A9 and A9 II there is no image blackout, and that has to be seen to be fully appreciated - watch a video example here. Coupled with very fast AF this is a powerful combination and the new technology is fully vindicated.

 

Sony Alpha A9 II (10)
 

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 well placed and locking so that you don't accidentally turn it when not needed. Drive options, AF modes, exposure compensation, and the mode dials are lockable/unlockable so that you can adjust these when needed. 

There is a top (rear) command wheel, and a front command wheel, as well as a rear scroll wheel, being usable for aperture/shutter speed adjustments when in the appropriate mode. All of these have just the right amount of resistance to avoid them being operated accidentally.

Sony Alpha A9 II (5)
 

Battery life - According to CIPA standards, Sony claims 500 shots per charge when using the EVF and 690 when using the monitor, a slight improvement over the original A9. 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. You can also use an external USB charger to power the camera while using the camera.


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Photographs taken using the Sony Alpha 9 II (ILCE-9M2)

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