Sometimes, Sony announces a somewhat affordable camera that allows previously premium features to trickle down to the rest of us. This is not one of those times. Sony announced the a9 today, and make no mistake — this is meant for pros, even if it’s more of a convenience for them than anything.
Why is it a convenience? Because like most of Sony’s cameras, it’s a mirrorless camera — the kind of camera that packs high-end imaging into a much smaller body than the average DSLR. It’s a handheld camera that’s easy to pack and travel with (which will be more or less true depending on your collection of lenses). While the pros will often use bigger and better than even the a9, mirrorless cameras can be good enough on their own — great for aspiring pros on a relative budget, or for anyone who doesn’t want to lug around all that pro gear.
But, let’s get off the convenience angle, because this thing is a genuine monster in its own right. For the first time, Sony has taken their stacked CMOS sensor (introduced a couple years ago, allowing more room for circuitry that speeds up the camera) and implemented it on a 35 mm full-frame camera. The sensor in the a9 is 24.2 MP, so it’s going to capture a ton of detail to boot. It’s being paired with a new BIONZ X image processor that’s debuting in this camera. The expanded ISO range is an enormous 50 to 204800.
That’s not even the impressive part. Like most cameras, the a9 has a specialty, and it’s action shots. Action shots require incredibly fast shutter speeds and paired lenses with huge apertures, and boy does the a9 deliver on that first one. It’s capable of 1/32,000 sec shooting speeds (in complete silence), and can manage 20 fps continuous shooting for up to 241 images in 14-bit RAW — about 12 seconds of 20 fps continuous shooting.
None of that means much if the camera can’t focus and adjust focus just as fast and effectively. So, Sony has stuffed in 693 points of phase-detect autofocus points, with an engine that can make 60 tracking calculations per second. In other words, not only can the camera intelligently pinpoint where the action is, it can keep up with that action. If you’re planning to shoot dynamic sports like racing or basketball, it’s going to be a dream. That’s aided by a high-resolution OLED electronic viewfinder, which uses ZEISS optics and a special coating to reduce glare and stay clean.
While the lightweight mirrorless camera has lightened many loads over the years, the most bulky camera equipment has always been the stabilization gear. Fortunately, Sony has delivered here, too. In 2014, Sony introduced their internal 5-axis stabilization tech to their handheld cameras, and it can be found in the a9, too. The technology makes video and images alike stay stable and clear, even if the person behind the camera has an unsteady hand.
The most obvious sign that this is a pro camera might be the presence of an ethernet port for file transfers, which is something you’re definitely not seeing on consumer product. There are also two UHS-II SD card slots on the a9, and it’s worth pointing out that you’ll need a seriously good SD card to handle the kind of 4K video (or 1080p at 120 fps) that this camera can take. When shooting 4K video, the sensor actually takes in 6K video naturally, oversampling to create a better picture in the end.
Sony is also promising much improved battery life. They’ve developed their own new battery, which the company claims is 2.2 times better than batteries used in their older full-frame cameras.
So you’re not going to believe this, but this camera is SUPER expensive. The a9 will cost $4,500 when it ships in May — that’s without a lens, so hopefully you’ve already got some Sony lenses in your arsenal.