Hands On With The Sony α9

I was lucky enough to be invited to Sony’s Alpha α9 launch at Somerset House in London. This was my first time visiting Somerset House and I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the building and the area that it occupies. Being so close to Leicester Square and just off a main road I was surprised at how peaceful it felt once I was in Somerset’s courtyard.

I was soon being led through a small opening into the house, up a spiral staircase and down some very narrow corridors into a small room with balconies either side looking out across the London skyline.  We were greeted with a coffee, a bunch of smiling hosts; some impressive looking photos mounted on Foamex boards, and shiny television screens.

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As everyone took their seats we were addressed by the Vice President of Sony Europe, Yosuke Aoki. He started off talking about the α7 series market share and how the launch of the new α9 will begin a new era for professional enthusiasts. I was bowled over by his sheer passion and enthusiasm for the Sony brand and for the new α9, and it was clear from the way he spoke and presented himself, just how excited he was to be announcing this new camera.

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He compared the α9 to Canon’s EOS 1D X Mark II and Nikon’s D5 stating that this camera is aimed at professionals who need a tool to capture moments that happen in a split second. He ran through, for him, what the benefits were of using the α9 over other high-end DSLR’s. The first benefit was the enhanced eye-AF. Unlike DSLR’s the α9 can seamlessly track subjects by locking onto them. This is thanks to the incredible 693 focal plane phase detection AF points, covering 93% of the frame!

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What is so special about the new Sony A9 camera?

One benefit that was emphasised more than anything else was the α9’s silent shutter. Aoki-san explained that this camera is able to shoot at 20 fps without making any noise whatsoever. It is perfect for photographers who need to shoot quickly in environments where they need to keep quiet, for example at a golf game, during a wedding ceremony, or in the theatre.

He also explained that the α9 is able to keep all 20 shots that are taken per second in focus. This cannot be achieved by DSLR’s as the mirrors, rising and falling, will always cause a few of the photos to be out of focus, therefore highlighting that the α9 will give you a better opportunity of capturing a great shot.

Sony A9 screen details

We then heard from the Product Marketing Manager for Sony Europe, Yoma Hori. He touched on some of the α9’s main specifications and features. He started with the key highlight of the Sony α9, which is its 24.2 MP full-frame stacked Exmor RS image sensor. This sensor allows the α9 to send imaging data through it rather than around it, enabling it to shoot at 20 fps for up to 241 RAW or 362 JPEG images.

The fact that there is no mirror also means that the shooting is blackout free. I tested this out when I got hands on with the α9 after the presentation and it really does make a difference. As you shoot you can see the scene unfolding through the camera, allowing for uninterrupted continuous shooting.

We were also introduced to the new G Master 100-400mm super telephoto E Mount zoom lens, which is to be released alongside the α9. As expected this lens is aimed at the α9 audience, particularly photographers shooting sports, or wildlife scenes.

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In order to keep up with fast-moving action, the new FE 100-400mm GM super telephoto zoom lens features a combination of double linear motor and a Direct Drive SSM actuator, which also ensures precise, quiet operation.

After the presentation we were able to get hands on with both the α9 and the new 100-400mm lens. I was extremely impressed with how both the lens and camera performed together, and I was able to test out the continuous shooting from the balcony of Somerset House on joggers and a passing aeroplane. I was also able to zoom into one of the carriages of the London Eye and was actually able to pick out details of the people in the carriage.

capturing London's cityscape

When first picking up the α9 I was surprised by the weight, coming in at just 673g (23.7 oz.) it felt so light and felt great in my hands. Even though I’m not used to shooting with a Sony it was extremely easy to navigate and everything about it looked great, even down to the colours they have picked for the different menu screens.

zoomed in eye detail

Although I didn’t have long with the camera I was able to get a real feel for just how much work has gone into this model. I’m extremely excited to see how this stands up against its competitors, and whether it’s done enough to persuade professional photographers to put down their DSLR and pick up the α9.

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