Is the Sony A9 camera fit for sports?

Photographer Hugh Hastings has a long association with Chelsea Football Club – he was their official photographer for ten years back in the 1970s and 1980s, and now manages their digital photo archives and workflow. Hugh still shoots sports, and recently took the new Sony A9 to the touchline for a football work-out, the first of its kind in the UK for this camera.

Chelsea v Sunderland - Premier League

“Back in the day Chelsea FC had no money at all and could only afford for me to shoot one roll of film per match. Just 36 frames. If I shot more, I had to pay for the film and processing. How times have changed! In photography too; the equipment is so much more automated than when I started, when there was no digital cameras and no autofocus for instance.

Chelsea v Sunderland - Premier League
LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 21: Chelsea’s Victor Moses during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on May 21, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Hugh Hastings/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

The Sony A9 is the first mirrorless camera I’ve ever used that is a genuine alternative to the established DSLR pro sports market. I have had five hip operations over the years and that’s partly down to the weight of cameras and lenses. We all need smaller gear! It’s been a pipe dream until now.

Chelsea v Sunderland - Premier League
LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 21: Chelsea’s Willian during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on May 21, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Hugh Hastings/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

I shot the A9 for two hours taking in the match and post-match celebrations, and it wasn’t until after 75 minutes play that I remembered that the A9 has an electronic viewfinder. That’s how much things have progressed. No black-outs, no issues with focus, in fact I think the focus is quicker and more reliable than any other camera I’ve used. The images were stunning, using the 100-400mm lens, with quite a bit more detail in the shadow areas than normal, and no missed shots other than when I was conserving battery power as I was switching off and on. The camera is so new, we had no accurate idea of how many shots I could take. In fact, I took over 1500 images and that used up only 48% battery power which is bang on, and I was viewing a lot of them back in the viewfinder so see how the equipment was handling the job.

Chelsea v Sunderland - Premier League
LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 21: Chelsea’s Gary Cahill during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on May 21, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Hugh Hastings/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

The feature set is outstanding, not just a whole lot lighter, but more useful too, such as the silent shutter that I was able to use in the press conference. Now I can’t wait to try the longer prime lenses and also the camera grip, I shot all these images without a grip as the new battery grip had yet to ship, which is pretty amazing from a handling point-of-view. So, I think it’s absolutely fair to say that the A9 is the start of a whole new ball game for sports photographers, action and wildlife shooters, right here, right now.”

See more of Hugh’s work on his Twitter feed: @hughhastings or on his website 

The camera is also available in Calumet Rental, for £100 per day.

One comment

  1. Mirrorless cameras battery time is different from the DSLR. It ain’t frame counted but time counted. A single battery usually last from 2.5h to 3-4 hours. And you are free to shoot as many frames you want with that timelimit without really affecting the battery time so much.

    With a DSLR you are frame counted, camera can stay powered for weeks, but every frame consumes battery. This is what makes a big difference in the situations like hiking for weeks, where you take 500 frames in a week and spend hours to compose and take them, that is when the DSLR wins. But when it comes to short period of times shooting like a sport event, DSLR has no benefits as with mirrorless you can shoot even 4000-5000 per battery if you can in that few hour period. Weddings and such events are another case where one needs to reserve a battery to every 3-4 hours. So 9 hour shooting means 4 batteries for constant power On time.

    The current best sports cameras are Olympus E-M1 II and Sony A9. So much has changed in the last year that the top of the DSLR cameras benefits were ripped off in single year by two “underdogs”.

    Like

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