Sony’s latest announcement redefines what high-end means for mirrorless cameras. On paper, the specifications for the brand new a9 are about as advanced as it gets, not only for mirrorless but for Sony’s DSLR counterparts as well. It starts with a 24.2MP stacked CMOS sensor that’s capable of 20 FPS continuous shooting, entirely blackout free, for over 200 RAW files.
The a9 uses a stacked Exmor RS image sensor technology previously found in Sony’s latest RX100- and RX10-series cameras. According to Sony, the benefits are that “the circuit layer is separate from the pixel layer so that the scale and capabilities of the integrated high-speed signal processing circuitry can be significantly enhanced…”
Built for high-speed action, the a9‘s focusing system is one of the most advanced ever seen in any camera with 693 phase-detection autofocus points covering 93% of the sensor area. Sony claims this works approximately 25% faster than the system in the a7R Mark II. The a9 makes 60 autofocus calculations per second, which continues even while the electronic shutter is being released.
High-speed cameras need high-speed memory cards and the a9 provides dual SD card slots, the lower of which is UHS-II compatible.
Sony also included the next generation of their 5-axis optical image stabilization for photo and video, good for up to 5-stops of compensation. Vibrations are minimized with a low-vibration mechanical shutter, although the a9 primarily uses it’s electronic shutter that shoots up to speeds of 1/32000 seconds entirely vibration-free.
4K video takes advantage of a full pixel readout with no pixel binning, allowing the a9 to condense a 6K equivalent amount of data into a 4K output for the best image quality possible. The a9 uses a high-bitrate XAVC S format with bitrates up to 100Mbps for 4K recording. Slow motion options go to up 120fps for 1080p Full HD and there’s a clean 4K HDMI output for your external video recorder or monitor.
At the top is a new Quad-VGA OLED electronic viewfinder with a 120fps refresh rate, a magnification of 0.78x and a ZEISS T* coating for reflection reduction.
The a9 uses the newly developed NP-FZ100 battery, which is reported to last up to 2.2 times longer than the NP-FW50 and is good for approximately 480 stills on one charge. There’s an optional VG-C3EM vertical grip that fits two batteries available as well as the NPA-MQZ1K Multi Battery Adaptor Kit that holds up to four.
The body is made from strong, lightweight magnesium alloy and the entire camera is made to be dust and moisture resistant. Even the I/O ports on the side show that Sony’s aiming for the sports and action market. In addition to HDMI, USB and headphone/mic jacks, the a9 has a wired LAN connection, which will be very useful for sideline photographers that have to upload photos as quickly as possible.