Until May 2017, the Canon EOS 1D X Mark II and the Nikon D5 were the monarchs of professional sports and press photography. Then Sony came out with the Alpha A9, which completely transformed the dynamic of the competition. One of the most impressive cameras we tried was Sony’s first full-frame mirrorless sports shooter. It was much more compact, noticeably less heavy, and insanely quick.
Now, in 2019, the A9 of the second generation is available to purchase and is attempting to persuade professionals that they should upgrade. On the other hand, Sony has elected to keep most of the basic specifications from the previous generation of the A9 and has instead decided to implement what, on paper, appear to be just minor changes to the A9 II.
The typical user might not place a lot of importance on such little adjustments. Still, industry specialists who rely on absurdly fast rotations and require high-speed performance will be the ones to appreciate what the Sony Alpha A9 II has to offer in terms of its capabilities. The A9 family of cameras was explicitly developed for consumers like these, and the most recent model does not fall short of expectations in this regard.
Sony a9 II Build Quality.
A total of 43 new functions are included in the Sony Alpha A9 II compared to its predecessor. While there are just a few tiny modifications in the camera’s physical design, the newer model is an absolute joy to operate.
One of these modifications to the design is a broader and deeper grip that makes the camera fairly pleasant to hold and operate for extended periods, especially for individuals with relatively tiny hands.
The AF-ON button has been made more prominent and noticeable, and the multi-selector joystick has been given a textured surface, making it more tactile. These changes make it simpler to locate and utilize the buttons without removing your focus from the viewfinder.
Sony a9 II Autofocus
We could not test the camera at sporting stadiums because individuals did not feel at ease with us posting images of them on a public platform; thus, we decided to try the camera on animals instead. When capturing images of birds, in particular, a camera with a quick and accurate focusing mechanism is essential, and the A9 II did not fall short in this regard.
The autofocus system that came standard on the first-generation A9 was lightning-quick and completely dependable. When we looked at it at the time, we believed there was no way it could be improved, but boy, were we ever wrong.
Even when using smaller apertures with Focus Priority turned on, the new camera’s autofocus performance was improved thanks to a simple change to the AF algorithm. This change was made possible by the new Bionz X processor, which was also responsible for making the change possible in the first place.
Accurate tracking can also keep up with subjects who move irregularly (like birds flying and changing directions suddenly). We observed that the camera’s autofocus (AF) system could not lock back onto the subject’s head, but it was more than capable of tracking the body of the issue. The camera’s AF system does occasionally experience difficulties when the head of the subject temporarily vanishes and then returns.
Sony a9 II Image Quality
The A9 II, much like its predecessor, produces some outstandingly good performances. The 24.2-megapixel sensor has crisp photographs, vivid colors, and plenty of fine details. Though, because of the fast rate of camera computations, RAW files include a more significant amount of chroma (color) noise than JPEGs do. This is something that can be corrected during the post-processing stage, however.
The ISO performance is superb, with almost no noise at the lower settings and quite acceptable levels when you rise to 12,800 and 25,600, as demonstrated in the image of a bird in the water that can be seen further down on this page.
The above image was captured at an ISO of 12,800 and was subsequently cropped by 20%. When seen uncropped, the image scarcely displayed any evidence of brightness, but grain became apparent when cutting the image to zoom in closer to the subject.
Even if noise starts to become noticeable at 51,200 and above, you should still be alright bringing it up to 102,400; however, we recommend only going that high if you have to and if you’re shooting JPEGs.
The A9 II does offer a respectable dynamic range, even though it is still not entirely up to par with Sony’s megapixel monsters. However, this is primarily because the A7R series was created with landscape photography in mind, while the A9 II was not.
Compared to the Canon EOS 1D X Mark II and the Nikon D5 (the latter is fantastic in low light), the A9 II holds its own. Plenty of details can be retrieved from shadows when working on your images afterward, even when using only a slider in the most fundamental photo editing programs.
Sony a9 II Specs
|Body type||SLR-style mirrorless|
|Body material||Magnesium alloy|
|Max resolution||6000 x 4000|
|Image ratio w:h||3:2|
|Effective pixels||24 megapixels|
|Sensor photo detectors||28 megapixels|
|Sensor size||Full frame (35.6 x 23.8 mm)|
|Sensor type||Stacked CMOS|
|Color space||sRGB, Adobe RGB|
|Color filter array||Primary color filter|
|ISO||Auto, ISO 100-51200 (expands to 50-204800)|
|Boosted ISO (minimum)||50|
|Boosted ISO (maximum)||204800|
|White balance presets||9|
|Custom white balance||Yes|
|Image stabilization notes||5-axis|
|CIPA image stabilization rating||5.5 stop(s)|
|JPEG quality levels||Extra fine, fine, standard|
|File format||JPEG (Exif v2.31)Raw (Sony ARW v2.3)|
|Optics & Focus|
|Autofocus||Contrast Detect (sensor)Phase DetectMulti-areaCenterSelective single-pointTrackingSingleContinuousTouchFace DetectionLive View|
|Autofocus assist lamp||Yes|
|Digital zoom||Yes (2x)|
|Number of focus points||693|
|Lens mount||Sony E|
|Focal length multiplier||1×|
|Screen / viewfinder|
|Screen type||TFT LCD|
|Minimum shutter speed||30 sec|
|Maximum shutter speed||1/8000 sec|
|Maximum shutter speed (electronic)||1/32000 sec|
|Exposure modes||ProgramAperture priorityShutter priorityManual|
|External flash||Yes (via hot shoe or flash sync port)|
|Flash modes||Flash off, Autoflash, Fill-flash, Slow Sync., Rear Sync., Red-eye reduction, Wireless, Hi-speed sync|
|Flash X sync speed||1/250 sec|
|Drive modes||SingleContinuous (H/M/L)Self-timerBracketing (AE, WB, DRO)|
|Continuous drive||20.0 fps|
|Self-timer||Yes (2, 5, 10 secs + continuous, 3 or 5 frames)|
|Exposure compensation||±5 (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)|
|AE Bracketing||±5 (3, 5 frames at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV, 2/3 EV, 1 EV, 2 EV steps)|
|WB Bracketing||Yes (3 frames, H/L selectable)|
|Format||MPEG-4, AVCHD, H.264|
|Modes||3840 x 2160 @ 30p / 100 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 30p / 60 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 25p / 100 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 25p / 60 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 24p / 100 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 24p / 60 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 120p / 100 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 120p / 60 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 100p / 100 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 100p / 60 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 60p / 50 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 50p / 50 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 30p / 50 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 25p / 50 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 24p / 50 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 60p / 28 Mbps, AVCHD, MTS, H.264, Dolby Digital1920 x 1080 @ 50p / 28 Mbps, AVCHD, MTS, H.264, Dolby Digital1920 x 1080 @ 60i / 24 Mbps, AVCHD, MTS, H.264, Dolby Digital1920 x 1080 @ 60i / 17 Mbps, AVCHD, MTS, H.264, Dolby Digital1920 x 1080 @ 50i / 24 Mbps, AVCHD, MTS, H.264, Dolby Digital1920 x 1080 @ 50i / 17 Mbps, AVCHD, MTS, H.264, Dolby Digital1920 x 1080 @ 25p / 24 Mbps, AVCHD, MTS, H.264, Dolby Digital1920 x 1080 @ 25p / 17 Mbps, AVCHD, MTS, H.264, Dolby Digital1920 x 1080 @ 24p / 24 Mbps, AVCHD, MTS, H.264, Dolby Digital1920 x 1080 @ 24p / 17 Mbps, AVCHD, MTS, H.264, Dolby Digital1920 x 1080 @ 60p / 28 Mbps, MP4, H.264, AAC1920 x 1080 @ 50p / 28 Mbps, MP4, H.264, AAC1920 x 1080 @ 30p / 16 Mbps, MP4, H.264, AAC1920 x 1080 @ 25p / 16 Mbps, MP4, H.264, AAC1280 x 720 @ 30p / 6 Mbps, MP4, H.264, AAC1280 x 720 @ 25p / 6 Mbps, MP4, H.264, AAC|
|Storage types||Dual SD/SDHC/SDXC slots (UHS-II compatible)|
|USB||USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5 GBit/sec)|
|Wireless notes||802.11ac + NFC + Bluetooth|
|Remote control||Yes (Wired or wireless)|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||690|
|Weight (inc. batteries)||678 g (1.49 lb / 23.92 oz)|
|Dimensions||129 x 96 x 76 mm (5.08 x 3.78 x 2.99″)|
Sony a9 II Verdict
One might be forgiven for believing Sony has just improved upon the original Sony Alpha A9 with the release of the Sony Alpha A9 II. On the other hand, the newer model of the A9 II has 43 minor improvements that make it superior to its predecessor in terms of its appeal to photographers who cover sporting events and photojournalists. Each of these improvements makes the newer camera a more alluring choice for those who work in those fields.