#584. The Sony A9 is here. Is it time for me to start painting ? Or curating Google Earth photographs ?

By pascaljappy | Opinion

Apr 19

So, there we are, Sony has just dealt a potentially huge blow to Canon and what remains of Nikon.

First, a range of native and non-native lenses that has probably seen no equal in photographic history. Now the mother of all bodies, if stats are to be believed.

So many AF detection points that a poor eyelash won’t know where to hide from sharpness.

So many frames at such a high shutter speed that celebrity sneezing will now be caught in unprecedented detail. We will soon be seeing Lady Gaga trip in detail that David Attenborough could only dream of.

Harder, faster, longer. Sony has built the John Holmes of digital photography.

I read the comments on all the blogs that relayed the press releases and my heart pounds with envy. Such joy. Such passion.

I read the comments and understand less than half of them. And can relate to far fewer still.

I read the comments and all I can think of are my long-gone Mamiya 7 and D800e. My Frederick Frank books. And walks in the hills.

Maybe this is just a post-climatic down. Maybe I no longer fit in a photographic segment manufacturers can afford to care about.

The reality is that I read the comment and all I can think is “who the hell gives a f ?”

Not that I’m complaining. My admiration for Sony’s determination to break all preconceived technological barriers is boundless. The A9 goes where no Sony has gone before. And its successor will make it look like a slow-witted cousin, well before the end of the decade. All this, just months after suffering yet another devastating earthquake. These guys are real life superheros giving the people what it begs for. In XXL spades.

Still, today, this tidbit was in the mail : This Agoraphobic Photographer Uses Google Street View to Travel the World.

Am I the only one thinking this is immensely more fascinating and droolworthy ? After the stats parade, basking in such raw talent really picked me up. Look, no camera.

No camera in the world is going to give you an eye that well-educated. That sense of style and place.

Unrelated, but related, my work recently has been making look closely at bots (AI, not lady parts). Few people realise how far these have come in influence-related circles. I’m wondering how long it is before a bot is crammed into a successor of the A9. How long before bots take better sports pictures than humans. Not that long, trust me. I’d bet my bottom dollar someone is working on it already. And we’ll have asked for it.



Just one photo today. It’s a 225% enlargement of the original and was taken at very high-speed, at f/8. Therefore it must be very good.

Right ?


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  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:


    When I saw the video released by B&H, I wondered how long it would be before someone had a sudden attack of GAS. Hopefully, Pascal, you are immune to the disease πŸ™‚

    The video was rather amusing to watch, if way too long. It reminded me of early TV sitcoms, filmed in a studio, with appropriate bursts of laughter added to the tape in the cutting room. Every now and then, someone on the stage would say something, and stop – then there’d be a sudden spontaneous outburst of applause which would start at full volume and stop shortly afterwards like turning off a tap. New York audiences apparently react on these occasions like performing seals. πŸ™‚

    To be truthful, I’ve been wondering for a very long time why some of these ideas weren’t picked up and used years ago. It’s been almost like watching a whole industry invent the motor vehicle, and try to keep it resembling as closely as possible the horse that it was replacing. I was fed the line “think outside the square” when I was being “taught” to be creative or inventive, but much of what we’ve had over the past 15-20 years has been “more of the same” packaged as “something new, something different”.

    We’ve been given zillions of functions (tick – maybe!); a competition to see who can come up with the most pixels (that’s been like trying to reach the stars by climbing a step ladder – half way up the climb, you run out of steps! – and end up going backwards!); an absolutely unbelievable and perfectly ridiculous range of lenses to choose from; and cameras or camera bodies changing faster (at times) than fashion models on a catwalk. And withering articles telling us all that this flood of “product” doesn’t make good photographers, no matter what else it achieves.

    Now we’re at a turning point in history. Sony HAS stepped out of the square. Early triers face a fairly steep entry fee, but over time that will change as other brands steer in the same direction. And a lot more will have to be done, to settle this “invention”, this paradigm shift, so that it fully realises the needs and demands of the photography public.

    After all the screams about cellphones, I found the statistics produced by Sony quite interesting. They were claiming that despite it all, there’s been a steady rise in sales over the past four years, in both full frame bodies and full frame lenses. Bye bye compacts and fixed lens cams, perhaps – perhaps not, too, but no matter, they’re not relevant to the A9 anyway. And the biggest growth in sales has been achieved by Sony – which seems to have passed Nikon and is biting at Canon’s ankles.

    When I was young, there was a saying that “virtue is its own reward”. In the production and sale of cameras, it would seem that “innovation is its own reward”. And “more of the same” is no match for “here’s something new and different!”

    • pascaljappy says:

      Aahh Pete, unfortunately, I’m not immune. This blend of tech simply doesn’t address my personal biases. The next release ? Who knows ? The guys at Sony are wizards.

      That launch sounded like a hoot πŸ˜‰

      However, I’m not sure that innovation is its own reward. To me at least, all the specs sound like a solution waiting for a problem. Yes, I get that sports photographers will enjoy better autofocus. So ? What size a photo segment is that ? 1% ? A few % ? I honestly don’t know or care but my feeling is that we were first given resolution, then came the high ISO wars and now that cameras can read dark print inside a black cat’s rectum, we’re beeing offered shooting speed as a differentiator. Whatever … No one’s forcing me to buy one and if the A9 makes plenty of photographers happy, it’s a win-win for them and for Sony. Which is how it should be. I just don’t get it and will wait for the next iteration will schoolboy impatience πŸ™‚

      • Adrian says:

        With great respect, you are right that actual professional sports photographers are a tiny minority of actual users. However you miss the point that:
        – the internet is awash with people who aren’t in that minority who will tell for sure that Sony is no good for sports;
        – lots of non professional photographers are male and respond to top trumps spec sheets;
        – Sony have mostly addressed the internet negativity for why their cameras are “no good for x”

        So its not about pros using it, It’s about shutting down the reasons not to buy one, and also about hammering another nail in Canon’s coffin as anything Canon do, Sony can do, but mostly with better sensors. I suspect a bsi 24mp full frame device is going to be pretty much better than anything Canon make by some margin.

        • pascaljappy says:

          Indeed. I see this more as a way to undercut Canon and Nikon than anything else. People may dream of such specs but spending that sort of money is something else altogether. However, photographers with the budget and the need will probably think twice about Canon and Nikon now that a better option is around and allows the use of their lenses. At any rate, Sony know better than me πŸ˜‰ The success of their photo strategy, in a tumbling market, is ample proof of that πŸ˜‰ All the best.

          • Adrian says:

            As an e-mount user, it irks me somewhat that it is necessary to have a certain endless negativity about whatever Sony do.

            Would we be having this conversation when Nikon or Canon last released one of their extremely expensive high frame rate high iso professional DSLR monsters?

            No, we wouldn’t. Yet somehow when Sony makes something that’s a match or possibly better than the top end professional models from the established marques, it has to be endlessly debated and often criticised. I’ve been using E mount since the A6000, never had a failure or need for service, and all the bodies I own are excellent in their own way – perhaps not perfect, but certainly better than a Leica, for example. That a Β£400 consumer camera could have shot over 1000 frames today at a physique sports contest and produced images that a Β£4000 Leica couldn’t shouldn’t so easily be dismissed as electronic gadgetry.

            • pascaljappy says:

              I don’t think anyone’s criticising Sony, Adrian πŸ™‚ The comments on the forums are really very positive. As for me, the camera’s not in a price range I think is reasonable or a feature set I fully understand but it’s obvious the public has a different opinion.

  • PaulB says:


    That is a very nice image and I am amazed by your ability to compose such an image while panning and operating the camera while traveling at high speeds. It looks absolutely stationary!

    Who needs a new wonder camera with such super-human abilities.

    But, what are they going to tempt us with next? A techno camera junkie like me needs to know.


    • pascaljappy says:

      Thank you Paul. At last some recognition. What I failed to mention is that this was shot from a fast train while the orchid was strapped to the next of a leopard.

      Yes, what are they going to tempt us with next ? That’s the brilliance of Sony. I was disappointed that this wasn’t announcement tailored for my special brew of photo-delirium but there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind Sony will create a range of equally stunning cameras for other segments (video, landscape, …) More adrenaline rushes to come, then πŸ˜‰


  • Adrian says:

    Pascal, although the newly announced Sny A9 may not enter your photographic consciousness, it seems to me that it is Sony’s attempt to answer many of the criticisms of previous models, and deal a hammer blow to the higher end professional SLRs of Canon and Nikon. E mount detractors always said it couldn’t shoot sports, they didn’t lile the EVF black out, it couldn’t focus ans track as well as an SLR, I didn’t have dual card slots etc. Well, now maybe it can, so it creates a few leas reasons to buy a “me-too” Canon and a few more reasons to look seriously at E mount. You cant blame Sony for capitalising on the momentum created by the original A7/r, and it is probably their one big chance to be a major player in stills/video before A mount dies away quietly. Canon and Nikon do little except small incremental improvements as they are am terrified to change their lens mounts abd alienate their user base. Personally, as an E mount user, I think the A9 is good for the system. It would probably make an excellent camera for my events, portrait and stock photography – although its price will probably also be out of my reach, so I guess I will just keep making do with my A6000 and A7ii.

    As an aside, Nikon and Canon also play the eyeball tracking 4000 AF points configurable everything game in their high end products, so dobt blame Sony for aiming for technical top trumps.

    • pascaljappy says:

      No, you’re completely right. The A9 addresses most of the criticisms and asks of the public. It just staggers me that so many photographers would find solace in such an extreme machine. My personal experience with Sony cameras has always been one of plenty but lack of quality. The A9 feels like more, much more, of the same. But I may be overlloking an important fact: with all these top notch specs, maybe the camera feels super responsive, super quiet and very premium. One stone, two birds ? At any rate, bravo Sony.

      • Adrian says:

        If I could afford one, it would improve on my A6000 which “solves” the problem of physique sports contents and gymnastics; it would completely replace my need for an A7ii for general photography; and I suspect it may come quite close to replacing my A7s for low light photography. Alas the A9 costs more than all my bodies together – buy if I didn’t own them, the A9 could be the universal hammer for all those nails, and then some. On occasion, the EVF black out and buffer of my A6000 are limiting – what I could do with the frame rate and buffer depth of the A9 would allow me to take photographs at competitions that no Canon EOS 6D ever could – and novelty and uniqueness has commercial value to some. Right now if money was a non issue Id order one right away, as it will simply do things my other cameras can’t, and do them better. Sorry to be a technical fascist, but this discussion caught me on a day when I would value those unique abilities.

  • The anonymous grunter says:

    Great shot, Pascal. Probably TGV at maximum speed and the leopard running the other direction.

    Sony: as I mentioned in another comment: Sony, Canon, Nikon either neglect workflow issues or offer a solution (touchscreen with good implementation) at a very premium price. To me this was the biggest step up in workflow as I like to manually focus vintage glass or Zeiss MF lenses. This is much more precise (field curvature with wide angle lenses often does not allow the center AF + recompose method) AND quicker than any AF I’ve seen till today (I also have a Pro Canon body with very quick AF). Fiddeling with an ‘un-joy-stick’ instead of tapping once for focus magnification and then shoot w/o the necessity to recompose).

    Furthermore the tiltable EVF of the Nex 5n/r/t gave an additional advantage e.g. for macro work or product photograhy.

    Prices: The Sony 5n plus EVF was about 1000 Euro. A7 1700 Euro (but dropped touchscreen and tiltable EVF), A7r 2100 Euro, A7rII 3600 Euro – still noch touchsreen/EVF improvement … A9 4500 Euro plus ? This is better than anything you may achieve on the stock market.

    At these prices I seriously think going Fuji or Leica. The fist because the cost of a 24MP system INCLUDING some great native lenses is not much more that an A9 body. Leica, as it is no longer that much more expensive than Sony, but LASTS, is an absolute joy to work with and gives great results, even in 20 years from now. It might even be less expensive than ANY Sony today, you might have to replace every couple of years.

    • pascaljappy says:

      I just had this price conversation on the phone with Philippe (co-author). I’m not paying that sort of money for a Sony. It’s probably worth every penny but my past experience with 3 bodies and customer service has been beyond appalling. The A7rII was already more than I felt comfortable paying. And, as you say, keeping a camera for a long time makes it cheaper, so investing in a long term solution is definitely the way to go in that price bracket. I’d hoped that would be the Fuji GFX or Hasselblad X1D but both failed to convince me.

      AF, josticks … over my dead body. Fiddly, messes with your creative juices. My phone does AF. I focus my camera myself.

      At this point, my guess is I’ll keep the A7rII for as long as it lasts. Technology really doesn’t speak to me and technology seems to be the only way forward for Sony. But who knows, for the A7rIII, maybe they’ll have worked wonders on haptics and perception. We’ll see very soon but, for now, I’m sitting this one out, just like the medium format non-event πŸ˜‰

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        Aha – yes well – to buy such a toy costs serious money. All the articles tell you to spend that sort of money on glass, not camera bodies, because it’s a better investment. Camera bodies come & go, but glass is forever πŸ™‚

        These highly expensive technological changes trouble me, because I’ve been caught by them before. Remember Sony’s Beta-Cams? – my only serious attempt to get into digital and it died on its feet, shortly after I spent all that money on buying one. Sorry Sony – yes, it WAS you! And it was not just that episode either, I’ve had it with other firms since, on other smash hit products.

        So I’m sitting. I’ll keep using what I have till it wears out. Every now & then I think how nice it would be to have a 600mm tele, so I can take nice shots of the moon (for example) – or maybe get into bird photography on a slightly less casual basis than I do, now. Then I remind myself that I bought a very good tele lens 50 years ago and hardly ever used it, so why bother? – just leave it there, as a pipe dream – we all need something to dream about, anyway. And besides, as Steffen points out, someone else can take the moon shots for me, while I pour another drink and actually watch the moon itself, instead of the dials etc on the camera.

        BTW – loved your photo of the orchid, Pascal. When you get that shimmer on the petals of an orchid, you know you’ve done it right – the rest is a matter of how much depth of field you want to get, and you can play with that – a w/angle, for example, extends your DOF – and it’s easy to look up the actual DOF you’ll get, there are apps or charts for that. And it’s also quite easy to measure the exact distance from the “film” to the flower, these days – where the sensor is, is marked on the top of most/all? cams. You can see I don’t believe the official META data on that shot πŸ™‚ – I take photos of flowers like that, too.

        • pascaljappy says:

          Yup, Sony’s Beta was the better product but lost out in the end. I don’t think this will happen this time. Sony seem on a very winning trend and it’s hard to see who could change that. The two big boys are lethargic and Fuji is in another niche. I think / hope all is well in Sony’s world right now πŸ˜‰

          Not sure what the metadata says on that orchid flower but ever since I tested the Loxia 85, all my photographs seem to be shot with that, regardless of what lens is actually on the camera ? Zeiss bug ? Sony bug ? Ah well, … I’m trying to add a little DOF to my shots. My usual temptation is to go really thin when very close up but this doesn’t work on such 3D flowers. This is the OTUS 85 at min focus distance and F/4 (I think). Huge (225%) enlargement of a flower, just to be silly.

          • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

            Where did you place your lighting? – I think you did that better than I did, in my last orchid shot – but with the 28mm Otus, and a DOF chart, I had better DOF πŸ™‚ We should work it together πŸ™‚

            Now that the price is out (USD $7,000 for the A9 and the tele lens they released at the same time), I’m definitely not considering it. That’s a few bucks more than I paid for my two Otus lenses, and I know which I prefer !!!

            • pascaljappy says:

              The light is natural morning sunlight coming from the left of the frame. Yes, presented like that, the choice is easy. The Otus lebses will be with you in 20 years and still some of the best ever created whereas the camera will have loast 90% of its value in 5 years …

  • Steffen says:

    Though, I have to admit the A9 ticks some right boxes: silent electronic shutter (for photographing in sensitive situations), 1/32.000s shutter speed (no need for ND filter in bright light), AF joystick (no fiddling with AF point selection), much longer battery life (less stuff to carry around), faster write speed (no lock-downs), blackout-free EVF (easier following of subjects), 30% improved face-detection (lesser out-of-focus shots in fast action) … But no way I’ll spend 5.300 € on a bloody camera. But I can image to see most of this great tech in a future A7 in 3-5 years. (I, personally, wish to see this tech in a A6500-sized rangefinder body.)

    But none of these will improved my photos more then going shooting day by day and beating on my craft. But from time to time it’s OK to look up, dream about such unattainable products and then go back to reality.

    About this agoraphobic photographer: I had a friend who traveled and didn’t like photographing. He later surfed Google images for the best picture of the places he visited and printed them out. His attitude was “Why should I take my own crappy photos? I saw the place with my own eyes and other people took better pictures.” … mmh.

    • pascaljappy says:

      There’s an idea I’m fighting to not succomb to, and that’s the fact that the A9 may turn out to be a really great camera to shoot with, because of it’s high speed technology. None of the stats appeal to me, but they may make the camera instant, precise, noise free, vibration free … and a joy to use πŸ˜‰ Oh, that would be bad news, because I’m not willing to fork out that sort of money for any camera either πŸ˜‰

      My wife always asks me what I saw of a place we visited together, with my eye behind an EVF all the time. Your friend may have a point there … ouch πŸ˜‰

  • Per Kylberg says:

    Sony FF series are largely niche cameras. Except for the A7II. The new A9 is aimed towards sports and journalism. If you don’t need 20fps etc, stay happy with the A7 versions. Yes there will (likely) be an R version with the improved EVF, better battery etc. But without 20 fps, instead 70 mpix (or 42).
    I will stay happy with my A7R2 for years. But the A9 may still fulfill the needs of other photographers. Congratulations to them!
    (Haptics, ergonomy and usability are not Sony’s best departments, but it delivers excellent IQ. My favo cameras were Contax 139 film and big clunky Nikon D800 digital.)

    • pascaljappy says:

      Strange how the D800 got it so right for so many people. I loved mine and still miss it.

      I too will continue to use the A7rII with great pleasure, but my past experiences with long-term ownership have not all bee excellent, so it will be a relief to sell it for something new, eventually. Right now, no idea what. The speed stats sure aren’t an incentive but they might imply a great usability, so the next gen A7 are highly anticipated in this neck of the woods πŸ˜‰ Cheers

  • Brian Nicol says:

    I am delighted that Sony is pushing the envelope as the technology will trickle down to cheaper models – I love the silent shutter but will wait. I will be buying a Leica Sl to replace my M to use my m compact glass and enjoy walking around with a light system. I now only use Sony with my 70-200 gm lens to keep weight down. We have so many amazing choices today to fit individual needs – no one should be complaining. In the end, it is about enjoying taking pictures and not the excessive incompetent focus on equipment. I also did watercolour as a hobby and my artist friends focus on the creativity and do not worry whether their brush was made by virgins in Siberia using rare mink tails. Let’s get back to the joy of photography! Cheers Brian

    • pascaljappy says:

      Exactly. My surprise at the reaction to this super niche, super expensive camera is exactly that : why do photographers focus so much on features when other artits don’t give two hoots. I suppose the answer lies in the word “artist”. Still, I too hope some of the technology spreads to the rest of the range.

      Enjoy the SL ! And if you want to share your thoughts about that camera with us, please let me know πŸ˜‰ Cheers Pascal

      • Adrian says:

        With respect, the price is entirely comparable with it’s Nikon and Canon “sports” oriented peers.

        Not all photography is art, in fact much isn’t (myself included). If you are shooting thr vast array if sports, or maybe wildlife, then these type of cameras are for you, just like the equivalent Nikon and Canon models.

        Typical my with Sony, what appears in APS-C models filters up to the full frame range (A6000->A7R2, A6500->A9). Some of what the A9 can achieve is very dependant on hardware and sensor features, but I think its likely we will see electronic global shutters on thr next generation of A7 models, probably with better viewfinder refresh rates etc, and almost certainly the next A7 (mark 3) is going to have improved focusing and PDAF across most of the sensor at some point.

        I actually think the A7s is the camera that is mostly likely for an update to complete the range, to improve it’s focusing and possibly increase the resolution.

        The Sony range makes as much sense as anything from Nikon or Canon: A7 general purpose entry level (eg EOS 6D), A7r is about resolution (e.g. 5DS), A7s is low light king, and A9 is the sports model. Clearly your interests aren’t with the latter, but that’s why you already own an A7R2 if I’m not mistaken!

        • pascaljappy says:

          Adrian, this is turning into a very interesting discussion πŸ™‚ As you say, all photography is not about art, so the biases of this blog are becoming apparent in this post πŸ˜‰ However, nothing will convince me so many people need that high a specification. Raymond Depardon shot the olympics with a view camera and his pics are more memorable than most of what the other guys produced with super fast gear. Whether they like it or not, photographer interpret a scene. Relying on faster frame rate is just rejecting the act of choosing. The prospect of security cameras with AI pilots replacing human photographers is very real if you go down that road !! I really think this camera is a essentially statement from Sony and a strategic move to knock an ever larger hole in Canon and Nikon’s armour.

          And yes, the A9 definitely makes as much sense as anything from the other brands. Plus it’s better and cheaper. Still, as you say, we’ll probably see some of that trickle down into the other parts of the range. Sony have their downsides, after-sales and ergonomics being just two. But my admiration for their strategic thinking and technological achievement is immense.

          For what it’s worth, I think your photographs are art πŸ™‚

  • philberphoto says:

    Sorry to join in so late. I missed so much fun…:-(
    My take, though, is that the A9 is a totally brilliant move for Sony. While everyone is going on about the 20 fp/s, for me, it is all about being totally silent. That is so great for wedding ‘togs! A silent camera, that does not go “click!” right at that magical moment! For my money, this is the perfect camera for weddings. And all other moments where silence matters: shooting ballet, gymnastics, classical music, opera…. Add to that that it is seriously competent in all in-door sports, with really good AF, and street shooting, for both rich hobbysists and photojournalists. That, to me, spells lots of solvent prostective customers, including news agencies. Add to that that there are very few moving parts, so it could/should be reliable. And, for all the above categories, it has all the quality lenses that are required, zooms and primes.
    So, what does it not do as well as Canikon? It does not (yet) have native long primes. So, no birding unless you want to go adapted, no sports requiring long lenses above 200mm). Also, I suspect that its weather-protection is less than that of a IDxII or a D5. So no hard-core expedition (even though A7RII, less well protected than the A9, seem to sruvive the wet trifecta of Iceland, Lofoten and Scotland well enough).
    That, is summation, means that the vast majority of pros could be attracted to Sony A9 now. Not bad. And quite a few rich amateurs (it is still cheaper no, strike that, less expensive than either a Leica M or a Leica SL) too. Not bad at all.
    And, on top of that, as has been rightly said IMHO, it is an image product that states Sony’s claims as top-of-the-class and as proving that Real Men Do It Without A Mirror.
    And finally, it offers quite a few features that could be used in the next generation landscape camera (A7RIII or A9R): dual cards, joystick, better menus, better weather protection, increased processing power, larger battery, LAN port, super viewfinder…
    That said, all the rest about this product is CRAP. After all it is a Sony, right? The guys who are forever stuck with producing nothing better than a Walkman, who are merely an electronics company, who squandered the hallowed Minolta experience, who aren’t camera people, who don’t understand photographers, who have no clue about a good user experience. Yeah, right!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Fighting words πŸ˜‰ And I agree. Sony have done a lot to deserve better than the ‘consumer electronics’ badge. And the A9, although targeted at a very different persona that mine, is a great achievement. Can’t wait to see how Sony propagate the technology to other bodies πŸ™‚

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