#672. The Sony A9. Will it fly as a wildlife camera?

By Bob Hamilton | Review

Nov 25

They say a picture is worth a 1000 words. Well, here’s an 8 000 word review that involves little reading!

Took a wee trip into the hills of the Southern Highlands on Tuesday to a location where I was pretty certain, from previous experience, I’d get some shots of Red Kites (and other birds) and the opportunity to try out the Sony A9 for wildlife photography to see how well it functioned in terms of autofocus accuracy and tracking ability and image quality at pretty high ISO’s. To say I was impressed an understatement and I have to say that I’ve never experienced a camera with its autofocus capabilities, made all the better by the fact that, using the electronic shutter, the EVF does not blackout and panning with fast-moving creatures is a relative dawdle as a result.

Most, if not all, of the attached images were taken at ISO 6400 which required a bit (but not too much) noise reduction in Lightroom.

All shots were taken with the 100-400mm G Master lens, mainly at the 400mm end.

It’s a keeper.



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  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    J’adore les photos d’oiseaux, surtout les oiseaux volent – I love photos of birds, especial birds in flight! 🙂 Thanks for posting these shots, Bob – it’s amazing to see so many of them all together like that – maybe it’s different where you are, birds like these tend to be on their own, here. Very spectacular! 🙂
    As I don’t have a 400 or 600 mm tele, I am left to admire other people’s work – yours is special – I hope we see some more of it from you, from time to time.

    • bob hamilton says:

      Thanks Pete. The A9 made these shots, even for a novice wildlife photographer such as I am, pretty much a dawdle for the reasons given in the brief narrative.
      As for the birds, themselves, the Red Kite is one of the few British raptors to gather regularly in communal roosts (the other being the Hen Harrier) and, as you say, most raptors are either solitary or seen in pairs. It does help, however, to know the location…….and to put some bait out to attract them…….cheating, I know…..!!!

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    “Cheating” is something people do in post – putting food out for the birds is simply being nice to wild life 🙂 It’s no worse than setting up one of those camouflaged huts, to spy on the bird, and it got great results. If you call that cheating, God only knows what you think of politicians!

    • Bob Hamilton says:

      You don’t really want to hear my thoughts on politicians – selfish, grasping, hypocritical, self deluded egotists is the most polite I could manage…!!!

  • Adrian says:

    For what it’s worth, I read one sports photographer’s review of the Sony A9, and he concluded that the 20fps frame rate combined with EVF without blackout and focusing were a “game changer”, because it made the process easier that with previous cameras. With the 42Mp cameras not offering 10 fps, and the A9 and RX10mk4 with their 20-24 fps, I think it is obvious what the next high end APS-C model is going to offer! Of course, the frame rate and the electronic engineering required to produce it represent a compromise between absolute sensor performance (“Image quality”) and speed, so there will continue to be delineation between models (resolution vs frame rate).

    I’m still left wondering what the A7SII replacement might offer? Higher resolution with the killer high ISO performance of the 12Mp sensor? On sensor PDAF for improved focusing?

    Glad you like your A9 – I am slightly jealous as I can’t afford one (or, I should actually say, I am not willing to pay the price for what it offers to me) – I would be interested to read a more fulsome review of it’s image quality and performance.

    • Bob Hamilton says:

      It’s a really lovely camera, Adrian, not only in respect of its very advanced electronics but also in respect of the ergonomics of both the body and the revised menu system, both of which are so much better than the A7R2 line of camera bodies. Sony appear to be learning and taking note of user comments and it bodes well for the future.

  • Cliff Whittaker says:

    Cheating or not, it doesn’t take away from the performance of the camera and lens. Semi-controlled situations like this do make the movements of the birds just a bit more predictable maybe easier to anticipate and track where they will be. So what? The objective was to test the performance of the equipment for BIF and judging from these pictures I’d say that Sony is on the right track.
    It would be nice to shoot from a blind with a camera that didn’t go clackety-whack with every shutter activation. With skittish critters you would be surprised at how many times that mirror flap means you are only going to get one shot. Maybe Sony is about to set a new standard for wildlife photography?

    • Bob Hamilton says:

      I think they have, if not set a new standard, then certainly raised the bar considerably. As I say, I’m a relative novice at wildlife photography and have no experience of the behemoth competitor cameras from CaNikon, but I can certainly say that the 20fps electronic shutter with no blackout whatsoever is a complete revelation. On the downside, however, I would say that, despite being a full frame sensor, its noise control at high ISO (>3200) does not seem to be quite as good as that of the APS sensored Fuji X-T2 which did surprise me somewhat.

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        Bob I think noise is something “they” lie about. I was fed a line about high ISOs when I bought the D810 – sure, it’s a lot better than previous cams, but I don’t like going past 3200 on that either, and I really prefer using something less – 1200 or 1800 maybe. There are post processing programs out there that deal with noise – some better than others – I’m stuck in the throes of trying several of them out, on this very issue, and I’ve had a couple of surprises so far, but I’m not yet ready to be judgmental – however, I can say that some of them really DO hit the target on this one.
        Putting that to one side – what you are saying is that they have raised the standard – the shutter is a revelation – it’s a really lovely camera – very advanced electronics (something makes me expect that of Sony – there, they seem to lead the way!!!) – great ergonomics and much better menu system – so much better than previous models – highly impressive autofocus – no blackout of the viewfinder while shooting – and you are happy with it. It sounds great, to me. And should keep you happy for years! 🙂

        • Bob Hamilton says:

          Hopefully, Pete, it will keep me happy for years and I’m sure that will be the case because, for its purpose, it really is a revelation, the only downside being the higher level of noise than I expected and more chroma type than luminance – unlike Fuji who must sprinkle some magic dust onto their RAW files before baking.

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