Plug for a Useful Video on the Sony A9

Tony Northrup is a well-known photographer/photo pundit.  He has used all the major camera manufacturers’ gear and has been a pretty honest critic of Sony’s mirrorless cameras over the years.  He is neither a shameless fanboy nor a Sony Hater.  He’s a good source of information.  In this video, he addresses several common allegations against the Sony A9.

I think he’s extremely convincing.  I have an A9 rental scheduled at the end of August for a family gathering but I already feel that he has put to rest the infamous “banding” uproar.  Good for him.  Anyway, if you’ve been following Sony for the last few years and were excited about the specs of the A9 (and the soon to be announced A7 III, A7R III and A7S III) you’ll be interested in getting Tony’s remarks on how these “terrible problems” turned out once he owned his own A9.

Check it out.

A9 Bottom Line

A week ago, I said it would be a week or two to evaluate the performance of the Sony A9 camera.  Well, it’s been a week and I’ve waded through a boat load of reviews, hands-on reviews and technical discussions.  It’s enough.  I’ve got the information I’m looking for.  But, you may say, it’s too soon.  We haven’t seen the raw files opened up in a legit version of Lightroom (or fill in your raw browser of choice).  True, it may be that once you look at the 20 frames per second exposures made with the electronic shutter in fluorescent light they’ll have banding and rolling shutter jello and polka dot noise and blah, blah, blah.  And someone else will discover that at 20 frames per second when the raw files are only 12 bit there is a 2% chance of producing artifacts if you exceed the dynamic range of the camera.  And I’ll say sure.  What else is new?  All this is the same as saying no camera is perfect.  Tell me something I don’t know.  But what I do know now is that Sony has figured out autofocus.  The A9 has very good autofocus.  Is it better than the Nikon D5 or the Canon 1DX?  Will it work perfectly in low light?  Don’t know.

What I do know is that Sony mirrorless cameras will have competent AF from now on.  I have been waiting for that for about seven years.  I absolutely do not need 20 frames per second.  I wouldn’t mind good tracking AF and a silent shutter is a big advantage when shooting an occasion.  I doubt that I’ll buy the A9 (although my gear lust is sorely tempting me right now).  I’ll definitely rent it this summer to calibrate the advantages it provides over my ancient A7S.  I want to see what it does in a normally lit house or a dimly lit restaurant.  I’d like to compare the 24 megapixel files of the A9 with the A7S 12 megapixel files in very low light.  ISO 12,800 is a good setting for astrophotography.  Can the A9 make a good Milky Way shot?  I’ll try to find out.

So, there it is.  Sony has finally crossed the Rubicon.  They have proven to me that mirrorless cameras can fully replace the DSLR.  I’d expect Canon and Nikon will now produce their own mirrorless lines to compete head to head with the A9.  May the best man win.  The web sites and magazines (both print and electronic) will expend millions of words “proving” that x, y or z is the top company and all other options will fall by the wayside and end up on the ash heap of history.  And who knows?  Maybe Sony will stumble and one of its competitors will emerge as king.  Completely possible.  But that’s a problem for another day.  As I said back a few weeks ago, the A9 will determine whether Sony mirrorless cameras can provide a full-frame camera with highly competent autofocus.  Based on what I’ve read it does.  Congratulations Sony.  You’ve succeeded in keeping me aboard.  Next stop, my next camera.

More Spring Photos

Early Spring in a New England Swamp

To paraphrase George Costanza, “Spring, renewal, rebirth, all that crap.”  Stuff is coming up all over the place.  Some pretty, some scary.  Here’s a little cross-section from my neck of the woods (southern New England).  Most are with the Minolta 200mm Macro on the A7S but the first one is with the Loxia 21mm.  Several of these are similar.  I was trying to decide which were better, so feel free to leave your opinions in the comments.













Reading the Tea Leaves – Reviewing the A9 Hands-On Reviews

I viewed the YouTube hands-on reviews by all the Sony guests at their demonstration.  I watched Max Yuryev, Patrick Murphy-Racey, Steve Huff, Jason Lanier, Tony & Chelsea Northrup and Gary at DPReview.  They seemed pretty positive.  But based on my previous experience of the difference between the first hands-on reviews and the performance of the camera in real life conditions I found them inconclusive on the most important point, auto-focus accuracy.

That’s why I was very encouraged when I viewed the video by David Schloss, the editor of Digital Photo Pro.  He’s written in the past ( ) about the inferiority of mirrorless autofocus compared to DSLR.

Then in this A9 review ( ) he mentions that even the A-6500 autofocus which is touted as excellent is still not as good as DSLR autofocus.  This sounds like someone speaking the straight dope.  And he says the AF on the A9 is flat out incredible.

By the video discussion Schloss is seeing the A9 autofocus on sports subjects like boxers, hockey players and pole vaulters in motion.  Most likely the lighting conditions were optimal.  To my mind this represents a legitimate test of the AF.  This may not guarantee that the A9 can compete with the D5 or the 1DX but it should satisfy my needs for medium level DSLR level autofocus. So, this says to me that Sony has probably reached a very important milestone.  They have leveraged advanced processing and sensor technology to match the simpler DSLR autofocus technology of the older camera makers.  Now they have to make this technology cheap enough to incorporate in the A7 cameras.

So, all this triangulating of reviews is just a game I play until the definitive information emerges in the next week or two.  Once Sony hands out the loner copies of the A9 we’ll start getting real results and informed opinions.  Until then I’ll comfort myself with the voodoo answers I’ve cobbled together here.  If you have a different analysis, feel free to leave a comment about it on this post.  After all I’m not actually Nostradamus or Sherlock Holmes.

Well, fellow Sony camera users, hang in there it can’t be long now.

A9 Bottom Line

The A9 Has Arrived. Halleluiah!

So, SonyAlphaRumors was right. The mythical A9 is real.  For $4,500, even I can become a professional Sony photographer and capture 20 frames of a hummingbird’s wing beat in one second.  I’ve not yet had a chance to go over in detail all the double plus goodness of the specs but I noted that it has a fully electronic shutter and a new type of stacked sensor.  And of course it has all the goodies that Sony has needed forever like dual memory cards and a bigger battery.  The auto focus has 693 phase detection points and supposedly re-focuses the lens 60 times a second!  The ISO maximum is 51,200 but is magically  extended to 204,800 when you want to take pictures in the dark.  It has a minimum exposure time of 1/32,000th of a second, a maximum of twenty frames per second with continuous auto-focus and it can cure the whooping cough in adults.  It is the ubercamera.

Will I buy it? Probably not.  But I will rent it.  My though process is the following.  I want to know if the auto-focus is very good.  The only way to determine that right away is to try the camera.  Once I know that I’ll be able to determine if I’ll continue as a Sony photographer.  If it doesn’t auto-focus as least as well as a conventional Nikon or Cannon camera (not the top of the line mind you, but just a regular old mid-range DSLR from the big two) then I’ll be exiting Sony.  If it does prove to have reasonable auto-focus then I know this improved feature will eventually find its way to the A7 series.  That fact will be enough to keep me in the Sony camp.

Sony has announced the release for June. I’m guessing the rental places will have it shortly after that.  That means I can rent it for a family gathering I have in July.  That should give me all the testing targets I’ll need to give it the thumbs up (or thumbs down).

So now that I’m through acting cool let me say how I feel about this camera viscerally. Man, this sounds like a great piece of tech!  24 megapixels is the sweet spot in my mind for resolution.  Even for landscapes I think it’s plenty enough.  If the auto-focus really is as good as their claiming it will be amazing.  And the 20 frames per second will make action photography doable even for old guys like me.  This could be the greatest technical innovation since sliced bread.  So, thank you Sony.  You finally put your cards on the table and now I can judge whether you have a full house or a busted straight.  For all of you Sony shooters out there, we are about to find out what the future will be for us.  Because over the next year or two, this new tech will begin trickling down to the A7 cameras and Sony will become the premiere camera company (or it will fail and they’ll be cast into the outer darkness along with the Delorean and Betamax).

My Sony Ultimatum

Well, here we go again. SonyAlphaRumors (SAR) has a post today recapping the rumors for a new full-frame camera coming out soon.  The latest development is a registration with the Chinese government of two new Sony cameras.  The Admin at SAR says based on the designations, one of the two has to be a full-frame Sony.  Also the Admin says it’s typically 1-2 months later that the cameras are launched.  These developments are added onto rumors that say that Sony will be releasing a full-frame camera that will have a high frames per second rate and extremely good auto-focus but with moderate resolution.  This identified it as either the legendary A9 or an A7S III.  In an earlier iteration of this rumor it was stated that this camera was going to be very expensive.  This would point to an A9.  The Admin was saying that it would compete with the Canon and Nikon professional cameras that retail in the $6,000 – $5,000 range.  Currently he seems to be undecided whether it could also be an A7S III and moderately more expensive than the current A7X II series cameras.

From a personal point of view I hope it turns out to b the A7S III. I currently use the A7S.  It has only two weaknesses.  It needs much better auto-focus (which is actually a general problem for all the Sony mirrorless cameras) and it could stand to have 18 or 24 megapixels of resolution.  If those two weaknesses were addressed it would be the perfect camera for my needs.

So if SAR is right (which is a big if), then sometime between the end of April and the end of May a fantastic new Sony full-frame camera is due to debut. So, do I believe this?  Well, actually kinda no.  Maybe it’s the delay in new products caused by the earthquake that occurred in Japan a couple of years ago or maybe I’m just getting skeptical.  But I don’t think Sony has the goods yet.  Believe me.  I’d like nothing better than to plunk down $3,000 to get my dream camera.  It would be right in time for summer and all the photo opportunities that that entails.  And I would love for Sony to reach up into the top bracket of camera-making companies.  After all, I’ve got a pretty healthy investment in gear at this point.

But for some reason I don’t think they’ll put out the cameras that are mentioned above. I think they’ll put out the A7 III.  It will have some number of megapixels slightly less than the current A7R II and will have some new gimmicks built in that will appeal to the mass of people (something with the word selfy associated with it).  It will claim to have the state of the art of auto-focus technology (but it won’t).  It will be just another iteration of the A7 cameras that Sony has been putting out for the last few years.  And, if that turns out to be the case, that’s going to be a problem for me.  I’ve been a loyal and patient Sony fan going back to the A-850 DSLR.  I’ve owned four Sony mirrorless cameras and a ton of lenses.  But I’m just about out of patience.  I haven’t owned a Sony mirrorless that could auto-focus half as well as the A-850. And the A-850 was far from the best auto-focusing camera out back in its day.  So I guess what I’m saying is that Sony is about to be judged by me.  If they don’t come out with a full-frame I’ll stay in waiting mode.  But if they do, I’ll be deciding whether I have a future with Sony mirrorless or not.  So listen up Sony.  It’s either my way or the highway (that’ll scare ‘em).

Sony Macro in March

There is no surer sign of cabin fever than the late winter indoor macro session.  I look out the window at blinding sunshine.  I run outside to enjoy the beautiful weather and crash into ten degrees F.

Back inside and break out the macro set up.  These were shot with a Sony A7S, Minolta 200mm F4 macro lens, and the LAEA3 adapter and sometimes some A-mount macro extensions.  Take them for what they are, a desperate cry for help(i.e., spring).