Before I begin this review I will just caveat it with the following. These are my own opinions, Sony have not paid me to write this, and that the views expressed below are my own.
I like my cameras to be simple, very simple, I am not a technical person, I do not get excited by gear that has the latest and greatest tech, so as soon as I received the Sony A9 I turned off half of its capabilities, Wifi, face recognition, eye detection, lock on AF and a whole bunch of other stuff that I do not need and would not use. I’ve had my Nikon D750’s for a couple of years now, and love them, but with age, and 15 years of shooting weddings without a break, comes bad knees, bad back, shoulders and hips and so I have been looking for a smaller camera with the power of a DSLR for some time now.
Is the Sony A9 it? Well that’s a question I also asked myself. Like many people I looked at the reviews on Youtube ( the font of all knowledge) and have seen the Artisans shooting with their A9’s but rarely have I seen anything other than quite a few details and static couples. So I wanted to see if it worked at one of my weddings. I asked Sony if I could borrow a camera and away I went to France to shoot a wedding with it.
The camera itself is small and very well built. I personally like the buttons, its virtually the same as my Nikons, aperture and s/speed buttons in the same place, I love the fact you can change the ISO on the spin wheel at the back and so once I had taken off all the unnecessary stuff I was left with a very small, simple camera.
Embarrassingly the first thing I noticed was how silent the silent mode is. I picked up the camera, stuck a card in and then turned to a fellow photographer, Mike Dickson, who was with me at the time, and told him that Sony had given me a duff camera. Unbeknown to me I had rattled off 40-50 shots in silent mode. So for any vicars reading this, if the photographer has a Sony A9 he can stand at the front and not “ruin” the wedding but taking pictures.
Once I had googled how to turn off silent mode ( the menu system is way too complicated) I also noticed the incredible AF, in one shot and continuous. Again with Sony you have a load of tracking facilities with this camera, which I tried to use, but ended up not, sticking with the plain and simple continuous mode. This camera attains focus quickly and accurately every time, and I mean every time. Coupled with the right lens it’s amazing at grabbing focus, and tracking moving objects. I used the Sony Zeiss 35mm f2.8, it’s small light and produces some stunning images.
How did it perform at the wedding? Perfectly. I loved it, initially I used it for the bride getting ready and shot a whole host of images with it. All of them perfectly in focus and all of the exposures were spot on. I have never used a camera with an EVF before and my impressions were that this was perfectly adequate, no jumps, clear and accurate.
Then came my doubts. Here I am shooting a lovely wedding with something that I could not get into my head was shooting RAW 24MP images, that in uncompressed mode were bigger than my Nikon D750 RAW files (49mb v 33mb). As much as I kept telling myself this, the more I doubted it. So I stopped using it. Call we whatever you like, as much as I loved the camera, as much as I told myself it’s fine, I still couldn’t get around the fact that this thing felt and looked like a toy. It wasn’t hurting my back, or my wrists, it wasn’t buffering out when I wanted it to keep shooting, it wasn’t missing focus, I wasn’t chimping, all of these things that I have been used to for 14 years this camera was not doing. Fear struck and back in the bag it went.
When I got home and downloaded the images, I kicked myself. The files are gorgeous, I had nothing to worry about , but it was all a bit too late, I’d wimped out, because this camera was different, groundbreaking some might say.
Conclusion: If I could justify the crazy amount of money that Sony want for this camera then I would buy two tomorrow, buy a handful of Zeiss lenses and away I go. The camera is incredible, it’s too complicated for me, so I would simplify it to suit my needs, but it’s everything I want in a wedding camera, small, light, amazing AF, lets me shoot a tonne of images and doesn’t even stop to breathe. I can shoot in silent mode, I can even tell the camera what face is the brides… I love it, yes I bottled it when I should have carried on shooting, but you live and learn. When it finally comes down to around the £2k price, probably in a year when the A15 is out then I’ll buy it.
Sony appear to be taking huge chunks out of Canon and Nikon in this marketplace and I can see why. I’ve not seen anything from either of them to challenge this and so Sony gets my wholehearted praise for developing this camera and giving us something that sets a new bar.