Sony Announces the α9 and the FE100-400mm!

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Sony a9 + FE 100-400 mm GM

This Camera Is Incredibly Fast!

Sony has just announced two new, high-end E-mount products: the long awaited a9 full-frame mirrorless camera and a new super telephoto zoom lens: the FE 100-400mm F4.5–5.6 GM OSS.

After the huge success of Sony’s a7 line of cameras, it seems that the a9 is the first camera in a new line. The new line is placed above the a7 range (a7 II, a7R II , a7S II), or at least it will cater to a different user group. With a launch price around 4500 US dollars (or €5,300), it is approx. 1000 US dollars more expensive than the current flagships (a7S II, a7R II ) were at launch.

Is such a price justified? The most important new features of the a9 are:

  • Newly developed sensor with the world’s first stacked design. We will see how this new sensor performs in real life.The maximum resolution of 24 megapixels will be OK for most uses, but it is significantly less than the 42 megapixels delivered by the a7R II. If you like to crop the photos or are a fan of the square aspect ratio, then the a7R II might be more useful. I think we can also expect that Sony will also release an a9R with increased resolution at some point in the future.
  • Blackout-Free Continuous Shooting at up to 20fps for up to 241 RAW/ 362 JPEG images. Now, this is truly incredible, no comments. It looks like a fantastic camera for sports, action and portrait photographers.
  • Improved autofocus with 693 point focal plane phase detection AF points and 60 AF/AE tracking calculations per second. Again, great for sports, action and portrait photographers.
  • Dual SD-card slot. You can have instant backups, or record photos on one card and videos on the other one. Or JPGs on one card and RAWs on the other one. Very useful.
  • Extended battery life. Sony came up with a new battery, the NP-FZ100, which is supposed to have more than twice the capacity of the NP-FW50 used currently in the a7 line. If you need to take fewer batteries with you, it may compensate for the fact that this new camera body is significantly heavier than the a7 line models.

What is not to like about the a9? It doesn’t have video picture profiles (e.g. the popular Slog2), which are found even on their compact cameras, such as the RX100 Mk V. Perhaps, they will be added later with a firmware update, or perhaps not. Apparently, this model is not aimed at videographers. In the press release, Sony also mentions the “vibration free, fully electronic, completely silent anti-distortion shutter”. Some people had hoped for a global shutter in what appears to be Sony’s new flagship line. The rolling-shutter distortions have been reduced, but this is not a true global shutter and some artifacts will appear in videos recorded while the camera was moving.

The a9 surely looks like a great camera for all people who wanted a fast and reliable full-frame E-mount camera. For my style of photography, I think the a7R II offers a more useful set of features and I think I will stick to that camera for the time being.

Another product that was just announced is a new super telephoto zoom for E-mount cameras, the FE 100-400mm F4.5–5.6 GM OSS (a.k.a. SEL100400GM). It has the furthest reach of all FE lenses and its focal length range is extremely useful. The launch price will be approx. $2,500/€2,900 and the lens should start shipping in July. Definitely interesting.

Product images from: SONY Press Centre, Licence: Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 3.0)