Review: Sony a9 camera with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens
4.7Overall Score

Price (RRP): $11,198
Manufacturer: Sony

When I was offered the opportunity to review the Sony α9 Full Frame Mirrorless Camera, I of course jumped at it. But, I said, I don’t have a Sony-compatible lens. Please make sure you put one of those in.

They did. It was not quite the lens I expected. But, oh, wow!

Features

Let’s get one thing clear first. When I reviewed the Epson SureColor P5070 printer a while back, I noted that “If you’re the kind of person who’ll spend $5000 on a camera, $3000 on a printer doesn’t sound unreasonable.”

That’s the kind of person who’ll be buying the Sony α9 Full Frame Mirrorless Camera. If they can afford it. It’s priced not at $5000 but at $6999. And the lens I was provided with: it’s the Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS zoom telephoto. It’s a further $4199. Total amount is somewhat over $11,000.

That’s what you pay for quality. Enormous quality.

Sony a9 camera

Let’s look at a some terms in those product names. “Full Frame”. That means that the 24.2 megapixel stacked CMOS sensor is roughly the same size as a 35mm film frame. No need to convert any lens specifications to “35mm equivalency”. They already are. So the 70-200mm of the lens is a range that long-term photographers will intuitively grasp. Not super telephoto, but a good range.

What is super is the maximum aperture. The lens is astonishingly fast, at f/2.8 across its entire range. With my own camera the fastest, regular focal length prime lenses tend to be f/2.8 and the telephotos range from f/4.5 to f/5.6 across their range. Might not seem like much of a difference, but all else being equal, an f/2.8 aperture lets in four times as much light as an f/5.6 aperture.

With the excellent optical image stabilisation of the system, I ended up taking most of my photos hand held, using the tripod only for some night shots of the moon.

Camera

At the heart of the Sony α9 is the 24.2 megapixel stack CMOS sensor. The idea here is that the sensing panel has all the electronics bonded directly to it for extremely fast reads. There’s DRAM bonded to the back of all that to hold the data, rather than it having to be piped off elsewhere in the camera.

For such a large sensor, the camera itself is surprisingly small. It sat very nicely in my hand, and would have sat even more nicely with a shorter, lighter lens. With the battery in place it weighs only 673 grams. The lens weighs a touch over 1.5 kilograms.

It measures only 96mm tall, 127mm wide and 63mm deep (without a lens, obviously). It uses the Sony E-mount for lenses, but with an adaptor A-mount lenses can also be used, with auto focus and auto exposure support.

Sony a9 camera

The viewfinder at the eyepiece uses OLED. The 1.44 megapixel rear display – it folds out to allow above and below viewing – can also be used for framing. There’s five axis image stabilisation. Sony reckons it’s good for up to five stops of slower shutter speed in its effect.

The battery is sufficient, says Sony, for up to 480 stills on a charge. (There’s an optional grip to increase that further.) Two memory card slots are provided, for SDXC or Memory Stick. One of them supports UHS-II cards for super fast file transfers.