Sony a9 camera, brand fragmentation and a potential mistake

The Sony a9 in my opinion could potentially be a huge mistake from Sony, and keep in mind I have been extremely positive of their products lately. I must clarify, this is only a “potential” mistake; there are ways to get around my argument you’ll read later below. It’s the first mirrorless camera to truly open a huge canon of worms regarding how we should perceive cameras, what features they should include and how they should be priced.

First, let’s take a look at the main specification differences between this camera and previous models:

NUMBER OF PIXELS (EFFECTIVE)

Approx. 24.2 megapixels
TYPE
35mm full frame (35.6×23.8mm), Exmor RS CMOS sensor
ANTI-DUST SYSTEM
Charge protection coating on optical filter and image sensor shift mechanism
JPEG Extra fine, JPEG Fine, JPEG Standard, RAW, RAW & JPEG
14BIT RAW
Yes
UNCOMPRESSED RAW
Yes
LOCATION INFORMATION LINK FROM SMARTPHONE
Yes
MEDIA
Memory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, Memory Stick Micro(M2), SD memory card, SDHC memory card (UHS-I/II compliant), SDXC memory card (UHS-I/II compliant), microSD memory card, microSDHC memory card, microSDXC memory card
MEMORY CARD SLOT
SLOT1:Slot for SD(UHS-I/II compliant) memory card, SLOT2:Multi slot for Memory Stick Duo/SD(UHS-I compliant) memory card
RECORDING MODE ON 2 MEMORY CARDS
Simult. Rec (Still), Simult. Rec (Movie), Simult. Rec (Still/Movie), Sort (JPEG/RAW), Sort (Still/Movie), Copy
FOCUS TYPE
Fast Hybrid AF(phase-detection AF/contrast-detection AF)1
FOCUS SENSOR
Exmor RS CMOS sensor
FOCUS POINT
35mm full frame: 693 points (phase-detection AF), APS-C mode with FF lens: 299 points (phase-detection AF), with APS-C lens: 221 points (phase-detection AF) / 25 points (contrast-detection AF)
FOCUS SENSITIVITY RANGE
EV-3 to EV20 (ISO100 equivalent with F2.0 lens attached)
FOCUS MODE
AF-S (Single-shot AF), AF-C ( Continuous AF), DMF (Direct Manual Focus), Manual Focus
FOCUS AREA
Wide (693 points (phase-detection AF), 25 points(contrast-detection AF)) / Zone / Center / Flexible Spot (S/M/L) /Expanded Flexible Spot/ Lock-on AF ( Wide / Zone / Center / Flexible Spot (S/M/L)/Expanded Flexible Spot)
OTHER FEATURES
Eye-start AF (only with LA-EA2 or LA-EA4 attached(Sold separately)), Lock-on AF, Eye AF, AF micro adjustment, (Sold separately), with LA-EA2 or LA-EA4, Predictive control, Focus lock, AF Track Sens, Swt.V/H AF Area, AF Area Regist.
Exposure
METERING TYPE
1200-zone evaluative metering
METERING SENSOR
Exmor RS CMOS sensor
METERING SENSITIVITY
EV-3 to EV20 (at ISO100 equivalent with F2.0 lens attached)
METERING MODE
Multi-segment, Center-weighted, Spot, Spot Standard/Large, Entire Screen Avg., Highlight
EXPOSURE MODES
AUTO(iAuto), Programmed AE (P), Aperture priority (A), Shutter-speed priority (S), Manual (M), Movie (Programmed AE (P) / Aperture priority (A) / Shutter-speed priority (S) / Manual (M) ), Slow & Quick Motion (Programmed AE (P) / Aperture priority (A) / Shutter-speed priority (S) / Manual (M) )
ANTI-FLICKER SHOOT.
VIEWFINDER TYPE
1.3 cm (0.5 type) electronic viewfinder (color),Quad-VGA OLED
NUMBER OF DOTS
3 686 400 dots
BRIGHTNESS CONTROL (VIEWFINDER)
Auto/Manual (5 steps between -2 and +2)
COLOR TEMPERATURE CONTROL
Manual (5 steps)
FIELD COVERAGE
100%
MAGNIFICATION
approx. 0.78 x (with 50mm lens at infinity, -1m-1)
DIOPTRE ADJUSTMENT
-4.0 to +3.0m-1
FINDER FRAME RATE SELECTION
STD 60fps / HI 120fps
DISPLAY CONTENTS
Digital Level Gauge, Display All Info, For viewfinder, Graphic Display, Histgram, No Disp. Info
TYPE
7.5cm (3.0-type) type TFT
NUMBER OF DOTS
1,440,000 dots
TOUCH PANEL
Yes
FOCUS MAGNIFIER
Yes (35mm full frame: 4.7x, 9.4x, APS-C: 3.1x, 6.2x)
OTHERS
Touch Focus:Yes (Available with LCD monitor operation), ISO AUTO Min. SS, Bright Monitoring, Set File Name, FTP Transfer Func., Help guide, Area Setting, Shop Front Mode, Video Light Mode, Zoom Ring Rotate
Shutter
TYPE
Electronically-controlled, vertical-traverse, focal-plane type
SHUTTER TYPE
Auto/Mechanical shutter/Electronic shutter
SHUTTER SPEED
[Still images, Single shot]3, Mechanical Shutter:1/8000 to 30 sec, Bulb, AUTO: 1/32000 to 30 sec, Bulb, Electronic Shutter: 1/32000 to 30 sec, [Still images, Continous shooting]3, Mechanical Shutter:1/8000 to 30 sec, AUTO: 1/32000
FLASH SYNC. SPEED
1/250 sec.4
ELECTRONIC FRONT CURTAIN SHUTTER
Yes(ON/OFF)
TYPE
Image Sensor-Shift mechanism with 5-axis compensation (Compensation depends on lens specifications)
Flash Control
TYPE
GUIDE NO.
FLASH COVERAGE
CONTROL
Pre-flash TTL5
WIRELESS CONTROL
Yes(light signal/radio signal)
Yes
HEADPHONE TERMINAL
Yes(3.5 mm Stereo minijack)
VERTICAL GRIP CONNECTOR
Yes
PC REMOTE
Yes
LAN TERMINAL
Yes
SUPPLIED BATTERY
One rechargeable battery pack NP-FZ100
BATTERY LIFE (STILL IMAGES)
Approx. 480 shots (Viewfinder) / approx. 650 shots (LCD monitor) (CIPA standard)14
BATTERY LIFE (MOVIE, ACTUAL RECORDING)
Approx. 105 min (Viewfinder) / Approx. 120 min (LCD monitor) (CIPA standard)1516
BATTERY LIFE (MOVIE, CONTINUOUS RECORDING)
Approx. 185 min (Viewfinder) / Approx. 195 min (LCD monitor) (CIPA standard)1517
INTERNAL BATTERY CHARGE
Yes
EXTERNAL POWER
POWER CONSUMPTION WITH VIEWFINDER
Still images: approx. 4.1W(with FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS lens attached), Movies: approx5.3W(with FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS lens attached)
POWER CONSUMPTION WITH LCD SCREEN
Still images: approx. 3.0W(with FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS lens attached), Movies: approx5.0W(with FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS lens attached)
USB POWER SUPPLY
Yes
OPERATING TEMPERATURE
32 – 104 degrees F / 0 – 40 degrees C
WEIGHT (WITH BATTERY AND MEMORY CARD INCLUDED)
Approx. 673 g / approx. 1 lb 7.7 oz
DIMENSIONS (W X H X D)
Approx. 126.9mm x 95.6mm x 63.0mm/Approx. 5 x 3 7/8 x 2 1/2 inches
  • Power cord
  • Rechargeable Battery NP-FZ100
  • Cable Protector
  • AC Adaptor:AC-UUD12
  • Shoulder strap
  • Body cap
  • Accessory shoe cap
  • Eyepiece cup
  • Micro USB cable

The main striking differences are important upgrades in my opinion that help give the camera a wow factor compared to previous models:

  1. Better viewfinder
  2. Dual card slots
  3. An ethernet port with FTP software
  4. A better electronic shutter
  5. More focus points and better focus speed
  6. A dial to the left of the viewfinder
  7. A joystick
  8. A revolutionary sensor design

These specifications are great, so why am I complaining?

  1. I hope newer Sony a7 cameras have improved viewfinders, so there’s nothing here that a future Sony a7 couldn’t have. This feature shouldn’t be regarded as a Sony a9 speciality but rather, it’s the latest camera so it has the latest viewfinder.
  2. Again, dual card slots isn’t much to ask for in a camera and future Sony a7 cameras should have this.
  3. FTP isn’t much to ask for; I think an ethernet port should only exist with the Sony a9 series of cameras but FTP software for WiFi could exist within current and future Sony a7 cameras.
  4. A modern shutter should be expected and again, I think future Sony a7 cameras should have this.
  5. I think all future cameras should improve upon focus speed.
  6. I have always said I would love a dial to the left of the viewfinder on the Sony a7 series of cameras.
  7. The majority of reviews regarding the Sony a7 series cameras have highlighted the need for a joystick; it’s good that it’s now included with the Sony a9 series but it could have been included with a Sony a7 series camera.
  8. The sensor looks to be great but we can expect sensor improvements for the Sony a7 series cameras.

My main argument

Photographer’s and camera manufacturers need to have a more realistic view of what Moore’s law means to camera specification. We’re getting to a point that pricing cameras is incredibly difficult or difficult to understand.

These are just my opinions based on the comments I’ve seen floating around the internet, but I believe most photographer’s are analysing a camera’s performance based around archaic methodology; it’s rather like comparing an Apple iWatch to a 1920’s mechanical watch and saying the Apple iWatch should be $2 million. When you measure performance like that, it’s difficult to have a realistic view of what a camera should be priced at. In other words, you look at these specifications, you compare it to the ancient DSLR design and you say, “it’s faster than the Canon, and it’s a bit cheaper, so it’s priced well!” Electronics are just this good now, and I don’t feel comfortable paying nearly £5,000 for this camera knowing that Moore’s law will render it obsolete rather quickly. Some people, no names mentioned, will say that “Sony render their own cameras obsolete”, and I can see why they’d think this, but that’s just because Sony use current generation technology rather than 1,000 year old DSLR designs.

In my opinion, the majority of the features included within this camera should be included in a future a7 series camera e.g. dual card slots, a my menu system, better autofocus, etc. So this makes me wonder, will the next generation a7 series cameras lack some of these features to prevent Sony from stepping on their own toes? They’d have been able to avoid this mess if they made the body much bigger. If you make the body bigger, with the same generation of components, the bigger camera will always be faster because you can have twice the processors, RAM, etc. Moreover, I think it should include a wireless transmitter for the radio controlled flashes.

In other words, this just looks like a natural upgrade to the Sony a7, one you’d expect given the rapid pace in technological advancement. Therefore, I don’t like the price tag. In a year or two, the technology will be old–that is just how electronics work. You can of course apply this argument to the Sony a7rII but if you make the body bigger, and you double the amount of components, you allow your product to be relatively quick for a longer period. By having everything so similar to the Sony a7 series, nothing prevents the Sony a7rIIII from being quicker than the Sony a9.

Don’t get me wrong, the features are great, Sony have listened to the customers and the camera looks amazing. My problem is that MOST of these features could be implemented into a future Sony a7 camera. Does that mean the Sony a7rIII will be void of dual card slots? What about a better viewfinder? Will it get the latest viewfinder technology? How fast will it focus? What about sensor technology, will the Sony a7r series no longer be the best for image quality?

You can compare the price to a Canon camera and say “wow, this is really quite good”; however, if we compare it to Sony’s own offerings, it’s overpriced in my opinion.

Against a current generation Sony a7II camera, sure, the specifications are great but what about one or two years from now when we expect to have dual card slots, better viewfinders, more ergonomic design, etc? The majority of improvements are simply what I’d expect in a next generation Sony a7 camera and when you take them away, what do you have left?

An ethernet port, and a sync port that should be killed with fire.

The saving grace

One way I could see Sony getting around the Sony a7 and Sony a9 marketing problem is by designing processors the same size but deliberately less powerful and more power efficient–similar to what computer processor manufacturers do; therefore, Sony could theoretically get around any marketing errors by keeping the Sony a7 series a more power efficient and slower model while housed in the same body. With a bigger body, you can very easily put in more of the same components and it requires less RND but it’s definitely not the only option to difference products.

My other gripes

I don’t much care for a sync port, I think it’s archaic and I think it’s ridiculous they put time into that just to say the camera has a sync port. For this price, it should include a radio controlled system within the flash, to trigger their recently announced wireless flashes. This would negate the necessity of having to buy a hot-shoe mounted flash transmitter and it would say, “hey, I’m a camera for a professional, and I have better flash features than my siblings.” It wouldn’t step on the toes of its family and if a Sony a7 series user wants to use Sony flashes, they can still buy a transmitter as before.

Sony will tout the sealing of the camera but I’ve looked at photographs and the SD compartment door has no rubber or foam to prevent moisture.

In my opinion, Sony might have been better to make the body slightly larger, improved the sealing dramatically (perhaps they have done, it’s hard to say yet) and really advertised this fact, improved the flash options for professionals beyond a ridiculous sync port and set it further apart from a Sony a7 series.

Cameras are basically computers that act as an image processor. Each year, computer’s get faster and faster mostly due to Moore’s law but I don’t believe we should pay twice the price for natural electronic technological advancement.

There is no USB-C port. This is inexcusable.

The specifications look apart from the Sony a7rII but what about the Sony a7rIIII?

In other words, nice move Sony, what’re you going to NOT include in the Sony a7rIII?

Nonetheless, it’s a great camera and if they made a Sony a9r, I would love one. I would never buy one because of the price, haha, but I would love one nonetheless.

1 thought on “Sony a9 camera, brand fragmentation and a potential mistake”

  1. Moore’s law is coming to an end as the feature length is shorter than 10nm, and on the other hand TSV isn’t improving very much for almost 3 years. Hence, CMOS stacking technology isn’t improving at a pace that could obsolete the a9 in a few years.
    I’ve been to the ISSCC 2017 in San Francisco to present my paper about radio circuits (you can find my publication on IEEEXplore) and after I finished my presentation in Session 2, I attended Session 4 which involves the design of CIS (CMOS Image Sensors). I’ve talked to the Sony engineers in Session 4 regarding the future development of CIS. All I am allowed to say without going into too much technical terms is that stacking DRAM directly with CIS results in many engineering challenges and you have to factor in the R&D cost for the a9.
    At this point, the major technology that could be a great step up from the a9 is the multiple accumulation shutter (which is mandates the use of electronic shutter), and I will assume it is the natural step up in future Sony cameras.

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