Sleepless Over Sony’s a9 – What Is It Really, and Who Is It For?

April 23, 2017 ·

Hugh Brownstone


Yes, the a9 is sick-fast, arguably sickest-fastest general purpose camera out there. But I actually lost sleep after shooting with it for a full day, wondering “why this camera, why now, and for whom?”

The rise of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras is incontrovertible, part and parcel of the equally incontrovertible fall of DSLRs. You don’t need to take my word for it – CIPA has been publishing shipment volumes and values for years, and the last half dozen have been truly horrifying if you’re a camera manufacturer.

Still, Canon and Nikon continue to dominate the world of professional sports photography and photojournalism, relegating mirrorless ILC’s — even as accomplished as Sony’s a7 series — to the status of “consumer” or maybe, grudgingly, “prosumer” gear in the eyes of many pros.

With the a9, Sony is laying down the gauntlet. “You DSLR manufacturers offer 14fps? You have big bright optical finders to capture the decisive moment?” “Fuggedaboudit. Your shooters miss the decisive moment every single time because your mirror blocks it. Our mirrorless a9 shoots 20fps with NO blackout, has in-body-image stabilization, 4K video quality and assists you can’t touch (hold that thought), is smaller, lighter, quieter – and costs thousands less ($4,448 vs. $5,999 for the Canon 1DX II and $6,497 for the Nikon D5).

“Suck on that.”

I think Sony is being very clear.  The a9 isn’t trying to be everything to everyone. It isn’t trying to be the one hybrid camera you’ll ever need. It’s Sony’s attempt to dethrone the king and queen of sports photography, throwing in some great video capability that the current royals can’t match – just in case.

And both sports shooters and photojournalists under deadline aren’t going to futz around with log or 10-bit 4:2:2.

As a life-long Canon shooter until just three year ago, it seems to me Sony just may have a point.  And – in the a9 – that point is a sharp stake through the heart of the last bastion of top-end DSLRs.

Or not, because no camera is perfect and the big boys have a decades-long headstart in things like ergonomics and customer support.

We can’t release photos and footage until after NAB, so in the meantime check out the video below to show and tell what we can. Frankly, I’m not the one who should be losing sleep over the a9. But there are more than a handful of execs in Tokyo who might be.


Publisher’s Note: I spent a number of days last week with fellow content providers and journalists.  My friend and fellow content provider Hugh Brownstone put together a video with his thoughts on the NEW Sony a9.  I’ll have a more detailed look at the a9 with a lot of images on Thursday as we are embargoed until then.  He was kind enough to share it here.  The Sony a9 is quite the camera.  I shot thousands of images (easy to do at 20 fps) on less than one battery.  The AF speed and tracking were excellent.  It’s fun times.  Thank you, Hugh, for your insights.

Hugh Brownstone
April 2017

Hugh Brownstone

Hugh traded in a corporate life on Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry to start Three Blind Men and An Elephant, a small production company with large animal logo serving. He has written extensively for planet5D and now creates original content for his own blog and YouTube channel. He is also an optioned screenwriter and author of Apple’s iPhone: The Next Video Revolution.

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