Sony Alpha a9 II Mirrorless Digital Camera

Introduction

Since the introduction of Sony A9 two and a half years have gone by, today, we have the new Sony A9 ii mirrorless camera with improved features and a new body design borrowed from their latest Sony A7r iv camera. Overall, the new Sony A9 ii offers better connectivity and ergonomics which will go a long way in capturing the attention of sports and wildlife photographers. 

The success of Sony cameras comes from the approach of the company that listens to its customers and goes about changing it instead of dictating what and how a camera should be or what features it can have, the way it had been for decades when two giant of the industry ruled the domain of photography cameras. 

Today, Sony has probably the best autofocus, sensor and all-around cameras in the market. This is partly due to the fact that Sony holds the cards when it comes to producing sensors which much of the industry reluctantly must adopt into their cameras. Then there is the research that has gone into mirrorless cameras that Sony leads the field. Unlike, Canon and Nikon that refused to enter into the mirrorless market for a long time thereby setting themselves at a distinct advantage Sony quietly cornered the market with their high-quality cameras. 

Sports and wildlife photographers rely heavily on long lenses and fast shutter speeds to capture images. Sony not having a huge line of lenses that catered to the specific needs of this niche group of photographers could not entice them to crossover to the mirrorless world. That is until they introduced their Sony A9 that quite literally stirred up the market with its incredible specs and features. 

Second Version

While the most top of the line cameras from companies like Canon and Nikon have a lifespan of about four to five years, Sony A9 ii came in less than three years from the date the first version was announced. Along the way, Sony team took notes and listen to their customers and made some drastic changes to their Sony A9 camera.

This all goes to prove that a rapidly evolving company like Sony could throw out their initial design and go to the drawing board to redesign a camera that already had amazing specs and features. 

The second generation of Sony A9 ii borrows much of the same specs and features of the original Sony A9 and adds more into the equation. For example, the speed of the autofocus, sensor all remain the same as the original version but adds enhanced connectivity, a refined body design, and better performance that comes from its updated BIONZ X processor. 

Updated Processor

Updated BIONZ X processor adds to an already impressive list features for the new Sony A9 ii camera with a 24.2MP full-frame Exmor RS BSI stacked CMOS sensor that continues to deliver up to 20 fps shooting with a silent electronic shutter or up to 10 fps with a mechanical shutter.

Sony’s legendary ISO performance still puts the new Sony A9 ii camera in the staggering level of ISO 204800 making it a very versatile camera for low light photography. The sensor’s design also incorporates a 693-point phase-detection autofocus system that offers intelligent subject tracking and Real-time Eye AF to ensure critical focus on moving subjects.

The core design of the BIONZ X processor allows up to 60 AF/AE functions per second to go along with the 20 fps shooting for accurate results in quickly changing conditions. The updated processor also yields fast recording capabilities  an equally fast AF/AE metering system that functions at 60 times per second to continuously evaluate the scene in order to lock onto and track moving subjects. 

Additionally, Sony A9 ii camera features an automatic anti-flicker shooting mode that recognizes and times the shutter action to minimize the flicker effect for more consistent results on still images. To top all this, when electronic shutter is engaged blackout-free monitoring is possible that allows for more accurate compositions of moving subjects.

Although Sony A9 ii camera is designed to be a stills photography camera it still offers video recording capabilities to meet the demands of the industry. UHD 4K video recording is supported at up to 30 fps and Quick and Slow Motion recording is also available should the clients require additional video footage to accompany the still images. 

Key Features

  • 24.2MP Full-Frame Exmor RS CMOS Sensor
  • BIONZ X Image Processor & Front-End LSI
  • 693-Point Phase-Detection AF System
  • Up to 20 fps Shooting, ISO 100-204800

Stabilization

Perhaps the most impressive feature of the Sony A9 ii camera is its 5-axis SteadyShot INSIDE sensor-shift image stabilization system that yields up to 5.5 stops of compensation to minimize camera shake.

When long focal length lenses are used with Sony A9 ii, the system will correct for pitch and yaw adjustments to deliver better results. For macro photography benefits from the inclusion of horizontal and vertical shift compensation.

All shooting styles will get usage out of the roll compensation. What is beautiful about the stabilization system in this camera is that all 5 axes of stabilization will function at all times, even when used with third-party lenses and adapters or lenses with built-in optical stabilization.

Weather Sealing

For the photographers that shoot wildlife or travel to the remote regions of the world to capture photographs, the reliability of their camera is paramount. Under severe weather conditions, the camera must perform and that is where the new Sony A9 ii camera really shines in comparison to the first generation.

Much improved weather sealing and design yields not only reliable performance out in the field, the improved shutter mechanism that is borrowed from the newly designed Sony A7r iv camera yields impressive 500,000 actuations. 

Dual UHS-II SD memory card slots

For professional photographers having the confidence to know the images they have captured are safely recorded in the memory cards is paramount. This is why most professionals records on a second card in their cameras as a backup. Sony A9 ii camera offers dual UHS-II SD memory card slots to meet the demands of those professionals who rely on a second memory card for security. 

The new Sony A9 ii camera also features an improved 1000BASE-T Ethernet port for faster wired LAN sharing and remote camera operation and a 5.0 GHz wireless sharing and Bluetooth integration for quick sharing of images. In addition, Voice Memos enables you to record up to 60-second sound clips with each photo which can then be automatically converted to text, using the Transfer & Tagging app add-on, and then embedded into file metadata is standard with the new Sony A9 ii camera.

Fast Hybrid AF System

Sony A9 ii has 693 phase-detection points along with 425 contrast-detection areas for quick and precise focusing in a variety of lighting conditions with sensitivity down to -3 EV which covers 93% of the image area of the sensor. The true benefit of having these densely packed focusing points in this hybrid AF system is that it allows the camera to deliver optimum results with its High-density Tracking AF Technology. This tracking technology allows moving subjects in the frame to be tracked under various lighting conditions. 

Sony engineers have worked out an AF algorithm that allows the camera to  maintain critical focus on erratically and unpredictably moving subjects to be photographed in focus. The features around the focusing system are rather sophisticated with Lock-on AF which maintains focus on moving subjects throughout the use of a configurable frame that is set over the desired moving subject. 

There is also a setting for “Expand Flexible Spot” which incorporates  neighboring focus points to retain focus on moving subjects even if the originally selected point focus is lost. Sony A9 ii truly shines in the way its focus system capitalizes on the Eye AF capabilities in which can base focus on recognized human subjects’ eyes for portraits and is available in both AF-S and AF-C modes, for both stills and video. 

For those wildlife photographers, Eye AF is heaven-sent as it can also track animal subjects with any focusing mode when shooting stills. Autofocus can also be used in conjunction with the Focus Magnifier function for critical focus when homing in on minute subject details. 

Key Features

  • A Quad-VGA OLED Tru-Finder EVF is featured and has a 3.69m-dot resolution and 0.78x-magnification for bright, clear viewing in rich detail, and a dedicated High-Quality setting enables a 120 fps refresh rate for especially smooth playback of moving subjects. Additionally, a fluorine coating has been applied to the outermost viewfinder element to benefit cleaning.
  • In addition to the EVF, a 3.0″ 1.44m-dot rear LCD is also available, which has a touch panel design for intuitive operation and focusing control. The screen also tilts upward and downward to benefit working from high and low angles.
  • Magnesium alloy chassis assures rigidity, durability, and stability while remaining lightweight. The lens mount has also been improved to better support heavy lenses, and the grip rigidity has been improved for more comfortable hand-holding.
  • Extensive weather-sealing, including enhanced sealing around the battery cover, terminal cover, and chassis joints, has been employed to resist dust and moisture for reliable operation in harsh weather conditions.
  • Using the same NP-FZ100 battery as its predecessor, the a9 II’s battery life is rated for approximately 500 shots per charge with the EVF or 690 shots with the rear LCD.
  • Dual SD memory card slots allow for flexible file saving and handling and can be configured to partition raw and JPEG files or can be used for overflow recording. Both of the card slots are rated to support UHS-II memory cards for faster transfer speeds.
  • A USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C port has been added, in addition to a micro-USB port, for faster, more reliable tethering support. The USB Type-C connection allows the camera to be charged from the host power source while connected.
  • Integrated PC sync terminal for wired flash sync with strobe packs or wireless radio remotes.
  • Durable shutter design has been tested for 500,000 actuations.
  • Updated Multi Interface Shoe supports working with the optional ECM-B1M Shotgun Microphone or XLR-K3M XLR Adapter Kit, which provides improved, clear audio recording sound by sending a digital audio signal to the camera, opposed to an analog signal.
  • The a9 II also features a 3.5mm microphone input jack for compatibility with external microphones.
  • Compatible with optional VG-C4EM Vertical Grip.

Connectivity

Sony A9 ii camera is big on improving connectivity for those photographs who must transmit their images to their clients or head office quickly. Sony supports both 2.4 and 5.0 GHz bands which allows wireless tethering and image transfer to mobile devices for online sharing.

There is also a built-in Bluetooth connectivity that allows for location data acquisition. Sony A9 ii’s Integrated Ethernet port has been upgraded to 1000BASE-T speed for quick wired LAN sharing and remote operation.

Transfer & Tagging add-on app can send FTP setting parameters from your mobile device to the camera, offers automatic data upload to an FTP server with attached metadata, and can perform an automatic voice-to-text conversion. 

Sony A9 ii also allows voice memos to be recorded with each image for up to 60 seconds which is saved as WAV audio file that can be turned into text via can be recorded in conjunction with still images and allow for attaching up to 60-second-long sound recordings to individual images. Transfer & Tagging add-on on a smartphone can automatically or manually convert this audio into a text to be embedded in the image’s metadata.

Video

Sony A9 ii camera is designed around the idea that UHD 4K would be more than sufficient to provide adequate video functionality in XAVC S Format. Simply put, it does not capture video for editing purposes but designed for immediate delivery for broadcasting purposes.

Specs point to a Super35mm recording area which means the camera crops the sensor to capture video. Obviously, Sony boastfully claims that an effective 6K resolution is oversampled to render greater detail and to attain high quality with full pixel readout without pixel binning, reduced moiré and aliasing. However, full-frame 4K recording is available for improved quality when working at mid to high sensitivities to permit full use of the entire sensor width. 

Full HD 1080p recording is also supported in frame rates up to 120 fps, and both resolutions utilize the 100 Mbps XAVC S format contained within an MP4 wrapper with 4:2:0 sampling. To make the most out of this camera for video recording an external recorder is a must to record uncompressed HDMI output for a clean 4K recording with 4:2:2 sampling.


For long focal lengths, the system will correct for pitch and yaw adjustments. Macro and high-magnification imagery, on the other hand, will benefit from the inclusion of horizontal and vertical shift compensation. All shooting styles will get usage out of the roll compensation. All 5 axes of stabilization will function at all times, even when used with third-party lenses and adapters or lenses with built-in optical stabilization.

Other Camera Features

  • Save/load camera settings is possible in-camera as well as to an SD card for working with the same shooting settings with multiple camera bodies.
  • Customizable Fn button can be set to handle separate tasks depending on if working in stills or video modes.
  • A Ratings function lets you assign star values, from 1-5, to images in-camera for faster editing and sorting at home during post-production.
  • An advanced 1200-zone evaluative exposure metering sensor delivers consistent and accurate results using multi-segment, center-weighted, or spot metering modes.
  • Highlight and Average metering modes helps avoid blown-out highlights and provide stable auto-exposure, respectively.

Verdict

Sony A9 ii offers an improved camera for those who are looking to upgrade to a full professional camera and demand the best in terms of connectivity and ergonomics. For anyone who already owns a Sony A9, the changes may be mostly on the camera body with minor upgrades from the original specs that would make it a worthwhile consideration.

For ultimate speed and autofocus capabilities Sony A9 ii camera tops as the best camera for professional applications. The new upgrades certainly help to allow Sony to establish a firmer foothold in the domain of professional sports and wildlife photographers.

Where to Buy & Accessories

Here are the links to specs, prices, best places to buy and accessories for Sony A9 ii camera.

Sony A9 ii camera

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