So, I’m six months and around 15 weddings in to using the Sony A9’s as my main wedding cameras. I thought now would be a good time to give my thoughts and an update on how I’m feeling about the most important tool in my arsenal. It seems since getting these that Sony are releasing a new model every month including the seemingly bargain A7III. This isn’t a comparison against any of these as, well, I haven’t used them. Suffice to say had I been in the market again I ‘may’ have taken a look at these over the A9. It’s not to say that I wouldn’t have chosen the A9 anyway – as it has certain features that the cheaper models don’t have – the amazingly fast sensor for one. The choice of which model is one you’d need to make based on your own style, budget and needs!
Let’s say from the off, if you’re expecting me to complain about having made the wrong decision in buying the A9, well, I didn’t. I’m still more than happy in the sale of my body parts to fund my habit / job / interests. (delete as applicable).
So let’s start with the positives. Well, there are many. My back doesn’t feel like it’s being compressed anymore that’s for sure and after picking up my second shooters Nikon D750 with 70-200 attached the other day I was amazed just what a size difference there now is. That thing is huge and seriously heavy! It does feel better made than my Sony though (but only time will tell on that one – and my constant need to drop bounce my kit)! My hands are quite small though so the Sony does fit well for me.
As for shooting, I took the decision to use more prime lenses anyway so perhaps the next ‘positive’ would have been a positive irrespective of my change to Sony. But, moving to primes has certainly made me think more than before about what I’m shooting and that Sony 85mm f1.8 was a real bargain! I do find though at the wider end the 24-70 suits more my style of shooting and to my eyes it’s far sharper than my Nikon equivalent even wide open. I have the Zeiss Distagon 35mm f1.4 in my bag too and it’s absolutely sublime!
Electronic Shutter – no need to worry about burning out your shutter anymore which has led me to shooting much more than before. I now leave the camera on low continuous shutter – and the improvement in the emotion of my images has shown! It just takes a little longer at the culling stage.
IBIS (in body image stabilisation) This camera has the best stabilisation I’ve known and I’m shooting 20th second at 70mm and still retaining sharpness. Now for me, that’s incredibly good as I do have shaky hands!
Battery life – all I can say is – what’s everyone complaining about? It’s rare when shooting an all day wedding that I need to replace the battery in either of my bodies, although I do keep a couple charged just in case. Over the last couple of months cheaper after market versions have become available (I don’t believe they blow up your camera either – glad they’ve rectified that one).
The silent shutter – strangely I don’t normally need to use this. Perhaps I’m old school and like to hear the fact that I’ve taken a photograph. Saying that, on a couple of occasions it’s saved my bacon with a few ‘more strict’ wedding officials where they’ve had a no photograph ‘policy’ for no apparent reason.
Eye tracking / auto focus – this continues to absolutely amaze me with the speed an accuracy. Suffice to say I’m shooting things now I never thought possible. This camera just nails it – even in tricky conditions with heavily backlit subjects.
Skin Tones – I was never a fan of Nikon skin tones. Although I always preferred the Nikon system to Canon, I was always impressed by Canon skin tones. I always thought Nikon were a little pink for my personal taste. The Sony system certainly to my eye is very impressive. What’s more impressive is in difficult lighting conditions the auto white balance is excellent and skin tones look superb too!
I’ve made a few changes to how I used to shoot. I’m an ‘auto ISO’ all the way guy now and really not having to remember to change the ISO when jumping into daylight from a dark church among other things is one less thing to worry about. (Come on, own up, who hasn’t shot groups at 6400 ISO as they forgot to change it?).
You can pretty much assign buttons to what you want and I’ve set up a couple of custom settings. One for shooting video and the other for off camera flash. I do this as I find (and it’s personal taste here) I like the EVF off, and auto ISO off to give me the photographer a little more creative control. Which brings me on to the next thing.
The Godox Flash system. Ok it’s not Sony but this is simply great. The ability to change flash power without using my legs is great and really speeds up the shoot. I generally don’t even get the light meter out of the bag now as experience and a couple of test shots is pretty much all I need to nail it! Quicker for me, quicker for the bride and groom. (I’ve still not left the light meter at home yet though, it’s like a comfort blanket knowing its available!). I have to admit it’s taken me a little time to move away from old school manual flash triggers and max sync speed issues! Once you let the technology do it’s thing, the creativeness can really shine through.
So the niggles.
That damn focus point – I wish it was illuminated to something other than ‘grey’. I’m sorry but on a bright day, shooting groups against a busy background it does become hard to spot. Ok, a double tap on the joystick and it’s in the middle – but I don’t want to do that. I know other wedding photographers share my gripes on this and I’ve emailed Sony about the possibility of changing this in a firmware update. I got a response – which whilst wasn’t positive it wasn’t dismissed either!
Bronzing – I use my A9’s on a rapid strap which means they brush against my trousers. Unfortunately where they brush against my trousers it seems to have removed the black powder coating on the corner of the camera. Never happened on the Nikons and I’m a little disappointed after six months it’s happened on the A9’s. I’m just hoping this isn’t an indication of build quality for the rest of the camera. (The eye piece hasn’t yet fallen off which on my D750’s I lost in the space of a week).
It seems a little picky on memory cards. I’ve only ever used Sandisk (and purchased from a reputable source) but since having the A9 I’ve had three fail on me during formatting them. Never thankfully during shooting.
Dust Bunnies – The sensor is great but not being hid behind that mirror it does get dirty quickly especially if you change lenses a lot. Still Sony Pro Support will clean it twice a year for me for free. So if you swap lenses a lot be prepared! Not really a huge niggle but something to think about and having a rocket blower in your bag helps!
Shutter lag on flash – I’ve had lots of conversations with other A9 users regarding this and I seem to get a slight shutter lag on flash shots. It’s not a super huge issue for me as I shoot 99% of the time with available light – generally just OCF and first dance.
A few known ‘issues’
Banding – people complain about it but I’ve not yet ever noticed it. Perhaps it’s my style of shooting, but it’s never been an issue on anything I’ve shot.
Overheating – I’ve never had an issue and I’m shooting all day at a wedding. Sometimes 1500+ images on each camera on a whole days shoot. The camera does get warm but its never given me a warning. I know this review is about photography but even when I’ve shot a days video it’s never been an issue!
So is a move to mirrorless right for you? Well it was a huge investment for me but I still think I’ve made the right choice. Both Nikon and Cannon are releasing mirrorless systems over the next 12 – 18 months so it remains to be seen if Sony can keep building on this corner of the market when they have competition again. Let’s face it, for full frame mirrorless – they’ve had it pretty easy so far. I do wonder though with the differences in the technology if Nikon and Canon users will be able to use their existing glass or will they need adapters and what market they are aiming at?
I’ll follow up on this at the end of this year. It’s an incredibly busy season again this year with around 45 weddings to shoot so the Sony’s will really be put through their paces!
One thing that I have learnt this year, putting your trust in technology (I’m hoping I’m not eating my words on that) does free you up to concentrate on the things you were employed as a wedding photographer to do – capture a story and the emotion!