If it is not broken, do not fix it: That's the old adage, and the Sony Alpha A9 was practically perfect when it hit the market in April 2017. But age finally catches up with everything and Sony Snapper fans were quietly looking for an updated version of the company's mirrorless full-screen sports camera.
Today, the Japanese electronics giant has delivered an unexpected one, the Sony Alpha A9 II without any fanfare and (surprisingly in 2019) announces only a few pre-release leaks.
At first glance, the Sony Alpha A9 II seems to be very similar to its predecessor. The A9's stacked CMOS sensor with 24.9 megapixels under the hood, the same 693 autofocus that can cover 93% of the frame, and the same ISO range of 51,200, expandable to 50-204,800.
Like the older shooter, the A9 II can shoot up to 20 frames per second in continuous shooting, without the viewfinder failing – important for breathtaking sporting moments – and has the same processing speed of 60 AF and auto-exposure per second.
It also transmits the outstanding electronic viewfinder with 3,686,000 pixels (at a refresh rate of 120 frames per second) and the 3.0-inch touch screen with 1.44 million tilt angles on the back.
Sony has made some improvements to make the A9 II faster and smarter than its predecessors. This helps to meet the 2019 standards and strengthens the reputation of the A9 as a successful shooter.
Sony Alpha A9 II: New Features
It's fair to say that the upgrades made by Sony are incremental, but those little changes could prove to be game-changing. To begin with, Sony says the new camera has a more robust and durable housing, taking on the new key layout and deeper grip of the Alpha A7R IV.
This means that the battery compartment cover and card slots are double-shiftable to ward off the worst weather. The exposure compensation dial in the upper right corner of the camera now has a lock button to prevent accidental changes. In addition, the A9 II has a redesigned lens lock button and better padding for more shock absorption at the lens mount.
Another minor change that could make a difference is a low-vibration shutter that can enhance image sharpness. The 5-axis Image Stabilization (IBIS) has definitely improved to 5.5 stops (though it's not as if there's cause for complaint with the A9).
Unlike the original A9, the second generation model now has a USB-C port (which also powers the camera during operation) and two UHS-II SD card slots. While the A9 II uses the same battery as its predecessor, Sony offers a longer battery life with about 50 additional shots, according to the CIPA test. If you think this is a too-poor upgrade, the A9 II has an optional new vertical grip that can hold two extra batteries.
However, the potentially most significant improvement concerns professional photographers who can quickly process a large number of image files. The A9 II now has a Gigabit Ethernet port that provides data transfer speeds from 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps. It extends the 2.4GHz option already available on the A9 to 5GHz wireless functionality, and the wired transmission over the USB-C port is an improvement over the older model. The A9 II can also be combined with Sony's Mobile Imaging Edge app to transfer still images and videos over Wi-Fi even when the camera is turned off.
Sony has also remotely enhanced the camera's capabilities by remotely formatting memory cards using the Remote Camera Tool 2.1 software. Users can also add voice notes to files when instructions need to be shared with other team members working on a project.
Another important innovation is the new Bionz X processor and AI technology introduced in the Alpha A6400. It improves the autofocus speed and accuracy of the A9 II, including recognition of faces, eyes and animals.
And while the new camera achieves the A9's 20 fps burst speed, it can handle 10 fps with a mechanical shutter (from the 5 fps on the A9) that, according to Sony, has the same life expectancy of 500,000 operations as the A9.
Smaller upgrades cost a bit
The original A9 was not cheap: at the start it was 4,500 USD / 4,500 GBP / 6,999 AU $ for the bodywork alone. However, professional press and sports photographers have very specific needs that the A9 offered, and many clearly found it worth the cost.
According to Sony, the second generation of the A9 has 43 different improvements that make it an even better shooter than the original. Nevertheless, the A9 II retains the same US launch price as the older model.
The Sony Alpha A9 II will be available for sale in the US and UK in October 2019. It costs $ 4,500 in the United States, but just over £ 4,800 in the United Kingdom. In Australia, the A9 II will be delivered a little later, in November. The final prices still have to be confirmed.
We're not sure if Sony will lower the price of the original A9 after announcing the Mark II option. In this case, the A9 is one of the best prosumer cameras in the market.
The price written on this page is true as the time it is written. It may change at any moment.