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REVIEW: Sony α9 Mark II

SONY α9 MARK II: Designed to address issues raised by professional photographers using the original α9, the second-generation α9 Mark II provides greater user comfort, speed and connectivity. The big advantages for sports photographers who use the α9 Mark II are its relatively small size and light weight, coupled with in-body stabilisation, fast burst speeds coupled with high buffer capacity and a wider range of dedicated lenses to choose from than either of its mirrorless rivals.
RRP: $7299 (body only).
Sony’s Alpha 9 cameras are targeted at professional users and the latest model includes improvements requested by agency, sports and news photographers. The new model retains many of the features of the original α9, including blackout-free burst shooting at up to 20 fps with AF and AE tracking, 4K video recording at 25 fps (100 Mbps or 60 Mbps) for PAL system users and the 1.3 cm, 3 686 400-dot, Quad-VGA OLED EVF. As well as an improved grip and larger, more responsive button controls, it is better sealed against moisture and dust.

Both media slots support the fast UHS-II standard, instead of only one as in the previous model. The top burst speed with the mechanical shutter has been doubled to 10 fps and Real-time Tracking and Real-time Eye AF make focusing more accurate with human and animal subjects. The shutter mechanism has been redesigned to suppress slight judders that might produce image blur.

An important addition is the integrated 1000BASE-T Ethernet terminal, which supports fast and secure gigabit transfer of files between the camera and a server using File Transfer over SSL or TLS encryption (FTPS). A new Voice Memo function allows sound files to be attached to images, giving photographers a quick and easy way to communicate with editors and enabling them to tag images captured via wireless remote control. Files can also be transferred via the built-in low-energy Bluetooth V. 4.1 (2.4GHz band) technology, while Sony’s PlayMemories Mobile provides geotagging via Bluetooth from a connected smartphone.

Video recording capabilities are mostly unchanged, although the number of settings available has been reduced. Cinema 4K is still not supported and S-Log profiles are not available but users can output video to an external recording device via the HDMI port.

Purchasing points:
1. The 24.2-megapixel, 35.6 x 23.8mm back-illuminated Exmor RS CMOS sensor is unchanged from the original α9 but a new BIONZ X processor delivers better noise reduction and faster processing speeds across a range of functions.
2. The Fast Hybrid AF System combines 693 phase-detection autofocus points approximately 93 percent of the image area with 425 contrast-detection AF points. AF and AE calculations are performed at up to 60 times per second, making focusing fast enough to ensure moving subjects are accurately captured.
3. The α9 Mark II features Sony’s Real-time Eye AF technology with right eye/left eye selection and Real-time Eye AF for animals. A new algorithm enables Real-Time Eye AF for movies and Real-time Tracking includes selectable focus frame colour, Touch Pad focus point control while using the EVF.
4. Continuous shooting is supported at up to 10 fps with full AF and AE tracking in ‘full-frame’ mode using the mechanical shutter. The electronic shutter retains the top rate of 20 fps, established in the original α9. The buffer memory can hold up to 361 Large/Fine JPEGs, 239 RAW files or 226 RAW+JPEG pairs.
5. New 4:3 and 1:1 aspect ratios have been added to the regular 3:2 and 16:9 options.
6. The native sensitivity range of ISO 100-12800 can be expanded to include ISO 50 and ISO 204800 settings. Movies are limited to ISO 100-51200 with extension to ISO 102400 available.
7. A new anti-flicker shooting mode can automatically detect artificial light sources, such as fluorescent lighting and adjust for recording speeds to prevent banding.
8. A USB-C 3.2 connector has been added to the existing micro-USB port. The α9 Mark II also comes with a Type-D Micro HDMI port plus 3.5 mm stereo mini jacks for external microphones and headphones. Remote control is available via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth from a connected smart device. GPS logging can also be implemented via Sony’s PlayMemories Mobile app.

Distributor: Sony Australia; 1300 720 071;
– Margaret Brown

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