Sony Alpha 9 II: designed for sports photography and photojournalism

Sony announced the Alpha 9 II, the latest model from Sony’s line-up of α (Alpha) full-frame interchangeable lens cameras, a model created specifically to support working professionals.

Sony Alpha 9 II: designed for sports photography and photojournalism

Featuring gigabit communication for high-speed, stable data transfer operations, the new Sony Alpha 9 II is essentially an updated Alpha 9, Sony’s reply to the demands from professional photographers.

This is not the 36 MP sensor suggested by rumors, but it’s probably good enough for the professionals using Sony who need a camera that gives them faster workflows. The Alpha 9 II may “only” have a full-frame stacked 24.2 MP Exmor RS CMOS image sensor, but it has been improved to shoot at up to 10 fps, about 2x the speed of the Alpha 9, when using the mechanical shutter.

If you need to go faster, the  Sony Alpha 9 II can shoot continuously and completely silently at 20 fps for up to 361 JPEG images or 239 compressed RAW images, with no viewfinder blackout, allowing the photographer to follow the subject and action with no interruption to the EVF during picture taking. These are features that professionals in the fields of sports photography and photojournalism will appreciate.

Sony Alpha 9 II: designed for sports photography and photojournalism

A faster workflow for professionals

“The voice of our customers is absolutely critical to Sony – we are always listening,” said Neal Manowitz, deputy president for Imaging Products and Solutions Americas at Sony Electronics. “The Alpha 9 II is the direct result of countless feedback sessions with agency, sports and news photographers since the launch of the original Alpha 9. We’ve added connectivity and network capabilities that drastically improve the professional workflow, while also making subtle adjustments to design, interface and processing power that complete the user experience. Complemented by our extremely versatile E-mount system – with 55 native lenses introduced at this point, including the super-telephoto 600mm and 400mm G Master series lenses – this new camera is a tool unlike any other for professionals either in the field or on the field.”

We live in an “always connected” world, and professionals are expected to not only shoot but also to have the means to send their images directly to whoever is waiting to use them, be it an editor equipped with a computer close by or a news desk elsewhere. Long gone are the days when you would send your first two rolls shot by a courier, to be developed and used in your newspaper’s next edition. That’s why Sony decided to raise the bar for built-in connectivity, so professional’s  get access to a faster workflow.

Enabling gigabit communication

The Alpha 9 II includes an in-built 1000BASE-T Ethernet terminal, enabling gigabit communication for high-speed, stable data transfer operations. Additionally, File Transfer over SSL or TLS encryption (FTPS) is supported for increased data security and PC remote (tether) shooting performance is improved, with decreased release time lag and reduced live view screen delay when using the ‘Remote Camera Tool’ desktop application. The speed of the camera’s built-in wireless LAN functionality has also been increased, adding a stable and fast 5 GHz (IEEE 802.11ac) band, in addition to the 2.4 GHz provided in the Alpha 9. IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac standards are all supported.

One has to marvel at what modern technology allows photographers to do. Remember the notes you scribbled on a piece of paper to send with the two rolls of 35mm film you would send back to your news desk? Now you can add voice to your photographs. Yes, I know the concept is not exactly new, but the Alpha 9 II features a new Voice Memo function that allows spoken information to be attached to images in the form of voice memos that can be replayed when the images are reviewed.

Add voice memos to your photos

The voice data can also be included with images sent to an editor, giving them important information needed for effective editing. Alternatively, a field photographer can also use the ‘Transfer & Tagging add-on’ “Imaging Edge” application to transfer voice tags with the images to their mobile device and have the voice memos automatically converted to text and added to the JPEG images in the form of IPTC metadata. All of this can be done automatically or manually, selectable by the photographer.

So, now your photographs can “talk”. It does not stop there, though. By combining wireless voice / image transfer and automatic voice to text conversion with the ability to auto transfer images with attached voice memos via FTP, it is possible to shoot and transfer the results to an FTP server without ever having to operate a smartphone. FTP settings within the app can also be sent to a camera via Bluetooth, allowing for a faster workflow.

Sony Alpha 9 II: designed for sports photography and photojournalism

SD cards are available everywhere

Sony says that the camera is able to function whilst continuously calculating Auto Focus and Auto Exposure at up to 60 times per second, with newly optimized AF algorithms that provide notably enhanced AF precision and performance, ensuring that even the most erratic subject motion, often experienced in sports, is captured with high precision. Also useful for sporting events, the camera now offers an anti-flicker shooting mode that automatically detects and adjusts for the presence of fluorescent or artificial lighting to maximize image quality.

Sony Alpha 9 II: designed for sports photography and photojournalism The Alpha 9 II features a USB Type-C connector that supports fast USB 3.2 Gen 1 data transfer, but to the surprise of some, if only offers SD cards, with dual media slots that are both compatible with UHS-I and UHS-II SD cards, allowing higher overall capacity and faster read/write speeds. Some would expect something more advanced, like CFexpress, but Sony decided to go the safe route, because working professionals know well the SD cards, which continue to be the most used and most easily available everywhere, so it makes sense to keep using them in a tool that is not even new, but more an upgrade to the original Alpha 9.

A new audio interface

One feature that those who want to use the camera for video will appreciate, is the addition of a digital audio interface to the camera’s Multi Interface Shoe (MI Shoe), enabling the new ECM-B1M Shotgun Microphone or XLR-K3M XLR Adaptor Kit to be connected directly to the MI Shoe for cleaner, clearer audio recordings.

The body was upgraded in terms of dust and moisture resistance, to meet the needs of professionals in even the most challenging outdoor conditions. Stronger sealing provided at all body seams as well as the battery compartment cover and media slot. The alpha 9 II also features a series of design changes borrowed from Alpha 7R IV. Improved button design and feel, with increased diameter and feedback of the ‘AF-ON’ button, a refined multi-selector joystick design, an exposure compensation dial lock button and a redesigned shape and new position for the rear dial are also points to note on the new model, that also features an improved grip configuration for even greater comfort and sure hold, that is compatible with Sony VG-C4EM Vertical Grip.

The Sony Alpha 9 II will ship in North America in November 2019, priced at $4500. Europeans will have the camera earlier, this October, but they will pay more: €5400, or $5900.

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Journalist, writer and photographer since 1979, both print and online, with a vast experience in the fields of photography, software, hardware, web, aviation, History, video games, technology, having published content in almost all Portuguese newspapers…