‘Real-time Tracking’ for object tracking and ‘Real-time Eye AF’ are coming to the Sony α9 mirrorless camera via a software upgrade. It’s a magic not available in the old days!
Updates to firmware and software are normal in modern digital cameras, so no one is surprised when they are announced. But this is no normal update, more an upgrade, says Sony, presenting a series of features that will make your camera a better camera. In fact, there is a series of new features, including one for wildlife photographers: version 6.0 firmware for the α9 camera will add Eye AF for animal eyes, a feature Sony says represents an extremely exciting development for wildlife photographers.
Upgrading a camera via software is nothing new, in fact, and Canon may have started that trend, when they introduced a series of features to their original EOS 7D, a firmware update that was a bit life the MLU or mid-life upgrade used in aircraft as the F-16. Now it’s Sony’s time to give an extension of life to a camera through the magic of software, something that could never be done in the old days.
Real Time Tracking
According to Sony, the camera will receive a series of upgrades via the versions 5.0 and 6.0 of software. The new version 5.0 software for α9 adds Sony’s newly developed ‘Real-time Tracking’ for object tracking. This mode utilises Sony’s latest algorithm including Artificial Intelligence-based object recognition and processes colour, subject distance (depth) and pattern (brightness) as spatial information to ensure that all subjects can be captured with extreme accuracy and precision. Furthermore, when photographing or videoing humans or animals, face and eye position information are recognised by AI and the subject’s eyes are monitored in real-time with extremely high tracking precision. In addition, ’Tracking On’ helps initiate ‘Real-time Tracking’ at any time by simply pressing the custom-assigned button and ‘Touch Tracking’ which quickly activates through the touch screen.
Additionally, with this new version 5.0 software, Sony’s acclaimed α9 camera will receive advanced ‘Real-time Eye AF’, the latest version of Sony’s acclaimed Eye AF technology. This exciting new capability employs AI-based object recognition to detect and process eye location data in real time, resulting in improved accuracy, speed and tracking performance of the Eye AF. In all autofocus modes, the camera can automatically detect the eyes of the subject and activate Eye AF with a half press of the shutter button. The camera will seamlessly track the eyes at all times when in AF-C mode. Additionally, with the new software, photographers can select the preferred eye (left or right) of their subject as the focus point.
Fast Hybrid AF for movie shooting
Other focusing capabilities that will be available with the new software include Touch Pad, Touch Tracking, an extended phase-detection AF aperture range that has been increased from F11 to F16 and Fast Hybrid AF for movie shooting that provides smooth automated focusing or movies.
Image quality will also be enhanced with the new α9 software version 5.0. Specifically, in colour reproduction, as the camera will more accurately account for subtle changes in light for smoother, more natural tonal gradations in elements like the sky. There is also a new AWB algorithm, which produces more consistently balanced images during burst shooting. Other new functions for efficient control and data management include My Dial and Dual Slot media menu improvement, rating and protect functions.
The new software adds compatibility with Sony’s new ‘Imaging Edge Mobile’ application, the successor to ‘PlayMemories Mobile’. The new app offers several new capabilities such as the ‘Transfer & Tagging add-on’ mobile application to assist professional workflow – allowing photographers to transfer images from their camera to smartphone simultaneously while continuing to shoot images, while also adding support for including IPTC metadata on transferred images. This is a welcome addition after the recent software version 4.0 update for the α9 that greatly enhanced the camera’s capabilities with FTP transfer.
Software for the α7R III and α7 III
Version 6.0 firmware for the α9 camera will add Eye AF for animal eyes, as mentioned earlier and it will also add interval shooting functionality for creating time-lapse movies. The new system software update version 5.0 is scheduled for launch in March 2019 and version 6.0 is scheduled for Summer 2019.
Sony also announced that the α7R III and α7 III full-frame cameras will both receive enhanced Real-time Eye AF performance with new version 3.0 software. This will be available in AF-C mode with a simple half-press of the shutter button. Real-Time Eye AF for animals will also be available.
Additionally, the cameras will receive interval recording functionality that will allow for the very simple creation of time-lapse movies. The new feature can be set for anywhere between 1 and 60 seconds, with a total number of shots from 1 to 9999. AE tracking sensitivity can also be adjusted to ‘High’, ‘Mid’ or ‘Low during interval recording, allowing for reduced changes in exposure over the shooting interval.
The new version 3.0 system software update is scheduled for April 2019.