Thoughts about the a7RII vs. a9

We recently added the Sony a9 to our photographic toolkit. For the last year, we had been running on a single camera, the a7RII. Two people sharing one camera means one of us is always left out while the other one is shooting.

Now that we have the a7RII and the a9, neither of us will feel like we’re getting the bad end of the deal. At any given time, one of us will have the high resolution, no anti-aliasing filter and great dynamic range camera body, while the other one will have the amazing speed, crazy autofocus and dual card slot pro body that can shoot without noise or blackout.

Here is a list of the differences between the Sony a9 and the Sony a7RII:

 

Sony a7RII

Sony a9

Resolution 42 Megapixels 24 Megapixels
Card Slots Single
UHS-I SD Card and Memory Stick
Dual
Slot1: UHS-I/II SD Card
​Slot2: UHS-I SD Card and Memory Stick
Battery Life Shorter (~400 shots) Longer (~800 shots)
Optical Low-Pass AA Filter No Yes
Autofocus Points 399 Phase Detect AF Points
25 Contrast Detect AF Points
693 Phase Detect AF Points
25 Contrast Detect AF Points
Max FPS 5 FPS 20 FPS with certain lenses and silent shutter
15 FPS with normal lenses and silent shutter
10 FPS with adapted lenses and silent shutter
5 FPS with all lenses and mechanical shutter
Buffer RAW: 23 frames
RAW & JPEG: 22 frames
RAW (Uncompressed): 9 frames
RAW: 241 frames
RAW & JPEG: 222 frames
RAW (Uncompressed): 128 frames
Silent Shutter Blackout and potential for banding No blackout and virtually no banding or artifacts
Stabilization 5-Axis In-Body Stablization
4.5 stops (based on CIPA standard. Pitch/yaw shake only.)
5-Axis In-Body Stablization
​5.0 stops (based on CIPA standard. Pitch/yaw shake only.)
Viewfinder 100% coverage, 2,359,296 dots 100% coverage, 3,686,400 dots
Rear Joystick No Yes
S-LOG and PlayMemories Yes No

The a7RII is a very capable camera and is well suited to many things. But the a9 is a lot better at many of those things. We will be frequently using the a9 for portraits, candid photos and wildlife while preferring the a7rII for scenery, landscapes and shoots that don’t demand speed.

We love the 42mp of the a7RII for landscapes, especially the ability to crop significantly while still retaining good resolution. However, for portraits, senior photos, engagements and event shoots, culling 42mp files was slowing down the computer, filling up storage and generally a drawback for our workflow.

The speed of operation and review are vastly improved on the a9. As great as the a7RII is, it can get annoying when I’ve taken a series of shots and want to review them quickly, only to be greeted with the message that the camera is still writing to the card. With the a9 I can press the playback button and immediate see all of the files that have been written to the card, as well as an indicator for how many files are left in the buffer to write.

The EVF of the a9 appears larger and has slightly more resolution than the one in the a7RII. Overall, the EVF of the a9 felt more pleasant to use.

There are lots of little touches and nuances to the a9 system that are thoughtful and make for better user experience. For example, the included charger of the new Sony NPFZ100 battery has an indicator with three bars, so we would know when the battery is 1/3, 2/3 or fully charged. It’s a nice quality-of-life change from the older battery charger that glows red when charging and green when fully charged.

We tested both the a7rII and a9 in heavily backlit situations. The a9 eye autofocus performed well, while the a7rii eye autofocus was a bit behind in performance. The a7RII was a gamechanger for us when we first used the continuous eye autofocus feature. Now the a9 takes it to a new level. Getting those eyes in focus has never been easier, even when the subject is moving quickly on an amusement park ride.

In situations with people moving towards the camera, the a7RII cannot keep up with tracking the subject, while the a9 gets virtually every shot in face even with subjects running towards the camera.

The lack of shutter noise and no blackout shutter on the a9 is extremely disconcerting at first, but I quickly realized how amazing this is for candid shots, street photography and reportage situations.

With the a9 you can flip the screen up, hold it in your lap, point it at someone’s general direction and fire off tons of shots without anyone knowing. My husband likes to point the a9 at me and tell me that I wouldn’t know if he just took a photo… maybe he did, and maybe he didn’t!

Of course, all of this technology comes at a steep price, $4500 at release. As time goes on and used deals and other sales happen, more people might jump on board with this great camera.

In a year I predict there will be some a9 bodies out there with less than 100 actuations of the mechnical shutter. We might be in that boat ourselves. The electronic shutter is implemented so well, with virtually no banding or rolling artifacts, that we have turned it on all the time. The only reason for us to turn the camera back to mechanical shutter is flash photography, and we rarely use flash.

The lack of vibration, noise and blackout on the Sony a9 just makes shooting, well, fun! But the Sony a7RII is still as great as ever, and it has S-LOG and PlayMemories, which we do use sometimes for the Smooth Reflections app. Both of these cameras have a place in our camera bags.

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5 responses to “Thoughts about the a7RII vs. a9”

  1. Randy says:

    Do you notice a difference in the files between no AA filter vs having an AA filter?

  2. Hi Randy, yes we notice a difference between the files. There is a small loss of sharpness with the AA filter, but with some post-processing sharpening the difference is not major. We have been able to print quite large with 24mp AA-filter files.

  3. Ron says:

    Great blog and love the way you write reviews. Good balance of actual real life usage and tech/spec coverage. I have an A7II and I now take a lot of shots of my 2.5 year old daughter who doesn’t like to stay still. I was thinking of moving to the A9 or A7rII. Speed and good performance in dark lit areas are important to me. How does the A9 perform in darker environments? Also, you think A9 is overkill for taking pictures of toddlers?

  4. Hi Ron, I think the a9 probably is overkill for taking pictures of toddlers, but the silent functionality combined with the other great features like continuous eye AF and amazing autofocus make it probably THE camera for taking active toddlers who refuse to pose for you. It performs superbly in low light situations, probably about on par with the likes of 1DX and D5.

  5. Frank Lee says:

    Hopefully, if Sony hasn’t totally crippled it, the A7III will have similarly boosted focusing abilities.
    That is probably why it has not been put on the market yet – it would kill potential sales of both the A9 and the A7RIII.

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