NOTES FROM THE
TIPA TEST BENCH
PDN is a member of
the Technical Image Press
Association, which has con-
tracted with the testing lab BetterNet for
camera evaluations. Below is an excerpt
of their lab test with the Sony a9.
The color reproduction of the Sony a9 is
excellent. The test chart was reproduced
with perfect saturation (average of 100.2
percent). Most colors show very little shifts
to their given values; only the dark blue
nuances show a shift into the magenta
area of the color space. White balance
(AWB mode) is absolutely perfect. All gray
patterns are located exactly in the center
of the color space. Brighter skin tones are
reproduced perfectly, while darker skin
tones show a little shift into the darker
areas (orange area of the color space).
Color differentiation is excellent. The
camera differentiates the luminance levels of
all colors very realistically. The perfect image
saturation helps to create these effects.
Sharpness is very high: Images created
with the Sony a9 achieve a very crisp
look. Digital image sharpening by the a9
processor is low so images look natural
and the “overshoot” effect in our result
chart is only 11. 5 percent. The camera
reproduced the test chart with 3616 of
4000 lines. High sharpness (without
exaggerated filtering effects) is also
noticeable in our test shots. Reproduction
of details like a model’s eyelashes or the
fabric of her t-shirt is very good.
The camera performed excellently in
our noise tests. Noise level is low at ISO
100 (y-factor 0.52 percent) and increases
very slowly when using higher ISO speed
settings. So the 1.0 percent line is crossed
between ISO 12,800 and ISO 25,600
mode. The maximum noise level of 1.93
percent is reached in ISO 51,200 mode
and therefore still acceptable. Color noise
artifacts first get visible in ISO 25,600
mode, in lower ISO speed modes images
are absolutely clean or color noise is
filtered out in a very discreet way.
The Sony a9 offered a maximum of 11. 3
f-stops. More important is a high level of
dynamic range even when using higher
ISO speed settings. The a9 images manage
about 11 f-stops in ISO 100 to ISO 6400
mode which is excellent.
The a9’s speed would count for nothing if it
couldn’t produce pleasing images. Fortunately,
it more than delivers on that front, Patiño tells
us. “Between the color and dynamic range, it’s
really off the charts,” Patiño says. He used the
a9 for both stills and video.
RAW files that typically show noise on
other cameras at ISO 1600 were surprisingly
clean out of the a9. Noise is very well
contained through ISO 25,600. While the
a9 doesn’t quite have the low-light chops of
Sony’s a7S II, it comes quite close—with a
much higher resolution sensor.
While Sony is clearly targeting the
a9 toward high-speed still shooting, it’s
outfitted with its fair share of video features
as well. However, Patiño was confused by
the omission of an S-Log color profile. As an
owner of two a7R IIs and two a7S IIs, which
he uses largely for video, he says the lack of
S-Log does constitute a deterrent for video
shooters—though presumably it’s something
Sony should be able to add via a firmware
update. That said, the footage out of the
camera was excellent, Patiño says.
If you deplore the ability to “spray and
pray,” you should stop reading. Shooting in
high-speed continuous mode with the a9 is
essentially like shooting video. (Remember
the days of 15 fps? This is faster.) Since you’re
using an electronic shutter, the spray is
largely silent—which is helpful if you want
to be discrete but also makes it very easy to
amass way more images than you really need.
After just ten minutes of testing the high-
speed burst mode, we had snapped over 400
This incredible speed is paired with an
impressive autofocusing system that does
an excellent job tracking subject movement
across the frame. Sony has finally added
tools to customize autofocusing sensitivity so
you can tailor how aggressively it refocuses
on objects moving in and out of the frame.
The camera is also very good in low light,
including tracking moving objects. We did
wish the AF points would illuminate as you
toggle the joystick.
Sony made a significant improvement to the
battery. Whereas the a7 series models would
tap out at around 200 images, the a9 can hit
450 per CIPA. Patiño says that the battery life
improvement is immediately recognizable
to anyone who uses an a7. That said, it still
lags far (in some cases, miles) behind the
performance of its flagship DSLR competitors.
Nikon’s D5, the battery king, delivers a CIPA-sanctified 3,780 shots per charge.
With the a9, Sony has made a formidable
mirrorless camera that should appeal to
sports and wedding photographers in
need of freezing fast-moving subjects. Its
24-megapixel sensor tops both Canon and
Nikon flagships in the resolution department
and delivers extremely pleasing color and
surprisingly excellent high ISO performance.
The compact size and relatively inexpensive
price tag also make the a9 a very compelling
alternative to its pricier full-frame foes.
Of course, the a9 has its liabilities. Even with
the improved battery, the a9 out of the box is far
behind its DSLR competitors in terms of battery
life. You can add a new accessory battery grip to
the camera, but then you’re losing the smaller
form factor, which is part of the a9’s appeal.
The lack of S-Log makes the a9 less useful as
a video camera. Sony doesn’t quite have the
stable of lenses that sports photographers may
need, but Patiño is confident that they will
soon enough—and the recent G-Master lenses
have all been excellent, he says.
PROS: Industry-leading continuous
shooting; compact and inexpensive for
its class; reliable autofocusing; excellent
low light/high ISO performance.
CONS: Battery life trails competitors;
lacks S-Log color profile.