Sony A9 for Wedding Photographers ?

When I first started photographing weddings I actually shot with Bronica square format, but when I transitioned to digital I dived straight into Canon with the 10D, 20D and then 5D with associated L lenses. At that time the Canon in my personal opinion was the best set up I could afford. I stayed with Canon until Nikon released the D750. The D750 was lighter, had a better focusing system and all in all I considered it to be a move worth making. So the switch began. Ive been shooting with Nikons now for around 2 years and been thoroughly impressed with the reliability. In conjunction with NPS the experience of photographing with this system has been fantastic.

Then along come Sony, who manufacture the majority of sensors for the modern day camera. I bought the A7rii for personal use, and used it at a wedding, but only the once. Quite frankly it’s a great camera for anything that moves at the pace of a sloth, anything faster and it struggled. The focusing system was slow, file sizes huge, all in all not a camera that I wanted to use for weddings. So I sold it and bought a Leica M240 for my personal work.

In August last year Sony leant me the Sony A9 with the sony zeiss 35mm 2.8 for the wedding of Hannah and Andrew in France. I loved it, but did not trust it. I remember commenting at the time to Ricky, my assistant, that there is no way this tiny camera with an even smaller lens is taking decent images. I used it for the bridal prep and then stopped. When I got home I was amazed by the quality of the images. And so the drive to switch started there.

Whenever I switch camera systems it’s not something I just jump into, I do a lot of research. The system has to be perfect for me. Unfortunately Sony has aligned itself with a lot of photographers who shoot sloths, these photographers put alot of content out online that is pretty much useless for anyone that shoots real weddings. Its all very well putting out a video saying ” this is the best wedding photography camera of 2017″ and when you watch it there is a model with a lighting set up. With the utmost respect my son max who is 12 can take a picture with any camera of someone who stands there and poses and produce a good image. I desperately looked for content online that showed the camera at a real wedding shooting real bride and grooms that move. Its virtually impossible. So why is this? I understand Sony being loyal to the brave ones that switched when the system wasn’t up to scratch, but times have changed, the cameras have changed. Sony are marketing the A9 against the Canon and Nikon flagshops, sports cameras, and incredible sports cameras at that. So why oh why have portrait photographers marketing it?

With the lack of content online I waited. The I started reading posts from Greg Gibson. Greg and I met in 2007, he is a Pulizter prize winner, fantastic photographer and someone I have always admired. So when I saw he had switched I started looking into the whole Sony set up again. With his help and with Jim Davidson’s advice I settled on the following

Sony A9
Sony Zeiss 35mm 2.8
Zeiss Batis 25mm 2.0
Zeiss 85mm 1.8

Now, whilst I am nowhere near qualified to write a technical review on this camera I will offer my experience so far with using this camera setup.

In the hand.

Personally I find it uncomfortable to hold for a long time. Its too small without a battery grip and too big for me with a battery grip. Its awkward in my hand and it in no way compares favourably with the Nikon D750 which is like a glove

Menu System

Good god, complicated is not the word. This camera does too many things that I just dont need. I really only use the My Menu, where I put the functions I rely on most, and I have programmed the C1-4 buttons for easy access to focus mode, shutter, and Eye AF.

EVF

Excellent, when you swap from the Sony EVF to a Nikon optical there is obviously a difference, but is perfectly real time and has excellent resolution

ISO capabilities

Very very good. Because of the EVF and high ISO capabilities, coupled with the amazing Batis lenses I have been shooting alot more with ambient light. I didnt really trust my Nikons past 3200 ISO, and so resorted alot to both on and Off camera flash. With the Sony I can push it to ISO 8000 without any problem. I could probably push it even more but as yet have not had the need.

Electronic Shutter

This is crazy. The electronic shutter on this is virtually silent, and for those aging vicars with extra sensory hearing there is even a silent mode. This camera can rattle off 24 fps and almost no one can hear it. At first this was the thing that put me off the most, but now its one of the aspects of the camera that I love. The Nikon shutter is like a gatling gun in comparison.

AF System

Where on earth do you start? Let me put it this way. When I now cull a wedding, I am purely culling on moment and composition. Because of the EVF I no longer need to worry about my exposures, because of this unbelievable AF system I would say 90-95% of my images are now in focus. The Eye AF is just plain stupid. In AFC ( continuous) mode, the camera will lock on to the subjects eye and track it. So I can now shoot at 1.8 with supreme confidence. Something I could never do with Nikon or Canon.

The camera locks on almost instantaneously to the subject in any of the many focus modes. Speaking of which the camera has lots of them, wide, zone, center, expandable, flexible, lock on, you are quite literally spoilt for choice. The experience of shooting with an EVF that will produce perfect exposures and an AF system that will produce a very high percentage of in focus images allows me to concentrate on my compositions and nailing the moment. It’s literally taken 50% of my thought processes whilst shooting away.

File sizes

Perfect for weddings, its a 24MP camera I dont need anything bigger.

Write speed

Pretty good, I shoot RAW and when writing just RAW files to my cars the performance was very good however at my last wedding I wrote RAW+JPG to card slot 1 and wont be doing that again.

Lag with Flash

Yes there is a small amount. The camera needs to be switched from electronic shutter to mechanical shutter for use with a flash. That reduces the FPS to 5FPS instead of 24FPS with the electronic. Thats a vast difference, but its more than manageable. I did consider getting the A7riii as a second body as that shoots 10fps with mechanical shutter, but the increased file sizes and different layout of buttons etc was a compromise too far. I may well consider getting the A7iii as a third body for use with flash if I feel the lag becomes an issue.

Post Production

I have an issue with culling. I use PM and the A9 apparently does not write a jpg preview, so when I am culling the preview I get in Photo Mechanic is not sharp, its just a little fuzzy, so there is no guarantee that the image I am choosing is spot on with the focus. For all of the reasons above I am pretty sure that it is, but I did however download FastRAWviewer, which renders the RAW file perfectly. It is slow mind, faster than LR, but still very tedious to cull in.

Lenses

When Sony first started producing these mirrorless cameras there were hardly any native lenses available, maybe 3 or 4, now there are alot, and the beauty is that Zeiss started to make them for the system as well. I’m spoilt with my Leica M240, whilst I only have 2 lenses a 35 and 50, they are both Leica and I am in love with both of them, the images they produce are second to none. I am nearly feeling that with both the Batis lenses, not only do they look great but the image quality is superb. The Bokeh on the 85mm especially is really nice and smooth.

Price

Its not a £4300 camera, really its not. £2800-3000 at a push maybe , but the price is silly, which is why I bought second hand

In Summary

Canon and Nikon, what are you doing? Sony has stolen such a march on you that your cameras are now looking prehistoric for wedding photographers. Sony, get someone on board like Greg Gibson to push these cameras, it took me 8 months to find enough information to make the switch, we dont all shoot models, or pose our clients all day. The A9, whilst way too expensive new, is the perfect wedding camera. 24MP, great ISO, fast focus, very light, its everything I wanted in a new system. I know Sony now have Sony Pro, so I am hoping the support will be good, I’m sure its not up to NPS or CPS standards just yet, but I hope that in time it will produce the same level of support.

David Pullum

David Pullum

David Pullum is a London Wedding Photographer with over 15 years experience
David Pullum
  1. Dannish

    Great real world wedding review David. Sony have certainly stepped up their game but £4000 per camera is to rich for me to make the switch.