Now that the new Sony A9 is out, One of the questions most landscape photographers have is : is it worth upgrading if you have a Sony A7rii ?
For the last decade or so, Canon and Nikon have been competing for the top spot in the world of professional digital cameras.
Sony had spent a great deal of time trying to compete on their terms, but with the release of the A9, they have completely changed the rules of the game.
Thanks to the care and attention that Sony put into the A9's design, mirrorless cameras are finally starting to be seen as a worthy option for professional photographers.
Let's take a look through some of its most noteworthy features to understand if the Sony A9 can be a game changer for landscape photography too.
3.7 million dots
2.4 million dots
693-point Hybrid AF
399-point Hybrid AF
Mechanical Shutter:100-51200 (50-204,800 boosted)
Electronic Shutter: 100-25,600 (50-25,600 boosted)
100-25,600 (50-102400 boosted)
480 shots (viewfinder)
650 shots (LCD screen)
290 shots (viewfinder)
340 shots (LCD screen)
The A9 features a Sony-made Exmor full frame CMOS sensor with 24.2 megapixel resolution.
This chip is one of the most revolutionary features of the camera thanks to its unique stacked architecture.
Without getting too deep into the electronic design of it, the major benefit is that it allows data to be read from the sensor 20 times faster than previous designs.
This allows for a continuous shooting rate of an almost-unbelievable 20 frames per second in electronic shutter mode, even when shooting compressed RAW files.
This is completely unheard of for any camera, let alone a mirrorless camera. It also allows the camera's autofocus system to track subjects and update focus 60 times per second.
You will have noticed that we mentioned 'electronic shutter mode', because the A9 can actually select between mechanical and electronic shutters.
The mechanical shutter offers a wider ISO range of up to 204,800, while the electronic shutter can only reach 25,600. That being said, the electronic shutter is much faster and can also shoot in total silence - even at full speed.
In short, this camera is incredibly fast and capable. This makes it the perfect design to challenge Canon and Nikon for dominance in the action, sports and wildlife photography markets.
Unfortunately, that also means that most of the unique advantages it offers aren't going to be of much value to the landscape photographer, although it will still perform quite well at such tasks.
The things that a landscape photographer needs from their camera are a bit different from most other types of photography.
Autofocus tracking, burst shooting speed and rapid shutter speeds are all useful features, but they rarely play a big role in landscape photography.
We have this covered in depth in this post. Just to recap, here's what you prioritise instead:
The larger the sensor size in your camera, the better your image quality will be.
Smaller sensors pack their pixels as close together as possible, and more processing must be done to correct errors in their photosensitive cells.
The more heavily processed the image is, the lower quality it usually is.
Full frame or medium format cameras will produce much higher quality images because they can space out their photocells further.
That being said, the advantage that you get from an extremely high resolution sensor like the one found in the A7RII outweighs the benefits from the larger pixels of the A9's sensor.
Higher resolutions generally provide much more flexibility when it comes to how you use your photographs.
Shooting landscapes means that sometimes you have to make compromises in your compositions, and fix them later in post-processing.
You can crop a 50mp image in a lot more ways than a 24mp image and still have an extremely high resolution photo that can be used in a wider range of applications.
You can anyway check yourself the resolution and the sharpness of the A9 compared to the A7rii in this video by Jason Lanier
Shooting out of doors means that you don't have complete control over your lighting conditions, so a wider ISO range provides more flexibility.
The higher your maximum ISO setting, the better quality your images will be at the mid-range levels that are most commonly used.
You'll get better noise control and better details when stopped down a few levels from maximum, in the same way that you get sharper images with a lens stopped down from its widest aperture.
As for landscape photography the tripod is used most of the time, the ISO range is not a primary feature to consider.
Once the camera is on a solid tripod, you can go down with the ISO as much as possible and balance the light in with the shutter speed.
This is an extremely important consideration for landscape photographers for a couple of reasons.
First of all, you can't simply plug your battery in for a recharge when you're out shooting landscapes in the wilderness.
Secondly, bringing extra batteries or another power source is both expensive and heavy, which can be a problem when you have to carry all your gear yourself over rough terrain.
The A9 is an amazing camera overall, but most of its revolutionary features won't be used during landscape photography.
High-speed autofocus tracking and burst photography are great for action shots, but there isn't much call for them in landscape photography.
Of course, if you like to include wildlife or other moving subjects in your landscapes, then having the Sony A9 will be a plus .
It has a mid-range resolution sensor at 24mp, but when compared to the massive 42mp provided by the A7RII, it starts to seem a bit small.
This does mean that it can process and store images faster, and you can fit more images per memory card.
But these days, memory cards are cheap and lightweight, so this shouldn't be too much of a concern.
Many landscape photographers still swear by the Sony A7Rii even after seeing the capabilities of the A9. Whether or not it's worth upgrading depends primarily on the types of photography you are in.
If you shoot landscapes exclusively, probably you're not really going to benefit from the new features that add to the cost of the upgrade to the A9.
The most advantageous features of the A9 for landscape photographers are the expanded ISO range, with the caveat discussed before when it comes to shooting using a tripod and the added battery life.
However, the reduction of resolution is not a plus for many photographers who rely on the A7RII's 42mp sensor to create large-scale prints and crops.
Travel photography, on the other hand, covers a wide range of shooting styles.
The A9 is an excellent camera for almost all types of street and action photographs that you often find while travelling thanks to its incredibly fast capabilities.
The silent shutter mode can let you capture shots without distracting your subjects or getting odd looks from people in the street, and the extra battery life.
So, our final word is that, the Sony A9 is definitely an fantastic and innovative camera, no discussions about it.
If you shoot pure landscape photography though and have a Sony A7rii, you’ll likely not benefit the new features of the Sony A9. But if you are not only into landscape photography it is definitely an option to consider.
Hi, I am Luca, founder and editor in chief at photographyambition.com. I am crazy about photography and I always have a camera with me. When I am not busy with my day job, enjoying my family or taking photos, I am on Photography Ambition to share what I have learnt so far.
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