Most people have been expecting an update to the Sony a9, and given that next year is an Olympic year, we may see an a9 II here shortly. The original a9 was groundbreaking in many ways. While its specs made it look like a Nikon D5 and Canon 1DX Mk II killer, it didn’t gain the traction that Sony had hoped for among pro sports photographers. If there is going to be a Sony a9 II, it will need to score a perfect 10 if it wants to take home gold at the Olympics next year. Let’s take a quick look at what we think the Sony a9 II will need to be crowned champion.
The Sony a9 really got peoples attention when it was released in April of 2017, and many saw it as the dawn of a new age for professional sports photography. The a9’s advanced tracking system, the ability to fire off 20 frames per second, and its blackout-free electronic viewfinder really put it head and shoulders above the rest of the playing field. Then there were features like the dual card slots and a built-in Ethernet port for fast file transfers. You also got excellent image quality from the 24 Megapixel sensor, but there was a problem.
The Sony a9 just wasn’t designed to be used in the harsh world of professional sports photography. It’s smaller size made it hard for pros along the sidelines to use, and its build quality was nowhere near the levels that were expected. The Nikon D5 and the Canon 1DX Mk II are built like tanks, and they can survive taking a royal beating. The a9 pales in comparison, and this is one of the reasons why you still see very few Sony cameras at sporting events. Granted, the Sony a9 isn’t badly built at all. But compare that to a rugged DSLR and there is no contest.
As expected, Nikon has just announced their new D6. It’s a massive DSLR camera that makes the a9 look like a toy. We’re sure that Canon likely has something up their sleeves too for the upcoming Olympics seeing as the 1DX Mk II is now 4 years old. Professional sports photography is one area where Canon and Nikon both still reign supreme. If Sony wants to topple these two from the podium, they will need to deliver something quite special in the a9 II.
The Sony A9 II needs to be bigger, stronger, and more weather sealed than any Sony camera that has come before it. There needs to be a built-in grip that will allow the user to have at least two z series batteries in the camera at all times. Controls and dials need to be well spaced out, and they need to be larger in size so that they are easier to use on the fly. Sony has kept Mirrorless cameras small, and I do appreciate that, but professional sports photography is one genre where this design ethos does not work.
Does the Sony a9 II need to be as big as the other guys? No, of course not. No mirror automatically means smaller, but there does need to be a good increase in size and a measure of robustness that’s far greater than the original a9. Sony should take a look at the Olympus OMD EM1X to see what a tough-as-nails Mirrorless camera can look like.
So, just what will Sony need to do to make the Sony a9 II (if there will even be one) a Nikon D6 killer? According to a recent article over at Sony Alpha Rumors, the new A9 II will feature a sensor that packs between 33 and 36 Megapixels, so that’s a good start. A sensor like this, coupled with Sony’s incredible autofocus and tracking systems, will enable photographers to make highly detailed images in just about any fast-paced scenario.
Japan’s 5G Network
Japan plans on having a 5G network in place for the 2020 Olympic games. If Sony can integrate a 5G data connection into the camera so that photographers can send images back to their publications wirelessly, that would be game-changing. Heck, even LTE data integration would be groundbreaking at this point. Sony was on the right track with the Ethernet port on the a9, but wireless would be the way to go.
We all know that Sony’s tech capabilities are far more advanced than Nikon’s and Canon’s right now. The spec sheet for the a9 II will probably make the D6, and any new camera from Canon tremble in their tripod mounts. Sony really needs to take a page from Canon and Nikon’s book when it comes to ergonomics and overall build quality for a camera like this. Small and dainty does not belong along the sidelines at major sporting events.
I’m not concerned with the overall specs of any potential Sony a9 II. I know Sony will blow the other guys away when it comes to that. I’m more concerned about the design, the handling, and the voice that says ‘I can use this camera in the toughest environments while being surrounded by hundreds of photographers who will street fight to get the shot.’ These are the things that need to be addressed in a major way by Sony. Then, and only then will we start seeing less Canon and Nikon cameras, and more Sony bodies along the touchlines. What do you think about a new camera in the a9 series? What do you think the a9 II needs to take the gold? Let us know in the comment section below.