We’re finally getting out of lockdown here in Singapore and we’re back with our Sony A9 II review. Unfortunately, there’s no sports or zoo available for us, but we might not be able to show everything the lens can do, but here’s what we think about the Sony A9 II, 135mm f/1.8 FE GM, 100-400mm f/4.5 – 5.6 and 200-600mm f/5.6 – 6.3 lenses.
Now, this camera is an evolution, not a revolution compared to the original A9. That camera was fantastic then and is still fantastic today, and the A9 II is for all intents and purposes, an A9+. Some of the big changes are the handgrip and body design.
The A7RIV came out and addressed some of the concerns that people with larger hands have, and the same design has made its way to the A9 II. There’s also a larger battery grip now since it has to fit the larger handgrip, and with both things together, it’s a great feeling camera in the hand.
There’s also improved weather sealing for rougher conditions and an updated processor. You still get blazing fast 20fps continuous shooting with the electronic shutter and 10fps with the mechanical shutter. It’s not class-leading, the Canon 1DX Mark III had 15fps with the mechanical shutter, but there is the 20fps electronic shutter and there’s no warping or distortion there.
The colour science has been improved and it’s a welcome change, there’s less editing required now for skin tones in photos. Sony has also given up on their Memory Stick card slot and put in two UHS-II slots.
There’s 5GHz WiFi connectivity in the camera, along with a 1000BASE-T LAN port if you ever need to connect your camera to the Internet. Along with all that, you also get slightly improved battery life.
With the 135mm f/1.8 FE GM lens, you get a great lens. It’s biting sharp, and it’s really Sony at their best. First off, there’s a faster XD Linear Motor AF System inside, 13 elements 10 groups and weighs in at 950g.
It’s not the lightest lens on the market but it feels great on the A9 II. The filter diameter is 82mm, and you should really consider getting an ND filter if you’re planning on shooting outside, wide open, in bright daylight.
This lens is excellent for portraiture, blowing out the background and producing beautiful photos. It’s not a lens you’ll use all the time because of the longer focal length, but if you really want to see what Sony can do with their GM lenses, this is the lens to try.
The 100-400mm f/4.5 – 5.6 OSS GM lens is an all-around good zoom lens. It’s not the sharpest, but you do get Optical Steady Shot so you’ll have image stabilisation in both the lens and body.
The lens does have a telescopic zoom, which some people don’t mind, some people mind. Personally, we would have preferred if it was internal, but it is what it is.
There are 22 elements, 16 groups and the lens does not come light, at 1,395g. There’s a tripod ring which is non-removable, so you’re good to go there. It’s not a wow lens, but it’s a good workhorse for this focal length. Be wary shooting in low-light conditions with this lens though, because at f/5.6 at 400mm, it’s not the fastest and you’ll have to bump the ISO up to compensate.
Moving on to our favourite zoom lens from Sony, the 200-600mm f/5.6 – 6.3 OSS G lens. Let’s get it out of the way, it is a big lens, but when you consider the focal length of this thing, it’s actually not too bad.
Usability-wise, it really fits the bill for a lot of people who don’t want to buy a 600mm lens because it’s really limiting. It’s not the fastest lens, and it’s definitely a daylight lens. You can shoot in low-light, but the ISO will be high and you’ll notice a lot of noise in photos.
You get 24 elements, 17 groups and the lens is a whopping 2,115g. With any of these zoom lenses, it’s best to have the battery grip attached to the camera body because you’ll really be struggling otherwise.
Autofocusing speed is relatively quick, but it’s not the fastest. If you’re the type of photographer to require this level of zoom, you really should check this lens out.
Final thoughts? We didn’t think the A9 even had to be improved much because it was already a camera ahead of its time. One of the things we do wish was improved, however, is the EVF. It’s the same 3.69 million dot EVF that’s on the A9, and it’s industry standard, but the Sony A7RIV had a much higher resolving EVF and we wish the A9 II had one too.
Another improvement would be on the card slots. For a camera that’s meant for sports photography, you want to be able to continuously take shots and not have to worry about the buffer filling up. It’s decent on the A9 II but it would have been nice to see an XQD or CFexpress card slot.
Other than that, it feels like a sturdier camera overall, and the grip improvement is much appreciated. This might be a camera to consider if you want to go into mirrorless and want to get something that will last for a while.
More information about the Sony A9 II (S$6,299) is available on Sony’s website.