Implications of the Sony Alpha A9

I have been a user of Nikon SLRs for 25 years and feel a commitment to the system, I understand it and can use it easily and without thinking. I also have an investment in lenses, accessories and camera bodies. However because over half of my pictures are natural light at around 35mm focal length, mainly people and travel, an SLR is not a “must have” for a lot of my pictures and so I have normally had a second camera or system to use side by side, normally a camera that’s more portable. The second camera has normally had limitations though, most of the time this second system has been Leica M, amazing at 35mm but not versatile and since moving to digital, Leica X, with its own limitations. With film, the Leica MP felt close to perfect, but I still needed an SLR for the times I wanted longer focal lengths or flash. 

Fundamentally the ideal would always be a single system, the Sony A9 suggests possibilities, my interest in the A9 is based on how close this would come, or more accurately, drive the camera industry generally towards producing my ideal single system.

I have no emotional attachment to the mirror / pentaprism arrangement in traditional SLRs. It has many unnecessary compromises in a non-film world - not just size, but noise, mechanical complexity and difficulty in maintaining focus accuracy. However, whilst it is getting close, I have yet to find an EVF that performs as well as an optical finder, particularly in low light. Sony’s promise of a high quality EVF with no blackout is very interesting. 

Whilst I need responsiveness, not fps, the A9’s credentials as a sports camera indicate speed will not be an issue in terms of AF and shutter performance. On the subject of shutter, doing away with the mechanical shutter for all but flash photography would also give me the silent photography that helps with candid pictures, again a big positive of my Leica X and previously Ms over SLRs. 

I do classify myself as a Nikon fan and maybe even feel a sense of loyalty but I would love to have a single system that will replace both Nikon FX and Leica X, removing the compromises on noise, size and weight with Nikon and lack of versatility and viewfinder with the Leica X. The Sony A9 seems to be approaching this sweet spot. 

For many photographers the lack of Sony lenses compared with the vast array available with other systems is a concern, for me what exists today is sufficient. 

In summary, the new Sony A9 is very interesting, maybe even a game changer. I would love the A9 to be a serious contender as a single system but am sceptical as to whether it will really deliver, the biggest doubt for me is around Sony ergonomics which feel unrefined and overly complex compared with Nikon and Leica. 

 Sony A9 image courtesy Kārlis Dambrāns

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