D850 user takes Sony A9 on vacation

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Jonathan Brady
Jonathan Brady Veteran Member • Posts: 6,331
D850 user takes Sony A9 on vacation
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First off, I'm posting this here on the Nikon FX forum because

  1. He's a D850 shooter and he's giving his impressions of another camera, therefore his thoughts may be most likely to mirror (hehe) the users of this forum, and
  2. Obviously, Nikon has mirrorless coming so seeing the "high end" of what mirrorless is capable of (last year) should provide an idea of the "bar" that Nikon may have to jump over to be competitive this year and over the life of their first generation models.

As an A9 user who switched from Sony and is eager to see what Nikon brings to market, my thoughts on the video are:

  • why in the world didn't he use Eye AF?
  • he's holding the camera the way that most DSLR users have been enabled to hold their cameras which is by the grip. However, the ideal way to hold a camera, IMO anyway, is by the lens.

    With a grip like that, on the lens, not the camera body, you bring the camera to your face with your left hand and your right hand meets it on the way. Then, you hold the camera grip with your right hand (rather loosely, if you'd like) and wrap the fingers of your left hand around the fingers on your right hand (with a shorter lens, anyway) as this improves stability even further. Such a grip negates two primary complaints:
    • 1) "the grip is too small". <-- That's because you're trying to use the fingers of your right hand to hold a multi-pound object while gravity tries to rip it from the ends of your fingers instead of using the palm of your left hand and the "webbing" between your thumb and forefinger to allow it to simply rest.
      • Of note, MOST controls on a camera are on the right side of the camera and if you're gripping the camera with your right hand it makes changing those controls harder than if you're resting the camera in your left and your right hand is free to move around all over the place.
    • 2) "I must have balanced lenses". <-- First off, define "balance" for me. At what point along the lens' body should 50% of the weight be in front and 50% behind? At the halfway mark from front to back? Somewhere else? I'm sure it's lens dependent, right? Are we including the weight of the camera? Because if so, the weight distribution of the lens needs to change based on the weight of the camera. The bottom line is when you allow the camera/lens combo to simply rest in your left hand, balance takes care of itself.
  • The EVF - he mentioned that it was too bright and it appeared as though a lot of things were blown out.
    • Just like the rear screen, you can adjust the brightness of the EVF.
    • More important is to put the histogram in the EVF and learn how many stops past the right hand side of the histogram you can still recover highlights. For me, If I'm trying to ETTR, I'll push the histogram to the right edge, and then continue pushing for another 1.3 stops as that is where I feel comfortable recovering highlights most of the time with the A9. When I had the A7RIII, I'd go 1.7 or 2 stops past the right edge of the histogram.
  • The D850 isn't the most natural competitor to the A9, that would be the A7RIII. However, he normally uses two systems, one for photos and one for video whereas the A9 will do both very well (in fact, he said the video AF was the best he's ever experienced). But, so will the A7RIII. Personally, I found the AF of the A9 to be noticeably superior for action vs the A7RIII, the silent shooting mode is dramatically superior (no blackout and no distortion of moving subjects) while the image and video quality are better with the A7RIII.
  • Speaking of video, he mentioned the crop for 4k video but that's only in 30fps. In 24fps, there is no crop. In fact, it's 6k downsampled to 4k so it's incredibly sharp. This was mentioned in the article on the website but not the video.
  • Battery life results weren't touched on in the video. In the article on their website, he mentions that he only charged the battery once in 10 days despite using the camera for photos and video. He did mention that he didn't use the camera a ton. My experience has been that battery life has more or less (depending on the day and what I'm doing) equaled my 5D Mark IV.
  • He didn't mention sensor stabilization which I found odd. Obviously, in certain scenarios, it has the ability to provide several stops to an image or video which can be huge for image quality.

Ultimately, for a 2-week vacation trial run, I think he did a pretty good job with the review. My bullet points above may seem to contradict that statement but here's the thing, I don't believe that most people can really get a "feel" for a camera/system until they've used it for a while and in a variety of situations. It took me several weeks to stop chimping and rely on WYSIWYG in the EVF and I also abandoned back button focusing after a few months with the A9 as I didn't feel like I needed it anymore whereas I used it religiously with Canon. So, given the length of time he used it, I would fully expect there to be some omissions (the Eye AF omission is baffling, though) and misunderstandings.

At the end of the day, this is NOT a "pro A9" post. It's NOT a "pro D850" post. It's also not a "pro mirrorless" or "pro DSLR" post. I don't think either camera is THE camera for everyone but I do think that either camera could/would make MOST people happy. It comes down to individual preferences, honestly. I like his conclusion though: "at the very least, an equivalent choice". I'd be a little more political and say that depending on the user it could be a downgrade, a lateral move, or an upgrade.

Finally, I'd like to reiterate that this post was just to share some general info on mirrorless, especially top-end mirrorless, from the perspective of a D850 user (and professional). I know that on this forum, some see mirrorless as a threat for myriad reasons. Likewise for Sony. Personally, I don't see it that way. I believe DSLR and mirrorless will coexist for quite some time, if not forever, and I also believe that Sony can't put Nikon out of the camera business and Nikon can't put Sony out either. Neither has to lose for the other to win. So, rather than scream at me about being aligned to Sony (I'm not, I'm just currentlyusing some of their products) or some variety of choice insults, how about we have a group interbrand, interformat hug while we all look forward to Nikon's mirrorless announcement!

I hope you found the video informative.

 Jonathan Brady's gear list:Jonathan Brady's gear list
Sony a9 Zeiss Batis 25mm F2 Zeiss Batis 85mm F1.8 Sony FE 70-300mm F4.5-5.6 G OSS Sony FE 100mm F2.8 GM +2 more
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