What's new and how it compares

Key takeaways:

  • The a9 II gains updated ergonomics and the larger grip first seen on its high-resolution a7R IV cousin
  • Dual UHS-II SD card slots should speed up write times after large bursts
  • Updated mechanical shutter now tops out at 10 fps with continuous autofocus
  • Speedier networking
  • Images or bursts of images can now have voice memos attached to them

Updated ergonomic, autofocus and other tweaks

The a9 II receives the same ergonomic updates Sony first bestowed upon its a7R IV. For starters, the grip is a bit larger and more comfortable, every button on the exterior is easier to find by feel and offers greater travel, and dials have better feedback. Sony is also promising enhanced weather-sealing on the a9 II.

A large, dedicated AF-ON button and massive, well-textured AF joystick make it easy to take control of the a9 II's autofocus, and the AF point can now be displayed in a bright red color for easier viewing (your other option is white). Of course, you may not need to use the AF joystick all that much, as the a9 II also comes out of the box with Sony's latest autofocus tracking technology. It's so reliable and easy to use that you may only rarely need to move your AF point at all, or change AF settings all that often.

The a9 II also comes with a new, faster processor which, along with updated AF algorithms, promise improved autofocus speed and acquisition times (and the previous a9 was already a good performer in this respect, particularly with firmware version 5.0).

Finally, Sony claims a slightly improved in-body stabilization system that offers 1/2 EV more shake reduction than the previous a9.

Even more speed

The Alpha 9 series has always been about outright speed, and the a9 II has some welcome updates to help keep professional sports and action shooters satisfied. First up, the a9 II now makes use of dual UHS-II card slots (the previous model only had one of these).

While these cards can't keep up with the insane speeds promised by XQD and CFexpress formats, they should be enough for most users, especially when combined with the a9 II's deep buffer.

The a9 II also gains an updated mechanical shutter, which is rated to 500,000 actuations and is capable of 10 fps bursts (the original a9 could only manage 5 fps). This is of particular importance for photographers shooting sports indoors, as some types of lighting can still cause banding issues with the 20 fps fully electronic shutter.

Lastly, the ethernet port is now capable of gigabit speeds and the built-in Wi-Fi now supports 5GHz 802.11ac connections in addition to 2.4GHz options. The a9 II can also now store up to 10 different sets of FTP settings.

Voice memos

One final addition of note is that the a9 II now supports the tagging of individual images or bursts of images with voice memos. This feature has been something of a staple on competing sports cameras for some time, and allows users to quickly record information on, say, a particularly significant play they just photographed. And when you're photographing hundreds of plays and ending up with thousands of images for a full sporting match, having this sort of audio tagging can be a godsend for captioning images later on.

Compared to...

We'll take a look at how the a9 II compares against not only its predecessor, but also speedy full-frame cameras from Canon, Nikon and Leica.

Sony a9 II Canon EOS-1D X III Nikon D6 Leica SL2 Sony a9
MSRP at launch $4500 $6499 $6499 $5999 $4500
Resolution 24MP 20.1MP 21MP 47MP 24MP

Viewfinder (mag, res)

Electronic, 0.78x, 3.68M-dot Optical, 0.76x Optical, 0.72x Electronic, 0.78x,
5.76M-dot
Electronic, 0.78x, 3.68M-dot

Screen

1.44M-dot tilting touchscreen 2.1M-dot fixed touchscreen 2.36M-dot fixed touchscreen 2.1M-dot fixed touchscreen 1.44M-dot tilting touchscreen

Image stabilization

5-axis in-body + lens Lens only Lens only 5-axis in-body + lens 5-axis in-body + lens
Burst speed (e-shutter) 20 fps 20 fps 10.5 fps 20 fps 20 fps
Burst speed (mech. shutter) 10 fps 16 fps OVF/ 20 fps LV 14 fps 10 fps 5 fps
Max video resolution 4K/30p (1.2x crop) 5.5K/60p Raw 4K/30p 4K/60p 4K/30p (1.2x crop)
Card format 2x UHS-II SD 2x CFexpress Type B 2x XQD / CFexpress Type B 2x UHS-II SD 1x UHS-I, 1x UHS-II SD
Battery life (CIPA rated) 500 EVF / 690 screen 2850 OVF / 610 screen 3580 OVF (no value given for screen) 370 EVF (no value given for screen) 480 EVF / 650 screen
Wireless connectivity 2.4GHz + 5GHz 2.4GHz + 5GHz 2.4GHz + 5GHz 2.4GHz + 5GHz 2.4GHz
Dimensions 129 x 96 x 76mm 158 x 168 x 83mm 160 x 159 x 92mm 146 x 107 x 42mm 127 x 96 x 63mm
Weight 678g (24oz) 1440g (51oz) 1270g (45oz) 835g (29oz) 673g (24oz)