Sony has now released the Sony A9 mark 2, a follow up to this game changing camera. I thought it was a good time for a review of the original to see if it still holds up after 2 years of solid use ( given that it cost over £4k on release, you’d hope so!). I am a documentary wedding photographer, based in Berkshire in the UK. For a few years prior to getting the A9 I’d been using the Fujifilm mirrorless cameras and they had been great. The only things I didn’t like about them were the battery life and the continuous autofocus. They were not terrible by any means, and by itself those things would not have made me switch camera brand.
What really sold me on the A9 was the completely silent shooting. I’d moved over to the Fujis to be more discreet and have less weight to carry. The Fuji’s were certainly a lot quieter than my DSLR set up, and definitely lighter. They enabled me to mingle with the wedding guests and practice a style of wedding photography I’d discovered I loved, the documentary, candid style.
The Fuji’s were great, but they were not totally silent. Like most mirrorless cameras they had an electronic shutter mode but it is prone to distortion and banding where movement is involved. The A9 ( and it’s successor ) is still the only mirrorless camera on the market where you really don’t have to worry about that, due to it’s stacked sensor. I have seen some banding due to LED lighting in some venues, but it’s been very rare and adjusting the shutter speed has fixed the issue.
20 frames per second
In e-shutter mode the A9 can shoot at a mind boggling 20fps. I almost never use this for wedding photography, but I do also shoot wildlife and sports photography on occasion so it’s nice to have. I normally use 10 frames per second when I’m shooting a wedding, and that means the incredibly deep buffer almost never runs out. For shots like the confetti run having that sort of speed is very nice, but speed is no good with out accuracy, which brings me on the next part, autofocus.
The autofocus on this camera was amazing when I got it, then it got even better! Sony released a firmware update last year which improved an already best in class AF system to improve the tracking even more. Continuous autofocus was always a weak spot for the Fuji system. It is a lot better now than it used to be, but it in no way matches this camera. The eye detection was something I dismissed as a marketing gimmick , until I used it in my wedding photography, at which point in blew my mind, in a good way. You can track a bride’s eye as she is covered in confetti moving towards you. You can track her eye as she moves down a dark church towards you. It really is incredible and feels like cheating, especially as you can do all this at 20 frames a second if you want to, completely silently. For a documentary wedding photographer like me this has been a game changer. I leave the AF on continuous now for pretty much everything, as that enables eye and face detection. It simply doesn’t work in AF-S, and the AF-S is actually not great, the total opposite of the Fujis. It does make life easier at weddings though, as I don’t have to switch between modes like I did on the Fujis.
The shot below is a good example of the autofocus. It was very dim light but I looked up, saw Alice coming down the stairs, pointed the A9 at her and face detection instantly grabbed focus on her. I got the shot without even looking at the screen.
You are losing a little bit of dynamic range to the A7 line due to the unique sensor, but I find the image quality to be excellent and your clients will not be able to tell the difference. I find shadow recovery very good especially. The dynamic range of most modern cameras is more than sufficient for wedding photography, the Fujis were excellent in this regard as well, despite being crop sensor cameras. They were not as good as the A9 however, which gives really punchy, sharp images when paired with good lenses.
The not so good bits
No camera is perfect, so what are the negatives of the Sony A9? Well, the mechanical shutter isn’t great, and it’s one of the areas they have worked on for the A9 II. It can only manage 5 frames a second, which is still decent and as fast as I need for strobe work, but it feels clunky. If you are using flash or strobes you cannot use the e-shutter, and the responsiveness of the mechanical shutter has been criticised. It has improved with firmware though, and I don’t find it any worse than my Fuji system was, but if you are coming from a DSLR, you don’t get that instant response you do from something like a D810, especially with a flashgun in the hotshoe. I have used flash plenty of times with the A9 though and it’s certainly not a deal breaker. 90% of the time I’m using the silent e-shutter anyway. I do tend to migrate over to my A7R3 for studio work though.
Other than that, the only other issue is the focussing square being grey and hard to see, but that just got fixed in a firmware update! Battery life is best in class for mirrorless cameras, though still not up to DSLR standards. I use the A9 with a grip and 2 batteries and it gets through a wedding day without me swapping batteries. A typical wedding day would be 3000 images captured for me. My style of wedding photography is not really run and gun, but with the A9 it’s hard not to take too many shots and almost none are out of focus.
Overall this is the best wedding camera on the market in my opinion, for documentary wedding photographers like myself in particular. I wouldn’t go to a wedding without it! Here are a few more wedding images from the Sony A9.
I’ve not done much bridal photography for a little while now, and like buses, two came along at once. One is in the process of being published but I can share some shots from the other one. A full team came along for this one, including two make up artists, a hair stylist and 5 models!!! I had a second photographer to help me as well. Let me introduce the youngest model….
The head piece was one of a number provided by Carrie Courtney, who has an amazing, and growing collection of these creations that she sells all over the world. For the photographers reading this, most of these images are shot on my Sony A7R3 and 85mm 1.4.
Did I mention we also had owls? As in, real life owls that are trained to fly around with rings at weddings….
This amazing day was 12 hours after I returned back from my family holiday in Madeira. A couple who had gotten to know my brother had asked him if he knew a wedding photographer who would photograph their 50th wedding anniversary. Unfortunately it was all the way over near Chelmsford, so a heck of a drive after travelling back from Madeira. Look at this Church though! This was where Stan and Maggie got married 50 years ago…
Stan and Maggie
I’d not met Stan before, so it was a bit of a surprise when he turned up with a blue beard! And then Maggie turned up with bright red hair, and it all made more sense! This was a couple who were very much still young at heart.
After the usual mingling of guests outside it was time for the ceremony. I was asked to limit the photography to certain areas and to avoid photos during the ceremony. Of course I complied with this, but still got some lovely images before and after the wedding vow renewal.
After the ceremony…
Well, it was all a bit emotional actually. I could see that there were a lot of old friends who hadn’t seen each other in a long time. For a documentary wedding photographer, having an event like these filled with these moments is amazing. I just tried to capture as many of these moments as I could.
The Wedding Reception
The reception venue is on the coast, and on a sunny day it’s a gorgeous place for people to mingle. The kids were playing around, there were some lovely nibbles, it was all really rather perfect.
The Wedding Breakfast
I know it was really a Wedding Vow Renewal Breakfast, but that’s just too much of a mouthful. It was that time of day when everyone goes inside for food and people make speeches. The speeches were certainly some of the rudest I’d heard in a long time, but very funny. A lot of these people had known each other for decades, so there was plenty of material for funny stories. After that it was time for the dance floor!
Lastly, it was a blood moon, which is very rare. Some of the guests wanted a picture so I obliged! Please bear in mind it was very dark at this point!
It was a real privilege to be part of an event like this. 50th wedding anniversaries don’t come around very often. I’m now approaching my own 20th wedding anniversary, so only 30 years to go! Thanks for reading.
I may be a Berkshire based wedding photographer but I keep getting bookings in Northampton for some reason! I’m not complaining though, all the weddings in this area have been wonderful. This wedding was no exception, and I knew a few of the guests already. I was the wedding photographer for Ben’s brother James a few years ago when he married Sophie. We began, as usual, with bridal prep.
The lighting in this room was very yellow so I used the IceLight ( which looks like half a lightsabre! ) to offset it. Katie’s mum was a good laugh, it’s always nice to have someone like her around to lighten the mood and relax everyone.
The Wedding Ceremony
I’ve been very lucky with the weather in Northampton during my wedding photography career. This was the day that luck ran out!! What started as mild drizzle during bridal prep turned into torrential rain for the ceremony. That wasn’t too much of a problem for the ceremony itself, which was beautiful and emotional.
This is where the weather brought us a bit of a challenge. Ben and Katie really wanted some cool confetti shots. I was getting the umbrellas ready when James suggested doing it indoors. The vicar was on board with this ( this is a very close knit church community ) so I got the flash out and we went for it.
The wedding formal shots
The indoor confetti run worked really well, so we migrated to the Hilton in Northampton for the guests to mingle and have a drink while I pondered how we were going to do the wedding formals in the pouring rain. I did have some indoor options of course, there is always a backup plan! In the end we didn’t need it though. The hotel had a covered area in front of the entrance, with a long lens I was able to get all the group shots done there! Here is one with Ben and Katie.
The Hilton had provided a lovely room for the wedding breakfast and after some mingling in the hotel bar everyone headed there next. Lighting was pretty yellow again, so I used a flash to make things look a little brighter. Mixing flash with ambient light is one of key technical skills for a wedding photographer. I prefer to use natural light for 90% of the wedding day but sometimes you just really need to add to it. Here are more images from the wedding reception.
One of my favourite part of any wedding is the dancing. I was a bit concerned at this wedding that people might be a bit more reserved, as it was a mostly dry wedding. If anything, people hit the dance floor a lot more quickly than normal and stayed there a lot longer, I was impressed!
I’ll end with a shot of the happy couple. They were a joy to spend the day with and despite the inclement weather the wedding went beautifully and it was a pleasure to be their wedding photographer. If you are interested in booking me for your wedding please contact me via this page…Contact Me.
This was my second shoot with the gang at Nail House Rock down near Brighton. The brief for this shoot was to produce some images for Scratch magazine. Apparently this is a big magazine in the nail industry, but as I am a serial nail biter I had no idea! The staff had done some brilliant styling as usual but it was left to me to get some commercial quality images for the magazine in the fairly small salon. Luckily there were some plain walls and some interesting wallpaper to use as background.
For this type of shoot high res images are a must. I was using my Sony A7R3 which has plenty of resolution for this sort of job. The lens I used was the Sony 55mm, which was just right for the small space I found myself shooting in. I was going for a very clean look, with a bit of a retro vibe. The clients were delighted, and we are already talking about another shoot next year.
Please get in touch here to book commercial, editorial or wedding shoots…
Selfies and mobile pictures never used to be a thing of course. Now half the wedding seems to be filled with guests taking selfies or posing for their friends. At 46 years old my kids think I’m ancient. So it would be easy for me to just moan and groan about it, but actually I love it. I don’t love it for the wedding procession, as there are very good reasons for the phones to go away at that part of the wedding day. This article on that very subject recently went viral..https://petapixel.com/2019/07/13/wedding-photog-this-is-why-guests-should-put-phones-away/. I’m here today to look at the more positive side of mobiles and selfies for wedding photography.
I think phone shots like the one above are fun. When people are doing selfies and the like, they are totally unaware of you, and it actually makes for some lovely images.
A new type of candid image
The selfie and the phone shots have become a new type of candid image. It’s no use moaning about it, we are there to capture the day as it happens. These days, a fair bit of the day people are taking selfies, so why not just embrace it and try and make some fun images along the way? The one below is one of my favourites from last year, it really captures the fun they were having on the day.
How do I manage the mobile issue?
When a client books me for wedding photography we always meet in person or via Skype to go through potential issues. One of the issues I always bring up is the use of mobiles at the wedding. The approach I recommend is to talk to the person officiating at the ceremony. Ask them to request that guests put the mobiles away for the ceremony. At all other times it’s easy to deal with mobiles, but the ceremony is an exception to that rule. It really is as simple as that and in my experience you don’t need to do anything else.
A bridal shoot is not something I do often, I prefer candid, unposed wedding photography. However, as I have worked with a lot of models due to my fashion photography, I do get asked to do them now and then. I’ve worked with Shannon a lot, and she had arranged a full team for this one.
We had Sandra Parsons on hair, flowers by Brandon and his team at Flowers4ShopWorthing providing the florals. Mode Bridal in Henfield provided the dresses, which were amazing. The only thing that wasn’t with us was the weather. Typically for the UK, the one day of that week which was cold and wet was the day of the shoot. We still got the shots however! The first two are from some woodland and are fine art type shots, loosely based on some ideas Shannon had.
Onto the horses..
We then left the shelter of the woods to go and meet the horses. I’ve always been a bit scared of horses ( they have big teeth! ), but Shannon wasn’t. Doing a bridal shoot isn’t always easy, it was cold and wet and windy at this point but Shannon didn’t let it show. The horses were brilliant as well, but I don’t think they minded the weather as much as us. In between shots we keep Shannon under an umbrella and wrapped up warm.
This isn’t really a post about wedding photography. It is a post about a wedding! I married Katherine Jones 19 years ago, in Hereford. We’ve just come back from a slightly delayed anniversary get away down in Bournemouth. Our actual wedding day is June 3rd but the practicalities of family life mean we can’t always get away on that day. We drove down to Swanage, which I haven’t been to in 20 years. I’ve climbed down there a few times but not since I got married. The coastline here is spectacular.
I don’t take much in the way of photography gear when I’m out with the family, or, in this case, my wife. I took my Fuji X-T3 and the 16mm 1.4 lens. This lens is great for landscape shots but also macro and people shots, it’s just a great all rounder and one of my all time favourite lenses.
We then headed back to Bournemouth. Cunningly, I’d booked our trip for a Thursday night so that it was both cheaper and far less crowded than going at the weekend. After a fantastic Spanish meal and some half price cocktails ( Thursday night again! ) we lurched back to our hotel. The next morning we hit the beach and I have NEVER seen Bournemouth beach this quiet!
Of course the massive storm clouds in the background might give a clue as to why it was quiet. We escaped Bournemouth before the rains came and headed back home via the New Forest. It was a lovely trip, I’m hoping to get back down that way soon ( a few weddings are in the pipeline down that way !).
I don’t just shoot weddings! I have some regular clients who book me for event photography as well, in this case a corporate party event. These are a lot of fun, and require a similar skillset to weddings. This was the setting for this particular party, which was an end of year party. The boat was run by this company if you are looking for something similar, they did a great job. https://www.silverfleet.co.uk/silver-sturgeon/
Of course London does present some challenges. The biggest one for me is getting there with all my gear. This party was on a boat, in the middle of London. I packed light, just a couple of Godox flashes for lighting, and my usual cameras and lenses. I took a Sony A9, an A7R3 and the 85mm and 35mm primes. I also packed a Fuji X-T3 with the 16mm 1.4 for getting some wider shots.
The Party begins…
I was there early as usual to capture the first arrivals. I try to capture a good mix of candid images and the more posed shots. I’ve worked with this company a few times now and have learned a couple of important things. Firstly, they love a good party! Second, they love having group photos taken! So I always know that the moment I stop taking candid shots someone will ask me to photograph them with their friends. This is actually great for me, I love a good mix of images.
I said before that these events require a similar set of skills and gear to a wedding. This is because the entire party is like a wedding reception without the speeches. There is generally not a lot of light. What light there is will be yellow, or strongly coloured. So for most shots I need to use flash, but do so without losing the atmosphere.
I generally let people eat in peace unless they want me to take photos. Most people don’t look at their best when eating! After the meal ( which was lovely ) it was time to hit the dance floor. This, again, is very like the end of a wedding after evening reception gets going.
I also took some shots of London as we passed by on the Thames, to give them all something cool to remember from the boat trip.
Then there was just enough time to get a few photos of the dancing done before the party finished. It was a great evening and great fun to be the photographer for it. If your company needs some event photography please contact me here via this page: http://www.croshawphotography.com/contact/