It’s been a while since I tested a camera from Sony. The last professional, mirrorless Sony camera I tested was the A7RII, which is a really good camera that can do it all, except maybe fast action stuff. Then recently the Sony A9 was released and I was really eager to check it out, because this is like a wish list camera, it just ticks all the boxes of what you would want from a camera and more, a lot more.
Like most of my reviews, it is not in any way scientific, it is a real-world experience using the A9. I will not drown you with technical specs and scientific tests.
Just to give you a brief background in terms of my camera I use, I’m shooting with Fujifilm and Nikon, and I have an Olympus m4/3 on the side. Enough of me, and more about the Sony A9.
Autofocus speed and frame rates The first thing I noticed with the A9 is the superb auto focus system. The 693 AF points with 20 fps seems like a typo on a spec sheet, but it’s not! To get a clear picture, the Canon 1Dx maxes out at 16 fps and Nikon D5 at 14 fps. To top it up, it is also equipped with 241 shot raw buffer, silent shooting, courtesy of the electronic shutter and an uninterrupted viewfinder, so there’s no blackout when you go nuts and shoot at 20 fps, oh yeah, welcome to the future. Did I mentioned the 693 AF points? The AF is accurate and quick, especially with the 24-70, 16-35 and 70-200 2.8 G lenses. The tracking works great too, I did have a chance to use it at a local drifting event and it was great. Full disclosure, I’m not a sports shooter myself but I shoot moving cars from time to time and I can tell that the system works great. I noticed a few missed focused shots when doing AF tracking and racking the zoom at the same time, but no deal-breaking stuff.
In terms of fashion shoot and editorial, it is a phenomenal performer. You can capture pretty much everything with that 20 fps and who said that 20 fps is only for sports shooting, I would disagree, I think you can take advantage of that monstrous frame rates to capture in-between poses of a fashion shoot or any outdoors shoot for that matter. I think, this would be perfect for a wedding photographer too, since the AF is bullet-proof even on low light or mixed lighting.
Dual SD Card slots This might be an overlooked feature but for a professional shoot, a camera isn’t complete without it. I personally use it as a backup for those really high-paid or critical photo assignments. Sometimes I use it as a quick hand-off of photos for the photo editors. I make the other SD card to store small JPEGs so I can hand it over to clients and so they can let me know which files to edit. For shooting events, you can use it to continually store photos avoiding changing SD cards at that crucial moment. As for the technical aspect, the two card slots are not the same, I was told the first slot is the faster one supporting UHS II while the other one is UHS I. It didn’t bother me on my shooting workflow but it might be crucial to some. For me the only take-away is that I need to make sure that my faster card is going to the UHS II slot.
The A7 series cameras doesn’t support touch screens and to be honest, I myself prefer the touch screen. Every time I use my Olympus OMD, I always wish that my Fuji X-T2 and D810 would also have one. It is just an easy way to focus. The A9 touch functionality is limited to focusing which is really the main thing you would want for a touch screen. However, the touch function on the menu would have been great.
Build quality, design and ergonomics The Sony A9 mirrorless camera may not receive top prize in a beauty pageant, but it’ll surely win the grand prize for the talent show hands down by a long mile! But hey, looks are purely subjective but what’s not is what this camera brings to the table. In terms of build quality, the Sony A7 and the A9 are extremely well made and if you haven’t held one before, it will take you for a surprise. Once in your hand, you will know that it is a serious premium camera and the heft of it feels like you have a camera that will outlast time.
The A9 ergonomics is much better than the A7 in my opinion. The small tweaks by Sony made a big difference. That joystick is a massive help when shooting. You can easily move the focus points around on the fly, which is great. The buttons are tactile and well placed. The camera feels premium and the handling is a lot better than most of the mirrorless cameras out there. There’s no beating the DSLR when it comes to ergonomics, especially for bigger hands, but the A9 is without a question the best handling Sony I’ve ever used. Pair it with the battery grip and I wouldn’t miss the handling of a DSLR.
Performance and user experience So, how did it perform? Let’s put it into perspective, shall we?
The main issue with Sony A7 series is the battery. Well, let me tell you now, you have nothing to worry about. The A9 battery is close to DSLR performance, in fact when I shot over 1,200 images during the drifting event, I still had almost half of the battery charge to spare! That’s impressive.
The autofocus (AF) as mentioned is fast and accurate. It can rival high-end DSLR in terms of performance. When shooting portraits, I really enjoyed the eye detection feature, it is just phenomenal and to me, this is a feature that should be in every camera and include it with the 20 fps without black out, now that’s a game changer!
Conclusion At this point, you are probably waiting for the “but”. It is quite hard to fault this camera but like any other camera, it isn’t perfect. The white balance could use some improvement, I noticed that the images are too warm sometimes. The out-of-the-camera JPEGs colors aren’t my favorite but then again, I don’t shoot JPEGs but rather shoot raw in which I do my editing, nor I had enough time to play around with the JPEG picture settings. But mind you, all these small issues can be addressed with a simple firmware upgrade.
Sony created a powerhouse of a camera here, they listened to the users of the A7 series and put all the missing bits and changes into the A9. There’s no question that this is the best Sony mirrorless yet. All the things that hunted the A7 series like the AF speed and the battery life are both answered and A9’s AF and battery life are probably the best out there. I had the camera for around two weeks and to be honest, it wasn’t enough to learn all the features, but it is enough to know that the A9 can definitely hang with the best cameras out there. If you aren’t a fan of the Sony mirrorless yet, this might change your mind.
Fujifilm X-Series came a long way. Gone are the days of limited options for lenses. Fujifilm have produced excellent selections of lenses, which I feel made the X-Series successful as it is now. However, they still have a few “niche” lenses that haven’t made into production yet, until now. Samyang recently made a tilt shift lens for Fujifilm X-Mount, 24mm f3.5 ED AS UMC. I would like to thank BHMstore for letting me test this lens.
Tilt-shift lenses have been an essential tool for landscape and architecture photographers, mainly for its perspective control and many other things. This review is not meant to educate you about tilt-shift lens, but let me point out a few features that makes this kind of lens unique:
Perspective control Any time your wide-angle lens goes up or down, you can see perspective getting a bit wonky. Verticals look like they are falling down or leaning, which is a big no-no for any architectural photos. By simple shifting the lens up or down you can easily correct the perspective, thus vertical lines remains straight just as the architects designed them to be.
Edge to edge sharpness
Compared to a regular lens, the tilt-shift lenses covers a larger image circle. Meaning, they can cover larger than the sensor they were designed for. Thus creating the sweet spot larger than any regular lenses, hence sharper edge to edge images.
A tilt shift lens enables you to create perfect vertical or horizontal panoramas. By simply shifting the lens up and down or from side to side, you can shoot three photos which overlaps perfectly and will blend in post without any problem due to the lack of parallax.
Miniature effect / creative effects
I think miniature effect is probably the most popular feature of a tilt-shift lens. Although you can easily create this effect on post or by Instagram filters, nothing beats a straight out of the camera effect. By tilting the lens you can easily adjust the plane of focus to where you want it. This also makes some very cool creative effects for your photos.
Here are some sample photos with very minimal adjustments using Adobe camera raw:
Interior shots with mirrors
If you have been shooting interiors houses or buildings, having a tilt-shift lens in your camera bag is invaluable. Not only you can get the perspective control from the lens itself, but you can also get the composition you want without changing the perspective. This is a bit hard to explain but you can do a quick internet search to see its advantages, however there’s one thing I found a good use for it. When shooting reflective surfaces or specifically mirrors, you can easily hide your camera by just moving on the side of the mirror but sometimes this screws up your composition, by simply shifting the lens, you can get the perspective that you are shooting the mirror straight on but hiding your camera gear. Ok, YouTube it now if you don’t believe me.
Now, lets go back to the subject here, which is the Samyang 24mm tilt-shift lens for Fujifilm X-mount. Before proceeding with the review, I just want to clear the following things:
Since this is an X-mount lens, there is no need for any adapters, this will mount to any Fujifilm X-Series interchangeable lens cameras.
Like any tilt-shift lens, this is a manual focusing lens.
Because of the crop factor of the APSC sensor of the Fujifilm X-series cameras, this 24mm lens will give you a perspective of a 35mm focal length equivalent in Full frame 35mm sensor.
This review is by no way scientific, so if you are looking for a more technical and scientific review, you might need to look elsewhere. This is a real world review of this lens while on an actual photo shoot. I didn’t shoot bricks or straight lines here, I was shooting a real life subject in an actual photo shoot.
This lens is built like a tank. You probably hear this a lot but this lens is really built like a tank. Mostly metal construction and dang this thing is heavy! Using this on a small Fuji camera might be a challenge, however pairing it on the X-T2 with a battery grip, it feels quite balanced. Using this hand-held will remind you of the good old days with the DSLRs (in case you shifted recently to mirrorless system) but since you will mostly use this kind of lenses on a tripod, I guess it wont be a big deal.
The only thing I feel it could have been improved on the lenses are the plastic knobs, but for the price of this lens, I really am surprised in terms of build quality. Using the lens for a month, I think although cheap looking the knobs are quite well made.
The focusing ring is buttery smooth and nicely weighted. Using the focus peaking on the X-T2 makes it very easy to focus. Using this lens for creative purposes and hand-held, I really feel that the amount of resistance is just perfect for adjusting the focus plane. The aperture ring is nice and notchy, which makes it easy on adjusting the aperture even without looking. Although it feels light and easy to turn, there was never an incident where I turned the aperture ring by accident, mainly because the focus ring is big so you cannot confuse it with the aperture ring. Samyang lenses are all manual lenses and I guess they know what they are doing.
To give you an idea about the weight of this lens:
This is with the Fujifilm X-T2 + battery grip:
In comparison, a Nikon D810 full frame camera with a 14-24mm f2.8 lens :
I used this lens for a portrait and fashion shoot and I really don’t remember having a problem using it. The only main issue I remember is it’s a bit heavier compared to my 56mm f1.2, which is the one I use mostly for this kind of shoot. I also shoot a little slower because I have to manual focus all the time. That being said, I really had a fun time shooting with it. For creative purposes, the tilt feature is the most used. I can easily blur things I want with a simple turn and pick the focal plane exactly where I wanted it. I never had this freedom with a regular lens. I won’t say it will replace your 56mm or 90mm but this lens can bring some creative perspective to your portrait or fashion shoot.
The knobs can be a pain to use if you are doing a fashion editorial shoot because you constantly have to change it, but leaving it in a mid open position, I can easily tilt back and forth without even touching the knobs.
This is where it all boils down and the way I see it, I see no faults. The lens is sharp wide open but it gets sharper after stepping it down to f7.1 to f11. Like any wide angle lens, this is prone to flares. The lens flare isn’t pretty specially shooting right in front of the sun, however it is predictable enough so with a slight adjustment you can get the shot without any flares.
The lens flare can also overthrow the color rendition and white balance, I noticed that it gives a hint of green / yellow cast or a more magenta cast if shooting against the sun. In my experience, it can be corrected through post. Shooting on a normal lighting, I don’t see any discoloration or color cast on the photos. The contrast on the lens is also good, it gives a nice pop on the photos.
This is a sample photo with minimal post-production work to adjust the colors and exposure:
I really love this lens. This gives my Fujifilm cameras a breath of new life, it just gives you features you can’t get with any regular lens out there. I feel that this will be really good with timelapse and videos too; giving you a unique look that only a tilt-shift lens can provide. I think you can do a lot of creative images with this lens and it will open a new world of opportunities for fashion and editorial shoot. The the reason I went for a fashion and editorial shoot with this lens, I feel it will be more interesting to see how it looks rather than the predictable architectural interior shots.
For architectural work, I really wish Samyang made a 16mm (24mm full frame equivalent) for Fujifilm mount. This lens was designed for full frame use; you can get an equivalent Canon and Nikon equivalent of this lens. A wider focal length will give this lens a more versatile use for architectural work.
The main question about tilt-shift lens is, if you are not landscape or architectural photographer, do you really need one? To answer you bluntly, with the price of this Samyang tilt-shift lens, I don’t see any reason why not! It gives you creative effects and it is so much fun to use on non-architectural work. Using this for portrait or fashion shoot might get that spice that you are looking for.
If you want to buy this lens online at BHM Store or by clicking here.
I had a pleasure of testing the A7R II for a shoot, I only had the camera for a few days so I can’t really provide an in-depth review of it. However, with a brief time using the A7R II, I can tell that it is a very good professional grade camera. I would say that the Sony A7R II is the “DSLR” of the mirrorless cameras. It feels heavier than it looks; using it for an hour of shoot feels like I’m holding a pro DSLR (5D3, D810), it is heavy duty and well built. The AF speed is a bit slower than the Fuji X-T1 but not really something you would notice. I noticed it since I’m using the X-T1 and the A7R II simultaneously. The file of the Sony A7R II are heaven’s sent for retoucher, I was blown away, the details and the dynamic range is simply phenomenal. Too bad the battery usage is on the high side, leaving me only less than 200 shots which is almost half of the X-T1 battery capacity. I think the A7R III or whatever the successor of this camera will surely be something to look out to.