Sony A9 A Wedding Photography Review of the Sony A9 Mirrorless Digital Camera

A Wedding Photographers Review of The Sony A9 Mirrorless Camera

 Sony A9 + 55mm /// Canon 5D Mark III + 50mm

Sony A9 + 55mm /// Canon 5D Mark III + 50mm

 

From Canon to the Sony A9
Introduction:

From Canon to Sony, my review and personal experience of moving from being a dedicated Canon photographer for 15 years, to photograping weddings using the new Sony A9.

After photographing for so long with Canon, I was very very set in my ways. I felt like picking up a camera from another manufacturer would be something similar to learning a foreign language, and I would basically have to start all over again.

From when it all began at the age of 15, I have been through quite a few Canon DSLR cameras:

  • 400D
  • 40D
  • 5D
  • 5D Mark II
  • 1Ds Mark II
  • 1D Mark III
  • 6D
  • 5D Mark III
  • 5D Mark IV

I felt like my heritage was with Canon, and that I would never be able to move to anything else.

I had spent thousands and thousands of pounds on Canon related items. Lenses, batteries, battery grips, flashes, flash triggers, chargers – moving to a new system would be such an upheaval that I would never find enough “down-time” to have a break from weddings, to learn a different system – and for years, this was my belief, which deterred me from even considering looking at Nikon, Fuji, or Sony.

Until one day, during a conversation with a friend videographer at a wedding I was photographing at Eaves Hall. He had been using Sony cameras for years, as they offered him everything he needed in a small, compact form with stunning results.

Intrigued, I placed my heavy 5D Mark III with attached 85mm f1.2 L Mark II lens down next to his toy-like Sony A7 and 85mm 1.8.  

The size difference initially made me smile, knowing deep down that in no way could that small, plastic Sony offer anything close to my beloved Canon 5D Mark III.

But, after he kindly let me hold it to my eye, and have a quick play with it, focusing on our drinks on the table, and then out of the window – my intrigue was aroused and I couldn’t ever forget it. Continuing the rest of the wedding year out on my 5D Mark III’s, the Sony played on my mind.

I knew the spec (roughly), that they were full-frame, but other than that, I didn’t know anything about the Sony lineup. The body numbers and series were all alien to me, A7, A9, A6300 – what did these numbers all mean.

Then there was the lenses, Z mount, A mount, E mount, FE mount – what on earth?

Over the next few weeks, I became very familiar with typical camera-reviewers opinions on the Sony A9 – the camera which seemed like it would most appeal to me, and I found myself getting more and more interested in this seemingly superb camera, which I struggled, in fact no, I simply couldn’t find a bad word about!

The hefty price tag of £4400, which was a huge elephant in the room – was incredibly off-putting, as this was really an impulse purchase – based on the back of watching a few YouTube videos, reading (lots) some reviews, and driving my videographer friend up the wall with constant questions about his Sony cameras.

No matter how many times I convinced myself that my ageing 5D Mark III’s were fine, and the launch of the Canon 5D Mark IV also around the same time – curiosity got the better of me, and I placed an order in the first week of December for a Sony A9, and subsequently borrowed two lenses off my friend, the Zeiss 55mm f1.8 and Zeiss Batis 85mm 1.8

What an interesting month December suddenly became, as I found myself in a constant head-to-head test between my beloved 5D Mark III and this new interest. Setting up test environments became my new nightly routine. ISO tests. Focus speed tests. RAW file tests. JPEG file tests.

Cold winter walks around my local area with a camera bag, stuffed full with both systems became my new day routine, taking photos of (literally) anything with an aim to convince myself the Sony was just a gimmick, and that it couldn’t ever become something on which my business depended.

But, time after time I came home with a set of images, and after a desperate rush to my office to import them into Lightroom and dissect them – the Sony just kept blowing me away – absolutely every single aspect of image quality was superior on the Sony’s.

However – the best was yet to come.

All of my testing had been done on stationary, often in-animate objects such as trees, flowers, landscapes and teddy-bears. While this was interesting for testing image quality, it was largely irrelevant for my line of work, which is entirely based around people, who move around a lot!

Cue the next few weeks of misery for my partner Steph, where I would routinely photograph her as she went about her life. Anything was a potential “test” – and she soon became tired of being photographed simply walking across the room, preparing food, feeding our son Zack.

She quickly learned that when I shouted her name, when her back was turned, to spin around and face me – or rather a Sony A9, I was testing out my new “eye-autofocus”

Many evenings spent sat infront of the TV – where my Sony A9 would, as if by magic, follow the eye of whoever was on the screen with pin-point precision.

It didn’t take long for this Sony A9 to find its way into my heart, and I found myself absolutely 100% addicted to it.

I was still borrowing the 55mm and 85mm off my friend, and felt like a gap was missing, so ordered the Zeiss 35mm f1.4 lens to fill the wider end of my focal length requirements.

On the 27th December I knew I had a wedding, ironically again at Eaves Hall, and ironically also with the same videographer who had begun my obsessesion with Sony.

But, I didn’t yet fully want to give up those 15 years of Canon trust. My business had been formed out of nothing, using Canon cameras. And every single one of my images taken at every wedding I had ever photographed had been on a Canon – I knew I had to shoot this wedding on Canon, but I did take the Sony along, just-in-case a moment should arise where I could use it, to test its performance “in the real world” at a wedding.

That day, at some point during the bridal prep, when I felt like I had enough “safe shots” on the Canon, I decided to pull out the Sony for 5 minutes, to have a play.

 
Sony A9 Wedding Photographer Camera Review

What happened during those 5 minutes was sufficient enough to convince me not to put the Sony A9 back in the bag. Infact, I shot the rest of the wedding on it and I felt like a kid in a sweet shop for a solid 12 hours – it was an experience I will never forget.

When I got home that evening, I hadn’t felt that excited to review my images for years. I got home around 10pm, said hello to my partner; and then spent the next 5 hours infront of my PC – something I have NEVER done before after a wedding.

Suffice to say, that was the last wedding I would ever take my Canon equipment along to, and as of the 27th December 2017, Sony would be the only thing in my camera bag.

Sony A9 - The Spec

I was initially very confused by the Sony line-up, but it seemed like the Sony A9 was the camera that best suited my must-haves:

  • Dual memory card slots
  • Full spread of AF points
  • Perfect megapixel count for weddings
  • Eye auto-focus
  • Silent Shutter

This is by no means a complete list of A9 spec.. but these were the things I decided that I wanted, and the A9 was the only camera that ticked all of these boxes.

Having now shot over 10 weddings with the A9, I am extremely glad I made that choice.

Despite having 20fps – I have still not used this. I am intrigued by it – but I find 10fps more than enough for any action moments (confetti, first kiss, speeches), and usually shoot single frames throughout the majority of the day.

Sony A9 - Menu Configuration

I have my pair of Sony A9’s set up identically to each other as follows:

  • RAW to slot 1 (backup) & JPEG to slot 2 (I have only ever used the JPEGs so far!)
  • Standard Picture Profile – with contrast at -2, sharpness -1 and saturation -2 (more on this later)***
  • EVF brightness -1
  • Exposure standard adjust +1 stop (personal preference, but I found myself under-exposing a lot of images, this has got me a lot closer (whilst still being safe) to my personal desired out-of-camera exposure with often no tweaking needed afterwards
  • Flexible Spot – Small
  • Touch screen off

Sony A9 - Button Configuration

  • AF-C mode
  • Continuous – low fps
  • Back button focus on AEL button
  • Eye Auto focus on AF-ON button
  • AV mode / manual for flash
  • Joystick movement to select AF point
  • Joystick “press” to centralise AF point
  • C1 Button – ISO
  • C2 Button – Focus mode (usually on Flexible Spot – Small, but will vary throughout day)
  • C3 button – Shutter Mode (electronic / manual)
  • C4 Button – APS-C mode on/off/auto
  • Left arrow – Auto ISO Min Shutter Speed
  • Up Arrow – White balance
  • Right Arrow - unassigned
  • Down Arrow - unassigned
  • Central button – unassigned

Sony A9 - ISO

When my photography was in its early days, I cared dearly about ISO. I would pixel-peep an image shot at anything above ISO and the grain would frustrate me. With each Canon camera I purchased, generally ISO would get better and better. The 5D Mark III was where I stopped worrying too much about ISO, shooting at anything upto ISO 6400 where needed without too much concern about it. Using bright f1.2 lenses helped me avoid the need for these extreme settings, and I would rarely find myself going over 3200 for a winter wedding, and 800-1600 for a summer wedding. At these settings, grain is so low it isn’t worth worrying about – so I stopped thinking about ISO as being a limiting factor.

 Sony A9 + 35mm 1/250th, f2.8, ISO 6400

Sony A9 + 35mm 1/250th, f2.8, ISO 6400

 Sony A9 + 35mm lens, f1.4, 1/125th, ISO 10,000

Sony A9 + 35mm lens, f1.4, 1/125th, ISO 10,000

With the Sony A9, this is the same, but even more so. I have my camera set to Auto-ISO for a lot of the day, where it will pick anything between 100 and 12,800 depending on the shutter speed I limit it to. Usually, 1/125th for the majority of the day, sometimes 1/250th for a particularly fast moving – but darker scenario. Again, using bright 1.4 and 1.8 lenses, I rarely find ISO going up much – and since using auto ISO I now don’t even really know (or care – too much!!) about what it is at.

I am sure some reviews will go into HUGE DETAIL about grain / noise and the whole benefits of RAW for noise recovery, I prefer to use the camera and worry about this stuff less, but I would have absolutely no concern using any native ISO on this camera from 100 to whatever it goes upto – I’m not even sure.

Sony A9 - JPEGs! 

After shooting Canon for 15 years, I was introduced to the benefits of shooting RAW very early on with my first Canon 400D and 40D cameras – where the JPEGs were so bad and white balance completely random it seemed, that RAW really was the only way to go.

 Not only good dynamic range here, but also mixed daylight / tungsten lighting

Not only good dynamic range here, but also mixed daylight / tungsten lighting

I should have bought shares in Western Digital hard drives, because I dread to think how many hard drives I have bought, filled, then bought more of – filled with terabytes of RAW data – which is just enormous to store, especially when having years of weddings to keep.

But, on Canon – for me, RAW was essential – simply because the JPEGs from the camera were a gamble. Yes – on perfectly even-lit days, you could dial in a fixed white balance and shoot at that setting in JPEG mode, and the results would be consistent. But in auto-white balance, which lets be honest – 99% of people use, the results were all over the place – and shooting JPEG gave little headroom for recovery IF the camera got it wrong.

The Sony A9 has an electronic view-finder (EVF), which means you “see” the end result before you take the photo. I liken this to taking a photo on your smart-phone. You see the picture before you press the shutter button. This means if its too dark – you see that, and can correct it. If its too bright, you can deal with it before taking the photo.

In theory – this means all pictures taken on a camera with an EVF should be exposed how the photographer wants…. In reality this often isn’t the case due to the speed of things happening around them. I would love to be able to get every photo perfectly exposed, and the histogram exactly right – but it just isn’t a real scenario for weddings, where the majority of my photos are seen and taken within split seconds – with no time to even look at the histogram in real-time (despite it being displayed infront of my eye!)

 Use the mechanical shutter for flash images, like here

Use the mechanical shutter for flash images, like here

But – 10 weddings in now with the Sony A9s, the camera just seems to get it right, all the time. Would I put my life on it…. No, but it’s pretty close. A hell of a lot closer than Canon ever was in AV mode – where the exposures would be all over the place.

I now shoot RAW to slot 1, and JPEGs to Slot 2. To date, I have never yet needed to use a RAW file – which I consider backup / emergency use if I get it totally wrong with the JPEG file.

My JPEGs look awful out of the camera – thanks to my settings, but this is how I like it. 15 years of shooting flat Canon RAW files has trained me into using Lightroom, and I would much prefer a horribly flat JPEG (not dissimilar to a RAW file tbh!) which I can massage to my liking…rather than a camera-processed JPEG which I have less control over.

The other HUGE advantage to the JPEGs, is the size of them! They are tiny compared to the RAWs, so not only does that mean my PC isn’t working as hard, but I am going through hard drives at ¼ of the rate!

But, best of all – the JPEGs are wonderful! I absolutely don’t miss, and haven’t yet needed RAWs from my Sony A9s – the JPEGs are just that good!

  • White balance is accurate – and more importantly – consistent
  • Exposures are accurate (thanks to the EVF) but this is down to the user
  • Colours are great
  • Skin tones are lovely
  • Reds are well controlled, and a lot less vibrant than Canon – where my Red was always reduced to -40 saturation!

Interestingly… and again, there are a lot of reviews on the web directly comparing quality… but I cannot get a RAW file from the Sony A9 to look as good as the JPEG!

No matter what I do, it just doesn’t look as clean, as sharp or as detailed as the JPEG!

Incredible. I never thought I would be a JPEG shooter, but Sony has allowed me to be, without any draw-backs at all.

Sony A9 - Operation

Coming from a large, man-size chunky DSLR, the one area where I was concerned I would find the Sony lacking is in the handling department – button location, fiddly-ness etc.

But

I have adopted the Sony camera mechanics and operation without any problem – and all of the controls and features I use on a regular basis are within easy reach – more so than they were on the 5D Mark III

I haven’t experienced any hand-ache (reported by some users due to the smaller size) – and all of the buttons I use regularly I can do so without looking, or moving my hand position.

Weight is an obvious advantage… but I hadn’t realised how much difference it would make to not only my back / neck the next day – but ALSO my shooting on the day – being much more versatile and nimble allows me to manoeuvre myself quickly to situations, whereas my previous gripped 5D Mark III + lens would have been a pain.

I liken this to flying with hand-baggage (Sony A9) vs flying with hold-luggage (DSLR system) – where taking a smaller, lighter kit is a much more pleasant experience vs lugging something big and cumbersome around.

Also – I have managed to fit all of my day kit into 1 bag. Previously impossible when using Canon – I am now (easily) able to fit  ALL my Sony kit into 1 bag. This is fantastic!

Sony A9 - Use at Weddings

So all of the above would be completely irrelevant if the camera didn’t perform well during use. However, the Sony A9 really is the perfect camera for wedding photography.

The silent shutter really deserves mention here – as this wasn’t something I thought I would really get much benefit out of. But this is one of my favourite features of the camera! Totally, 100% silent shooting allows me into situations I would have felt self-conscious about previously – perhaps the Canon wouldn’t have stopped me getting the photo, but I would have felt like the noise that camera made would have been affecting the situation – but now I can enter, take a few photos, and leave – without making a sound – therefore not affecting anything or distracting anyone.

An example of this presented itself recently at a wedding where I was taking photographs directly over the shoulder of the MUA – she had no idea I was there – neither did the eyes-closed Bride. This might not sound like a deal-breaker here… but to me, that enabled me to get a photograph I would have been unable to do previously – without alerting of my presence – and I probably** wouldn’t have taken the photo as a result of knowing the noise would cause the MUA to react – therefore ruining the shot or any subsequent shots.

The frame rate is often discussed as being this cameras strongest point.

Maybe for sports photography? But for a wedding I cannot see any situation where 10fps is not already more than enough. I haven’t even tried 20fps yet, simply no need.

I personally use the camera is continuous – low mode, which from memory is 7fps (???) – but the ABSOLUTE best thing about shooting in low mode, is that you are still able to take a single shot. Using it in medium or high speed mode results in a single press of the shutter firing off 3+ photos every single time – this would drive me mad.

In continuous low, a single press takes a single shot. Hold it down for a fraction longer, and it does as you’d expect.

Coupled with back-button focus and/or eye-focus this combination is a killer-combo for getting in and out, whilst getting the shot, and being stealth-like at the same time.

I originally liked the touch screen – but in operation, I found myself accidentally pressing it, and finding my focus point to have moved as a result (touch screen = move focus position based on touch location on screen) – so I have now disabled. Other than moving focus point I’m not sure what the benefit of the touch screen really is – and I certainly don’t seem to have lost any functionality by turning it off.

The EVF and Histogram are fantastic – not a lot more I can say about them – they are just brilliant.

Sony A9 - Electronic / Manual Shutter

One thing I do find a little clunky is the auto / mech / electronic shutter selection process. I have this assigned to one of my custom buttons, and I wish it was like a toggle switch… but it isn’t.

Pressing it, opens a menu where you can select

  • Electronic
  • Auto
  • Mechanical

However – automatic doesn’t seem to do anything – it just shoots in electronic all the time.

I wish there was a way to change from Mech to Auto with a single press of the custom button.

I shoot everything without flash in electronic mode.

Anything with flash needs to be in mechanical, or the flash wont fire.

I do have to be aware of LED lights which pulse/flicker at 60hz – I learnt this quite quickly – and with the EVF you can actually see the LEDs flickering.

Drop the shutter speed below 1/60th and it is a constant light

Anything faster than 1/60th and especially over 1/125th, the LEDs flicker on off vividly in the EVF.

This obviously shows up in the end photos – where you may catch the “off” pulse resulting in the LEDs appearing off.

This problem isn’t anything to do with the A9.

The Canon 5D Mark III had exactly the same phenomenon – it’s just something to be aware of when shooting in LED light venues!

The A9 actually helps the user by flickering away like mad in the EVF! So you know to be aware of it.

I’ve noticed absolutely no issues with shooting everything with the electronic shutter. From shooting directly into harsh sunlight, artificial lights, video lighting and DJ lighting – any kind of lighting seems to be absolutely fine (so far) in my experience. Other users have reported banding / sensor striping when shooting directly into a light source… I have shot hundreds, if not thousands of frames into direct light (sun, LED and video lights, halogen, fluorescent, DJ/Disco lighting) and have noticing absolutely nothing to back this up.

Sony A9 - AutoFocus and Eye Autofocus

I had read all about the stated performance of the Sony A9 autofocus, I had watched countless videos about it - but until I actually tried it at a wedding, I didn't realise quite how ridiculously good it would be.

Anyone who has shot Canon, and I'm sure other DSLRs are the same, will know all too well the feeling of coming home after a great shoot, and importing the images into Lightroom - and waiting for the little thumbnails to appear. From skimming through the photos at this size, you may spot a photo which stands out, for one reason or another, and you instantly double click the photo to see it large.

As the photo is rendering / loading, you are saying to yourself in your head "please be in focus, please be in focus" - THIS is one of the most prominent memories of how it felt to shoot a wedding on a Canon camera. 

Sometimes the Canon's would focus on something completely and utterly wrong - for no apparent reason. Then there is the whole world of "micro adjust" which just adds another level of complexity and margin for error within the DSLR world, where you can actually force the camera to front or back focus by a small amount - crazy.

Since moving to Sony, my first few weddings, I did the same thing - as the images would import to Lightroom I would sit there and watch as they appeared, and kept my fingers and toes crossed that they would be in focus. 

But, now many weddings "in" with the Sony A9, this dreaded feeling is all but a memory - as quite simply ALL of the photos are ALWAYS in focus.

I can quite confidently say that I have not had a single out of focus image from any of my last 3 weddings - and I know that because I am still in dis-belief about it myself, but it is true - not a single missed photo out of thousands and thousands of photos.

I like to shoot wide open. On Canon it was a gamble. On Sony, I shoot more wide open than I ever have before. Two reasons

  1. The focus system is SO good, that no matter what aperture I pick, the shot is always focused where I want it to be. Always.
  2. The lenses are so sharp, at any aperture (makes no difference to sharpness what-so-ever as far as I can see) that I can shoot at whatever setting I need to...whether it be f1.4 or f11 - I know I will get a pin sharp, in-focus image, every single time.

This is just the best thing ever for a wedding photographer. Every moment (provided your camera settings are right of course!) that you aim and point your camera at will be captured exactly as you want it to be. Focus will always be where you tell it. 

Eye-Autofocus - what a piece of technology this is!!!

As I continue to build trust in the Sony A9s, I am using eye-autofocus more and more. At first, I almost forgot about it, doing things the "old-fashioned" way by moving the little square over the persons nearest eye, and moving with them to keep them under it. But I gradually started to use the eye autofocus technology more and more, to the point where I would now shoot lage portions of the day using it.

I have eye-af remapped to my AE-ON button, meaning my thumb can easily flick between conventional back-button focus button (AEL) where the camera will focus on whatever falls under the little black focus square... or move my thumb slightly to the left over the AE-ON where the camera will detect the (nearest) eye of the person who is the most central in the frame. There is a bit of a knack to it - and it takes practise / experience to learn when it will work and who it is likely to focus on - but once you learn what the camera is doing, it is reliable and always works the same way - so the quicker you learn how it works, the quicker it will deliver the results you want!

Scenario 1 - The below photograph of a group of people:

Lake District Merewood Wedding Photograph

This would be a scenario where the camera would do one of two things, which I would rank in % of likelihood below:

  • 80% chance that it will lock focus on the left eye (nearest the camera) of the gentleman wearing the blue tie.
  • 20% chance that it will lock focus on the lady facing the bride 

For this photograph, for the above reasons, I did not use eye-af - as I wanted to concentrate my focus on the lady who was facing the bride.

The eye-af system has a hard time here, as it could really pick the eye of most people in the photograph (groom - to brides left, the lady facing bride, the blue tie gentleman, the side profile of the gentleman to the far right). 

From experience I would estimate that the camera would have picked the blue tie man in this example - where it would place a little green square over his near eye, and this square would then move to follow his eye.

Scenario 2:

Lake District Merewood Wedding Photograph

This time it becomes much easier for the camera, where I was able to use eye-af to lock onto, and continue to track the bride and groom as they walked towards me (as I also walked backwards).

I opted for a relatively high shutter speed of 1/500th, as there was a lot of movement (bride / groom approaching, and also me walking backwards) - and chose to use 35mm at f2.0 for enough depth to get both the bride and groom in focus, whereas 1.4 may just have been too shallow here. Eye-af actually started tracking them as they walked down the aisle - near to where the line of bridesmaids can be seen following from - and tracked them all the way down the aisle, around the bend at the top, and to where this photo was taken. Eye-af in this example picked the bride earlier on - and continued to track her the entire way. Shooting at f2 was playing it safe, to ensure they would both be in focus.

Sony A9 - Battery Life

 Contrary to other users… no issues here!

I do have to think a little more about power management than I did with Canon… but it really isn’t a problem or concern.

For example – I can  shoot everything from the bridal prep through to speeches on a single battery. That could be in the 000’s of frames.

Where possible I will plug the camera into a USB powerbank when not in use to keep it topped it. This might sound like a pain – but in reality it isn’t at all.

I have a large 20,000MaH powerbank in my bag, with 4 x USB outs. Whenever I am moving (bridal prep to church….or church to venue) I will simple flip open the USB cover on the camera and charge the battery in-camera. It might only give me a few % of charge… but every little helps..right?

The supplied Sony charger will fully charge an A9 battery from 0-100 in about 2 hours.

In my experience, I am usually down to about 20% after the speeches, where I will remove and charge the battery during the meal /break –and within an hour it is fully charged.

I do also have a “DuoPro” Dual charger… but this is much slower, charging at 0.6a / battery when in dual mode, which is more like 3-4 hours charge time – which is too slow to use at a wedding. But great for charging overnight.

Spare batteries aren’t cheap at £75 each… but with a little thought, I could photograph a wedding with just 1 battery per camera if I apply the above tactics. And this is what I do – every single wedding. I’ve not yet needed my backup batteries – but I await the day I photograph a marquee wedding with no available power outlet – or a wedding like last year where there was a power cut and everything was candle lit for the drinks reception onwards. In this situation, I would hope the 20,000 mah powerbank and spare batteries would keep me going, at least for around another 6-7 hours of shooting.

Sony A9 - Lenses

 So another area where Sony seems to come under a bit of fire is regarding its lenses. Can I just say that I have had owned many of the prestigious Canon “L” lenses – and the Sony / Zeiss lenses are much MUCH better. I totally don’t understand how Sony can score any negative points here.. the lenses are incredible!

My lenses are:

  • Zeiss 16-35mm f4
  • Zeiss 35mm f1.4
  • Zeiss 55mm f1.8
  • Zeiss Batis 85mm f1.8
  • Zeiss Batis 135mm f2.8

Every single one of these lenses is superior to the Canon equivalent that I owned until January 2018.

 Zeiss 55mm f1.8 - great colours and contrast here in this backlit scene

Zeiss 55mm f1.8 - great colours and contrast here in this backlit scene

The two lenses which I was most worried about sacrificing by leaving Canon were the 50L and 85L – both of which I loved like a member of my own family. These two lenses were my absolute pride to own.

Do I miss them… not at all.

The Zeiss 55mm 1.8, whilst a whole stop slower than the 50L 1.2 is better in every scoreable aspect

 

  • Size
  • Weight
  • Focus speed
  • Colour
  • Sharpness wide open, and at every aperture
  • Vignetting
  • Chromatic Abberation

The only area the 50L is better is in bokeh at 1.2 vs 1.8 – but that is to be expected!

The Zeiss 55mm 1.8 is an absolutely incredible lens – don’t let the size / seemingly slow aperture put you off.

 Batis 85mm f1.8 

Batis 85mm f1.8 

This is NOTHING like the other 50mm f1.8 “kit” type prime lenses out there!

85L Mark II vs Batis 85mm 1.8

Again, a whole stop slower. Again, a lens I loved dearly on Canon.

But Sony has made me realise how un-special that lens really was. It rarely hit focus at 1.2, and wasn’t “pin” sharp until way beyond f2

The CA was horrific in most situations

And it weighed as much as 2 Sony A9s!! How ridiculous is that!

The Batis was my first ever lens on Sony, and after borrowing my friend’s for a few weeks over Christmas, there was absolutely no question in my mind – I had to get my own copy of it.

Sharp wide open, incredible bokeh and colours. No CA what-so-ever, and so small and light!

 Batis 135mm - perfect for speeches

Batis 135mm - perfect for speeches

Having shot with the Canon 85mm f1.2 USM Mark II for many years – and still can’t believe it when I pick up the Batis 85mm and look at the photos it produces. 
Vastly superior to the Canon in every single aspect – and for a tiny fraction of the weight!

I had a play with the Sony 85mm FE lens, but in my opinion this was NOT as good as the Batis.. so I didn’t want to compromise. The Sony FE is even smaller… but at a trade-off of some quality, especially with regards to the CA – which was present wide open… unlike the Batis.

I have only recently acquired the Batis 135mm 2.8 – to replace my Canon 135L. Again – a tall order for any lens, as this was a Canon lens I owned for many many years, and loved very much.

Despite only photographing 1 wedding with it so far, I am utterly blown away. Yes, this is sharper than the 85mm Batis – which is the sharpest lens I have ever used. Wide open. It is small (ish) – although the size is actually not as much of a benefit as with some other Sony lenses, this lens is only just smaller/ligher than the Canon F2 – surprisingly. But the output is significantly better.

The look of the images is identical to the Batis 85mm – with no CA, no vignetting, and beautiful colour and contrast.

Autofocus on all the lenses is so fast it almost appears to not be moving – it simple works, instantly and ALWAYS 100% accurate.

Unlike Canon!

Sony A9 - APS-C mode

 Now this is definitely something I thought would be of no interest… but wow, this really has its uses!

 Sony A9 + 85mm batis 1.8 @ 1/250TH, F1.8, iso 2000 - IN APS-C MODE (EFFECTIVELY 135MM)

Sony A9 + 85mm batis 1.8 @ 1/250TH, F1.8, iso 2000 - IN APS-C MODE (EFFECTIVELY 135MM)

It effectively shuts off half of your sensor, making it into crop mode… so the images come out at 2500x3500px rather than 4000x6000px – or thereabouts… giving your images a 1.5x crop. Turning an 85mm lens into a 135mm. Or a 135mm into a 200mm. Effectively.

Now this isn’t a replacement for a dedicated lens. Which is why I bought the 135mm recently, as I found myself using 85mm in APS-C mode quite a lot – justifying the purchase.

But, it works really really well!

When my wedding photography first began I was using the original Canon 5D (classic as it often called). That was a 12mp camera. I still have demonstration albums, showing larger than A3 images taken with that camera. The quality was absolutely fantastic.

Using the A9 in crop mode gives around the same resolution, 12mp images.

By today’s standards, that sounds low – as smart-phones often have 12 or more megapixels! But in reality, this is more than big enough to still produce A3 or larger prints from.

So for those Church scenarios where you can’t physically get any nearer, and you’ve only got a 55mm on your camera, you can quickly turn this into a 90mm (or something like that) shot.

I use this mode often during:
 

  • Churches where I am restricted either by position / ability to change lens to something longer
  • Speeches where I want to crop in for some “reaction” shots without needing to specifically change my lens just for a few photos
  • First dance – where I am likely to be restricted accessing my kit bag for a longer lens (if needed) and can often be a case of guessing what will happen next. Having 2 A9s on me, one with a 35 and the other with a 85 is extremely useful – as I can quickly turn them into 50/135 at the press of a button – for a totally different perspective

APS-C mode has saved me / contributed to varying my photographs on a lot more than 1 occasion.

Yes you could just crop the photo afterwards… but composition / metering / focus may all be compromised by doing that. Being able to see it in the EVF is a huge help.