The Best Camera for Wedding Photography – A Review of the Sony A9
There are already some great reviews of the Sony A9, A7R3 and A73 but I thought I’d share my experience of moving from the Canon 5D4 to the Sony A9.
It’s a move a lot of people I know are making and after my Sony A7R2 review I thought I’d write another.
This review will bore a lot of people to tears – but if you want to know my thoughts then read on!
I have used Canon for 10 years and have loved using the 5D4 in particular. They were released in Sept 2016 I bought two of them straight away. Whilst they have a few niggles they have served me well over the last 18 months and I consider them a fantastic camera for a wedding photographer.
So why move to Sony?
There are five reasons I’ve used to justify this expensive move!
1. To spice up my wedding photography. As mentioned I’ve used canon for 10 years. They’ve been good but I’m starting to grow a little bored of their shortcomings. The weight. The fixed LCD screen. The average focusing. The lack of innovation. I’m hoping the new features of the Sony will spark more creativity and inspire me to take better wedding photographs.
2. Silent shooting. This is a BIG one. Part of my job is to be respectful at certain poignant times of the day and the noise my 5D4 makes (even on quiet mode) is not quiet. I’m always conscious that I don’t want my presence to spoil someone’s enjoyment of the wedding and now that’s something I worry far less about.
3. The weight. Whilst the weight savings are modest it is appreciated. I carry two cameras around with me and Sony’s are noticeably lighter.
4. Focussing. The 5D4 was more accurate than its predecessor. That said only 70% of the photos were in focus. I ALWAYS took more shots than I needed because I knew some wouldn’t work out. With the A9 I’m getting 95% focus accuracy. I wasn’t aware of how bad the 5D4 was until I got the A9. When the 5D4 came out I was really pleased at how much progress Canon had made. That said the A9 isn’t perfect. My favoured ‘Lock On AF’ mode sometimes has a mind of its own, but the normal single shot AF is brilliant. Manual focussing for subjects really far away (or close) works brilliantly too.
5. Speed and the buffer. With a 300 shot buffer I’m NEVER missing a confetti shot again.
What the are drawbacks?
The price! It costs a LOT to switch and buy new camera equipment. In total it has cost around £9000 to buy the Sony setup. However, after selling all of my canon equipment the expenditure has been £2300. That’s not too bad considering I’m selling second hand and buying new.
The second drawback is the time taken to research and buy the appropriate Sony lenses and new flash components. As well as the time it’ll take to get to grips with the new system. But, as I used Sony in the past the learning curve hasn’t been too steep.
Thirdly, I do miss the resolution. The 24.2MP sensor of the Sony will be plenty for 95% of wedding photographers. But coming from the 31MP of the Canon 5D4 and also the 42MP of the A7R2 it’s a little basic. Sure, 99.9% of my images will only ever be seen on a phone or laptop. But for cropping, zooming in and making big prints it’d be nice to have more resolution. I love detail – the more the better.
My fourth and final disappointment is the dynamic range. The A9 is ‘okay.’ I’d give it a 7 out of 10. It’s good but the 5D4 is better. You can recover shadows very well but you don’t get the same amount of detail as the 5D4 which is a little disappointing. That said – with the EVF you’re less likely to make mistakes so swings and roundabouts.
What do I like about the new Sony series?
It’s quick. One of my big gripes with my A7R2 was that it was pretty slow. Reviewing images took time but the A9 is rapid.
The high burst mode is a fun trick and no doubt sports photographers love it! Being able to take 20 photos in a second is a little pointless for wedding photographers. But it does come in handy at certain points in the day. I think I’d certainly use it for the first kiss as well as confetti. But even then it isn’t really necessary.
ISO performance is as you’d expect for a high end camera. I’m satisfied with this. The shot below – taken in a forest during a storm was shot at ISO 20,000 (1/250, f/1.6) – it was dark! I have applied a moderate amount of noise reduction to it and it is very clean.
Focussing is fairly straight forward but all of the AF modes take some getting used to.
I did have focussing problems shooting backlit with the 35/1.4. Sometimes it found target, sometimes it didn’t. In normal conditions it has been great.
Having heard from friends that they were struggling with flash photography I did delay buying an A9. But in the end, after hearing more favourable reviews I decided to throw caution to the wind and buy in to a new Godox System. Whilst I plan to add to my system I got a good deal on a set of V860II’s and a Godox Xpro trigger. So far it is working VERY well (and at a fraction of the cost of my Canon system!)
I had heard quite a few A9 owners complain about flash. No doubt many people do have issues but with the Xpro-s and Godox V866II I had great results. No issues shooting flash through the first dance and afterparty.
What are the drawbacks of moving from the Canon 5D4 to the A9?
I am REALLY happy with the A9 battery life. For the weddings I have shot I’m getting around 4200-4400 images from a single fully charged battery. Maybe Canon has the edge. It’s not a biggie though – wouldn’t we all like to never have to think about changing or charging batteries?!
I take a LOT more photos on my A9 than I do on the 5D4. For workflow this has it’s downsides – but the upside is that I really do get those ‘defining moments’ and am able to take photos silently through the entire wedding ceremony.
If you mess up an exposure in poor light you’ll have more room for recovery on the 5D4. I’m not blown away by the A9’s ability to do this – but it’s pretty good in good light.
A consequence of shooting with the A9
I naively thought that because the A9 has more accurate focusing that I would take less images per wedding. But no. With the silent shooting I am taking far more. Almost double. One of the limitations that I had with Canon was not to take too many photos at certain moments of the day. So for most ceremonies I would be quite conservative with the amount of images I took because I didn’t want the sound of the camera to impact on everyone’s enjoyment of the wedding. I know the 5D4 has a silent mode – but it’s not ‘silent.’ So as a consequence I’m taking way more images because I’m not worried about making a noise.
I was worried that editing would be tricky and that I‘d struggle to match the Sony files to my ‘look.’ Luckily I’ve got away with using the same preset – all I’ve had to adjust were the red channel and add a little more sharpening. I’m surprised at how easy this has been! I still have a little way to go but the files aren’t that different to what I’m used to.
I’m very happy. The three things I miss (lens flare, dynamic range and resolution) are more than compensated with the FAR better focusing, the silent shooting, the huge buffer, 20fps, the flip screen, the weight saving and the great Sony lenses (which are really sharp!)