Great Review on Sony A9, The Best Camera for Birds in Flight

Posted Sep. 26th, 2019 by Daniel J. Cox

I’m still doing my homework in finding the best camera being made for Birds in Flight. Last month I did a fairly substantial test of puffins flying straight at the camera with the Lumix G9, Olympus EM-1X, and the Sony A9. Sony won this comparison hands down, and I’m tempted to think about getting this camera with one lens just for action photography.

In my ongoing efforts to learn more about the Sony system, I found this extremely well done review by a young man named Timothy Mayo. Above is his version of the Speeding Pooch Test, though his dog does not look to be running as fast as the labs I typically use. Even so, the tests he ran are very convincing. Thought those of you who love action photography might enjoy seeing this young man’s work with the Sony system.

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There are 12 comments on this post…
  1. Dean SwartzOn Nov. 22nd, 2019 (3 weeks ago)

    Slight correction to my earlier comment: the battery is NOT larger in the a9 II, however, the battery life is about 10% greater than in the original a9! Sorry, I just got carried away with my raving!

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      Daniel J. CoxOn Nov. 22nd, 2019 (3 weeks ago)

      Thanks, Dean. I appreciate the update. Have you picked up the new A9 Mark ll and what about the 200-600mm?

  2. Dean SwartzOn Nov. 22nd, 2019 (3 weeks ago)

    I don’t mean to make your life difficult, but I have one thing to write: Sony a9 II! The improved ergonomics and slightly better AF and IQ (there really wasn’t much room to grow there), plus bigger battery (i.e., longer battery life), and dual UHS II SD card slots make this close to a no-brainer! While I haven’t been able to get my hands on a 400mm f2.8 GM lens (mine has been on order for months), the 100-400mm GM (with and without the 1.4x teleconverter) is spectacular! I appreciate and respect your brand loyalty to Lumix, I encourage you to give serious consideration to a Sony Alpha kit! ;0)

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Nov. 25th, 2019 (2 weeks ago)

      Hey Dean, I agree with you on the pluses of the new A9 Mark11. That said, I have no interest in a 400mm F/2.8 with or without teleconverters or anything else that comes close to the weight these lenses inspire. Yes, the new Sony 400mm F/2.8 is probably the lightest in the industry but it’s still too big, bulky and heavy to make me even want to think about it. All that and we’ve not even talked about price. NO THANK YOU! However, the 200-600mm is on my radar and I’m currently doing some tests with that lens. I’m in the process of comparing it to the Olympus 300mm F/4 with 1.4x and 2X teleconverters as well as the Leica 100-400mm. The results might surprise you. Stay tuned. Thanks for joining the conversation.

  3. Luis MesaOn Nov. 19th, 2019 (3 weeks ago)

    Panasonic has several new updates for the G and S cameras. Effective today you can download firmware update version 2.0 for the G9. It can now select the eye in animals like birds, dogs, cats, among several other updates. It appears that they have listened. I downloaded it and now i have to try it, and find out if it has improved the bif performance.
    You can find it in Panasonic.com

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Nov. 19th, 2019 (3 weeks ago)

      Thanks, Luis, hoping improvements are better than what we’ve seen in prior updates as far as Predictive AF is concerned.

  4. Timothy MayoOn Oct. 11th, 2019 (2 months ago)

    I just discovered this article (and your fantastic site) and wanted to say thank you very much for sharing my video Daniel. I’ll have to find some tastier treats to get Frank running a little faster next time!

    I’ve since done a similar video photographing Red Kites but only had time to use one camera this time so decided to go with the a7III since it’s a more affordable pairing with the 200-600 or 100-400 than the a9. I hope to do some similar tests soon with the new a7R IV as well, but right now the weather here in the UK is not playing nicely.

    I think the puffins in flight are most definitely one of the most challenging subjects for a cameras AF system due to their speed and small size, I’ll almost always grab the a9 when I have the opportunity to shoot them.

    Well now that I’ve discovered your site and excellent work I’m looking forward to following your journey.

    All the best, Tim

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Oct. 11th, 2019 (2 months ago)

      My pleasure Timothy. You did an excellent review with lots of great examples. I was very impressed. They’re not easy to do. Thanks for your hard work and I look forward to continuing to follow your work.

  5. Cecil ThornhillOn Oct. 7th, 2019 (2 months ago)

    Dan, I have been following this thread along with Mark Smith’s experiences with the Sony ( https://msmithphotos.com/). However the size and weight of the glass is just a problem for me.

    Even if Panasonic never delivers on “the pony of hope” (https://youtu.be/a6QihiKNhyI) (Camera Conspiracies, yes he is silly, but he has a point), how far back is Olympus?

    At least they do have phase detect hardware…so the software could work…I hope…🙂

    I just was hoping to be able to stay light via M43, but I do need the pictures to be in focus. Clearly the Sony solution fixes focus, but how bad is Olympus? Could the be an option if Panasonic never comes through?

    I hate the thought of giving up hand holding for tripods and backaches. Not to mention bankruptcy for replacing everything yet again 🙂.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Oct. 8th, 2019 (2 months ago)

      I feel your pain Cecil. I’m an absolutely huge fan of the LUMIX system other than the AF flaws I’ve written about. I continue to believe Panasonic has the best camera being made today as far as ergonomics, durability and ease of use are concerned. AF is their only downfall but for many it’s a deal breaker. I continue to use the G9 for the vast majority of my wildlife and travel work but when the action starts I’m now using an Olympus EM-1X. That said, I’m not yet certain the Olympus is going to do the job as well as the Sony A9 I tested. I’ll be continuing to write about my findings and I’m hopeful that at some point LUMIX will make the grade. Until then I’ll be shooting whatever necessary to get the images I need for my professional work. Thanks for your input. I always enjoy hearing from our readers.

  6. Robert SuttonOn Sep. 30th, 2019 (2 months ago)

    Thanks Dan, great post and link and fascinating to see how effective all of those Sony models are at tracking albeit a reasonably steady moving dog. The birds in flight follow up will be more interesting. I am sorely tempted to hit the button on an A9. The hits rates are so appealing. Let us know how you are getting on with your own further tests.

  7. Portrait of Joel Kleiner

    Joel KleinerOn Sep. 27th, 2019 (3 months ago)

    Thanks for posting this very interesting video blog Dan. It was really “eye” opening and informative. I sure learned a great deal. I’m looking forward to Timothy’s test of the one camera with birds in flight. That should be really special. I am amazed at the keeper rate on these cameras especially the A9, WOW!

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