Mark Galer - Travel Photography with the Sony α9/a9 Camera

July 27, 2017

michaels presented Sony Global Ambassador Mark Galer as part of our Insight Lecture Series held during Melbourne's Photo Show on 22nd July.

The Sony A9 is the talk of the town and with his extensive time behind the lens of this impressive full frame mirrorless camera, Mark Galer has much insight to share.

Mark recently traveled to the UK with a Sony A9 camera, the latest and most advanced entry into Sony’s Full Frame Mirrorless Camera line-up. Mark will share his thoughts, experience, and also showcase some images from his recent travels.

Mark Galer is a seasoned professional photographer, educator, author, and contributing editor for Australian Photography and Digital magazine.

Mark is the Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom Ambassador for Australia and an internationally recognized Photoshop Guru. He recently published his 30th book with Focal Press, has served as a Senior Lecturer and Program Director of the BA Photography course at RMIT University in Melbourne (the oldest photography course in the world).

Mark is also the founder of, a creative community that has been helping photographers for nearly a decade. The site has gradually expanded over the years thanks to the support of thousands of visitors each month, and has become a resource for people to learn about image capture and image editing through easy step-by-step tutorials.

Since 2012 Mark has been a contributing Sony Digital Imaging Ambassador for Australia, and was recently promoted as Sony’s Global Imaging Ambassador in 2017.

Purchase the Sony A9 camera

Find Mark on:


Welcome To Mark Galer

(Peter Michael)

Welcome to michaels!

My name is Peter Michael and it’s my great pleasure to introduce Mark Galer.

Judging by the number of people here, I don’t have to say too much about Mark, because, you know, numbers speak for themselves; but I will mention a couple of words.

Mark is the Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom ambassador for Australia; he’s recently published his 30th books - the 30th that’s a lot of books, you know - with Focal Press; he has also been a senior lecturer and program director at RMIT; and just recently, he was appointed a Sony worldwide ambassador.

So that’s enough said about Mark; I think we should hear from Mark; so, welcome, Mark Galer.

(Mark Galer)

Thank you!

[Music starts playing in the background]


Just before he starts, I almost forgot the most important thing: he’s sponsored by Sony! So, thank you, Sony!



Introduction - The Sony A9 Camera


Oh, thank you.

I’m sure you’re probably not here to see me; I’m sure you’re here to hear about this particular camera that I’m holding; which is the Sony a9 camera.

It’s just over 10 years since Sony entered the interchangeable lens camera market and boy, have they’ve been moving very quickly in those 10 years.

Sony v Nikon v Canon Cameras

This Sony a9 camera is the first time Sony has actually compared itself with, what is perceived to be, the competitors in the market: Canon and Nikon.

This is the first time when Sony released a camera, they compared its performance with Canon and Nikon cameras, and this has caused a little bit of controversy; and there are a lot of stories - both negative and positive - on social media, and it is because of that direct comparison.

Basically, Sony is saying: We’ve arrived! Not only have we have arrived, but we’ve arrived with a mirrorless camera!


Comparing The A9 camera to Nikon D5 camera and Canon 1DX camera

So, welcome to the Sony a9 camera.

I’ve been using this camera now for just over six weeks and I want to talk to you about where it’s been pitched at, which is sports; action; wildlife photographers, but also as a general purpose camera; would you use it for general purpose photography?

[Slide shows a list of items and the heading is “Hyper or Reality?” next to an image of a Sony a9 camera]

So, but first, let’s get into; a lot of people said that you know, just drop the hype, okay, because a lot of journalists have said a lot of nice things about it, and this has caused a little bit of anger in social media.

So, hype is a negative word - hype would tend to mean that this camera doesn’t deserve what people are saying about this particular camera - so I’ll just cherry-pick some of the points there; like the two competitor cameras are Nikon and Sony sports cameras – yes, they’re very expensive cameras; they’re there to shoot at very high frame rates, with very large buffers and to track moving subjects with a great deal of accuracy.

So let’s look at the specs of this camera, and who it is competing with.

Resolution Of The A9 camera

Does it have a higher resolution than say the Nikon D5 and Canon 1DX Mark II cameras?

Well, we’re comparing - this is a 24-megapixel camera and the competitors are only up to 20-megapixels; so there’s no hype really there; it’s a higher resolution camera for sports.

Frame Rate

Does it have a faster frame rate? We’re looking at 12 and 14 frames per second from the competition, and this is 20 frames per second – so (again), not really any hype there.

Focus Points

Does it have more auto focus points? The ability to track something across the frame, because we can’t always be keeping it in the centre of the frame, because it’s moving erratically or very quickly; the more focus point the better, and we’re comparing 61 to the Canon; 153 for the Nikon, and 693 for the Sony.

That’s not a little bit more.

Basically, those centre points cover nearly pretty much the damn, you know, all of that damn sensor there; a full-frame sensor!


Does it have a bigger buffer?

Okay, so, we’re comparing with 93 RAW, 200 RAW, and this one has 241 RAW before the camera is likely to slow down.


Okay, so, it is the only sports camera that offers zero blackouts.

Typically with all cameras, whether they’re mirrorless or use DSLRs, they’re always… there’s going to be a little bit of a blackout when you’re using a mechanical shutter, or and/or, a mirror.

That means that you’re only looking at the subject that’s moving for half of the time.

Now, you can get quite good at following this, but this camera can use a fully electronic shutter whilst tracking and so it looks like you’re actually recording a video because there is ZERO blackout!

There is no mirror and there’s no mechanical shutter to get in the way of recording those shots.

Silent Shutter

In default mode, this camera will make a noise when it’s shooting, but it’s an artificial noise - you can actually switch it off and go in stealth or fully silent mode.

Okay, and the only indication then that it’s shooting - which you can switch on - is just a little line that just blinks at you, just to say: I am now shooting at 20 frames per second.


So, we talked about the silent mode and, although it’s an expensive camera -  I won’t say this is the cheap entry level mirrorless camera - it is significantly cheaper than the Nikon and Canon; more than $1500 cheaper than those Nikon and Canon sports cameras.

So, I don’t think it’s hype just to state the figures, which is what I’ve been doing.

The Sony A9 Camera In The Field


Why is 20 fps Is Invaluable?

[Slide shows two people in martial artist clothing performing moves]

So, let’s look at 20 frames per second - this is shot here at a Taekwondo evening: I had the camera for 72 hours before I went travelling; had to return it and then I got another pre-release camera to take on my travels.

So if I just show you that.

[Slide shows multiple clear shots of the two martial artists performing kicks and movements]

Okay, it all happens very quickly.

Some people say, do you really need 20 frames per second?

Well, let’s take a look and let’s wind that back, frame by frame.

Okay, and you’re looking for a decisive moment and in sports, a decisive moment can be where the ball just strikes the bat and look twenty frames per second is not, you know, some people would like even more, because some people are still able to shoot an image where the ball is not in the shot.

Okay, because, a ball, off say, a baseball bat, will come and go very, very quickly; and so I can just basically, roll using Lightroom, roll backwards and forwards looking for a moment that is my decisive moment.

I posted these images to Flickr and somebody said why don’t you actually get them kicking each other, and I’m going, well, that’s an odd thing - because the woman would break the other woman’s ribs!

Okay, that’s a good reason that these people practice and narrowly miss!

Which is good for the Taekwondo people, I’m sure!

[Slide shows a Border Collie dog running through water]

Okay, so this is, ah, I went down to St. Kilda beach – St. Kilda beach, when the tide is out, is a beautiful place to capture running dogs - the shallow waters seem to go on forever and the dogs absolutely love it!

[Slides cycle through various shots of the dog running through the water with tongue flying and eyes wide open]

So that’s 20 frames a second; and again, that’s played back a little bit slower; but again, in Lightroom, I would be going: Where is the decisive moment?

Typically, it’s not when the dog is down for me, it’s usually when the dog is on the up stride.

Okay, so you can picture your… and see, that’s 20th of a second difference; and when the subject goes towards the edge of the frame, that’s really where you want your focus points extending out because you’ve started tracking the head and now the head is on the edge of the frame.

The Number Of Focus Points

Okay, and a lot of the older DSLRs all of those focus points are grouped around the centre.

[Slide changes to a cycle of multiple shots of another dog coming straight towards the camera in the water]

Okay, so that’s just moving forward - let’s just show that again; decisive moment there, I’ll just bring that back to the beginning and look at look at those shots - here you go.

So, you know, if you’re shooting at ten frames a second, that that might be the shot you get; but I’m just looking for the one where the ears are fully levitated because for me that is the hero shot!

You know, we’re not talking about Cartier-Bresson decisive moments, where you’ve got maybe a whole second - you’re looking for a fraction of a second for that decisive moment.

[Slide changes to a kite surfer elevated above the water]

Okay, so let’s just… moving on.

This one, I didn’t even know what I’d got until I got it back to Lightroom.

The guy was on a board, and now he is walking on water; and so, you can see the expression - he knows he’s lost his board!


So, [Laughs] and even the hand out, you know; so you can, just the drama of those shots, you can be surprised!

Because it all happens so quickly!

We don’t actually know what we got till we get it back to the computer.

[Slide shows a downhill skier going passed a flag. There are little green squares on points on the skier’s body]


So just to give you an idea, because I can’t show you what it is; I’ve just grabbed a very short movie offline, to show you what it’s like recording with a complete electronic shuttle, with zero blackouts.

These little green squares; they are the focus points; and once you half-press and lock-on, they will track - doesn’t matter where the subject moves in the entire frame viewfinder - it will track that.

So, just to show you that.

[Plays a short video of the skier coming down the hill – green focus points remain on the skier’s body through the entire shot]

That line that is blinking; I’ll just replay that, again, so you can see that one more time - the edge line that’s blinking is just showing you that it’s recording at 20 frames per second.

It’s quite a surreal experience, you know, to just point the camera and have no sound and no blackout when you’re recording these high action things! Those are the sensor points.

(Slide shows an image of a man walking across a green area – possibly golfer – with hundreds of little green squares covering the screen and “693 AF points” written next to it]

Okay, so if you’re not experienced at trying to track something, as long as you can keep a bit of the subject in the viewfinder, you’re pretty much guaranteed that the camera will do the rest.

One sports photographer, just this morning online on social media, said, it felt like he was cheating with this camera because it was so easy to get all of the images sharp!


There’s a conspiracy theory online, would you believe, that the 160 journalists – photojournalists - who were at the New York release, were all paid to say nice things about the camera.


As I said, some people don’t want this camera to be as good as it is.

Distortion Free Electronic Shutter

[Slide shows another kite surfer – this time still attached to his board – on choppy water]

So we’ve got a distortion free electronic shutter.

There have been electronic shutters for a very long time.

Okay, but what happens is, electronic shutters the scan route from the top to the bottom of the sensor, is too long to record straight lines - like the lines of this kite surfer - they would distort; a golf club that was swinging very quick would bow, because of the scan time from the top to the bottom of the sensor.

So, in order to create a sports camera that had a distortion-free electronic shutter, basically, Sony had to pull a rabbit out of a hat.

Okay, they had to minimize the scan time from top to bottom; it’s a bit like using a flatbed scanner: You’re recording everything sharp, but if you were to drag the piece of paper as the flatbed scanner is working, everything would be distorted because of the time it takes to scan across.

So the scan time is greatly reduced and has enabled now, for the very first time, to use electronic shutters for sports photography.


So, again, you can see… and we can…

Some people say, but, you know, you’ve got loads of images surely that’s too many to cycle through; but when you’re in Lightroom, it’s like playing a movie back - you cycle to the bit, just playing the fast-forward key, until you get to the decisive moment; slow down; roll backwards; forwards and choose your moment.

Bright Brilliant Electronic Viewfinder (EVF)

[Slide shows another shot of a dog running through water with “3.69 Million Dot EVF (twice as bright) with 120 fps refresh rate” written underneath and the other camera meta data above]

Okay, so let’s take a look here at…

Okay, the nice thing about these cameras; I’ve always enjoyed the electronic viewfinders, rather than the optical viewfinders.

One of the only negative points, because the resolution is very, very high on these now, the refresh rate is very fast, but on the a9 camera they manage to double the brightness of the viewfinder - so even if you’re on a beach in full sun, when you put the camera to your eye it looks very, very bright; it doesn’t look a little bit darker - typically with these electronic viewfinders as soon as you get them in low-light, they’re extremely bright and they’re always advantageous.

The real advantage of electronic viewfinders, of course, is what you see is what you get -  so if you’re under exposing, it looks dark; if you’re over exposing, it looks too bright; you see your depth of field, so you know exactly how to adjust your settings to get the image you want.

So, I’ve always enjoyed that about electronic viewfinders.

Low Light ISO Performance

[Slide shows another shot of a dog running towards the camera through water with “Incredible high ISO performance” written across]

The high ISO, because this is a full-frame camera; what we’re always going to get with these full-frame mirrorless cameras, or any full-frame for that matter, is you’re going to get really good dynamic range and really good high ISO performance.

And so when I started shooting - these are Visla hunting dogs - I rang the guy who I’d met down in St. Kilda Beach, and got him to bring his dogs down.

It was going to be low tide; it was going to be sunny, and we arranged to meet on the beach.

I started tracking these dogs even before the sun had risen, and the camera was locking on in very low ambient light;  because it’s got a, what’s called a -3 EV capability; so it can lock on in very, very low light and then track really reliably; but as we started recording very early in the morning, just as the sun was hitting the horizon, the camera was working at high ISO, and the reason it’s working at such a high ISO is because the shutter speed is shooting at 2,000th of a second in low ambient light.

So your higher ISO performance has to be good; and for most purposes, people are not even going to be aware that the ISO is pushed because, on a 4k image, a little bit of noise reduction in Lightroom - maybe 20/30 - the images look absolutely clean.

How Good Is The Focus Of The Sony A9 Camera In Practice?

[Slides are of various dogs in the water, running and playing, and people playing in the sand, and kite surfers]

Okay, so, there are some of the images that I captured.

This is just, basically, it’s Albert Park, just down on the beach there, Port Melbourne.

Fortunately, I was… because I only had the camera for 72 hours, I was blessed with good weather, and good weather for kite surfing is lots of wind.

I’ve got a friend who’s a kite surfer and said, it’s going to be a good day for kite surfing; so I went down to St. Kilda again in the afternoon, and they were all sitting on the beach; and I said, what’s the problem, no one’s in the water?

They said we’re waiting for the wind.

And then, of course, then I realized why they’re all waiting for the wind because they’re all getting big air!

So there’s a lot of erratic motion here - you see one of the great things about one of these cameras is as it’s locking on, there are basically five settings in here - how sticky do you want me to be to the actual subject that I’ve locked on to? Would you like me to switch to a better subject, or would you like me to stay with the subject you locked on?

So as these two pass each other, a good camera will stay on the subject that you first locked onto; it won’t pick another subject because it has better edge contrast, let’s say.

So that’s really important for a sports camera, to carry on faithfully, with the first subject.

So, that’s like picking one football player on a pitch; you want it to track that football player, not any football player.

Okay, so, this was all with the new 100-400 lens that is being released very, very shortly.

I believe they’ve arrived in the country.

[Slide shows a black background with a Sony a9, with the icon and “Travelling with the a9” written next to it]

Okay, so, that was a 72-hour look, and I couldn’t fault the camera.

Extended Battery Life - 3000+ Images

The battery life of these has doubled, which means that if you look at a rating for the battery, they’re going to be saying that the battery is capable of doing 700 shots; the way they do those battery ratings though, is a slightly in an atypical way for shooting for a sports photographer - the way they measure that is, you take one shot; you review it; you zoom in; you zoom out; you switch the camera (off); you switch the camera back on; and you take another shot. But for sports photographers who are shooting continuously and not reviewing their images, their battery life is actually good for 3,000 plus images before you need to change the battery.

So you’re going to be shooting for quite a long time you.

You’re most possibly likely to fill the cards - 128-gigabyte card - before the battery runs out on you!

Dual Card Slot

[Slide shows a white background with an image of the camera showing a battery, and two SD cards in the slots with “Dual SD card slots and larger Z series batteries” written above]

This is another one of the advantages and features for this camera is: We’ve got a two card slot.

Okay, so what I, and you can program the card to run, um, the two cards to run in a variety of different ways; you can have movies going to one card; stills going to the other - which is my preferred - you could have it duplicating the image to two cards – okay, that will slow the camera down slightly, which is why I prefer movies going to the top card - and this is the bottom slot, is the ultra-fast slot.

Ultra Fast Memory Cards

They developed… Sony developed ultra-fast cards for this camera.


Okay, so the read/write speed on this particular card is 300 megabits per second; a lot of people running the a7 R2; a72; the fastest cards those typically use is a 95-megabit read/write speed; so this is typically, three times faster at reading and writing information than say the a7 R2.

The battery - it doesn’t look that much bigger but, erm, it’s worth double the life.

The actual body is a little bit heavier, a little bit bigger than the a7 series cameras; but after you’ve held it in your hand for a couple of minutes, you actually don’t really notice the difference.

Grip Extension

For people with really big hands, you can actually get a little bit of a grip extension - if you don’t want to put the vertical group with the two batteries on, you can just get an extra grip on the bottom which just is somewhere to park your little finger, if you’ve got a big hand.

Controls Are Easy & Quick To Access

[Slide shows a close up of the dials on the camera, with “Focus + Drive Mode Dials”]

Okay, so another notable feature with the advancements with this camera, is all manual controls for adjusting the focus settings, and the drive modes.

So, for instance, you can go between AFS and AFC - continuous auto focus - without going into function menus or hitting custom buttons.

Same thing with the drive speed, if you don’t need 20 frames a second, you could quickly drop down to 10 frames a second if you want to slow the camera down because it’s working too quickly.

Okay, so, you’ve also got your timer and your bracket options up there as well.

The A9 Camera is Very Small & Light Compared To Nikon & Canon

[Slide shows a comparison between a Nikon D5 and a Sony a9 – the Nikon is almost double the size]

Okay, so, size - you can see this is the direct competitor, one of the two direct competitors; which is the Nikon D5, and you can see, even though this is slightly bigger than an a7, we’re nowhere near the competitor’s size there.

[Slide shows a black background, a7 camera body and logo, and “A 7 kg carry on means no flash and no heavy duty tripod, so…”]

Okay, so, this has really been important; it’s why I loved the a7s cameras when they first came out, because the airlines are getting harder and harder, and tighter and tighter on those carry-on baggage restrictions; and so most airlines now have dropped down to the 7 kg carry-on, plus maybe a handbag or a laptop bag as well as that - so when I’m packing to go overseas, because I won’t check any of my gear, I’m always trying to get down to 7 kg of camera and lens.

I might pack a tripod because I can replace that the other end, but typically all of the lenses and cameras have to go into that 7 kg, and that is exceptionally difficult with big DSLRs.

Travel Photography


[Slide shows an image of a squirrel and “…usable ISO 12,8000 is a bonus”]

Ok, so, the first thing is, is we’re not going to be shooting sports anymore, I’m just using travel photography now.

This is a red squirrel - they’re endangered in England, they’re making a little bit of a comeback in the UK because they’re culling the grey squirrels, which was an introduced species into the UK, which has taken over the red squirrel territory.

They are exceptionally shy, okay, and I’m working with a 70-200 f/4 lens; and I’m basically, approaching these, I’m not in a hide with a 600 mm, I’m basically approaching these over a 20-minute period by shuffling ever-closer…

And I’ve got the shutter on silent because this guy is going to run up the tree if it detects absolutely any movement or any sound.

Okay, so this is a 12,800 ISO, with no post-production. I don’t normally post straight out of the camera, but that’s as the camera sees it.

How Sharp Is The Sony A9 Camera - You Can Download Sample Full Resolution Images

These, you won’t see it perhaps today, but these images I’ve posted up to my Flickr account, so you can download the full resolution image, and zoom into yourself.

Because a lot of people with the Sony systems they’ll say, how sharp is the lens?

And I say, download the full resolution image, zoom in in Photoshop - you tell me how sharp it is because that’s how sharp it is!

Sharpness is often subjective, so just, you know, so I often make available the full resolution images that people can download to either look at the noise or the sharpness.

So, I’ve got another example where I’ve added 40 noise reduction, which doesn’t tend to steal away any of the sharpness – if you use too much noise reduction in Lightroom you tend to get a little bit of a blurrier shot, but up to about 40 is quite passable, and these tones now will be completely smooth  - and so that would easily go double-page spread in a magazine, and no one would know it’s not a 100 ISO image.

[Slide shows a rural country road with a stone wall and a tree]

Okay, so, I’m going to use this camera now for a variety of reasons - typically I’d be using an a7 R2, which I often described as a camera for all reasons really, because it does everything well - the only thing that I would never describe the a7 R2 is: a sports camera.

I have tracked very fast-moving stuff accurately with the a7 R2, but because it’s got a frame rate of five frames per second and a quite small buffer, you wouldn’t describe it as a sports camera, even though it can track fast-moving stuff.

Okay, so, instead of - I’ve left the a7 R2 at home, and I’ve been using the a9 to see how I feel about using this as perhaps my only camera.

[Slide shows a dark skinned man with white paint or chalk across his forehead and red dot between his eyes, with one shoulder bare and the other with cloth draped over it, with the words “Portraiture: … featuring the new and improved Eye-AF”]

So first thing, let’s take a look: Portraiture.

The Sony A9 Camera In The Field - Portraiture

So, I managed to grab one of the new 85, 1.8 lenses - it’s not branded as the GM; it’s  not branded as a G; it’s not branded as a Zeiss; that means it’s very affordable, ok, because it hasn’t got those special names attached on the other end - but it is exceptionally sharp.

Ok, it’s one of the sharpest lenses in my kit bag; so it’s a real bargain in the Sony range.

Now when I put it on the Sony, one of the beautiful things about the latest Sony’s is their Eye-AF, not just face-detect, but eye-detect, in the face, works in continuous autofocus.

So even if your subject is moving, it tracks the eye.

Now, the a9 camera has got even better than the a7 R2 camera!

And I didn’t think that was going to be possible, but people can turn sideways on and so it doesn’t look to me like a face anymore - the camera should pick it as a face, because its profile onto the camera - the Sony a9 camera carries on tracking the eye in profile view, and in very, very low light!

And, so, although this has been designed as a sports camera, I actually found that it’s an absolute perfect portrait camera, which would then open it up to wedding photographers as well; tracking the bride in very low ambient light, and at the reception; it would always track the bride’s face, because, remember you can register specific faces not just any face with these cameras, so if you just take one picture of the bride before your wedding shoot, and have that registered as the primary face; it will always find the bride in the shot and always make sure her eye is sharp, even when using f/1.4 portrait lenses.

[Slide shows multiple images of portraits of people]

Okay, so, I shot a whole series of portraits on a stopover in Singapore, in Little India; and just tracked these people.

Street Photography

Okay, a lot of people are get nervous about photographing complete strangers - normally I’ll have a little bit of a  conversation with somebody, just to make that relationship between me and them a lot easier - this woman doesn’t have a word of English, so it’s all body language; I smile; she smiles; I take a photograph; she hasn’t run away; so I moved closer.


So, there it’s a bit like photographing squirrels really: don’t get too close, too quickly, otherwise you frighten them away!

So just remember, that’s where I start – hello! - and I wave, and I drop the camera, I only take one shot and drop the camera; smile; make some hand gestures; she makes some hand gestures; I get closer and closer, and then that’s the shot I wanted - I mean, I love the really close shot.

I’ll often get so close that I just crop the top of the head as well - I really like presence in a photograph.

And I’ll be shooting this wide open - 1.8 - so you don’t want the tip of the nose sharp because the eye will be soft.

Okay, so the ears will be out of focus; the tip of the nose will be slightly soft, but the eyes will be bang on.

Okay, so that’s 1.8, Eye-AF on an a9.

[Slide shows images of chickens and roosters]

Okay. Chickens; very erratic.

Unfortunately, Eye-AF doesn’t work on a chicken… [Laughter] because it doesn’t recognize it as a human face because it’s not!

So generally, what I’m doing is, I’m locking on with a point AF, not a wide AF, but it’s called a spot, a variable spot AF, locking on and hopefully, it will track the eye and not go for anything else that is moving; it’s harder work, I have to say, working it’s very wide apertures - this will be f/4 on 70-200 lens.

[Slide shows a close up photograph of a brightly coloured rooster face and eye]

This was my favourite one because of this… this he is eyeballing me, but his face, his head is pointing in a completely different direction, which gives it that sort of menacing Chuck look.

Yeah, I’m sure he’s eyeballing somebody else on the other side – he’s got like stereoscopic stuff.

[Slide shows a small brown bird eating a snail]

So, more erratic stuff.

The amazing thing about this camera, is you point; you lock-on; you’ve got presets 1, 2, and 3 on the top of the camera, so anything that requires locking on and tracking anything that’s moving, I’ll usually program to the 1, 2 or 3, and so it’s literally: turn the camera on; point; and the camera takes over - that’s why that photographer said it feels like cheating.

As soon as you switch the camera on, and you point and lock-on - they’re all sharp!

[Slide shows another squirrel image – squirrel is climbing along a metal bar onto a bird feeder with “Stealth Mode” written underneath]

So, stealth mode - I don’t have a 600 lens with me, so basically, what I’m doing is, if somebody says, oh look, there’s a squirrel - they’ve lost me for 20 minutes, because I’m shuffling every time the squirrel looks at the food, I advance half a pace, and so that’s how I get so close with this stuff.

And this is the culprit for ruining the red squirrel population; so this is just in a cousin’s back garden.

[Slide shows a green, lush rural scene, with “The Dales” written at the top]

Okay, so we went up to the Dale’s - which is, apparently the red squirrels have made a comeback in Scotland, and in the far north of England - so we’re up in the Yorkshire Dales, which is a beautiful part of the country.

Some of the daytime temperatures were colder than it is here now, so even that, it’s their summer.

So there is a payback for the rugged beauty.

[Slide shows a gorgeous portrait of a red squirrel]

And here is that red squirrel; and I captured basically hundreds of these.

[Slide shows the red squirrel hanging upside down with food in his paws and mouth]

Ok, they can… they got basically four hands, so they can hang upside down while they feed; there he is dropping a piece of food.

[Slide shows the same squirrel dropping the piece of food, and then looking at the camera with “Silent Shooting… is there anyone out there?” written underneath]


I’ve, even though I’m not making a noise, any sort of minor movement with the camera at my face, he’s looking up and when he’s looking at me, I’m not moving at all; and then he thinks, there’s nothing out there, and then back to feeding.

[Slide shows multiple images of the red squirrel on a branch, looking at the camera]

This one, he knows I’m there, but I’m not moving, so he’s trying to work out whether I present a threat to him or not.

[Slide shows a close up of the red squirrel’s head and face]

There again… is there anyone out there?

[Slide shows a red squirrel on a branch watching, and then sitting on the branch eating]

Again, that’s the one at 12,800 which I processed.

They look indistinguishable from the ones that are shot at 3200.

[Slide shows a Highland Cow]

Okay, so, I actually have never photographed these - they look very menacing, and this is a female, so god knows what the males look like with their horns - but as I’m getting, because I love getting really, really close – so, my wife’s over a dry stone wall, going, are you sure they’re friendly?


I’m going, I don’t know, I’m not even sure whether it’s a cow or a bull, and he’s looking at me, and I’m looking at him, and there we go.

[Slide shows a portrait of a woman under an umbrella with ear buds and a music player of some sort in her hands]

So, another one of my favourite genres - so we looked at sort of wildlife; landscapes – Street, love street photography.

So, this is where the camera has to lock on in a fraction of a second; this is catching people unawares; a lot of street photography is done with a 35 mm, at f/8 (and be there).

I typically leaning down more towards 85 with a 1.8 lens, and with a camera that can lock on and track focus very quickly, that does give a high success rate.

[Slide shows a young woman standing against a fence, looking up]

So this is all my 85 mm.

The Sony A9 Camera - Tilting Screen

Tilt screen, one person on one of my reviews said it’s not really a professional camera because the screen tilts.

Go figure.

How Sharp Are The Images On The Sony A9 Camera?

So a lot of that stuff is rather than pointing the camera at somebody, because you may go… I’m very quick, by the way, even if I do put the camera to my face, it’s just that; and knowing that the camera locked on and shot, even at 1.8, is very, very important - but often, I will just pretend to be fiddling with the camera, you know, and then just, um.. and then just tap.

Okay, so, people don’t even know, in silent mode, even if I’m standing next to them, that I’ve captured them.

[Slide shows an elderly woman holding up a tablet in a purple cover – she has red hair and a cane or umbrella hooked on her arm]

Like so. You can see that from the hip, surely you can see the slightly low angle of view.

So you can see that I’m just shooting from almost underneath her.

[Slide shows a dark skinned man looking at his phone in his hand – he has a white dot between his eyes]

And this is a guy just walking through a lane, that’s simply - I see somebody walking; I lock on; 20 frame burst; and they’re all sharp.

[Slide shows a group of children in red t-shirts opening white bags]

One of the interesting things, because with face-detect and no pre-programmed faces, it will often take a hero face, because - a hero face, that’s front on, so it will generally go to her - but if there are two people looking, this camera’s got a joystick and you can very quickly move the focus point from her, over to the edge, or down here, if you decided you were looking for somebody else to be sharp at wide aperture.

[Slide shows some playground equipment on a carpet-like floor and two children are playing in a ladybug]

Okay, so, this is really easy street photography - just point down; no one no one looks up - if you’re a little bit nervous about streets, just try and get a slightly higher vantage point; you can stay there all day and never be noticed.

The Bokeh Of The Lenses

[Slide shows a young woman crouched against a wall checking her phone]

Okay, this is all that sort of split-second street stuff, again, but with a slightly longer focal length; and typically, I used to do all street with a 35 mm; and we’re using the 85 1.8, you can see the very, very shallow depth of field.

The bokeh is fine, I mean there are two Sony lenses with better bokeh than the 85: the 1.4 has a completely circular aperture even stopped down, and has very, very smooth and good bokeh balls.

[Slide shows a close up image of what looks like incense]

Perhaps the best one is the new STF lens, which is the 100 STF - it’s got liquid silken smooth defocused areas, and if you go to my Flickr page you’ll see that there’s an album of images shot with that lens, so you can see how smooth the bokeh is.

[Slide shows a young man holding up an incense stick]

Okay so these, I’ve basically positioned myself where I know people will put the incense sticks, so, and I’ve basically framed the background first; so when somebody emerges from the doorway, where they’ve got the incense from, burning, I can take a picture within a split second.

So that ability to lock on and capture very, very quickly is pretty much the a9s forte.

They only have to appear for a split second and I have them.

[Slides show various people placing incense sticks into a vast container]

[Slide shows a strange looking sheep standing on a grassy area with mountains in the background, with the word “Editorial” above it]

Okay, so I did a little editorial piece up in The Dales, on the sheep farming up there; and so, we’re moving into landscape.

[Slide shows a landscape photo of a winding road and rural area]


I love the, you know, the dry stone walls must have taken centuries and centuries to establish in these very remote regions; no trees, notice – we’re too high, and too cold a climate.

[Slide shows a sheep being sheared]

And again, even that much of a face, you know on the top left there, is enough for the camera to track - it’s a very off-center composition, but obviously, it won’t go for the sheep’s face, it will always prioritise the human face.

And if there’s any element of an eye there, it will lock on to that as well.

[Slide shows an image of a stone walled cottage]

Beautiful dry stone walls up in The Dales.

[Slide shows multiple images of a worn looking man working with sheep’s wool]

And taking care of the fleeces.

[Slide shows a man in dark clothing and beanie on his head with a slight smile on his face]

Another friendly character I met.

[Slide shows an image of multiple metal beams, street lines, and cars, from a top down view, with the words “Urban Landscapes”]

Okay, another one of my favourite genres is the urban landscapes.

This one, I have a lot of people describe this when I posted this online, there’s almost like an Escher drawing.

There are so many vertical planes and horizontal planes at different levels, it’s actually a little bit of a visual puzzle to try and work out what is going on.

How Good Is The Sony A9 camera 5 Axis In Body Stabilisation?

There are various overpasses at different levels here, and all this is done in very low ambient light, handheld 5-axis in-body image stabilization - so even though I’m working with quite a long zoom lens, I can slow that down below speeds you’d normally expect.

Okay, if you’re coming from Canon or Nikon camera systems, you have stabilised lenses, but that’s not nearly as good as having a sensor stabilised, and Olympus and Sony cameras now have this 5-axis image stabilization, where you can call exceptionally low shutter speeds on very long telephoto lenses.

One of the best shots I’ve got to showcase that is, I’ve got a 10th of a second, hand held, on a 400 mm lens.

So, it’s insane.

Some people, you know, an Olympus owner told me that they got a 1-second exposure, handheld.

Yeah wow.

[Slide shows a photo of a building’s side with windows and air conditioning units]

So, this low light telephoto in low ambient light, with handheld, not using any tripods, really does pay off on these.

[Slide shows an image of people standing on a glass balcony next to a pool, on a top floor of a sky scraper – dark greys and spots of yellow show on the far buildings]

Okay, this is pre-dawn: a couple of people doing selfies there at the hotel.

[Slide shows an image from a high vantage, of some men standing talking and a parking garage on the right]

Sony A9 Camera Dynamic Range

[Slide shows a stone wall, green rural scene, and the word “Landscape”]

Okay, so, where the Sony sensors have always shined - and the most dynamic range of any sensors out there are found in the Nikon 800/810, and the Sony a7 R2 - these are right at the top of the sensor pack for biggest dynamic range; the biggest range of latitude in high contrast situations, from deep, deep shadows to very bright highlights - and the a9 is absolutely no different. It has that huge dynamic range.

So, typically, because I was new to the camera, I did bracket three shots - 2 two stops either side, just in case - but all of these shots that I ended up processing were all from one frame.

Okay, because the dynamic range never meant that I actually had to bracket at all, to capture the skies.

[Slide shows a lake and a green rugged landscape with dark clouds above and partially light sunshine spots on the hills]

So this is in the Lake District, (of Wass water)

[Slide shows a black and white image of a small building in a rugged rural country scene with a small brook in the foreground]

Okay, so dynamic range was really important.

Obviously the forte for the a7 R2 - this is a7 R2 territory with its high resolution - but even the a9, it can hold its head up in this area.

[Slide shows a vaulted ceiling and the word “Architecture”]

Same with architecture, where you’ve got windows that have got light streaming through the windows, and you’ve got interiors which are exceptionally dark – again, I was bracketing, but never used the bracket sequence; could always pull information from the stained glass windows, from the single exposure.

This is (Hereford) Cathedral, which has the Mappa Mundi - one of the very earliest known maps in existence, on pig skin - and also a copy of the Magna Carta; and they also have something called the chains library there.

[Slide shows an image of very old books chained to a shelf, with one of them showing brighter paper than the others]

And some of these books date back to the 8th century, hand drawn by monks.

[Slide shows an image of a modern BMW parked in the Cathedral]

And for some strange reason, they were having a curry night at the Cathedral and sponsored by BMW - all proceeds going to the restoration of the Cathedral.

To book a table was 10,000 pounds – that’s $20,000 for a table.

I think it was a way of being seen to be donating money, so everybody who was cashed up in the area probably had a seat at one of those tables.

[Slide shows the outside of a building that looks like wicker, and another glass twisted building]

Okay, back in Singapore with the architecture there.

Okay, so, typically this stuff would be…

My favorite vantage point for a lot of this landscape and architectural stuff is very, very low down - I often travel with one of those Manfrotto pixie tripods, because there’s no reason to apologise for not having your tripod with you; because they go in your back pocket, or in a side pocket of your camera bag - but even then, you know, the camera is on the ground but I haven’t even mounted on the tripod, because the 5-axis image stabilisation on a wide-angle lens, I’ll typically go as low as a 5th of a second, handheld; and so can pull the f/16 aperture, even in low ambient light.

[Slide shows more architectural images in various lights and times of day]

So this is all by the Gardens by the Bay, if you’re travelling through Singapore, or breaking your journey on the way to Europe. It’s fabulous… all the construction is on reclaimed land.

One of the hotels that I wanted to stay at for a very long time, is this a very unusual hotel: it’s called Park Royal on Pickering.

[Slide shows an inside view of a very curved and lush green interior of a building]

It’s, there’s more “greenage” than the surface area than the hotel actually takes up - it’s basically, they’ve invested in vertical gardens, so there’s so much greenery hanging off the side of this hotel - it’s also, there’s not a straight line in many of the angles on this hotel, which makes it a beautiful place to stay, if you’re interested in architecture as well.

[Slide shows a very green and overgrown structure]

How’s that for a… that’s their car park to the hotel.

[An audience member says “That’s gorgeous.”]

It’s gorgeous, isn’t it? Being in a tropical climate helps, I think.

[Slide shows the interior of a room with orange panels]

So interiors again, just remember, you know, you’ve got full detail in the windows; and doesn’t matter how dark these leather couches go, you can pull up a texture of the fabric from a single frame.

[Slide shows what looks like a lantern, but could be a closed umbrella, in amongst very green overhanging gardens]

[Someone sneezes]

So, great hotel to break your journey if you’re staying there.

It’s a little bit pricey but definitely worth the money.

[Slides show various images of the interior and exterior of the hotel with its light and greenery]

Again, beautiful time of the day to be shooting this architecture is when the sun is already set; so you’re getting a mixture of colour in the night sky; it’s not gone completely black yet, but you’re getting full detail in all the dark tones of the hotel, which is fabulous.

[Slide shows a black background, the a9 body, logo and the words “Welcome to the a9… my Time Machine”]

Okay, so that really sums up my travels with this camera; that was just really a snapshot of what I’ve been able to do.

But this really is - just like the a7 R2 - it’s a camera for all reasons, except this one has probably got a little bit of a specialised area –well, a lot of specialization - in that fast tracking subject sports.

So if you’re interested in a camera that can shoot motor sports, or horse racing, and you’d want to do a lot of that sort of stuff; this is definitely the right investment if you’re interested in that camera.

Now I’m going to be available for questions downstairs; I’m going to hang around for the next hour, so if you want to ask more about this camera, or appropriate lenses for your alpha system; I will be online.

I’ll also…

[Slide shows a hammer hovering over a nail and the words “Another ‘Nail-in-the-Coffin Production’”]

I’ve been using that slide for a while now…

Another Nail-in-the-Coffin production; you can read into that what you will.


Learn More from

So, um, I also, if you go to my website; it’s, I treat it as a learning resource; I’ve got lots of movies, both for Photoshop, Lightroom, but also for Sony alpha cameras.

I’ve got downloadable tutorials; Adobe presets, and it’s all free - I’m not selling anything to you guys, it’s all free.

Sony Alpha Camera Group

Okay, if you’re an alpha owner already, I run…

Make sure you join… there’s a Sony Melbourne group on Facebook; there’s also a Sony Australia Facebook group; I run both of them - I’m admin for both - and on the 29th of July, we meet in Port Melbourne; and at Mt. Hobson, which is just by the Spirit of Tasmania; we meet once a month, and you can meet some like-minded Sony Alpha people; and it’s bit of a Show and Tell event - everybody brings their latest purchase and shows everybody else what they’ve just bought – and, but it’s a great place to also ask questions if you’re not too sure of a particular camera setting; everybody tends to go away happy. If the weather is good, quite a few people go off and start shooting around Port Melbourne, because it’s quite a scenic place for landscape and street etc.

Okay, so that’s me.

Okay, so thanks very much!


[Lights come up]



Thanks very much, Mark.

I have to say with all new cameras, knowing what these features actually do - in other words, how to use them, and how to really, where they give you value – because there are lots of value in all these cameras and all the features, but understanding what they can do for you is so important.

And I think watching Mark’s presentation there, he does a wonderful job of turning the features into how you can make the most of it, so, thank you very much!



My Cart (0)