Sony a9 – Taking it to the Street to test Focus Tracking

June 01, 2017

John Warkentin here from Michael’s Camera!

We’re out on the street in front of the store, in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD; the corner of Elizabeth Street and Lonsdale.

I’ve got Michael’s Camera right behind me; here is the sign; our famous front window; and of course, I’ve got the brand new Sony a9, full-frame sports mirrorless, well it’s not a digital SLR, it’s a mirrorless camera!

And I’ve got the new G-Master 100-400 mm zoom lens on the camera.

So we want to give you a little bit of an example of how this camera combination tracks focus out here on the street. So there we go; zoom in on it. [Camera zooms in on camera and lens]

Get that beautiful alpha 9 symbol here.

This combination is very lightweight. It’s a beautiful feeling lens; the camera feels great in the hand.

So let’s just take some shots.

Now keep in mind, this camera is completely silent; so we’ve had to turn on the special effects shutter noise so that you can hear it, and it’s still not that loud!

But I’ve just got a couple of; I’m just looking for a car here.

Let’s look at this van here.

I’m zoomed right in, focusing on that; we’re doing a couple of bursts.

Focus on the license plate of that car as it goes by.

Let’s see what else we’ve got.

Oh, here’s a little car here; easy to focus on the rims of the car as it comes by.

Let’s try this little one here.

So I just focused on the grill and then on the sticky logo or the side of that.

If we just go into review there; so we’re probably still writing a couple of files here; because we’ve done so many bursts.

The things got a huge buffer on it. Let’s see if we get back here.

Oh yeah, there’s the car there that I was just taking pictures of.

I’m not sure if you can see that.

Let me get out of that and there we are: focused right on the logo of the door of that car as it was panning through.

That’s pretty tricky stuff. You know that car is moving along, so you know it’s a good simulation of what sport would be.

I’ll do this car here.

So it just tracked focus immediately on the license plate of that car; it’s just extremely quick.

So now, so that’s the native E-mount G-Master 100-400 mm lens.

So now let’s take a look at some other lenses.

Maybe we’ve got a legacy A-mount lens we’d like to try out on this camera.

Well, we’ve got one right here!

So let’s give it a go!

Pop this off; let’s get the release there, and this is an A-mount 500 mm f/4; with the A-mount to E-mount adapter.

Let’s line that up here; get it on; hang on a sec here so I can see what I’m doing; white dot there.

There we go.

Okay, now, we’re.

We’re at f/5.6; I’m going to turn this down to f/4 because it’s a f/4 lens; we’re in auto ISO and in aperture priority mode.

So let’s see how we’re doing.

Now there’s no, it’s not a zoom lens, it’s a prime, so we’ve just got to hold it and see it what we’ve got.

Here’s a white car coming down here now.

Let’s see here.

Okay, that’s focused on the front of it.

Now it’s not as speedy on the focus. Let’s try the bus here.

I’m not sure if it’s tracking as well; it’s locking.

I’m not seeing the tracking that I should be getting here.

Let’s try the tram here.

So I’m seeing focus but I’m a little unsure about tracking right now with this combination.

So I think I’m going to switch on over to the Canon 400 mm f/2.8; with a Sigma - it’s the MC-11 adapter, is that correct?

[Camera operator holds up a thumb]

So let’s give that a shot, and we’re going to revisit this Sony lens a little bit later in the day when we figure out exactly why that wasn’t tracking. I think there could be a system setup.

So let me remove this.

There we go.

[Takes large camera and lens]

Yeah, this is a little bit heavier.

Let’s get this mounted up.

Okay. Some of these things are a two-person job.

So a white dot is here; there we go; we’re mounted.

Okay, now, this Canon lens is a f/2.8; so let’s get her down to 2.8; in our aperture priority mode here.

Okay, take it down 2.8; everything else is still in aperture priority mode. Obviously, this is an auto exposure with auto ISO.

Let’s take a look at a car in motion.

Get another one here.

[Kneels down to take a series]  

[Tram bongs]

It’s certainly grabbing the front grille of the car.

There’s a difference in the overall speed of the focus system, but the speed of the actual burst of the camera seems to be about the same.

Let’s see what we’ve got. We’ll do something with some people walking towards me here.

There’s a gentleman running.

So, it’s grabbed his face fine.

Let’s go and see if we get some more people coming across the street here.

Oh, he’s walking, a guy walking away; that’s focusing on his head just fine.

You can barely hear it making the shutter noise, but it’s certainly bursting away.

Let’s try this bus.

No problem tracking the silver hubcap of the front of the bus.

Here’s a guy running here; let’s try this.

Okay, couple more people walking across the street here.

It’s just shooting like a machine gun! It’s incredible!

Let’s try another truck here.

I’m certainly seeing a difference in its ability to track than with the G-Master 100-400, so I think there’s probably a setting we need to investigate.

There’s no doubt about it, it is focusing but I think we need some fine-tuning on the tracking.

Now just for a little bit of fun here; let’s pop on the big gun: the Canon 800 mm.

[John is handed an enormous lens]

Okay, it’s actually lighter than the 400 I think.

There we go.

So that’s the Canon 800 mm f/5.6, and again, it’s the Sigma MC-11 adapter, which is EF to E-mount.

Now you’re going to ask yourself, why is Sigma making that? Of course, because Sigma makes EF lenses, so they want their EF lens owners to be able to use their lenses on every type of camera made, including all the Sony a7 and a9 series.

So let’s take a look here.

Here are some cars coming down the street.

Okay. Make sure we’re in autofocus mode here.


I’ll turn the stabiliser on; focus on infinity; 6 meters.

Let’s see, what have we got here?

Way down the street there are some people.

You know, I’m struggling to get focus here; let’s see if I can get that tram.

I’m going to see if I can just pre-focus a little wee bit.

There’s a person.

And, I got some bad news - I think that the 800 mm doesn’t behave well with this adapter!

I don’t think I’m able to achieve focus!

So, it might need to firmware update; it is not capturing focus at all.

That’s a case of where we probably should have tested this first, but there’s only one way to find out - you put it on here and test it!

So Canon 800 mm users, you’re going to have to wait a little bit for some compatibility; maybe the Meta-Bones adapter would work.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy our little spur of the moment field test in front of Michael’s Camera here, on the corner of Elizabeth and Lonsdale Street, in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD.

We’re excited about the a9!

We wanted to test it on some other lenses and it certainly seems to work for autofocus on the A-mount 500 mm f/4 and on the EF Canon 400 mm, fr/2.8.

I’m seeing some issues with tracking, I think we need to work with the fine-tuning maybe in the setup, or maybe try another adapter.

But there’s no doubt in my mind; with the native E-mount lenses like the brand new 100-400 mm G-Master lens; spectacular tracking; a very easy to use handheld package; and of course, the burst rate of this new camera is incredible at 20 frames per second. It’s a joy to use!

So we’re excited about it, and I think you will be too.

So come and see is that Michael’s Camera as soon as the new Sony a9 hits the streets, on June the 2nd, I believe.

So come and see us at Michael’s Camera!

We will be very happy to show it to you!

Follow us on Facebook; like us on YouTube I guess. Oh, you could like us on Facebook and follow us on YouTube; either way, you wish, and we’ll see you next time!

Thank you very much!


[John is back in the studio]


We’re back! We were out on the street in front of Michael’s Camera with the brand-new Sony a9 and of course, we started off using the G-Master 100-400.

It’s tracking performance, we were panning around cars going past us, and pedestrians walking towards us, and cars going towards us; anyway, the focus tracking was impeccable.

It was really a good experience; it locked onto focus immediately. The high frame rate, 20 frames per second, the shooting as incredible!

So it was a really good experience and of course, the whole package weight here is very easy to hand hold.

So then, of course, we thought we’d do a little trial by fire and throw on the A-mount 500 mm f/4lens.

Keep in mind now, that’s a much older lens than this camera, it’s brand new.

So we used a Sony E-mount to a- mount adapter and we had some problems.

So I just wanted to explain what we witnessed and of course, we ran a few tests after we came back from the street.

So this is why we’re adding this little extra part to the video.

Turns out our tracking performance, it wasn’t tracking.

So when we put the camera into slower speed bursts - so there’s basically high-speed burst, medium and low-speed - when we got into low-speed bursts; either with electronic or manual shutter, we were getting tracking but obviously, the frame rate was reduced.

And the exact same thing we noticed with the Canon 400 mm f/2.8 lens; and now that was using a Sigma MC-11 adapter, so that adapts EF lenses to the Sony E-mount.

We had the exact same problem when we were in the high-speed mode; it was locking on the first frame, but it was not tracking as we continued to press the shutter.

So again, when we slowed it down into the low-speed mode it continued to track, and of course, we did try the Canon 800 mm f/5.6, and it just didn’t work with the Sigma adapter.

We also updated the firmware on the Sigma adapter; didn’t make a change.

So needless to say, the 800 mm was misbehaving.

Possibly, with the Meta-Bones adapter, or maybe future firmware updates will come, and that 800 mm lens will maybe work.

That’s not a huge problem as not a lot of people have those 800 mm lenses.

But we certainly saw good still performance with the Canon 800, and impeccable performance with the new G-Master 100-400.

[Correction is noted on the video that the Canon 800 mm would not focus and the EF 400 mm was the one that worked with the Sigma MC-11 adapter, but only in low-speed mode]

And needless to say, focusing with third-party lenses and adapters with a high-performance camera, that’s always going to be a little bit hit-and-miss.

The native lenses are your best bet and of course, Sony’s G-Master lens series are impeccable quality lenses.

So that’s what you’re going to want to use if you expect to really achieve peak performance with the brand-new Sony a9.

Take care; we’ll see you on our next video!


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