If the Sony a9 summed up in one word is “performance,” the new a9 II in one word is “connectivity.”
Two and a half years ago when the Sony a9 was announced, its sheer performance power was ahead of its time. Nothing proves that more than the new Sony a9 II being only a subtle iteration for most photographers not working within the time constraints of a fast-paced news cycle. Most changes to the a9 II, outside of the body design, involve new ways to transmit media off the camera faster.
Specs wise we have the same 24.2-megapixel stacked CMOS sensor, the same 693 autofocus points covering 93 percent of the image, the same ISO performance expandable up to 204,800, the same 20 frames per second blackout-free continuous shooting, the same 60 autofocus and auto-exposure calculations per second, and the same 3.68m-dot viewfinder and 1.44m-dot rear touchscreen LCD. I think you’re getting the idea.
As we saw first with the a7R IV, the a9 II is also receiving the same upgraded buttons and a deeper, more comfortable grip. The exposure compensation dial on the top far right now has a locking button on top to prevent accidental changes. Weather sealing has been improved and Sony has opted to use double sliding covers over the previously used hinged covers on the battery door and media slots. The a9 II also features a redesigned lens lock button and added cushioning around the lens mount for improved reliability.
Further body improvements include an added USB-C port, dual card slots that are both UHS-II compatible with Slot 1 now in the top position (now if they only figure out how to have the labels facing you when inserted), as well as slightly better battery life (less than 50 more photos per battery according to CIPA testing).
While the first a9 could do 20 frames per second continuous, that was only by way of using the electronic shutter. With a mechanical shutter the photo burst was limited to only 5 frames per second. New to the a9 II is the ability to shoot 10 frames per second with a mechanical shutter (AF/AE active), as well as enhanced anti-flicker control for indoor shooting. According to Sony, the entire shutter mechanism was redesigned to achieve the faster continuous frame rate with reduced vibrations. The a9 II has a shutter life expectancy of over 500,000 cycles.
Then there’s that connectivity. The Sony a9 II has a gigabit Ethernet port, adds 5 GHz band wireless functionality to the previous 2.4 GHz option (IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac), and incorporates a USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C data port for tethering and file transfer. Pairing the a9 II with the Imaging Edge mobile app will allow users to transfer photos and videos from the inserted SD card via Wi-Fi even with the camera turned off.
Files can be transferred via FTP in the background while continuing to shoot, and up to nine FTP servers can be saved in the camera for quick recall. Outside of the quick recall memory, up to 10 sets of FTP settings can be saved and loaded from the SD card, and using the Imaging Edge mobile app allows for 20 sets of settings to be saved there.
Voice memos have also now arrived in the a9 II. Up to 60 seconds can be recorded to a .wav sound file and attached to images. With Sony’s Transfer & Tagging add-on app, the spoken voice memos can be converted and embedded to IPTC metadata text automatically.
The Remote Camera Tool 2.1 app update will support the a9 II’s improved wired LAN connection by reducing release time and live view lag. Now possible is the ability to remotely format SD cards, switch FTP servers, and change still image storage destinations.
Other tidbits of improvements include the ability to save and load camera settings from SD cards, separate customizable Fn menus for video and stills shooting, 1.5 times faster touchpad responsiveness, touch tracking now available while looking through the viewfinder, focus frame color options (white or red), adjustable focus points while AF-C is active, and an added 10 or 100 image jump option in playback.
The Sony a9 II will remain at the same $4,498 launch price of the original with the shipping date yet to be released.