Sony a9 Firmware Update 5.0: What I Love and What's Still Missing

Sony a9 Firmware Update 5.0: What I Love and What's Still Missing

Sony just recently released one of the biggest firmware updates I have ever seen from the company. With so many feature additions and upgraded functionality, I wanted to walk through my favorite items. Not only that, but I also want to talk through some things I feel are still missing. 

What's New That I Really Like

Menu “?”

This is a change that has flown under the radar with most 5.0 announcements that I think it is a huge addition. In the past, if I was scrolling through the menu and came across something I didn't know about, I’d have to resort to searching the manual or Internet for an answer. But now, I can simply press the trashcan button and I’m met with a short description of what this menu item does. When I dive into that menu to see multiple options, I can press the trash can button again to see what each option will or will not do.   

Auto WB Lock toggle  

In the release of firmware 5.0, Sony talked about a new auto white balance algorithm that will provide users with more consistent auto white balance when shooting long bursts of images. But another feature that has flown under the radar is a new “auto WB Lock Toggle.” What this does is allows you to set a custom button to lock and unlock the auto white balance setting. So, if you are in a room with mixed lighting, instead of changing over to manual white balance and dialing in your desired color temp, now, all you need to do is lock the WB with the press of a button.

An example of this could be if I'm shooting someone lit by a lamp. If I’m up close, the camera will only see the color from the lamp and will give me a pretty accurate WB. But when I pull out to a wide shot, the cameras color temp will then change based off of other colors in the room, such as a window. Now, all I have to do is lock my WB on the close scene, and that setting will remain locked until I press the button again.

Focus Area Limit

One of the greatest things about the latest Sony gear is the countless options for how the camera will focus. There are actually 14 different types of focus areas and modes you can select from. The only issue with this is when you find yourself only needing one or two. Because you now have 14 different options, you need to scroll through in order to move between the two you really want. Well now, you can essentially turn off and remove the options you don't want to use. This makes it drastically easier to switch between the settings you really need and want.  

Image Ratings

This option was on the Sony a7 III and I believe the Sony a7R III, but I never used it because my Sony a9 didn't have it as well. Having this feature on all the cameras I use now makes it so I can quickly mark favorite images as I'm shooting across all my camera bodies. Although I won't use this as a way to pre-cull images for final delivery, it will make selecting next day previews or same day slideshow images so much easier.  

New Tracking Functionality

Last, but definitely not least. The new autofocus tracking is out of this world. The tracking from the old A9 firmware was dang good, as were the Eye AF and face tracking! But now, they have combined the two functions to work together. Not only that, but they added two new tracking criteria to help the camera more accurately track your desired subject.  

In the past, you would either track an object or track a person. For these situations, you had to choose what tracking method to use. Did you use Eye AF/Face tracking? Or the regular Lock-On AF to track an object or person that had a hidden face? They both used different options or a different set of custom buttons to get the job done, and so, you had to decide which to use for each situation.

Now, there is a single AF mode that will do it all. Simply half-press the shutter (or press your back button focus), and the camera will start tracking whatever you have selected. If it's the back of a person's head, the camera will track it as a normal object. If the person turns around, the new AI system will automatically tell the camera to switch over to face detect or Eye-AF to give you more accurate focus on the parts of the subject you want. When they turn back around and hide their face, the camera reverts back to the previous tracking setup. Not only do these different tracking methods now work together seamlessly, but they also use more criteria to track focus as well. In the old firmware, the camera would track based off distance, face, or eye. Now, the camera uses distance, face, eye, pattern, and color to track your desired subject.  

What’s Still Missing?

Firmware 6.0 is said to bring Eye-AF for animals, which will be amazing if you are a wildlife photographer. There is also supposed to be the addition of interval shooting for in camera time-lapse movies, although, the announcement is not specific if we will be able to keep the individual files from this or if they will automatically be saved into a movie. I hope that they give us the option of both for people that like to have a little more control in how the files are edited and then merged together. But in addition to these announced feature additions, there are still some things I’d love to see added to the Sony a9 as well as a7 III and a7R III

Multiple Exposure  

This has always been one of those missing features, along with the missing interval shooting mode, that left me scratching my head. This is a feature found standard on almost every camera right now, so it’s confusing why this would be left out when it should be something that's easy to add, especially since they offer it for older A7 series cameras through the Play Memories app. But when they removed the Play Memories app from the recent models, they seemed to have forgotten to carry over some of the features that users really needed and wanted. Now that Sony is finally adding the option for interval shooting, I hope that a set of multiple exposure modes is following closely behind.

No Programmable Movie Button

There are so many buttons to program that this isn't really a big deal, but it’s still so confusing to me that this button cannot be programmed. Especially now that there are three different ways to program each dial and wheel, why is there no way to program one of the main buttons on the camera? As someone that doesn't shoot video at all, this button is basically a waste of prime real estate.  

Kill Flash Button  

This is a feature I have only seen on the Nikon D750, but I’m sure it can be found on other Nikon models. In short, pressing this button allows you to quickly turn your flash off without needing to dive into a menu or reach up and flip a switch on your flash. It's an amazing little feature to have for event work where you are constantly dealing with changes in light. I find it fun to jump between using my flash and then using the lights from the DJ or other sources of ambient light. This kill flash button made working in these types of situations a lot more seamless.   

Limiter for Other Functions Plus Toggle Option

After seeing the limiter function for the autofocus areas, I’d love to see this make its way to other functions: things like white balance, ISO auto minimum shutter speed, shutter type, etc. Not only would this make choosing certain settings easier, but it would also allow the ability to have a custom button turn into a toggle button. In the case of shutter type, I am always choosing between silent and mechanical. But because there is also the option for auto, pressing my custom button simply brings up the menu where I can select from the three options. It would be much more convenient if I could set my preferences and have the custom button toggle between my two desired options.   

Conclusion  

Without question, the 5.0 firmware update is everything Sony promised with the initial announcement and so much more. I don't want my "what is missing" section to make you think any different. This update is more than any a9 owner could have ever dreamed of. But with so much being added, it's hard not to wonder why they left off certain features and changes, especially with a 6.0 update on the horizon that could bring some of these wish list items into reality. 

What's your favorite feature on the new 5.0 update? What would you like to see added to the upcoming 6.0 update? a7 III and a7R III users, you have an update coming soon too. What would you like to see added?  

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17 Comments

Xander Cesari's picture

Regarding the Menu info, the A7iii has this as a feature that can be set to a custom button called In-Camera Guide. I was always frustrated that I couldn't have that accessible in the menus without wasting a custom button on it. Seems like that's exactly what this fixed.

Also what do you mean by multiple exposures? Is that just bracket mode? A7iii and A7Riii already have that.

He's talking about the ability to do double-exposures in camera. And he's correct; Sony still doesn't offer this.

Xander Cesari's picture

Multiple exposure images themselves are kind of a niche style and can be replicated in Photoshop easily. It seems like the number of people who need that functionality in camera have to be pretty limited. Unless there's another application of the technique I'm unaware of?

Jason Vinson's picture

It's actually a very popular thing to use in the wedding industry and while you can replicate it in PS, the ability to do it in camera saves a ton of time as well as makes you be more conscious of the decisions you are making while shooting. It's a technique that was created in the film days and there is something special about creating something in camera versus on a computer.

I wasn't commenting on the statistical usefulness of the function, merely that it's what he was referring to. Comparable cameras from Canon and Nikon (and probably other manufacturers as well) support it, so it does at least raise the question as to why Sony doesn't.

Speaking as a Sony user, BTW.

Ryan Stone's picture

Is that a dead pixel on the back of your $5000 camera? (bottom center)

Even if there is. It might be a simple fix (worked for me).

https://www.4kshooters.net/2015/12/01/an-easy-trick-to-fix-dreadful-dead...

Ryan Stone's picture

That looks like the screen has a cluster of dead pixels, not the sensor, the spot is on the menus, not an image. Trash quality control for “the best camera on the planet” and absurd at that price point.

Jason Vinson's picture

It must be dust or something on the screen. I just checked and neither of my A9's have dead pixels. So quality control can have some of your respect back.

Ryan Stone's picture

Dust doesn’t light up blue/white on a black background. It is as bright as the white text. But maybe you’re right. My apologies.

Mick Ryan's picture

I would put at the top of the list toggle options, especially for binary choices and in custom buttons. Why am I presented with a menu choice of either on or off, just toggle it on and off. This would be especially helpful with focus options which I frequently change during shoots and need to do quickly. I don’t have the a9 but the a7r3 and I’m looking forward to that update to see what it brings.

Ziggy Stardust's picture

V4.0 has a menu tips option - it just needs to be assigned to the trash button.
Now all that's needed is to get a competent writer to redo them!

It's great update. Would have been nice to have something other than grey AF points and a 'toggle to next face' option when multiple faces are detected in a scene.

This camera and the latest firmware have done something I never thought possible. They have cured my chronic case of G.A.S. I cant imagine needing anything else. Your still missing list is mostly coming in the next firmware and even if it doesn’t, I just don’t need it. Whatever I want to shoot this camera is up for it. Street - slap on the 35 2.8 and go. Events, Travel and Family - 25-105 and done. Sports - 70 -300. Portraits 35 1.4, 55 1.8 & 85 Batis. Low light zoom - Tamron 28-70. I wonder if B&H will miss me?

After a few weeks using it, I have to admit I don't love it. Many of the additional features are great, but the combining of the standard AF system & the eye-Af has rendered both less effective. It's not finding or tracking the eye as quickly, and it's struggling against backlit scenes. It's by small degrees, of course, but it's definitely affected my usage. Given the option, I'd drop back to the previous version. They've taken what was pretty much a perfect camera (for me) & rendered it imperfect. Hopefully the next version will give you the option to separate again, if thats possible.

You can separate the two and go back to previous habits. What you have to do is not use face detection as standard af (disable it) and assign eye af to a custom button. So when you use regular af it doesn't try to find fece and eye, but if you press and hold your custom eye af button eye af will come alive for you...

I need double exposure, very sad when I discover that A9 don't have that, still using Fujifilm xpro2 to do that ..,