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
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.
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
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.
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?