SAN DIEGO, Jan. 15, 2019 -- Sony Electronics Inc. today announced a major upgrade to its a9 mirrorless camera that will be available via a firmware update.
Sony's revolutionary a9 camera will receive several major enhancements to its award-winning autofocus (AF) performance and image quality, as well as receive a variety of new features that are designed to improve the overall workflow for professional photographers.
In addition, new firmware updates for a7R III and a7 III will be available that update these cameras with the latest enhancements including Real-time Eye AF performance and add interval recording capacities.
"These new firmware upgrades demonstrate the strong commitment that Sony has to our customers," said Neal Manowitz, vice president of Imaging Solutions at Sony Electronics.
"Their voice is critical to everything we do, and being able to provide our customers with new capabilities is a source of great pride for Sony."
Firmware Ver. 5.0 and Ver. 6.0 for a9
The upcoming firmware version 5.0 for a9 adds Sony's newly developed Real-time Tracking mode for object tracking.
This mode utilizes Sony's latest algorithm—including Artificial Intelligence-based object recognition—and processes color, subject distance (depth), pattern (brightness) as well as spatial (distance) information to ensure that all subjects can be captured with extreme accuracy and precision.
When photographing or videographing humans or animals, face and eye position information is recognized by AI and the subject's eyei is monitored in real time with extremely high tracking precision.
In addition, "Tracking On" helps initiate real-time tracking at any time by simply pressing a custom-assigned buttonii and "Touch Tracking," which quickly activates through the touch screenii.
With this new firmware version 5.0, Sony's acclaimed a9 camera will receive advanced "Real-time Eye AF," the latest version of Sony's acclaimed Eye AF technology.
This exciting new capability employs AI-based object recognition to detect and process eye location data in real time, resulting in improved accuracy, speed and tracking performance of Eye AF.
In all autofocus modes, the camera can automatically detect the eyes of the subject and activate Eye AF with a half press of the shutter button, and the camera will seamlessly track the eyes at all times when in AF-C mode.
The new firmware will also enable photographers to select the preferred eye (left or right) of their subject as the focus point.
Other focusing capabilities that will be available with the new firmware include Touch Pad, Touch Tracking, an extended phase-detection AF aperture range that has been increased from F11 to F16, and Fast Hybrid AF for movie shooting that provides smooth, automated focusing for movies.
Image quality will also be enhanced with the new a9 firmware version 5.0, specifically in the areas of color reproduction.
The camera will more accurately account for subtle changes in light for smoother, more natural tonal gradations in elements like the sky.
There is a new auto white balance algorithm that gets added as well, which produces more consistently balanced images while burst shooting.
Other new functions for efficient controls and data management include My Dial and Dual Slot media menu improvement, rating and protect functions.
In addition to the several new capabilities, the firmware also adds compatibility with Sony's new Imaging Edge Mobileiii application - the successor to the PlayMemories Mobile application.
The new Imaging Edge Mobile application features a 'Transfer & Tagging add-on'iv function to assist professional workflow.
This allows photographers to transfer images from their camera to their smartphone during capture using the FTP transfer functionalityv, and adds support for including IPTC metadatavi on transferred images.
Version 6.0 firmware for the a9 camera will add Eye AF for animal eyesi, an exciting new feature for wildlife photographers that will enable interval shooting functionality for creating time-lapse moviesvii.
The new system firmware update version 5.0 is scheduled for launch in March 2019, and version 6.0 is scheduled for Summer 2019.
Firmware Ver. 3.0 for a7R III and a7 III
Sony's popular a7R III and a7 III full-frame cameras will both receive enhanced Real-time Eye AF performance with the upcoming firmware version 3.0.
This will be available in AF-C mode with a simple half-press of the shutter button.
Real-Time Eye AF for animalsi will also be available.
The cameras will also receive interval recording functionality that will allow for simple creation of time-lapse moviesvii.
The new feature can be set for anywhere between 1 and 60 seconds, with a total number of shots from 1 to 9999.
AE tracking sensitivity can also be adjusted to "High", "Mid" or "Low" during interval recording, allowing for reduced changes in exposure over the shooting interval.
The new system firmware update version 3.0 is scheduled in April 2019.
i Accurate focus may not be achieved with certain subjects in certain situations
ii Function must be set via the menu beforehand
iii A successor application of PlayMemories Mobile. Existing PlayMemories Mobile users can use this by updating PlayMemories Mobile
iv Add-on mobile application for 'Imaging Edge Mobile'. Available countries: US/Canada/UK/France/Germany/Hong Kong/China/Australia/Japan. User registration is required to use this application.
v Compatible with ILCE-9 with firmware update Ver.5.0 or later, ILCE-7RM3, ILCE-7M3
vi IPTC metadata for digital image metadata is a standard created by the IPTC (International Press Telecommunications Council)
vii The latest version of "Imaging Edge" 'Viewer' and PlayMemories Home desktop applications is required
If you buy from an unauthorized dealer you will not receive any US warranty or technical support. View full list of NON-AUTHORIZED DEALERS.
In the warranty section of Manfrotto's site, the company provides a supplemental warning:
Additionally, if you purchase any Manfrotto product from an unauthorized dealer via Fulfilled By Amazon you will not receive any U.S. warranty or technical support.
Third-party lens manufacturers have adopted similar policies in the past (e.g., Tamron), but what's unique about Manfrotto's warning is that they specifically list unauthorized retailers in addition to the usually-provided authorized retailers.
While the authorized retailer warning isn't necessarily included on their other brands' websites, a Vitec Group representative I spoke with clarified the policy.
I was told that the authorized retailer requirement for warranty claims / technical support applies to all the Vitec Group brands, including:
So, if you want warranty protection, make sure you only purchase from authorized retailers.