Sony Alpha 9 III Review

Sony Alpha 9 III
Verdict

Did you feel the shockwaves from the Sony Alpha 9 III announcement? Sony's a9 series cameras have long targeted sports, wildlife, event, and other fast action photographers, and the a9 III update, anchored by a global shutter, dramatically extends the capabilities sought by this niche with what is, essentially, a superset of prior Sony Alpha camera features.
 
The a9 III is a niche camera, but the niche is big, and there are no photography do-overs in sports, wildlife and live event photography. When your career depends on bringing home the perfect shot, the Sony Alpha 9 III, with 120 fps, incredible AF performance, and a blackout-free viewfinder, has your back.

Pros
  • Global shutter eliminates rolling shutter effect and banding, including during movie recording
  • 120 fps continuous shooting with full AF/AE tracking, with Speed Boost feature and Pre-Capture
  • Phenomenal AF system with incredible subject detection and tracking
  • Blackout-free QXGA 9.44 M dot viewfinder with up to 240fps refresh rate
  • Advanced 5-axis IBIS
  • Uncropped 4K 120p movies
  • 4-axis multi-angle touchscreen LCD
  • Rugged build quality with enhanced grip design
  • Compatible with VG-C5 Vertical Grip
Cons
  • Reduced dynamic range/exposure latitude
  • High base ISO of 250
  • Average resolution
  • Expensive
In-Depth Review

Did you feel the shockwaves from the Sony Alpha 9 III announcement?

Sony's a9 series cameras have long targeted sports, wildlife, event, and other fast action photographers, and the a9 III update, anchored by a global shutter, dramatically extends the capabilities sought by this niche. Read through the Sony a9 III's impressive feature set that is primarily a superset of prior Sony Alpha camera features.

Summary of Sony Alpha 9 III Features

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  • Unprecedented imagery from the world’s first camera with a global shutter full-frame image sensor (24 MP)
  • 120 fps continuous shooting with full AF/AE tracking
  • maximum shutter speed and flash sync of 1/80,000 second (single shot drive mode only)
  • 24MP Exmor RS image sensor
  • BIONZ XR image processing engine boosts overall processing speed by up to 8x
  • Composite RAW Shooting reduces noise
  • Advanced optical 5-axis image stabilization
  • Up to 120 AF/AE tracking calculations per second
  • Pre-Capture
  • Continuous Shooting Speed Boost instantly increases frame rate to capture the action
  • Real-time Recognition AF identifies and tracks subjects even if face/eye obscured
  • Reliable recognition of a wider range of subjects
  • Wide, fast, precise, and configurable autofocus and tracking, with dedicated AI processing unit
  • Customizable focus area to match the subject
  • Flicker-free shooting
  • Global shutter eliminates rolling shutter effects and banding, including in movies
  • Uncropped 4K 120p, first for an Alpha body
  • S-Cinetone for a cinematic look without the need for color grading
  • Breathing compensation for consistent angle of view when focusing
  • Dynamic active Mode stabilization
  • Auto Framing keeps the subject in a prominent position when shooting movies
  • 4-axis multi-angle touch LCD monitor combines the utility of a conventional tilting monitor with side-opening vari-angle flexibility
  • New front Custom button
  • Blackout-free QXGA 9.44 million dot viewfinder with up to 240fps refresh rate
  • Dual CFexpress Type A/SDXC/SDHC compatible media slots
  • Optional VG-C5 Vertical Grip
  • Rugged reliability for challenging environments
  • Shading curtain closed on power-off
  • Improved grip design ergonomics
  • Built-in Wi-Fi for FTP and smartphone transfers plus PC Remote tethering
  • Clearer voice memo recording
  • Multiple IPTC presets
  • Dedicated Still/Movie/S&Q dial for flexible hybrid operation
  • Anti-dust system increases dust removal efficiency
  • 1000BASE-T Ethernet for fast communication
  • USB Type-C connector supports SuperSpeed USB 10 Gbps (USB 3.2)
  • UVC/UAC support for high-quality webcam applications
  • USB PD (Power Delivery) supports fast charging

Sony Alpha 9 III Front

Sensor and Image Quality

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The a9 III's global shutter full-frame Exmor RS image sensor is at the core of this camera's game-changing feature set.

Global Shutter

This sensor utilizes additional electronics in each pixel well to enable simultaneous readout of an image capture vs. the line-by-line readout of interchangeable lens cameras before it.

ModelFOVCFSensorPixel SizePixels/MegapixelsDLA*
Canon EOS-1D X Mark III1.0x36.0 x 24.0mm6.6µm5472 x 364820.1f/10.6
Canon EOS R31.0x36.0 x 24.0mm6.00µm6000 x 400024.1f/9.7
Sony a11.0x35.9 x 24.0mm4.2µm8640 x 576050.1f/6.7
Sony a9 III1.0x35.6 x 23.8mm5.9µm6000 x 400024.6f/9.6
Sony a9 II1.0x35.6 x 23.8mm5.9µm6000 x 400024.2f/9.6
Sony a91.0x35.6 x 23.8mm5.9µm6000 x 400024.2f/9.6
Sony a7R V1.0x35.7 x 23.8mm3.76µm9504 x 633661.0f/6.1
* Learn more about DLA (Diffraction Limited Aperture)
View the full Sony a9 III specifications to compare additional cameras.

Like the a9 models before it, the a9 III has 24-megapixel resolution. While this resolution is not remarkable, is relatively low for full-frame cameras, and about the same as many APS-C models, it is often sufficient for professional photographers' needs, including for full-page and double-page magazine spreads.

Here is the Sony Alpha 9 III resolution chart test image. These results appear the same as the Sony Alpha 9 II results. Considering that the global shutter feature requires additional electronics that significantly reduce the pixel well capacities (by about half), "the same" is a great performance.

Relevant to camera selection decisions is the Sony Alpha 9 III vs. Alpha 1 resolution comparison, where the 24 MP vs. 50 MP difference is illustrated.

M (3936 x 2632, 10 MP) and S (3008 x 2000, 6.0 M) resolutions are available for those times when smaller file sizes are acceptable.

Imaging Sensor Format Size Comparison

The large photosites on 24 MP full-frame imaging sensors typically produce low pixel-level noise at high ISO settings. This camera's ISO range, ISO 250–25600 with expansion to 125 – 51200 available, is not included on Sony's feature list above. While I seldom consider using any camera's highest ISO settings, the high low end ISO of 250 stands out. ISO 250 is high for the low end of the normal range. This sensor loses over half of its illumination compared to the usual base ISO 100 cameras, the result of and the price paid for the electronics required by the global shutter, and gain must be increased to attain the desired brightness levels.

Let's take a closer look at noise and dynamic range. All other aspects remaining the same, the base ISO set to 250 generates the expectation for the a9 III to have the equivalent of 1 1/3 stop more noise than the a9 II at ISO 100.

Sony Alpha 9 III ISO Noise Comparison

The smoothly colored Kodak color patches test chart subject combined with no noise reduction processing (this is a key point) makes noise especially noticeable compared to detailed scenes that better hide noise levels. As always, noise reduction processing can improve upon the noise level seen in these images, but noise reduction can be applied to images from every camera, reducing its differentiation. So, avoiding noise reduction in the comparison levels the playing field. Unless otherwise noted, the Sony RAW-captured noise test images utilized the non-lossy compressed RAW setting and were processed in Capture One with the natural clarity method and the sharpening amount set to 30 (on a 0-1,000 scale).

Those results sent me down a long rabbit trail. The a9 III's ISO 250 results appear cleaner than the a9 II's ISO 100 results, and red flags were going up.

Matching the Capture One sharpening (30, .8, 1, 0 — settings that mostly eliminate the sharpening halos) and noise (0, 0 — no correction) parameters in Adobe Lightroom produced another look at the noise (denoted "LR" in the result sets), and this time the difference is as expected. The a9 II produces less noise at ISO 100 than the a9 III at 250 and just slightly less at 200.

The a9 III's results look like the a9 II's results at higher settings.

As the ISO setting increases from 250 through 800, the a9 III's noise levels grow slowly. Still, noise levels remain reasonably under control at ISO 1600. At ISO 3200, noise levels become noticeable though images retain a high quality at these settings. By ISO 6400, images begin to show noticeable degradation from noise, and by ISO 12800, the noise is bothersome. ISO 25600 through 51200 results look bad and should be considered a last resort.

One method of evaluating a camera's DR capabilities is to over or under-expose images and then adjust them to the correct brightness during post-processing.

Increasing the exposure by 3 stops and reducing it by the same during post-processing provides an idea of the dynamic range available. In that comparison, the a9 II shows more exposure latitude than the a9 III and a difference shows even at +2 stops. The difference remains readily apparent in the higher, equivalent aperture comparisons.

View the ISO 125 vs. ISO 250 comparison to see the reduced dynamic range available at the lower extended setting.

It is similarly interesting to look at underexposed images with brightness increased by the offsetting amount. In the -3 EV comparison at base ISO and other direct comparisons, the a9 III produces noticeably higher noise levels than the a9 II.

Underexposing when using the a9 III involves little noise penalty vs. selecting a higher ISO setting in the first place. A strong advantage of this capability is that shadow details can be pulled out of a high dynamic range scene that is otherwise properly exposed and when an HDR technique cannot be used or is not desired. Still, getting the exposure right in the first place delivers a lower noise image if a longer exposure and the same ISO setting can be utilized.

The Sony Alpha 9 III does not feature Pixel Shift Multi Shooting.

Overall, the Sony Alpha 9 III produces excellent image quality, though the base ISO at 250 means sacrificing the ultra-low ISO 100 noise levels we are used to, and the dynamic range is somewhat impacted. Do those shortcomings matter? Most sports and action photographers seldom use ISOs lower than 250, but the reduced exposure latitude means avoiding overexposure in camera has an elevated importance.

Sony Alpha 9 III IBIS

In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS)

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Camera shake directly impacts image quality for both still images and movies, and Sony's 5-axis Optical In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS) has long been a difference-maker. This system has provided up to 5.5-stops of shutter speed advantage, and the stabilized viewfinder was also quite advantageous. With the a7R V, Sony improved their IBIS system to an 8-stop rating, the highest rating ever for a Sony camera, and matching the rating of the review-time-latest Canon MILC, the EOS R6 Mark II. The a9 III's IBIS also gets the 8-stop rating.

Many of Sony's lenses, including the Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens, have image stabilization, OSS (Optical Steady Shot), included, and in-lens stabilization can be better tuned to the focal length in use. However, IBIS also has advantages, including correction for rotation.

With select OSS lenses, the a9 III features image stabilization with Body–Lens Coordinated Control when specific lenses are mounted. At review time, these six lenses, with their latest firmware versions installed, are on this list:

Sony FE 24-105mm F4 G OSS Lens
Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens
Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS Lens
Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens
Sony FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens
Sony FE 300mm F2.8 GM OSS Lens

Sony Alpha 9 III Front with Lens

File Size and Media

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Before Sony introduced their efficiently compressed non-lossy raw image format, Alpha cameras had a voracious appetite for memory cards and drives. The recently introduced lossless raw file format retains the ultimate image quality while dramatically reducing memory card and drive storage requirements for an easy primary choice.

The lossy compressed file format available on previous Sony cameras is still a good option, and it remains available, as does the heavy uncompressed RAW option. In addition, "The Alpha [9 III] includes the HEIF (High Efficiency Image File) format for smooth 10-bit gradations that provide more realistic reproduction of skies and portrait subjects where subtle, natural gradation is essential." [Sony]

The following table shows comparative RAW file sizes for a photo of a standard in-studio setup featuring a moderately high amount of detail.

Model / File Size in MB @ ISO:(MP)100200400800160032006400128002560051200102400204800
Canon EOS-1D X Mark III(20.1)24.725.225.426.026.927.828.930.331.933.735.936.3
Canon EOS R3(24.1)29.330.330.831.932.733.835.2.36.938.840.944.244.5
Sony a1(50.1)64.064.765.767.169.171.674.478.280.896.093.9 
Sony Alpha 9 III(24.6)32.730.430.631.332.133.234.736.437.140.6  
Sony a9 II(24.2)47.147.147.147.147.147.147.147.147.147.147.247.2
Sony a9(24.2)47.247.247.147.147.147.147.147.147.247.247.247.3
Sony a7R V(61.0)80.775.976.978.580.483.186.991.196.299.2105.0 
RAW file sizes increase with 1. Resolution 2. Bit Depth (more is better/larger) 3. Detail (noise adds detail, so high ISO file sizes increase) 4. Lack of compression. Memory and disk are cheap – buy more.

As mentioned before, shooting a smaller overall resolution is another a9 III option, with RAW M (10 MP) and S (6 MP) sizes available.

The Sony Alpha 9 III has dual media slots, both supporting SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-II) and CFexpress Type A memory cards.

Files can be written to both cards simultaneously (for redundancy), alternately (for increased performance), sequentially (for increased capacity), and sorted (by file type).

Compared to CFexpress Type B memory cards, the CFexpress Type A cards available at review time are slower and considerably more expensive. Still, the type A cards are smaller, becoming less expensive, and the ability to use SD cards in both slots is a huge advantage. The primary advantage of CFexpress Type A cards over SD cards is speed and robustness.

Sony Alpha 9 III Front Angle with Lens

Frame Rate, Buffer Depth, Shutter

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Going into this review, the a9 III's 120 fps frame rate sounded excessive to me. Then I experienced it. This frame rate captures the ultimate subject positions and juxstapositions, with exceptional results becoming normal. It didn't take long to get hooked on and addicted to this rate.

For a challenging subject, we took a quarter horse to the trails to utilize some recent snow and wind damage — downed trees creating horse jumps. Not only was the perfect in-the-air horse and rider position captured in 100% of the attempts but there was always a photo with the rider's and horse's heads between the tree shadows. Mathematic averaging says that 4 attempts may have been necessary for the same result at my a1's 30 fps rate.

When photographing subjects rapidly approaching, a long focal length lens, such as 600mm, is often preferred. A narrow-angle of view keeps a subject within optimal framing size for a longer time than a wider angle of view focal length (a slower-changing perspective with the same approach speed). The outstanding-performing Sony FE 300mm F2.8 GM OSS Lens was in the lab for review, and this focal length was ideal for the shorter working distance available in the woods. The shorter 300mm focal length made the ultra-high frame rate even more highly valued.

Here is a visual frame rate example. Drag your mouse over the labels under the following image for a visual look at under 0.1 seconds of 120 fps rate capture. The animation has 60 frames (low GIF quality) for a 0.5 second duration.

Sony Alpha 9 III 120 fps Frame Rate Example

25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34

For higher quality, watch the video created from 96 stills:

The odds of having the ideal bird wing position are greatly improved with 120 fps capture. This camera's 120 fps rate will capture outstanding wide-angle track and field images, a challenge for slow frame rates. Far more applications for a fast frame rate are encountered regularly.

That outstanding capability produces a challenge for later. There is no getting around the fact that 120 fps creates an excessive number of photos. 60 seconds of shutter press creates 7,200 images. More than ever, you will need to delete great images (or buy more storage capacity for the archives), and you might need a new selection routine.

There is no firm rule on how to locate selects from a high volume of images, but options include looking at one image in every thumbnail row until narrowing down the ultimate image choice within the favored row. Another option is to hold down the right arrow key in the image viewer to create a slow-motion video-like view of a burst to help locate the key frame. You can even create a slow-motion video from the many frames.

When the boundaries are moved, there may be colateral damage. The date and time-based file naming scheme programmed into my raw file import software adds a letter to files with a duplicate capture second. The import routine ran out of letters less than 25% into a second of 120 fps captured images (a counter based on the day appended to the name solved that problem).

ModelFPSMax JPGMax RAWShutter LagVF Blackout
Canon EOS-1D X Mark III16/20>1000>100029-55msn/a
Canon EOS R312/3054015020-76ms0ms
Sony a110/3040023820-42ms0ms
Sony a9 III12010620ms0ms
Sony a9 II10/2036123920-33ms0ms
Sony a910/2036224120-33ms0ms
Sony a7R V101000+583 n/a
View the full Sony Alpha 9 III specifications to compare additional cameras.

The listed a9 III raw buffer depth is a tested number.

To gain some data points, the Sony Alpha 9 III's 120 fps mechanical shutter drive mode was tested using manual mode (no AE time lag), ISO 250, a 1/16000 shutter speed (no waiting for the shutter operation), a wide-open aperture (no time lost due to aperture blades closing), and manual focus (no focus lock delay). The image was black for the smallest file size, the battery was fully charged, and a freshly formatted memory card was loaded.

Using the memory card that happened to be in the camera when starting the performance testing, a medium-fast Delkin V60 UHS-II SDXC, the a9 III captured 106 frames in slightly under a second before filling the buffer and required 26 seconds to empty it. 106 is a considerable number of frames, a second is short, and 26 seconds feels like forever when another full-capacity burst is imminently needed.

Using the review-time fastest available CFexpress Type A card (Nextorage 160GB NX-A1PRO Series VPG400, 950 MB/s max read and write, 850 MB/s min sustained write), the a9 III again captured 106 frames in slightly under a second before filling the buffer but only required 5.0 seconds to empty it.

The conclusion here is that the card speed will not significantly change the number of full-rate 120 fps images captured, but a card with a fast write speed dramatically reduces the buffer write time. If you are getting a high-performance camera, feed it high-performance memory cards to fully realize the performance.

Still, careful shutter release timing is required to catch the peak action within a 1-second timeframe. Timed correctly, the 120-fps rate is likely to catch the ultimate moment in that action.

The 120-fps rate is extreme for many circumstances, slower frame rates are available, and a considerably longer burst timespan is then realized. H+, H, M, and L are available on the drive dial, and the rate for each is configurable via the menu. The options are:

Hi+: 120, 60, 30, 20, 15, 10 images per second.
Hi, Mid, Low: 30, 20, 15, 10, 5 images per second.
Speed Boost: 120, 60, 30, 20, 15, 10, 5 images per second.

What if you wanted a secondary frame rate immediately available? That feature is what the new Speed Burst option delivers. By default, pressing the a9 III's new front positioned C5 button changes the frame rate as desired. Shoot at one rate and immediately shift to another, faster or slower, rate at a critical time. Pressing the button is far faster than turning the dial, but it requires slight additional coordination, so shooting slow action with the button pressed in strategy might be easier to implement.

Another a9 III feature that aids greatly in getting the perfect shot timing is Pre-Capture, which essentially enables photographing a moment in the past. With Pre-Capture enabled and the shutter released half-pressed or AF button pressed (as configured in the Drive Mode menu settings), the camera is capturing and buffering images that are retained when the shutter release is fully pressed. "Settable from 0.005 to 1 second, it’s available in any file format up to 120fps with full AF/AE tracking." [Sony]

A favorite use of this feature is waiting for a bird to take flight. Hold the button until the bird takes off, when you have up to 1 second to fully press the shutter release. Capturing lightning bolts is far easier with Pre-Capture.

This camera's global shutter features an A/D converter and memory at each pixel. With the entire image read simultaneously, there is no rolling shutter or complications caused by it.

Model (times in ms)Electronic1st Curtain Mechanical
Sony Alpha 13.82.4
Sony a9 III00
Sony Alpha 7R V99.33.5
Sony Alpha 7R IV99.33.7
Sony Alpha 7 IV66.53.5
Sony Alpha 7C R99.33.5
Sony Alpha 7C II66.53.5
Sony Alpha 670025.03.2
Tested imaging sensor readout speeds are accurate to approximately +/- 0.2ms.

While the a1 turns in an extremely fast 3.8ms result in this test, the a9 III is unbeatable. Here is a 1/8000 shutter speed comparison using the face of a high-end Luxli Taiko 2x1 RGB LED Light Panel as the subject.

Sony a9 III Banding Comparison

The a9 III shows an obvious advantage.

With the a9 III, there is no banding, no warped subject rolling shutter effects, and flash X-sync up to 1/80,000, all big deals. While this camera avoids all banding and uneven lighting due to flicker, it is susceptible to capturing the entire image at a low point in the flicker cycle. No worries, because this camera can also time the shutter release to avoid the dim portion of the cycle via Anti-flicker Shooting or Hi frequency flicker-free shooting (Var. Shutter).

The a9 III's short 20ms shutter lag is as good as it gets.

The a9 III's 1/80000 second max shutter speed is outstanding, able to freeze extremely fast action. However, limiting is that only up to 1/16000 second is supported during continuous shooting. Many scenes inviting 1/80000 shutter speeds also require fast frame rates. Still, 1/16000 is extremely short.

Single frame shooting uses for 1/80000 include exposing for ultra-wide apertures in full sun (though the high base ISO absorbs some of that advantage) and using a compatible Sony flash (such as the HVL-F60RM2 or HVL-F46RM) to overpower the sun.

As mentioned, the a9 III "can synchronize at all shutter speeds, eliminating the steep, nonlinear drop-off in illumination that occurs with high-speed sync (HSS) and ensuring even illumination across the image." [Sony]

Autofocus

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The Sony Alpha 9 III's AF system is phenomenal.

Precise focusing is mandatory for the ultimate image quality, and the latest MILC AF systems are showing dramatic improvements over cameras even a few years old. Headlining for the a7R V and now the a9 III is a new AI processing unit driving AI-based image recognition and working with the fast BIONZ XR image processing engine. "State-of-the-art AI processing uses detailed information about human forms and postures to dramatically improve the camera's subject recognition accuracy and make full use of its potential resolution." [Sony]

That processing power facilitates impressive subject detection and tracking capabilities, giving this camera Sony's best AF performance to date.

Recognizable subject algorithms are updated, with Human, Animal or Bird, Animal, Bird, Insect, Car or Train (including helmets worn by drivers), or Airplane available, and the range of subjects can be limited.

The human pose estimation capability is especially interesting.

Detailed settings for each recognition target are configurable, with complex customization availed.

Tracking Shift Range restricts the subject recognition distance from the tracking frame (1-5).

Tracking Persistence Lvl "Sets the sensitivity for whether to continue tracking around the subject or shift the focus to another subject that is closer in shooting distance when a recognized subject is lost. When set to 5 (Locked On), even under conditions where a recognized subject is lost, such as when the subject that you want to shoot is temporarily hidden by another object, the camera continues to track the area around the subject. When set to 1 (Not Locked On), under conditions where the camera cannot continue to track a recognized subject, such as when the subject is moving fast, the camera cancels tracking and quickly shifts the focus to another subject that is closer in shooting distance." [Sony]

Recognition Sensitivity (1-5) sets the sensitivity of subject recognition. Lower settings prevent false recognition and higher settings recognize subjects that are normally difficult.

Recognition Priority Set. enables subject type prioritization when animals and birds are recognized at the same time.

Via the Recognition Part option, the a9 III can be limited to recognize only specific parts: Eye/Head/Body, Eye/Head, Eye, or Follow Individual, and recognition Part Select can be assigned to a custom key. A subject recognition frame can be enabled to show the eye, face/head, or body of the subject (only entire body of insects and front of car, train, or airplane).

Up to seven faces can be registered for optional priority detection and tracking. Pressing the multi-selector changes the face to track when multiple options are present. Auto, right eye, or left eye can be selected for human and animal subjects, with the switch available as a custom key function.

Numerous other autofocus parameters are available.

The Sony Alpha 9 III's AF system is remarkably good at identifying even small-in-the-frame subjects and tenaciously stays on its target.

As mentioned earlier, a galloping quarter horse presented a challenge to this camera.

Sony Alpha 9 III Horse Jumping Sample Picture

As the horse came into sight, the AF system immediately locked on the distant rider and tenaciously kept her in focus for the entire pass, every time, including when going past at a close distance.

Sony Alpha 9 III Horse and Rider Sample Picture

A couple of dozen galloping and jumping passes at 120 fps resulted in a couple thousand images.

Sony Alpha 9 III Equine Jumping Sample Picture

Out of that take, only 4 images were not sharp. The rider's head momentarily was completely hidden by pine boughs was the acceptable cause.

The a9 III's AF system overwhelmingly met this challenge and others.

Available focus areas are Wide, Zone, Center Fix, Spot (XL, L , M, S, XS), Expand Spot, Custom (C1, C2, C3), Tracking (Wide, Zone, Center Fix, Spot (XL, L , M, S, XS), Expand Spot, and Custom (C1, C2, C3)).

Focus bracketing is available.

The a9 III's phase-detection AF point count is 759, and the low light AF capability is down to EV -5 (extremely dark).

This camera focuses extremely fast, even in single shot drive mode (AF-S).

The superiority of this camera's AF system makes selection from many images easier, as focus accuracy is considerably less of a shot-to-shot image quality factor.

Sony Alpha 9 III Angle with Lens

Movies

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Taking full advantage of the global shutter is the a9 III's video performance. Rolling shutter has long been an annoying interchangeable lens camera movie quality limiting factor, but with this camera, that problem is gone. Even a fast pan keeps vertical lines straight!

Here is the rundown on this camera's movie specs:

Video Compression
XAVC S: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, XAVC HS: MPEG-H HEVC/H.265

Audio Recording Format
LPCM 2ch (48 kHz 16 bit), LPCM 2ch (48 kHz 24 bit)², LPCM 4ch (48 kHz 24 bit)²

MOVIE RECORDING FORMAT (XAVC HS 4K)
3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 10bit) (Approx.): 119.88p (200 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 10bit) (Approx.): 100p (200 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 10bit) (Approx.): 59.94p (150 Mbps/75 Mbps/45 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 10bit) (Approx.): 50p (150 Mbps/75 Mbps/45 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 10bit) (Approx.): 23.98p (100 Mbps/50 Mbps/30 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit) (Approx.): 119.88p (280 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit) (Approx.): 100p (280 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit) (Approx.): 59.94p (200 Mbps/100 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit) (Approx.): 50p (200 Mbps/100 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit) (Approx.): 23.98p (100 Mbps/50 Mbps)

MOVIE RECORDING FORMAT (XAVC S 4K)
3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 8bit) (Approx.): 119.88p (200 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 8bit) (Approx.): 100p (200 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 8bit) (Approx.): 59.94p (150 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 8bit) (Approx.): 50p (150 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 8bit) (Approx.): 29.97p (100 Mbps/60 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 8bit) (Approx.): 25p (100 Mbps/60 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 8bit) (Approx.): 23.98p (100 Mbps/60 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit) (Approx.): 119.88p (280 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit) (Approx.): 100p (280 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit) (Approx.): 59.94p (200 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit) (Approx.): 50p (200 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit) (Approx.): 29.97p (140 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit) (Approx.): 25p (140 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit) (Approx.): 23.98p (100 Mbps)

MOVIE RECORDING FORMAT (XAVC S HD)
1920 x 1080 (4:2:0, 8bit) (Approx.): 119.88p (100 Mbps/60 Mbps), 1920 x 1080 (4:2:0, 8bit) (Approx.): 100p (100 Mbps/60 Mbps), 1920 x 1080 (4:2:0, 8bit) (Approx.): 59.94p (50 Mbps/25 Mbps), 1920 x 1080 (4:2:0, 8bit) (Approx.): 50p (50 Mbps/25 Mbps), 1920 x 1080 (4:2:0, 8bit) (Approx.): 29.97p (50 Mbps/16 Mbps), 1920 x 1080 (4:2:0, 8bit) (Approx.): 25p (50 Mbps/16 Mbps), 1920 x 1080 (4:2:0, 8bit) (Approx.): 23.98p (50 Mbps), 1920 x 1080 (4:2:2, 10bit) (Approx.): 59.94p (50 Mbps), 1920 x 1080 (4:2:2, 10bit) (Approx.): 50p (50 Mbps), 1920 x 1080 (4:2:2, 10bit) (Approx.): 29.97p (50 Mbps), 1920 x 1080 (4:2:2, 10bit) (Approx.): 25p (50 Mbps), 1920 x 1080 (4:2:2, 10bit) (Approx.): 23.98p (50 Mbps)

MOVIE RECORDING FORMAT (XAVC S-I 4K)
3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit) (Approx.): 59.94p (600 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit) (Approx.): 50p (500 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit) (Approx.): 29.97p (300 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit) (Approx.): 25p (250 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit) (Approx.): 23.98p (240 Mbps)

MOVIE RECORDING FORMAT (XAVC S-I HD)
1920 x 1080 (4:2:2, 10bit) (Approx.): 59.94p (222 Mbps), 1920 x 1080 (4:2:2, 10bit) (Approx.): 50p (185 Mbps), 1920 x 1080 (4:2:2, 10bit) (Approx.): 29.97p (111 Mbps), 1920 x 1080 (4:2:2, 10bit) (Approx.): 25p (93 Mbps), 1920 x 1080 (4:2:2, 10bit) (Approx.): 23.98p (89 Mbps)

S-Cinetone, breathing compensation (via small crop), dynamic active mode stabilization (via small crop), Auto Framing (tracks the subject with an appropriate crop throughout the frame), focus map and peaking (minor complaint: the low focus peaking level is too high), proxy recording, TC/UB, raw output, Slow and Quick Motion, and USB streaming are supported.

Exposure/Metering System

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All current Sony Alpha camera models calculate exposures accurately, and like the a1, a7R V, and other recent Alpha models, the a7R V features 1200-zone evaluative metering. Unlike those other cameras, the a9 III's Metering sensitivity is EV -5 – EV 17, a shift to darker from the usual EV -3 — EV 20. The usual +/- 5.0 EV exposure compensation in 1/3 and 1/2 steps is available.

Available metering modes are Multi, Center, and Spot (standard and large), Entire Screen Average mode (stable auto-exposure through composition changes), and Highlight (detects the brightest area in the frame to (strongly) avoid blown highlights).

Viewfinder and LCD

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The Sony Alpha a9 III features a huge 0.64-type OLED electronic viewfinder with extreme 9.44 million-dot Quad-XGA resolution, the same size and resolution as the Alpha 1 and 7R V's EVF. The image displayed by EVF is beautiful.

The magnification is .90x, the eyepoint is 25mm, and the refresh rate options are 240, 120, or 60 fps.

This is a blackout-free EVF implementation, an imperative feature for tracking a fast-moving subject while capturing 120 fps.

The a9 III's rear LCD is also sweet — a 3.2" (8cm) TFT, 4-Axis Multi-Angle Touch Screen, with approx. 2,095,104 dots.

Sony Alpha 9 III LCD Open

Do you prefer Sony's classic pull back and tilt vertically LCD or the LCD type that opens to the side and then rotates vertically? What if you could have both options on the same LCD? Sony made that happen.

The a9 III's LCD will still pull straight back and tilt vertically (98° up, 40° down), but via a pair of hinges on the left side, it will also pivot 180° outward and then rotate 270°, with over 360° of total vertical rotation available. The only physical penalty for this design appears to be a slightly thicker overall LCD implementation.

The outward positioned LCD clearing an L-bracket and cables throughout the full rotation is highly advantageous, and the front-facing capability facilitates vlogging. The flexibility this LCD provides is outstanding.

I do not find Sony's camera menus easy to navigate, and Sony improved this issue with the a1 and a7S III. "Touch-responsive main and function menus with menu tabs on the left of the display, and related parameter groups and parameters on the right, make for easy navigation and tracking control." [Sony] While I'll not declare the menu design perfected, it is considerably easier to use than the original Alpha menus.

Until recently, Sony's LCD touch capabilities were limited to touch AF point selection when the rear LCD was active and touchpad functionality for AF point selection when using the EVF. Now, use tap, pinch, swipe, etc., to navigate the camera.

"The menu provides a subset of the camera’s shooting settings related to the selected shooting mode, facilitating settings for stills and movies." [Sony] This feature makes switching between stills and movie mode settings efficient.

I find the viewfinder graphics, primarily the level indicator's two large superfluous semi-circles, consuming too much space and sometimes covering subject details. For example, it is sometimes difficult to see if a catchlight is present in an animal's eye. The a9 III's AF area boundary markers are now limited to the corners, an improvement in this regard.

If reviewing an image, fully pressing the shutter release does not start an exposure. A half press must be momentarily held or a second shutter release press is required to capture the picture. Sony, please make the camera shoot priority.

Physical Design

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Sony maintains similar camera designs, and those familiar with Sony's Alpha series cameras will readily familiarize themselves with the a9 III. Similarity reduces the acclimation effort required to learn a new camera and makes using multiple Alpha camera models easier.

The a9 III body has a full array of professional controls, featuring a design nearly identical to that of the Sony Alpha 7R V, along with the top-left controls of the Sony Alpha 1.

To visually compare the a9 III with many other camera models, use the site's camera product image comparison tool.

As you view the control layout for this camera, keep in mind that vast customizations are available. If the default options are not your preference, you can probably customize the camera to be so.

I won't comment on this feature of each control but notice how Sony's raised buttons and button surrounds make the controls considerably easier to tactilely locate and use.

Sony Alpha 9 III Back

Back of the Camera

The a9 III's movie start/stop remains in the a1's position vs. the a7R V's top location. A top-positioned record button better facilitates use from all sides of the camera, including for self-recording.

Did you notice the stacked exposure mode dial? You'll see the release and lever used for this adjustment in the camera's top view. The movie and S&Q modes, options previously on the mode dial, were moved to the lower dial, a significant improvement.

The well-designed 8-way multi-selector joystick is back and easy to use.

The rear control dial is a useful feature; however, I will offer a minor complaint about Sony's implementation. The edges of the control are not grippy enough (perhaps the surrounding plastic is raised too much), and the dial presses in all directions (like a joystick) but only has 4 accepted press directions. It would be nice if the directional movement was confined to only the supported 4 directions and the clicks better defined.

The programmable function button provides quick access to 12 common functions assigned to still photo mode and a different 12 assigned to movie mode. By default, ISO settings are easily accessed via the rear control wheel.

Overall, a solid set of easy-to-find back-of-the-camera controls is provided in a mature, proven layout.

A recessed area at the bottom corner of the LCD facilitates opening, even with gloves on. The increased LCD depth of the 4-axis design also aids in that capability.

Sony Alpha 9 III Top

Top of the Camera

The top of the a9 III features a significant number of versatile controls, including two unmarked dials readily accessed by the thumb in addition to the front dial. The lockable exposure compensation dial lost its labels, enabling this feature to provide other functions via customization. The downside to this change is that easy visual confirmation of the current setting is gone (the viewfinder provides this piece of info).

I mentioned the stacked mode dial. In this view, the lever and release button are visible.

Sony Alpha 9 III Back Angle

The modes that professionals and serious photographers have come to expect are included: M, S, A, and P. Those who want to take advantage of a great camera without a learning curve (and those who want the camera to decide what settings are required in an instant) have the intelligent auto mode ready for immediate use.

Three custom mode options are again provided, ready to store your most-used settings for immediate recall. Note that the a9 III is also capable of saving and reading camera settings to and from a memory card.

S&Q, referring to "S"low and "Q"uick, is for Slow and Quick Motion movies.

A pair of programmable custom buttons are provided within convenient reach of the grip hand's index finger.

The a9 III's power switch, surrounding the shutter release, is conveniently positioned, allowing the camera to be powered on or off with the grip hand's index finger while the camera is in hand. The shutter release is mounted more flushly than previous Alpha models, but the entire surrounding area is raised and tilted forward.

The top-left side of the camera features stacked AF and drive mode dials that make changing these often-used settings fast.

Overall and as usual for Sony Alpha cameras, the a9 III provides a considerable number of controls, availing quick setting changes. Once acclimated to the Sony control positioning and feature locations, this camera is easy to use, and the controls have a high-quality overall feel.

Did Sony's right-side camera triangular strap loop ever get in your memory card door's way? Mine did. They eventually annoyed me enough that I removed the strap loops on my a1 bodies. A small change is the a9 III's right side strap holder stud rotated slightly to position the strap holder forward of the door and out of the way. Unfortunately, it now contacts my right index finger when in a downward position. When tilted upward and pressured with the index finger, it may impede rotation of the rightmost dial.

Sony does not include a top LCD on the latest Alpha camera models, and I don't have a desire for this feature when using these cameras.

Sony Alpha 9 III Left Side

Side of the Camera

Ports on the left side of the camera from the top-right, moving clockwise, are mic and headphone (3.5 mm Stereo minijack), SuperSpeed USB Type-C (USB 3.2 10 Gbps), multi-terminal USB (Micro), flash sync terminal, HDMI Type-A (full-size port), and LAN terminal (1000BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 10BASE-T).

Sony Alpha 9 III Left Side Ports

Noticeable on the camera's right/grip side is the new memory card door release that includes an a1-like slide lock.

Sony Alpha 9 III Right Side

The door sliding movement is gritty on the new camera, but I expect it to smooth up with use.

Sony Alpha 9 III Bottom

The lens mount, formerly a red-orange accent color, is now black.

Sony Alpha 9 III Angle

Front of the Camera

The front of the a9 III is relatively featureless. The ubiquitous light sensor, AF assist lamp, and lens release button are provided, and the a9 III features a 5th custom button easily reachable while gripping the camera.

Size of the Camera

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One of the big attractions to the Sony MILCs is their small size and light weight. The easy target for camera body downsizing is the grip. Small is great in many respects; however, too small is detrimental to grip comfort and control, and I've long complained about Sony's Alpha grips.

When you want to have full control over something, you grasp it with your entire hand. You don't hold a baseball bat, tennis racket, or golf club with just your fingertips. The same is true for a camera grip. While I'm not swinging my camera in the same way as those sporting implements, I still want total control over my camera and an attached lens.

The initial Sony Alpha camera grips were too small for me, but Sony has continuously improved the Alpha grip size and shape, and the a9 III's grip is the best ever.

The changes from the a1 I'm directly comparing with are subtle, but the increased palm swell and rounder right side of the camera are immediately noticed when picking up the a9 III. The a9 III has a shelf area that hangs over the inside front of the grip, substantially improving control. I'm not certain that the angled shutter release is advantageous, but it is minimally an aesthetic improvement, with it and the new grip shape reducing the boxiness of the camera.

I've often complained about Sony's larger lenses uncomfortably impacting my first two fingers' (non-cushioned) joints (I have medium-large hands). In side-by-side comparisons using the Sony FE 135mm F1.8 GM Lens, I'm unable to conclusively say that the a9 III grip increases the clearance.

Again, the a9 III's grip is the best Sony Alpha grip available.

ModelBody DimensionsCIPA Weight
Canon EOS-1D X Mark III6.2 x 6.6 x 3.3"(158 x 167.6 x 82.6mm)50.8oz (1440g)
Canon EOS R35.9 x 5.6 x 3.4"(150 x 142.6 x 87.2mm)35.8 oz (1015g)
Sony a15.1 x 3.9 x 3.3"(128.9 x 96.9 x 80.8mm)23.7 oz (673g)
Sony a9 III5.4 x 3.9 x 3.4"(136.1 x 96.9 x 82.9mm)21.8 oz (617g)
Sony a9 II5.1 x 3.9 x 3.1"(128.9 x 96.4 x 77.5mm)23.7 oz (673g)
Sony a95.0 x 3.8 x 2.5"(126.9 x 95.6 x 63.0mm)23.7 oz (673g)
Sony a7R V5.3 x 3.8 x 3.3"(131.3 x 96.9 x 82.4mm)25.6 oz (723g)
View the full Sony Alpha 9 III specifications to compare additional cameras.

Overall, aside from the a7C series, there is little size and weight difference between the Sony Alpha full-frame camera models. All are small, all are light. Those are features few will complain about, especially when carrying, either in hand or in a case, for long periods.

The Sony Alpha 9 III gained slightly in size, with the features utilizing the extra space worthy of it, and remarkably, it lost a little weight.

Sony Alpha 9 III Magnesium Frame

Ergonomics, Build Quality, and Durability

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Built on a lightweight, high-rigidity, magnesium alloy chassis, the Sony Alpha 9 III is robustly built, with a high-quality feel – like the a1.

Most of the buttons, dials, and switches have good haptic feedback, and the fun-to-use factor remains high.

Sony Alpha 9 III Weather Sealing

"The α9 III features outstanding dust and moisture resistance, thanks to design refinements with silicone rubber packing around buttons, lens-lock button, cushioning around the lens mount, and other areas. An improved EVF design effectively seals the viewfinder’s optical path, achieving the same effect as a double glass structure. Combined with dust and moisture resistant lenses, flash units, and the optional VG-C5 Vertical Grip, the α9 III becomes the core of a rugged dust and moisture resistant system." [Sony]

Sony Alpha 9 III Weather Sealing Back

If enabled, a shading curtain protects the image sensor from dust and particles when the camera is powered off, ideally while changing lenses.

Additional Features

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"Built-in Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11ac) with 2x2 MIMO support allows high-speed data transfer, enabling the α9 III to transfer data up to twice as fast as its predecessor. 5 GHz communication offers maximum speed and stability, essential for news and sports shooters who need to deliver immediately, as well as for studio environments. The simple in-camera interface makes it easy to transfer still and movie data via an FTP server, Wi-Fi, fast-wired LAN, or USB tethering with a smartphone." [Sony]

Background FTP file transfer enables sending files to a remote FTP server over a wireless LAN, high-speed wired LAN (compatible USB Type C to Ethernet adaptor cable required), or a USB-tethered smartphone.

An "Anti-dust system for efficient dust removal" is provided.

Battery

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Highly convenient is that the a9 III shares the Sony NP-FZ100 battery pack power source with many other recent Alpha series models. This relatively compact battery is rated for approx. 400 shots (viewfinder) or 530 shots (LCD monitor) (CIPA standard). If those numbers were solid, this camera could drain a fully charged battery in 3.33 seconds when shooting at 120 fps. Fortunately, real-world battery life exceeds CIPA ratings and dramatically exceeds CIPA ratings when shooting in continuous modes.

As usual for Sony Alpha cameras, the battery door is spring-loaded, but the switch is not. It must be slid into the locked position after closing the door.

The Sony BC-QZ1 Battery Charger is included. USB PD (Power Delivery) is supported, and the battery can be charged in-camera via the USB port and a USB power adapter.

VG-C5 Vertical Grip

Sony VG-C5 Vertical Battery Grip

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The a9 III is compatible with the simultaneously announced Sony VG-C5 Vertical Grip.

The vertical grip provides improved handling, especially with larger lenses and especially in vertical orientation, where it provides the same grip and controls as the built-in grip. The VG-C5 permits the use of two NP-FZ100 batteries, doubling the number of shots per charge.

Sony Alpha 9 III with VG-C5 Grip

Aside from the purchase cost, the biggest downside to the grip is the size and weight it adds to the camera. The grip is easily removable, creating flexibility in its use. Remove the battery door via a spring-loaded switch to enable the grip to mount. The removed door clips into the space provided on the side of the grip area that inserts into the battery compartment.

The VG-C5 features magnesium alloy construction with dust and moisture resistance matching the a9 III. This accessory is well-built and well-matched. If I'm photographing people or wildlife, a vertical grip is usually installed.

Sony Alpha 9 III with FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens

What is the Best Lens for the Sony Alpha 9 III?

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A high-quality lens is required to take full advantage of the camera's image quality, and Sony offers a compelling lineup.

The lens is a required accessory, and most will find the Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens (shown on the a9 III above) or the Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS Lens to be the best general-purpose lens option for the 9 III. For the longer focal length needs so often encountered, the Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens is a great choice, and the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens is an excellent option for wide-angle needs.

The site's Best Sony Lenses page is a great starting point for the latest advice, including more affordable options. The Best Sony General-Purpose Lens, Best Sony Telephoto Zoom Lens, and Best Sony Wide-Angle Lens pages feature recommendations for these top 3 lens types. Also relevant for this camera model are the Best Sony Outdoor Sports Lens and Best Indoor Outdoor Sports Lens pages.

Check out the site's Sony Zoom Lens Reviews and Sony Lens Reviews for in-depth coverage of all of Sony's lenses.

Price

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The a9 III is an ultra-high-performance camera, and its price reflects this fact. Still, this camera has a modestly lower price than the a1.

Wrap Up

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Keeping a review of the incredibly feature-laden a9 III concise but complete is a difficult balance to find, and this review is not a complete description of every a9 III feature available. The owner's manual is 636 pages and linked to at the top of this review. It is worth browsing to understand the extensive feature set available in this camera.

The a9 III used for this review was acquired online/retail.

Alternatives

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Is the a9 III the right camera for you? It is a compelling choice for those facing challenging subject conditions, including fast motion and pulsing lights.

At Alpha 9 III review time, a pair of Sony Alpha 1 bodies anchor my Sony kit.

Check out the a9 III vs. a1 specification comparison along with the visual comparison of these cameras. What are the differences between the Sony Alpha 9 III and the 1? Here are the a9 III advantages over the a1:

  • Global shutter, with no rolling shutter or banding in stills or movies, vs. 3.8 ms
  • 1/80000 second shutter speed vs. 1/32000
  • 120 fps continuous shooting vs. 30 fps, Continuous Shooting Speed Boost feature
  • Improved IBIS — 8.0 stops vs. 5.5
  • Significantly improved subject recognition and tracking, with dedicated AI processing unit
  • Pre-Capture
  • Flash sync to 1/80000 vs. 1/400
  • Breathing compensation
  • Auto Framing tracks the subject when shooting movies
  • 3.2" (8.0cm) 4-Axis Multi-Angle Touch Screen vs. 2.95" (7.5cm) Tilting Touch Screen, approx. 2,095,104 dots vs. 1,440,000
  • Front custom button
  • Improved grip design
  • Stacked mode dial
  • UVC/UAC support for high-quality webcam applications
  • AF working range of EV -5 – 20 vs. EV -4 – 20
  • Exposure metering range of EV -5 – 17 vs. EV -3 – 20
  • Modestly less expensive

Here are the a1 advantages over the a9 III:

  • 50.1 MP vs. 24.6
  • 1/32,000 second continuous shooting shutter speed vs. 1/16,000
  • ISO 100–32000 vs. 250–25600, expandable to ISO 50 to ISO 102400 vs. 125–51200

While the a9 III appears to have an overwhelming advantage over the a1, twice the pixel count and lower noise at ISO 100 are significant a1 advantages, and the a1 is one of the highest-performing cameras available, with specs exceeding the needs of most photographers. Do the a9 III's differences warrant its selection? That answer will vary based on need.

The Sony Alpha 9 II is the III's predecessor and, therefore, warrants consideration.

Check out the a9 III vs. a9 II specification comparison along with the visual comparison of these cameras. What are the differences between the Sony Alpha 9 III and the a9 II? Here are the a9 III advantages over the a9 II:

  • Global shutter, with no rolling shutter or banding in stills or movies
  • BIONZ XR processor vs. BIONZ X
  • 120 fps continuous shooting vs. 20 fps, Continuous Shooting Speed Boost feature
  • AF working range of EV -5 – 20 vs. EV -3 – 20
  • Exposure metering range of EV -5 – 17 vs. EV -3 – 20
  • 1/80000 second shutter speed vs. 1/32000
  • 0.64" (1.6 cm) 9.44 million dot 0.90x EVF vs. 0.5" (1.3 cm) 3,686,400 dot 0.78x
  • 3.2" (8.0cm) 4-Axis Multi-Angle Touch Screen vs. 2.95" (7.5cm) Tilting Touch Screen, approx. 2,095,104 dots vs. 1,440,000
  • Flash sync to 1/80000 vs. 1/250
  • 4K 120p movies vs. 4K 30p
  • Unrestricted movie length vs. 29 min
  • HDMI Type-A (full size) vs. HDMI Type-D (micro)/li>
  • Improved IBIS — 8.0 stops vs. 5.5
  • Significantly improved subject recognition and tracking, with dedicated AI processing unit
  • Pre-Capture
  • Breathing compensation
  • Considerably smaller compressed raw file format available
  • Auto Framing tracks the subject when shooting movies
  • Front custom button
  • Improved grip design
  • Stacked mode dial
  • UVC/UAC support for high-quality webcam applications

Here are the a9 II advantages over the a9 III:

  • ISO 100–51200 vs. 250–25600, expandable to ISO 50 to ISO 204800 vs. 125–51200
  • 1/32,000 second continuous shooting shutter speed vs. 1/16,000
  • Approx. 500-shot EVF battery life vs. 400
  • Considerably less expensive

The a9 III has commanding superiority over the a9 II, but the considerably less expensive line item will be a decision factor for some.

Summary

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The Sony Alpha 9 III is a remarkable camera, with many of its game-changing capabilities based on the full-frame imaging sensor's global shutter.

The cost of the global shutter feature includes additional electronics at each pixel well, which reduces the amount of light captured and forces a base ISO to 250. Reduced exposure latitude and an increased purchase price are the other two primary negative aspects of this camera.

The advantages list far outweighs the short cons list (and action photographers will not likely care about the minimum ISO downside). This camera has an incredibly high-performing AF system that pairs with an extreme 120 fps frame rate and a big, blackout-free EVF, and it produces no banding or rolling shutter. All of the other Sony pro-grade features are included.

The a9 III is a niche camera, but the niche is big. There are no photography do-overs in sports (and many other live events), and when your career depends on bringing home the perfect shot, the Sony Alpha 9 III has your back. It will satisfy your need for speed (and may change your dependency on that speed).

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