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Sony tames the mirrorless speed demon with updated autofocus in the new A9 II

The Sony a9 is a speed demon that shattered records with 20 fps shooting at the 2017 launch, but its second generation is less about shattering speed records and more about taming the beast. On Thursday, October 3, Sony unveiled the new a9 II, a full-frame mirrorless camera with an updated processor for improved autofocus and new pro-level tools, including the ability to add metadata tags with voice commands.

The Sony A9 II keeps the 24.2 full-frame stacked sensor delivering a still unbeaten 20 fps shooting speed, but updates to the latest Bionz X processor. That update enhances the camera’s hybrid autofocus system with increased accuracy and tracking for erratic movement, Sony says. Image processing, face detection, and noise reduction also improve thanks to the new processor.

The autofocus system keeps the 693 phase-detection autofocus points and 425 contrast-detection points, along with the real-time Eye AF for both people and animals, video Eye AF, and real-time tracking added to the original A9 with a firmware update.

While the A9 II keeps the same snappy 20 fps burst, the mechanical shutter burst speed is almost twice as fast as the older model, now at 10 fps. The camera can sustain the maximum burst speed for 239 compressed RAW images or 361 JPEGs. A new anti-flicker mode will also help time those bursts to avoid the flicker of some types of lighting.

The Sony A9 II houses a five-axis optical image stabilization system, rated at up to 5.5 stops.

The brunt of the features, however, are designed for professional sports photographers and photojournalists, with a new Ethernet terminal for transferring photos, including SSL and TLS encryption. A new Voice Memo allows photographers to add a note to a photo, such as information for a caption. That memo can also be automatically or manually translated to text and added to the image’s metadata. Wi-Fi speed is also enhanced.

Those new features are wrapped up in a body with updated weather sealing for more dust and moisture resistance over the earlier model. The grip design was also improved, Sony says, as well as enhancing the feel of the buttons and enhancing the shutter design. Like the original A9, that fast burst speed pairs with a no-blackout electronic viewfinder. Dual SD card slots accept both UHS-I and USH-II types.

While the enhancements to the Sony A9 II are significant for the photographers that will be covering the 2020 Olympics and journalists that need to quickly deliver photos while out on assignment, the enhancements to the hobbyist with a big budget are less noticeable. The Sony A9 II will be available beginning next month, listing for $4,500 for the body. The original model already has a $1,000 price drop, which may deepen further with the new version.

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