So, I had a chance to test out the new Sony A9 over the past week, and I’ll have a full review soon. However, I wanted to share my experiences shooting with this new camera in an area where it may find a very strong following: Golf. I took the camera, along with the 70-200mm GM lens, to the practice rounds at The Memorial Tournament earlier this week.
The A9 is perhaps the only camera in the world right now that is equipped to shoot sports completely silently, and for a sport like golf, this can mean shots that other photographers simply can’t get with other gear. With a DSLR or other mirrorless cameras, the photographer is limited to shooting after the golfer makes contact with the ball, due to the distraction the clacking shutter causes. While this generally makes for the most pleasing shots anyway, there are other moments and compositions that become available when you can shoot at any time, and the A9 allows you to do this. The shot below is a shot that would be simply impossible with other interchangeable lens cameras. I was able to capture the power of the downswing. The flex shown here is the actual flex of the club, and not an artifact of rolling shutter.
There are plenty of cameras around that have a silent shutter option, but the A9 is the first major interchangeable lens camera that has an electronic shutter with a readout fast enough to capture action like golf without causing major warping effects. Before the A9, electronic shutters were pretty useless for action shots, as the slow readout from the sensor was often in the timeframe of approximately 1/15s. The electronic shutter in the A9 is an order of magnitude faster, and as such allows for the capture of golf swings with only minor rolling shutter effects.
In fact, I found the only place in the swing where rolling shutter still produced moderate warping that was noticeable, was at the very bottom of the swing, and even then, it usually was only seen with clubs like the driver or 3 wood.
The high-speed 20 fps capture with full autofocus also allowed me to pick precise moments of time in the swing, though with the speed of a swing, there are still plenty of gaps, even at 20fps. Still, the fast speed allowed for many shots like that above, showing the ball in flight and club extended. The huge 180 shot buffer also meant that I never ran into a time where the buffer filled in my normal shooting.
The A9’s larger battery also performed extremely well for me. I shot exclusively with the electronic shutter, and almost always with the camera set to 20 fps. The first day out, I took 875 images over the course of 5 hours, and came home with the battery still showing 68%. The second day, I took over 1400 images in around 4 hours, but with less chimping, and the battery was at 66% at the end of the day. In all, I think one A9 battery appears to have enough juice that it’ll likely get through a professional sporting event without having to change batteries, even if you are shooting thousands of images.
While the camera performed very well, there are certainly a few things worth noting:
- On extremely fast-moving objects, such as a ball struck on a tee shot with a driver, the readout of the electronic shutter can cause banding around the object. It appears the camera reads multiple lines at once, and the extreme speed can cause a disjointed look. Luckily, on an object blurred due to motion anyway, the banding can be eliminated by a subtle blurring in post.
- Rolling shutter is great, but not perfect.
Both the effects above can be seen in the shot below, where the rolling shutter causes a warping of the club at the bottom of the downswing, and the ball shows a bit of banding: Click here for a 100% enlargement of the banding on the blurred ball.
Still, the subtle warping seen above is light years ahead of any other electronic shutter, and really only shows up in specific circumstances. On the whole, the A9 was a joy to shoot with for golf. The silent shutter meant I could shoot whenever I wanted to, and the high-speed framerate gave me great choice in final images. Also, the big, clear viewfinder shows absolutely zero blackout and no lag when shooting, providing a continuous view throughout. I have a feeling you’ll be seeing a lot of Sony A9’s on the fairways in the next year or two.
Here are some additional images from my shooting.
11 thoughts on “Shooting Golf with the Sony A9”
I do like golf and your captures really catch it. I’m not in the market for an A9 (unless I win Lotto) but this impresses me. Some nice shots there!
Bravo, what a way to show off the advantages of A9, especially on the topic of rolling shutter which has been said by others is a big problem. Although I am not a golfer I do like the images a lot. The only sport photography I do is martial art competitions, with swords and long spears moving in high speed, I also struggle with other DSLR. So, look forward to your full review of A9 and I will soon get hold of one to shoot at a local martial art competition.
Well what about the EM1-Mk ii, looks like it may have less distortion:
Did you read the article? Here is a quote, “Although I didn’t have the chance to compare the A9 to the E-M1 II, my impression is that the Sony is superior to the Olympus camera when it comes to the speed of the sensor readout.” It is the speed of the readout that determines rolling shutter distortion, so no the Olympus does not have less distortion.
Have you tried the Olympus EM1 Mark 2 with silent shutter, high speed shooting – and Pro Capture to catch those otherwise missed moments before you press the shutter!! Chris S.
Ah, forgot the Pro-Capture, something that A9 doesn’t have and totally allows you to get the critical moments that you thought you missed, without wasting too much frames.
The nice thing with the Pro-Capture is that you can just when having time go to playback and quickly lock the frames that you have keepers and then just hit “Delete All” to delete all except the locked photos (easiest way to manage photos on road to keep space in control on multiple cards and easy the importing for post processing workflow).
“The A9 is perhaps the only camera in the world right now that is equipped to shoot sports completely silently, and for a sport like golf, this can mean shots that other photographers simply can’t get with other gear. With a DSLR or other mirrorless cameras, the photographer is limited to shooting after the golfer makes contact with the ball, due to the distraction the clacking shutter causes. ”
Actually Olympus E-M1 II is the first one that was capable for that (even for a golf at the swing) and A9 is now the second one.
I have photographed golf and even faster sports with E-M1 II without rolling shutter effect being a problem.
And the benefit of E-M1 II is that you get even more keepers than you can get with A9 because the 60 FPS (in most sports re-focusing ain’t required for critical moments, but getting the many frames). This is the thing why a E-M1 II and A9 are currently THE best sports cameras and E-M1 II for fast motion (because 60 FPS) and A9 if needed that better C-AF and little better dynamic range (only in situations where you are going to miss the exposure by more than 3 stops, rare thing with mirrorless cameras really).
The mirrorless cameras are really showing the huge benefit at the moment and if anyone is seriously wanted to get in the sports photography where silence is required (like example a snooker/billiard), now it is best to get either one of these and simply then get the photos and offer them to sale, as DSLR shooters will not have anything like that and it allows you to make your name for the market.
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What shutter speeds were you using?