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Sony A9 vs Adapted Long Lenses | Reality Vs Expectations

By Kishore Sawh on June 25th 2017

If there’s one primary, recurring, and pervasive criticism when discussing the Sony A9, it is, without question, the Sony E-Mount lens range – how it’s lacking and what that means for the A9. When something as novel as the A9 comes out (and not from Canon or Nikon) it’s sure to rile the critics, but while many critiques of the A9 are out of place, this one carries with it some weight.

Sony has marketed the A9 from the moment of its launch as a sports camera, touting frame rate, AF ability et cetera, and currently the longest focal length to be had with E-mount is 300mm in the form of the not-so-fast FE 70-300mm F4.5-5.6 G OSS. Following soon will come the FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS (which functions really well) but again we’re looking at slower lenses here. As it stands at the moment of this writing, if it’s reach and speed you seek with an A9 you’ll have to adapt – say, from Canon or A Mount. The stink of it is that we know adapted lens functionality is typically crippled, so the question is how viable an option are adapted long and fast lenses on the A9, and consequently, if you’re a sports shooter should you get it now? A friend, Dan Watson of Learning Cameras, has decided to test just that.


Equipped with a Sigma MC-11 and Metabones Mark IV adapters, Dan pairs the A9 with Canon 400mm F2.8 and Canon 300mm F2.8 lenses to test functionality, and the results were a bit of a mixed bag.

Immediately Dan highlights that your choice of focus modes is limited giving you only Wide, Center, and Single-point Flexible Spot, and your useful focus points seem to be limited to more a center cluster, and not at the extremities as per normal. In addition, adapted lenses in AF-C mode will not track a subject if your burst rate is higher than the Low setting, so you won’t be getting 15 FPS much less the full 20 FPS the camera is capable of achieving. When in Low Mode, however, his demonstration concludes that it tracks just fine.

None of this should really come as a surprise for anyone who has seriously looked at the system for sports or wildlife purposes because there are always concessions to be made when adapting, and Sony has stated these limitations in the literature:

“When a mount adaptor (LA-EA1/LA-EA2/LA-EA3/LA-EA4) and an A-mount lens are attached to the camera, the continuous shooting speed and availability of autofocus tracking varies depending on shooting conditions such as shutter type, focus mode and the attached lens”

It would be interesting to see now, in comparison, how the behavior would be different using A-Mount long lenses like the Sony 500mm f/4.0 G SSM and Sony 300mm f/2.8 G SSM II using the LA-EA3 adapter. From what can be gleaned from the fine print, both of those should be able to shoot 10 images per second at maximum with AF tracking in AF-C mode. This could be good news for more legacy Sony shooters, and still appears to have better functionality than when paired with Canon lenses.

Dan did a brilliant job clearly and constructively demonstrating the challenges, and of course this has summoned the everyday-critics like the Pied Piper who are essentially dismissing the value of the A9 all-together; even going so far as to say its only real feature of note is the sensor. This is all, in a word, ludicrous.


Shot with FE 70-300mm F4.5-5.6 G OSS

This is a corner self-assigned by Sony, having released the camera the way it did without having a lens roadmap being made public that shows what longer glass is coming and when. That said, the A9 has size, price, FPS, no blackout, AF points covering over 90% of the frame, IBIS, quietness, and far more than I can to type again on its side.

As per the lens deficiency? Sure, but there are two key things to keep in mind when considering invalidating the A9 over a perceived lack of lenses. First, I’d imagine that on top of the 100-400 there will be a long fast prime (then what will the critics say?) en route within a year, and perhaps most importantly, that anyone should resign the A9 to the genre of sports is poor thinking. The value in the A9 is not only realized when shooting sports or wildlife, but pretty much anything – like weddings…

You can find more good stuff from Dan on his site and YouTube channel.


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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Nick Eckert

    I’ve been shooting from the sidelines Redskins home games and while I love the idea of a 20 FPS rate on a lighter camera body, I despise the limited line up the lenses for the A9 (and getting 10 FPS with an adapter is pointless to me). 

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  2. adam sanford

    This is less about excuses for Sony (i.e. they have no lenses) than it is ‘Do working pros *prefer to use this* over their 1DX2 or D5?’

    Ergonomics, weather-sealing, reliability, service, handling, etc. really matter to people in the trenches at sporting events or chasing varmints out in the wild.

    The A9 is a sexy piece of kit, no doubt, but Sony needs to nation-build in so many other areas to earn the trust and business of the people it was designed for.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      There’s so much I can say about this, Adam. For one, Sony needs to and is definitely nation-building as you put it. Second, preference is personal, and it’s hard to speak to the merits of the camera over personal. I mean, I shoot Nikon and the only Sony I own is an RX100, but I fully appreciate what Sony has done and give credit where it’s due. 

      I know you’ve complained about the ergonomics before, but honestly, I don’t see a problem with it. Is it different than an D5 or 1DX? Sure. Worse? I don’t think so, but there are trade offs. It’s maybe not as robust or weather sealed, but it’s lighter, more nimble, far more versatile, and if you want size add the grip. The space between the lens and the grip, for the vast majority isn’t an issue. Having used the A9 with large lenses like the 100-400 it wasn’t even on my radar. 

      As for the people in the trenches and chasing tail in the wild… well, again, I don’t see a problem OTHER than the lack of total weather sealing. Weight saving is good. silent shutter is good. higher resolution and better performing sensor…speaks for itself. But I digress, or rather, this is all a digression because this is about the lack of lenses. There’s no denying that deficit is there and is felt, but I just don’t think it’ll be a problem within a year. Everyone who is complaining about the lack of lenses needs to know that complaint has an expiry date that’s approaching – fast. 

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    • adam sanford

      Fair argument.  I just think dyed-in-the-wool sideline pros with their fingers on the shutter buttons all day are not swayed by shiny things and new developments, feature-based value propositions, etc…  They want everything to work without any fanfare and their D5s and 1DX2s do that for them.  I think Sony still has a long way to go to get there. 

      As much as Sony seemingly has the enthusiast ‘latest and greatest’ marketed gleefully rubbing their palms together with each release, the upper end of the market is a different sell entirely.   Service, reliability, etc. really matters to these folks.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Yeah, I mean I think a number of those dyed-in-the-wool types will stick with what they’ve got. The active pros in the prime of their career with forward thinking may switch or add the A9- possibly, but the majority will stick. That said, there’s a typical 4-5 year cycle for replacement of camera gear, and at the turn of the next cycle I think there will possibly be a tidal shift. 

      As per service, well, we know Canon seems to be doing really well there, but also Sony announced that they’re expanding its pro service, so again, I expect that to happen with haste. I dunno, I guess I just see the collective pieces coming together to make a whole within a year.   We’ll see…

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