Sony a9 III: Planned or Rumor? Everything We Know So Far

Sony a9 III: Planned or Rumor? Everything We Know So Far

The Sony A9 III is likely to be the latest addition to Sony’s fast full-frame mirrorless camera series, the Alpha A9. The Sony A9 was a pioneer in the use of stacked full-frame sensors, and its successor, the Sony A9 II, delivers outstanding stills burst shooting at a fraction of the cost of the Sony A1.

The Sony A9 III, Sony’s next-generation A9 camera, is set to debut later this year and is likely to accelerate the series’ pace even more. We’re talking about stills that are fast enough to be used as frames in a video, which the A9 II could already do to some extent.

We also expect Sony to increase the video quality of the A9 III, making it a better all-around camera. This is especially significant at a time when traditional photographers, whether professionally or as a pastime, are increasingly dabbling in video.

It’s still early days for Sony A9 III rumors, but we’ve compiled all of the most recent information below – as well as our thoughts on the features we’d like to see from Sony’s next speed demon lower down this page.

Expected Date and Price

The Sony A9 III was supposed to be released in late 2021. That obviously didn’t happen, but it made sense back in late 2020 – after all, the Sony A9 (released in April 2017) and the A9 II (released in October 2019) were separated by two and a half years.

According to the most recent rumors, the Sony A9 III will be released in late 2022. If that’s the case, the gap between models will be roughly three years, which is logical considering the pandemic-related chip shortages that are expected to last for the rest of the year.

This suggests it’s a little early for pricing leaks. The A9 III’s most popular proposed prices are $4,999 (about £3670 / AU$6,900) and $5,999 (approximately £4,400 / AU$8,285). Although no source was mentioned, the lower statistic was just reported by Weibo account Camera Beta and should be taken with a grain of salt.

Nonetheless, it appears that the A9 III will cost somewhere in the middle of those amounts. The original Sony A9 cost $4,500 / £4,500 / AU$6,999, and the A9 II costs the same (except in the United Kingdom, where it costs £4,800).

Rumors and Features of Sony a9 IIII

While there are numerous lists of rumored Sony A9 III specifications online, the majority of them appear to be based on speculation rather than Sony leaks.

According to these reports, the A9 III will either keep the same 24.2MP resolution as its predecessor or employ a 50MP sensor with 8K HD video. A 24.2MP sensor does not have enough pixels to record 8K video, hence the two are mutually exclusive.

Our first thought is that the Sony A9 III doesn’t require 8K footage. This isn’t a video-focused camera lineup, and Sony’s most video-focused full-frame camera, the Sony A7S III, lacks 8K video. In the context of a sports camera like the A9 III, factors like dynamic range and efficient management of the pixels you do have are more crucial than having piles upon stacks of pixels.

The A9 series’ strength, extreme burst performance, is also hampered by a very high-resolution sensor. While the current Sony Bionz XR processor is a marvel, capable of 30fps shooting at 50MP – as demonstrated by the Sony A1 – there is still a trade-off between quality and burst duration and speed. Using the same resolution as the Alpha A1 may cause the lines between the camera series to blur too much.

While Sony A9 III speculations are still rife, we believe the most likely scenario is the retention of a 24.2MP full-frame stacked sensor, as reported by various outlets in January. 30fps burst shooting with AF/AE tracking, better in-body image stabilization, and 4K video recording with complete pixel readout is expected to be added to the mix.

The presence of a mechanical shutter on the A9 III is something we’re looking forward to seeing. Due to the rapid read-out speeds of its stacked sensor, the Nikon Z9 recently set the trend of coming without a mechanical shutter. This is undoubtedly a possibility for Sony’s next sports camera.

Wishes to see in Sony a9 III

1. Up to 40fps burst

The Canon EOS R3 is a strong competitor to the Sony A9 III. It’s a classic sports photographer camera with a large body that’s easy to hold and has long battery life. It can also shoot at up to 30 frames per second. Sony has already surpassed this mark with the Sony A1, but will the Sony A9 III go even further? Possibly.

If the Sony A9 III features a 24MP sensor like the IMX410CQK, it might be able to shoot at 40 frames per second. This sensor isn’t really new; its documentation was first released in 2018. But keep in mind that this camera could have been in the works for quite some time. The sensor’s maximum read-out speed at full resolution is roughly 40 frames per second, so if the Sony A9 III’s processing pipeline can manage the strain, the camera should be able to achieve that.

This would allow Sony to indulge in its favorite pastime: outnumbering Nikon and Canon. The IMX410CQK’s 40fps read-out mode, on the other hand, makes a compromise by dropping bit-depth from 14 to 12-bit. In an ideal world, the Sony A9 III would not employ this sensor; we’re just mentioning it because it exists and is well-documented.

The electronic shutter would be used in a quick mode like this. It’s still unclear how quickly Sony will be able to get its mechanical shutter to work. The mechanical shutter of the Alpha A1 allows for 10 frames per second. However, given that the Canon EOS R3 can shoot at 12 frames per second, we wouldn’t be surprised if Sony aimed for 12 frames per second or somewhat higher. However, because the mechanical shutter has arguably become a secondary method of shooting with this type of camera, 10 frames per second may remain the hard limit.

Some have suggested that when saving uncompressed raw files and JPEGs, Sony should reduce peak burst speeds a little. Considering the Alpha A1’s 30fps pace, which is working with a considerably higher-resolution sensor, 40fps in the most data-hungry shooting option appears conceivable.

2. A bigger buffer

For a camera like the Sony A9 III, buffer capacity is also crucial. When taking JPEGs plus uncompressed raw files, the Sony A9 II can take up to 361 JPEGs before flushing the buffer, but this drops to 120 frames when capturing JPEGs plus uncompressed raw files.

The Sony A7 IV, which has a better resolution sensor yet can shoot over 1,000 raw files when recording on a CFexpress card at 10fps, is arguably the greatest comparison for the A9 III’s capabilities. This means that in at least some of the A9 III’s capture modes, rapid shooting will be practically endless.

We believe that saving uncompressed raws while capturing at maximum speed is probably too much to ask. The entire data burden must be less than the CFexpress card’s sustained write speed, which is likely to be around or over 400MB/s – the far greater promises found on memory card packaging are for shorter write bursts, not sustained performance.

Uncompressed files will be roughly 47MB, compressed files will be around 24MB, assuming raw file sizes are equivalent to the A9 II’s.

This indicates that the max rate for continuous capture is at least 15-16 frames per second for compressed raws and 8 frames per second for uncompressed raws. Sony could, however, theoretically use two CFexpress cards as a RAID 0 drive array, writing to both at the same time. This would increase the throughput potential, allowing for significantly faster and infinite compressed RAW capture.

Although CFexpress Type B cards might provide even better results, Sony’s top-end cameras now use the smaller SD-size Type A cards. They are handier because memory card slots can be used as both SD and CFexpress interfaces, but they are slower. Sony, although being one of the leading manufacturers of CFexpress Type B cards, has yet to release a camera that supports the format.

While we don’t expect Sony to move to CFexpress Type B in the A9 III due to its preference for Type A’s versatility and friendliness, it’s an excellent candidate for a CFexpress Type B/XQD slot.

3. Superior EVF and screen

We believe the Sony A9 III will have a significantly superior EVF than the A9 II. The older camera has a 3.68-million-dot electronic viewfinder (EVF), which is comparable to 1280 x 960 pixels. The ideal EVF spec right now is a 9.44-million-dot display with a resolution of 2048 x 1536. That’s the same as an earlier iPad, and it looks fantastic.

Given the Sony A9 III’s predicted premium price, such a high-spec viewfinder does not appear implausible. Like the A9 II, the screen is likely to include a back tilt arrangement. This means it can move along one axis, allowing for quick shooting above and below the head.

Sony’s decision not to adopt a traditional, fully articulated design in the A9 III makes sense. That technique is more beneficial in a camera designed primarily for video use, although it can feel fiddly. However, a dual-hinged display, like the one found on the Fujifilm X-T2, would be ideal, since it combines the quick sensation of a tilt screen with some of the versatility of a fully articulated design.

The Sony A9 III is intended to contain Sony’s updated menu system style seen in cameras like the A7S III, but it doesn’t appear that we’ll receive it. I mean, why wouldn’t it?

4. A big video boost

If we accept the fact that the Sony A9 III will have a 24MP resolution sensor, 8K video will be impossible to achieve. However, this does not rule out the possibility of significant video capture enhancements.

The sensor is still high-resolution enough to capture 6K at 30 frames per second, and the IMX410CQK we already know can do 6K at 30 frames per second. This kind of resolution ceiling boost would be a welcome addition for the A9 III, giving it a leg up over the A7 IV while not putting the Alpha A1 in the shade.

That’s a possibility, but it’s not a given, but the Sony A9 III will almost certainly be able to record 4K video at 60 frames per second. Will it be able to do so without a sensor crop, though?

This would include downscaling footage from 6K to 4K resolution. When filming in 4K, the Alpha A7 IV hints that we may have to accept a cropped image, at least at higher frame rates. That camera can shoot 4K at a full-frame width at 24 frames per second, a 1.2x crop at 30 frames per second, or a 1.5x APS-C crop at 60 frames per second.

Sony’s top-end A1 can shoot 4K/60p at full-frame width, but it does so with pixel binning rather than oversampling, which is preferable. Oversampling is the process of taking a full pixel read-out and generating a 4K image from more than 4K of image data. Pixel binning is similar to oversampling in that it involves grouping photo locations at the time of collection, but it requires far less processing power.

Because of its odd resolution, the Sony A9 III isn’t a viable choice for pixel binning. Our best guess is that the camera will be able to shoot 4K/30p at full-frame width with oversampling, and 4K/60p with cropping. To get a native 4K read-out without oversampling or pixel binning, a 1.45x crop would be required.

We believe the A9 III will employ the same Bionz XR CPU as the rest of the generation, which means it will face tradeoffs comparable to the A7 IV and Alpha 1.

We wouldn’t be surprised if Sony’s videographer-friendly shooting options made their way to the A9 III. The Sony A9 II lacks any ‘flat’ S-Log shooting profiles, which is a disappointment.

This was Sony’s way of notifying us that the A9 II wasn’t designed for video. Cameras like the A7S III, on the other hand, have so many profiles that it seems like Sony could give the A9 III at least a handful without stomping on the toes of the more video-focused cameras.

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