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Second to None: Shooting Sports with the α9 II

Diego Souto and Aleksandra Szmigiel

There are only a handful of professional photographers who have been lucky enough to get their hands on the new Sony α9 II ahead of launch.

Two of those are Aleksandra Szmigiel and Diego Souto, sports photographers based in Warsaw and Madrid respectively. Although they have only had their hands on the camera for a few weeks, the Sony α9 II has already started to make a big difference to how they work. In the highly competitive field of sports photography being first is everything and can make the difference between selling your images or not, and the new features of the α9 II have already helped Aleksandra and Diego gain an edge over other photographers who are using DSLR cameras.

aleksandra szmigiel photographs athletes with her sony alpha 9II and 600mm G master lens

Aleksandra Szmigiel in action with her α9 II + FE 600mm f/4 G Master

“The Sony α9 II is a really big step for Sony, and for sports photographers, says Aleksandra. “It’s perfect for those of us who have to quickly send their images to an editor and is the complete device for professionals.” As a former middle-distance runner, Aleksandra has found a natural home photographing athletics, particularly on the European Diamond League circuit. For her, the Sony α9 is already a game changing camera.

“One of the reasons I love this new piece of kit is how lightweight it is,” she explains, “I can use the 400mm lens without having to use a monopod, which for me it is the easiest way to work.”

Meanwhile, Diego Souto can usually be found at the side of a football pitch. “Players move erratically,” he explains, “which is why the α9 II is the best option. Thanks to the fast AF system it doesn’t matter if a player suddenly turns or changes direction, the AF will track it, and with the 20fps shutter speed, I know I will have 20 images that are in focus. It’s about choice; I can choose the exact moment I want out of those shots. Other photographers using DSLR cameras may have a few shots slightly out of focus which they’re unable to use, and they may be the exact moments they want to show.”

diego souto sony alpha 9II real madrid player kicking the ball in mid air

© Diego Souto | Sony α9 II + FE 400mm f/2.8 GM OSS | 1/2000s @ f/2.8, ISO 2000

And it’s not just being able to have choice which Diego values – it’s how much easier the camera makes capturing the images he needs. “Before, when I shot with a DSLR,” he tells us, “I would worry if all the of the shots would be sharp, but now I’m confident of the results. I can concentrate on other things like composition, the background, what the player is doing - but I never have to worry about the focus. That allows me to be more creative, and that is priceless.”

diego souto sony alpha 9II footballer jumps up to head the ball as another player tries to tackle him

© Diego Souto | Sony α9 II + FE 400mm f/2.8 GM OSS | 1/1250s @ f/2.8, ISO 8000

With the same 24-million-pixel sensor and 20fps shooting rate, it may appear that the α9 II is similar to the α9, but although the differences may seem small, for sports photographers, they are huge. The new mechanical shutter is twice as fast, allowing images to be set at 10fps when a mechanical shutter is needed. Both SD card sockets are now UHS-II compatible and the processor is faster, creating an overall more powerful camera. Externally there have also been changes that users will love, including improved weather sealing and socket covers.

 

diego souto sony alpha 9II two footballers struggling to get control of the ball in action

© Diego Souto | Sony α9 II + FE 400mm f/2.8 GM OSS | 1/2000s @ f/2.8, ISO 2000

Diego has already noticed the difference with the new ergonomics of the camera. “The buttons on the  α9 II are deeper and a little spongier,” he explains, “which makes the camera even better to handle, particularly when using gloves. And although the weight of the camera is roughly the same, it feels a lot lighter due to the balance and grip.”

However, perhaps the most important features of the α9 II that both Aleksandra and Diego have already benefited from are the image transfer options. With a built in 1000BASE-T ethernet connection and 2.4 and 5Ghz built-in Wi-Fi, the camera can transfer images via FTP faster than ever before, and it now has the ability to add Voice tags to an image.

“I can now customise a button on my camera to instantly send an image via FTP back to my news desk,” says Aleksandra. “It’s so useful to have; as a photographer working for an agency I need to quickly send images for publication, so it’s a huge step for people like me.”

diego souto sony alpha 9 basketball player in mid air tries to stop his opponent from sinking the ball

© Diego Souto | Sony α9 + FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM | 1/1600s @ f/2.8, ISO 1600

For Diego, the new features have made a huge impact on his work. “When I saw that Sony had implemented Voice tags, I knew this camera would be a winner,” he says. Add this to the 5Ghz WiFi connectivity and the 1000BASE-T ethernet port, and the fact that I don’t need any external devices, it’s everything I need! Being able to get my images online before anyone else is a huge advantage in my field. Taking everything into account, with the AF speed, shooting rate, silent shutter and transfer capabilities, it’s simply the best all round camera for sports photographers. It will certainly be coming with me to the games in Tokyo next summer.”

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