Sony has announced the latest in its line of popular professional mirrorless cameras: the A9 III. It’s a $5,999 full-frame camera with a stacked 24.6-megapixel sensor that succeeds the A9 II released four years ago. But the most important thing about the A9 III is its new shutter.
The A9 III is the first full-frame camera to use a global shutter. This allows it to expose every pixel at the same time so there is no distortion in both stills and video. Within most mirrorless cameras, such as the Canon R5, Panasonic GH5, and Nikon Z9, there is a rolling shutter. Rolling shutters capture an image by exposing row by row of pixels, which can lead to distortion. Below is a graphic from Lensrentals.com that shows this difference well.
Thanks to this new global shutter, the A9 III is capable of 4K 120fps video with no crop, 120fps 14-bit RAW shooting for 192 frames with real-time AF, flash sync at any shutter speed, and a max shutter speed of 1/80,000 (1/16,000 during continuous shooting). There is also a one-second pre-capture that can preemptively capture 120 frames before the shutter is pressed and a custom button function that can temporarily boost shutter speed during a continuous shutter press. This allows photographers to ramp shutter speeds without lifting their finger off of the shutter button. These are very impressive and fast specs.
The problem with a global shutter, though, is it typically doesn’t perform as well in low light, and it typically doesn’t provide as much dynamic range. Sony made no claims about low-light performance during the keynote today, but the A9 III’s spec sheet boasts it can capture images at up to 51,200 ISO. The A9 lineup has long prioritized speed over higher resolution or extreme low-light performance, and the A9 III appears to be designed to carry on that torch.
Up until this point, the A9 II had become Sony’s forgotten flagship. In 2019, when it launched, it had the latest and greatest tech, including blackout-free continuous 20fps shooting and a 24.2-megapixel sensor. It was an ideal camera for professional sports photography, but then, Sony launched the A1 in January 2021. The A1 was faster, had more megapixels, better focusing speeds, and a new, faster processing engine, leaving the A9 II in the dust.
I had all but forgotten about the A9 until today, but its history of being tuned for photographers who need the absolute fastest speeds is alive again. We will have to put all of these speedy specs to the test when we get our hands on a review unit in the coming months, so stay tuned for that. The Sony A9 III will be available next spring for $5,999.