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August 8, 2017

Sony A9 – High Speed Auto Focus Tracking Test!

Sony A9 Focus Tracking Test

Hey guys and welcome to another Sony A9 article on testing the Auto Focus Tracking abilities! I already did a Sony A9 auto focus tracking test on my deck with a slower moving subject and got an incredible 100% hit rate which just amazed me. Sony A9 Focus Tracking – Slow Moving Subject >>

That test however, was relatively low speed and much easier than a high speed subjects like I tested in this article.

My kids, Jase and Layla on a swing set was the subject matter for this test and it is a really hard one in my opinion. No camera that I have ever reviewed in recent times has been able to focus track a kid on a swing like this. One or two shots might be sharp, but never a consistent reliable hit rate. Slow moving subjects have been tracked before, but never high speed subjects at minimum focus distance like this test.

Well, the Sony A9 did an ok job in my opinion in this test. Jase in particular was swinging really high, which made the distance about 6-8 feet back and fourth moving directly away and then towards me. Any camera will struggle keeping up with a test like this based on my experience over the years. Layla was not swinging as high, so the successful hit rate was much better for her! See below for tons of photos and a more detailed explanation of the results.

On another note, I have a feeling the Sony A6500 would have had similar results, but I reviewed that camera in the winter and used different subjects like cars on the highway and racing snowmobiles. My Sony A6500 Review is Here >>


Sony A9 High Speed Focus Tracking Test

I used the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens for this test and was at 70mm f/2.8 to make the depth of field as thin as possible, and to allow the camera sensor the most light possible. I set the shutter speed to a 1/500sec minimum to insure sharp shots when captured and no motion blur effects. I basically took sweeping consecutive shots. I didn’t just hold it down for a minute straight in other words, but about 10-15 shot bursts this time. I was also using the high speed focus drive mode and AF-C which is continuous auto focus. Facial recognition was turned on, and the focus tracking speed settings are at default on the Sony A9 for reference.


Based on this testing, I would say I got around a 10-30% accuracy hit rate overall with Jase. Most of the shots are just slightly off the mark with a few tack sharp here and there. A lot of them when looking at the lower resolution look sharp, but zoomed into 100% you can see they are slightly off.



Layla was on a larger swing and was not swinging as high or as fast as Jase was. Therefore the swing stroke was much less, but she was still moving quite fast. This auto focus tracking test was noticeable easier than the Jase test, and the accuracy/ hit rate is much better. I would say more of a 40-50% hit rate for Layla… This is pretty darn good in my opinion, and when zoomed in the sharp shots are tack sharp.


Closing Remarks

So when tracking my kids on the swings the Sony A9 and FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens performed fairly well I would say overall. It’s a very hard test considering the speed and how close I was to the moving subjects so I did not expect much from the Jase test in particular. With Layla I had much more success and was pretty impressed with the results.

For reference, I have never tested a mirrorless camera before that was able to do this, so the Sony A9 is the first. As as I said above, I suspect the Sony A6500 would do just as good of a job and possible slightly better or worse. Based off memory, it seamed like the focus speed on the A6500 was just a little bit faster to acquire, but I could be wrong.

Based on this high speed, close range, and minimum depth of field testing, Jase was clearly pushing the Sony A9 auto focus tracking abilities to far. With Layla, however, the Sony A9 was able to track good enough in my opinion, to say it was able to do it fairly well. A slow moving subject, as you saw in my other article (here), you can expect a really high near 100% hit rate based on my testing.

At the end of the day if I were really trying to shoot subjects like this and wanted the best results possible I would have gone about it differently. This was just a really hard test for auto focus tracking abilities on the Sony A9 in particular. In the real world, I would have tried to stop the camera down to about f/4 and moved back further giving the camera much more room depth of field wise. The way I was doing it for the test, the depth of field was as slim as possible, and this was on purpose. So, moving back and shooting at 50mm, f/4 or even f/2.8 if needed for example, would have made the test significantly easier, and I would have had a much better success rate for sure. I could then crop the images in post to get the close-up look. That was not the goal here though, as I wanted to push the Sony A9 auto focus system to failure.

Also, be sure to check out my Fully Updated and Completely Re-Designed Sony E-Mount Lens Guide Page Here >>

That is about it for this article and I really hope you got what you were looking for! Please feel free to ask questions or comment below as always…


Gear used for this testing:

Sony A9 @ BHPhoto

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens @ BHPhoto

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