The Sony a9 III was first unveiled back in November 2023, and one of its biggest selling points is the fact that it is the first camera to feature a global shutter on a full frame sensor. This feature is what makes the a9 III an impressive high-speed, sports-centric camera that will set you back RM29,299, and I got to test out just how capable it is for about an hour or so in a recent hands-on session with Sony Malaysia.
What Is a Global Shutter?
As mentioned, the Sony a9 III features a global shutter with a full-frame stacked 24.6MP EXMOR RS CMOS sensor. The former allows it to capture blackout-free, continuous shooting up to 120fps. Flash sync is also useable at all shutter speeds along with distortion-free, silent electronic shutter shooting.
It’s worth highlighting the difference between a global shutter and the more traditional rolling shutter. With a rolling shutter, the sensor readout rolls from row to row, hence the name. A global shutter, on the other hand, captures and reads the entire sensor simultaneously.
When a subject is moving at high speeds or if the camera is jerked to follow a moving subject, what usually happens with a camera with a rolling shutter is, well, the “rolling shutter effect.” This causes subjects to look skewed or distorted, so with a global shutter, this effect is completely negated.
Coming back to the a9 III, the camera can shoot speedy bursts of up to 120fps while still maintaining autofocus and automatic exposure on a subject. The camera also has a 9.44 million dot OLED EVF with a 120hz refresh rate without blackout for true continuous shooting.
Ergonomics and Handling
If you’ve handled a Sony body before, you’ll be right at home with the a9 III. However, if you’re coming from Sony’s more mid-range offerings, you will notice the heftier nature of this camera. Personally, I find the a9 III quite fatiguing to wield after using it for an extended period of time handheld with a long zoom lens.
But one minor (but very effective) change Sony has made to the a9 III from previous models is adding a slight slope to the shutter button area. The slanted angle might not be something that’s immediately noticeable, but it does feel nice and natural to rest my finger on.
Usage and Features
To show the capabilities of the a9 III, Sony Malaysia set up two scenarios for us to shoot: a basketball match and water balloon archery. Normally, it would be difficult to get shots in focus during a sport as fast-moving and intense as basketball, but I was able to get multiple useable images using the a9 III in its 120fps burst mode.
I do have to admit that I have more blurry, out-of-focus shots than a few good-looking ones, but that’s also because I was just shooting in the settings set by the Sony staff without any tweaking. I’m confident that with a little more shooting time and tweaking the focus zone settings, I would have many more shots that are in focus.
And then I moved on to the archery shooting scenario. The main focus (pun intended) of the archery section was to highlight the pre-capture mode of the a9 III. With a half-press of the shutter button, the camera buffers up to a second of images before I actually fully depress the button, reducing the chance of me missing the action.
Thanks to this neat feature, I was able to quite easily capture the exact moment the arrow shoots through the water balloon. A specific icon is also shown on images that were captured with pre-capture mode, rubbing in my face that I would have missed the moment of impact by the time I fully pressed the shutter button.
Anyway, there’s also a new custom button (C5) right by the lens mount that allows me to immediately switch to 120fps burst mode when I hold it down. This is extremely convenient as I can switch from a lower frame rate to 120fps immediately when the situation calls for it at a literal press of a button.
So Is the Sony a9 III Good?
As someone who has minimal experience with sports photography, I was still able to capture plenty of great shots with the Sony a9 III in the brief hands-on session, thanks to its blazing fast performance. This camera is particularly exciting because it heralds a future where Sony might carry down the global shutter technology to more affordable, mainstream cameras, such as its a7 series.
I am mainly a video-centric shooter myself, and given that global shutter is usually reserved for higher-end cinema cameras, the prospect of the feature making its way down to more mainstream cameras is a very exciting prospect. As for the a9 III, almost anyone can be a sports photographer with the excellent camera; provided you’ve got RM29,299 – and extras for a nice lens – lying around.
Li Jin Soh contributed to this review.