Electronic / silent shutter of the Sony A9 / A9ii vs Sony A7iii / A7Riii
Both the Sony A7iii and Sony A9 / A9ii offer a silent / electronic shutter. Just like the Nikon Z6 and Z7 and Canon EOS R. But there are specific differences which might affect your decision about which camera best suits your needs.
What sets the Sony A9 (B&H / Amazon) apart from any of the other cameras mentioned, is that it is very resistant to banding in some artificial lighting. The sensor readout is (as far as I can figure out) 1/160th of a second, while it is 1/40th for the Sony A7iii / A7Riii / Nikon Z6 / Z7 / EOS R. This much faster sensor readout of the Sony A9 is why it is less prone to show banding in some artificial lighting.
For this reason, I have two Sony A9 cameras because they are the perfect camera for shooting silently during church ceremonies, and corporate presentations. I can shoot silently, with little chance of there being banding.
This is an example I posted in the article on Electronic shutter vs mechanical shutter, where you can see how bad the banding can be with the Sony A7Riii.
AS mentioned above, the sensor readout of the Sony A9 (B&H / Amazon) is 1/160th of a second, and is much faster compared to the slower readout of the Sony A7R III and Sony A7 III (1/40th sec). This means the Sony A9 camera will be much less prone to this unfortunate side-effect.
This photo with the banding, was taken at 1/200 @ f/2 @ 3200 ISO. I should mention that if I had kept to 1/60th, there most likely would not have been banding. But then subject movement and camera shake become a problem. So it isn’t that ideal to force a slower shutter speed just to avoid banding when using the silent / electronic shutter. You avoid this with the Sony A9.
This ugly banding shows up with artificial lighting where the brightness is controlled with Pulse Width Modulation. The LED lights in my living room also show this kind of banding.
The 2nd main reason why I really like the Sony A9 – it has no viewfinder blackout in the Silent Shutter mode. It can do 20 frames per second with no black-out! So the camera can keep tracking movement, and not lose “sight” of your subject.
The Sony A7iii and other cameras have viewfinder blackout.
So with a sport event like in the photos taken at the New York Marathon, the Sony A9 is ideal. Here I used the Sony FE 135mm f/1.8 GM lens (B&H / Amazon). As a runner would approach the table, I would lock onto them, and then fire a 1-2 second burst as they reached out for a sponge. And pretty much all the photos in the 20+ photo sequence would be razor sharp … at f/2 at the speed they were running. Unreal!
Also, with the A7iii keep in mind that it is much more prone to rolling shutter effect when using the electronic shutter. Even with these relatively static images … whenever I wasn’t careful, there would be this weird “bendy” thing happening. The Sony A9 is very resistant to this because of the much faster sensor readout.
These images would have shown camera shake in any camera with a mechanical shutter. So admittedly, these images would have been lost anyway due to image softness, and this isn’t something that could entirely have been avoided with a mechanical shutter, or using the Sony A9. These images would have been unusable … but would have looked different. But I wanted to show these here as an illustration of the side-effect of moving the camera during exposure when using the electronic shutter. You get this kind of “skewing” of the image.
I had no real reason to use the silent shutter here on the Sony A7iii, other than I am used to doing so on the Sony A9 because I like the viewfinder not blacking out on the Sony A9.
With some images (not shown here), the effect is more subtle and you only realize there was rolling shutter when you switch to a more normal photo of the same subject. Faces become “fatter” or something gets stretched.
The Sony A9 and Sony A9ii offer specific advantages over the other mirrorless cameras, because:
– the Sony A9 is resistant to banding in some artificial light.
– shows no viewfinder blackout when you take the photo.
– the Sony A9 is more resistant to the rolling-shutter effect.
As an aside, I don’t always keep my Sony A9 in electronic shutter mode, because you need the mechanical shutter when using flash. (Flash is disabled with the electronic shutter.)
9 Comments, Add Your Own
Neil, while you get less banding, do you still get image to image variations? When I shoot at night at local football stadium, the lights are cycling in strength and color. In a three photo series, I can get first frame underexposed, shifting blue/green, next frame sorta on and the third frame overexposed, shifting red/magenta (or it might not be exactly that, but the lights are certainly cycling).
2Neil vN says
John … Occasionally with the Sony A9, I do get mild banding. But I am sure it would have been worse compared to any other camera with an electronic shutter.
I don’t have experience of the lighting you would find at football stadiums like you have there — but does the problem persist with the mechanical shutter?
3Denton Taylor says
Also, for shooting portraits in the sun, you can shoot higher than 1/8000 of a second with the A9.
Hello Neil and thanks for your articles.
I have a question for you
Is it possible to use and sync flash in Electronic shutter mode with v5 firmware?
And, as a secondary question, I use D5 for sports and it’s ok. Will a9 be as nice grip and as good tracking?
5Neil vN says
Hi there Maxim
No, you can’t use flash with the Electronic Shutter, and never will be able to. It’s not dependent on firmware.
I find the Sony A9 and Sony A7iii to be the most uncomfortable cameras I have ever used. The main problem, aside from the small size of the camera, is that the first knuckle of my middle finger catches against the lens. However, the advantages outweigh this for some users.
The Nikon D5 is a phenomenal camera, and the 3D-tracking is, in my opinion, at least as good as that of the Sony A9. Where the A9 exceeds then, is in the eye-focus.
But a D5 user doesn’t have a big compelling reason to move over to the A9, in my opinion. I went with the A9, (in conjunction with using my D5 for most of my work), because of the silent shutter of the A9.
6Valent Lau says
Good points, things not usually mentioned by the dslr vs mirrorless talks. I’m pretty concerned about the Z7 1/40. It’s pretty slow
Hey Neil- I believe your’re supposed to turn the E Front Curtain off when using flash. I haven’t remembered to do that on the camera. Is there any negative consequence to that? Thanks!
7.1Neil vN says
I found with the Sony A9, it helps to turn the E-front curtain on when using the mechanical shutter and flash. Try either way and see which gives you more responsiveness from the camera.
I call the weird smearing thing “Lartigue-ing”. :) https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/283256.