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Christmas Gift Guide

Size matters

Compact

Another view

Fast EVF

Dual SD card slots

Exposure compensation

Slow motion

Drive dial

Thicker

Door latch

Joystick

Tilting LCD

Missed connections

Ethernet

If Sony has truly succeeded in cramming the power of a pro action dSLR into the body roughly the size of its A7 series of mirrorless cameras, that's a big deal. Smaller cameras mean smaller lenses, which matters when you're using a huge telephoto lens. Sony also brings in-body image stabilization, which is a lot more practical than the optical stabilization in the top dSLRs.

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

It remains pretty compact for everything it does.

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

One of the big problems with shooting action through an EVF is that you're always seeing what just happened rather than being able to see in real time the way you can with an optical viewfinder. The A9's refreshes at 60fps -- it can go as high as 120fps -- at high shutter speeds, which the company claims is sufficiently fast to eliminate that weakness. Resolution is 3.7 million dots.

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

Frankly, all the A series cameras should have dual slots. Only one of the slots supports UHS-II, though, which may be a drawback. It's ironic that Sony, which was the driving force behind the XQD standard, still doesn't use it. (It still supports Memory Stick, though!)

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

Photographers used to the electronic implementation for exposure compensation may not really want an analog dial. More important, not having a top status display might be a sticking point for some, though you can see the same settings in the viewfinder.

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

Like the other cameras that used stacked CMOS sensors, the A9 has built-in slow motion (the S&Q on the mode dial). It doesn't reach the frame rates that the smaller-sensor models do, but it can do from 1 to 120fps in HD resolution for up to 60x faster or 5x slower. In PAL, it's 100fps at 50x faster or 4x slower.

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

In a big departure from the design of the A7 series, Sony adds lockable dials for choosing drive mode and focus mode (bottom).

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

The A9 is a bit thicker than the A7 series.

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

Like other pro models, Sony has put a latch on the door for the card slots.

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

Sony brought the joystick from the A-mount full-frame cameras to the A9 for easier manipulation.

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

The 3-inch tilting touchscreen LCD is surprisingly low resolution -- 1.4m dots. That's the same as the A7 series, though.

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

The A9 really should have had a USB-C connector for tethered shooting and for high-speed in-camera battery charging.

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

It's the first Sony to include Ethernet, a staple pro feature for fast file transfer and multicamera synchronization.

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
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