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If the Lumix GX9 looks familiar, that’s because externally it’s almost indistinguishable from the Lumix GX8, Panasonic’s previous premium rangefinder-style mirrorless camera. The Lumix GX9 does not replace the cheaper but similar-looking Lumix GX85 (GX80 outside the US), but we can assume it will take over from the Lumix GX8.
While things may look the same on the outside, a few things have changed inside, although the Lumix GX8, launched way back in 2015, was arguably ahead of its time, and the improvements here are subtle rather than revolutionary. Panasonic is pitching the Lumix GX9 at amateur photographers who want a ‘professional’ experience.
The difference between this camera and Panasonic’s new Lumix G9 is that the Lumix GX9 is a smaller, more compact camera designed for portability – hence the ‘street’ camera label. The G9 is a bigger camera styled like a DSLR and better suited to sports, action, bigger lenses and more ambitious styles of photography.
- Micro Four Thirds Live MOS sensor, 20.3MP
- 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,240,000 dots
- 4-stop built-in image stabilization
Panasonic uses Micro Four Thirds sensors, which are smaller than the APS-C sensors in most interchangeable lens cameras, but match them pretty well for performance and image quality.
The Lumix GX9 comes with 4K video, as we’d expect from Panasonic, and the company has also enhanced its 4K Photo modes. Here, the camera uses its 4K video processing power to capture images designed to be exported as 8MP stills. The 4K burst mode captures frames at an impressive 30fps, and the GX9’s new auto marking feature puts markers in the burst where there’s a significant change in the frame contents to help you find key moments later.
The 4K Post Focus mode is even more impressive. The camera captures a short burst using every focus point, and in playback mode you can simply tap on the picture to choose the focus point you want. This enables you to do something which feels like it ought to be impossible: focus after you’ve taken the shot. And new in the Lumix GX9 is in-camera focus stacking, so you no longer need a computer to merge a series of images with different focus points into a single photo that’s sharp from front to back – something that's impossible to achieve in macro photography with a single exposure.
There are also new focus and aperture-bracketing modes, and Panasonic has extended the battery life in Power Save mode to 900 shots, and increased the regular burst rate to 9fps (with focus locked on the first frame) or 6fps with autofocus.
Inside, the in-body image stabilization system has been enhanced with 5-axis compensation, which works alongside Panasonic’s in-lens optical stabilizers to enable you to use shutter speeds four stops slower than would otherwise be possible and still achieve sharp shots.
The Lumix GX9 now has Bluetooth as well as Wi-Fi, and analog film fans will be pleased to hear there’s a new L.Monochrome image style, along with a Grain effect available in three different strengths for enhancing that ‘film’ look.
Build and handling
- Rangefinder body with tilting EVF and LCD
- External EV compensation dial and focus lever
- Weighs 450g
The Lumix GX9’s body may be designed in the style of a compact rangefinder camera, but it’s actually quite substantial, and no smaller than a Sony A6000-series camera (such as the Alpha A6300) or even the compact DSLR-style mirrorless Fujifilm X-T20. This does give the Lumix GX9 a quality ‘feel’, although given the size of the body it’s a shame there aren’t a few more external controls.
There is a mode dial on the top plate and, stacked below it, a EV compensation dial, and the focus lever on the rear of the camera can be used to switch between AF-S (single shot), AF-C (continuous AF) and Manual focus modes, but other routine settings like the drive mode, 4K Photo modes, focus point selection, ISO and white balance settings rely on buttons and the Lumix GX9’s on-screen interface.
While the GX9’s weight and solidity give it a ‘proper camera’ feel, its reliance on menus and icons for routine adjustments can be tiresome. The touchscreen is responsive and effective, though, and you can use the twin control dials for menu and feature navigation rather than tapping on the screen.
The top dial is easy to spin with your forefinger. The rear dial is squeezed in above the thumb rest on the back of the camera and isn’t quite so easy to use, however, and it has a ‘click’ action which you can sometimes engage accidentally when you meant to spin the dial.
The electronic viewfinder is very good, and even offers a 90-degree tilt for viewfinder fans who find themselves working at awkward angles. The rear screen also tilts, but stops short of a fully-articulating pivot, so it doesn’t work as well when the camera is held vertically.
- ISO200-25,600 (expandable to ISO100-25,600)
- No optical low pass filter
- Monochrome Image Styles
We'll need to spend more time with the camera to fully review performance and image quality to get the full picture on how the Lumix GX9 performs, but did get to shoot with the camera.
Panasonic has removed the low-pass filter from the sensor in the Lumix GX9 to further enhance fine detail rendition. This does increase the risk of moiré effects (interference patterns) in fine textures and details, visible in some of the shots we took with the camera, but it squeezes the absolute maximum detail from the sensor. We obviously couldn't look at raw files either, so check back once we've got full review sample.
With a launch price of £699 body-only in the UK and AU$1,399 for the 12-32mm kit in Australia (US pricing is still to be confirmed), the Lumix GX9 looks good value.
It’s well made and packed with high-end features. We tried it with Panasonic’s retracting 12-32mm zoom, which is a good size match for the GX9’s body; longer lenses, such as the Panasonic and Leica 12-60mm lenses, could make it a little more front-heavy, but there is a 14-42mm kit lens option too.
Even though the emphasis is on classic camera styling and handling, we think the Lumix GX9’s appeal lies more in its digital capture and processing technologies than in its physical design. If you’re really into knobs and dials rather than menus and icons, you might be disappointed.
The PEN E-PL9 is the latest mirrorless camera from Olympus aimed at those looking for a stylish but accessible upgrade over their smartphone as they look to take their photography to the next stage.
Whereas the OM-D line of mirrorless cameras is targeted at the enthusiast and professional photographer, the PEN range has always been designed to appeal to the more fashion-conscious snapper, and those who want to take nice-looking images without getting too bogged down with a host of settings.
- Micro Four Thirds Live MOS sensor, 16MP
- 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,037,000 dots
- 4K video capture
The PEN E-PL9 features a tried and tested (we could also say 'ageing') 16MP Micro Four Thirds sensor that we’ve seen in numerous Olympus cameras in recent years – as we felt when reviewing the OM-D E-M10 Mark III, a boost in resolution to 20MP would have been welcome. This camera does, however, get the latest TruePic VIII processor (also used in the flagship OM-D E-M1 Mark II), with an ISO range running from 100-25,600.
Rather than 1080p Full HD video capture, the PEN E-PL9 gets upgraded to 4K video capture at up to 30fps, while you can also shoot Full HD footage at up to 60fps.
There's no built-in electronic viewfinder (and there's now no accessory port to attach an optional one either), but there is a 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen. As we've seen on previous E-PL models, the E-PL9 uses a fairly unusual tilt-mechanism, with the display flipping out under the body, rather than above it. For those who love taking a selfie, this is supposed to offer the best selfie-taking experience – perhaps because you're looking just below the lens rather than just above, although we couldn't see massive difference.
To combat camera shake, the PEN E-PL9 takes advantage of the highly effective five-axis in-body image stabilization system we've seen on other recent Olympus cameras. The clever system has impressed before, and delivers a claimed four stops of compensation to reduce blur and shake in both stills and video.
Just as we've seen with the OM-D E-M10 Mark III, there's also the new Advanced Photo (AP) mode. This is designed to make shooting creative images that bit more accessible, with easy access to settings like Live Composite, multiple exposure, HDR, sweep panorama and focus bracketing.
Art Filters have become synonymous with Olympus cameras, and the PEN E-PL9 features 16 effects, including Bleach Bypass, which we first saw on the OM-D E-M10 Mark III, and a new nostalgic Instant Film art filter, which should come into its own when used at night with flash – darker areas becomes green, and skin is given a warm glow.
Like many new cameras, the PEN E-PL9 combines Bluetooth Low Energy and Wi-Fi connectivity to provide a permanent connection to your smartphone or tablet via the OI.Share app. The app also features a new set of easy-access 'How To' video guides to help get the best out of the PEN E-PL9.
Build and handling
- Larger grip and mode dials
- Built-in flash
- Weighs 332g
The design of the PEN E-PL9 follows on from both the E-PL8 and E-PL7, but there have been some subtle tweaks. For starters, the grip on the front of the camera has been enlarged, and it certainly gives a bit more purchase.
The mode dials on the top plate have been tweaked and enlarged compared with those on the E-PL8, while Olympus has also managed to shoehorn a small pop-up flash into the camera (older models came with a separate mini- flash).
Despite these additions, the PEN E-PL9 is still pretty svelte at 117 x 68 x 39mm, while the supplied 14-42mm power zoom lens complements the camera nicely with its compact proportions.
The finish is pretty good overall, with a nice leatherette material in black, white or tan covering the majority of the camera. However – and perhaps we've been spoiled with the magnesium alloy construction of the OM-D E-M10 Mark III – the PEN E-PL9 comparison felt a little plasticky in parts in comparison with that camera. That said, the quality is certainly in line with its rivals.
- 121-point AF
- Coverage across most of the frame
- Face Priority AF and Eye Detection AF
The 81-point AF system in the PEN E-PL8 has been replaced by the newer 121-point system that's been used elsewhere in the Olympus range.
While there isn't the on-sensor phase-detection autofocus that other systems offer for speedier focusing, in our brief time with the PEN E-PL9 we found focusing to be quick and responsive in the lighting conditions we tried it under.
The PEN E-PL9 looks as though it'll be a sound option for those looking for a sleek-looking, easy-to-use mirrorless camera, although it's a little disappointing not to see a resolution boost, while removing the accessory port seems a bit of a backwards step.
It's priced at £579.99 body-only and £649.99 with the compact 14-42mm kit lens (US and Australian pricing and availability have yet to be announced), which is only marginally less than one of our favorite mirrorless cameras, the OM-D E-M10 Mark III – and for the small additional outlay you get a brilliant built-in electronic viewfinder and sturdy magnesium alloy body, making the OM-D E-M10 Mark III the better buy.
Here’s a funny thing. People buy a DSLR so that they can use interchangeable lenses, then they want a single lens that does everything.
Available in Canon and Nikon mount options, Tamron’s latest all-in-one ‘superzoom’ lens comes closer than most to that goal, stretching from fairly generous wide-angle coverage to an unprecedented 400mm ‘super-telephoto’ focal length – on Canon and Nikon APS-C format bodies, that’s equivalent to using a 600mm or 640mm lens respectively, on a full-frame camera.
- Works well as a travel lens
- Compact and lightweight
- Good but not great IS
One of the main attractions of any superzoom lens is that it’s convenient for travel photography.
Whether you’re pounding city streets on a mini-break or climbing mountains, one thing you won’t really want to take along is a heavy bag full of lenses.
The Tamron works well as a travel lens because, as well as delivering the same kind of zoom range as two or three regular zoom lenses, it’s also reasonably compact and lightweight; indeed, at 710g the Tamron feels well-balanced when mounted on Canon or Nikon APS-C format bodies, and doesn’t feel unduly big or heavy, even if you’re carrying it around all day.
Along with the record-breaking zoom range, there’s a new-generation autofocus system with an HLD (High/Low torque-modulated Drive) motor. It’s virtually silent in operation and well suited to both stills and movie capture, delivering speedy performance for stills and smooth transitions for movies.
Another headline feature is optical image stabilization, or VC (Vibration Compensation), as Tamron calls it.
Canon and Nikon cameras typically don’t feature sensor-shift stabilization, although Canon has introduced video stabilization in the EOS 77D. That makes optical stabilization pretty much essential for handheld shooting towards the long end of the Tamron’s zoom range. Rated at 2.5 stops, the VC is good, but not as great as in some other recently launched Tamron lenses, such as the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2, which have a five-stop rating.
Build quality and handling
- Feels quite robust and solid
- Zoom creep is fairly minimal
- Easy to operate
Despite being fairly lightweight, the lens feels quite robust and solid, from its weather-sealed metal mounting plate through to the supplied petal-shaped lens hood. Despite having no less than four concentric sections in its telescoping barrel, the construction feels firm and wobble-free. The zoom ring operates reasonably smoothly, but requires different amounts of rotational force as you progress through the range. There’s a lot of extension too, with the lens stretching to 25cm (10 inches) at its longest zoom setting. Zoom creep is fairly minimal, and only really an issue when you're shooting practically vertically upwards or downwards. A zoom lock switch is fitted to avoid accidental extension while you’re carrying the lens around.
The switches for auto/manual focus, and VC on/off are nice and large, and easy to operate even if you're wearing gloves. One downside to handling, however, is that the manual focus ring rotates during autofocus, so you need to keep your fingers clear, although it's not as much of a problem as it could be, because the focus ring is at the front end of the lens; a bigger concern is that the autofocus system doesn’t enable manual override. On the plus side, with a fully internal focusing mechanism, the front element doesn’t rotate, so it’s easy to use filters like circular polarizers and ND grads.
- Electromagnetic aperture control
- Barrel and pincushion distortion
- Color fringing is well controlled
Autofocus and aperture control proved consistently accurate in our tests. Electromagnetic aperture control is used in the Nikon-fit as well as the Canon-fit option of the lens. It’s mostly a good thing, compared with the mechanical lever used in most Nikon-fit lenses, but a downside is that it makes the lens incompatible with older Nikon APS-C cameras, up to and including the D300s, D3000 and D5000.
Superzoom lenses are somewhat notorious for compromising image quality in favor of outright zoom range. The new Tamron is no exception, but sharpness is maintained fairly well throughout the entire zoom range, for this type of lens, right up to its 400mm extremity.
Color fringing is well controlled through most of the zoom range, but becomes noticeable at the long end, especially on Canon cameras where, unlike with Nikon bodies, it’s not automatically corrected in JPEG quality modes. Similarly, barrel and pincushion distortions are clearly visible toward the short and long ends of the zoom range, respectively.
For overall performance and image quality, the Tamron performs as well as other superzoom lenses like the Sigma 18-300mm and Tamron’s own 16-300mm, despite its extra-long maximum focal length. However, what you gain in telephoto reach you lose in ultra-wide viewing angle, which is still a major plus point of the older Tamron 16-300mm, a lens that's is unique in this respect. The autofocus system of the 16-300mm also has the handling benefit of its focus ring remaining stationary during autofocus, while enabling manual override.
What price a top-flight standard zoom? Canon and Nikon shooters upgrading from an APS-C format body to a full-frame model face a hefty extra bill for the latest own-brand 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses, at around £1,730/$1,750/AU$2,400 and £2,000/$2,400/AU$3,050 respectively. And neither is perfect for general shooting; the Canon lens lacks image stabilization and the Nikon is comparatively massive, mostly due to the fact that the physical length remains fixed throughout the zoom range.
Tamron has a long history of manufacturing ‘budget’ lenses that offer decent build quality and performance but can’t really compete with the best glass on the market. That’s changed recently, with the advent of G2 (Generation 2) editions of the company’s 24-70mm and 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses, which aim to match or even beat camera manufacturers’ pro-grade lenses while still undercutting them for price.
- New optical path
- Revamped AF system
- 5-stop IS system
Upgrades over the original Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 include a new optical path that aims for impeccable image quality. High-grade components include two XR (Extra Refractive Index), three LD (Low Dispersion) and three GM (Glass-Moulded aspherical) elements, plus a hybrid aspherical element. Nano-structure and regular coatings are combined to keep ghosting and flare to a minimum, and the front element has a muck-resistant, easy-clean fluorine coating.
The autofocus system is revamped for extra speed and accuracy. Being a ring-type ultrasonic system it’s typically quiet as well, and comes complete with the usual manual override. Whereas the Canon lens has no stabilization and the Nikon has a 4-stop stabilizer, the Tamron has ‘best in class’ stabilization with a 5-stop CIPA rating.
Build quality and handling
- Full set of weather seals
- Heavier than Canon rival
- Precise adjustments
The Tamron G2 ticks all the right boxes for a professional-grade standard zoom lens. It’s sturdily built with a metal outer barrel and a full set of weather seals. As with the Canon lens, it stretches in physical length as you extend the zoom setting, but that enables it to be reasonably compact for carrying. At 905g, the Tamron weighs 100g more than the Canon lens, but is 165g lighter than the Nikon.
The zoom and focus rings operate smoothly and enable accurate, precise adjustments. There’s no hint of zoom creep, but a zoom lock switch is fitted anyway. As you’d expect in this class of lens, a focus distance scale is mounted beneath a viewing window, and the lens is supplied complete with a petal-shaped hood and soft pouch.
- Excellent sharpness and contrast
- Defocused areas nice and smooth
- Minimal color fringing
Sharpness and contrast are excellent throughout most of the zoom range, and at most apertures. Sharpness across the frame is impressive when shooting wide open at 24mm, although you'll need to stop down to f/5.6 if you want optimum sharpness right into the corners; doing so also eliminates vignetting, which is rather noticeable when shooting at 24mm and f/2.8, although no worse than in the pricier Nikon lens.
Center sharpness drops off a bit towards the long end of the zoom range when shooting at f/2.8, but the upside is that bokeh is wonderfully smooth and soft. This makes the Tamron excellent for portraiture, where it won’t accentuate every tiny blemish in skin, while giving a delicious blur to the background.
Color fringing and distortions are pretty minimal, and resistance to ghosting and flare is very good. In our tests, the autofocus system lived up to its claims for accuracy and speed, while the VC (Vibration Compensation) system is one of the best we’ve used.
In terms of image quality compared to the latest own-brand Canon and Nikon lenses, the Tamron fares well. It matches the Canon for center-sharpness throughout most of the zoom range, and is only slightly worse at the long end, while actually beating it for corner-sharpness in the 24-35mm sector. For other facets of image quality, the Tamron and Canon are very similar. The Nikon edges ahead for sharpness, but the Tamron fights back with better performance in terms of color fringing, distortions and wide-aperture vignetting.
There’s always something to be said for sticking with your camera manufacturer’s own lenses, especially at the top end of the quality range. However, the likes of Tamron and Sigma are now making lenses that offer similar quality at more affordable prices.
Indeed, this Tamron is also up against the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM | Art lens. For build quality, handling and performance there’s almost nothing to choose between the Tamron and Sigma, but the Tamron is a little less expensive to buy, so it wins out on value for money.
More significantly, the Tamron 24-70mm G2 holds its own against its more expensive Canon and Nikon rivals. All things considered, this is a top-class standard zoom lens, and a bargain at the price.
The Essential Review
This is TechRadar’s review summary that gives you all the key information you need if you’re looking for quick buying advice in 30 seconds - our usual full, in-depth review follows.
The Yi Technology 4K+ Action Camera is just as good as the GoPro Hero6 Black, but it's not identical. An action camera just as portable as its rival – and with just as poor a battery life (less than two hours) – the Yi Technology 4K+ Action Camera can record in 4K at 60fps, just like a GoPro Hero6 Black. That's more detail and smoothness than you probably need to capture your adventures. Its 12MP photos are great, too – sharp and colourful – and it also shoots in raw (though not natively in HDR).
Where the Yi Technology 4K+ Action Camera gets one over on a GoPro Hero6 Black physically is with its weight (93g vs the GoPro Hero6 Black's 117g) despite having a slightly larger touchscreen. It's also easier to use, thanks to a super-fast processor and an impressively simple user interface your granny could master.
However, the Yi Technology 4K+ Action Camera is more affordable than its rival, and that comes with a few cut corners. Unlike the GoPro Hero6 Black, the Yi Technology 4K+ Action Camera is splash-proof, not waterproof (not without adding a separate housing), while it also lacks GPS, an accelerometer, and a gyroscope. Are any of those omissions deal-breakers? Probably not.
So if you're aquatic-minded, or you need to know exactly where you were, and how fast you are going when you took a video, buy a GoPro Hero6 Black. However, if you're more interested in saving a few quid on features you didn't even want, the Yi Technology 4K+ Action Camera is one of the simplest and best designed gadgets around. Everyone considering buying an action cam should have a look at the Yi Technology 4K+ Action Camera because it's almost exactly the same and, in some ways, even better than a GoPro.
Who’s it for and should I buy it?
If you have your eye on a GoPro for some time, but haven't yet investors in one, is a great opportunity to save a bit of cash. Almost as good as its more famous rival in almost every way, the Yi Technology 4K+ Action Camera is nevertheless not natively waterproof. Do you care? Action cameras like these tend to be used sporadically, and how often any of them actually get taken underwater is anyone's guess. However, simplicity is the Yi Technology 4K+ Action Camera's biggest attribute, and if you've no need for the GPS, accelerometer and gyroscope found on the GoPro Hero6 Black, why pay for them?
Lightweight, easy to use and producing great quality 4K video and stills that's so easy to transfer to a phone for sharing, the Yi Technology 4K+ Action Camera is an impressive way to save a substantial slab. However, this follow-up to the Yi 4K Action Camera is more tweak than overhaul, with the main improvement being that the Yi Technology 4K+ Action Camera can film in 4K at 60fps, so if you've already got Yi's first action cam, skip this second version and wait for the third.
Yi Technology 4K+ Action Camera price
- Current price: £299/ $339.98 (both prices include waterproof case)
An action cam that's much better value than a GoPro
- Built-in image stabilization
- Not natively waterproof
- Recharges via USB-C port
The Yi 4K+ isn't incredibly different to the original Yi 4K, the main addition being an ability to shoot video at 4K at 60fps, just like a GoPro Hero6 Black. Requiring a U3 class microSD card to be used, shooting in 4K/60fps does mean a maximum bitrate of 120Mbps, which is double what the Yi 4K offered. It's also worth bearing in mind that although the Yi 4K+ does have electronic image stabilization onboard, it only works up to 4K/30fps.
Inside is the same 12MP Sony IMX377 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor with Exmor R as on the Yi 4K, but this version has a new Ambarella H2 + Quad-core ARM Cortex A53 processor. They work terrifically well together, allowing the Yi 4K+'s operating system to work fluently and without a hitch despite the bigger bitrate.
You're probably not going to use the Yi 4K+ much for photography, but you can. It shoots very usable 12MP images, and it's possible to save in JPEG or keep the raw files, which is outputs as universal .DNG files. It doesn't deal in HDR, as the GoPro Hero6 Black does, but since it shoots in raw that's no big deal.
Unlike the original Yi 4K, this new version recharges via USB-C port , and in the box is an adaptor for hooking-up an external microphone. It takes a microSD card up to 64GB.
So why would anyone buy GoPro? There are a few tiny corners cut on the Yi 4K+. Unlike the GoPro Hero5 Black or the new GoPro Hero6 Black, the Yi 4K+ is not natively waterproof, although a separate Waterproof Case Kit – which is also apparently 'dustyproof' – is available. However, the only really noticeable difference between the Yi 4K+ and GoPros are that the Yi 4K+ lacks the GPS, gyroscope and accelerometer sensors, so your videos don't include tags for geographical positioning, direction and speed. You either care about that, or you don't. Unless you're a performance athlete obsessed by data, it's probably irrelevant.
However, what is annoying – and it's exactly the same with all GoPro products – is a short battery life. The Yi 4K+ has a 1400mAh battery that lasts for just over an hour in 4K mode, a little longer if not.
A small, portable and money-saving design
- Weighs just 93g
- Not waterproof
- Corning Gorilla glass
Aside from its attractive, subtle checkerboard pattern on its font, the Yi 4K+ looks exactly the same, physically, as its forbear, the Yi 4K.
It weighs just 93g, and it's rectangular little 65 x 42 x 30mm body hosts a 2.19-inch colour touchscreen coasted in tough Corning Gorilla glass. Better still, that touchscreen – as well as being a large – is of excellent quality; it's colorful and contrasty, with a great viewing angle, and it's extremely sensitive to touch. That makes the clear, concise operating system a breeze to use; I would go as far as to say that the Yi 4K+ has among the simplest and speediest user interfaces I have come across in the last 15 years.
Its new voice control software does add to that, though results are mixed despite having to first have the Yi 4K+ record a voice sample. Shouting 'Yi Action take photo', 'Yi Action record video' and 'Yi Action turn off' (among other voice commands) at the Yi 4K+ does herald results, but it doesn't work too well if you're outdoors … which is kinda's all what this camera is for.
The Yi 4K+ has a standard tripod thread on the bottom, which is a boon for anyone wanting to connect it to the plethora of mounts available (as well as a standard camera tripod). Despite the natively easy to use Yi 4K+ not requiring a good app to make the device usable (which is so often the case), its free Yi Action app is impressive.
Linking reliably to a smartphone via Wi-Fi on either 2.4GHz or 5GHz, the app can access all the settings on the camera, and hosts an almost instant live feed. Once you're done, you can transfer images and videos to your phone, apply some filters and image effects (from HDR and a the 360-degree camera-style 'Tiny Planet' and 'Spial Galaxy' to more run-of-the-mill 'vintage', 'nostalgia' and 'romance'), and share to Facebook, Instagram and – showing its Asian heritage – Line.
To battery life, which on the Yi 4K+ we measured at around an hour on 4K/60fps, and almost two hours on Full HD 1080p, which is relatively good compared to the GoPro Hero6 Black. However, that doesn't mean such a super-short battery life is acceptable, and seems to me to signal that the Yi 4K+ is too small for its own good.
- Clean but jumpy 4K/60fps
- Smooth but noisy Full HD
- Good wide-angle JPEG and raw photos
The Yi 4K+ does 4K at 60fps. Great, but in practice that headline-grabbing feature does come with a few caveats. For example, its 4K Ultra 4K mode – its most detailed – tops-out at 30fps. So does its 4K HD mode (which contains 4000x3008 pixels instead of the standard 3840 x 2160 pixels). However, stick it in 4K mode and the Yi 4K+ can record in 60fps (or 48fps, or 30fps).
At 60fps the results are impressively sharp and contrasty, with well saturated colour. Video can be a little choppy if you hand-hold, which is a result of the low frame-rate (particularly noticeable on camera pans) and the fact that Yi 4K+'s electronic image stabilisation only applies to 4K/30fps and below. Still, that's something for the follow-up from Yi, and besides, image stabilisation can be overdone (see the Sony FDR-X3000R review for proof of that).
Those after the smoothest possible video from the Yi 4K+ should consider shooting in Full HD 1080p, which can be done in all kinds of frame rates, from the 'cinematic' 24fps right through to 120fps, which is good for slow-motion footage. That jumps to 240fps if you shoot in 720p. It's also worth knowing that if you shoot in 4K/24fps it's possible to use an ultra wide field of view mode, which stretches the sensor.
The Yi 4K+ also takes good still images, albeit all in a wide-angle. That means you have to get really close to your subject – uncomfortably close, sometimes – though it produces a reasonably sharp images nevertheless. I didn't notice too much fisheye effect and, besides, it can be easily removed later. However, the finished JPEGs often appear very compressed, contrasty, and with over-exposed areas.
As well as producing JPEGs, the Yi 4K+ records raw images at DNG files. However, shooting in raw does require a little patience, with an approx. 10-seconds wait between each shot. It also doesn't produce the cleanest raw photo you'll ever see, but they're good enough to produce some much better-looking results through Photoshop.
Not convinced? Try these
If the Yi 4K+ action camera isn’t for you, here are three excellent alternatives for you to consider...
The Sony Alpha A9 has quite a job on its hands. While the likes of Fujifilm's X-T2 and Sony's own Alpha A7R II have tempted some pros, particularly studio and landscape photographers, to trade-in their DSLR kit, it's been a harder challenge to get sports and action photographers to give up their Canon and Nikon gear.
[Update: Sony's just announced a new Firmware update for the Alpha A9, with version 2.00 offering a number of tweaks and refinements. For Continuous AF, performance has been improved when tracking moving subjects, while there's enhanced stability of the AF-C when zooming. There's also now the option to protect images to a custom button, as well as the ability to transfer (via FTP) all protected files at once, overall operational stability has been improved.]
Rather than being cosseted in a comfy camera bag, the gear of those action photographers is going to get bashed about on a daily basis, while the performance demanded from their camera bodies means we haven't yet seen a mirrorless rival to the likes of Canon's EOS-1D X Mark II and the Nikon D5.
Until now. The new Alpha A9 from Sony has those two speed merchants of the camera world firmly in its sights. So will it fall at the first hurdle, or can it give its rivals a run for their money?
- Full-frame stacked CMOS sensor, 24.2MP
- 3,686K-dot electronic viewfinder with 120fps refresh rate
- 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,440,000 dots
The key piece of tech at the heart of the Alpha A9, and one that's had a knock-on effect on the performance of other components, is the 24.2MP full-frame stacked CMOS sensor.
While it has substantially fewer pixels than the 42.2MP Alpha A7R II, it does offer a slight resolution advantage over the 20-odd megapixels of the Canon 1D X Mark II and Nikon D5, but it's the architecture of the chip that's the key element here.
The stacked design means the integrated DRAM memory modules, a high-speed processing circuit and the BIONZ X image processing engine are all lined up behind the image sensor.
This design has allowed Sony to push the data through the sensor, not around it, resulting in a a sensor that reads data 20 times faster than would otherwise be possible, enabling the Alpha A9 to shoot at a blistering 20fps for 241 raw files or 362 JPEG images.
How does that compare to the EOS-1D X Mark II and Nikon D5? Very well in fact, comfortably beating both the EOS-1D X Mark II's 170 raw files at 14fps and the D5's 200 raw files at 12fps – although if you're planning to hold down the shutter for that long you might want to re-evaluate your technique.
The stacked sensor design also means the Alpha A9 and can perform an impressive 60 AF/AE tracking calculations per second (we'll get onto the nuts and bolts of the AF shortly).
Designing the sensor this way doesn't just have performance benefits – it should also deliver better noise performance, thanks to the light-gathering elements of the photosites (pixels to you and I) being closer to the surface of the sensor.
The Alpha A9 features a broad native ISO range of 100-51,200, and this can be expanded to 50-204,800. That said, for those who shoot regularly in low light, the likes of the D5 offer an extra four stops on the A9 here, with an expanded ISO ceiling equivalent to 3,280,000.
We've always liked the large electronic viewfinder on the Alpha A7R II, but the EVF on the A9 is bigger and better.
With approximately 3,686,000 dots, the all-new, high-luminance Quad-VGA OLED Tru-Finder viewfinder is the highest-resolution viewfinder Sony has ever incorporated in a camera. It boasts 0.78x magnification, a 120fps refresh rate, and a Zeiss T* coating to greatly reduce reflections, as well as a fluorine coating on the outer lens that repels dirt.
Thanks to the electronic shutter, which promises to be both vibration-free and completely silent (with a maximum shutter speed of 1/32,000 sec), there's no horrible viewfinder blackout even at 20fps (though the refresh rate of the EVF does drop to 60fps).
As well as the EVF, there's a 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen with a solid, if not ground-breaking, resolution of 1,440,000 dots (though it's a modest boost over the 1.23m dots of the A7R II's).
The Sony Alpha A9 is equipped with an innovative 5-axis image stabilization system that provides a shutter speed advantage of five stops.
As you'd expect for Sony's mirrorless flagship camera, video is well catered for. For a start, there's 4K (3840 x 2160p) video recording across the full width of the full-frame image sensor. When shooting in this format, the camera uses full pixel readout without pixel binning to collect 6K of information, oversampling it to produce high-quality 4K footage. Recording is also available in Super 35mm size.
Additionally, the Alpha A9 can record Full HD at 120fps at up to 100Mbps, which allows footage to be reviewed and eventually edited into 4x or 5x slow-motion video files in Full HD resolution.
The Alpha A9 benefits from two SD card slots, but it's perhaps slightly disappointing to see that Sony has opted to give only one slot the faster UHS-II media support. In some ways it's a bit of a surprise to see the A9 forego the even faster XQD card format (especially as Sony was instrumental in its development) that both the Nikon D5 and D500 support.
As well as having the usual Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth credentials, the A9 features a flash sync socket (something that was missing from the more studio-focused Alpha A7R II) and Ethernet port, underlining Sony's view that it sees the Alpha A9 as a camera that's going to muscle its way pitch-side, where speedy transfer of images is key.
Build and handling
- Magnesium alloy construction
- Weather resistant
- Weighs 673g
While the likes of the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and Nikon D5 are probably some of the bulkiest and heaviest cameras you're likely to pick up this side of a medium format model, the Sony Alpha A9 is noticeably more compact.
It follows a similar design aesthetic to Sony's Alpha 7-series full-frame mirrorless cameras, but the A9 is just that bit chunkier, at 63mm versus 60.3mm.
One of the most obvious differences between the Alpha A9 and its pro-spec DSLR rivals is the lack of an incorporated vertical grip; whether this is a good or a bad thing will depend on your personal preference.
The hand grip itself is a decent size and pretty comfy, but your little finger will overhang the bottom of the camera. An optional GPX1EM grip extension is available, as well as a VGC3EM battery grip.
On its own, the Alpha A9 balances nicely with lenses like Sony's 24-70mm f/2.8, but it feels very front-heavy when a 70-200mm f/2.8 is attached – the VGC3EM battery grip will certainly help on this score.
Appropriately enough for a camera that has designs on being a tool for jobbing pros, the Sony Alpha A9 is based around a durable magnesium alloy body that's also weather-resistant. That said, looking closely at the various doors dotted round the body of the Alpha A9 there don't appear to be any signs of rubber seals to protect the camera from the elements – we'd perhaps be a little nervous, then, if we were sat on the sidelines of a sports pitch in the rain with the Alpha A9, which we wouldn't be if we were shooting with a 1D X Mark II or D5.
In the past we've felt that Alpha (and some Cyber-shot) cameras have been held back a little by their overly complex procedures for changing key settings, and while the overall design of the Alpha A9 follows previous models in the line-up, there have been a number of revisions to the handling.
Starting with the top plate, and to the left of the viewfinder there's now a dedicated control for the Alpha A9's drive modes, with a focus mode selector round the collar to boot.
To the right of the viewfinder is the mode dial, which includes an 'Auto' mode –something we wouldn't expect to see on a pro-orientated camera. One slight annoyance with both dials is the locking mechanism. You have to press down on the central button to rotate the dial, which is a bit of a faff if the camera's held up to your eye; on the Fujifilm X-T2, for example, you can either set the dials to rotate freely, or lock them so that you have to press before you can rotate.
Another slight issue is the positioning of the front command dial. Because the grip is that bit larger than on the Alpha A7R II, your index finger doesn't fall naturally on it – it requires a bit more of a stretch to get to it. This may sound a little nit-picky, but believe us when we say that after a day of shooting you'll wish it was positioned a bit closer to the shutter button.
Round the back, the most obvious difference from the Alpha A7R II is the very welcome arrival of a dedicated joystick control. Primarily for AF point selection, this can also be used to navigate the camera's menu system.
There's also a proper AF-On button here – a must for many sports and action photographers – while the video record button moves to a more sensible spot just next to the viewfinder.
We've always been impressed by the customization options on Alpha cameras, and the Sony Alpha A9 is no different. Pretty much every button or control can be reprogrammed, with some controls, like the dedicated custom buttons, offering the choice of a staggering 69 settings. The default setup makes a good starting point, but it's worth experimenting to find your optimum configuration.
To say the menu is comprehensive is an understatement – the first shooting sub-category has 13 pages to trawl through, while movie settings are still tucked away in the second shooting sub-category. The arrival of the joystick speeds navigation up, but it's a shame the touchscreen interface doesn't allow you to quickly swipe through pages of menus.
The touchscreen itself is actually pretty limited – you can only use it to select an AF area when shooting, and when reviewing images you can double-tap the screen to quickly zoom, then tap and drag to move round the image. If you think you can swipe through images though, you can think again.
- 693-point AF
- 93% coverage
- Enhanced Eye-AF
Sony's not mucking around with the AF system inside the Alpha A9, showering it with a staggering 693 phase-detect AF points that cover 93% of the frame – something even the likes of the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and Nikon D5 will struggle to match.
As you'd expect, there's a plethora of autofocus settings available depending on what you're shooting. For general shooting, and to keep things as simple as possible, either the Wide or Zone modes will take care of much of the decision making for you, while Center mode uses the central AF point.
Not everything you want to focus on will be slap-bang in the center of the frame though, so there’s also a Flexible Spot mode (with the choice of three AF area sizes) that enables you to use the joystick to position the focus area pretty much anywhere in the frame. If you're struggling to focus there's also Expand Flexible Spot mode, which utilizes additional AF points to assist with focusing.
Flick the AF mode to AF-C and things really get interesting. You've got the same focusing area options as you have when shooting in the Alpha A9's AF-S focusing mode, but with the addition of a Lock-on setting.
Half-press the shutter button (or preferably use the AF-On button instead), and with your subject selected the AF will instantly snap into focus, while a dizzying array of AF points will light up the viewfinder as it tracks your subject round the frame – thanks to the architecture of the sensor, the Alpha A9 is making 60 tracking calculations per second.
We found that if you want to be really precise with what the camera tracks (especially if your subject is far off in the distance), then Lock-on: Flexible Spot M is the best option, as this allows you to select the specific part of the frame where the subject you want to track is. That said, if you're shooting subjects that fill the frame and make predictable movements, then Zone mode can be very effective.
The Alpha A9 is also the first Sony camera to feature customizable autofocus tracking sensitivity. If you haven't come across this before, it lets you tell the camera how quickly you want the camera to refocus should a distraction obstruct your view of your tracked subject.
In some instances you might want the camera to hold focus (for instance if your subject has disappeared briefly behind an obstacle) or to quickly snap on to a new subject (an opposing player has made a challenge and won the ball). The A9's sensitivity scale ranges from 1 to 5, with 1 least likely to refocus, while 5 is most likely to refocus should a new subject enter the frame.
The Alpha A9's AF performance is incredibly impressive; while it did get tripped up a couple of times, for the most part the speed and precision of the AF is outstanding.
- 20fps burst shooting
- 5-axis image stabilization
- 480-shot battery life
Raise the camera up to your eye and start rattling off bursts of shots at 20fps with no viewfinder blackout, and the Sony Alpha A9 really does feel like the product of witchcraft.
It's almost a little unnerving at first, but you quickly embrace the stunning capabilities of the camera. Helpfully, there's a subtle 'shutter' sound to reassure you that something is actually happening, though you can switch to fully silent operation via the menu if required.
If a burst rate of 20fps is overkill for what you're shooting, you also have two slower drive modes to choose from, while those looking to use a lens adapter (something that's likely given the limited range of longer focal length lenses) will see the Alpha A9's burst shooting performance cut in half to 10fps.
The viewfinder itself is excellent – the 120fps refresh rate and the clarity of the 3,686k-dot resolution combine to provide a beautifully clear and large view of what you're shooting. Whether you have a preference for this over the big and bright optical viewfinders on the A9's DSLR rivals will come down to you; optical viewfinders still have the edge in high-contrast and poorly lit scenes, but the EVF on the Alpha A9 provides a real-time look at how the camera is going to capture the scene – and you can't ignore that blackout-free burst shooting.
Battery life has been bumped up from the Alpha A7R II to deliver 480 shots, but when put up against the EOS-1D X Mark II's 1,210 shots and the D5's staggering 3,780 shots this looks a little paltry, especially if you're going to be holding the shutter down at 20fps for long periods. It goes without saying then that you're going to need spare batteries – and more than one if you're a working photographer.
- ISO100-51,200, expandable to 50-204,800
- Good ISO performance
- +/-5 EV exposure compensation in 1/3 or 1/2 stop increments
Landscape and studio photographers should still plump for the more densely populated 42.2MP Alpha A7R II, but that's not to say the sensor inside the Sony Alpha A9 falls short – far from it.
The 24MP sensor is capable of delivering images rich in detail, especially when married with some of Sony's G-Master lenses, and results compare very favorably to those from the slightly lower-resolution EOS-1D X Mark II and D5. You should have no qualms about producing sharp Super A3 prints, while A2 sized prints are a reality too.
The Alpha A9 also holds its own against its rivals when it comes to high-ISO performance. Looking at JPEG files, even at ISO12,800 results look very good; there's a slight hint of luminance (grain-like) noise, but, while detail has been compromised, the overall result is perfectly useable. Raw files at the same sensitivity see some chroma (color) noise appear, but detail is that bit better, and you have the option to apply noise reduction to taste in post-processing.
All told it's very impressive, and while the A9 doesn't quite eclipse the high-ISO performance of our low-light king, the D5, you have to really pixel-peep to see the differences.
The A9's dynamic range performance, while not quite a match for that of the A7R II, is still broad enough in the real world to enable you to recover a decent amount of highlight detail from raw files. It also copes well with shadows – we found that we could happily drag the Shadows slider in Adobe Camera Raw a good way to the right without the image deteriorating.
The Sony Alpha A9 is a phenomenal camera. It's not without its faults – we'll be interested to see how the weather-sealing holds up when it's properly exposed to the elements for starters, while the absence of XQD card slots and very limited touchscreen control is disappointing.
Those issues aside, however, the Alpha A9 doesn't fail to impress. The autofocus system Sony has blessed the A9 with is not only incredibly quick, but the tracking performance has to be seen to be believed.
Partner that with a incredibly rapid 20fps burst shooting speed, and a large and bright EVF that doesn't black out when you're shooting, and you've got a camera that'll mix it with the best that Canon and Nikon has to offer when it comes to shooting sports and other fast-paced action.
Our only slight reservation about whether the Alpha A9 can succeed in this area is not the camera, but the lens support. While photographers shooting with Canon and Nikon DSLRs have a plethora of long lenses to choose from, the Alpha A9 is limited to a single (variable aperture) dedicated zoom lens with a reach beyond 200mm.
Just as Sony is rolling out a series of dedicated pro service centres to meet the demands of professionals, we hope to see similar efforts result in some new fast telephoto optics to support this fabulous camera.