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24 hours with Sony's A9 full-frame mirrorless camera

A compact shooter that packs a lot of power.
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Sony has one clear goal with its A9 full-frame flagship camera: to make professional photographers forget about their DSLRs. These are high expectations, sure, but the company's new mirrorless shooter seems to tick all the right boxes in terms of specs. The A9 focuses on speed, not so much resolution, which makes sense, considering that Sony's going after people who do sports photography in particular. You'll find a 24.2-megapixel 35mm sensor, 20fps continuous shooting, 1/32,000 shutter speed and a ridiculous 693-point phase detection autofocus that covers 93 percent of your frame. None of this would work without the latest Bionz X processor, though, which Sony claims handles data 20 times faster than previous models.

Based on my first experience with it, at a track-and-field event Sony chose for the demo setting, the A9 is as fast as it sounds on paper. The camera's autofocus had no trouble keeping up with dancers, runners and pole vaulters. Being able to shoot up to 241 full-frame RAW images is definitely a nice option to have, even if you don't often need it. I had the A9 paired with Sony's new $2,500 G Master 100-400mm telephoto lens for most of my shots, which, as you can imagine, adds quite a bit of weight to the camera. Without any glass attached, the A9 is designed to be as compact as Sony's other full-frame mirrorless shooters, like the A7 II, A7S II and A7R II.

Gallery: A closer look at Sony's A9 flagship camera | 13 Photos

The A9 looks so similar to the Alpha cameras mentioned above, in fact, that people at the launch event kept grabbing my A7 II by mistake. Like its siblings, the A9 also shoots 4K video at 3,840 x 2,160, as well as 1080p at up to 120fps, for those of you looking to record slow-motion videos. The max ISO range of 204,800 also sounds promising, although I haven't been able to put that feature to the test just yet. It'll be interesting to see how the A9 performs in night shoots, especially compared with flagship DSLRs from Canon and Nikon. After all, Sony did say during its A9 presentation, "The age of the DSLR being the kingpin is over." We'll see about that.

It's hard to judge the A9 completely after spending only a day with it, but you can get an idea of what to expect in the sample images below. While I'm not a sports photographer, the camera definitely made it easy for me to get some solid shots of fast-moving subjects. Personally, I'd much rather use it for portraits and street photography, but then again, that's how I feel about every camera I play with. If you're into it, the A9 will arrive in stores May 25th for $4,500 (body only).

Gallery: Sony A9 sample images | 15 Photos

To view our sample images in full resolution, click here. As a bonus, professional photographer Ben Lowy was kind enough to let us show you some of the shots he took with his A9 -- you can check them out right here.

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