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Huawei P20 pro review Part I

Yesterday I received my P20 Pro from Huawei.
Seeing that this should be a groundbreaking camera/phone (yes in that order) I decided to switch from my Samsung note 8 to the P20 Pro.
A bit of side information, the Samsung was my first ever Android phone after many many years of happy iPhone use.

For me the main thing is the camera.
I use my phone A LOT of social media and the camera is a vital part in that. With most phones the camera is “ok” but certainly not something that I would be using during travels when I go somewhere that is really interesting, but dragging a seperate camera with me… well sometimes is a bit cumbersome, so the idea of having a phone with a kickass camera and huge battery really appeals to me.

Now in all honesty, every single new phone release it seems that the camera is “re-invented” and I always fall for it, and to be clear, I always see the improvement, but it’s never that I go like WOW, this is awesome let’s go out and shoot, it’s fun, it’s great for social media but that’s about. The P20 Pro is supposed to be MILES ahead, so I pre-ordered it, paid FULL RETAIL for it, and have a 30 days test period.

In this first part I’m just gonna give you a very quick overview of what I think after one day and not shooting anything serious yet, so it’s mostly about the differences between the iPhone and Samsung note 8.

 

First up the installation
This is truly something that surprises me.
With the switch from Apple to Android I was very afraid that it would be a dissaster, but Samsung actually delivered a very easy way to copy everything from my iPhone to the Android system and… well it worked :-), same with Huawai, just click the two phones together and voila little over 30 minutes later everything was copied. Well not everything.

What I didn’t expect (but could have expected) is that my apps were copied but they were just there, so all my folders etc I had to create from scratch, not a big deal to be honest but it would be nice if they would have also taken care of that, it’s the same when you change launchers by the way, so that’s why I should have known. It’s also one of the reasons I never switched launchers. And in all honesty why should I, I just want my icons in an easy place and press and done, I’m not someone that is constantly tweaking my phone with widgets etc. It has to work and stay alive as long as possible on a battery charge.

Something new, something old, something familiar, but different
Weird chapter right?
Not completely.

First up.
I loved the home button on my iPhone, I feel in love with the app drawer from Android (closing all apps at once), but I never really like the real estate it took away, although the note 8 solved this nicely by making it possible to make the bar dissapear. The P20 Pro is different all together.

First you have the option of just a bar which takes up real estate, and I don’t want that, but if you want to use it… well there is no choice right?
Well not completely.
With the P20 pro you can actually use the home button (it’s a small button on the bottom) as navigation. And this is where the title points towards. I never got the whole Android thing with 3 buttons for navigation, coming from the iPhone it just didn’t make any sense, it’s something you get used to without a doubt, but it’s still a bit weird. The P20 Pro has a touch sensitive home button, meaning you can swipe on it. It’s still a bit getting used to (after 1 day so hey) but it works like a charm, just swipe for the app drawer, and press once for back and hold for home, GENIUS, I really really really dig this, it’s awesome and saves you that annoying bar at the bottom.

Second.
If you own a present iPhone X you know the Notch.
In fact it was one of the main reasons why I didn’t buy the X, price and progress in camera being the second one, I just couldn’t stommage the price vs the progress. The P20 pro also has a notch, although it’s a smaller one than the iPhone X it’s still a notch, and let’s be honest if I want to shoot an image with a gap in it, I will shoot it like that, I don’t want my phone to show it when it’s not there, it’s ridiculous, and I get it… it’s where the cameras are, but at least in that case make it a black bar….. or……

The P20 pro actually has a VERY clever way of handling the notch.
In the settings you have an option “Hide the notch”, this doesn’t just place everything lower and keep a black bar… no it’s much better.
It moves the screen down, but keeps all the icons at the top, so you still use that part of the screen, and that’s a huge difference between just putting everything down, this way I have NO problem with the notch, in fact I love it because now my screen is used to the max, I just don’t have an annoying gap in my videos or photos.

 

So is everything cool?
No, far from to be honest.
But, we will get over that, and some issues are already solved.

First up I had huge problems with Android auto, and according to a lot of people Huawei is incompatible with Android Auto. Seeing that I use Android auto all the time this really got me worried and I was already planning on sending the phone back, there are websites, facebook groups etc. all claiming NOTHING works, and only a few people actually got it working but never say how, and often reply a week later that everything was bad again, and this got me thinking…. now I have to be clear, this is not my first rodeo and I’m used to stuff that doesn’t work (been beta and alpha testing for years) and in most cases the solution is right there in front of you if you stop and think about it.

The most heard problem is that when running on the device itself it works but connecting to the set everything goes black.
First thing that comes to my mind is of course a USB problem, so I dove into the developers mode (gotta love Android for that) and activated USB debugging and made sure that my USB mode was switched from charging only to USB file transfer/charging… and voila…. android auto works like a charm, I can make calls, use waze, use google maps, castradio, music, it all now seems to work…. do remember this is first test, let’s see in a week or two, but going from black and crash to flawless connection, and also seeing the things I changed I think this is the main problem with a lot of these units, I’ll make a video on this in the coming weeks.

 

The other thing is a bit more serious and big let down.
Lightroom mobile does NOT support the P20 pro. I can make photos but not in DNG, let’s hope Adobe brings out an update to support this soon, otherwise it’s a bit of a let down because I use Lightroom Mobile a lot… on the other hand…. starting the camera on the P20 pro is INSANELY fast, just double click the volume button and you’re in the camera app almost instantly, and the nice thing is that it keeps the last setting, in my case Pro DNG 40mp. Also the camera app itself is VERY responsive and I played a bit with the special modes and it’s loads of fun and loads of stuff to test out.

The next “disappointment” was audio via the camera app.
I sometimes use an external mic for recording audio during vlogs when I don’t bring my vlog camera, with the Note8 this was supported in the camera app from the phone itself, on the P20 pro no such luck. Luckily there is the free and awesome app Open Camera, which has an option to force and external mic and voila… that one works like a charm, in all honesty I always use that app because it actually supports 25 frames a second which makes it possible to mix that footage with my vlog camera.

 

Folders and icons
This is a weird one.
On the Note8 I absolutely loved the fact that the icons were a bit smaller and you could fit A LOT in a folder.
With the P20 Pro is seems the icons are a lot bigger, but you still fit the same on the normal screens, but in the folders it’s a lot less (more in sync with the iPhone). In reality this is not a big thing because I actually have all the apps I use a lot on seperate screens, so I don’t have to use folders, the only reasons I have folders is to store apps I hardly use.

 

Wireless charging
Excuse me……
After buying my Note8 I got literally used to charging wirelessly and loved it, when I got my battery case for the Note8 I really hated the fact that I had to use a cable again, but hey you get used to it again. With a battery as large as the P20 pro and a glassback I expect nothing less than wireless charging on a flagship phone… do I really miss it? well yes and no. We have been charging via cable for years and years and it’s fast and easy, and I have cables everywhere so it’s not a big deal, but still…. it’s 2018 and this is the flagship, it should be able to do it.

 

The really cool stuff 
I already mentioned (and going to mention) some stuff that’s really cool, but there is more.

When I saw the box I already knew…. this looks familiar.
Opening the box is an experience that was familiar.
When I picked up the phone it was familiar.
When I saw the headphones, chargers and cables it was familiar.
If you would have told me this was the new iPhone I would have believed it in an instance, but there are some things that makes it clearly NOT an iPhone.

First up you get a free screenprotector which is already applied, so no bubbles or dust WOW thanks Huawei love that, I never use a phone without protection, although I had a very hard time finding one for the note8 due to the curved screen and ended up without protection (which I hated).

But second of all you also get a free flexible and see through protection case in the box, and it’s not bad either. In fact I already ordered a case and screenprotector and will be sending them back, that’s another 40 euros saved, and in Apple prices a lot more. I really love that Huawei thinks of this because I never understood people using their phones without cases, they are so slippery now a days and easily damaged.

Unlocking
Unlocking the P20 pro is awesome
You can pick it up and it’s immediately on, you don’t even see the lock screen, even under an angle. First I though I did something wrong… till I tried it under an really extreme angle, the face recognition is so insanely fast you don’t even see your lock screen. I did by the way disabled the on when pick up option because I walk around a lot with my phone.

Next to the face unlock there is of course the fingerprint sensor (or pincode, or…etc).
At first the fingerprint sensor is a lot to get used to, it’s smaller than what I’m used to so it feels awkward at first, but it works, and in the end that’s what counts, it’s just something in my brain that tells me that a fingerprint sensor that small can’t really work, in reality it works like a charm, even in navigation mode.

 

Overall
Let’s take a quick overall look.
Love the form factor of the phone, the screen is very nice although the Note 8 is slightly better. The sharpness is a non issue in reality, yes the Note8 has a higher resolution but maybe it’s because I’m 46 but I see the difference when I look at them next to each other, but as soon as I wait 10 seconds and only look at the P20 pro…. well it looks razor sharp. Same for light output, the Note8 is insanely bright outside (nice when flying a drone), but the P20 pro is not dim at all, you can however clearly see that when you add everything together samsung just has a better screen, but I’m more that willing to make that sacrifice (which you only see when you place them next to each other) for the better cameras.

On the video side I know that 4K will be a problem due to the lack of Image Stabilisation, but this is something I’m more than willing to take as a “thing”. I don’t use a lot of video on my Phone and when I do I can also get away with 1080P (which has the smoothest IS I have ever seen on a phone, which makes it harder to swallow that the 4K doesn’t use this, aaargh, probably because they use that large sensor for software IS but I could be wrong with that).

Camera wise I would have LOVED to see an in between resolution of 20MP.
Going from 40MP in the pro mode to 10MP in all other modes is a bit of a HUGE step down and makes the phone lower in resolution than the competition. That being said….. there is a lot more to resolution than megapixels only. I still have to dive into the camera (as mentioned before) but it could very well be that due to the VERY large sensor the 10MP files are actually showing much more detail than the 12MP files from an iPhone or Samsung.

Now when on the topic of the camera, let’s make one thing clear.
I’ve seen a lot of video reviews online claiming that the lower resolution on the P20 pro is really bad due to too much sharpening and processing. When I use a camera I hardly ever use jpg, but always RAW, this means that (I hope) the internal processing will be bypassed and I end up with a sensor readout, after this I will use my software to adjust and save as jpg for social media. Yes it does take a little bit longer but I can’t imaging shooting JPG unless it’s just for social media… but even than I have standards 😀 so whatever they do with JPG it doesn’t really bother me… that being said… come on Huawei, just change those settings a little bit to make it also good for the pixelpeepers that are shooting jpg and judge a camera with those.

Oh… and when you’re doing that… PLEASE make the front camera a little bit less nice for my face, it’s a bit too smooth in some cases although smoothness is all the way down… on the other hand, the back is so shiny you can actually take images with the main camera and frame it thanks to the reflection of the camera.

 

Concluding this first part.
The P20 Pro is here to stay, it almost got send back due to the Android auto issues but now that’s “probably” solved it’s here to stay.
Love the phone and the large battery, have to get used to the interface a little bit, also because it’s Oreo 8.1 probably and the Samsung was still stuck on 7 which I think is ridiculous. But it’s only been one day, I remember I wanted to KILL the Samsung Note8 the first 3-4 days and after that I saw more and more things I liked better on the Note8 than on my iPhones, so I think I’ll do fine in a week.

 

Next review will be the camera.
Anything you want me to test?
Let me know.

 

As a side note.
I didn’t get my 360 camera with the phone, which is supposed to be free in the Netherlands, will do an update also on that one when it arrives.
Images are not mine.
They are from Mashable, Android Authority and Huawei.

 

Huawai P20 pro…. the start of the review

Photographers and cameras….. aren’t they always connected?
But what if you don’t need to bring a camera to every location and the images are good enough for you?
Is the new Huawai P20 Pro the solution?

 

Let me start by stating the following.
I ordered my P20 pro via the normal retail channel in the Netherlands and are going to pay full price.
I’m not working with Huawai (at the moment) although I’m always open for this when the camera really performs the way I hope. So this whole review series that is coming is my PERSONAL opinion and views, I’ll bring you the negatives and the positives, no coloring by sponsoring or whatever.

 

Not so long ago I couldn’t even think about switching from Apple to any other brand.
Fast forward 2 years and I’m actually not owning any Apple product, my Apple watch is now a Garmin, my Desktop and laptops are PCs, our home is now updated to Google wifi and we talk, play games and use our Google Homes and Chromecasts for audio, alarms etc. man….. that went fast. And in all honesty I’m not looking back, although I still follow all the Apple news of course (still have a sweetspot for the brand).

Without a doubt the hardest thing to change was my Phone.
You really don’t want to know how much I use my Phone, I don’t even worry about battery life…. because…. well it will never last me a day to start with, yes I’m using my phone more than my desktop, laptop and tablet combined.

When Apple released the iPhone X and 8 I was not impressed (except for the price) and decided it was time to go, also due to a rising amount of problems we encountered and things we saw on the Android side that was very attractive in the way the phones worked nicely together with Macs and PCs (this was pre iOS11 btw, just to be fair). And let’s start off by saying I’m not and I repeat NOT an Android or iOS fanboy, I’ve always told people that as soon as something better was available I would switch from Apple, I just added that I didn’t see that coming… well I indeed didn’t see that one coming 😀

Anyway long story short.
I ordered a Samsung Note 8 a few months ago to replace my iPhone and although getting used to Android is a huge Better/Worse game and also a lot to get used to I have to say that the transition actually went very smooth and I didn’t regret is one bit. The Note 8 was/is a great phone, although I had a really hard time finding a screen protector that didn’t prevent me from typing without (too many errors) and eventually just gave up and used it unprotected (oh that sounds really bad, but you know what I mean).

Now how do I use my phone…..?


First off there is my mail and social media.
I always try to answer people personally and within 24 hours. This often means that I’m checking mail and social media every hour, also our Patreon site and YouTube get a lot of attention. Because of the possibility to do this all on a phone I have to say that I’m now preferring most email traffic and social media via my phone, it’s just faster and easier and I can do it everywhere…… yeah everywhere 😀

Now in all honesty I can do that stuff on any phone that has a reasonable screen.
I don’t play games and don’t edit videos on the road… well it’s cool that it’s possible and it’s awesome how it works but in all honesty I’m much faster on my laptop and games… I only play when flying and at that time like my tablet more, it’s actually almost sad to say but I just don’t have time to play games.

So why do I always upgrade my phone and what makes this phone so fricking awesome?
The camera….
Let’s be straight to the point, I LOVE photography.
I always shoot, it doesn’t matter where I go I’m always taking snaps and I love to share these with my friends and family and you guys. So the reason I always am on the lookout for a better camera/experience is I think pretty clear.

 

The Huawai P20 pro caught my attention as soon as the specs were released.
40MP… well cool but not that impressed… let’s be honest guys don’t expect a smartphone with 40mps to come even close to a modestly good dedicated 24MP+ camera in most cases. However there are a few things that really caught my attention on the p20 pro that in my opinion could be a game changer, and seeing the first results that’s actually true.

 

40MP
Well let’s get this one out of the way first.
Yeah… that’s a lot of pixels.
Your first opinion will probably be… “that’s bad” and that’s what most people will think, for the very simple reason that the more pixels there are on a sensor the more sacrifices you make in dynamic range and low noise performance on higher ISOs, however that’s when the sensor is equal in size. The good thing is that the P20 Pro uses a huge sensor (for smartphones) so that means that it’s not really as bad as it sounds, in fact the sensor is so much bigger than for example the iPhone X that one could say that on the same pixelcount you could say it would be 18-20MP sensor compared to the 12MP of the iPhones. Now that number of 40 doesn’t sound that ridiculous anymore. It’s still a lot more however.

Now to benefit from this 40MP I strongly believe you need good lighting.
So walking around during daytime in the city, or doing landscapes will be absolutely awesome with this kind of resolution (hey I love zooming in), there will be considerable loss in detail compared to a 42MP sony of course, but for a smartphone this will be a huge step up from 8-12MPs.

So what when the light dims?
Well this is actually what triggered me to just order a P20 Pro without waiting for the real reviews.
The P20 Pro also has an option where you are shooting on 10MP instead of 40, meaning this HUGE sensor is now combining pixels in a 4:1 ratio, which means I expect stellar Dynamic Range but most of all very clean High-ISO shots. Because now we are talking about a much larger sensor than the iPhones and Note/Galaxy series and “only” 10MP, meaning you will have one powerful camera for low night.

Add to this the 20MP BW sensor that actually takes care of capturing light and you have a camera that in essence could be miles ahead of the competition.
Now I mostly use my camera in difficult situations, BTS images during workshops, travel photography etc. and in 90% of the cases the light leaves much to be desired, in fact although it’s for social media often I end up with bad images from my Note 8 and previous iPhone which I just can’t post because it was just a tad too dark. In those instances I really don’t care about 10MP, heck even 5-6 would be enough, but by using that huge sensor and pixel combining I would probably be able to shoot much better BTS images with loads of dynamic range to show you guys what’s going on.

Add to this the 3x optical zoom and 5x Hybrid zoom and we also have some creative options.
Of course I still have to see how the “bokeh” effect is in real life (love to use that sometimes) and how the zooms really work, with the Note8 it was a HUGE disappointment because the tele lens didn’t work in RAW, only JPG (ridiculous) I really hope the P20 Pro doesn’t make the same mistake.

Another thing that has a great appeal to me is the start up time.
With the iPhone it was quick, but on the Note8 it’s ridiculously fast, just double tap the power button and you’re ready for the shot, and I even programmed the Bixby button for Lr mobile, so I can choose. The Lr mobile experience is however much slower because it refuses to start with the camera, you still have to click the blue camera. The P20 pro however promises to be ready in 0.3 seconds and already took the shot…. mmmmm let’s see how that works out and if you for example can fix the settings for RAW.

 

Another option I’m really curious about is actually the 6 second exposure.
I love tech and new techniques and this one promises to be special.
Just go into night mode and shoot for 6 seconds (no tripod needed) and you get a very low noise, razor sharp night shot. It sounds to good to be true, but the results I’ve seen online are incredibly impressive, now of course this is probably “perfect situations” but I still can’t wait to see how this works in real life and how it copes with moving objects.

 

So what do I expect?
I for one am not the kind of person that thinks that now I can leave my Sony A7RIII at home… and everyone that tells you that a phone will better or rival a good dedicated camera… well don’t buy something from them. So why did I jump on it straight away?

It’s actually very easy to explain.
First of all of course the social media aspect, but that doesn’t really give me enough reasons to invest in a new phone (these are not cheap), the main reason for me is more simple.

As explained at the start I love taking photos, and in some situations it’s just absolutely impossible or not handy to bring my A7RIII or even a smaller one. I love to bike and although I could bring a backpack it’s not really handy, stop at a nice location, get off the bike, park the bike somewhere (no stand on a MTB), get camera out of bag (often not the best locations, or raining), get camera out of bag, take shot, put camera back in bag, zip it up, add raincover and continue bike ride…. it’s doable and often I do it because otherwise I miss some cool shots. But often I also leave the camera at home.

Last year for example we visited Copenhagen and did everything by bike, the RV was parked app 15km from the city center, and bringing a backpack with camera…. well it wasn’t something we wanted to do so I ended up shooting a lot of images with my Note8, the daylight shots came out awesome but the lack of zoom really messed up a lot of cool options we had in several locations, also not being able to zoom in to infinity (joke) was a bit of a disappointment afterwards. In other words I got the proof and some really cool shots, but I also felt I missed a lot.

I hope that the P20 pro can give me the quality I find acceptable for travel and street when I’m not able to bring my A7RIII.
This means I can shoot 40MP when needed during day time and shoot some cool city scapes or landscapes, but can also bring down the pixelcount for shots that are in less than perfect light, and even shoot some really cool night shots with the “tripod” mode. And don’t forget the zoom options. It really seems that Huawai has a potential awesome photographers phone.

In all honesty if I would make a scale of 1/100 where everything above 70 is good enough for me to leave my camera at home for the ease of a smartphone or smaller camera I actually put the note 8 and iPhones at app 40 and I hope the P20 Pro will get me into the positive area of 60. In other words I hope the difference between deciding to leave my A7RIII home and the regret afterwards (which I always have) will be less severe 😀

Thanks for reading so far.
It’s always a bit weird to do a piece like this without actually owning the phone (we expect it to arrive on the 12th, so expect a full review series by then).

 

Let’s end the start of the review with some things that I already would label…negatives.

1.  Battery cases
I love love love battery cases, and although the P20 Pro promises to be a day long performer with a stunning 4000mAh I’m 100% sure it will probably last me till 13:00-14:00 or when I’m lucky 15:00, again I really use my phone a lot. Now with iPhones and even the Galaxy series you have a broad range of cases and battery cases, for the P20 pro I couldn’t find one yet that I like, so I’m still on the look out.

2. Memory
Although the P20 Pro is delivered in a 128GB memory capacity I would have loved the option for an extra MicroSD card, I think this is actually a mistake to not include this.

3. Resolution
Don’t really see it as a huge deal myself, to be honest when I set my resolution to one step lower on my note 8 and forget about it I don’t even notice it, but still I would have loved to have the option for a 4K display, on the other hand…. at least it’s an oled screen (love these).

 

Ending this part I which isn’t really a part I but more of an intro
Can’t wait to get the P20 pro and start testing, it’s one of the first smartphones in a LONG time that I really look forward to in the form of being potentially miles ahead. For years every generation has become better with better video, slightly better specs, slightly better noise or color, but nothing that makes you go “WOW, THAT’S COOL”….. so let’s see how long this feeling stays after I start testing this baby.

Want me to test something?
Let me know in the comments below.
Do you have an opinion?
Let me know in the comments below.

iPhone x

Ok so the iPhone x has been released what are your thoughts? Let me share mine.

I’ve been critical to Apple ever since the mbp. Since than my Apple Watch has been switched and even my Macpro and iPad are replaced. The reasons….. very simple.

Where Apple always was first and best it’s now the best in build quality and probably experience but it’s running behind on things that are already available with the competition.

So what are my thoughts.

Don’t worry this will be short.

Love love the iPhone x

Let’s be honest it’s gorgeous it’s amazing and incredible, almost magical (like Apple said) the design is really nice and I like the new camera options although in all honesty you can do the same very quickly in Lightroom mobile or other apps.

Love the depth effect on the front camera

Love wireless charging, although I don’t see me doing this at home. But at Starbucks, airports etc it’s very handy

Face recognition is WOW and I mean WOW. Awesome and magical.

And that’s about it.

I don’t care about animojis. Yeah it’s fun and I would love to use it for fun.

Now in all honesty I was almost planning on not switching to the Samsung note 8. I’m still a bit terrified to do it because I only had ios smart phones. But my experiences with the Samsung tab s2 has been nothing less than good and very positive.

So what did me change my mind…..

Something I never expected to say, the design of Apple iPhone x has a MAJOR flaw and I can’t believe that they did this.

We have all seen the mock ups with the top part where all the cameras are housed. My expectations were that when you watch a video or look at a photo that this part would be totally black. To my horror it isn’t. At first annewiek told me that that would be something I could get used to…… heck no. Never. It’s like a dust particle under my protector. My eyes just drift towards that gaping gap where video or photos are supposed to be…… it’s not the way I would expect a end design team to work. I’m actually quite shocked.

So what next

I’ve been waiting for a new phone because I wanted to do more with video on the phone and IS on the tele is very welcome plus external audio. The note 8 caught my attention to the very bright screen (1200 nits vs 750) which is awesome when flying my drone in the sun. Als the Samsung supports external mics

I love the depth effect but also want raw support and of course being able to alter the effect after taking the shot. Samsung offers this including the option to take both wide and tele shots and altering the effects afterwards.

AR looked awesome but in reality I will never use it. I’m just not a gamer. I shoot and edit photos and video, I consume media, do mail and social media and I love the idea of the spen for video editing. (Love iMovie but with your fingers on the iPhone 7plus was not really handy. With the iPad Pro it’s awesome).

So……

After many many years of Apple iPhones which I absolutely loved it’s now time to say farewell to my beloved iPhone series. And even when you take out the idea of the gap the pricing Is just insane. 999.00 will be 1159 euros in the Netherlands which means the 256gb will probably be 1350. The note 8 retails for 999 plus a free dex station valued at 159.00. Saves me a lot of money.

What will I spend that money on…..

On the Apple TV 😉

Finally 4k and hdr and with Apple TV you know for sure that Netflix and youtube will be supported plus I found a good working remote on android 😉

So what are your ideas?

Don’t get me wrong. I still love the whole Apple feel and mood. And will probably always be an Apple fanboy. Only now without Apple products.

Man it feels weird.

One more thing….

4k 60fps is superb but my other video material is all 4k 25fps so I have to integrate it into that timeline. Also 1080p 240fps is great but I hardly use it for “real” material. But hey that’s me. Your opinion might be totally different.

First impressions Sony A9

Ok I know some of you have been waiting for this so I decided to upload this quick review as fast as possible.
We actually just got the A9 in so these are my first impressions without shooting an image…. you might think “what the heck Frank… why?” but read on and you will find out very quickly why I wanted to do this.

 

Don’t get we wrong, I absolutely love my A7RII and I’m not planning on replacing that camera anytime soon, however…. there are some things about the A9 that will make it VERY VERY hard to give this camera back.

 

Wifi shooting
For years I’ve been telling Sony they had a real selling point for people like me that teach workshops, shoot in the field etc. in other words everyone that wants to see their images coming in for clients or attendees during workshops. Now there are solutions out there like EyeFi, CamRanger, Cam-Fi, Case-Air etc. but they are all external and in all honesty, on my Sony, I didn’t yet had ANY solution that worked like I hoped, broken connections, slow slow slow transfers, no options to just transfer RAWs and so on…

Sony’s own Play Memories is actually awesome, it blazingly fast transfers 2MP files (or full res) and it saves it on your phone/iPad or whatever device you connect. The problem…. you can only shoot looking at your LCD on the back, and although that’s not a REAL problem it’s pretty annoying, especially in bright sun, plus I love to shoot through the viewfinder.

But stop the presses……. SONY FIXED IT.
Now you don’t need an app in the camera anymore, just go to “smartphone control” and voila…. it works on the LCD and the viewfinder…. oh thank you Sony, this is a HUGE selling point in my opinion for everyone that loves to shoot tethered, because trust me this system works like a charm, most location workshops I’ve done in the last few months we actually used the wireless function and besides some issues we had with passwords (solved) it’s been rock solid.

 

Video recording
Of course you can still shoot 4K and 1-100fps special effects (slow-motion and super fast) but one of the HUGE frustrations of the previous generations is now also solved… you can now actually start the video straight from the shutter button instead of that little annoying hard to hit when vlogging button (I actually programmed my C2 button for start recording and always wondered why not the shutter)

 

The viewfinder
Sony is working with a so-called Electronic Viewfinder, this means that…. well in essence without making it more difficult than it is… you see what you get (or you can make it behave like an always bright enough viewfinder for in the studio). This is literally awesome and when you’re used to it going back is a drag and almost frustrating. The A9 has one of the most beautiful and biggest viewfinders I saw till now… one word is WOW, it’s like going from a big screen TV to the cinema…. love it.

 

The shutter
I think the A9 is missing a market if they DON’T advertise the camera for all those people that shoot on movie sets, classical concerts, churches, weddings etc…. let me put it this way…. do you need an SSSSSSILENT shutter? well, this is it. In fact, when I placed a card I wondered if my camera was actually shooting because there is no blackout during shooting but seeing the led for the writing to the card action made me realise I was shooting already. Now on the A7RII I also have a silent mode but this is very limited (but it is DEAD quiet, as in absolute zero sound unless you close your aperture and then you will hear a VERY VERY faint click which is actually the aperture closing and opening again)

 

Speed
OH MY…. this baby is fast.
Of course you’ve seen the adverts with xxx fps, but trust me it’s not just that, I tried some quick focus tests in a dark room and it’s spot on and tracks like crazy, also with a series of shot it seems the A9 just is very resistant to losing focus, it just keeps tracking the object (in a dark room) without any problem… wow. Sports and bird photographers will LOVE this.

Extra dials
Don’t want to dive into the menu to change something like Speed modes, Bracketing, timer, Focus modes etc?
No problem, the A9 now has a hardware dial just for that, and also for some other settings, I really like this a LOT because the less I have to dive into a menu the better.

Thinking about tethering
I HATE those little USB connectors, they are fragile, can come loose and if you don’t use the Tethertools jerkstoppers you’re facing a huge repair when something goes wrong. The A7RII already surprised me with an awesome on board “jerkstopper” although it doesn’t work for my HDMI cables…. but the A9 ups the ante just a “bit” more with support for….. yeah NETWORK cable. Yes, you read it correctly you can just plug in a network cable…

You might wonder.. well Frank why so happy with this?
Well this is a big thing, in essence, it would mean LONG LONG runs without any form of extra boosters, extension cables etc. just a plain network cable, setup and FTP on the computer side, run Capture One and you’re all set, another big AWESOME.

 

Dual card slots
For some people very important, but for me not really, but hey it’s there.

 

New menu
I for one did like the old menu, but I have absolutely no problem with the new menu, it reminds me a bit of a marriage between Canon’s menu and the old Sony menu, it’s indeed all somewhat easier to navigate but again for me it wasn’t necessary but I have, to be honest I adapt rather fast.

 

New batteries
Ok this one is pretty neat (and not)
The Sony’s do “eat” batteries, on the internet, it’s often HIGHLY exaggerated like you can’t shoot a day without running through 4 batteries…. yeah well some people don’t seem to like Sony :-)…. anyway on a NORMAL shooting day I would run through probably 1-2 batteries and seeing I’m using a grip it normally means I come home and have to charge… no big deal… now video is another story, for the Vlog I can just barely make the whole day and have on average 20-25% left which is not that bad but also a bit scary… on the other hand…, just bring fresh batteries (I don’t really see a problem with this). Anyway, Sony solved it with new batteries which are supposed to run a lot longer… well we will see during the coming week in the UK where I will be using the A9 A LOT.

 

Microphone and headphones
for video, it’s nice to also be able to monitor the audio and with the A7RII this is possible but not on the A6500 which is a shame, but the A9, of course, does have both.

 

New method for video sampling
One of the MAJOR problems with CMOS sensors is the readout.
Due to the fact the sensor is not read out at once you will often see an effect called ROLLING SHUTTER, pretty nasty when you’re not careful and hardly noticeable if you plan your shots, but the A9 got “rid” of this… well let me put it this way it HIGHLY suppresses the effect, don’t ask me how but I guess they read out this sensor at an INSANE speed because the effect is really a LOT less visible, and I don’t mean 10% less, no I really mean A LOT (still testing this).

 

What the…. 
The one thing I don’t understand about the A9 is the lack of video settings for Log etc.
It’s like Sony deliberately handicaps the A9 to not make it too good for video, in other words, you will probably see an A9s for video that does have the Log settings… I think this is a BAD decision, just skip the A9s and make the A9 the perfect all-round camera.

 

What the…. 2
SONY why not a flip up or flip side screen.
The vlogging market is growing and this is REALLY something that is handy. I’m using an external monitor but it’s a bit bulky, or I just wing it (which works pretty well as long as you use the same lenses) but Oh My a flip up screen would be SO welcome.

 

Conclusion
As mentioned we just have the A9 and I need to do A LOT more testing but so far… I can only say wow.
And I wonder why a lot of the reviewers missed some of these points which in my opinion are incredibly important. But hey everyone looks at it differently I guess.
More about the A9 this week (starting tomorrow) in our daily vlog in the UK with tips, review, workshops and loads more. Follow our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/frankdoorhof for much more.

 

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