Back Side: Focus Mode & Shutter


Sony® A9 Fast Start


Lesson Info

Back Side: Focus Mode & Shutter

The next feature, I'd be honest with you, I've been thrown for a loop. I don't know whether it's on the top or whether it's on the back of the camera. There's a lot of things that you can kind of see from the top, and it's the focus mode indicator. There's a lever and there's a lock switch, but you really have to go around to the back side of the camera to see where it's set. And so this is the focus mode of the camera, this is how it's focusing. Previous section we talked about where we focus, this is talking about how we focus, and so we have this little lock lever that we can hit with our thumb, and then we pull the lever around in the front, and we can choose from the different focusing modes. So let's take a closer look at what we have as options in here. First up is AF-S, and this is your basic auto focus mode, where the camera will focus on a subject, and it will blink or beep at you to let you know the camera has got proper focus, and then it stops, it holds that focus there wh...

ile you are leaving your finger halfway down on the shutter release, and this is great for portrait photography, for general photography where you're focusing maybe in the center, and you're moving the focusing point around if you want. And so, good for basic photography. Next up for all you sports photographers that are photographing action that's moving towards you, moving away from you, is the AF-C mode, and so this is where the camera will track focus. It'll try to find the proper focus, and then it will continue to adjust the focus as you move and follow that subject throughout the frame. DMF stands for direct manual focus, and this is where the camera will focus with an AF-S system in single focusing, but then allow you to do a little touch up if you want to. And then finally we have manual focus, where you obviously get to adjust the focus yourself, and there's a number of different helpful tools that the camera has, for instance, focus magnification and focus peaking, which are two different ways that will assist you in manual focusing and I'll show you those features when we get to them in the menu system, but for right now I'd like to do a little demo on DMF to show you what direct manual focus is. And so if we look at the back of my camera, you'll see that I am in the AF-S mode right now, and so if I focus in this manner here, the camera gets a little green dot, lets me know we're in focus. If I try to manually focus, nothing happens. The manual focus switch is disengaged because it's in the AF-S mode. So, if I flip this around to DMF up here, now what happens is it's gonna act very much the same, but if I do want to grab the focusing ring, and I want to adjust focus, you can see that it zooms in, it gives me a little chart down on the bottom of whether I'm focusing to the far or near, and it's also a magnified area. Let's see, can I move this around? Yes I can, but I have to be very careful because once I'm in here, if I lift my finger off the shutter release, it disappears very quickly, and so if I want to move the focusing bracket around, I have to do that with my finger halfway down on the shutter release, but we can move around. So if I wanna get over there to the color checker chart, I can get my focus set, and the camera has a magnification feature where it just automatically turns on, and so you can see that that color checker chart is about three meters away, and so then I can shoot a picture at that point. So, if you're the type of photographer who likes auto focus, but occasionally wants to overrule it, you can do that very easy with the DMF function. On the back of the camera we have another custom button, and so C3 is another button that you can customize to any one of those, I don't know, there's about 50 different functions that you can put into that, and that is through camera settings tab number two, custom operations, the custom key shooting option. And so if you don't like what this is currently set for, you can reprogram it for something else. Currently it is set for the shutter type, what type of shutter do you want to use in the camera. We have the option between mechanical, electronic, and then automatic. And so automatic will switch back and forth depending on which mode you're in. So let's talk about what a mechanical shutter is, and what an electronic shutter is, and we're even gonna have a video to show you what this looks like in the field. So, on your sensor there is a shutter unit, mechanical shutter unit, and so in basic photography in traditional cameras, single-lens reflex and a lot of other types of cameras, there has been a mechanical shutter. Now, the way it's been working in a mirrorless camera is that they have to remain open so that you can see to compose your image. Then the first shutter curtain, usually on top, will close, the sensor will prepare for its image, it will then open, and with the first series of Sony mirrorless, full-frame cameras there was a shutter shock problem. When the shutters opened up, they did so with such force, they caused the camera to vibrate a little bit, causing blurriness in some photographs, and so they've had to rethink how their mechanical shutters work, and they've also brought in electronic shutters which we'll talk about in a moment. So this is your exposure, then the second curtain needs to come in and close the exposure, and then it needs to open again so that you can see and compose the next shot. So obviously there's a lot of mechanical movement going on, 'cause it's gotta close and open two different shutters with perfect timing, and the perfect timing is not a problem. They've figured it out, it's just a lot of moving parts in the camera, and it's the way, as I mentioned at the very beginning of this class, how we've traditionally rated the durability of a camera is how many shutter firings will it last. So now, well recently, Sony's introduced another technology which is kind of a 50/50 split. They call it e-Front Curtain Shutter, and this can be turned on or off in the menu system, and it no longer uses that front shutter curtain so that you don't get that shutter shock and you won't have any vibration problems if you are using your camera with a macro lens or a large telephoto lens or you're using your camera on a tripod, and any sort of vibration might blur your image. What happens in this case is the camera electronically just turns the pixels on, and then it uses the mechanical shutter to block it out at the end, and this works very well. It reduces the sound a little bit, and it seems to completely avoid any of that vibration from the original shutter opening up. So next up comes the full electronic shutter. Now we've been dealing with some electronic shutters for some time with these mirrorless cameras, and the way these work is it turns the pixels on to record the light and then it turns them off. But it does so like this, in a scanning fashion. So it scans one row in and then the next, and unfortunately the scan time, the time it takes to scan the entire sensor is, now this is a complete estimate on my part, has been around a 1/30 of a second. So anything that's moving faster than a 1/30 of a second is gonna get a little distorted because if it moves, the line above it's gonna record that information someplace slightly different, and we've seen some unusual effects when you do this, and so it's not been a good thing. This camera, the A9, has made advancements by leaps and bounds, in my opinion. In this camera, they are using something that Sony calls an anti-distortion shutter, which means it has a really fast read-out time, and it's been measured by somebody, not me but somebody who's technically pretty savvy, at 1/150 of a second, and that may not sound real fast, but it is fast enough for shooting most action. And so let's take a look at this rolling shutter effect, and so what I've done is I have a test chart that I am moving the camera past, and as I take a picture, you'll see how it distorts that chart which should be straight lines. The way this would look in the real world, if you're panning down the street with a car, you're gonna see that those buildings tilted because they're getting recorded at different places as you move the camera. If you were to have the camera still and a subject go by you, then the tires of the bicycle may not look perfectly round any more, so it's distorting those subjects. And so I wanted to put the A9 to a test to see how good this anti-distortion shutter is, and so we got another little video here to share with you from the field. So one of the new features that we've been seeing on these mirrorless cameras is the electronic shutter, which is where there is no mechanical movement in the shutter, it's just the sensor turning on and turning off. The problem with pretty much all the previous cameras that have come out, is that it reads it line by line, and anything that moves gets distorted when you're shooting a photograph. So the A7R Mark II, which is one of my favorite cameras that I've ever used, has this jello effect in it pretty pronouncedly, and so it's really hard to shoot any sort of action, along with the fact that you can only shoot one shot at a time. But I wanna show you how much improvement Sony has made on the new A9, and how the A9 is perfectly acceptable for shooting action with the electronic shutter. Let's take a first look at how bad the older versions are. So, let's get some action in here. And so the problem with this is that these posts all in the background are all kind of tilted to the right side because of this jello effect of the camera scanning it. Now with the A9, it's got a much faster read-out, and so not only that, but we can shoot in a continuous firing mode so we can get a lot of shots off. So, let's make sure we're set up right. Okay, let's go. Alright, and so I was able to get probably about four or five shots off there, and now as I review the photos, those posts are all straight up and down, and so there is virtually no distortion at all. Now, if you really wanna get technical, yeah there's a tiny bit of little distortion, but it's so small you're not gonna notice it in most semi-chaotic scenes like this, and so I think it's a very very usable feature, even in the fastest of action. Alright, I know you wanna see the side-by-side between the two shots here, so here's between the A7RII and the Sony A9, and I tried to do this as best I could. He jumped almost exactly the same, his arms, everything positioning is very close here. But you can see how much distortion we're getting with the A9, which is practically none at this point. And so I wanted to throw things through yet another test to see how good or how bad it is, and so I was going back to my test chart, and I was doing a panning test of the camera at different settings. And so the first thing I wanted to do is to try a mechanical shutter at 1/2000 of a second. Now if you recall, the camera is still using a scanning type system for scanning the light in with the mechanical shutter, so there is gonna be some distortion, and I measured it, at least in this test, as 1.2 degrees of distortion, so that means it's gonna move a vertical line 1.2 degrees. I then wanted to use the e-Front Curtain Shutter, which is something that's been available for a little while with Sony, and has been doing a very good job, and it shows no more distortion than the standard mechanical shutter. And then it was the big test, it's time for the Sony anti-distortion shutter, and how good does it do. And it is not as good as a mechanical shutter in its speed, it's not as good as the e-Front Curtain Shutter, and it's got 1.9 degrees of distortion in this test, and I tried to keep things as best I could, but the 1.2 to 1.9 degrees of distortion makes perfect sense when you look at the shutter travel time of 1/300 of a second to 1/160 of a second. So, if you want the absolute least amount of distortion, you're gonna go with the mechanical shutter or the e-Front Curtain Shutter. But in my opinion, the electronic shutter is so good I don't think you're gonna notice a problem unless you are measuring angles in the final photographs, and so your typical sports and action photograph, I think it's gonna be totally fine to leave it in the electronic shutter. And so the key benefits of having the electronic shutter and using it is you do get access to 20 frames a second, you can shoot with absolute silence when you're shooting, so if you're shooting in a TV studio or on a movie set, in a courtroom, in a theater, street photography, you can have a camera that makes, there's still maybe sound with focusing, there's still maybe sound with your aperture closing down, but the shutter's not gonna make any noise. And then, probably one of the most significant things about this camera, at least I think the lead-off feature of this camera is no black out. This is the first camera in the history of photography that will not black out when you shoot the photo as you're looking through the lens that's actually shooting the photo. In every other camera, whether it's an SLR, which blacks out because the mirror needs to go up, or a range-finder camera where you're not actually looking through the exact same lens, so you're not actually seeing what you're capturing, this is the first camera that shows you what you're capturing when you're capturing, and so I think that is a fantastic feature. It's vibration free, so anyone who's doing high magnification work. It also allows us to get up to 1/32,000 of a second, which isn't really necessary for sports and action but is great for light control, especially portrait photography with fast lenses under bright lighting. So those are the key benefits. This is not available when shooting flash, when doing long exposure and noise reduction, or when shooting bulb shooting, so it is not something you wanna leave turned on all the time and then forget about it, 'cause if you do then you're gonna find that there's a number of features that are grayed out in the camera. Now, the only little slight issue that I can come up with on this is that there is a very slight bit of distortion, a slight bit more than we're used to with the mechanical shutter, but I don't think that's really gonna be a problem in any of the normal sports photographs out there, so I think it's a fantastic feature, and it's gonna, it's changing the way we're gonna shoot. We are gonna be shooting with global shutters like this that can just basically turn on and off at the same time, and the shutter noise is something that is gonna disappear very soon, and that is gonna be the sound of an ancient camera, is listen to that shutter sound, and everyone else is gonna be silent. And if you wanna know, there is gonna be a hallmark event that is gonna happen at some point in the future, and the people who are gonna institute this don't even know this exists right now, but this is the hallmark event I want you to keep your eyes open for, and it's gonna be a break point. It is when the White House says that all press photographers must have silent shutters for all press releases. You will not hear any more of that terribly annoying sound of somebody speaking, and then all you hear is these shutter sounds firing and firing and firing and firing. As soon as they find out that silent shutters are a thing, and that they can put that mandate in, and those press reporters are forced to go to a silent shutter, that's gonna be a big turning point, and that's gonna start changing things, and you're gonna see that tide turn very quickly when that happens. Alright, so that is the Custom 3, remember you can go in and customize that button if you want it to do something else. Now, you can put the camera in the electronic shutter, and the camera will still make the shutter noise, it will create its own shutter sound, and if you wanna turn that off, you need to go into the audio signals, and you can turn that off. Right now, I have been born, bred and raised on that shutter sound, and so I still like it when I'm shooting. I have heard more than one account of somebody picking up this camera where it's in the perfect silent mode, and having them reel off 100 or 200 shots not even realizing that they were taking photos, and so there are some different visual clues that you can have turned on that we'll get into in the menu system, but you can turn the shutter sound on but turn it on really low so practically nobody else around you hears it. And so if you like to hear that sound as confirmation that you are actually shooting the photo, you can leave it turned on and go into audio signals and just turn those audio sounds down. Alright, press the menu button, and you're gonna get to what I like to call the brain of the camera. And so we're gonna be getting into the menu system in the second half of this class, and so we're gonna kind of put this little button on the side, and wait for this to come back for the menu, but this is where all the features of the camera lie, and we'll have access to, and we'll get in and get you set up on that second half of this class.

Class Description

We know what it’s like to dive right into taking pictures with your new camera. But trying to understand the manual can be a frustrating experience. Get the most out of your new mirrorless Sony A9 with this complete step-by-step walk-through of the camera’s features.

Join expert photographer John Greengo for a fast-track introduction, and unlock your camera’s full potential. In this Fast Start class, you’ll learn:

  1. How to utilize the 20 frames/second with full autofocus feature
  2. How to understand the new menu systems
  3. How to use the camera's 4K video capabilities

John is a CreativeLive veteran instructor and an experienced photographer. He has extensive experience teaching the technical minutiae that makes any camera an effective tool: aperture, ISO, the Rule of Thirds, and the kinds of lenses you’ll need to suit your camera body. This Fast Start includes a complete breakdown of your camera’s exposure, focus, metering, video and more. John will also explain how to customize the Sony A9 settings to work for your style of photography.



I've taken lots of John's classes as my photography journey has unfolded. Like all good teachers, John has a fantastic ability to take concepts which are complex and could be overwhelming, and making them accessible and much simpler. I'm lucky enough to own this amazing camera, I'm sure I'll get even more enjoyment from using it after taking this class - John has done so much of the hard work of learning away, now I feel like I can just start enjoying it!


Great information as always, John's approach is amazing, well paced and very informative. I own so many of his amazing tutorials, I feel like he's part of my family - but a lot more knowledgeable 😏

Alexander Zlatev

Thank you Great Work