Sony® A9 Fast Start

Lesson 6/27 - Top Deck: Focus Area & Flash


Sony® A9 Fast Start


Lesson Info

Top Deck: Focus Area & Flash

After C1, of course comes C2 and so this one is another one of those programmable buttons that you can program to do the same number of options that you could the C1. We'll cover more about that when we get into the menu system but for right now, these controls are focusing area and focusing is a big deal with the this camera, with any camera that you can shoot 20 frames a second on. How well can it focus is a big deal and so we do have the same basic focusing options we've had for a little while with Sony. They haven't really changed these. We have a wide variety that are available so let's take a closer look at what's going on with the focusing system on this camera. First off, over the image area there are 25 focus points that you can use that are using contrast focusing. So this is using the information being picked up by the pixels and this is extremely good on accuracy and so as far as how accurate this camera is in focusing, it is incredibly accurate. It is very very good using ...

any one or all of these 25 points for focusing. Along with that, the camera has 693 phase detection auto-focus points which I think is the most of any camera that's out on the market right now and as you can see, it covers a huge portion of the frame. It looks like it's 99% but it's technically it's 93%. Now these phase detections points are the types of focusing systems that have been used in single lens reflex cameras over the last 30 years or so and these are very good at predicting where the lens needs to be to be in sharp focus and it's very fast about getting the lens there and so these are very good about fast, speed. The contrast points are very good in accuracy and so between the two we have speed and accuracy in this camera and so this camera is incredibly good at focusing because it has a dual system built into it. Along with that, we have different areas that we get to choose to focus in and so the first option is gonna be wide which is just looking at a vast majority of the frame. It's looking at those all 25 focusing contrast points and when you press halfway down, what you're gonna notice is a number of green boxes light up and it's depending on how close your subject is to you and how far away other parts of it is. Generally, what it's doing in this wide area is it's focusing on whatever is closest to you and that's what it's gonna show with the green boxes. If the green box is not lit up that means either the camera can't focus there or something is probably in the background that it's not focusing on. This is a very simplistic focusing mode. It'd be good for just handing the camera to, take basic photos but if you want to be more particular about having, I want this one person over here to be in focus and I don't want to worry about these other things going on, you're gonna wanna choose a smaller area. Next up we have zone which is a three by three nine box zone that we can move up, down, left and right by a little bit and so if you know where the action is going to be happening and you want the camera to concentrate in that area and ignore the other area, that would be a good zone, that would be a fantastic zone if you were doing auto racing and you knew you wanted the car over on the left side of the frame and so we're having a nice big block like that's gonna be easy for that to pick up on that subject. Next up we have the least versatile of all of them which is the center and it's just the middle. You cannot move it around and so it's a very very simple one right there. I tend not to want to use this one unless I just don't want anything moving it around in any way. Probably my favorite is the flexible spot and this comes in three different flavors. Comes in small, medium and large depending on how exacting you want to be and I go back and forth between what I like. Sometimes I like the really small ones. Sometimes I like the large one. The medium one is a pretty good happy medium. I guess you would call it. Use whatever one is comfortable for you. Now the one that I think I maybe should be using even more is the Expand Flexible Spot and this has the benefits of the small precise spot but also the large spot where it looks first in the tight small area and if you can't figure it out from there it then looks around to the larger area to see if there's something that it can pick up on that one and so I think this is a very good general-purpose one and so there's lots of different options. Just depends on what type of photography you were doing and so this is all very good for what I would call; basic photography. Now, when you get into action photography, then there's gonna be a new option that opens up called the lock-on autofocus. Now these are only available when you have the camera in the continuous focusing mode and we haven't talked about that yet here in this class. We're gonna be talking about that, I think next and so the continuous focusing mode is where the camera is gonna track a subject moving forward and backwards. In the lock-on what happens is that the camera will start, focusing wherever you have your brackets. Could be the whole area or could be a very small area but in the lock-on option, once it starts with that subject it will track it anywhere else in frame that it needs to. If you did not have lock-on turned on what it's gonna do is it's only gonna look in the brackets and that's it and down here in lock-on it looks in the brackets at the initial target acquisition phase of it just and just when you're trying to get it, once you have it there, it's gonna follow you anywhere from there. So when you're out shooting, you're gonna get these little green boxes and they will show you where your subject is being tracked and so this is what you would see in the viewfinder. In this class, we wanted to give you the best, experience possible in getting better at this camera and learning this camera so we decided to go out to the field to do our own shooting of this in an action situation and so the first thing that we want to show you is a clip of shooting with different focusing systems out in the field and so we got a little video to show you. So we're down here at Laura Woodland Park right next door to Green Lake and I spent a lot of high school years, running cross-country down here and the skate park was always of interest because I love skateboarding and this seemed like a great place to test out the fast action features of the Sony A and so we're gonna be looking at the electronic shutter, the focusing system, the motor drive and even the Wi-Fi capabilities of the camera. We got Isaac here and he's a great skater and he's gonna be a great subject matter for putting this camera to the test. Alright, one of the most important things when shooting action is choosing the right focusing area and Sony A9 has a bunch of different areas from one little tiny spot to the entire area of the frame that you can shoot on. For this shot, I have somebody coming straight towards me. They are a little bit higher in the frame as I hold the camera vertically so what I'm gonna do is I gonna have my camera in flexible spot large and then I'm gonna use the joystick to move that to the top half of the frame and what's it's gonna do is it's gonna look just in that box for focusing so that's what we're gonna do in this first shot around and let's go ahead and get this started. (camera clicks) So on that one it was really just tracking that one box in the top side and because my subject is moving around a little bit, I'm gonna try it a second way and what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna move it down to the Lock-on AF option. Now, this is available in small, medium, large size area. I'm gonna keep it in the large-size area and what it's gonna do is it's gonna look in this box in the top part of the frame about where my subject's chest and face area is but if he moves outside of that frame, it's gonna track it all over the entire frame. So let's go ahead and try it this time again. Here we go. Coming straight at the camera. Boxes are blinking and that looked pretty good and so now it was just going over the frame looking for focusing points wherever that subject may be and it is good for a little bit more erratic actions so of both of then are valuable. You just might need to find different places where they come into their best value. Alright so here are some of the individual photographs from that series and camera did a really good job focusing. I will have to admit that it did drop a couple of images on focus did not do well but was able to quickly get back on and I was able to get a large series of photographs that I had it ton to choose from and I would love to be... I haven't had a chance to do this. I would love to put this on a test between this and the current Nikon D5 and the Canon 1D X Mark II because I would place money on this camera delivering more in focus images than the other cameras. Now, part of that goes to the fact that it's shooting at 20 frames a second and even if it flubs up on four or six of those frames, you're still getting as many as the other cameras but I've only seen it flub up a few times but I've worked with the other cameras and they flub up too as well and so you're not gonna get 100% hit rate with any of them for anything but it was incredibly high on it's hit rate with it. Kenny you have a question. I do and that's amazing so thank you for taking us out in the field to actually see that in action. Very cool. So the question came in; is there a way to switch between focusing modes with a custom button? Yeah so we're gonna get into a button on back on page three of 13 called register custom shooting set and you'll be able to register a focusing mode or shutter speed or lot of other things with just a single press of a button. We can also change where we are focusing with a single press of a button and so if you very quickly wanna switch between two different focusing systems, we can do that in this camera. Which is really nice because normally you'd press a button and then you would do a little fidgeting and change it around and if you just wanna make it a one button press, yes you can do that in the camera. Alright so that is Lock-on AF and in the viewfinder you're gonna see these green boxes and if you don't wanna see the green boxes, well, we can turn those off, don't worry but if you wanna see them tracking your subject, you can see what it's picking up on and what it's looking forward to track on your subject and so once again, the big difference with using lock-on is it starts in the bracket, whatever you have selected but then we'll go throughout the rest of the frame to follow your subject. If you are not choosing the lock-on options then it's just simply where that bracket is so let me show you in the camera because it's a little bit tricky on getting this all figured out and so my camera still programed with C as bringing me into the focus area and so we have wide, zone, center, flexible spot and now you'll notice that there is little arrows left and right which if we go left or right will allow us to go through the small, medium and large options of that particular frame and so if we choose small, we're gonna get a very small focusing point that we can see a little bit more clearly right there. If I change it over to large you'll see that it's a much larger area. Alright, so as we continue our way down, we then have our flexible spot which we can see is a fairly small spot with larger box around it and below that, let's see where we can see it nice. Black background there is we come down to our lock on AF expand options and so here arrows go right and there's quite a few options in here and so we have the same options we had before. We had wide area, the zone, center and then the flexible spot options and so let's see if I can do this real quickly so I would choose the wide option if I was shooting birds in flight with no trees around and I just knew that there is nothing between me and the bird and they were very very erratic. I would choose zone for something pretty large in the frame. Could be a truck runner. Could be a motor-sports where you got one big car mostly filling the frame because now, you have this one big (camera clicks) Oops, didn't mean to do that. This one big box that you can move a little bit around and it's just directing the attention a little bit more to one side. From there we have the center and I just don't know that I would use the center for this one, for anything. The flexible spot small, I wouldn't be using in the lock-on mode for anything that I can really think of unless it was maybe like a bird in a tree with lots of obstructions around it and I needed to get a really tiny focus spot in there. In some cases I would choose large if I wanted to try to get on someone's face who was moving around and then from there we have our flexible spot which is that kind of small area with a bigger box around it and that could be useful as well as just kind of an individual target. That might be really nice for football where you have this kind of chaos of all these players around and you really try to wanna lock-on to one particular player. That could be a good system to use there and so, it's really going to depend on the type of action, how many interference and obstructions you're gonna have, how large your subject is, how fast it's moving, how much time you have to acquire focus before you shoot and so you're gonna need to play around with these to figure out which one works for any particular sport. I have not had a chance to go shoot the entire Olympics with each of the different modes in here and so, this is some fun on the experimentation. Alright so that is our focusing area and that can be reprogrammed to another button if you wanna use C2 for something else but it's something that I think a lot of people are gonna change on a regular basis on this camera so that might be a good one to leave set as is. Kenny got a little question here. I think you just kind of answered this but the question was; how do you determine if you want the flexible spot to be small, medium, large and how do you recommend that you set them so that the eyes are in focus using the lock-on. flexible spot focus method? Okay so for the first for the question, how big a box do you want? And the thing to remember is that the bigger the box, the easier it's gonna catch your subject, okay? And so if there's nothing else going on like there's just a bird right there, just give me the whole box because it's just gonna find the bird because the bird's closer than the sky and so you want the largest box that you can get but if there is something interfering, just for instance, if you are shooting me and this table is in the way, that's where the camera is gonna focus and so now you need to bring a box down to the size of my subject and so a lot of times, I'm thinking like torso size or head size box so that if there's anything else; hands, other sticks, you know hockey sticks, things like that around it your camera's not grabbing onto that to focus and so, you kind of start with the largest and then you go, what's the largest one that I can get the doesn't have a lot of interference; that I can get right to my subject and tell the camera that's what I want in focus and so, that's how I kind of conceptually try to choose the right size box. Now, what was the second half about eye focusing? Sure, the second half was and how do you recommend that you set them so that the eyes are in focus using the lock- on flexible spot focus method? Well, you can use the eye auto-focus on top of all the other lock-on focus that we been talked about and so what it does then is that it looks to try to focus on the eyes but it's still gonna balance that with the subject. Now, in some cases that's a little too much camera mojo and it's gonna be a little harder. Sports' photographers for the most part right now and I'm not a professional sports' photographer. That's not how I make my living. They want their subjects in focus. They're not so critical at this point. Well, I didn't get the eyes of my subject in focus because usually if they get the subject in focus, that's enough. If you're just trying to get the eyes in focus in high-speed action, I don't know that it's really necessary because the depth of field that you're gonna get isn't really gonna be doing that. I think the eye auto-focus is gonna be much more beneficial to portrait photography and so for that wedding photographer the person who's shooting portraits with the camera, that's where that mode I think is gonna come in more handy. The camera does have facial tracking and we're gonna have an example of that coming up in a little bit and so we'll show you more on that. Great thank you. Alright, next up on the top of the camera is we have our hot shoe which Sony officially calls the multi-interface shoe because not only is it a hot shoe which means it's got that sink pin for flashes in there but it's got a whole bunch of other electronics which means it can hook up all sorts of other gadgets into the hot shoe of the camera and so in here, we're gonna have a number of options. The camera does not have a built-in flash and so if you wanna add a flash, Sony makes a number of low-end flashes and I'll give you little hint. The name of the flash, forget the letters. The number of in the name of the flash is a direct relation to the power of the flash and so a flash that has a higher number like 60/ is gonna be a more powerful flash and so I have the guide number rated in feet but the number of the flash is the guide number in meters on the flash or very close to it and so we have a number of different flashes we're not gonna get into the specific differences between all of these, looks like all of them can do some sort of wireless triggering. One of them could do radio transceiving which is nice because it will go over greater distances and through obstructions. We also have microphones that could be plugged in to the top hot shoe of the camera and one of the nice things here is it gets power from the camera because there's extra little pins. If you take off that hot shoe cover that's on a lot of your cameras, you'll see extra contacts kind of under that forward full of that hot shoe and that allows you to put in these Sony microphones. Now you can hook up a wide variety of microphones because it does have a standard mic jack but with the special multi-interface shoe, you don't need extra power cords for mic cords. That all goes in directly through the camera. Now, as I've mentioned before, the electronic shutter on this camera is something that we'll talk more about and one of the things about it is that you cannot do flash photography and so if you're shooting for instance sports action like mountain bike downhill racing; a lot water times you're in the woods and you're using fill flash and so you're not gonna be able to use that electronic shutter for firing flashes and shooting 20 frames a second at the same time. You're gonna have to choose either shooting flash with much much slower frames per second like five frames per second or shooting without the flash at higher frames per second so be aware that if you are doing action and flash photography.

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