Speaking at a recent press event held by Sony UKat the Olympic Aquatic Centre, former Nikon UK ambassador and internationally acclaimed sports photographer, Bob Martin, explained why he’s started using Sony Cameras.
Not surprisingly, given his access to events like Wimbledon and the major golf tournaments, it was the silent shooting mode of the A7R II that first drew his attention to Sony. But its lack of continuous shooting capability in this mode, some handling issues and (I assume) the comparatively slow read-out speed meant he wasn’t especially impressed.
However, shortly after this first encounter, Sony approached Bob with a prototype of its A9. As sports photographers were to be a key target for the camera, Sony was keen to hear what Bob had to say about it.
The Sony A9 has some significant advantages over the A7R II for shooting action, not least the fact that it can shoot silently at up to 20fps (frame per second) with continuous focusing. In addition, the A9’s sensor has anti-distortion shutter technology which helps keeps rolling shutter at bay. Without this, fast-moving objects could appear to bend, but with the A9 it’s possible to shoot a golf swing and capture the club looking as it should, rather than like a banana.
The A9’s electronic shutter also allows a maximum shutter speed of 1/32000sec, the maximum mechanical shutter can manage is 1/8000sec.
It was the 20fps silent shooting that really hooked Bob.
Bob first used the SonyA9 at the World Ice Skating Championships and he quickly realised that it was going to be useful for him. Its 20fps silent shooting gives him ‘another dimension’ because he can shoot in areas where he normally wouldn’t be allowed.
He originally got the A9 with the intention of just using it for situations when he needed to shoot silently, but he’s increasingly turned to it instead of his Nikon DSLRs and he takes it with him on every job now.
The finals of the Wimbledon tennis tournament is Bob’s biggest event each year and in 2017 he shot them with his Sony A9, mainly using the Sony 20-70mm and 100-400mm lenses.
He’s also used it to photograph golf tournaments, shooting images in situations that would normally have seen him get marched out for using a camera. He captures the backswing of golf or the serve in tennis without fear of reprimand.
In a further endorsement for Sony, Bob went on to say that in his opinion the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 is the best lens of its type around at the moment.
As a seasoned sports pro, Bob Martin is experienced in shooting split-second moments and this has lead him to appreciate the mirrorless design of the A9 because there’s no interruption of his view of the subject. And of course, it goes without saying that he needs a fast, accurate autofocus system.
About Bob Martin
Bob Martin is a multi-award winning sports photographer with a career spanning thirty years. He’s been awarded the titles of British Sports Photographer of the Year three times and the NPPA Sports Photojournalist of the Year 2017. He also won the World Press Photo Sports Picture in 2005.
Bob has photographed all the major sports events including the last 15 Olympic Games (summer and winter) and he was appointed as Photo Chief for the London 2012 Olympics. He was also a consultant to the Rio 2016 Olympic Organising Committee and is currently helping with the planning for photography at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
Bob’s 2016 book, ‘1-1000th’ won the Sportel International Sports Book Award and the Illustrated Book of the Year in the UK Cross Sports Book Awards.