Back in November when the Sony a9 iii was first announced I had the chance to attend the launch event in New York and even got to spend an entire day shooting the camera in a space with a lot of action sports happening, so we could really test it.

While the shooting situation wasn’t a wildlife scene, I think we know that most of the needs of the sports action photographer are similar to the wildlife photographer (notice the word “most”… I didn’t say all) 🙂

Anyway, I thought I’d give you my first thoughts after using the camera and whether or not I plan to get one for wildlife photography. Also, keep in mind, if you’re just a landscape or still photographer, you would never get this camera. That’s why I’m only talking about it for action photography.

Basic Info

The Sony a9iii is a 24 megapixel camera announced in November of 2023 and shipping in February of 2024. It costs around $6000 USD.

What’s New?

The first thing we’ll cover is what is new in the camera that makes it different from an a9 ii, or even the Sony a1 or a7R5. I’m not going to cover every single feature, but I will talk about to the 2-3 big things that set the a9 iii aside from everything else.

Global Shutter

This is the first full frame camera to add the global electronic shutter. I’m not going to get super techie here. So let’s just say that global shutter reads all of the pixels simultaneously, at the same time. If you want to really dive in to what this is, you can read more from Sony’s website.

For a wildlife photographer, this translates to eliminating the rolling shutter effect which happens when you photograph a fast moving subject, at high shutter speeds, and the subject looks warped.

Rolling shutter is a phenomenon associated with digital cameras and video recorders that use a CMOS sensor with a rolling shutter mechanism. This mechanism captures images by scanning across the frame line by line, from one side to the other, rather than capturing the entire image in one go (global shutter). As a result, fast-moving objects or quick camera movements can cause distortion in the image. This distortion can manifest as skewing, wobbling, or partial exposure effects, where straight lines appear curved or slanted, and objects seem to lean or stretch unnaturally. Rolling shutter effects are most noticeable in high-speed scenarios or when the camera is panned rapidly.

Definition of Rolling Shutter
A blurry puffin at a high shutter speed

It doesn’t happen all the time, but can definitely ruin a good bird in flight photo. Now, this isn’t a problem with a mechanical shutter. But I like using the Electronic shutter feature and you usually need to use it to get all of the latest and greatest stats that we hear about with these new cameras. So if you ever revert back to mechanical shutter, you won’t get the same frames per second, etc…

The feature is great and is definitely part of the future, especially for action oriented cameras. One of the downsides is this feature will typically cause the image to lack a bit in dynamic range or the overall tones of shadows through highlights, that we’re able to see and pull out of the photo. This can also lead to an overall noisier photo, which isn’t the end of the world since we do have great noise reduction software these days.

Now keep in mind it’s nearly impossible for me to scientifically compare this so-called lac of dynamic range with the Sony a1 or a7R5. So all I can say is that after looking and editing some of my photos from the shoot, I did notice the shadows weren’t as recoverable as I was used to with my other cameras. Noise levels are impossible to compare for me, because every shooting situation is different.

Overall, it’s a great feature and if you shoot fast action subjects, global shutter is a necessary part of the future.


Next up we have speed. You’re able to shoot at 1/80,000th of second and also 120 Frames Per second. Remember, to date, the Sony a1 is the fastest Sony and that’s at 30 FPS, so Sony has quadrupled this.

So as a wildlife photographer what does that mean? Well, I hate to say nobody, but nobody really needs 1/80,000th of a second. We can’t argue that just about every subject we photograph will be razor sharp at 1/3200th and maybe on the extremes 1/5000th.

As for FPS, that’s a personal thing. When I first got the Sony a1, I went 30 FPS Crazy! It was so fun to hear and watch that I shot everything that way. After realizing that I never needed that many poses of the wildlife I dial it back to 20 fps if I’m in front of an AMAZING subject doing something absolutely AMAZING (not often). More often than not, I dial it back to 10 fps. Even on my Alaska bear photography trip I never used more than 10 fps.

One cool feature they did add is a speed boost button. This means you can have your FPS set low, and temporarily press the button to enable faster frames per second. While I may not need 120 FPS, I do love how this is the first time Sony has included a button in this location.


This is also the first Sony camera to have pre-capture. This is when you press a button that buffers up to 1 second of photos, before you actually press the shutter. So if you had your finger on the shutter, but weren’t actually shooting, and miss a moment this could definitely save you.

Auto Focus

The a9 iii include the same AI Processor for focussing that the Sony a7r5 has. Now that doesn’t mean that it is actually learning while you shoot. The algorithms were created by AI machine learning which is where the AI comes from. But imagine the day when the cameras actually start learning from what you shoot and getting better over time?

Anyway, I’ve said in another article I wrote on the a7r5 that I thought it was more “sticky” when it comes to AF than the Sony a1 and the a9iii camera was just as good. You’ve got to see this video below. Watch the focus point on the eyes and how it holds focus on them (or their location) even when they disappear. And see how fast it reacquires it once the eyes are visible again. Really cool stuff!

Will I Buy One for Wildlife Photography?

As I mentioned earlier, this camera isn’t meant for a landscape or still photographer. Not that it can’t be used for that, but it’s overkill in many ways, and to too expensive if that’s ALL you’re shooting.

The “a9” line of cameras is really Sony’s fast action camera and I believe meant more for journalists (sports or other fast moving journalistic situations). But it can also serve wildlife photographers very well in most cases – and before the Sony a1 came out, I loved the a9 because it was the best Sony had for fast action photography.

But I won’t be getting one for my wildlife photography. Here’s why:

  1. For me, I believe that 24 MP just isn’t enough for most wildlife. We often can’t get close to our subjects and need to crop later. With my a1 and a7R5 I can crop more than 50-60% of the photo and still have a very large photo to share / print. With 24 MP, it just doesn’t give me that ability.
  2. The global shutter is great and I very much want this feature. So I’m hoping we see it again in future versions of the a1 and a7R series.
  3. I wouldn’t use the faster shutter speeds.
  4. 120 FPS is just too much. Several years ago I may have said yes, if I hadn’t already had 30 FPS and several years to use it. But now that I’ve got that experience under my belt, I realize I don’t use the 30 FPS feature, so why would I want to go any higher?
  5. Pre-capture looks like a wonderful feature. I’m often waiting on something to happen with the shutter halfway pressed, so it feels like this feature would come in handy many times. But it’s just not worth giving up the megapixels.

I hope this helped out if you’ve been thinking about getting one. Feel free to drop a comment with your thoughts. Thanks!


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