Try as we might, we could not make the Sony A9 overheat

by Jaron Schneider | Posted 06/16/2017

When the Sony A9 first became available to the public, just about immediately a video surfaced online complaining about it overheating in what should have been a relatively unchallenging environment. In that video, the photographer said that within 20 minutes of shooting in 81 degree Fahrenheit weather, the camera warned him that the internal temperature was getting too high, and that it was soon to overheat. When I saw this video, I was shocked. I and other members of the Imaging Resource staff had already shot extensively with the A9 and found it to work outstandingly in all cases. I personally shot with it outside in Santa Barbara in the sun for a full day with no problems, so it seemed odd that this one person was struggling with the camera overheating. We decided that we had to test for ourselves if we could get the camera to overheat.

Before I go over the test, I want to make it clear that I did install the new firmware that Sony released for the A9 before I conducted the test. The firmware likely tells the A9 where to set the threshhold for warning users about a possible overheat, not preventing overheating altogether (that seems impossible for just a firmware update). So the firmware update should not have changed the camera's propensity to overheat, only how long it would go before warning you that it was about to.

I conducted two separate tests: 1) Leaving the camera out in the sun and then filling two memory cards (shooting at the highest frames per second the camera is capable, and also JPEG+RAW) and 2) Leaving the camera in a car for what eventually amounted to one and a half hours in the sun and attempting to operate it.

First Test

I left the camera on the porch of my hotel room in San Diego for thirty minutes before I attempted to shoot with it. On this particular day, the temperature was in the mid-70s (Fahrenheit) thanks mainly to a light sea breeze. In direct sun however, it felt much warmer (as you can imagine). After waiting half an hour, I proceeded to fill one entire 128 gigabyte memory card (UHS-II) shooting at the highest frame rate possible to JPEG and RAW, then I swapped the card with another 128 gigabyte card (UHS-II as well) and proceeded to fill that card as well. By the end of the test, I had shot over 4400 images totaling nearly 9000 files in under an hour.

By the end of the test, the camera was not really any warmer to the touch than when I started, and still had 72% battery remaining.

I figured this was not going to suffice as a result on its own, so I decided to up the ante a bit and try something else.

Sony A9 Review
Second Test

I took the lens off the camera and placed the A9 in the back window of my rental car and drove to a place where it would sit in maximum sunlight. I then went for a walk. An hour later, I drove to another spot (chasing sunlight) and waited an additional 20 minutes. I then drove back to my hotel parking lot, and took the camera out of the car and replaced the lens on it. On this particular day, it was again in the mid 70s outside with a light breeze, so the inside of my car on a black surface with no breeze was far warmer than that. The A9 was physically hot to the touch, espcially the metal hotshoe; I could not touch the hotshoe for very long as it burned.

After replacing the lens on the camera, I shot around 400 images before I realized that instead of getting hotter, the A9 was actually cooling off in my hands. No matter what I tried, I could not even get the camera to warn me about possible overheating let alone actually overheating it.

Verdict

Though I do not doubt that the situation in the original video that sparked this controversy actually happened, after updating the firmware (and honestly, even before as I was shooting in very warm environments prior to this test) it is extremely challenging to overheat the A9. I say that as even though I was actually trying to make the camera overheat, I could not.

Note: I am aware that I cannot prove how hot it was in my car or how hot it was outside, but I have no reason to make this up. I have gone on record multiple times complalining about Sony's A7R II overheating, and I legitimately was trying my utmost to make the A9 fail. I could not. Also take note how I do not have a battery grip on the A9, one of the proposed solutions to the overheating problem. Even using just the single internal battery, the camera did not overheat.



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