Utilizing the Sony a9 III for Live shows as Dave Matthews Band’s Photographer

Utilizing the Sony a9 III for Live shows as Dave Matthews Band’s Photographer

Like most photographers, I’ve by no means reviewed a bit of substances earlier than. Additionally like most photographers, I are likely to voraciously learn critiques every time I contemplate upgrading. Many of those critiques parse via micro-level evaluation of pixel element, noise ranges, and take a look at charts however to me fail to reply the easy query: “will this assist me get the shot?”

So when Sony provided to ship me a pre-production a9 III to shoot the Dave Matthews Band tour finale at Madison Sq. Backyard, I assumed, “will this assist me higher get the shot?” I jumped on the probability to see firsthand whether or not these new options would assist me particularly as a live performance photographer.

First, we must always speak about two widespread issues live performance shooters face when utilizing mirrorless cameras. It will assist clarify why I used to be very excited in regards to the Alpha 9 III’s world shutter.

The primary drawback is banding. That happens when your shutter velocity will not be synced up with the refresh fee of the lights. It’s extra distinguished in video however in live performance pictures it could occur as effectively. There’s a minimal shutter velocity wanted to freeze motion and if the refresh fee is out of sync with that, you may get darkish bands or strains throughout your picture. I clear up for this presently by utilizing the mechanical shutter solely, disabling my e-curtain entrance shutter, and conserving my shutter velocity no larger than 1/500 second.

For our stage setup these changes work effectively to negate most banding issues I’ve. Nonetheless, in case you’re capturing solely the primary three songs of a band you don’t usually shoot, particularly in a small membership with low high quality lights, banding can frustrate you or spoil an excellent shot.

Dave Matthews Band

The second huge drawback with digital shutters and live performance pictures is one thing known as rolling shutter distortion. This occurs when an object is shifting within the body quicker than the readout of the sensor. Consequently you find yourself getting a distorted or bent object. For me, it will occur with our drummer Carter Beauford. Carter is without doubt one of the world’s best drummers and he’s at all times shifting extraordinarily quick. I’ve but to seek out an digital shutter that reads out quick sufficient to freeze his drumming in movement. It’s one more reason I take advantage of a mechanical shutter on my cameras, however in doing so, I lose some options that make Sony cameras so highly effective.

The Alpha 9 III aimed to resolve these two issues. So let’s dive into my expertise with the options and see the way it did.

International Shutter

That is the characteristic that made me so excited to strive the a9 III. With a worldwide shutter, all of pixels within the sensor are learn out at the very same time, as a substitute of line by line like a scanner, and the a9 III has the primary CMOS world shutter that has ever appeared in a full body client digital camera.

Having a worldwide shutter additionally eliminates the necessity for the a9 III to have a mechanical shutter as a result of now the digital shutter is technologically superior to any mechanical shutter.

Dave Matthews Band

Different superior cameras just like the Nikon Z9 have eradicated their mechanical shutter, however they lack a worldwide shutter. With out the worldwide shutter, they will solely can alter for banding by tweaking their shutter velocity till it disappears. This works, to a degree. With the Alpha 9 III none of these workarounds are wanted. It simply captures precisely the body you plan to seize at any shutter velocity you need, as much as 1/80,000 second.

Dave Matthews
This shot wouldn’t have been doable with out the Alpha 9 III as a result of these LED spots create banding on all my cameras, even with mechanical shutter.

With Dave Matthews Band (DMB), our lighting crew has helped to attenuate banding by outfitting the stage with prime quality lighting that has variable refresh charges. Even nonetheless, a few of our spots and facet fill lights can create banding, even when utilizing a mechanical shutter. Having a digital camera outfitted with a worldwide shutter created for the primary time a chance for me to {photograph} them in sure lighting conditions from sure angles. Whenever you {photograph} the identical band each evening, this unlocks many new potentialities.

Lastly, with a worldwide shutter, rolling shutter distortion is a factor of the previous. Simply try these two images of Carter. This primary was taken with the a7R V with the digital shutter:

Carter Beauford, drummer for Dave Matthews Band

And this picture was taken with thea9 III and its world shutter:

Carter Beauford, drummer for Dave Matthews Band

With the worldwide shutter, the stick stays straight and there’s no distortion on the cymbal.


I’ll file this beneath “options I didn’t know I wanted till I attempted it.” As photographers, we’re most likely faster to react to conditions than most folk, and but we’re nonetheless human and if we’re reacting to one thing, we’re probably behind. This characteristic lets you set the a9 III to pre-capture a chosen variety of seconds whenever you half press the shutter. Whenever you comply with via with urgent the shutter all the best way, it writes these pre-recorded frames to the burst you’re capturing.

I discovered, for me, the candy spot was one second of pre-capture with my body fee, however you’ll be able to alter the time to your wants.

Dave Matthews Band

It needs to be famous that the pre-capture does reduce into the buffer, however I discovered the buffer in my pre-production mannequin was greater than sufficient.

This was so worthwhile as a result of after I choose the body to publish, my determination is commonly primarily based on small micro-motions or expressions of the band members. The pre-capture characteristic often provided me a superior selection as a result of it was already recording frames as I used to be reacting to no matter second was precipitated me to lift the digital camera to my eye.

This, like the worldwide shutter, is a sport changer.

Body Fee

The a9 III can seize as much as 120 frames per second (fps), which is blazingly quick. I solely used the excessive body fee of 120fps as soon as, simply to strive it. For me, it was pointless to seize that many frames and is a knowledge administration nightmare. Nonetheless, for a photographer assigned to the Olympics, this will likely be a instrument that may set them other than their friends. I can’t wait to have extra time with this digital camera to play with high-speed pictures.

For the live performance photographer, lastly having the ability to use an digital shutter and decide my body fee was wonderful. The a9 III permits body charges of 1/5/10/15/20/30/60/120 fps. In my time with the digital camera, utilizing a body fee of 20, 30 or 60 allowed me to raised see the nuances within the band’s taking part in after I went again via them.

Wanting again at images of Stefan Lessard, I turned conscious of simply how swish he moved his hand up the neck of the bass and the way a lot motion was in his wrist as he performed. Having the ability to understand and see one thing new with a band you’ve photographed lots of of occasions is extraordinarily particular.

Stefan Lessard

Sony has additionally added a brand new customized button simply contained in the grip. In my pre-production mannequin it was programmed to activate the total 120 frames per second, no matter the place the dial on the highest was set. In the event you’re a sports activities shooter or photojournalist that’s an excellent characteristic to have ought to one thing sudden or excessive velocity come up.

It’s additionally price noting that the a9 III has blackout free capturing for any body fee you select.


Whereas clearly not a brand new characteristic, it’s notable that this digital camera combines the AI autofocus options of the a7R V with the main target space of the Alpha 1. Combining this with a excessive body fee and quick processing, I discovered it was very arduous to overlook a shot. The main target locked rapidly wherever throughout the body.

You’ll be able to choose varied focus modes (human, animal, chicken) in addition to make the most of a brand new “further small” single focus level which helped me get this shot with a large angle via the drum package.

Dave Matthews Band

In the event you shoot live shows, you recognize that always shifting lighting plus shifting musicians equals many missed pictures. With the Alpha 9 III my hit fee was higher than any digital camera I’ve ever used. Practically good over two nights of use.

Dave Matthews Band
The articulating display screen helps me keep (largely) out of sight when getting pictures on stage.

Ergonomics and Display

With every technology of Sony cameras, the ergonomics and display screen have gotten higher. I believe with the a9 III they’ve lastly dialed it in excellent. The display screen is identical flip and twist state of affairs we noticed within the a7R V that I really like. They’ve additionally rounded out the hand grip angled the shutter button down simply barely. Lastly, they moved the customized buttons to a barely completely different stage than the shutter.

All of this mixed made for probably the most comfy capturing digital camera that I’ve used from Sony but. To me, the grip feels a bit like an older professional DSLR from Nikon or Canon — I believe that’s an excellent factor.


One of many issues I really like in regards to the Sony Alpha system is the menus. I’m conscious that there are individuals who dislike the difficult Sony menus. For me when you be taught them, the customization skills are unbelievable. I’d even say it’s indispensable in case you’re a photographer like me that shoots a sure style repeatedly.

Due to the brand new options of the Alpha 9 III it’s maybe good to take a minute revisit a number of the lesser recognized options that exist already in Sony cameras, as a result of they assist make the workflow with the A9III so significantly better.

Show as Group

That is such a helpful characteristic to have the ability to see and in case you select delete a complete burst of photographs without delay. Useful in case you used these 120fps unwisely, or if the {photograph} you have been attempting to take didn’t materialize. With this characteristic you’ll be able to scroll rapidly via the burst, lock the picture you need to hold, and discard the remainder.

Dave Matthews Band
Focus affirmation allowed me to rapidly look behind the display screen and know that Dave’s face was in focus with out having to zoom in.

Focus Affirmation (Focus Body Show)

One other characteristic that almost all Sony shooters don’t appear to find out about is the main target body show which acts as a spotlight affirmation characteristic. This shows a small inexperienced rectangle throughout playback that tells you the place the digital camera was focusing for the shot.

Once more, extraordinarily useful to rapidly scroll via your burst and choose your favourite shot with out having to zoom in on the picture to substantiate that it’s in focus.


There’s been a good quantity of dialog over whether or not the worldwide shutter would deal with noise in addition to different present Sony Alpha fashions. Judging the high-ISO noise from a brand new digital camera is at all times arduous since you’re working with pre-production firmware and restricted to capturing JPEG solely.

When photographing the reveals, I select to set the ISO to AUTO, floating between 250 and 3200 ISO. Whereas I didn’t have time to do a direct A-B comparability between my different Sony cameras and the a9 III in JPEG, I used to be very happy with the efficiency contemplating the compromises made.

In my actual world expertise, the a9 III recordsdata held up exceptionally effectively to average cropping, coloration correction, and print. I felt the dynamic vary of the JPEG file was good and I wasn’t hindered in my put up manufacturing work by it. In actual world use I didn’t see any noise or dynamic vary points because it pertains to having a worldwide shutter.

In the event you’re constantly capturing on the lowest ISO to have the cleanest recordsdata in a studio setting, that is most likely not the digital camera for you anyhow; you’d be higher served with the A7R V.

Dave Matthews Band

Dave Matthews Band

An Spectacular, Huge Leap

I believe the Alpha 9 III is a powerful soar in know-how for digital cameras. It did all the things I requested it to, and extra. It allowed me to really feel safer in the course of the present figuring out that I might harness the upper body fee of an digital shutter with out the beforehand inherent draw back. With the worldwide shutter and it’s wonderful autofocus, basically if I noticed a shot, I additionally captured it. The a9 III not solely helped me get the shot, nevertheless it felt like an extension of my mind in the course of the present. The truth that Sony has careworn it is a pre-production mannequin, and that they are going to proceed to tweak and enhance this digital camera for higher ultimate photographs, solely makes me extra excited to see the top consequence.

I really feel the identical method in regards to the a9III as I felt after I acquired my first professional DSLR years in the past. That it’s a sport changer and unlocks the flexibility for me to go locations with my pictures the place know-how was the limiting issue for reaching my objectives. I can’t wait to get my arms on it once more when it’s launched and take a look at it out for sports activities and excessive velocity pictures in addition to some studio work with that insane shutter velocity. It’s probably the most succesful all-around digital camera I’ve used but.

I’d enterprise to say that if you’re eager about switching to Sony as knowledgeable, there couldn’t be a greater leaping in level than this digital camera. However, if like me you might be already a Sony shooter, I believe that this digital camera improves tremendously on the earlier a9 collection cameras and serves as a praise to the wonderful a7R V or Alpha 1 for whenever you don’t want the decision of these cameras or end up in probably the most difficult circumstances.

Concerning the creator: Sanjay Suchak is an impartial business and editorial photographer primarily based in Virginia and Los Angeles. He serves because the photographer for the Dave Matthews Band and repeatedly works with a roster of nationwide bands in addition to music festivals across the nation. 

When not on the street, he works with business and better schooling purchasers to assist inform their tales. He’s additionally presently serving as a Fellow in Democracy on the Karsh Institute of Democracy on the College of Virginia, the place he’s engaged on a long run documentary undertaking and serving to to coach college students on photojournalism and the significance of media and the free press. He’s largely although find the perfect place in every metropolis to get tacos.

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