Sony Z90 Brings A9 Autofocus To Video for the First Time

Credit: Sony
Sony has taken the spectacular phase detection autofocus from the A9 and put it in a video camera, the Z90.

Integrated lens video cameras don't get a lot of love when compared to their integrated lens brethren, but they offer a lot of value for money and, on certain productions, are undoubtedly the right tool for the job. With the new PXW-Z90, Sony is has put together a very attractive package for filmmakers who want an all in one tool for under $3,000, with a target price point of $2799.

 The autofocus on the A9 in video mode is simply out of this world.

Among the host of standard for 2017 features including 3840x2160 recording, HD up to 120fps, a super slow motion mode, and a 12x zoom, there are a few standout features, including built-in wifi streaming. This allows users to stream video directly to network servers, Ustream, or Sony's own cloud service, XDCAM AIR. That, combined with Slog3 and SDI out, would make the camera compelling on its own. However, it's in the autofocus arena where this camera will really shine. The Z90 is the first motion picture implementation of the phase detect autofocus from the popular A9 stills camera.

The A9, of course, isn't intended as a cinema camera like the FS-7 is, and while the A7S isn't officially a "movie" camera, it's clearly the camera that Sony knows filmmakers are buying. However, the A9 can shoot video, and the autofocus on the A9 in video mode is simply out of this world. 

To help promote the launch of the Z90, Sony invited No Film School to an event at Red Bull Arena and let a bunch of journalists shoot the game with a bunch of A9s (presumably Z90s weren't shipping yet), with Sony zoom lenses. The experience was revelatory. Phase detection autofocus in the A9 often felt almost psychic, like it was reading your mind to know where you were panning ahead of time so it could arrive to focus on a subject as you panned to it. This, of course, is impossible, but it truly felt like that.


So great to see that SDI output.Credit: Sony

In comparison to the typical experience of shooting sports on video, which is a constant battle for focus, the autofocus actually felt like a professionally useable tool. Occasionally it missed, but way, way less often that we were used to.  If Sony has packed 80% of that functionality into the Z90, it's a camera you should seriously consider for any "one mule team" or single operator shoots you have coming up.

A9, not Z90, image.Credit: Charles Haine
A9, not Z90, imageCredit: Charles Haine
A9, not Z90, imageCredit: Charles Haine

Available this December for $2799.

Tech Specs:

  • 1" Exmor RS CMOS Sensor
  • UHD 3840 x 2160 up to 30p
  • Phase-Detection Auto Focus (AF)
  • HDR via Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG)
  • Zeiss 12x Optical Zoom
  • Full HD to 120 fps
  • Super Slow to 960 fps
  • XAVC HD / QFHD & MPEG2HD Recording
  • S-Log3/S-Gamut3 Imaging Options
  • 3G-SDI Output, 2.4 / 5 GHz Streaming
  • 2 x SD Card Slots 

Your Comment


Canon has Dual-Pixel touchscreen tracking AF and 4K up to 60fps in their new XF400 at the same price point, I'll definitely be giving that a rental before this.

September 19, 2017 at 11:27AM


Does that first sentence need an "interchangeable" instead of the second "integrated" perhaps?

September 19, 2017 at 7:49PM


The predecessor of this camera had a terrible shutter. On telephoto lens, while shooting motion, the images wiggled like jello. It was really a bad camera.

September 19, 2017 at 10:40PM


Shop Online for Canon at the Canon store at Best Buy. Check out the latest Canon DSLR cameras, camcorders, lenses, and accessories.

September 20, 2017 at 12:09AM

Mick Watson
Online Technical Blog Writer.