A few days back we reported that the Sony A9 has been getting overheating reports. The issue has been getting a nice amount of attention both because overheating is not a first for Sony, and also because the A9 is a $4,500 camera.
So far, the reports have been focused on the fact that the overheating indicator is turning on. I have yet to see a report showing that the camera shuts down. Now, don’t get me wrong, if the overheating indicator turns on, you want to stop shooting to keep your camera safe, but what happens if you don’t? What happens if you just ignore the overheating indicator? This is what photographer Manny Ortiz set to find out.
Manny ran a few tests:
The first test was run outdoors in a park (similar to the overheating reports we’ve been seeing) and indeed, the Sony A9 overheating indicator turned on after 3:45 minutes and about 1,000 photos.
Manny kept shooting for 20 minutes and around 4750 photos and the camera kept shooting with the indicator on.
The next test was shooting continuously until the camera hits the buffer over and over again. It took 45 minutes and 8,000 photos for Manny to call it quits. The camera did not shut down.
The last test involved putting the camera on hot concrete and shooting 4,000 photos (about 18 minutes) and the indicator did not turn on. This is kinda surprising, as hot concrete is hotter than the hot air in the park.
What’s going on?
I have some thoughts from my days as a firmware engineer, and they may be spot on, or they may be totally rubbish. But it’s an interesting exercise and you are welcome to join. I am going to take this from the easiest to fix to the hardest to fix issues.
Option 1: Wrong limits – Ok, this is an easy one – everything is working just fine, but the firmware is set to turn the overheating indicator at the wrong temperature. Fixing this would be really easy, it’s just a firmware load with the right number in it.
Option 2: Firmware bug – this is of course what everyone is hoping for. that the firmware for the A9 is just wrong at either reading or interpreting the heat sensor data. In both cases, the fix should be relatively easy, and Sony would have (should have?) already released a fix. This is why I am thinking it’s not it.
Option 3: Faulty sensors – This is not good news. If faulty heat sensors are the case, it means that the camera has no way of knowing the real temperature on the sensor, and it simply reads bad data without knowing it. Now, depending on the type of heat sensor failure, this may or may not be fixable via a firmware update.
Option 4: Bad sensor design – This would be the hardest to fix. If the sensor is placed in the wrong location, has no way of delivering accurate data to the firmware or is simply useless, we may see a recall.
But, consider this …
What if overheating has no meaning at all with this camera? at least not with normal use. (and yes, shooting 5,000 photos is a sunny day is normal), then you are simply looking at a bad light. Kinda like that annoying light on the dashboard of old cars. It’s always there, but it doesn’t really mean anything.
In this case, Sony would come up with a way to otherwise limit the camera when it should theoretically overhit, say after 30 minutes of video, or after 10,000 images, or after gazillion CPU actions, who knows.
I am definitely interested in seeing how this pans out.