Sony A7R III and A9 Firmware Updates for 2019

Exciting new features for underwater photographers shooting the Sony A7R III/A7 III or Sony A9
By Nirupam Nigam

There is no doubt that the Sony A7R III and the Sony A9 are two of the world’s most popular cameras for underwater photography. Likewise, many underwater photographers are bound to be excited by the news of multiple firmware updates in 2019. These updates will introduce new capability to both systems. It seems the updates to the Sony A9 will have significant benefits for underwater photographer whereas the updates to the Sony A7R III introduce more goods for topside shooting and some for underwater. 

One thing is for sure – there are huge perks to living in the digital age. Who would have thought you could have a new and improved camera from a simple click of the “download” button!


Firmware Updates for the Sony A9


Ver. 5.0 – Available March 2019

In the upcoming firmware version 5.0 we can expect:

Real-time Autofocus Tracking mode for object tracking (AI-based object recognition)

Touch Pad Autofocus

Touch Autofocus Tracking

Extended phase-detection AF aperture range (from f/11 to f/16)

Fast Hybrid Autofocus for video shooting (i.e., automated focusing)

Better Color Reproduction

Camera compatibility with Sony’s Edge Mobile application

Ver. 6.0. – Available Summer 2019

In the firmware version 6.0 we can expect:

Eye AF for animal eyes – enables accurate autofocus for interval shooting (time-lapse)


Implications for Underwater Photography

Even before the firmware updates, the Sony A9 is already known for it’s ultrafast shooting speeds of up to 20 fps (5fps w/ mechanical shutter), 241 RAW image buffer, and high performing autofocus tracking. It’s the perfect camera for wildlife photographers looking to capture quick action (e.g., underwater photographers capturing waves, sharks, bait balls, dolphins, etc.). An updated real-time autofocus tracking mode based on artificial intelligent algorithms means an even higher performing camera. These AI algorithms will consider color, subject depth, pattern, and spatial distance. The subject’s eye will also be tracked in real time with the AI-AF technology. If it works well than this is a huge benefit for underwater photographers looking to capture quick action underwater. Essentially, the camera should be able to lock on to an animal’s eye and track it in real time while take burst shots of up to 20fps (without strobes)… every wildlife photographer’s dream!

Beyond the improvements in tracking, an extended phase-detection AF range for smaller apertures will be much appreciated by macro underwater photographers. Better color reproduction is, of course, welcomed by everyone.

Initial reception of the Sony A9 was mixed for underwater photographers, as many preferred the Sony A7R III. These updates could be what pushes the A9 deeper into the underwater realm.



The Sony A9 is available now at Bluewater Photo!

Firmware Updates for the Sony A7R III/A7 III


Ver. 3.0 – Available April 2019

In the upcoming firmware version 3.0 we can expect: 

Enhanced Real-time Eye Autofocus. This includes functionality with AF-C mode (e.g., press the shutter button halfway to activate)

Real-Time Eye Autofocus for animals

Interval recording functionality for time-lapse with AE tracking sensitivity


Implications for Underwater Photography

The firmware updates for the Sony A7R III/A7 III are exciting, but not as much as with the Sony A9. However, real-time eye autofocus should work with animals! If it works properly with underwater creatures, this could be a huge deal for underwater photographers. Traditionally, the Sony A7R III’s autofocus has not been as good as DSLRs like the Nikon D850. If eye AF works for animals, this would put the A7R III in the range of competing with the AF capability of the D850. However, I don’t know if this new eye AF would be enough to compete with the D850’s 3D AF tracking mode. It probably wouldn’t push me to pick the A7R III over the D850. It does give the A7R III an edge over the Nikon Z6/Z7 that was recently released and does not have 3D AF. Easy time-lapse with more sensitive exposure changes will be appreciated by many topside photographers. 


Nirupam Nigam is the Editor-in-Chief of the Underwater Photography Guide and the President of Bluewater Photo - the world's top underwater photo & video retailer. While growing up in Los Angeles he fell in love with the ocean and pursued underwater photography in the local Channel Islands. After receiving degrees in Aquatic and Fisheries Science and General Biology, as well as a minor in Arctic Studies, Nirupam worked as a fisheries observer on vessels in the Bering Sea and North Pacific. Since then, Nirupam has been a full time underwater photographer and photo gear head. Check out more of his photography at!


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