What to do! Sony Camera, changing battery wiped photos (Sony A9, A7iii, A7iv). Rebuilding the database does NOT erase the photos!

I was halfway through a wedding day, the battery was getting low on one of my Sony A9’s. As I’ve done a thousand times, I turned off the camera, took the battery out, and put a new one in. This time, however, when I turned it on I had a black screen with a message saying something about rebuilding the database. You can’t stop it from happening and when it was done, my camera was saying there were no photos on the card. DO NOT PANIC, your photos are safe! This is what you need to do…


Immediately do what I did:

  1. Take the cards out of the camera right now!
  2. Do not try to do anything with those cards until you get home!
  3. DO NOT format or take any photos on those cards!

When you get home and load up Lightroom, it WILL find all those images.

The database rebuild just rebuilds how the camera reads the card. I assure you, ALL the photos will still be there if you didn’t do anything or take anything after it happened.

So why did it do it and how can I stop it from happening again?

I can think of two possible causes but the solution is the same.

I use on-camera flash for most of the day (Godox). I’ve noticed that the camera (Sony A9) can get sluggish when I have an on-camera flash connected and the battery goes below 40%. If I have the Sony battery grip I notice it much more.

When you turn the camera off, it still takes a few seconds before you hear the shutter click off. Although I’d switched the camera off, because it was running sluggish, I may have taken the battery out just before the camera was completely shut off. My solution is that I’m going to give the camera 10 seconds to fully shut down in the future.

It’s quite ironic that it was only a couple of months ago that I posted this: “Tales of woe and how to make sure your wedding photographer doesn’t lose your wedding photos before delivering them“. It shows that even if you do absolutely everything you can to keep the photos safe, things can still affect even two cards simultaneously.

Thankfully I did all the right things and I’ve just delivered all the photos to the happy couple.

Simon Day

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