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Summary

The Sony Alpha 1 is a high-end mirrorless camera with a 50 Megapixel full-frame sensor, built-in stabilisation, 30fps electronic bursts and a wide array of video modes including 4k 120p and 8k 30p. It represents the first in a new series, a flagship body positioned above the existing A7 and A9 models and combining speed, high resolution and pro video with a price tag to match: at around $6500 or 6500 pounds for the body alone, it’s the most expensive Alpha to date. Find out everything I know so far in my preview!

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Sony A1 review so far

Intro

The Sony Alpha 1, or A1 for short, is a high-end mirrorless camera with a 50 Megapixel full-frame sensor, built-in stabilisation, 30fps electronic bursts and a wide array of video modes including 4k 120p and 8k 30p. Announced in January 2021, it represents the first in a new series, a flagship body positioned above the existing A7 and A9 models and combining speed, high resolution and pro video with a price tag to match: at around $6500 or 6500 pounds for the body alone, it’s the most expensive Alpha to date.

While the A7r IV remains the highest resolution Alpha with 61 Megapixels, the A1 captures its 50 Megapixel images using a new stacked CMOS sensor which, like the A9 series, supports fast electronic bursts with zero blackout and low rolling shutter (the sensor readout is 1.5 times faster than the A9 II). The A1’s electronic shutter can capture 50 Megapixel images at up to 30fps without blackout and with shutter speeds up to 1/32000, with a generous buffer allowing up to 155 compressed RAW or 165 JPEGs; there’s also now anti-flicker modes and fine-tunable shutter speeds for electronic shooting to minimise or eliminate banding. Meanwhile the mechanical shutter fires at up to 10fps with shutter speeds up to 1/8000. For the first time, you can now use a flash with the electronic shutter – syncing at 1/200 – while a faster 1/400 sync is available with the mechanical (or 1/500 in APSC mode). There’s also a pixel-shift mode available which can generate images with up to 199 Megapixels, albeit still requiring external assembly with the Imaging Edge desktop software; this is available in a four and 16 shot mode and now supports flash sync.

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The A1’s new BIONZ XR processors deliver faster exposure and focus, running up to 120 calculations per second, and now supports animal eye detection for birds (stills only for animal AF, not video), as well as operating at apertures as small as f22.

In terms of video, the A1 will film uncropped 8k up to 30p, oversampled from 8.6k with no binning and encoded in XAVC HS / H.265 / 10-bit 4:2:0 at 200 or 400Mbit/s; thanks to the encoding you can record 8k onto an SD card and Sony is quoting at least 30 minute recording times. 4k is available up to 120p (with a 10% crop) in either XAVC HS 4:2:2 10-bit or XAVC S 8-bit at up to 200Mbit/s. All video is in the 16:9 aspect ratio, so still no DCI internal. If you film in the Super 35 format, the A1 will oversample 4k video from 5.8k with bit rates up to 600Mbit/s. S-Cinetone and Active Stabilisation (with a 1.1x crop) are available (as is post-stabilisation with Catalyst), and 16-bit RAW output is available over HDMI in 4.3k resolution, allowing DCI recording. The hotshoe supports the digital microphone accessory.

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The viewfinder shares the same 9.44 million dot OLED panel resolution of the A7S III, but with a faster 240fps refresh rate and a large 0.9x magnification. The screen is the same as the A7r IV, so tilts vertically rather than flipping to the side. It’s powered by the Z-series battery with Sony quoting 530 shots with the screen or 430 with the viewfinder; the VG-C4EM grip supports two batteries. Like the A7S III, there’s dual card slots, each supporting either SD or CF Type A cards. For connectivity there’s 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO at 2.4 or 5GHz, 10Gbps USB C (v3.2), 1Gbit Ethernet LAN, PC Sync (mechanical shutter only), Micro USB, and 3.5mm mic and headphone jacks. The new Experia Pro 5G phone can be connected directly to the USB C port for direct tethering for mobile data and also be used as an external 4k HDMI monitor. 

It all adds up to Sony’s most capable Alpha to date, albeit again its most expensive. In pro terms, the price isn’t unreasonable compared to, say a Canon 1Dx III or Nikon D5, but while there’s a lot of unique features on the A1, many of the headlines are roughly matched by the Canon EOS R5 at almost half the price.

I’ve begun testing a final production sample and have already put together a selection of sample images along with noise comparisons with the Canon EOS R5! Keep scrolling for my sample movies!

Sony Alpha 1 sample movies

Above: Sample movie filmed with a final production Sony Alpha 1. It was filmed in full-frame with the FE 35mm f1.4 G Master in 8k 25p using the Std style and PP off at 100 ISO. I used the 10 bit 4:2:0 mode at 200 Mbit/s. Registered members of Vimeo can download this Sony Alpha 1 8k sample movie, or an alternative Sony Alpha 1 8k S-Log 3 sample movie.

Above: Sample movie filmed with a final production Sony Alpha 1. It was filmed in full-frame with the FE 35mm f1.4 G Master at f8 in 8k 25p using the standard profile and PP off at 3200 ISO. I used the 10 bit 4:2:0 mode at 200 Mbit/s. Registered members of Vimeo can download this Sony Alpha 1 8k 3200 ISO sample movie. Or check out my other versions in 1080p, 4k and 8k, all in S-Log 3 for comparison: Sony Alpha 1 1080p S-Log 3 sample movie, Sony Alpha 1 4k S-Log 3 sample movie, Sony Alpha 1 4k Super 35 S-Log 3 sample movie, Sony Alpha 1 8k S-Log 3 sample movie.

Above: Sample movie filmed with a final production Sony Alpha 1. It was filmed in full-frame with the FE 35mm f1.4 G Master in 8k 24p using S-Log 3 and PP 8 at 800 ISO. I used the 10 bit 4:2:0 mode at 400 Mbit/s. Download this Sony A1 8k 400 Mbit S-Log 3 sample movie.

Check prices on the Sony Alpha 1 at B&H, AdoramaWEX or Calumet.de! Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!
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