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Sony Alpha 1 Camera Review And Specs

Sony hasn’t just moved the goal posts with the new Alpha 1 camera, they’ve switched playing fields completely. This is one of the biggest leaps in technology they’ve ever introduced with an Alpha model, providing professional photographers and videographers with a seriously impressive hybrid tool. Read on for our full review with specs, videos (our own review coming soon) and a nail bitingly impressive feature list with several ‘world firsts’. This post might demand a sit down with a cup of something rather strong so we can soak it all up before checking the old bank balance.

UPDATE Feb 2021: Sony A1 sample photos hot off the press. We’ve got hold of three impressive sample photos from Sony, which demonstrate the range that this new camera is capable of with sports, wildlife and high speed action. We’ve also added our video review from Gareth with his first impressions of the A1 to get a better idea of the body in hand.

A1 Sample photo interior portrait high speed

Sample 1, Sony A1 with FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS. Focal width: 79mm. Exposure: 1/2000. f/4.5. ISO 400. Stunning detail and motion captured in this fast moving portrait without a flash.

Before we move on I want to draw your attention to a special offer with 10% off Sony high speed CFExpress memory cards (when purchased with the body). There has never been a better time to stock up while you wait for your new camera to arrive. And yes, there are indeed two card slots…

Sony cards are available in two sizes, the CFexpress Type A 80GB and 160GB Type A CFexpress.

World’s first, new and upgraded features

So, where to begin with the Alpha 1? Perhaps let us start with a truly epic list of brand new, world first and updated features and technologies Sony has crammed into this familiar looking, but stealthily new camera body.

Pro golfing with the Sony A1

  1. New 50.1-megapixel full-frame stacked Exmor RS CMOS image sensor
  2. Upgraded BIONZ XR imaging processing engine with 8x times more processing power
  3. World’s first blackout- free continuous shooting at up to 30 frames per second
  4. World’s first anti-flicker shooting with both mechanical and electronic shutter
  5. World’s fastest mechanical shutter flash sync up to 1/1400 sec.
  6. New completely silent, vibration-free electronic shutter
  7. First ever Sony Alpha camera with 8K 30p 10-bit 4:2:0 XAVC HS video
  8. World’s first 9.44M dot OLED Quad-XGA electronic viewfinder with 240 fps refresh rate
  9. New dual driven shutter system
  10. Upgraded Pixel Shift Multi Shooting mode
  11. First ever Sony with 5G compatible connectivity, fastest built-in wireless LAN and dual antennas
  12. Second ever Sony with 759 real-time phase-detection points with 92% or 93% frame coverage depending on who you ask. The new and quite brilliant a7S III was the first this time.
  13. New Lossless Compressed RAW, HEIF and ultra compressed ‘light’ JPEG/HEIF files
  14. New new new, yes a new menu system, which is even touch-responsive.
  15. Two card slots that both support UHS-I and UHS-II SDXC/SDHC cards, as well as Sony’s CFexpress Type A cards (see above for links and offer)

I think it is fair to say Sony has really listed to pro customers and added some incredibly welcome upgrades with this shopping list of new tech. A list such as this could intrigue many pro sports shooters, journalists and celebrity photographers, as the A1 provides some key advantages for file transfers while working in the field. It is generally a very good thing to get your image to the desk first, before anyone else has even plugged in.

Sony A1 sample photo 2 winter sports action

Sample 2, Sony A1 with FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS. Focal width: 146mm. Exposure: 1/60. f/16. ISO 160. This demonstrates some clever panning for outdoor winter sports photography.

Hands On Video Review:

A 1 vs A9 II quick comparison

What is perhaps most remarkable is the improvement over the already impressive previous flagship A 9 II camera. Here are some of those particular stats:

  • The A1 crushes up to 120 AF/AE calculations per second which is double the speed of the Alpha 9 II, even when shooting at 30fps
  • Rolling shutter has been reduced by up to 1.5x when shooting stills, compared to the Alpha 9 II. The new imaging sensor is to thank for that improvement.
  • 3.5x faster wireless FTP transfer speed than the Alpha 9 II

Let’s not forget that we are talking about 50.1 megapixels compared to 24.2 megapixels of the a9 II. Wow. That does deserve a wow, right?

How about video for pros?

Sony has been somewhat guilty of dragging it’s heels slightly with regard to video colour depth, resolution and high speed recording in 4K. Well the Alpha 1 puts that all behind us with beautiful, cinematic 8K movies now possible in 10-bit 4:2:0 XAVC HS video recording with 8.6K oversampling. Slow motion lovers will also appreciate the addition of 4K 120p 10-bit 4:2:2 movie shooting capabilities. External recording capabilities will also arrive just as soon as Sony let’s us know which monitor will be supporting. Clever heat dissipation enables 8K video recording for up to 30 minutes which will be a big bonus for those long scenes which virtually nobody makes.

Sony S-Cinetone derived from their pro video cameras is also available along with S-Gamut3 and various other formats sure to please video editors.

Catalyst browse and catalyst prepare desktop apps harness meta data from the A 1 stabilisation unit and gyro sensors, helping stabilise footage when post processing. That’s a very nice pro feature which again should appeal to advanced content creators.

Connectivity in the Sony A1 HDMI and ports

Built for professionals

There’s so much going on with the Alpha 1 it is easy to forget just how intuitive and reliable the body promises to be. The chassis is made from durable magnesium alloy with an improved dust removal feature. (A personal thank you from me for that!) Of course there is dust and moisture resistance along with a shutter close function on power-off to protect image sensor. A vertical grip is on the way, the HDMI is a Type-A connector, arguably the most secure and Sony includes their proprietary camera hotshoe, the Multi Interface (MI) Shoe.

Wildlife photo sample at 840mm

Sample 3, Sony A1 with FE 600mm f/4 GM Super-Telephoto and 1.4x TC. Focal width: 840mm. Exposure: 1/2500. f/5.6. ISO 1600. The power of teleconverters for long range wildlife photography is demonstrated with this gorgeous shot of an eagle taken at high speed.

Summary

In summary the Alpha 1 really does move the goal posts arriving as the most technologically advanced, innovative camera that Sony has ever released. Yann Salmon Legagneur (Director of marketing) summarises with ‘This camera unlocks a new world of creative possibilities, making the previously impossible now possible’. In this case, I really do have to agree.

The A1 is ridiculously fast, has zero blackout, crunches 100’s of AF calculations per second across 759 phase detection points (with birds now too!) and records 8K movies, all without overheating. It is an understatement to say I want one of these and I am pretty sure I won’t be the only one.

Some titbits to accompany a flagship camera

Flip out screen and familiar ergonomics

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By Nick Dautlich on 26/01/2021

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