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Sony Alpha 1 Review

Sony a1 interchangeable lens camera from Sony has a 50MP sensor and can shoot bursts of photos at 30 frames per second while also recording 8K video. The Sony a1 is the company’s flagship interchangeable lens camera. A1’s powerful autofocus system is likewise powered by this sensor, which has been upgraded to include machine learning algorithms for identifying human faces and eyes, as well as eyes of many different species of animals and birds.

Sony describes the Alpha 1 as “the one camera that can do just about everything you’d need it to do,” whether you’re capturing quick action, landscapes, or high-definition video, according to the company. The fact that it’s in a manageably-sized body suggests that it wouldn’t be out of place for usage in reportage or travel photography. Additionally, the presence of Ethernet and high-speed USB-C connections indicates that it has aspirations to be a pro-sports machine.

Check Out: Best Sony a1 Lenses

Sony Alpha 1 Full-frame Interchangeable Lens Mirrorless Camera
  • 50.1MP* full-frame stacked Exmor RS CMOS sensor w/ integral...
  • 8x more powerful*, next generation BIONZ XR image processing...
  • Blackout-free shooting up to 30fps from fast sensor readout...
  • World’s first 240 fps refresh rate, 9.44M dot 0.64” QXGA...
  • World’s first anti-flicker mechanical and electronic...

Sony Alpha 1 specifications:

  • 50MP ‘stacked’ full-frame CMOS sensor
  • 30 fps burst shooting with electronic shutter (lossy compressed Raw/JPEG only)
  • 8K/30p video recording with Log and 4K Raw video out over HDMI
  • 1/400 sec flash sync with mechanical shutter (1/200 sec with electronic shutter)
  • 9.44M-dot OLED electronic viewfinder with 0.9x magnification
  • 3.0″ tilting touchscreen with 1.44M-dot resolution
  • Full-size HDMI port, headphone / mic ports, USB-C port with 10 Gb/s transfer speeds, ethernet port
  • Dual UHS-II / CFexpress Type A card slots
  • CIPA rated to 530 shots with rear LCD (430 through the viewfinder)
  • Weather-sealed body
  • 737g (1.62 lb)

Body, handling and controls

As has been the case with each subsequent generation of Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras, the a1’s general handling is made of variations on the cameras that have come before it. And in this particular instance, more than a few of those revisions are aimed squarely at the higher-end consumers that Sony is specifically targeting with this camera.

To begin, the a1 continues to be a very small camera, especially considering its specs and build quality. Sony claims that the a1 has better weather sealing when compared to other cameras in the a7 and a9 series, and it has the same large handles as those other cameras. In contrast to those who prefer primes or shorter zooms, who will likely wish to purchase the optional battery grip, those who prefer primes or shorter zooms will find the a1 to be quite sturdy in the hand and well-balanced.

The a1 is also one of the most responsive Sony cameras we’ve seen so far; it doesn’t suffer from any of the interface latency that we’ve seen in earlier models, which made for a “disconnected” shooting environment. Your hands may move as quickly as you desire on the control dials, and the a1 will keep up with you.

To make it easier for hybrid stills and video shooters, you can program various buttons to do different actions for each medium, and you can even configure the Fn menu for each media separately. Users may also choose to have the camera retain the settings for the aperture, shutter speed, ISO value, exposure compensation, metering mode, white balance, and image profile settings distinct between stills and video capture modes. Unfortunately, ‘APS-C crop’ is not one of the choices that may be saved as a distinct folder in Windows.

While it comes to people that photograph professional sports and utilize a very fast shutter speed with a wide aperture for stills but wish to slow down the shutter speed and close the aperture down when shooting video, those choices that can be kept separate will be beneficial. Because of the ability to share a custom white balance across the two modes, you only have to set it up once for each shooting situation instead of several times.

It is possible to tap to track a subject, which will then automatically convert to face- and eye-tracking on a human or to tap to move an AF region across the frame on a video camera equipped with a touchscreen. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to pre-position an AF point for the camera to track before shooting.

Image quality

In terms of Raw detail capture, the Sony a1 delivers a very remarkable performance that puts it on a level with similar-resolution competitors throughout the industry. The higher-resolution sensor of the Sony a7R IV, on the other hand, extracts just a little amount of additional detail, which requires close inspection. Nevertheless, the Sony a1 is susceptible to false-color artifacts, much like the other cameras in our comparison, which will take some post-production work to eliminate completely.

In spite of being constructed for extreme readout speed, which sometimes comes at the expense of image quality, the Sony a1 performs comparably to the Canon EOS R5 at higher ISO settings, placing it slightly behind the Nikon Z7 II and slightly ahead of Panasonic’s Lumix DC-S1R. Comparing the Sony a1 to its pro-sports-oriented contemporaries, the camera remains competitive, falling only a smidgeon behind the Canon EOS-1D X III and the Nikon D5, which is likely owing to the higher pixel count of the Canon EOS-1D X III.


Moving on to JPEGs, we can observe that the Sony a1 has very severe default sharpening and that it appears to have been ‘cranked up a notch when compared to the Sony a7R IV in terms of contrast and sharpness. Sony also has a better ability to retain fine information than the Nikon Z7 II, despite the fact that the two cameras appear to be very comparable at first glance. Contrary to photos taken with the Nikon, the a1 does not exhibit the overrun at borders that can be seen in images taken with the Nikon.

Everything on this list produces what we would call pleasant color, with the Sony displaying particularly vibrant yellows. While the a1 doesn’t appear to provide any significant improvements over the Sony a7R IV, it does appear to produce richer yellows, as well as more neutral blues, warmer greens, and somewhat less subdued caucasian skin tones than the Sony a7R IV (similar to what we saw with the Sony a7S III). The saturation of reds appears to have decreased slightly, and they no longer appear as Canon-like as they did with the a7R IV.

When shooting at higher ISO settings, the Sony a1 regrettably displays a significant amount of color bleed, with the Nikon producing the best results by a long shot. All cameras produce some degree of luminance noise, and all of them, in my opinion, do an excellent job of preserving low-contrast detail, but the Canon and Nikon fall behind the other alternatives in this regard.

Even at these settings, Sony’s own a7R IV appears to retain a fractionally greater amount of information than the a1, which becomes a bit more evident when all of the images are seen at the same scale, although it does so at the price of somewhat higher luminance noise. Sony opted to strike a somewhat different balance with the a1, surrendering a little amount of fine resolution in exchange for decreased luminance noise.

When compared to its sports-oriented peers, the a1 retains more detail at the highest ISOs than the Nikon D5 and Canon EOS-1D X III, which is no doubt due to its higher resolution. However, this comes at the expense of slightly increased luminance noise and color blotches, which is a minor trade-off.

Autofocus

One of the most impressive aspects of the Sony a1 is its focusing mechanism, which tracks subjects of all types including human features and eyes, as well as the eyes of birds and other animals with remarkable tenacity.

People who have used recent Sony cameras will be familiar with the focusing technology, which the company calls ‘Real-time Tracking,’ which was introduced with the firm’s most current subject tracking interface, which it calls ‘Real-time Tracking.’

For the most part, while tracking is enabled, the camera will tenaciously track objects of all shapes and sizes. If your target happens to be an identifiable human or an animal or bird, the camera will immediately switch to eye detection mode. Unless it is able to recognize your subject’s eye, or if your subject turns away, it will default to generic tracking at the location where the eye was last observed (i.e., your intended subject).

Because of the overall dependability of this tracking, many individuals could, in my opinion, set up their AF system once and never have to worry about it again, save for seldom occurring edge circumstances. Although we believe that Sony should simplify some of their AF Area modes, we believe that some of them could be simplified further. For example, the ‘Center’ mode, which does nothing more or less than any of the ‘Flexible Spot’ modes when the flexible spot is placed in the center of the frame, could be simplified further.

As previously noted, the Sony a1 is capable of performing Eye AF on some animals and birds, and we found it to be very effective for some casual backyard birding. Something to keep in mind, however, is that, in contrast to the Canon EOS R5 for example, you must pick the topic that you wish to prioritize.

Canon’s technology allows you to select ‘no priority,’ and the camera can still accurately identify birds if you do so. After selecting the ‘Bird’ option, the Sony a1 functions admirably, but once you’ve finished birding and are headed to a portrait session, you’ll need to remember to switch this back to the ‘Human’ option on the camera.

Video performance

Although the Sony a1 is positioned as a stills/video hybrid camera rather than the company’s video-focused a7S III, the two cameras share a number of core video features, and the a1 is only the second stills/video hybrid camera to shoot 8K video and the second of Sony’s Alpha cameras to shoot 10-bit video to either SD or CFexpress cards, respectively.

Takeaways:

  • 8K video is extremely detailed, while 4K video provides competitive detail when compared to comparable high-resolution stills camera options in this class.
  • With excellent autofocus tracking when taking video
  • The ‘Steadyshot Active’ digital stabilization system works in conjunction with the mechanical stabilizer to create very smooth videos that have minimal impact on quality.
  • The results of controlled testing indicate that overheating is not a problem; nevertheless, the results will vary depending on your shooting situation.

In terms of video features and modes, the Sony a1 is nearly identical to the existing a7S III, with the exception of the fact that its higher-resolution sensor allows it to capture full-width 8K video at up to 30p in 10-bit 4:2:0 H.265 format at either 200 or 400mbps, depending on the resolution of the sensor.

Due to the pixel-binning (merging nearby pixels) used in full-width 4K, it will not have the same level of detail as 8K footage downsampled to 4K, but the noise performance will be comparable. With a 1.13x crop, you can shoot up to 4K/120p, and a further crop to an APS-C or Super35 mode offers you 4K that’s oversampled from a 5.8K section of the sensor (which means it’s more detailed than full-width 4K but is likely to be a little noisy than full-width 4K.)

The a1 supports a number of different types of video modes and capture areas, as well as different bit depths and codecs, which we’ll go over one more time in this section.


Frame rates
Capture regionMax Bit-depth/ chromaCodecs
8K24, 308.6K FF10-bit 4:2:0XAVC HS
4K
(FF)
24, 30, 604.3K (binned)
FF
10-bit 4:2:2XAVC HSXAVC S-IXAVC S
4K1203.8K (binned)
1.13x crop
10-bit 4:2:2XAVC HSXAVC S
4K
(Super 35)
24, 30, 605.8K
1.5x crop
10-bit 4:2:2XAVC HSXAVC S-IXAVC S

Conclusion

Using the best of the A7 and A9 series, the Alpha 1 becomes the most powerful all-around mirrorless camera to date, outperforming both of them. The A7r IV, with its 61 Megapixels, may have a tiny edge in resolution, but the Alpha 1’s photo quality is on par with the A9’s while outperforming the A9 in terms of speed and providing 8k video, which is not available on the A7s.

The camera also has the most practical electronic shutter, with minimum skewing, anti-flicker settings, and even compatibility for a built-in flash. To capture the full 30 frames per second with continuous autofocus, you’ll need a Sony lens and may need to tweak certain settings, but nothing else on the market can match its cropping capabilities at this pace.

Contrary to expectations, Sony continues to ignore focus bracketing and any type of pre-capture option, and despite the Alpha 1’s processing power, it still requires the assistance of a computer to combine pixel-shift photos. In addition, although I applaud Sony’s devotion to portability, I’m curious how many sport and wildlife professionals would prefer a chunkier body with a built-in portrait grip instead. Naturally, the Alpha 1 is a costly camera to purchase.

Alternatively, for the same money, you could purchase the Fujifilm GFX 100S, which features a 100 Megapixel medium format sensor, while for several thousand dollars less, you could purchase Sony’s own higher resolution A7r IV or Canon’s EOS R5, which are roughly equivalent in terms of photo and video quality, though not in terms of speed or unrestricted video.

However, until we learn more about Canon and Nikon’s forthcoming pro mirrorless models, Sony retains the distinction of being the most powerful mirrorless camera available to date. The Alpha 1 is a camera that can do everything, and it does so amazingly well at many of them. However, you have to ask yourself if you really need a camera that can do so much at such a high level in the first place.

Sony a1 specifications

Body type
Body typeSLR-style mirrorless
Body materialMagnesium alloy
Sensor
Max resolution8640 x 5760
Image ratio w:h1:1, 4:3, 3:2, 16:9
Effective pixels50 megapixels
Sensor photo detectors51 megapixels
Sensor sizeFull frame (35.9 x 24 mm)
Sensor typeBSI-CMOS
ProcessorDual Bionz XR
Color spacesRGB, Adobe RGB
Color filter arrayPrimary c olor filter
Image
ISOAuto, 100-32000 (expands to 50-102400)
Boosted ISO (minimum)50
Boosted ISO (maximum)102400
White balance presets7
Custom white balanceYes
Image stabilizationSensor-shift
CIPA image stabilization rating5.5 stop(s)
Uncompressed formatRAW
JPEG quality levelsExtra fine, fine, standard, light
File formatJPEG (Exif v2.32)HEIFRaw (Sony ARW v4.0)
Optics & Focus
AutofocusContrast Detect (sensor)Phase DetectMulti-areaCenterSelective single-pointTrackingSingleContinuousTouchFace DetectionLive View
Autofocus assist lampYes
Number of focus points759
Lens mountSony E
Focal length multiplier
Screen / viewfinder
Articulated LCDTilting
Screen size3″
Screen dots1,440,000
Touch screenYes
Screen typeTFT LCD
Live viewYes
Viewfinder typeElectronic
Viewfinder coverage100%
Viewfinder magnification0.9×
Viewfinder resolution9,437,184
Photography features
Minimum shutter speed30 sec
Maximum shutter speed1/8000 sec
Maximum shutter speed (electronic)1/32000 sec
Exposure modesProgramAperture priorityShutter priorityManual
Built-in flashNo
External flashYes
Flash X sync speed1/400 sec
Continuous drive30.0 fps
Self-timerYes
Metering modesMultiCenter-weightedHighlight-weightedAverageSpot
Exposure compensation±5 (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)
AE Bracketing±5 (3, 5 frames at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)
WB BracketingYes
Videography features
FormatXAVC S, XAVC HS, XAVC S-I, H.264, H.265
Modes7680 x 4320 @ 30p / 400 Mbps, XAVC HS, MP4, H.265, Linear PCM7680 x 4320 @ 25p / 400 Mbps, XAVC HS, MP4, H.265, Linear PCM7680 x 4320 @ 24p / 400 Mbps, XAVC HS, MP4, H.265, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 120p / 280 Mbps, XAVC HS, MP4, H.265, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 100p / 280 Mbps, XAVC HS, MP4, H.265, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 60p / 200 Mbps, XAVC HS, MP4, H.265, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 50p / 200 Mbps, XAVC HS, MP4, H.265, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 30p / 140 Mbps, XAVC HS, MP4, H.265, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 24p / 100 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.265, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 120p / 100 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 100p / 100 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 60p / 50 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 50p / 50 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 30p / 50 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 25p / 50 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 24p / 50 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM
MicrophoneStereo
SpeakerMono
Storage
Storage typesDual SD/CFexpress Type A slots (UHS-II supported)
Connectivity
USBUSB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 GBit/sec)
USB chargingYes
HDMIYes (mini-HDMI)
Microphone portYes
Headphone portYes
WirelessBuilt-In
Wireless notes802.11ac (Dual Band)
Remote controlYes (via Bluetooth or tethered PC)
Physical
Environmentally sealedYes
BatteryBattery Pack
Battery descriptionNP-FZ100 lithium-ion battery & charger
Battery Life (CIPA)530
Weight (inc. batteries)737 g (1.62 lb / 26.00 oz)
Dimensions129 x 97 x 81 mm (5.08 x 3.82 x 3.19″)
Other features
Orientation sensorYes
GPSNone
Sony Alpha 1 Full-frame Interchangeable Lens Mirrorless Camera
  • 50.1MP* full-frame stacked Exmor RS CMOS sensor w/ integral...
  • 8x more powerful*, next generation BIONZ XR image processing...
  • Blackout-free shooting up to 30fps from fast sensor readout...
  • World’s first 240 fps refresh rate, 9.44M dot 0.64” QXGA...
  • World’s first anti-flicker mechanical and electronic...

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