First look at Sony Alpha 1 - a review of the novelty: everything for the pros in one packagePho­to: Youtube chan­nel Ger­ald Undone

Looks like Sony has cre­at­ed a top con­tender for the cam­era of the year! This amaz­ing device is suit­able for both pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­phers and pro­fes­sion­al video­g­ra­phers. What is the mir­a­cle of Sony Alpha 1 — we fig­ure it out togeth­er.

Feature #1: 50-megapixel sensor

The main mag­ic of the nov­el­ty is hid­den in its very heart — a 50-megapix­el mul­ti-lay­er full-frame matrix. This is the sec­ond such sen­sor in the his­to­ry of the com­pa­ny, we saw the first sam­ple in the 24-megapix­el Sony a9 and Sony a9 II. By “mul­ti­lay­er” we mean that the cam­era has a DRAM mod­ule (from the Eng­lish dynam­ic ran­dom access mem­o­ry) built into the back of the matrix. This gives the sen­sor an incred­i­ble read­out speed of less than 1/200th of a sec­ond, which is one and a half times faster than the sen­sors of the a9 and a9 II mod­els, despite dou­bling the num­ber of pix­els in the nov­el­ty.

First look at Sony Alpha 1 - a review of the novelty: everything for the pros in one packageThanks to the high read­out speed, the Sony Alpha 1 can shoot bursts at 30 fps. Pho­to cred­it:

What does this mean in prac­tice? First, you can shoot with flash using the silent elec­tron­ic shut­ter, with sync speeds up to 1/200 of a sec­ond. It will also min­i­mize the effect of rolling shut­ter for fast mov­ing objects.

First look at Sony Alpha 1 - a review of the novelty: everything for the pros in one package In pro­mo­tion­al mate­ri­als, Sony uses pho­tographs of golfers — cam­eras with a slow read­ing of the golf club dur­ing the stroke slight­ly curve. Pho­to:

Read­out speed “over­clocks” con­tin­u­ous shoot­ing to 30fps with elec­tron­ic shut­ter, but only when RAW files are com­pressed with lossy. And the new matrix shoots video in 8K res­o­lu­tion, but more on that lat­er.

If you want to use a tra­di­tion­al mechan­i­cal shut­ter instead of an elec­tron­ic one (which, by the way, is very qui­et), then the max­i­mum burst speed will be 10 fps, and the flash sync will be 1/400 sec­ond.

Feature #2: Lossless RAW

The Alpha 1 was the first Sony cam­era to shoot in RAW with loss­less com­pres­sion. RAW files are small­er, but with full edit­ing capa­bil­i­ties, which does not always come out with con­ven­tion­al (lossy) com­pres­sion.

Files are 20–50% small­er than uncom­pressed files, depend­ing on the image itself (the pre­vi­ous for­mat guar­an­teed a 50% reduc­tion). When switch­ing to loss­less RAW, the max­i­mum shoot­ing speed drops from 30 to 20 fps, but you can get up to 96 shots in a burst, as opposed to 82 in a mode with­out com­pres­sion at all.

First look at Sony Alpha 1 - a review of the novelty: everything for the pros in one packageLoss­less com­pres­sion of RAW files saves a lot of space with­out sac­ri­fic­ing image qual­i­ty. Pho­to cred­it:

Like past Sony full-frame mod­els, the new mod­el received a sta­bi­liza­tion sys­tem that com­pen­sates for up to 5.5 expo­sure steps. But sta­bi­liza­tion in video can be improved dur­ing post-pro­cess­ing by using data from the gyro­scope.


The cam­era can shoot in both 4K and 8K res­o­lu­tion. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, 4K qual­i­ty with over­sam­pling from 8K mate­r­i­al can­not be obtained imme­di­ate­ly — only inde­pen­dent­ly in the post-pro­cess­ing process. Instead, the cam­era shoots in 4K with pix­el bin­ning (com­bin­ing tech­nol­o­gy) from the entire width of the sen­sor at 60p, or at 120p, but with a 1.1x frame crop. Shoot­ing up to 10-bit 4:2:2 record­ing is avail­able. At the same time, 4K video, unlike 8K, can be shot with addi­tion­al dig­i­tal sta­bi­liza­tion.

4K qual­i­ty with over­sam­pling is avail­able in Super35 mode, which uses 5.8K cap­ture. 4K res­o­lu­tion can be saved with both the new XAVCS HS (H.265) codec and the old XAVC SI All‑I (H.264) codec. 16-bit RAW video out­put is also avail­able.

How­ev­er, the main fea­ture in the video is still 8K qual­i­ty — this is only the sec­ond con­sumer cam­era on the mar­ket after the Canon EOS R5 with this option. Sony takes a slight­ly dif­fer­ent tech­no­log­i­cal approach. The cam­era reads an area of ​​8640 x 4860 pix­els (full-width) of the sen­sor and then com­press­es it to 7680 x 4320-pix­el 8K for­mat, which promis­es to reduce the moiré effect (the appear­ance of a wavy pat­tern. Inter­est­ing­ly, the aspect ratio of the video is 16:9, unlike the wider 1.89:1 DCI that Canon gets from all pix­els.

8K video is avail­able at up to 30p and stored as 10-bit 4:2:0 XAVC HS files (H.265). 8K con­tent can also be out­put via HDMI, but only in 8‑bit 4:2:0.

Raw 8K video shot with Alpha 1. Source: iPhone­do Youtube chan­nel

The nov­el­ty uses a cool­ing scheme sim­i­lar to that in the a7S III mod­el. Sony claims the cam­era is five times more effi­cient at dis­si­pat­ing heat than the a7R IV. If true, this, com­bined with low­er­ing the over­heat­ing pro­tec­tion set­ting, allows you to shoot 8K video for “more than 30 min­utes”. The exact time will depend on the ambi­ent tem­per­a­ture and the select­ed bit rate.

Hull and control

The body design and con­trol lay­out will be famil­iar to users of Sony’s lat­est full-frame cam­eras, espe­cial­ly the a7S III and a9 II.

First look at Sony Alpha 1 - a review of the novelty: everything for the pros in one packageThe body of the a1 is quite com­pact and well bal­anced to work with lens­es that are not too large. Pho­to: Sony Europe Youtube chan­nel

Giv­en all its char­ac­ter­is­tics, Alpha 1 turned out to be very com­pact. Accord­ing to Sony, the com­pa­ny has improved weath­er pro­tec­tion with this cam­era com­pared to the a7 and a9 series. At the same time, the nov­el­ty has inher­it­ed a fair­ly large and com­fort­able grip from pre­vi­ous mod­els. When work­ing with large “tele­pho­to” cam­eras, you will most like­ly need an addi­tion­al bat­tery pack, but with “fix­es” and reg­u­lar “zooms” the cam­era feels very bal­anced.

The but­tons and con­trol dials are com­fort­able to use, and thanks to their clever size, they can be oper­at­ed with thin gloves. The shoot­ing mode and aut­o­fo­cus dials have pro­tect­ed posi­tion locks — to change the set­tings, you first need to hold down the but­ton in the mid­dle of the dial. But the expo­sure com­pen­sa­tion dial lock can be left open for faster access.

First look at Sony Alpha 1 - a review of the novelty: everything for the pros in one packageThe Sony Alpha 1 has a stan­dard set of set­tings dials. Pho­to:

Like oth­er Sony cam­eras, Alpha 1 is suit­able for flex­i­ble cus­tomiza­tion of but­tons, dials and set­tings: you can not change the set­tings for only three keys — “Menu”, “Play­back” and “Fn”.

In terms of per­for­mance, the new a1 is arguably Sony’s most respon­sive cam­era yet. Users have been com­plain­ing for years about lags in the set­tings and inter­face — you could quick­ly change the posi­tion of the disk, but until the set­ting itself changes in the cam­era, you had to wait a few moments. Sony man­aged to cope with this prob­lem — all set­tings in Alpha 1 change in real time. The touch screen has also been expand­ed for adjust­ing var­i­ous set­tings, includ­ing menu nav­i­ga­tion.

Screen and viewfinder

Despite the 8K video option, the slant­ed screen design hints that the cam­era is more geared towards pho­tog­ra­phy (mod­els aimed at video tend to use a swiv­el screen).

The tilt­ing dis­play is very handy for waist and hip shots. How­ev­er, for greater ver­sa­til­i­ty, in our opin­ion, a “dou­ble hinge” option, like in the Fuji­film X‑T3, would be suit­able, in which you can tilt the screen in both land­scape and por­trait ori­en­ta­tions.

The 3‑inch dis­play has a res­o­lu­tion of 1.44 mil­lion dots, which is slight­ly behind the mod­ern mar­ket: many less expen­sive cam­eras offer 3.2‑inch screens with a res­o­lu­tion of 2.1 mil­lion dots.

First look at Sony Alpha 1 - a review of the novelty: everything for the pros in one packageThe char­ac­ter­is­tics of the new screen by today’s stan­dards are not too impres­sive, unlike the viewfind­er. Pho­to:

On the oth­er hand, Sony real­ly pleased with the elec­tron­ic viewfind­er — OLED with a res­o­lu­tion of 9.44 mil­lion dots and with a mag­ni­fi­ca­tion of 0.9x. This mag­ni­fi­ca­tion val­ue is one of the best indi­ca­tors on dig­i­tal cam­eras. The max­i­mum dis­tance from which you can see the entire pan­el is 25 mm (the longer it is, the more con­ve­nient it is to use the viewfind­er). And the viewfind­er detail, espe­cial­ly in High mode, is vir­tu­al­ly unri­valed.

Avail­able refresh rates are 120 and 240 fps (with a slight­ly low­er res­o­lu­tion). This speed is good for shoot­ing fast action scenes, while the high res­o­lu­tion mode is bet­ter suit­ed for stu­dio or land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy. In gen­er­al, it is safe to say that today this is the best elec­tron­ic viewfind­er among all man­u­fac­tur­ers.

A little more about the characteristics of the camera

At the request of pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­phers, Sony has added the abil­i­ty to close the mechan­i­cal shut­ter to pro­tect the sen­sor when the cam­era is off.

In terms of bat­tery, the CIPA-rat­ed cam­era can take 530 shots on a sin­gle charge when using the dis­play, or 430 when using the viewfind­er. As usu­al in prac­tice, high­er fig­ures, depend­ing on your shoot­ing style.

The cam­era can be charged via USB using a USB PD device. How­ev­er, this can­not be done while it is run­ning. The nov­el­ty is com­pat­i­ble with the VG-C4EM bat­tery grip, where there is room for a sec­ond bat­tery.

Results for Sony Alpha 1

First look at Sony Alpha 1 - a review of the novelty: everything for the pros in one packageSony Alpha 1 is suit­able for pro­fes­sion­als in both pho­tog­ra­phy and video shoot­ing. Pho­to:

The Sony Alpha 1 is one of those rare cam­eras that does what oth­ers could­n’t before. The pros got a high-res cam­era that can silent­ly shoot at speeds high­er than the low­er-res sports/wildlife geared mod­els.

With Alpha 1, Sony got rid of the “curse” of the slow­ness of its past cam­eras (this mod­el instant­ly reacts to any changes in set­tings), added shoot­ing in RAW for­mat with loss­less com­pres­sion and super-detailed 8K video. This cam­era is clear­ly cre­at­ed for pro­fes­sion­als, as evi­denced by its price — 6.5 thou­sand dol­lars at the begin­ning of 2021.

Of course, it shares many of the same fea­tures as the Canon EOS R5, but a1’s range of addi­tion­al fea­tures, such as faster read­out, non-dim­ming burst shoot­ing, and a stun­ning viewfind­er, may well jus­ti­fy the price dif­fer­ence (Canon’s com­peti­tor is under $4,000).

In the mean­time, the Sony a1 looks like the best all-around full-frame mir­ror­less cam­era on the mar­ket, com­bin­ing high res­o­lu­tion with advanced video capa­bil­i­ties.

*In prepar­ing the arti­cle, mate­ri­als from the resource were used


By Yara