Sony’s full-frame mirrorless digital camera lineup contains quite a lot of fashions aimed on the distinctive wants of various customers. The Sony a7R sequence gives the best decision, the Sony a7S sequence has the best sensitivity and pixel-for-pixel 4K video, and the Sony a9 supplied the quickest autofocus and steady frames-per-second capturing when it was launched.

For my work, that meant I sometimes traveled with a7R sequence cameras for portraits and landscapes and an a9 for motion. Switching between them was a reminder of the tradeoff between decision and velocity. Due to this, none of those cameras was a real “flagship” digital camera.


The Alpha 1 is constructed round a brand new 50-megapixel full-frame stacked Exmor RS CMOS picture sensor. Improved sensor readout speeds allow as much as 120 AF/AE calculations per second.


That’s the fantastic thing about Sony Alpha 1. Its 50-megapixel sensor almost matches a7R IV’s 61-megapixel decision whereas on the identical time providing extraordinarily quick steady capturing and, in my estimation, the most effective autofocus on the planet.

Sony Alpha 1: Decision & Pace

With the Alpha 1, Sony shooters now not want to decide on between decision and velocity. The Sony a1 makes use of an all-new 50-megapixel Exmor RS backside-illuminated CMOS sensor able to capturing wonderful element but with twice the readout velocity of the earlier best-in-class a9 II, nearly eliminating rolling shutter, so topics like flapping wings received’t be distorted when utilizing the digital shutter.

The up to date 30 fps digital shutter gives silent, vibration-free efficiency and in addition helps anti-flicker capturing for working beneath fluorescent, LED or different flicker-prone forms of synthetic gentle, even whereas capturing at 30 fps. Alpha 1 additionally gives a newly designed 10 fps mechanical shutter. A big buffer permits recording as much as 155 compressed RAW frames or 165 JPEGs in a single burst at 30 fps.

Processing Energy

Improved processing energy hardly ever grabs the headlines, however the BIONZ XR processors within the Sony a1 are like including superchargers for heaps extra horsepower. With as much as 8x quicker picture processing, this aids in drastically decreased rolling shutter and in enabling quick, steady capturing speeds and AF calculations.

Image of a chimpanzee taken with the Sony Alpha 1.

Chimpanzee on the Los Angeles Zoo, California.
Sony a1, Sony FE 600mm F4 GM OSS G Grasp with Sony FE 1.4x teleconverter at 840mm. Publicity: 1/80 sec., ƒ/5.6, ISO 500.

Autofocus & Monitoring In Sony Alpha 1

Alpha 1 performs as much as 120 autofocus and publicity calculations per second for quicker, extra responsive monitoring and correct outcomes. At its high capturing velocity of 30 fps, the digital camera is definitely recalculating focus and publicity 4 occasions between each single body—and significantly extra at slower capturing speeds.

The Hybrid AF system covers 92 % of the sensor with 759 phase-detection factors together with 425 contrast-detection areas for fast and exact focusing beneath all kinds of lighting circumstances, with sensitivity right down to -Four EV. Part-Detection AF is energetic all the way in which right down to ƒ/22, permitting you to lock onto shifting topics shortly with Actual-time Monitoring, which makes use of AI-based know-how. The digital camera’s touchscreen LCD additionally allows contact monitoring for guide collection of the topic.

You possibly can fine-tune how the focusing system performs. Seven-step AF transition velocity and five-step AF topic shift sensitivity controls allow you to refine how shortly focus shifts from level to level and the way easily focusing shifts happen. This lets you determine whether or not focus stays “sticky” on the topic if one thing passes in entrance of it.

Actual-Time Eye AF For Birds

For a portrait photographer, Actual-time Eye AF has been a game-changer. Earlier cameras supplied Eye AF for each people and animals, however as Sony continues to broaden Eye AF, Alpha 1 provides Actual-time Eye AF for Birds. When Huge focus space is chosen, Chook Eye AF will search the whole body for a chicken’s eye. I typically favor to pick out Spot M, Broaden Spot or Monitoring: Broaden Spot to inform the digital camera the place to go looking. These modes help you choose the chicken to be tracked, and the digital camera will robotically detect the chicken’s eye and monitor it, whether or not the chicken is stationary or in flight. My solely suggestion is to keep away from Spot S—it’s just too small.

Image of a snowy egret at Malibu Lagoon State Park.Image of a snowy egret at Malibu Lagoon State Park.

Snowy egret at Malibu Lagoon State Seashore, California. The a1 introduces Actual-time Eye AF for Birds.
Sony a1, Sony FE 600mm F4 GM OSS G Grasp with Sony FE 2x teleconverter at 1200mm. Publicity: 1/1250 sec., ƒ/8, ISO, ISO 1000.

Since Human, Animal and Chook Eye AF are three separate modes, chances are you’ll need to assign this operate to one of many many Customized Buttons on the digital camera since there’s no AI but that switches between the modes. This isn’t fully a foul factor. If a person, a horse and a chicken stroll right into a bar, this lets you choose the attention to observe.

For this assessment, I needed to check Eye AF on large number of animals and birds, so I visited the Los Angeles Zoo in addition to Malibu Lagoon State Seashore. These places gave me the chance to check out the effectiveness of the system on a variety of animals and birds.

Sony Alpha 1 Characteristic Highlights

In-Physique Picture Stabilization

As with all Sony mirrorless cameras since a7 II, the a1 gives 5.5 stops of 5-axis picture stabilization throughout handheld capturing of stills and video. As a result of the system is constructed into the digital camera, it allows stabilization with any lens—even tailored lenses. Moreover, the 5-axis picture stabilization works together with appropriate native and third-party lenses that embody Optical SteadyShot (OSS) by permitting the lens to regulate two axes whereas the digital camera controls the remaining.

Excessive ISO Capabilities

Noise is within the eye of the beholder, and people of us who began photographing within the movie period keep in mind moderately large grain in something over ISO 400. My best-known sports activities photograph was shot on ASA 1600 coloration unfavorable movie with grain the dimensions of boulders. Sony Alpha 1 really seems to be cleaner at ISO 51,200.

Image of a Speke's gazelle at the Los Angeles Zoo.Image of a Speke's gazelle at the Los Angeles Zoo.

Speke’s gazelle on the Los Angeles Zoo, California.
Sony a1, Sony FE 600mm F4 GM OSS G Grasp with Sony FE 2x teleconverter at 1200mm. Publicity: 1/80 sec., ƒ/8, ISO 500.

Every time potential, I attempt to shoot on the native ISO 100 for lowest noise and widest dynamic vary. It’s vital to know that many latest Sony cameras have a second ISO level the place achieve is added to the sign. In my expertise with the a1, this enhance happens at ISO 500. Whereas this isn’t true “Twin Native ISO” like that present in Sony’s cinema cameras, ISO 500 has barely decrease noise and wider dynamic vary than ISO 250. For that reason, I like to recommend leaping from ISO 200 straight to ISO 500 once you want extra velocity, and I’ve no qualms going as much as 12,800 or increased if wanted. You possibly can clear up noise in submit, however a hopelessly blurred picture ensuing from too sluggish of a shutter velocity will stay so for eternity.

Quick Flash Sync

Alpha 1’s newly designed mechanical shutter is able to flash sync as much as 1/400 sec. in full-frame capturing or 1/500 sec. with an APS-C crop. Because of extraordinarily quick readout speeds, digital shutter flash sync is feasible as much as 1/200 sec. That is extraordinarily welcome information to photographers who shoot outside location portraits with flash since increased flash sync speeds make it simpler to overpower harsh daylight.

Along with permitting quicker flash sync, this new mechanical shutter can be a lot quieter than earlier generations. To my tastes, this strikes the right steadiness. It’s barely audible but simply sufficient to present that delicate suggestions of every publicity. Although wildlife photographers will most likely need to allow silent mode, I positively favor audible suggestions after I shoot. So even when capturing with the digital shutter, I typically disable the silent possibility, in order that I hear a sound with every publicity.

Lossless Compressed RAW

One other person request that Sony engineers addressed is the addition of lossless compressed RAW. With the a1, you may have three RAW choices: Compressed, Lossless Compressed and Uncompressed. I discover that in most situations, there isn’t any seen distinction between the three modes—aside from file measurement. And that’s vital as a result of capturing 50-megapixel photos at 30 fps can shortly translate to huge storage consumption.

The Compressed format will yield a RAW file of roughly 51.2 MB, whereas a Lossless Compressed file will likely be solely barely bigger at roughly 57.6 MB. Examine these to Uncompressed, which is able to produce a RAW file of roughly 98.5 MB. That’s almost double the file measurement of the compressed codecs.

Compressed permits the quickest capturing velocity. Lossless Compressed is an efficient all-around steadiness once you don’t want the utmost 30 fps. (The max velocity drops to 20 fps with Lossless Compressed and Uncompressed.) Should you’re capturing star trails or extraordinarily lengthy exposures with heavy ND filters, chances are you’ll need to select Uncompressed.

Image taken at El Matador State Beach in Malibu, California.Image taken at El Matador State Beach in Malibu, California.

El Matador State Seashore in Malibu, California. The Sony a1 is a superb selection for panorama photographers with its large dynamic vary and 50-megapixel decision.
Sony a1, Sony FE 12–24mm F2.Eight G Grasp at 12mm. Publicity: 0.Eight sec., ƒ/22, ISO 50.

21-Megapixel APS-C Crop Mode

When capturing with APS-C crop, the Sony a1 yields a 21-megapixel picture. That’s one other benefit of the sensor’s native decision—you continue to get a comparatively giant file even when cropped. This may be helpful once you want an additional 1.5x magnification past the attain of the lens you’re utilizing. Should you want to apply this on the fly, assign this mode to one of many customized buttons on the digital camera or the customizable focus maintain button on the lens.

Pixel Shift Mode

Panorama photographers searching for the best decision will need to try Pixel Shift Mode. Working together with the sensor-shift picture stabilization, this mode barely strikes the sensor whereas making 16 consecutive exposures that may be merged collectively utilizing Sony’s Imaging Edge desktop utility right into a file with roughly 199-megapixel decision. It additionally gives larger coloration accuracy and element than potential with a single publicity, for the reason that fractional actions of the sensor enable every pixel to seize pink, inexperienced and blue indicators individually. You’ll get the most effective outcomes when each your digital camera and topic are utterly nonetheless, so use a tripod and perceive that it might not work properly on a windy day or with shifting topics.

Video

The Sony a1 gives 8K 30p and 4K 120p video in 10-bit coloration. S-Cinetone can be utilized to ship distinct colours and healthy-looking pores and skin tone rendering that matches the Sony FX9 and FX6 cameras and is predicated on know-how from the skilled Sony Cinema Line cameras, such because the VENICE. This coloration profile gives pure mid-tones, mushy colours and well-controlled highlights. The digital camera contains a passive cooling warmth sink to assist forestall overheating when capturing prolonged clips.

Groundbreaking Digital Viewfinder

Alpha 1 contains a 9.44 million-dot QXGA OLED EVF with 0.9x magnification for exceptionally vivid, clear and detailed eye-level viewing. It has an extremely quick 240 fps refresh charge for clean movement rendering and blackout-free viewing, producing a viewing expertise that’s as near a real optical viewfinder but in an EVF.

Image of a gorilla at the Los Angeles Zoo taken with the Sony Alpha 1.Image of a gorilla at the Los Angeles Zoo taken with the Sony Alpha 1.

Gorilla on the Los Angeles Zoo, California.
Sony a1, Sony FE 600mm F4 GM OSS G Grasp with Sony FE 1.4x teleconverter at 840mm. Publicity: 1/400 sec., ƒ/5.6, ISO 500.

New Menu Interface

With the a7S III, Sony launched an replace to their person interface with a extra intuitive color-coded menu system, which is used within the a1 as properly. Should you’ve felt misplaced in Sony menus previously, it will come as very welcome information. For longtime Sony shooters, it might take some time to seek out the place Sony has moved a few of the settings, however the adjustments shortly make sense. The menu system additionally works together with the touchscreen LCD.

Anti-Mud Shutter Shut

Sony stories that many photographers have requested the choice to shut the shutter to cowl the sensor when altering lenses in dusty circumstances. Sony has resisted this previously as a result of shutters are very delicate and costly to restore, whereas sensors are straightforward to scrub, however with that warning, Sony has added an Anti-dust Perform menu setting that closes the shutter when the digital camera is powered down. With shutter shut enabled, the digital camera goes right into a shutdown mode once you flip it off, and the shutter will shut three seconds after it’s powered down.

Twin Reminiscence Card Slots

The a1 can settle for both CFexpress Sort A or SD-type reminiscence playing cards, and each of the cardboard slots are rated to help UHS-II reminiscence playing cards for optimum switch speeds. CFexpress Sort A playing cards supply the quickest switch speeds, permitting the buffer to clear extra shortly, and are required to get the digital camera’s most steady capturing charges. You possibly can select simultaneous redundant recording to each card slots, set recording to roll over from Slot 1 to Slot 2 or cut up recordsdata between the 2 slots for choices like recording RAW to at least one slot and JPEG to the opposite.

Image of a giraffe taken with the Sony Alpha 1.Image of a giraffe taken with the Sony Alpha 1.

Giraffe on the Los Angeles Zoo, California.
Sony a1, Sony FE 600mm F4 GM OSS G Grasp at 600mm. Publicity: 1/1250 sec., ƒ/4, ISO 500.

Sturdiness & Climate Sealing

As you’d anticipate from a $6,500 flagship professional digital camera, Alpha 1 has wonderful construct high quality, with a magnesium alloy chassis for rigidity, sturdiness and stability whereas remaining light-weight. The lens mount has been improved to raised help heavy lenses, and the grip has additionally been improved.

The digital camera contains intensive climate safety, together with enhanced sealing across the battery cowl, terminal cowl and chassis joints to withstand mud and moisture for dependable operation in harsh climate circumstances. 

Test the present value of the Sony Alpha 1 at B&H.


See extra of Brian Smith’s work at briansmith.com.

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