Cameras

Sony a1 Review

The Sony A1 might be seen as the ‘flex’ of cameras in terms of the language used in social media. It aims to be the most excellent mirrorless camera and Sony’s indisputable flagship by offering a unique combination of speed, high-resolution stills, and 8K video; even if it results in a price tag the size of a vehicle, it is still Sony’s flagship product.

If you’re in a position to make a purchase, the fact that it’s possibly the most versatile professional camera ever created should be your primary selling point. The A1 (or Alpha 1, as it is also known) is not content to specialize in just one area of photography; instead, it is equally capable in the studio, on the touchline at a professional sporting event, papping celebrities, in the jungle shooting wildlife, and even on the set of a Hollywood film shooting video. This is because the A1 was designed to be versatile.

The Canon EOS R5 is the camera that most closely competes with the Sony A1 and is capable of shooting 8K video (for more on that, read our in-depth Canon EOS R5 review). However, it is reasonable to state that the Alpha 1 is superior to the R5 in numerous areas when taking still photographs.

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This includes the continuous frame rate, where the A1 boasts 30fps while the R5 only achieves 20fps, and resolution, where the A1 achieves 50.1MP while the R5 only achieves 45MP. Despite this, it is doubtful that either camera will persuade photographers and videographers who have already invested in one system to switch.

Sony a1 Features

The sensor and processor are the central components of any camera, around which all of the other features and functions revolve. The Sony A1 may be thought of as a hybrid device that combines the capabilities of the Sony A9 II and the Sony A7R IV but with increased power. Incredible image quality and processing speed are provided by the device’s full-frame 50.1-megapixel Exmor R BSI CMOS sensor, which twin Bionz XR image processors power.

This combination not only produces photographs rich in detail but also makes it possible for the A1 to take pictures at a rate of up to 30 frames per second with a buffer that can store up to 155 raw files in compressed form or 165 JPEGs when using the electronic shutter. During our tests, we took about 67 shots in each burst while shooting uncompressed raw files with the mechanical shutter.

Another feature that can be accommodated with the assistance of this combination is the capability to shoot video at resolutions of up to 8K at 30 frames per second in 10-bit 4:2:0 and 4K at 120/60 frames per second in 10-bit 4:2:2, recording in a variety of raw formats such as S-Cinetone and S-Log3. It is stated that the latter has a dynamic range that is greater than 15 stops.

Sony a1 Build Quality

If you remove the Alpha 1 badge from the A1, the camera will appear quite similar to the Sony A9 II. This is excellent news, as Sony’s previous camera represented a successful middle ground between the company’s A7 and A9-series models.

Autofocus and driving mode controls are located on the left side of the top plate of the A1, much like they are on the A9 II. On A7 versions, these options are hidden away in menus; however, the direct access dials on the A1 are designed to make it possible to modify these settings promptly and uncomplicatedly.

The camera has a grip that is very similar to that of other full-frame Sony mirrorless bodies, and it uses the same NP-FZ100 battery found in more recent Sony Alpha models that have been released in the last couple of years. This means the camera will fit in very well with existing Sony kits because it has the same battery.

When using bigger telephoto lenses, a battery grip provides a superior balance between the camera and lens, eventually resulting in increased comfort when holding the camera. The A1 weighs 737 grams with the memory card and battery installed, so it is pleasant to carry with standard lenses.

The configuration of the camera’s buttons and dials is standard for A-series cameras. Thus this aspect does not bring anything novel to the table. It is virtually indistinguishable from the A9 II.

The memory card door is located on the back of the grip on the right side. It has a lock, and when opened, it reveals two slots compatible with both SD and CFexpress Type A memory cards. This is an excellent feature because it prevents you from purchasing new memory cards immediately after buying the camera.

Moving to the left are connectors for a microphone, headphones, PC sync for flash, HDMI, USB-C, a multi-USB terminal, and the 1000BASE-T Ethernet, giving lightning-fast networking. These connections are hidden behind four tabs.

This, in addition to the camera’s connection through Bluetooth 5.0 and dual-band WiFi, demonstrates that the camera was created to share photographs fast and simply within the context of a high-speed professional workflow.

Both in terms of performance and concentration

The A1 is not a slouch and can hold its own in any of these shooting conditions, whether you are photographing animals, sports, portraits, landscapes, or anything else. The camera is quick and effective in several areas, but the focusing technology is really potent and impressive.

Sony a1 Image Quality

When it comes to visual quality, the A1 does not in any way fall short of expectations. The stacked 50.1-megapixel CMOS sensor can capture an extraordinary level of information, enough so that even professional studio photographers would be pleased with the results.

The 15 stops of dynamic range and exceptional high ISO noise sensitivity add, respectively, to the good image quality. Both of these factors are responsible for the excellent image quality.

To evaluate the dynamic range, we took pictures with the camera set to the metered exposure and images that were three stops under and over-exposed. The photographs under and over-exposed were subsequently adjusted in Adobe Camera Raw using three stops of Exposure. The results were as predicted, despite the astounding 15-stop dynamic range.

When the overexposed image was corrected, the highlight detail in the sky was lost, but it was preserved in the underexposed and camera-metered exposures. However, the overexposed image resulted in the sky being a dark grey with no detail.

This is to be expected because when highlights are overexposed, there is no picture data in those places. On the other hand, highlight data in the metered exposure and underexposed photo stays intact. Therefore, detail is still accessible.

Sony a1 Specs

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 typeStacked CMOS
ProcessorDual Bionz XR
Color spacesRGB, Adobe RGB, Rec. 2020
Color filter arrayPrimary color 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 (Standard)
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 a1 Verdict

Because of its high-resolution sensor, lightning-fast autofocus, super-fast burst shooting, professional connection, and 8K raw video recording, the Sony A1 is an extraordinary camera that fills practically every conceivable need in the realm of photography. The price tag puts it out of reach for most photographers, even though it is an incredible camera to operate and that the image quality is unparalleled.

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