This is the One.

And we are definitely not kidding about that statement. Sony has a new flagship camera so powerful, that makes us think that, in fact, the α7 (all marks) was never their ultimate flagship camera. The brand new Sony α1 is the ultimate camera built to do EVERYTHING in an unbelievable way. But, don't expect it to be cheap. Listed at $6,498.00 body only, is not an entry level camera at all. This dark unicorn is aimed at the serious visual content creators (yeah, that's a cool way to refer to both photographers and videographers alike) for sure.

Built and designed without anything to compromise, this full-frame mirrorless camera offers deeply high-resolution for photography shooting, out of this world 8K video recording, sensitivity, speed, and connectivity for the most demanding professional workflows. Although it is expected to begin getting shipped on the first week of March 2021, we can tell you some interesting stuff based on the official information released by Sony and other serious camera reviewers out there.

Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless Digital Camera

Right from the promotional video released by Sony, one immediately spots that newly designed 50.1MP full-frame Exmor RS BSI CMOS sensor and the BIONZ XR processing engine. Under the hood (or the lens-cap in this case) the α1 efficiently pairs its stacked sensor design with optimized processing, therefore it is capable of a continuous burst-rate shooting of 30 fps, 8K 30p and 4K 120p 10-bit video recording while still offering a versatile ISO sensitivity of up to ISO 102,400 for low-light shooting.

And at that price, we are certain that at least ISO 51,200 is capable of bringing some truly usable results. And with no recording limit, one can shoot for extended amounts of time, matching with professional cine cameras. Oh, and it comes with S-Cinetone support for smooth skin-tone rendering for well-controlled highlights and soft colors.

The Sony α1 sensor's design comes with a 759-point Fast Hybrid AutoFocus system, perfect for advanced subject tracking and Real-time Eye AF on humans and animals (especially birds as we can see in the Bird Mode) needs. But even when there's a high fuzz around its high resolution sensor, this camera is a serious competitor in the video field. With 8K and 4K recording resolutions along with full pixel readout, internal 4:2:2 10-bit sampling, and 16-bit raw output via the full-size HDMI, it is an interesting opponent for the more serious video-oriented cameras.

It might not be a rival for the serious cinema cameras (Arri's ΛLEXΛ, Phantom High-Speed cameras, Red Digital Cinema cameras, and even Sony's CineAlta), but it is definitely a powerful B camera for those using the big boys, and an A camera for anyone shooting non-Hollywood related video.

Let's Dive into It

Externally, it looks pretty much like other Alpha cameras made by Sony, especially those within the α7 and α9 range. But internally, it brings something quite new and innovative to the full-frame mirrorless camera realm.

In a nutshell, these are some of the most notorious upgrades and specs that grabbed our attention while reviewing all the information we found about this camera:

  • 4.3K 16-Bit Raw Video Output, S-Cinetone, 8K 30p and 4K 120p Video in 10-Bit

  • 5-Axis SteadyShot Image Stabilization

  • 50MP Full Frame Exmor RS BSI CMOS Sensor capable of 30 fps and ISO 50-102,400

  • 759-Pt. Fast Hybrid AF, Real-time Eye AF

  • 9.44m-Dot EVF with 240 fps Refresh Rate

  • Dual CFexpress Type A/SD Card Slots
And though they all sound great, we want to expand a bit more with some of them!

Video Output

Thanks to the powerful sensor, capable of extremely high resolution images at an unbelievable processing speed, UHD 8K 30p XAVC HS 10-bit 4:2:0 video recording is a real thing by using the full width of the sensor, offering 8.6K oversampling for impressive sharpness and realism. You heard it right, 8.6K! Such files require some handling, therefore Sony has smoothened it out with low bit- rate proxy files with HD resolution, which can simultaneously be recorded for faster playbacks. And, the resulting 8K video at 400 Mb/s can be written to a V90-rated UHS-II SD card; or 200 Mb/s to a V60 card. Also 8K can be output over HDMI in 8-bit 4:2:0 format.

And if you are looking to record at UHD 4K, it is also possible at 120 fps, and when recording at 60p, our new beloved imaging crush offers full pixel readout, which is just 10% more than what happens when shooting at 120p. Therefore, with such a huge sensor, using 90% is still a massive coverage area. Oversampled 4K recording is also possible, via a 5.8K capture area, with a Super 35 crop. Also available in all recording modes, internal 10-bit 4:2:2 sampling. And when recording externally via the full-size HDMI A port, 16-bit raw output is also possible from a 4.3K capture for better tonal reproduction and post-production capabilities.

And one of the things that takes this camera to a whole new level when compared to other "similar" ones, is the fact that there is no recording time limit. This camera is capable of unlimited clip lengths, and the same camera's construction is designed for achieving this with no problem thanks to an extremely improved thermal dissipation structure. Possible recording times are now longer than 30 minutes for both 8K 30p and 4K 60p videos. And the S-Cinetone happens to be perfect for rendering precise colors and natural looking skin tones. This color precision matches FX6 and FX9 cameras, so you can have a much clearer idea of what we are talking about. With this, content creators gain access to extensively customizable color and gamma controls which can adjust gamma, black and color levels, and more!

Videogeek note: the same S-Log2 Gamma Curve found on high end Sony Cinema cameras that squeezes up to 1300% dynamic range into the video signal. Hybrid Log-Gamma support is also available in it along with the BT.2020 color space for recording within a wide color gamut. In sum to S-Log2, S-Log3 is also available for producing a ±15 stop dynamic range with increased grading control in the shadow and mid-tone regions of the files.

5-Axis SteadyShot Image Stabilization

5-axis stabilization IBIS is quite a standard, but the built-in 5-axis SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilization system corrects and compensates in a smoother way than other cameras out there, resulting in an enhanced effectiveness of 5.5 stops of image shakiness. So, at a compact size, perfect for hand-held shooting of stills and video, this camera allows its users to safely use any lens with it, even when mounted via special adapters.

Sweet note: For the very long telephoto lenses, the internal system of the α1 corrects both pitch and yaw. And Macro shots benefit from the horizontal and vertical shift compensation. And beyond that, all shooting styles, from studio to street, will benefit out of the roll compensation. All 5 axes function at all times, even when used with third-party lenses and adapters, even lenses with built-in optical stabilization systems!

That Huge Sensor and Powerful Processor

The brand new 50.1MP Exmor RS full frame sensor comes with something quite new to us, a stacked back-illuminated design, the same which integrates memory that retains high image clarity. As said before, the ISO can be cranked up to 102,400, and comes with a 15-stop dynamic range capable of fast-shooting at 30 fps with perfect phase-detection AF and no blackout or whatsoever.

A perfected BIONZ XR engine greatly benefits image processing capabilities throughout the camera system, including up to 8x faster processing, greatly reduced rolling shutter, and a smoother interface and file management handling speeds.

Back to the sensor, it also enables recording lossless compressed raw files for flexible development during post-production while keeping it all at relatively lightweight file sizes. Also, the 50.1MP resolution benefits both stills and video shooters since it also offers full-frame 8.6K oversampling for 8K video recording.

Look Closer!

As we said before, it looks almost identical to previous α7 and α9 cameras, but is a completely different solution. Beyond the aforementioned heat-dissipating structure, this camera has been improved to withstand some mildly serious abuse.

It features a 3.0" 1.44m-dot tilting screen which benefits shooting from high and low angles. And as expected, it is a touchscreen as well, resulting in an intuitive shooting control and menu navigation. Same which is more intuitive and complements having different workflows and settings selections for movie recording and stills shooting.

Built with an internal magnesium alloy chassis, the α1 assures rigidity, durability, and stability while remaining lightweight. The lens mount features some improvements as well, like better support for much heavier lenses; and the grip is both rigid and extremely ergonomic, delivering a very much comfortable handling. Its meticulously extensive weather-sealing includes enhanced protection around the battery cover, terminal cover, and chassis joints; resistant to dust and moisture for reliable operation in tough outdoorsy situations.

The dual memory card slots accept either CFexpress Type A or SD-type memory cards. And by having this particular design, users benefit from flexible file saving capabilities, and can be configured to partition file types; or also can be used for overflow recording. In sum, both of the card slots are rated to support UHS-II memory cards for faster transfer rates.

On the sides, we can find a full-size HDMI A port, and a USB Type C 3.2 Gen 1 port beyond the more traditional micro-USB port. This is great for faster, and more reliable tethering support. Especially if you are planning on using the brand new Sony Xperia PRO 5G Smartphone with it. Jeez, now that's a killer combo under $10K! The USB Type-C port can also be paired with an optional Ethernet wired LAN adapter to provide 1000BASE-T connectivity, wired remote shooting, or FTP file transferring (like mentioned on the video on that sweet smartphone).

The built-in Multi Interface Shoe supports the optional ECM-B1M Shotgun Microphone or XLR- K3M XLR Adapter Kit. Both provide improved clear audio recording sound by sending a digital audio signal to the camera, contrary to what an analog signal does. It also has a PC sync terminal for wired flash sync with strobe packs or wireless radio remotes, and the inner WiFi capabilities allow remote camera control and instant image sharing through mobile devices, same which supports both 2.4 and 5 GHz bands.

And batterywise, the Sony Alpha 1 accepts the high-capacity NP-FZ100 rechargeable lithium-ion battery. This is great because these batteries deliver approximately 430 shots/90 minutes of recording per charge when using the EVF or 530 shots/95 minutes of recording per charge when using just the rear LCD screen. And of course, you can also attach the Sony VG-C4EM vertical grip for 2 batteries.

Wrapping it Up

This insane imaging beast developed by Sony, is like nothing we've seen before! It is hard to compare it with any other mirrorless photographic camera because it is literally swimming alone in this regard. Sony has opened a completely entire new niche that competitors like Canon and Nikon, based on their latest releases, are very far from reaching out.

And last but not least, the cherry-top of the camera, the impressive QXGA OLED Tru-Finder EVF. This micro piece of technological marvel features a 9.44 million dot resolution and 0.9x magnification. It is insane! We are sure that watching through it is a drooling experience with exceptionally bright, clear and detailed results. It has a dedicated 240 fps High Quality setting for smooth motion rendering, and it's physical design has a long 25mm eye point, 41° field of view, and features a fluorine coating on the outermost optical element to make it easier to clean.

We know that this is not a cheap camera, but for professional content creators, something like this at under $7K is a very interesting investment to consider. And we can't wait to finally get our hands around this amazing camera, at least for 1 week rental or so...

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