Sony is first. For those of us who grew up in the film era, it was Nikon who came first with the F SLR. Then Canon came out with the F1 SLR. Nikon followed with the F2. Since then, the two colossus in camera design have been leap-frogging each other ever since until… Until an electronics company called Sony bought the imaging division of Minolta, and decided to design and sell cameras — probably so as to be able to sell more of the image sensors it had started to manufacture. Sony’s announcement today of the most powerful full-frame mirrorless camera (better still, the most powerful interchangeable lens camera) ever is therefore a historic moment. For the first time, the first flagship full-frame (mirrorless) camera for professional photographers does not bear the Canon or Nikon brand (as we could have reasonably expected years ago), but is the impressive (“groundbreaking“) Sony Alpha 1.
Somehow no one is surprised. Both Canon and Nikon have been lately furiously playing catch-up in the full-frame mirrorless segment, and may still have some ways to go before they can deliver their respective flagship full-frame mirrorless camera. Nikon’s Z6 II and Z7 II are also not 100% professional caibre. And as impressive as the Canon EOS R5 is, it’s still just competing with the Sony A7 and A9 series. Would those who ordered the Canon R5 be regretting their decision now? Not quite, because pros invest in a system and if they already have lots of Canon/Nikon lenses, they will probably wait for the Canon/Nikon flagship camera.
So, I was wrong when I predicted at the beginning of the year that no flagship cameras would be introduced this year due to the production challenges imposed by the coronavirus pandemic. The Canon R5 may have poked Sony into releasing the Alpha A1 ahead of time. Since there is no Olympics or major international events this year that would prompt camera companies to put their flagship models into the hands of pros, the introduction of the A1 may well give Canon and Nikon time to learn, adjust and work on their own respective flagship camera before professional photographres have to decide which system to eventually settle on.
Heare are the major features:
- The A1 can shoot 50MP images at 30 fps with no screen black-out. (That’s an impressive technical feat.)
- It shoots 8K/30P 10-bit 4:2:0 XAVC HS video with no overheating issue for up to 30 minutes. (The A1 does not include an internal fan but uses a heat dissipating structure similarly to the one first seen in the A7S III.)
- There has been no attempt to deliver the best image stabilization; instead, in-body image stabilization remains at a respectable 5.5 stops.
- How much more can you improve an already industry-leading no-worry always spot-on Eye AF? In the A1, Sony claims to have further improved Real-time Eye AF for humans and animals, introduced a new Real-time Eye AF for birds (still images only), as well as improved Real-time Tracking.
- The optical viewfinder (OVF) has now been completey made redundant with the A1’s 9.44 million dot OLED Quad-XGA electronic viewfinder with an incredibly large 0.9x magnification, and the availability of a refresh rate of up to 240 fps (field of view fixed at 33° and UXGA resolution) that ensures no screen black out.
- The A1 promises 15+ stops of dynamic range for video and 15 stops for stills.
- It features the S-Cinetone colour matrix used in the FX9 and FX6 cine cameras that produces highly-regarded skin tones (which is great news for professional wedding photographers).
- The A1 boasts the industry’s fastest built-in wireless LAN with dual antennas to ensure reliable communications and 3.5 times faster wireless FTP transfer speed than the Alpha 9 II.
- There are two media slots that both support UHS-I and UHS-II SDXC/SDHC cards, as well as new CFexpress Type A cards.
- Though it has not improved on the LCD (still 3.0-inch, 1.44M-dot resolution), it delivers a revised menu structure with Touch Focus and Touch Tracking for easier navigation and more intuitive control.
Groundbreaking Alpha 1 Camera Marks a New Era in Professional Imaging
- New 50.1-megapixel (approx., effective) full-frame stacked Exmor RS™ CMOS image sensor in combination with an upgraded BIONZ XR™ imaging processing (1) engine with eight times more processing power
- Blackout- free continuous shooting at up to 30 frames per second(2)
- Fast sensor readout enables up to 120 AF/AE calculations per second(3), double the speed of the Alpha 9 II, even during 30fps continuous shooting
- Bright and large 0.64-type 9.44 million-dot (approx.) OLED Quad-XGA electronic viewfinder with the world’s first(4) refresh rate of 240 fps
- Silent, vibration-free electronic shutter
- World’s first anti-flicker(5) shooting with both mechanical and electronic shutter
- Electronic shutter flash sync(6) up to 1/200 sec. for the first time in the Alpha™ series
- World’s fastestv mechanical shutter flash sync up to 1/400 sec.
- 8K 30p 10-bit 4:2:0 XAVC HS video recording with 8.6K oversampling for extraordinary detail and resolution, in addition to 4K 120p(8) 10-bit 4:2:2 movie shooting capabilities
- Wide dynamic range of 15 stops for stills(9) and 15+ stops for video(10)
- Improved Real-time Eye AF (autofocus) for humans and animals, and new Real-time Eye AF for birds(11), as well as Real-time Tracking that automatically maintains accurate focus
- 5-axis optical in-body image stabilization for a 5.5-step(12) shutter speed advantage
- S-Cinetone color matrix as seen in FX9 and FX6 to deliver expressive cinematic look
- Professional workflow support with the industry’s fastest(13) built-in Wi-Fi, SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps, 1000BASE-T Ethernet and more
SAN DIEGO, CA – January 26, 2021 – Sony Electronics, a global leader in imaging sensor technology and digital imaging, has announced the arrival of the groundbreaking new full-frame mirrorless Alpha 1 camera – asserting their commitment to leading the industry with a stunning combination of innovative new features.
The most technologically advanced, innovative camera that Sony has ever released, the Alpha 1 combines high-resolution and high-speed performance at a level that has never been accomplished in the world of digital cameras. With a brand new 50.1-megapixel full-frame stacked Exmor RS™ image sensor, up to 120 AF/AE calculations per second, 8K 30p 10-bit 4:2:0 video and much more, the Alpha 1 will allow creators to capture what they’ve never been able to before.
“We are always listening to our customers, challenging the industry to bring new innovation to the market that goes far beyond their expectations.” said Neal Manowitz, deputy president for Imaging Products and Solutions Americas at Sony Electronics. “Alpha 1 breaks through all existing boundaries, setting a new bar for what creators can accomplish with a single camera. What excites us the most – more than the extensive product feature – is Alpha 1’s ability to capture that which has never been captured before. This camera unlocks a new world of creative possibilities, making the previously impossible now possible.”
The newly developed image sensor is built with integral memory and paired with an upgraded BIONZ XR imaging processing engine, making it capable of shooting 50.1-megapixel images continuously at an astounding 30fps with up to 120 AF/AE calculations per second. The Alpha 1’s shooting capabilities are further enhanced by a 9.44 million dot OLED Quad-XGA electronic viewfinder, with a refresh rate of up to 240 fps(14), ensuring no black out. Additionally, for the first time in an Alpha series camera, 8K 30p 10-bit 4:2:0 video is available. The Alpha 1 is also capable of 4K 120p / 60p 10-bit 4:2:2 recording and includes S-Cinetone color. The Alpha 1 is also packed with features that support field professionals with faster workflow, including 3.5 times faster wireless FTP transfer speed(15) and more.
Unprecedented Resolution and Speed
Continuous Shooting at Up to 30 Frames Per Second
The Alpha 1 captures moments that would otherwise be lost thanks to its high-speed performance, providing any photographer the speed they require to capture fast-moving objects. High speed readout from the 50.1-megapixel image sensor and a large buffer memory make it possible to shoot up to 155 full-frame compressed RAW images or 165 full-frame JPEG images at up to 30 frames per second with the electronic shutter while maintaining full AF and AE tracking performance.
At an astonishing calculation speed of up to 120 AF/AE per second, the Alpha 1 can maintain focus with high accuracy even for fast moving subjects. It can automatically adjust exposure, even with sudden changes in brightness, with an AE response latency as low as 0.033 seconds(2).
Advanced Electronic Viewfinder with the World’s First Refresh Rate of 240 fps
Complimenting the camera’s ability to capture images at an unprecedented speed, the Alpha 1 viewfinder features the world’s firstiv 240 fps refresh ratexiv, for a super-smooth display. The viewfinder does not black out when an exposure is made to offer an uninterrupted view and allow for seamless framing and tracking, even during continuous shooting. The 9.44 million-dot (approx.), 0.64 type Quad-XGA high-definition OLED display and refined optics deliver the highest resolution in its classiv. It also offers 0.90x(19) viewfinder magnification, a 41° diagonal FOV, and a 25mm-high eyepoint for clear, low distortion viewing from corner to corner.
Sony continues to push the boundaries of autofocus technology with the introduction of the Alpha 1, which can easily track complex, fast-moving subjects with high precision. The camera features 759 phase detection points in a high-density focal plane phase-detection AF system cover approximately 92% of the image area – ensuring accuracy and unfailing focus in environments where focusing might otherwise be difficult.
Sony’s advanced Real-time Eye AF improves detection performance by 30% over the previous systemi, thanks to the powerful image processing engine, BIONZ XR. It ensures accurate, reliable detection, even when the subject’s face looks away. In addition to improved Real-time Eye AF for humans and animals, the Alpha 1 employs high-level subject recognition technology to provide Real-time Eye AF for birds(11), a first in an Alpha series camera. Optimized algorithms ensure that tracking is maintained even if a sitting bird suddenly takes flight, or the framing suddenly changes(20).
The Alpha 1 also features AI-based Real-time Tracking that automatically maintains accurate focus. A subject recognition algorithm uses color, pattern (brightness), and subject distance (depth) data to process spatial information in real time at high speed.
Silent, Vibration-free Electronic Shutter
High-speed readout from the new image sensor has made it possible to reduce rolling shutter by up to 1.5 times when shooting stills, compared to the Alpha 9 II. It also offers silent anti-flicker continuous shooting with an electronic shutter for the first time(5) in the world. The electronic shutter operates silently, without mechanical noise, and is vibration-free. Stress-free continuous shooting is now possible even when shooting in challenging lighting situations with florescent or other flicker-prone types of artificial lighting. And for the first time in an Alpha camera, electronic shutter flash sync up to 1/200(22) sec is possible. The advantages of the electronic shutter advantages can now come to life even when using flash for broadly expanded shooting versatility.
Dual Driven Shutter System for 1/400 Flash Sync
The Alpha 1 boasts the world’s fastest flash sync speed(5) of 1/400 sec. with mechanical shutter, making it even easier to capture dynamic action. In addition to a carbon fiber shutter curtain, the Alpha 1 features the newly developed dual driven shutter system utilizing spring and electromagnetic drive actuator, offering high durability and lightness at the same time.
High Resolution Shooting Enhancements
Even with this sensor’s high pixel count, the Alpha 1 offers high sensitivity with low noise, plus 15+ stops of dynamic range for video and 15 stops for stills, for smooth, natural gradations from shadows to highlights thanks to its cutting-edge processing system, throughout a wide ISO sensitivity range of 100-32,000 (expandable to 50-102,400, when shooting stills).
Additionally, the new camera features an evolved Pixel Shift Multi Shooting mode that composites up to 16 full-resolution images. In this mode, the camera precisely shifts the sensor in one pixel or half-pixel increments to capture 16 separate pixel-shifted images containing a total of 796.2 million pixels of data, which are then composited into a 199 million pixel (17,280 x 11,520 pixels) image using Sony’s Imaging Edge™ desktop application. With a flash sync of up to 1/200 sec. in this mode, it is ideal for photographing architecture, art or any other still life subject with a level of detail and color accuracy that is simply stunning.
Professional Video Quality
8K High-Resolution Movie Shooting
For the first time in an Alpha camera, the Alpha 1 offers 8K 30p 10-bit 4:2:0 XAVC HS recording with 8.6K oversampling for extraordinary resolution. Combined with Sony’s acclaimed autofocus technology, gradation and color reproduction performance, the Alpha 1 will help the user realize their creative vision with the finest detail. It’s 8K footage can also be used for flexible 4K editing during post-production.
Supporting Various Video Formats for Professionals
The Alpha 1 offers in-camera 4K recording at up to 120 frames per second(8) which allows the user to shoot up to 5X slow-motion video(23). In addition to supporting 10-bit 4:2:2 recording, this feature can be used with efficient Long GOP inter-frame compression or high-quality Intra (All-I) intra-frame compression.
The Alpha 1 features S-Cinetone, the same color matrix that produces the highly regarded FX9 and FX6 color and skin tones. It delivers natural mid-tones, plus soft colors and gorgeous highlights to meet a growing need for more expressive depth. The S-Log3 gamma curve makes it possible to achieve 15+ stops of dynamic range, while the S-Gamut3 and S-Gamut3.Cine color gamut settings make it easy to match Alpha 1 footage with video shot on VENICE cinema camera, FX9 and other professional cinema cameras.
A unique heat dissipating structure keeps image sensor and image processing engine temperatures within their normal operating range, preventing overheating while maintaining compact body dimensions. This makes it possible to record 8K/30p video continuously for approximately 30 minutes(24).
Supporting Hand-held Shooting
A high-precision stabilization unit and gyro sensors, plus optimized image stabilization algorithms, achieve up to a 5.5-step shutter speed advantage, maximizing the quality of the high-resolution images derived from the camera’s 50.1-megapixel sensor. The Alpha 1 also features an Active Mode(25) that offers outstanding stabilization for handheld movie shooting. When using Sony’s desktop applications Catalyst Browse or Catalyst Prepare(26) for post-production, an accurate image stabilization function is available which utilizes metadata generated by camera’s built-in gyro.
Other features that the Alpha 1 offers include; 16-bit RAW output(27) to an external recorder(28) via HDMI for maximum post-production flexibility, a digital audio interface has been added to the camera’s Multi Interface (MI) Shoe for clearer audio recordings from a compatible Sony external microphone, 5.8K oversampled full pixel readout without pixel binning for high-resolution 4K movies in Super 35mm mode and more.
Enhanced Workflow with Network Technologies including Connectivity to 5G Compatible Devices
The Alpha 1 has been designed and configured to support photo and video journalists and sports shooters who need to deliver stills or movies as quickly as possible with advanced connectivity options. It offers several features for fast, reliable file transfers. Industry’s fastest(8) built-in wireless LAN allows communication on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz(29) bands with dual antennas to ensure reliable communications. 5 GHz includes 2×2 MIMO support (IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac) offering 3.5 times faster wireless FTP transfer speed than the Alpha 9 II – a notable advantage for news and sports shooters who need to deliver with reliable speed. There is also a provided USB Type-C® connector to support fast data transfer when connected to a 5G mmWave compatible device such as Sony’s Xperia PRO and makes high-speed PC Remote (tethered) data transfer available for smooth handling of large image files. The Alpha 1 also has a built-in 1000BASE-T LAN connector for high-speed, stable data transfers, including remote shooting. FTPS (File Transfer over SSL/TLS) is supported, allowing SSL or TLS encryption for increased data security.
In addition to compressed and uncompressed RAW, the Alpha 1 includes efficient lossless compression with no quality degradation, Lossless Compressed RAW. There is also a new “Light” JPEG/HEIF image quality setting that results in smaller files than the “Standard” setting, allowing faster deliver for news and sports photographers who depend on speed. Along with a versatile range of RAW and JPEG formats, the Alpha 1 includes the HEIF (High Efficiency Image File) format for smooth 10-bit gradations that provide more realistic reproduction of skies and portrait subjects where subtle, natural gradation is essential. Images shot on the Alpha 1 can be trimmed in-camera to a desired aspect ratio, size, or position for versatile usage.
The Alpha 1 is also compatible with a variety of apps, add-ons and tools. With Imaging Edge Mobile and Imaging Edge Desktop(30), professionals can easily transfer RAW files and files that use lossless compression and remotely control Touch Tracking and Touch Focus for convenient AF operation. The Transfer & Tagging add-on (Ver. 1.3 or later) can automatically covert voice memos attached to image files to text captions or transfer the files to an FTP server from a mobile device. Desktop applications Catalyst Browse/Catalyst Prepare(26) allow professionals to browse and manage video clips shot by Sony’s camera. In addition, the Remote Camera Tool(31) can remotely change camera settings and shoot from a computer connected via LAN cable and feature a number of refinements for the Alpha 1: faster transfer, touch response, dual slot and HEIF support, and more.
Reliable and Easy Operability
Professional users need more than just refined features and performance. They also need the reliability and durability demanded of any professional tool. The Alpha 1 has two media slots that both support UHS-I and UHS-II SDXC/SDHC cards, as well as new CFexpress Type A cards for higher overall capacity and faster read/write speeds. It also features a durable magnesium alloy chassis, long battery life with the Z-battery which can be extended using the optional VG-C4EM Vertical Grip (sold separately), an improved dust removal feature, shutter close function on power-off to protect image sensor, plus dust and moisture resistance(32) that maximizes reliability in challenging environments. It includes a durable, reliable HDMI Type-A connector, and USB PD (Power Delivery) support, allowing higher power to be supplied from an external source so that users can record for extended periods with minimal internal battery usage.
A revised menu structure provides easier navigation, and touch-responsive menu operation offers fast, more intuitive control with Touch Focus and Touch Tracking on its 3.0 type 1.44 million-dot (approx.) LCD monitor. For easy customization, a subset of the camera’s shooting settings now changes according to the selected shooting mode, making it easier than ever to use different aperture, shutter speed and other settings for shooting stills and movies.
Pricing and Availability
The Alpha 1 Full-frame Interchangeable-Lens Camera will be available in March 2021 for approximately $6,500 USD and $8,500 CAD. It will be sold at a variety of Sony’s authorized dealers throughout North America.
Exclusive stories and exciting new content shot with the new camera and Sony’s other imaging products can be found at www.alphauniverse.com, a site created to educate and inspire all fans and customers of Sony α – Alpha brand cameras.
For detailed coverage on the new product on Alpha Universe, click HERE.
Additionally, a product launch video focused on the Alpha 1 can be found at this LINK.
1) Compared to the BIONZ X imaging processing engine.
2) “Hi+” continuous shooting mode. In focus modes other than AF-C, effective at 1/125 sec. or higher shutter speed. In AF-C mode, effective at 1/250 sec. or higher shutter speed, and the maximum continuous frame rate will depend on the shooting mode and lens used. 20 fps max. when shooting Uncompressed or Lossless compressed RAW.
3) At shutter speeds of 1/125 sec. or higher. The number of AF calculations will depend on the lens used.
4) As of January 2021, Sony survey. Among full-frame mirrorless cameras.
5) As of January 2021, Sony survey. Among full-frame interchangeable-lens digital still cameras.
6) Up to 1/200 sec. Synchronization via the sync terminal is not available for electronic shutter.
7) [APS-C S35 Shooting] is fixed [Off] when shooting 4K 120p and 8K movies.
8) 10% image crop.
9) Sony internal tests.
10) when recording with S-Log3. Sony internal tests.
11) Still images only.
12) CIPA standards. Pitch/yaw shake only. Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA lens. Long exposure NR off.
13)As of January 2021, Sony survey. Among interchangeable-lens digital still cameras.
14) Field of view is fixed at 33° and resolution is UXGA when selecting frame rate at 240 fps.
15) 3.5 times faster when compared against the Alpha 9 II.
16) “Hi+” continuous shooting mode, compressed RAW, CFexpress Type A memory card. Sony tests.
17) “Hi+” continuous shooting mode, CFexpress Type A memory card. Sony tests.
18) At 20 frames per second, users can shoot up to 238 full-frame compressed RAW images or 400 full-frame JPEG images.
19) 50mm lens, infinity, -1m-1 diopter.
20) Accurate focus may not be achieved with certain subjects in certain situations.
21) Shutter speed slower than 0.5 sec. cannot be set while continuous shooting. Tracking performance and max. aperture differs by settings and lenses.
22) Up to 1/200 sec. Synchronization via the sync terminal is not available for electronic shutter.
23) Post-production editing and S&Q mode recording required. Data must be recorded to a CFexpress Type A memory card when the frame rate is 120 (100) fps or higher.
24) Sony internal tests with [Auto Power OFF Temp.] set to [High].
25) Active Mode is not available for 8K recording.
26) Catalyst Browse™ version 2020.1 or later, Catalyst Prepare version 2020.1 or later are required.
27) 8K is not applicable.
28) Compatible recorders to be announced.
29) 5 GHz communication may be restricted in some countries and regions.
30) The Imaging Edge (Remote/Viewer/Edit) desktop application Ver. 3.1 or later is required for compositing.
31) Remote Camera Tool version 2.3 or later is required.
32) Not guaranteed to be 100% dust and water resistant.
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