We all want “The One” camera. The one with excellent AF. The one with 15+ stops of dynamic range. The one camera capable of actually making us, as creatives, better, and is the newly announced Sony Alpha 1 actually “The One” Sony claims in their marketing push? The one camera equally great as both a stills and video camera?
Let’s look at the Sony Alpha 1 highlights:
- 50MP full-frame Exmor RS Stacked BSI CMOS sensor
- 10-bit video at up to 8K 30p and 4K 120p
- Continuous shooting up to 30 fps for 200 consecutive frames
The Sony Alpha 1 delivers on resolution, 8K video, and speed, blazing fast speed for stills photography. All of this on a full-frame imager and in a small mirrorless body.
Sony has many video cameras on the market, from the VENICE, FX9, FX6, and the new A7s III, to name a few. Each of these cameras has strengths; even the Sony A7r IV has more resolution at 61MP over the Alpha 1’s 50.1MP. So what makes the Sony Alpha 1 the one? The combination of all these world-class improvements packed into one mirrorless camera, I guess. As a stills camera, the Sony Alpha 1 is obviously the best and fastest from Sony at the moment and will be in professional’s hands in time for the Tokyo Olympics. Of course, an event like the Olympics drives a lot of camera announcements and releases.
The Olympics, what better place to show off new camera engineering feats than the most prominent event with the fastest athletes on the planet. The new Sony Alpha 1 and its hyper-fast autofocus and shutter speed and antiflicker and vibration-free shutter, and I could go on, but this post is about the video. Make no mistake; Sony built the Alpha 1 to shine at an event like the Tokyo Olympics. Need a camera to freeze the fastest 100-meter athlete? At the moment, the Sony Alpha 1 is the obvious choice to have in hand as you take the shot.
On to video, in the Sony Alpha 1, I see a video camera I feel like I’ve seen before. I’ve seen 8K in a camera. I’ve seen 4K 120fps. We’ve been to this place before with the Canon R5, which is around $3,200 cheaper and can record 8K raw. Will the Sony Alpha 1 and its new and improved heat dissipation help the Alpha 1 from over-heating as it records 8K HEVC? I sure hope the new heat dissipation helps. I really do.
Yet, there seems to be a bit more going on within the Sony Alpha 1 that is more interesting than the 8K video. Sony’s 8K comes from an 8.6K source and thus is oversampled, meaning the Sony Alpha 1’s 8K, once debayered, is closer to true 8K. 8K is excellent, don’t get me wrong. 8K HEVC will need to be transcoded to a better codec for attempting any kind of editing or color grading, which is a pretty standard operating procedure for editors.
The 15+ stops of Dynamic Range is, you know, great. Of course, this claim will need testing. Yet, I have used many Sony cameras in my career, and I tend to see Sony delivering close to 15+ stops. Sony states that the 15+ stops of dynamic range will need to be recorded internally at S-Log3. Does 4.3K raw 16bit output also capable of 15+ stops of dynamic range? Or is the 15+ stops also available in the internal recording only? I tend to think the raw output will have all the dynamic range too. I guess, and I reserve the right to be wrong.
The two new Bionz XR processors mean up to 8x more processing power in the Sony Alpha 1. What does that last sentence mean? It means the A1 has a much faster data processing that can handle the 8K data rate. The two new Bionz XR processors also mean faster autofocus and face/eye detection. The Sony Alpha 1 can record 8K 30p, and 4K 120p with Real-time Eye AF activated. I find it interesting the ability to remotely control touch tracking during AF touch focus with a mobile device. Which mobile device? Likely the new Xperia Pro announced with the Sony Alpha 1. I hope this feature works on an iPhone, too, someday.
I want to love the Sony Alpha 1 as a video camera. In broadcasting, Sony seems to be the preferred manufacturer of choice. If you have a chance to work an event drawing in all the Major News Networks, you will find a ton of Sony gear all over the press area. If the Sony Alpha 1 is more of a lowlight monster than the Sony A7s III, then I might see the pull of the Alpha 1 within the world of broadcasting, but the autofocus would have to be better too.
For the $6498 for the Sony Alpha 1, you can almost buy two Sony A7s III bodies. Maybe I am missing the point; the A7s III is much more of a video-oriented camera, whereas the Sony Alpha 1 is the one camera capable of both stills and video. I guess that is why Sony calls the Alpha 1 “The One.”
Sony Alpha 1 Features:
- 50MP Full-Frame Exmor RS BSI CMOS Sensor
- Up to 30 fps Shooting, ISO 50-102400
- 8K 30p and 4K 120p Video in 10-Bit
- 4.3K 16-Bit Raw Video Output
- 9.44m-Dot EVF with 240 fps Refresh Rate
- 759-Pt. Fast Hybrid AF, Real-time Eye AF
- 5-Axis SteadyShot Image Stabilization
- Dual Drive Mech. Shutter, 1/400 Sec Sync
- 5 GHz MIMO Wi-Fi, 1000BASE-T Ethernet
- Dual CFexpress Type A/SD Card Slots
- 10-bit S-Log 2/3, 10bit HLG, S-Cinetone