Sony announces the Alpha 1 - 50MP, 30FPS, 8K video
Overnight, Sony has announced its newest flagship mirrorless full-frame camera - the Sony Alpha 1.
From its stills capabilities to video, it's clear that Sony has thrown its most advanced technologies into the Alpha 1.
On paper, the new camera looks to include (and improve on) many of the headline features of the Sony A9 II and Sony A7S III, combining them into one fairly insane-looking powerhouse product. There's a lot to unpack, so let's take a look.
Starting on the inside, there's a new 50.1-megapixel full-frame Exmor RS CMOS image sensor which is paired to two of Sony's latest and greatest BIONZ XR imaging processing chips, the same as what you'll find inside the A7S III.
Sony says the sensor combination has eight times more processing power compared to the previous BIONZ X processor, and it's likely what allows the new camera to shoot at a class-leading 30fps in silence and with no blackout. By comparison, the A9 II and Canon EOS R5 max out at 20fps.
Even putting aside the slower drive speed, the Alpha 1 also beats the buffer of the R5, which maxes out at 350 JPEGs or 180 RAW files. The Alpha 1 can manage a whopping 400 JPEGs or 238 raw files in one sequence.
The high drive speed and electronic shutter combination in the Alpha 1 will also be less affected by rolling shutter, with Sony confirming the new sensor and processer combination improves on rolling shutter by 1.5x compared to the A9. There's also faster flash sync (up to 1/200s with the electronic shutter and 1/400s with mechanical).
Stabilisation is consistent with other Sony cameras and is rated at 5.5EV. This same system powers a 'Pixel Shift Multi Shooting' mode, which can combine up to 16 exposures into a monster 199MP image.
And finally, if you thought the autofocus in the A9 II was impressive, Sony says it has made further improvements in AF performance with the Alpha 1. Coverage has increased to 92% and Sony's Real-time Eye AF will now work with birds, as well as with animals and people. It's not just AF coverage that's seen a jump however, with the number of AF and AE calculations performed per second doubling that of the A9 II to a whopping 120 a second.
The Alpha 1 can shoot 8K at up to 30p (at 10-bit 4:2:0 using the XAVC HS format) using the full horizontal width of the sensor. And, like the A7S III, the Alpha 1 can also shoot 4K at up to 120p in 10-bit 4:2:2. 16-bit Raw video can also be recorded over HDMI.
Sony says the included S-Log 3 curve allows 15 stops of dynamic range in video, but there's also S-Gamut3 and S-Gamut3.Cine modes that match Sony's professional video cameras' output for consistent colour across devices.
Finally, recording limits are comparable with that in the A7S III, with the Alpha 1 adopting similar heat-dissipating technology to the A7S III. In 8K mode, you can expect the recording time to max out at 30 minutes if the temperature warnings are set to their most tolerant setting.
Sony haven't revealed any details of the weight and size of the Alpha 1, but we do know that it features a magnesium chassis which will be dust and moisture resistant. Sony says it will also offer an improved dust removal feature and shutter close function on power-off aimed at protecting the image sensor, which sounds similar to that on the Canon R5.
Two media slots 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.
Battery life comes from the familiar NP-FZ100 battery which powers a number of other Alpha models. Sony says it will offer up to 530 shots/charge with the LCD and 430 with the EVF, and battery life can also be extended using the optional VG-C4EM Vertical Grip, via a built-in HDMI Type-A connector, which has USB PD (Power Delivery) support.
Sony clearly sees the Alpha 1 appealing to photojournalists and sports shooters, with dual-band Wi-Fi that allows FTP transfers at 3.5x the rate offered by the A9 II, and there's also an Ethernet port for wired connections.
Availability and pricing
As we went live with this story we still didn't have any confirmation of local availability or pricing, but overseas the Alpha 1 is expected to be available in March 2021 for approximately $6,500 USD ($8,391 AUD), confirming its credentials as the most expensive Sony Alpha series camera yet. We'll update this story when we have more details.
27/1/21 update - Local Australian pricing has been confirmed, with the Alpha 1 selling for an RRP of $10,499. The camera will be available in Australia in late February.