CameraLabs: Sony a1 Still Photography Review

Camera labs released its review of the Sony a1 and you can read the summary below or watch the lengthy dense review above:

  • This is the most expensive Sony Alpha to date
  • Closest to the a9II in design/layout
  • The dials up top are lockable, but its a bit inconsistent that the compensation dial has a different lock than others
  • Lots of chunky buttons on the back
  • Lots of ports based on the a9 design, but adds full-sized HDMI
  • USB-C 3.2 that supports power delivery or powering the camera
  • PC sync port with faster speeds
  • FTP across wired or wireless lan or USB feathered phones
  • Digital audio interface for Sony hot shoe
  • No hardware GPS sadly
  • Same dual card slots as the a7SIII that support UHS-II and CF Express type A up to 700MB/s
  • CF Express mainly benefits action shooters
  • You can mix formats with CF Express and SD if you want
  • H+ at 20fps writes slowly to SD cards after about 100 frames it takes 47 seconds to clear the buffer, but CF Express empties a similar buffer in about 12 seconds
  • CF Express A is limited to 160GB at this time, but CF Express type B gets you 512GB
  • Rear screen has the usual 3″ rear panel that can angle up and down, which tends to be preferred by stills photographers
  • Should have a side hinge to be called the ultimate camera in Gordon’s opinion
  • Might want to use higher end panels at this price point
  • Comes with Sony’s new menu’s which is much appreciated since it is more intuitive and ads touch
  • New view finder takes a big leap over the a9II and most rivals with 9.44 million dot panel with a 0.9x magnification at up to 240fps
  • Best EVF of them all but not all of the great features can be used together
  • The EVF can exceed 4k for demonstration in the above video so stills show what the view through the VF look like better
  • High quality for the EVF is only available at 60fps and it would be great if you could use it all the time because it does make a difference
  • Standard magnification and quality can run at 120fps, but if you put it on 240fps then the image shrinks in addition to the camera displaying the lower resolution
  • Balancing the EVF is like adjusting settings for modern video games
  • 240fps makes refresh becomes imperceptible and very OVF like
  • When set to high no other EVF matches the A1
  • Z battery is still great at 430 photos, which is a little less than the a7SIII, but if you use the electronic shutter you will get a lot more frames per charge
  • Able to record over a 1hr and 30 min without over heating
  • Best parts of the a9II and a7SIII
  • Sony should have given the camera a unique look with a chunkier body and built in grip, buts called down form DSLR’s like the Olympus OM-D E-M1X
  • Sony kept things small for people that carry around more than one body
  • Nikon Z9 and future pro Canon cameras will have a built in grip that Sony should have beat them too
  • The sensor is a brand new stacked sensor that can shoot 50MP sensors at 30fps that leaves everything else in the dust
  • There are some limitations to this speed, but it is a big upgrade over any other camera that came before it
  • You can grab 30 true frames per second when shooting birds
  • You can choose to keep the shutter closed to protect the sensor when the camera is off or open
  • This camera could last for a long time since you will use electronic shutter for most subjects
  • The 10fps mechanical shutter mode works well
  • There is a sound that you can use when shooting silently to make sure you know the camera is shooting
  • Most practical camera yet for electronic shooting
  • There are plenty of ways to adjust the camera to avoid lighting flicker when shooting with an electronic shutter
  • The camera can shoot sync at 1/200th with electronic shutter of 1/400th of a second with the shutter
  • Strobist should love this camera
  • A1 electronic shutter is an improvement over the a9II and it is way better than the EOS R5
  • IBIS works well for a steady view during composition
  • Gordon could shoot down to 1/15th and still get sharp images and he’s getting about 4 stops of stabilization that isn’t industry leading, but it is useful
  • Now have lossless compressed for 3/4th space saved over uncompressed
  • You are limited to 20fps with uncompressed or lossless
  • 4 levels of compression for JPEG with 3 MP options
  • 10-bit 4:2:2 and 4:2:0 HEIF is available as a format, but it is not widely natively supported
  • HEIF saves space over JPEG at the very least
  • Used the Sigma 40mm f/1.4 Art to compare the A1 to the EOS R5 and the A1 out resolves the charge if you’re too close and it slightly out resolves the EOS R5
  • If resolution is your goal the GFX100S or a7RIV would be better cameras, but they can’t do anything close to 30fps
  • The Sony a1 can deliver more than 50MP of resolution with pixel shift, but it requires an application on your computer
  • The Sony a1 captures the pixel shift faster than other Sony cameras
  • Pixel shift is best for static subjects and can get more color information at 50MP with 4 frame or more pixels at 200MP with 16 frames
  • At 3200 ISO noise starts to get noticeable if all noise reduction is turned off so you might want to keep that in mind
  • Twice as many points measured when doing AF as the Sony a9II
  • Face and eye detection is solid with continuous AF-C but it is best to pick the right subject
  • Bird eye AF is new to the a1
  • Was able to use lenses not rated for 30fps to capture 30fps while tracking
  • Bird eye AF isn’t super fast to grab the eye with the setup he tested
  • Canon R5 bird eye AF has trouble at first, but hangs with the eye and head of birds longer than the Sony
  • Canon only makes you pick animal or human, but Sony has Human, Animal, and Bird
  • Sony does a better job with a busy background and has a better electronic shutter
  • The Canon is limited by the electron shutter and the mechanical shutter really doesn’t compare to the Sony since it can only do 12fps when shooting fast moving birds
  • With the right settings Gordon was able to get 30FPS with every lens he tried in continuous AF-S mode
  • When not using the right settings some lenses dropped to 16fps or lower
  • It was hard to shoot people due to COVID so Gordon wasn’t able to shoot a lot of people to really stress the camera and lenses
  • It’s odd Sony has no recapture mode
  • Odd to have no focus bracketing too
  • Sony a1 is the most powerful camera all around to date so there is no need to choose
  • The Sony a1 outpaces the a9II and has 8k that the a7SIII can’t do
  • Only Sony has made a truly useable electronic shutter
  • There is tons of connectivity and options to tune the camera
  • The quality in 4k and 8k is tremendous without Canon’s overheating issues
  • It’s hard to find the target audience due to the high price and all around high performance
  • The 50MP 30fps is the ultimate camera for sports and wildlife photographers, but the a9 could be fast enough
  • Canon and Nikon flagship bodies have a more durable feel to them than the a1, which could cause photographers to avoid the Sony a1
  • Sony needs to make a more professional feeling a1
  • The a7RIV will out resolved the a1 at half the price and the GFX100S will give you 102MP for about the same price even though the glass is more expensive and there isn’t as much
  • It’s hard to really narrow down the audience and justify the price, but the Sony a1 is a serious competitor

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