Sony Alpha 1 announced – 8K, 50MP (Canon EOS R5 competitor, but $6500)

Sony go 8K finally – with the Alpha 1 (a1) mirrorless camera announced today. It is the most technically advanced camera Sony has ever released, and also the most expensive. It has a 30 minute limit in 8K mode due to heat, but a proper structure inside the camera to dissipate it more quickly. The camera is $2000 more expensive than the Canon EOS R5, but likely more dependable rather than the toy-like will-it-won’t-it get through a shoot reliability we have come to expect from Canon. Technically the Alpha 1 has a number of advantages over the cheaper Canon body. 8.6K oversampling and 4K/120p 10bit 422 ALL-I come from a faster sensor readout due to a stacked DRAM architecture and the world’s first electronic shutter that eliminates banding & flicker. The 30 minute limitation applies to 4K/60p as well but the 4K/24p mode is likely to record for longer. It is not known yet whether the 4K at regular frame rates on this camera comes from a pixel binned output or a full 8K sensor output.

The codec options are similar to the A7S III with 10bit 422 ALL-I at high bit rates, 10bit 4:2:0 XAVC HS in 8K (H.265). S-LOG 3, Creative Looks and S-Cinetone (hopefully the A7S III will also be getting S-Cinetone via firmware update). Real-time eye AF works in 8K and the new stacked Exmor R sensor enables an incredibly fast readout with minimal rolling shutter. We get 5.5 stop 5 axis IBIS and a large 9 million dot EVF.

Here’s the full headline specification for video shooters:

  • New 50.1-megapixel full-frame stacked Exmor RS™ CMOS image sensor in combination with an upgraded BIONZ XR™ imaging processing engine
  • Full frame 8K (up to 30p) 10-bit 4:2:0 XAVC HS video recording with 8.6K oversampling for extraordinary detail and resolution, in addition to 4K 120p and 60p 10-bit 4:2:2 movie shooting capabilities
  • 8K slightly oversampled from 8.6K. In Super 35mm 5.8K oversampling for 4K.
  • S-LOG 3, Hybrid LOG Gamma (HLG), Creative Looks
  • S-Cinetone color matrix as seen in FX9 and FX6 to deliver expressive cinematic look
  • Fast sensor readout enables up to 120 AF/AE calculations per second (double the speed of the Alpha 9 II, even during 30fps black out free continuous shooting)
  • World’s first 240fps 0.64-type 9.44 million-dot (approx.) OLED Quad-XGA electronic viewfinder
  • Silent, vibration-free electronic shutter
  • World’s first anti-flicker shooting with both mechanical and electronic shutter
  • 15+ stops dynamic range for video
  • 5-axis optical in-body image stabilization for a 5.5-stop shutter speed advantage
  • Industry’s fastest built-in Wi-Fi, SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps, 1000BASE-T Ethernet and more
  • A hefty price tag of $6500 (US)

So the Alpha 1 is certainly Sony’s answer to the $6K professional DSLRs of Canon & Nikon. It is designed to go after 1D X Mark III customers, Nikon D6, and at the same time take away from the EOS R5 with its similar combination of high resolution AND high speed.

This is a big move from Sony and makes the A7S III look positively cheap! I do think if you’re not in dire need of your pandemic 8K shots, the A7S III is the better deal. The 4K/120p on that comes from a full pixel readout, whereas it is a pixel binned output on the A1.

The body design is a hybrid of A9 II and AS7 III.

It is very similar to the A7S III with one exception – the screen has a tougher, traditional tilting mechanism, rather than the vlogger friendly flip screen on the A7S III.

More information as it comes…