Sony Announces the Alpha 1 With 8K Video
Ironically, this very morning, I finished recording a video where I state that I can’t keep up with the influx of new cameras. And yet, here we are again. Today Sony announced the Alpha 1, a 50mp full-frame mirrorless camera capable of shooting 8K video.
By all accounts, this camera is an amalgamation of the A7RIV and the A7SIII, which makes it the most technologically innovative camera that Sony has ever released.
We are always listening to our customers, challenging the industry to bring 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.
Let’s look at a few key features that caught my attention regarding the new sensor and video. If you’d like to check out a list of the specs, they are listed at the bottom of the article. You can also read the full Sony press release.
New Sensor, Better Performance
This is a brand-new sensor from Sony. It’s built with integral memory and paired with an upgraded BIONZ XR imaging processing engine. This allows Alpha 1 to continuously shoot 50.1-megapixel images at 30fps with up to 120 AF/AE calculations per second. This, by the way, is blackout-free. At this speed, that’s a first.
I owned the A7RIV, a 60.2 mp camera, for the better part of the year. With so many megapixels on a full-frame sensor (opposed to a medium format sensor), there’s less breathing room for the photosites. This drastically increases noise, even at lower ISOs. The Alpha 1 has a new Exmor RS CMOS image sensor which is combined with an upgraded BIONZ XR imaging processing engine. This setup should assist in capturing large images without sacrificing ISO performance, unlike the A7RIV.
Additionally, and like the A7RIV, the Alpha 1 has Pixel Shift Multi Shooting. But, it appears to be an evolved function format. This mode composites up to sixteen full-resolution images by precisely shifting (hence the name) the sensor in one pixel or half-pixel increments to capture sixteen separate pixel-shifted images. These images are incredibly large, both in storage space and resolution. The end photo is composited into a 199 million pixel image.
Alpha 1 Video Features
As noted in our writeup on the Blackmagic Design Ursa 12k, the idea behind shooting in 12k is to deliver an oversampled 4k or 8K image. Well, the Alpha 1’s 8K video is captured at 8.6k then oversampled to 8K. This always results in a video with better clarity and color than a video shot at the native resolution.
Outside of the 8K, the Alpha 1 is also capable of 4K 120p / 60p 10-bit 4:2:2 recording and includes S-Cinetone color. However, the 120fps does result in a 10% crop of the image.
Like the FX6 and FX9, the Alpha 1 features S-Cinetone, which is the same color matrix that produces favorable color and skin tones found in those cameras. The included S-Log3 gamma curve makes it possible to achieve 15+ stops of dynamic range.
One of the biggest controversies to continually hit the camera news cycle last year was the Canon R5 overheating when shooting at 8K. It’s probably of no coincidence that Sony has specifically highlighted their heat-dissipating structure in the press release. It says:
A unique heat-dissipating structure keeps the 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.
Given that this camera is priced at $2,600 more than the R5, it will be interesting to see where the R5 lands with filmmakers. I’ve previously noted that the Alpha line, specifically the 7 series, has been split into three distinct variations; the photo-centric, the video-centric, and the hybrid. While the hybrid, the A7III, is a great camera, it never has better video than the A7S or better photo functionality than the a7R. However, the Alpha 1 looks to be the hybrid to tower over all others with both impressive photo and video capabilities.
The Alpha 1 Full-frame Interchangeable-Lens Camera will be available in March 2021 for approximately $6,500 USD and $8,500 CAD.
Key Specs at a Glance
- New 50.1-megapixel (approx., effective) full-frame stacked Exmor RS™ CMOS image sensor in combination with an upgraded BIONZ XR™ imaging processing engine with eight times more processing power.
- Blackout- free continuous shooting at up to 30 frames per second.
- Fast sensor readout enables up to 120 AF/AE calculations per second, 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 refresh rate of 240 fps
- Silent, vibration-free electronic shutter.
- World’s first anti-flicker shooting with both mechanical and electronic shutter.
- Electronic shutter flash sync up to 1/200 sec. for the first time in the Alpha™ series.
- World’s fastest 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 10-bit 4:2:2 movie shooting capabilities.
- Wide dynamic range of 15 stops for stills and 15+ stops for video.
- Improved Real-time Eye AF (autofocus) for humans and animals, and new Real-time Eye AF for birds, as well as Real-time Tracking that automatically maintains accurate focus.
- 5-axis optical in-body image stabilization for a 5.5-step 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 built-in Wi-Fi, SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps, 1000BASE-T Ethernet, and more.
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