Every January I run tours to northern Norway in the hope of seeing the Northern Lights. Over the years I have been incredibly lucky and to date, every single tour I have run has seen the Northern lights. I’ve taken all sorts of cameras on these tours, everything from optical disc camcorders (PDW-700), solid state camcorders including the original Sony EX1 and most of Sony’s large sensor video cameras from FS100 to the FX9.
All of these cameras are fairly bulky and require larger tripods and battery systems. In addition, I have always taken a stills camera to shoot timelapse of the Aurora. This year I decided to downsize the equipment I was taking, so instead of taking a full-size video camera I decided to take 2 small cameras.
I already have an FX3, which is a great camera and extremely good in low light. Being part of the Sony Cinema line, it has Sony’s very nice looking Venice based colour science as well, can shoot using S-Log3 as well as the handy what you see is what you get S-Cinetone gamma curve. I know this camera well and I knew it would be a good choice for the challenges I would encounter in Norway. To compliment the FX3 I also decided to take a Sony A1. The A1 (or Alpha 1) is Sony’s flagship compact mirrorless stills camera. As well as amazing photo performance the A1 also promises much as a video camera. It’s 50.1 megapixel sensor allows it to shoot high quality video at 8K. Like the FX3 the A1 can record using S-Log3 and offers similar dynamic range to the FX3.
Need for Speed – fast lenses.
For many years my main lens for shooting the Northern Lights has been the Sigma 20mm f1.4. This is a great lens, but it is quite heavy and I’ve never found the autofocus on this lens to be all that good. I already have Sony’s 20mm f1.8 and this is a great lens for the money. But for the Northern Lights you really want your lenses to be as fast as possible.So for this trip I decided to take Sony’s 24mm f1.4 GM lens to see how that performed.
The other lens that I use extensively on trips like this is the much-underrated Sony 24-240mm zoom lens. This is a 10x zoom giving a huge range of focal lengths from pretty wide to nice and long. The aperture does ramp, going from f3.5 to f6.3 as you zoom in. But for the kinds of shoots I use this lens on this is rarely an issue. Todays cameras are so sensitive that f6.3 is plenty fast enough for all daytime applications. In northern Norway in the winter the temperature is typically -20c, often getting down as low an -35c. Changing lenses is not something you want to do unless you really must when it’s this cold, so a zoom lens is what I like to use when I’m out and about on the show scooters.
Shooting 8K with the A1.
Wherever I could I shot with the A1 in 8K. I recorded internally to CFExpress type A cards using the XAVC-HS codec. When shooting 8K at 24fps the file size is 7860×4320. It is 10 bit 4:2:0 and the bit rate is 400Mb/s. When you shoot 24p at 4K using the XAVC-SI codec the bit rate is 240MB/s, so you might wonder how it’s possible to record frames that in 8K are 4 times larger than 4K with a codec only half the size. The XAVC-HS codec is based on the latest H265 codec. H265 is an ultra efficient long GoP codec. Long GoP codecs can be very efficient as they record a master frame called an “I” frame and then for the next group of frames they only record the differences between the first “I” frame and the next “I” frame. The GoP (group of pictures) can be anywhere up to 180 frames long (but is typically 24 to 60 frames long). This method of compressing moving images is very effective and very efficient. But it can sometimes struggle with very complex images where there is a lot of random motion. Random motion cause issues for the motion prediction algorithms in the codec. In my own footage from Norway, I did notice some minor artefacts in the rippling water within shots across the Fjords.
Moving water is always going to be tough for a Long GoP codec, But I suspect that unless you were actually looking for the artefacts most people wouldn’t notice them. When I graded the A1 footage I also found other very minor artefacts if I pushed the footage hard during the grade. But having said all of that, overall, I think the footage from the A1 looks pretty amazing.
One thing you really do need to consider if you are thinking of using the A1 to shoot 8K is that the XAVC-HS HEVC codec requires a lot of extra processing power to decode. So, your computer needs to be a fast one. Preferably one made in the last couple of years as the most recent processors and graphics cards now include special optimisations for the HEVC codec that will really help.
The sensor in the A1 uses Sony’s latest multi-layer stacked technologies. It is surprisingly sensitive and very low noise. It has excellent dynamic range, around 14 stops which is typical of most current large sensor cameras and very pleasing colour response.
The camera performed better than I expected in low light and while for me at least the A7SIII/FX3 and FX6 remain the kings of low light, the A1 isn’t actually all that far behind. This is particularly impressive when you consider that the pixels in the A1 are much smaller than the pixels in the A7SIII. Having said that, it does appear that the A7S3/FX3/FX6 sensor combines 4 photosites under a single colour filter to create a single “pixel” – could they both be based on a very similar sensor? The A1 sensor is 8640 x 5760 while the A7S3 sensor is 4240 x 2832, the numbers are close enough to believe the underlying sensor could be the same.
For a camera with so many pixels the A1 has a very low level of rolling shutter, you are highly unlikely to encounter any significant rolling shutter issues thanks to the 16ms readout time at 8K. Again, it is interesting to note that the 8.7ms readout of A7S3/FX3/FX6 at 4K is almost exactly half that of the A1 – further pointing to sensor similarities.
Golden Hour = Golden Day.
One of the great things about Norway in the winter is that when the skies are clear the very low sun means that you get golden hour light almost all day. The A1 did an excellent job of capturing the rich colours and deep shadows, especially that deep orange light that seems to make objects glow. Rather than going for a film style grade I chose to use a high contrast and vibrant grade for the sample video. I edited the footage in DaVinci Resolve using ACES colour management. The initial grading was done in HDR and I have uploaded an 8K HDR version for those of you that have an HDR TV or monitor.
The days in northern Norway in January are very short and brutally cold. You only have to look at the shots of the dog sled driver to see how well wrapped up he is. It got down to -34c the day we went dog sledding. Even without a cover the A1 performed very well in the cold. There was some loss of battery life but this is to be expected. If you do find yourself shooting somewhere very cold, try to keep your batteries in an inside pocket until you need them to keep them warm.
At night I decided to use the A1 to shoot time-lapse of the Aurora while using the FX3 to video the Aurora. The A1 has a built in intervalometer so it’s very easy to shoot timelapse with it.
The 24mm f1.4 GM lens.
Shooting stars at night with a wide angle lens is very challenging. You have to be very careful to ensure that your stars and in good focus. I use the cameras built in image magnification to check and double check my focus. One thing that many wide lenses suffer from is an optical defect called “coma”. Often stars that should be a tiny round point of light will take on a slightly elongated appearance, looking like a comma sign or comet rather than a dot, especially towards the edges and corners of the frame. My Sigma 20mm has very little coma and it’s one of the reasons why I like it so much. But the Sony 24mm f1.4 has even less, in fact it is almost completely non-existent. The 24mm is also very, very sharp even wide open, there is no need to stop down to sharpen the image as with some other lenses. It is also a very compact lens and yet despite its small size and low weight it manages to fit in a proper iris ring as well as the large focus ring. Like most of Sony’s most recent lenses the 24mm GM has a linear focus ring. Linear focus means that the amount you turn the focus ring for any given focus change remains completely constant. As a result, you can manually pull focus from one object to another very easily as each time you shift the focus back to your starting point the focus ring will return to exactly the same position each time.
While not quite as wide as my 20mm the clarity and lack of distortions in the images from the 24mm GM means that this lens is now easily my favourite lens for shooting the Aurora or star fields. Of course, it is also very competent for shooting during the day as well. The autofocus is very fast and completely silent due to the use of linear focus motors. The extra assignable button on the lens body is also very handy.
Together the A1 and the 24mm GM were a delight to use. I have to admit that I am wondering whether an A1 could replace my FX3 or FX6. The richness of the 8K images from the A1 are impressive to say the least. I have done a few 8K projects for clients already, But I am not yet regularly delivering in 8K and I don’t think it will be something that I will be asked for regularly for a couple years yet. Besides, most of my clients that do want 8K are really going to want me to shoot on a Venice 2 rather than the A1. I also don’t think I can push the A1 8K images in post quite as much as I can the XAVC-S-I or XAVC-I from the FX3/FX6. Plus, when you do start to do any heavy image manipulation at 8K even my MacBook M1 Max starts to bog down (I actually find it easier to work with the 8K XOCN from Venice 2 than the 8K XAVC-HS from the A1). The FX3 will remain my main camera for my Aurora shoots for the next couple of year but perhaps I will need to start saving some pennies to add an A1 to my camera collection, it certainly impressed me and it would be nice to start shooting some of my stock footage in 8K.
NOTE: To watch the video in 8K you will need a monitor, TV or device capable of 8K playback. To view in HDR you will need to be using an HDR TV or HDR monitor. If you do not have an 8K or HDR TV/Monitor then YouTube will detect this and instead send you a standard dynamic range verison of the video at the highest resolution that your device can support. For the best viewing experience please watch using a HDR device that supports HDR10 ST2084/Rec2020.
The FX3’s larger brothers, the FX6 and FX9 have a function called “APR” that is used to periodically inspect every pixel on the sensor and normalise or map out any out of spec pixels. With modern 4K cameras having at least 8.8 million pixels the chances of a few going out of spec or being damaged by cosmic rays from time to time is quite high. So on the FX6 and FX9 you will get a reminder to perform the APR process around once a week.
From what I understand, the Alpha series cameras and FX3 also periodically perform a similar process automatically. Because these camera have a mechanical shutter to shut out any external light there is no need for any user intervention to perform this process so you will not be aware that it’s happening. On the FX6 and FX9 the user has to place a cap over the lens or sensor, hence why the camera asks you before it can happen.
But what if you find you have some bright or hot pixels with the FX3? Perhaps you have just travelled on a plane where the high altitude reduces the atmospheres damping effect of the high energy particles from space that can damage pixels. Well you can go into the camera’s menu system and force it to run its pixel mapping process which does the same thing as APR on the other cameras.
You need to go to:
MENU: (Setup) ? [Setup Option] ? select [Pixel Mapping] and then select OK. It doesn’t take long and I would recommend that you do this after flying on a plane or prior to any shoot where you will use large amounts of gain as this is when hot pixels are most likely to show up.
Most of sony’s cameras that support S-Log3 or Hybrid Log Gamma also have a function called Viewfinder Display Gamma Assist.
Viewfinder Display Gamma Assist allows you to monitor with the cameras built in LCD screen or viewfinder with the correct brightness and contrast range when using gamma curves that are not directly compatible with these Rec-709 screens.
Whenever you try to view a gamma curve that is not normal Rec-709 on a Rec-709 screen the brightness and contrast that you will see will be incorrect. The most common scenario is perhaps viewing S-Log3 without any form of LUT. In this case the images will look less bright and have less contrast than they should and this makes judging exposure difficult as well making it less easy to see focus errors.
With a camera like the FX6 or FX9 most people will use the cameras CineEI mode and add a LUT to the viewfinder image to convert the S-Log3 to something that looks more contrasty and on the FX6 and FX9 the default LUT is “s709”. However s709 is not the same thing as Rec-709 (Note that with the FX6, because LUTs are always available in the CineEI mode, viewfinder display gamma assist is not available in the CineEI mode of the FX6, you should instead use a LUT).
I think a lot of people think that the default s709 LUT is the same as Rec-709, it’s not, it is very different. They look very different and result in quite different brightness levels when exposed correctly. s709 when exposed correctly will put skin tones somewhere around 50-60% and white at 78%. If you expose s709 using normal Rec-709 brightness levels (70% skintones, 90% white) this is actually over exposed by just over 1 stop. As a result if you expose the s709 LUT, using Rec-709 levels, and then turn off the LUT and instead use Viewfinder Gamma Assist, the gamma assist will look wrong, it will be too bright and may look washed out and this is simply because the exposure IS wrong.
Almost always, if the viewfinder display gamma assist looks wrong, the exposure is wrong. When it looks right, the likelihood is the exposure is right.
A few things to understand:
The viewfinder is a Rec-709 range display device only capable of showing Rec-709 range and colour.
Feed true Rec-709 to a Rec-709 device and you will have a correct looking image with “normal” brightness, contrast and colour.
Feed S-Log3 to a Rec-709 device and you will have an incorrect dull, flat looking image due to the gamma miss-match between the capture gamma and display gamma.
Feed S-Log3 to a device with S-Log3 gamma and you will once again have the correct brightness and contrast as there is no longer a gamma miss-match (S-Log3 only appears to be flat due to the gamma missmatch between S-Log3 and Rec-709, use the right gamma and you will see that it is not actually flat).
Viewfinder Display Gamma Assist works by changing the gamma curve used in the Viewfinder to a gamma curve similar to S-Log3. When you view S-Log3 with a monitor with S-Log3 gamma you will have the correct contrast and brightness, so correct exposure will look correct.
But because the cameras LCD display screen can only show 6 to 7 stops you don’t get the full S-Log3 viewing range, just the central mid range part that is the direct equivalent of Rec-709. This very closely matches what you see if you use the Sony 709(800) LUT to convert the S-log3 to 709. The 709(800) LUT converts S-Log2 or S-Log3 to vanilla Rec-709 (70% skintones/90% white) with a knee that provides a slightly extended highlight range. It is broadly comparable to how most conventional Rec-709 cameras will look. So as a result viewfinder display gamma assist and Sony’s 709(800) LUT’s will look almost identical, while the s709 LUT will (and should by design) look different.
Viewfinder Display Gamma Assist is extremely useful for scenarios where you do not have a LUT option such as when shooting in CineEI in HD with the FX9. It can help you make good exposure assessments. It can make it easier to see when you are in focus. But it isn’t a LUT, so can’t be applied to the cameras outputs, only the built in viewfinder. Additionally if you use zebras, the waveform or histogram, gamma assist has no effect on these so you must remember that you are still measuring the levels of the actual recording gamma, not Rec-709 levels.
Viewfinder Gamma Assist is useful not only for shooting with S-Log but also when shooting using HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma). HLG is an HDR gamma curve and because the LCD viewfinder isn’t HDR you can’t correctly monitor HLG directly. Viewfinder Gamma Assist allows you to monitor with the correct brightness and contrast when shooting HLG making it easier to confidently get the correct exposure levels, as much like S-log3 the levels required for the correct exposure of HLG are quite different to Rec-709.
One last thing: NEVER use Viewfinder Gamma Assist with a LUT at the same time, this will result in a completely incorrect looking image and could result in very bad exposure as a result.
Much rumoured for some time here it is, the Sony Alpha 1.
Some of the headlines are impressive to say the least:
Full Frame 8K 30fps recording from over sampled 8.6K recording using 10 bit 4:2:0 XAVC-HS. 200-400Mb/s. This should be possible for 30 minutes of continuous shooting.
5.8K over sampled Super35mm 4K shooting mode. Wow!!
4K up to 120fps, codecs including 10 bit intraframe and long GoP 16 bit raw output. EDIT: Originally I thought this would be oversampled from 8K up to 30fps, but I’m now hearing that it’s pixel binned. If that is the case there may be a lot of aliasing and moire in this mode.
S-Log3 and SGamut3.cine and YES it has S-Cinetone, so should be a good match for the FX6 and FX9.
15+ Stops of dynamic range in both video mode and 15 stops in photo mode.
5 Axis internal stabilisation. Built in motion detection gyros and image stabilisation as well as the ability to stabilise in post production with Catalyst Browse.
Faster eye AF and improved AF – how the hell can it get any better?
Available March 2021 for $6,500 USD – A lot of money for a stills camera but not a lot for an 8K, 15+ stop video camera!
I think this is a camera that simply cannot be ignored, whether you shoot corporate videos or make Hollywood blockbusters. I have never been a fan of the ergonomics of a stills camera when shooting video. The Alpha 1 does not have ND filters and you will need to use an MI shoe adapter to get XLR audio in. Also the LCD screen on the back is quite small to use as an LCD finder for video. But it does have a very nice built in OLED EVF that looks to be of exceptionally high quality. There doesn’t appear to be any LUT options or dedicated log shooting mode.
But despite these missing or not quite right for video things, you cannot ignore 8K, the over sampled Full Frame 4K and oversampled Super 35mm 4K – plus 4K 120fps. All in all, this camera ticks a lot of boxes. It could be very nice for chroma key or green screen applications.
It won’t be the low light monster that either the A7SIII or FX6 are. But given recent improvements in sensor technology you can bet the low light performance won’t be terrible.
I also have to wonder what this sensor and processing could do if repackaged into a video camera body. Throw in an ND filter system, a couple of SDI outs and a proper viewfinder – as done with the A7SIII – FX6 – Could this be turned into the F55 replacement many are looking for? If it was it could end up better than a Venice. Could this become the Venice II?
With many parts of Sony now coming under the Alpha Group, for example Pro cameras in the US are now sold by the “Digital Imaging” arm of Sony, the same people behind the Alpha cameras. Could we be seeing the start of a new approach for large sensor video cameras sharing a lot more common DNA than in the past and all coming from just one part of Sony. It makes sense. If they do turn this into a video camera with all the right options and ergonomics it could be an awesome piece of kit.
But let’s just slow down for a minute. I haven’t seen any footage other than via YouTube yet, so maybe it’s not as good as the specs suggest. If the Full Frame 4K is pixel binned that particular mode might not be so good. I suspect this camera is going to be awesome! But at the same time for video shooters the FX9 and FX6 still make a lot of sense. The variable ND is a huge time saver, I’m not sure I ever want to go back to carrying a box of ND’s. Do I need 8K? Certainly no one except Sony have ever asked me for 8K – Sony use it for the CLED video walls. If I did lots and lots of green screen or other effects work it could be beneficial – we need to see how good the codec is first.
And for a lot of what I do the low light, low noise performance of the FX6 and FX9 are important. Exactly how the Alpha 1 stacks up against them remains to be seen. Plus I find LUTs and a dedicated CineEI mode makes shooting Log or Raw so much simpler than having to expose S-Log3 correctly when shooting run n gun.
So while the idea of the Alpha one excites me a lot. I really want to see what it’s like to actually work with before passing final judgement.
I’m not impressed by the video below. Lots of over exposed shots and some odd grading choices which is a bit disappointing. Hopefully these are issues with the video production rather than the camera.
What I don’t know:
It can read the sensor at Full Frame 8K and 30fps, so I assume there is a Full Frame downsampled 4K recording mode. But can it record Full Frame 4K without pixel binning/skipping faster than 30fps? Or does it have to go down to a lower sampling rate or crop to go above 30fps?
What will the quality of the 4K 120fps be like. Can the full 8K sensor be read at 120fps.
I assume the 16 bit 4.3K raw out will be a downsample from the 8.6K Full Frame readout. Again limited to 30fps perhaps, or a reduced scan mode for higher frame rates?
This is from Sony:
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[i]
Blackout- free continuous shooting at up to 30 frames per second[ii]
Fast sensor readout enables up to 120 AF/AE calculations per second[iii], 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[iv] refresh rate of 240 fps
Silent, vibration-free electronic shutter
World’s first[v] anti-flicker shooting with both mechanical and electronic shutter
Electronic shutter flash sync[vi] up to 1/200 sec. for the first time in the Alpha™ series
World’s fastestv mechanical shutter flash sync up to 1/400 sec.
8K 30p[vii] 10-bit 4:2:0 XAVC HS video recording with 8.6K oversampling for extraordinary detail and resolution, in addition to 4K 120p[viii] 10-bit 4:2:2 movie shooting capabilities
Wide dynamic range of 15 stops for stills[ix] and 15+ stops for video[x]
Improved Real-time Eye AF (autofocus) for humans and animals, and new Real-time Eye AF for birds[xi], as well as Real-time Tracking that automatically maintains accurate focus
5-axis optical in-body image stabilization for a 5.5-step[xii] shutter speed advantage
S-Cinetone color matrix as seen in FX9 and FX6to deliver expressive cinematic look
Professional workflow support with the industry’s fastest[xiii] built-in Wi-Fi, SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps, 1000BASE-T Ethernet and more
SAN DIEGO, CA – January 26, 2021 – Sony Electronics, a global leader in imaging sensor technology and digital imaging, has announced the arrival of the groundbreaking new full-frame mirrorless Alpha 1 camera – asserting their commitment to leading the industry with a stunning combination of innovative new features.
The most technologically advanced, innovative camera that Sony has ever released, the Alpha 1 combines high-resolution and high-speed performance at a level that has never been accomplished in the world of digital cameras. With a brand new 50.1-megapixel full-frame stacked Exmor RS™ image sensor, up to 120 AF/AE calculations per second, 8K 30p 10-bit 4:2:0 video and much more, the Alpha 1 will allow creators to capture what they’ve never been able to before.
“We are always listening to our customers, challenging the industry to bring new 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.”
The newly developed image sensor is built with integral memory and paired with an upgraded BIONZ XR imaging processing engine, making it capable of shooting 50.1-megapixel images continuously at an astounding 30fps with up to 120 AF/AE calculations per second. The Alpha 1’s shooting capabilities are further enhanced by a 9.44 million dot OLED Quad-XGA electronic viewfinder, with a refresh rate of up to 240 fps[xiv], ensuring no black out. Additionally, for the first time in an Alpha series camera, 8K 30p 10-bit 4:2:0 video is available. The Alpha 1 is also capable of 4K 120p / 60p 10-bit 4:2:2 recording and includes S-Cinetone color. The Alpha 1 is also packed with features that support field professionals with faster workflow, including 3.5 times faster wireless FTP transfer speed[xv] and more.
Unprecedented Resolution and Speed
Continuous Shooting at Up to 30 Frames Per Second
The Alpha 1 captures moments that would otherwise be lost thanks to its high-speed performance, providing any photographer the speed they require to capture fast-moving objects. High speed readout from the 50.1-megapixel image sensor and a large buffer memory make it possible to shoot up to 155 full-frame compressed RAW images[xvi] or 165 full-frame JPEG images[xvii]at up to 30 frames per second with the electronic shutter while maintaining full AF and AE tracking performance[xviii].
At an astonishing calculation speed of up to 120 AF/AE per second, the Alpha 1 can maintain focus with high accuracy even for fast moving subjects. It can automatically adjust exposure, even with sudden changes in brightness, with an AE response latency as low as 0.033 secondsii.
Advanced Electronic Viewfinder with the World’s Firstiv Refresh Rate of 240 fps
Complimenting the camera’s ability to capture images at an unprecedented speed, the Alpha 1 viewfinder features the world’s firstiv240 fps refresh ratexiv, for a super-smooth display. The viewfinder does not black out when an exposure is made to offer an uninterrupted view and allow for seamless framing and tracking, even during continuous shooting. The 9.44 million-dot (approx.), 0.64 type Quad-XGA high-definition OLED display and refined optics deliver the highest resolution in its classiv. It also offers 0.90x[xix] viewfinder magnification, a 41° diagonal FOV, and a 25mm-high eyepoint for clear, low distortion viewing from corner to corner.
Sony continues to push the boundaries of autofocus technology with the introduction of the Alpha 1, which can easily track complex, fast-moving subjects with high precision. The camera features 759 phase detection points in a high-density focal plane phase-detection AF system cover approximately 92% of the image area – ensuring accuracy and unfailing focus in environments where focusing might otherwise be difficult.
Sony’s advanced Real-time Eye AF improves detection performance by 30% over the previous systemi, thanks to the powerful image processing engine, BIONZ XR. It ensures accurate, reliable detection, even when the subject’s face looks away. In addition to improved Real-time Eye AF for humans and animals, the Alpha 1 employs high-level subject recognition technology to provide Real-time Eye AF for birdsxi, a first in an Alpha series camera. Optimized algorithms ensure that tracking is maintained even if a sitting bird suddenly takes flight, or the framing suddenly changes[xx].
The Alpha 1 also features AI-based Real-time Tracking that automatically maintains accurate focus. A subject recognition algorithm uses color, pattern (brightness), and subject distance (depth) data to process spatial information in real time at high speed.
Silent, Vibration-free Electronic Shutter
High-speed readout from the new image sensor has made it possible to reduce rolling shutter by up to 1.5 times when shooting stills, compared to the Alpha 9 II. It also offers silent anti-flicker continuous shooting with an electronic shutter for the first timev in the world. The electronic shutter[xxi] operates silently, without mechanical noise, and is vibration-free. Stress-free continuous shooting is now possible even when shooting in challenging lighting situations with florescent or other flicker-prone types of artificial lighting. And for the first time in an Alpha camera, electronic shutter flash sync up to 1/200 sec[xxii] is possible. The advantages of the electronic shutter advantages can now come to life even when using flash for broadly expanded shooting versatility.
Dual Driven Shutter System for 1/400 Flash Sync
The Alpha 1 boasts the world’s fastest flash sync speedv of 1/400 sec. with mechanical shutter, making it even easier to capture dynamic action. In addition to a carbon fiber shutter curtain, the Alpha 1 features the newly developed dual driven shutter system utilizing spring and electromagnetic drive actuator, offering high durability and lightness at the same time.
High Resolution Shooting Enhancements
Even with this sensor’s high pixel count, the Alpha 1 offers high sensitivity with low noise, plus 15+ stops of dynamic range for video and 15 stops for stills, for smooth, natural gradations from shadows to highlights thanks to its cutting-edge processing system, throughout a wide ISO sensitivity range of 100-32,000 (expandable to 50-102,400, when shooting stills).
Additionally, the new camera features an evolved Pixel Shift Multi Shooting mode that composites up to 16 full-resolution images. In this mode, the camera precisely shifts the sensor in one pixel or half-pixel increments to capture 16 separate pixel-shifted images containing a total of 796.2 million pixels of data, which are then composited into a 199 million pixel (17,280 x 11,520 pixels) image using Sony’s Imaging Edge™ desktop application. With a flash sync of up to 1/200 sec. in this mode, it is ideal for photographing architecture, art or any other still life subject with a level of detail and color accuracy that is simply stunning.
Professional Video Quality
8K High-resolution Movie Shooting
For the first time in an Alpha camera, the Alpha 1 offers 8K 30p 10-bit 4:2:0 XAVC HS recording with 8.6K oversampling for extraordinary resolution. Combined with Sony’s acclaimed autofocus technology, gradation and color reproduction performance, the Alpha 1 will help the user realize their creative vision with the finest detail. It’s 8K footage can also be used for flexible 4K editing during post-production.
Supporting Various Video Formats for Professionals
The Alpha 1 offers in-camera 4K recording at up to 120 frames per secondviii which allows the user to shoot up to 5X slow-motion video[xxiii]. In addition to supporting 10-bit 4:2:2 recording, this feature can be used with efficient Long GOP inter-frame compression or high-quality Intra (All-I) intra-frame compression.
The Alpha 1 features S-Cinetone, the same color matrix that produces the highly regarded FX9 and FX6 color and skin tones. It delivers natural mid-tones, plus soft colors and gorgeous highlights to meet a growing need for more expressive depth. The S-Log3 gamma curve makes it possible to achieve 15+ stops of dynamic range, while the S-Gamut3 and S-Gamut3.Cine color gamut settings make it easy to match Alpha 1 footage with video shot on VENICE cinema camera, FX9 and other professional cinema cameras.
A unique heat dissipating structure keeps 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[xxiv].
Supporting Hand-held Shooting
A high-precision stabilization unit and gyro sensors, plus optimized image stabilization algorithms, achieve up to a 5.5-step shutter speed advantage, maximizing the quality of the high-resolution images derived from the camera’s 50.1-megapixel sensor. The Alpha 1 also features an Active Mode[xxv] that offers outstanding stabilization for handheld movie shooting. When using Sony’s desktop applications Catalyst Browse or Catalyst Prepare[xxvi] for post-production, an accurate image stabilization function is available which utilizes metadata generated by camera’s built-in gyro.
Other features that the Alpha 1 offers include; 16-bit RAW output[xxvii] to an external recorder[xxviii] via HDMI for maximum post-production flexibility, a digital audio interface has been added to the camera’s Multi Interface (MI) Shoe for clearer audio recordings from a compatible Sony external microphone, 5.8K oversampled full pixel readout without pixel binning for high-resolution 4K movies in Super 35mm mode and more.
Enhanced Workflow withNetwork Technologies including Connectivity to 5G Compatible Devices
The Alpha 1 has been designed and configured to support photo and video journalists and sports shooters who need to deliver stills or movies as quickly as possible with advanced connectivity options. It offers several features for fast, reliable file transfers. Industry’s fastestxiii built-in wireless LAN allows communication on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz[xxix]bands with dual antennas to ensure reliable communications. 5 GHz includes 2×2 MIMO support (IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac) offering 3.5 times faster wireless FTP transfer speed than the Alpha 9 II – a notable advantage for news and sports shooters who need to deliver with reliable speed. There is also a provided USB Type-C® connector to support fast data transfer when connected to a 5G mmWave compatible device such as Sony’s Xperia PRO and makes high-speed PC Remote (tethered) data transfer available for smooth handling of large image files. The Alpha 1 also has a built-in 1000BASE-T LAN connector for high-speed, stable data transfers, including remote shooting. FTPS (File Transfer over SSL/TLS) is supported, allowing SSL or TLS encryption for increased data security.
In addition to compressed and uncompressed RAW, the Alpha 1 includes efficient lossless compression with no quality degradation, Lossless Compressed RAW. There is also a new “Light” JPEG/HEIF image quality setting that results in smaller files than the “Standard” setting, allowing faster deliver for news and sports photographers who depend on speed. Along with a versatile range of RAW and JPEG formats, the Alpha 1 includes the HEIF (High Efficiency Image File) format for smooth 10-bit gradations that provide more realistic reproduction of skies and portrait subjects where subtle, natural gradation is essential. Images shot on the Alpha 1 can be trimmed in-camera to a desired aspect ratio, size, or position for versatile usage.
The Alpha 1 is also compatible with a variety of apps, add-ons and tools. With Imaging Edge Mobile and Imaging Edge Desktop[xxx], professionals can easily transfer RAW files and files that use lossless compression and remotely control Touch Tracking and Touch Focus for convenient AF operation. The Transfer & Tagging add-on (Ver. 1.3 or later) can automatically covert voice memos attached to image files to text captions or transfer the files to an FTP server from a mobile device. Desktop applications Catalyst Browse/Catalyst Preparexxvi allow professionals to browse and manage video clips shot by Sony’s camera. In addition, the Remote Camera Tool[xxxi] can remotely change camera settings and shoot from a computer connected via LAN cable and feature a number of refinements for the Alpha 1: faster transfer, touch response, dual slot and HEIF support, and more.
Reliable and Easy Operability
Professional users need more than just refined features and performance. They also need the reliability and durability demanded of any professional tool. The Alpha 1 has two media slots that 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. It also features a durable magnesium alloy chassis, long battery life with the Z-battery which can be extended using the optional VG-C4EM Vertical Grip (sold separately), an improved dust removal feature, shutter close function on power-off? to protect image sensor, plus dust and moisture resistance[xxxii] that maximizes reliability in challenging environments. It includes a durable, reliable HDMI Type-A connector, and USB PD (Power Delivery) support, allowing higher power to be supplied from an external source so that users can record for extended periods with minimal internal battery usage.
A revised menu structure provides easier navigation, and touch-responsive menu operation offers fast, more intuitive control with Touch Focus and Touch Tracking on its 3.0 type 1.44 million-dot (approx.) LCD monitor. For easy customization, a subset of the camera’s shooting settings now changes according to the selected shooting mode, making it easier than ever to use different aperture, shutter speed and other settings for shooting stills and movies.
Pricing and Availability
The Alpha 1 Full-frame Interchangeable-Lens Camera will be available in March 2021 for approximately $6,500 USD and $8,500 CAD. It will be sold at a variety of Sony’s authorized dealers throughout North America.
Exclusive stories and exciting new content shot with the new camera and Sony’s other imaging products can be found at www.alphauniverse.com, a site created to educate and inspire all fans and customers of Sony ? – Alpha brand cameras.
For detailed coverage on the new product on Alpha Universe, please visit this LINK.
The new content will also be posted directly at the Sony Photo Gallery.
Additionally, a product launch video focused on the Alpha 1 can be found at this LINK.
[i] Compared to the BIONZ X imaging processing engine.
[ii] “Hi+” continuous shooting mode. In focus modes other than AF-C, effective at 1/125 sec. or higher shutter speed. In AF-C mode, effective at 1/250 sec. or higher shutter speed, and the maximum continuous frame rate will depend on the shooting mode and lens used. 20 fps max. when shooting Uncompressed or Lossless compressed RAW.
[iii] At shutter speeds of 1/125 sec. or higher. The number of AF calculations will depend on the lens used.
[iv] As of January 2021, Sony survey. Among full-frame mirrorless cameras.
[v] As of January 2021, Sony survey. Among full-frame interchangeable-lens digital still cameras.
[vi] Up to 1/200 sec. Synchronization via the sync terminal is not available for electronic shutter.
[vii] [APS-C S35 Shooting] is fixed [Off] when shooting 4K 120p and 8K movies.