The Sony Alpha 1 is a leap forward in mirrorless cameras, but may not be right for most filmmakers.
After the Sony a7s III, the Alpha 1 Sony’s announcement was a bit of a headache. We waited years for that a7s II Update, and we finally have one with a host of amazing features. It was undeniably a hit, and I’m always amazed at how many of my friends bought one. Then came the Alpha 1, which is almost twice as expensive but offers a leap into 8K video.
Why would Sony release a camera with “superior” video specifications soon after the 4K release? a7S III? It didn’t make a lot of sense. When Sony offered to shoot it for two weeks, we seized the opportunity.
What is it?
The Alpha 1 is Sony’s newest flagship camera. It has a brand new sensor design that outputs 8K video, has amazing auto focus, and captures super fast stills, all while coming at a price premium so steep that you could potentially get two a7S III cameras for the same money. So is it worth it?
It’s fun to shoot with, but it doesn’t feel radically different from the a7s III. The autofocus is great, but not a big surprise. Sony is killing it on that front. Ergonomically, they are very similar cameras and function similarly. So if you’re already an alpha shooter or considering making the switch, the A1 will feel perfectly normal.
The big headline feature is the 8K resolution. While the a7s III came out with 4K, which we thought was very smart (better pixels are always more important than more pixels). With the 8K, Sony can continue to compete with cameras from Canon and Nikon, which have this high-end marketing number at a hair a hair higher price.
It must be said that the early reviewers weren’t that impressed with the 8K resolution, however we found it a noticeable improvement in quality when cropping. At 4K resolution and not punched, the footage cuts very well. But if you need reframing, either for stabilization or to avoid jump cuts, the Alpha 1’s 8K was really appreciated.
8K is a significant improvement over the images on the a7s III, but for the price of the Alpha 1, you could buy two a7s IIIs. Since most people are still finishing 4K, the argument for 8K is often, “You get a wide-angle shot”. and a middle shot from an angle. ”
But we’d rather buy these two a7s III cameras and take your wide and medium shots from slightly different angles instead of just intervening.
Also, the quality difference in 8K isn’t really “double” whichever is double that. It’s better, but not double. The real clutch, however, is with stabilization, as you can crop for stabilization, and of course, Sony includes internal accelerometers that can provide huge post-stabilization benefits with Sony’s proprietary Catalyst Browse software.
Aside from the resolution, the pictures are honestly quite pleasing. The autofocus also works well for faces without eyes or when handling food. It’s not perfect, but it’s so good that it’s fully usable and then if you want to step in, you can.
We had no heat problems in our office tests, but when we recorded the Alpha 1 in real time and set up the Alpha 1 as a C camera in the field, it overheated almost immediately. We gave him time to cool down and he could get back into action, but it was a shame a camera overheated and shut itself off in the middle of the action.
Heat issues are not surprising with any camera aiming for new resolutions (the Canon R5 and even the old 5D had them) but it’s something to keep in mind depending on what type of jobs you plan to use this for.
Atomos Ninja V +
One thing that makes this camera more useful is the release of the Atomos Ninja V +. 8K internal is the problem that leads to overheating: there is only a lot of data for a small camera housing that has to be packed into a recording format. With an external recorder like the Ninja V +, you can move this processing to an external device and get 8K ProRes files and proxies straight away, which can be edited with much less to no risk of overheating.
Of course, that adds another $ 1,500 to the package price, but you end up with a camera platform that allows for 8K recording, pretty great autofocus, great low light, and cheap SSD media.
That is, the Atomos Ninja V+ does not yet support 8K on the Sony Alpha 1, only the Canon R5. Hopefully that will change soon. The a7s III and Ninja V are a popular combo, and we could imagine that the Alpha 1 and Ninja V + could have similar popularity.
After so many of the “early” reviewers weren’t keen on the Alpha 1, I may have had low expectations, but I thought it was really good. Last but not least, taking photos with the Alpha 1 made us love the a7s III even more.
The images are similar, the functions are similar, but you can afford an a7s III, and if you need a B-camera operator with the same device, you will find plenty of people ready to get ready to take the shot.
In terms of price, the Alpha 1 is more of a niche product with which Sony shows us where it’s going next, than a device with which video shooters can take photos on a daily basis today. If you’re willing to pay the price of the A1, the camera certainly offers resolution advantages that are worth considering, but those should be considered too FX6 also, which lands at a similar price point and will have more video-centric features.
For some shooters where resolution is paramount, the autofocus, 8K, and Sony color improvements really come together on the Alpha 1.