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Sony Just Destroyed the Competition With New Sony a1 Mirrorless Camera

Sony has long been leading the way in the mirrorless market, but over the last year, Canon and Nikon have been trying to scratch and claw their way to the top. Today, Sony has sealed their fate.  

In a recent article, I asked the question “is lack of competition slowing camera innovation?”. And for a brief overview, I think that Sony has dominated the mirrorless market so heavily, that it has essentially stalled innovation. I feel this has to do with the competition spending all their R&D money trying to play catchup which simultaneously leads to Sony not needing to release any sort of crazy innovations. Instead, they released features that I view as more iterative rather than innovative. Things like slightly better and faster AF or slightly higher megapixel sensors. In the article, I said, “why release a race car that can go 300 miles per hour when the competition is still racing go-karts”. But recently, Canon and Nikon have begun to take the mirrorless market seriously. So Sony just dropped their 300 mile per hour car into the market. 

The Sony a1

With the new Sony a1 camera release, Sony has pushed the barrier of numerous technologies as well as brought us technology that has previously been impossible. The first of these innovations come with the sensor. The new Sony a1 now has a 50.1MP sensor paired with a new BIONZ XR imaging processor that is eight times more powerful. What this allows is for the Sony a1 to shoot at a blistering and blackout-free 30fps. You can literally shoot full-resolution raw images at a higher speed than traditionally used video frame rates. This is all done completely silently using the electronic shutter and the buffer can hold up to 155 compressed raws or 165 JPEGS.  

The electronic shutter on the Sony a1 is also similar to that of the Sony A9 in the sense that it has a minimal rolling shutter. In fact, on my Sony a9, I have never noticed any rolling shutter when taking stills and this new Sony a1 reduces any rolling shutter by 1.5 times. All while giving you better autofocus. 

For the AF, the camera features 759 phase-detection points that cover 92% of the image sensor. The real-time AF tracking has also seen a performance increase of 30% over the previous a9 II and also features eye-AF for humans, animals, and birds. With the new image processor, the camera will actually take 120 AF/AE calculations per second which is double that of the a9 II and it will still work when shooting at 30FPS. 

Strobists Rejoice 

One area where the Sony a1 is making leaps in innovation is in terms of using flash. Most cameras are limited to flash sync speeds of 1/250th of a second or lower. Not only that, but you can’t use flash at all when using the silent shutter. But the Sony a1 can achieve a world's first for mechanical shutters and get you 1/400th of a second sync speed. It can also get you 1/200th of a second sync speed when using the electronic shutter. That means you can get the same sync speed using the silent shutter as the new Canon R5/R6 and Nikon Z 7II mechanical shutters. If you use the mechanical shutter on the a1, you'll get double that of the competition.

What About Video?

The Sony a1 offers an impressive 8k/30p in 10-bit along with the ability to shoot 4k/120p in 10-bit with 15+ stops of dynamic range (15 stops for stills). It also features the same S-Cinetone color matrix as seen on the FX9 and FX6 to give you that amazing cinematic look everyone always wants. You can also record using the built-in image stabilization that will give you 5 axis stabilization with a 5.5 step shutter speed advantage. The Sony a1 also features a unique heat dissipating structure that allows the camera to shoot 8K/30p for up to 30-minutes while maintaining the small body form found with the other Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras in their lineup. 

Other Features 

A few other features worth noting. The Sony a1 has an electronic viewfinder that is a 0.64-type 9.44 million dot OLED Quad-XGA that gives you the world's first 240fps refresh rate. The camera also gives you the world's first anti-flicker shooting with both the mechanical shutter and Electronic shutter. And for those that need fast access to their images, the a1 also features the industry's fastest built-in Wi-Fi, SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps, and 1000BASE-T Ethernet. There is also a revised menu system, diverse image output (compressed, lossless, HEIF, “Light” JPEG/HEIF, and more), an improved dust removal feature, and it’s dust and moisture resistant. There is also a new feature that closes the mechanical shutter when the power is off to help protect the sensor from dust when changing lenses. 

You can pre-order the Sony a1 now for $6,500. Which may give a lot of photographers sticker shock. But given the mass amount of innovations and “world's firsts”, I think they have more than justified the price tag.  

        

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116 Comments

Previous comments
Martin Howard's picture

You can get medium format at that price.

Rayann Elzein's picture

Now we just have to wait for the R1 to destroy this one. And then for the A1 Mk2 to destroy the R1. Can we stop already with those aggressive click-bait titles?

Edison Wrzosek's picture

Sony announces a1, drops mic, walks off stage...

microteck's picture

It's amusing to read all the hype. They "Destroyed the Competition", it's a "Game Changer" or "Killer Features". Since the so called competition is still around we must be walking among the living dead.

Edison Wrzosek's picture

Hyperbole at it’s finest, isn’t it?

Michael Engshun's picture

Only amusing if one stills cares. Why care about something so meaningless?

microteck's picture

P.S.

nigel walker's picture

Should probably back up the claim of "destroys the competition..." with more substantial information preferably with actual use and examples. Interesting that one of the competing cameras mentioend is so popular it's hard to find months after it's release.

Within price brackets there are no longer cameras that are so much better than others, they all very good, which is good news for those invested in lenses.

Andy Fertal's picture

Downsize the whole thing to about 65% of current size and weight and go to an APS-C sensor with the same features. Then expand the APS-c e-mount lens selection to provide a full-range of compact lenses. I want light and compact for this kind of money so I can avoid hiring a Sherpa, at least for shorter trips!

Paul Ferradas's picture

Next year the a2 comes out and eveyone will want to sell the a1's for the newest. LOL It's a vicious cycle that never ends.

Mark Lewis's picture

It wouldn't matter if the A1 was 100MP at 50fps and cost $100; if it has the same dimensions as the other models in the Sony range, I, and anyone else with normal sized fingers can't actually grip the camera with a lens attached, and it is therefore completely un-useable. That is why I currently use a Canon and not a Sony.

Edison Wrzosek's picture

Oh for the love of god, that’s the same kind of BS as “Sony has bad colours”, which hasn’t been true since the A7III, getting sick of hear this crap over and over!

I have the A7RIII and LONG fingers, and I have ZERO issue with the grip even with a beefy lens attached.

Mark Lewis's picture

Then you have SKINNY LONG fingers, because I have held every available Sony camera, with every available lens combination I could find, and my fingers do not fit in the gap between the lens barrel and the grip, so it's not BS, it is actual real world tried it and it doesn't fit. Maybe you should stop being such a fan boy and accept that some people are actually speaking from experience.

Edison Wrzosek's picture

Sorry, it is BS, because I’ve got lenses ranging from vintage nifty fifty’s that are tiny all the way up to fat super zooms, and have NO issue with the grip.

The fact you just called me a fan boy speaks volumes about you, goodbye.

Mark Lewis's picture

You're correct, calling you a fan boy was not the right thing to do. I should have just said you were arrogant, opinionated, ignorant and wrong.

I went into two different stores on four different occasions looking to buy new cameras, and Sony was at the top of my list. I spent a total of several hours trying every combination of camera body and lens in the stores. That included every current Sony body, and over a dozen different lenses.

Every single combination either prevented me from getting my third and fourth digit comfortably between the lens barrel and the grip. On some combinations, I was completely unable to get my fingers between the two without opening them up on either side of the lens barrel. On others, where I was able to squeeze them in, it left red painful spots on the first knuckle of both fingers. I did not even try to use the cameras with gloves on (as we sometimes do here in Canada outdoors in the winter), as there was no possibility of fitting my fingers in the gap while wearing any of my normal gloves.

I tried several times, as I had heard good things about the cameras, and was considering purchasing them, but after multiple attempts, I only ended up with sore fingers. That forced me to look at other makes of camera, and I eventually purchased over $20 000 worth of Canon cameras and lenses instead.

So, as I said, actual experience, not some made up internet BS. Just because your fingers fit, doesn't mean that mine do. To suggest otherwise, is just arrogant, opinionated, ignorant, and even if I gave a damn what you think or say, you'd still be wrong.

Drops mic. Walks offstage...

David Pavlich's picture

I agree. I have yet to pick up a Sony camera that is comfortable for my hands. Subjective for sure, but it's a deal breaker for me. I have to like the shooting experience and part of that is having a camera that is comfortable to hold.

Prediction: When the R1 hits the market, a certain article headline here will be: 'R1 Destroys the Competition'.

Rumor has it that the R1 will have 60MP, 40 fps, 16K video, 4 card slots, air conditioned, no dial/no menu configuration since it will be controlled by the thoughts of the owner, Make it stop! :-)

Edison Wrzosek's picture

Only person with arrogance and an ego the size of Grand Canyon here is you, my god...

Oh, and also a poster child for jerks.

Gotta love these internet keyboard warriors

Mark Lewis's picture

That's all you got? A bunch of insults?

You're still WRONG. You're entitled to your own opinion, but you're not entitled ro your own facts.

Also, nothing I've said here I wouldn't say to your face, so the only keyboard warrior in the room is you.

Adam Palmer's picture

I was ready to completely ignore this new camera but the faster sync speed has my interest.

Tundrus Photo's picture

Besides a sensational headline (click bate?) there are a few issues to consider before plunking down money on this Sony marvel. First, depending on where you live, Sony service can be problematic. Sony doesn't always fits its own gear, instead choosing to outsource this to third-party repair centres. This can be good or bad - or make no difference. Second, here is hoping that Sony has fixed their issues with sensor mounts https://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2020/06/the-great-flange-to-sensor-dist...). Finally, a 50MP camera that isn't medium format will be going up against Fuji cameras. Yes - camera size does matter as does price. But if the 50 MP count is the draw, Fuji has cameras worth investigating if not buying.

John Nixon's picture

If its ergonomics are as good as its specs then, at last there’s a Sony I’d actually buy. I can’t afford it - but if I could, I would!

Edison Wrzosek's picture

Looks like it has exactly the same body design as the A7R4, A9II, A7S3, which means it’s good...

Mark Bohrer's picture

** Do I really need all the stuff the Sony A1 offers? **

First off, it's not the first digital camera with a flash sync speed faster than 1/250 sec. My first-version EOS 1D flash-synced at 1/500 sec, even faster than this Sony.

And my Leica SL2 has almost as much resolution at 47MP, and shoots 78 raw file images in bursts at 20fps. That's plenty for me. And 4K video is also plenty for me.

*************
When I was an IC designer, the Engineering VP I worked for told me this about a new product he wanted me to work on - "We can't be the first, but we're gonna be the best." But at that point, everyone already had the first released part designed in, and no one really needed ours.

So any new camera has to offer something the market really needs and didn't have before, and enough differences from prior products for it to be a real game-changer. (Or it has to beat everyone else to market.) If you're a Sony user and need to print really large images of high-speed action, maybe you need the Sony A1.

Otherwise, I don't see anyone who already has an EOS R5 or Nikon Z7 II or Leica SL2 and a collection of compatible lenses switching brands. There's just not enough compelling stuff there.

Wesley Hetrick's picture

I fail to see how this "Destroys" the competition. Nothing new here. For the price it should do more.

Michael Engshun's picture

Then please make the argument... we're waiting.

Matthew Lacy's picture

"It's only 30 fps. I would expect at least 45 fps for that price."

Marc De Vinci's picture

Mighty impressive specs. It's like 2 cameras into one and everything I'd want in a camera. (aside from built-in ND filters which I can see it will eventually come) The AF tracking looks amazing. Gotta say I wasn't too impressed by some of the skin tones though in that promo video.

Costel Nicolaie's picture

Destroy what, mate, the ergonomics? Imagine being a serious photographer, paying 6500 for this and you have not top LCD :)))
Instead, you have a dedicated exposure compensation dial right next yo your thumb, just in case your aperture priority shooting isn t digging up the gold :)))

Cameras these days are just measuring competitions, Canon themselves said that the 8K in the R5 is for marketing purposes.

This camera has 30 fps just because they can, not that people who shoot 50 mp files need 30 fps, that's 2 gigs of data per second. And not that people who need 30 fps shoot ar 50 mp.

Its just because they can, for marketing.

If this was adressed to serious photographers it should allow ISO 50 or ISO25 for long exposures or daylight flash, 1/400 is ok but what about bringing back the Nikon 1/500 sync, or go further and get 1/1000

Get 16 stops of dr like the old medium format cameras, get 28 stops of colour reproduction, fit a better battery in it and improve the ergonomics with a larger grip, illuminated buttons on both sides.

But no, 8k and a crummy body, the Nikon Z5 probably handles better than this thing.

Edison Wrzosek's picture

Nothing in that post resembled coherent... And you ACTUALLY brought up the top LCD as a detractor for not having one?

I LOL’ed at that...

Costel Nicolaie's picture

Have you ever used a camera for more than half an hour at a time? If you did, and assuming you care about your photography and you shoot in manual, then you'd know just how essential a top LCD is. That is why all serious cameras have one.

Edison Wrzosek's picture

I’ve used cameras for all-day shoots, and guess what? I have NO need for a top LCD when an EVF and rear screen show the exact same info, and tons more.

OLD cameras, mostly DSLR’s, have them. They are relics of a time long past and are totally superfluous now.

Yin Ze's picture

a1rpeak combo will destroy ground-based photographers.

Jerome Brill's picture

Too expensive for me but I will take an a7Riii successor with that sensor. And before you comment, I do not see the a7rvi as a true successor. The r3 still beats it out in low light across the whole iso range. If you need the mp it's a good option but the R3 is still a great camera. I hope this sensor gets put in cheaper camera. Then again we haven't seen iso performance yet so my opinion on that might change.

Fritz Asuro's picture

The α7R III is expected to be better in low light as it has lower resolution, bigger pixels.
I have the α7R IV, and it's actually the first Sony that convinced me to jump ship and I'm happy with it.

Bill Kearns's picture

Can I just take ten and not pay my bills?

Marek Stefech's picture

eee they improve what was already excellent and they keep doing mistakes with ergonomics

Michael Laing's picture

Nice upgrades, would they make any difference to my photography? Probably not.

Alex Yakimov's picture

Tons of tech. Same exciting ergo and back screen ...

Tim van der Leeuw's picture

To me this all still sounds like more iterative improvements, not "true" innovation in the sense of bringing us something that nobody had before.
"Faster this", "more that", "higher DR", etc -- all existing features that have been improved upon.
Sometimes to an amazing, radical extend (30fps 50MP shooting w/o blackout is an impressive improvement over previous cameras) -- but not something _really_ new.

So I do not yet see here the type of innovation you were alluding to earlier.

Lee Huberts's picture

I dont really care about the 8K. What matters is the speed x 50 megapixels. 8K is just to kick canon in the nuts

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

You're probably not wrong. lol

chris bryant's picture

Sony Just Destroyed the Competition With New Sony a1 Mirrorless Camera - says the Sony Fanboi.

This is a niche camera for users with rather niche interests i.e. professional photographers. It is not a camera for the large sector of camera users and therefore not a risk to the competition outside the niche.

If this camera was affordable by, even the average photog, then yes the title of the article would be true. As it is, the article is just some cheap sensationalism by a Fanboi. Improve your journalism please.

Edison Wrzosek's picture

Wrong, the a1, whilst not destroying anything or anyone (that phrase is overused), has set the technological bar for pretty much the entire industry to now match.

Yes it's a niche camera, that probably 90% of photographers don't need or can't take advantage of. But from a technological standpoint, it just wiped the floor clean using the completion as the mop.

So in that respect, the article is actually spot on.

chris bryant's picture

Wrong. the article as well as your comment is wrong and won't change anything. It has wiped the floor in the wrong room. This camera isn't going to sell in significant numbers. It's for a small number of photographers. It's not going to change anything just like Leica, it's far too niche. Its technology and capability has been priced out of contention. Now, if it was £2000... You and the article would be right.

Brian Stricker's picture

Let me start by saying I am not not a fan of Sony and have always hated the massive fanboyism all over the net about everything Sony. It really made me never want to own one. Well now I have a complete Sony kit with multiple bodies including an a9ii but still.despise the Sony fanboyism.

Having said all that, if you can't see how this camera is the best camera to ever be made for just about any type of photography then you are 1 of 2 people. Either a hater of anything Sony because you think it takes away from the Canon you own or you are broke and just can't admit it is amazing because you will never be able to afford it. Both reasons are to convince you that you are right for not wanting it.

Just a few specs alone make this thing a game changing beast. The 1/200 sync speed with e-shutter, 1/400 sync with normal shutter, 50mp sensor that can also shoot at 21mp FF. This camera is a do it all monster for anyone who makes money from photography and can afford it.

I do think canon's stuff is amazing and the only reason I switched was I got tired of waiting, and I think if and when the R1 comes out it will be a beast as well.

J M's picture

About closing the shutter when off to protect the sensor... I wonder if they'll push a firmware update to roll that out to other alpha models. I read a forum discussion on that a while back where someone wanted it and someone else said the sensor has a lot of coatings and should be able to handle a bit of dust, while the shutter might be easier to damage. So, I also wonder if there's something about this shutter that would make it able to handle the extra environmental stress. Or maybe the other person oversold the risk.

Tim van der Leeuw's picture

I recall reading somewhere that some cameras, Canon I think have this option but that the value of it was debatable as the shutter mechanism might be even more fragile than the sensor, when the shutter is closed and the lens is off.

At least if you have this option, you get the choice to make the trade-off of exposing sensor vs shutter yourself. ;)

JOHN CARDER's picture

Why I love Micro Four Thirds.

Darren McNeill's picture

Great so lazy people will be able to shoot 5 seconds worth of full sized images to pick one they can use and claim they are great......

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