Sony introduced the Alpha 1 full-frame 8K mirrorless camera that is billed as the “most technologically advanced camera that Sony has ever released.”

The Sony Alpha 1 combines new levels of high-resolution and high-speed performance using a 50.1-megapixel full-frame stacked Exmor RS image sensor, up to 120 AF/AE calculations per second, and 8K 30p 10-bit 4:2:0 video capture.

The Alpha 1 Full-frame Interchangeable-Lens Camera will be available in March at a $6,500 unilateral pricing policy price through Sony’s authorized dealer network.

“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,” said Neal Manowitz, deputy president for Imaging Products and Solutions Americas at Sony Electronics,” in annoucing the camera.

The Alpha 1 is Sony’s first mirrorless interchangeable lens camera capable of capturing 8K 30p video. Images are captured with 10-bit, 4:2:0 video is available, and offer users the ability to produce their own native 8K content for new generations of 8K Ultra HDTVs.

The Alpha 1 is also capable of 4K 120p / 60p 10-bit 4:2:2 recording and includes S-Cinetone color. For post production, the camera allows faster workflow, with up to 3.5 x faster wireless FTP transfer speed.

For advanced still work, the new image sensor, built-in integral memory and upgraded BIONZ XR imaging processing engine are said to enable shooting 50.1-megapixel images continuously at up to 30fps bursts. The camera is capable of performing 120 AF/AE calculations per second.

The camera’s high speed readout and large buffer memory enable shooting up to 155 full-frame compressed RAW images or 165 full-frame JPEG images at up to 30 frames per second with the electronic shutter while maintaining full AF and AE tracking performance.

The Alpha 1 adds a 9.44 million dot OLED Quad-XGA electronic viewfinder, that is said to have a refresh rate of up to 240 fps, with no black out. The 0.64 type OLED display and refined optics and said produce “the highest resolution in its class.”

It also offers 0.90x viewfinder magnification, a 41-degree diagonal field of view, and a 25mm-high eyepoint for clear, low distortion viewing.

Sony said the camera’s rapid calculation speed enables maintaining 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 seconds.

The advanced AF system is said to enable easily tracking precise and complex fast-moving subject shots. The Alpha 1 has 759 phase detection points in a high-density focal plane phase-detection AF system with 92% image coverage, under difficult conditions.

The new BIONZ XR processing and advanced Real-time Eye AF improves detection performance by 30% over the previous system.

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 birds, 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.

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.

Sony said the camera’s high-speed readout reduces rolling shutter by up to 1.5 times when shooting stills, compared to the popular Alpha 9 II.

It also offers silent anti-flicker continuous shooting with an electronic shutter that runs silently and without vibration.

For challenging lighting situations, like florescent lighting and other flicker-prone forms of artificial lighting, the Alpha 1 for the first time uses an electronic shutter with flash sync up to 1/200 sec. for expanded shooting versatility.

The camera also features a dual-driven shutter system to double the flash-synch performance up 1/400 with mechanical shutter that makes it easier to capture dynamic action.

The shutter curtain is made of carbon fiber for the dual-driven shutter system utilizing spring and electromagnetic drive actuator. This provides both high durability and lightness.

Further supporting the camera’s advanced 50MP sensor is its high sensitivity and low noise capabilities, along with support for 15+ stops of dynamic range for video and 15 stops for stills. In addition to advanced processing, this produces smooth, natural gradations from shadows to highlights throughout a wide ISO sensitivity range of 100-32,000 (expandable to 50-102,400, when shooting stills).

For images requiring advanced extreme detail and sharpness, like architecture and fine art, the Alpha 1 adds a newly advanced Pixel Shift Multi Shooting mode that composites up to 16 full-resolution images. In this mode, the camera is said to precisely shift 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. This is then composited into a 199 million pixel (17,280 x 11,520 pixels) image using Sony’s Imaging Edge desktop application. Coupled with the 1/200 sec. flash sync new levels of detail and color accuracy are said to be possible.

In 8K video work, the Alpha 1 allows XAVC HS recording with 8.6K oversampling. Resulting 8K footage can be used for flexible 4K editing during post-production.

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The Alpha 1 offers in-camera 4K recording at up to 120 frames per second, ideal for up to 5X slow-motion video. 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, Sony said.

Sony’s S-Cinetone feature used in the camera produces the same color matrix as the highly regarded FX9 and FX6 for accuracy in skin tones and other challenging images, including natural mid-tones, soft colors and brilliant highlights.

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, Sony said.

To support the power the camera offers, Sony has developed a unique heat dissipating structure that is said to keep the image sensor and image processing engine temperatures within normal operating ranges to prevent damage while maintaining a compact body form factor. Sony said the camera can shoot 8K/30p video continuously for approximately 30 minutes.

For image stabilization, the Alpha 1 features a precision stabilization unit and gyro sensors, with optimized image stabilization algorithms. This is said to 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’s Active Mode provides a level of stabilization suitable for handheld movie shooting. Sony’s desktop applications Catalyst Browse or Catalyst Prepare for post-production, an accurate image stabilization function is available which utilizes metadata generated by camera’s built-in gyro.

Other features include: 16-bit RAW output to an external recorder via HDMI for maximum post-production flexibility; digital audio interface; Multi Interface (MI) Shoe for compatible Sony external microphones, and 5.8K oversampled full-pixel readout without pixel binning for high-resolution 4K movies in Super 35mm mode.

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 is built with a durable magnesium alloy chassis, and affords long battery life with a Z-battery which can be extended using the optional VG-C4EM Vertical Grip.

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.

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By Greg Tarr

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