Sony plays for the upper end of the professional digital camera world, where videographers and sports photographers demand flawless image quality at high resolutions in a short period of time. The new Alpha 1 beats pretty much anything in the market on paper, but it’ll bring you back a cool $ 6,500.
This is of course well above the price range for ordinary consumers and even for expensive enthusiasts and “prosumers”. It’s a professional tool and this is where Canon has been the first choice in the past with its 1D series and more recently with its R5, a full-frame mirrorless that overtook the competition last year with great success. But Sony clearly wants to overtake the R5.
The Canon R5 met all the criteria: full frame sensor, 45 megapixels at 20 frames per second, an excellent EVF, image stabilization in the body and 8K video. Sony ticks them all too … but harder.
The Alpha 1 sends its 50-megapixel still images at 30 frames per second with no viewfinder blackout (and the backlit sensor is more sensitive). Its EVF has almost twice as many pixels and can be updated twice as fast at 240 fps. The 8K video is created with a higher resolution (Sony uses the full 8.6K and downrezzes values). it will shoot without overheating for half an hour (an R5 quirk); and so on.
Sony seems to have deliberately outperformed Canon’s flagship in every respect, albeit without considering cost: the R5 costs around $ 3800 while the A1 costs $ 6500.
However, photographers are no stranger to spending that kind of money on a tool of the trade (one lens can control you as much or more). Anyone who photographs sports or nature knows that 30 instead of 20 images per second can mean the difference between a cover shot and nothing at all. Visual effects artists who work closely with footage peep pixels all day can distinguish an R5 8K from an A1 8K. Will it matter Maybe, maybe not. Would you take the risk or pay extra to get rid of it?
When it’s all about money the best Instead of almost the bestThere are many people out there who write this check without a second thought. Of course, the R5 was released six months ago and its successor (the “Mark II”) could change this calculation again.
To be clear, the R5 and A1 are both far more cameras than most people will ever need. They are the latest in the industry – an industry that has been shrinking steadily for years. A fierce battle for pros can have long-lasting effects as bit players get out of the running and can no longer keep up. It’s an investment in the markets that they believe will last despite the constant intrusion of smartphones.
More importantly to the rest of us, such competition in the camera industry is good because it brings advances that reach to the models we can actually afford. Not that anyone really needs 8K, but that improved sensor readout and EVF would sure be nice to have.