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The Canon R1 competitor: Sony flexes its technology muscle with the Alpha 1
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The Canon R1 competitor: Sony flexes its technology muscle with the Alpha 1

Not to be outdone by the Canon EOS R5, Sony has announced the Alpha 1, a technological marvel.  It is no surprise that with the Olympics rescheduled for this year, companies like Sony and perhaps even Nikon had a chance to catch up to Canon in terms of video - specifically 8K.  8K was always a milestone for the Japan Olympics, so don't think that Sony just started working on this camera when they saw the R5.  It's most likely been in the works for a long time now.

Without going into much detail, this new camera from Sony pushes the envelope to what we thought possible from any camera manufacturer.  Two specifications reach out to me;

  • 1/200th e-shutter read speed at 14 bits
  • 50MP at 30fps.

I was quite stunned when Canon delivered the EOS R5 that nearly reached 900 million pixels per second, the fastest pixel transfer of any normal ILC camera. The Alpha 1 takes that and leapfrogs Canon dramatically, processing 1.5 billion pixels per second. They also do this at full 14 bit depth, whereas the R5 has to lower itself down to 12 bits.  That is quite impressive overall.  In terms of bits per second; the Alpha can process 21 billion bits per second, where the R5 can process half of that, around 10.8 billion bits per second.  The newly fabricated full-frame sensor in the Alpha 1 is stacked which allows for Sony to increase the speed without dramatically decreasing efficiency. This results in a high dynamic range sensor that can churn out those 21 billion bits without breaking a sweat.  This stacking of the sensor also allows Sony to increase the refresh rate of the sensor, not delivering basically mechanical shutter performance with an electronic shutter.

We know that Canon is releasing the R1 sometime this year for the Olympics, while a month ago I was thinking that the bar was low for the R1, now it seems that Canon needs to literally hit it out of the park. To reach the scan rates of the Sony sensor, Canon would have no choice but to turn to a global shutter.  However, with that, Canon will be giving up the dynamic range title to the Sony Alpha 1, but that may not be an issue for the majority of users.  Especially since Canon users are used to that ;)

I find it curious that Sony has limited the 8K to around 30 minutes, and that's only when you have the camera set to thermal control basically off.  I doubt we'll see the same fury that we did when Canon released an 8K camera, with tight thermal controls to protect both the operator and the camera.  I've long since suggested that Canon should follow Sony's lead here and have this style of thermal management in the R5.  Maybe the Alpha 1 will push Canon to do the same.  Anyone doing a side by side timing of the Alpha 1 versus the R5 should have the Sony set to normal thermal management, but don't expect that to happen any time soon ;)

I applaud Sony for this groundbreaking camera and I'm curious to see how Canon matches or markets around this camera.

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