Sony A1 + 200-600 First impressions (long)

If you would like to post, you'll need to register. Note that if you have a BCG store account, you'll need a new, separate account here (we keep the two sites separate for security purposes).

FB101

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Over the last few days a number of folks have reached out to get my first impressions so I figured I'd share my experience after 3 mornings of photography. This is in no way meant to be thorough or definitive (that will be Steve's video :) ), so without further ado

Handling, Ergonomics and Haptics
* For a Nikon shooter, ergonomics are quite easy to adjust to (maybe Canon shooters might have a bigger adjustment) - the layout is quite familiar with the benefit of adding an extra button under the right thumb for multiple BBF set-ups (something I always missed on Nikon)
* Menus are very deep, complex and laid-out by an engineer, not a photographer (things that should be together sometimes end-up in very different tabs) but you don't need to use menus often. There are plenty of customization options so that everything you need is either on a button or in the quick menu. It's daunting at first but once set up, it's very easy to use.
* Haptics are a bit rougher than Nikon and Canon, especially the shutter trigger but not to the point of distraction. Use it for an hour and you won't notice the difference.
*Overall the A1 is super responsive; lag is mostly non-existent and the difference is quite obvious vs the Z7ii, R5 and A9ii and those don't feel horribly laggy if used alone - but when the A1 comes into the picture, one realizes that everything takes a bit longer with those other cameras (I assume the R3 is at least as good as the A1 but have not had a chance to see one).

EVF
* Others have said it but it is indeed the most natural looking EVF I have used. Even the Z7ii, which has really good optics in the EVF, is not as smooth and fluid. For anybody like me who has major reservations on giving up the OVF, the A1 provides an experience that is finally not a set-back.
* Then we get all the benefits of EVF - wysiwyg is truly powerful and the A1 provides very useful zebras for photography (set at 109+ it shows the true clipping of the sensor, including Raw flexibility). Lots of composition aids, focusing aids etc... that we get with EVF
* AT 120Hz refresh the screen is very smooth but on fast panning there can be the slightest level of stuttering but that disappears at 240Hz. I intend to shoot at 120Hz most of the time and only enable 240Hz when dealing with expected fast action (diving ospreys would be an example). Reality is, even on fast panning, 120Hz is very easy to use and track - you just see a bit of stutter but nothing like the Z7ii and less than the R5 (which is quite manageable already).
* Blackout-free shooting is real and a revelation - the D500 at 10fps has 60% blackout and this camera shoots at 30fps without blackout. So even if there is a tiny stutter at 120Hz refresh, it's far less problematic to deal with than 60% blackout.

Sensor quality:
* Obviously the highlight is speed and resolution but you do pay a slight price in image quality in my eyes at lower ISOs.
* Compared to the D850, the A1 holds its own on noise at iso 6400-12800 but the Nikon sensor retains colors better at those high ISOs
* The surprise (to me) is that at lower ISOs, the A1 always shows a bit more noise than the D850 which is a 5 year older sensor. Clearly the D850 is optimized for low ISO DR and noise, while the A1 is optimized for speed and something had to give (a little)
* Up to now colors have been excellent but Steve mentioned that he's run into some weird green colors casts under a few circumstances - so probably something to be aware of.
* Good news is that from ISO 100 to 25600 (highest I have tested), DXO Pure Raw does an incredible job cleaning up those files, including color retention at higher iso. I find that software mandatory to get the most out of A1 files

AutoFocus
* There is no good way to put it into words - compared to D850 + 500pf or D500 + 500pf, the A1 + 200-600 just grabs focus at a speed that feels "instantaneous" and the lower the light level, the more obvious the difference is; and obviously the difference continues to get wider when adding a 1.4x TC.
* Until you try that combo, you'd never feel that the D850+500pf is somewhat slow but in comparison, it is. Acquisition on BIF is simply in a different category of performance with the A1.
* I don't have a D6 + 600f:4 so you'll have to wait for Steve to know if that difference holds against the big guns.
* Zone focus with tracking is about as magical as it gets - people have said it reads your mind and I swear at times, it does.
* I am still figuring out the best set-up for precise spot focusing - expanding spot is very unpredictable and I am not sure what use it really is for, but the small flexible spot might do the trick.
* Bird eye tracking works about 50% of the time - when it does, it's awesome and when it doesn't the camera just reverts back to head tracking or zone tracking which both work exceptionally well so there is no real downside to eye tracking but it's not the panacea some make it out to be - it's just a really good addition.
* AF on the A1 has some mild cases of the usual mirrorless issues - it does latch on backgrounds and won't let go on occasion. It does catch water splashes rather than the animal on occasion - but in both cases, significantly less so than the Z7ii and no worse than the R5.

Lens:
* Optically the 200-600 is so far at least on par with the 500pf and maybe a tad smoother bokeh and obviously the real benefit of being a zoom
* I also find the stabilizer more effective but it could just be the lack of mirror and the use of e-shutter - when I tried the 500pf on the Z7ii I did not notice the VR improvement but candidly, I was so frustrated with the AF misses that I did not pay attention to whether stabilization was improved.
* There are a couple things to know though. It's is heavier and more front-heavy than the 500pf. It's not unmanageable - just feels different.
* More annoying to me is that there is no focus distance recall function which is a great way to address the cases when AF gets stuck on the background. There is also no option to manual focus without pressing a button or using the AF/MF switch on the lens to engage MF, so you can't just "rack it back to close focus" when stuck on background.

Finally, the A1 doesn't replace the photographer, it just handles some of the technical aspects more easily to better focus on the photography itself. But even on that point, you still need to make a lot of the technical choices - but once you have made those choices, the camera can be trusted to a much higher level than any other I have used before (disclaimer, I have not shot the D6 or R3).

I hope that helps demystifying some of the hype vs reality. Another poster here said it best, the A1 is actually more fun to use and I think it boils down to the fact that you very rarely have to second-guess it and every time I go shoot with it I learn to trust it even more and so far it doesn't let me down. It's a tool that does its job well, is more reliable and simplifies my picture-taking process; for me that's good enough.
 

Udall1973

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Over the last few days a number of folks have reached out to get my first impressions so I figured I'd share my experience after 3 mornings of photography. This is in no way meant to be thorough or definitive (that will be Steve's video :) ), so without further ado

Handling, Ergonomics and Haptics
* For a Nikon shooter, ergonomics are quite easy to adjust to (maybe Canon shooters might have a bigger adjustment) - the layout is quite familiar with the benefit of adding an extra button under the right thumb for multiple BBF set-ups (something I always missed on Nikon)
* Menus are very deep, complex and laid-out by an engineer, not a photographer (things that should be together sometimes end-up in very different tabs) but you don't need to use menus often. There are plenty of customization options so that everything you need is either on a button or in the quick menu. It's daunting at first but once set up, it's very easy to use.
* Haptics are a bit rougher than Nikon and Canon, especially the shutter trigger but not to the point of distraction. Use it for an hour and you won't notice the difference.
*Overall the A1 is super responsive; lag is mostly non-existent and the difference is quite obvious vs the Z7ii, R5 and A9ii and those don't feel horribly laggy if used alone - but when the A1 comes into the picture, one realizes that everything takes a bit longer with those other cameras (I assume the R3 is at least as good as the A1 but have not had a chance to see one).

EVF
* Others have said it but it is indeed the most natural looking EVF I have used. Even the Z7ii, which has really good optics in the EVF, is not as smooth and fluid. For anybody like me who has major reservations on giving up the OVF, the A1 provides an experience that is finally not a set-back.
* Then we get all the benefits of EVF - wysiwyg is truly powerful and the A1 provides very useful zebras for photography (set at 109+ it shows the true clipping of the sensor, including Raw flexibility). Lots of composition aids, focusing aids etc... that we get with EVF
* AT 120Hz refresh the screen is very smooth but on fast panning there can be the slightest level of stuttering but that disappears at 240Hz. I intend to shoot at 120Hz most of the time and only enable 240Hz when dealing with expected fast action (diving ospreys would be an example). Reality is, even on fast panning, 120Hz is very easy to use and track - you just see a bit of stutter but nothing like the Z7ii and less than the R5 (which is quite manageable already).
* Blackout-free shooting is real and a revelation - the D500 at 10fps has 60% blackout and this camera shoots at 30fps without blackout. So even if there is a tiny stutter at 120Hz refresh, it's far less problematic to deal with than 60% blackout.

Sensor quality:
* Obviously the highlight is speed and resolution but you do pay a slight price in image quality in my eyes at lower ISOs.
* Compared to the D850, the A1 holds its own on noise at iso 6400-12800 but the Nikon sensor retains colors better at those high ISOs
* The surprise (to me) is that at lower ISOs, the A1 always shows a bit more noise than the D850 which is a 5 year older sensor. Clearly the D850 is optimized for low ISO DR and noise, while the A1 is optimized for speed and something had to give (a little)
* Up to now colors have been excellent but Steve mentioned that he's run into some weird green colors casts under a few circumstances - so probably something to be aware of.
* Good news is that from ISO 100 to 25600 (highest I have tested), DXO Pure Raw does an incredible job cleaning up those files, including color retention at higher iso. I find that software mandatory to get the most out of A1 files

AutoFocus
* There is no good way to put it into words - compared to D850 + 500pf or D500 + 500pf, the A1 + 200-600 just grabs focus at a speed that feels "instantaneous" and the lower the light level, the more obvious the difference is; and obviously the difference continues to get wider when adding a 1.4x TC.
* Until you try that combo, you'd never feel that the D850+500pf is somewhat slow but in comparison, it is. Acquisition on BIF is simply in a different category of performance with the A1.
* I don't have a D6 + 600f:4 so you'll have to wait for Steve to know if that difference holds against the big guns.
* Zone focus with tracking is about as magical as it gets - people have said it reads your mind and I swear at times, it does.
* I am still figuring out the best set-up for precise spot focusing - expanding spot is very unpredictable and I am not sure what use it really is for, but the small flexible spot might do the trick.
* Bird eye tracking works about 50% of the time - when it does, it's awesome and when it doesn't the camera just reverts back to head tracking or zone tracking which both work exceptionally well so there is no real downside to eye tracking but it's not the panacea some make it out to be - it's just a really good addition.
* AF on the A1 has some mild cases of the usual mirrorless issues - it does latch on backgrounds and won't let go on occasion. It does catch water splashes rather than the animal on occasion - but in both cases, significantly less so than the Z7ii and no worse than the R5.

Lens:
* Optically the 200-600 is so far at least on par with the 500pf and maybe a tad smoother bokeh and obviously the real benefit of being a zoom
* I also find the stabilizer more effective but it could just be the lack of mirror and the use of e-shutter - when I tried the 500pf on the Z7ii I did not notice the VR improvement but candidly, I was so frustrated with the AF misses that I did not pay attention to whether stabilization was improved.
* There are a couple things to know though. It's is heavier and more front-heavy than the 500pf. It's not unmanageable - just feels different.
* More annoying to me is that there is no focus distance recall function which is a great way to address the cases when AF gets stuck on the background. There is also no option to manual focus without pressing a button or using the AF/MF switch on the lens to engage MF, so you can't just "rack it back to close focus" when stuck on background.

Finally, the A1 doesn't replace the photographer, it just handles some of the technical aspects more easily to better focus on the photography itself. But even on that point, you still need to make a lot of the technical choices - but once you have made those choices, the camera can be trusted to a much higher level than any other I have used before (disclaimer, I have not shot the D6 or R3).

I hope that helps demystifying some of the hype vs reality. Another poster here said it best, the A1 is actually more fun to use and I think it boils down to the fact that you very rarely have to second-guess it and every time I go shoot with it I learn to trust it even more and so far it doesn't let me down. It's a tool that does its job well, is more reliable and simplifies my picture-taking process; for me that's good enough.
You have summarized my impressions very well. I would add that silent shutter mode is helpful when capturing critters and the customization allows for flexibility simply not available with my D850 or D500. I do agree that the Nikon files seem cleaner and the color at high iso also are higher fidelity.

Loved your considered observations - very relevant to me as a Nikonian moving to Sony.

Regards, Andrew
 

abc123brian

Well-known member
Thanks for sharing your experience. I always like hearing the experience from real user experience over click driven reviews. I’m surprised you found the 200-600mm to be potentially better the 500pf. As someone who has been shooting mirrorless for a long time, I’ve been enjoying many of the benefits they have over a DSLR, but EVF hesitation and instant AF are two things that were lacking for a long time (other than native long lenses). I’m excited that in the last year these two areas have come so far. Looking forward to seeing what Nikon can offer with the Z9.
 

Hatch1921

Active member
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about the A1 and its performance. I'm currently shooting the D850/500pf combo as you mentioned above. I was really curious to know how well the A1 performed with the 200-600 compared to the 500pf. I love the 500pf for what it is and how it performs. I know the D850 can't compete AF wise against the A1...it was interesting to learn about the lower ISOs on the A1 having more noise. But, as you mentioned, with some software adjustment...noise isn't a problem.

I'm headed to Bosque del Apache next month ... contemplating buying the A1 (currently second on a waiting list) and making the move to Sony... or possibly renting the A1/200-600 and then holding out for the Z9. If the 200-600 is outperforming the 500pf...I'm not sure what's holding me back from making the jump. LOL Nikon does have their 200-600 listed as a new lens in the future...how far into the future...that's the question.

Anyways... I'm rambling. Again... truly appreciate your taking the time to share you thoughts about the setup.

Congrats on the new camera combo.
Hatch
 

Venkatesh VT

Love nature & nature loves you back
Over the last few days a number of folks have reached out to get my first impressions so I figured I'd share my experience after 3 mornings of photography. This is in no way meant to be thorough or definitive (that will be Steve's video :) ), so without further ado

Handling, Ergonomics and Haptics
* For a Nikon shooter, ergonomics are quite easy to adjust to (maybe Canon shooters might have a bigger adjustment) - the layout is quite familiar with the benefit of adding an extra button under the right thumb for multiple BBF set-ups (something I always missed on Nikon)
* Menus are very deep, complex and laid-out by an engineer, not a photographer (things that should be together sometimes end-up in very different tabs) but you don't need to use menus often. There are plenty of customization options so that everything you need is either on a button or in the quick menu. It's daunting at first but once set up, it's very easy to use.
* Haptics are a bit rougher than Nikon and Canon, especially the shutter trigger but not to the point of distraction. Use it for an hour and you won't notice the difference.
*Overall the A1 is super responsive; lag is mostly non-existent and the difference is quite obvious vs the Z7ii, R5 and A9ii and those don't feel horribly laggy if used alone - but when the A1 comes into the picture, one realizes that everything takes a bit longer with those other cameras (I assume the R3 is at least as good as the A1 but have not had a chance to see one).

EVF
* Others have said it but it is indeed the most natural looking EVF I have used. Even the Z7ii, which has really good optics in the EVF, is not as smooth and fluid. For anybody like me who has major reservations on giving up the OVF, the A1 provides an experience that is finally not a set-back.
* Then we get all the benefits of EVF - wysiwyg is truly powerful and the A1 provides very useful zebras for photography (set at 109+ it shows the true clipping of the sensor, including Raw flexibility). Lots of composition aids, focusing aids etc... that we get with EVF
* AT 120Hz refresh the screen is very smooth but on fast panning there can be the slightest level of stuttering but that disappears at 240Hz. I intend to shoot at 120Hz most of the time and only enable 240Hz when dealing with expected fast action (diving ospreys would be an example). Reality is, even on fast panning, 120Hz is very easy to use and track - you just see a bit of stutter but nothing like the Z7ii and less than the R5 (which is quite manageable already).
* Blackout-free shooting is real and a revelation - the D500 at 10fps has 60% blackout and this camera shoots at 30fps without blackout. So even if there is a tiny stutter at 120Hz refresh, it's far less problematic to deal with than 60% blackout.

Sensor quality:
* Obviously the highlight is speed and resolution but you do pay a slight price in image quality in my eyes at lower ISOs.
* Compared to the D850, the A1 holds its own on noise at iso 6400-12800 but the Nikon sensor retains colors better at those high ISOs
* The surprise (to me) is that at lower ISOs, the A1 always shows a bit more noise than the D850 which is a 5 year older sensor. Clearly the D850 is optimized for low ISO DR and noise, while the A1 is optimized for speed and something had to give (a little)
* Up to now colors have been excellent but Steve mentioned that he's run into some weird green colors casts under a few circumstances - so probably something to be aware of.
* Good news is that from ISO 100 to 25600 (highest I have tested), DXO Pure Raw does an incredible job cleaning up those files, including color retention at higher iso. I find that software mandatory to get the most out of A1 files

AutoFocus
* There is no good way to put it into words - compared to D850 + 500pf or D500 + 500pf, the A1 + 200-600 just grabs focus at a speed that feels "instantaneous" and the lower the light level, the more obvious the difference is; and obviously the difference continues to get wider when adding a 1.4x TC.
* Until you try that combo, you'd never feel that the D850+500pf is somewhat slow but in comparison, it is. Acquisition on BIF is simply in a different category of performance with the A1.
* I don't have a D6 + 600f:4 so you'll have to wait for Steve to know if that difference holds against the big guns.
* Zone focus with tracking is about as magical as it gets - people have said it reads your mind and I swear at times, it does.
* I am still figuring out the best set-up for precise spot focusing - expanding spot is very unpredictable and I am not sure what use it really is for, but the small flexible spot might do the trick.
* Bird eye tracking works about 50% of the time - when it does, it's awesome and when it doesn't the camera just reverts back to head tracking or zone tracking which both work exceptionally well so there is no real downside to eye tracking but it's not the panacea some make it out to be - it's just a really good addition.
* AF on the A1 has some mild cases of the usual mirrorless issues - it does latch on backgrounds and won't let go on occasion. It does catch water splashes rather than the animal on occasion - but in both cases, significantly less so than the Z7ii and no worse than the R5.

Lens:
* Optically the 200-600 is so far at least on par with the 500pf and maybe a tad smoother bokeh and obviously the real benefit of being a zoom
* I also find the stabilizer more effective but it could just be the lack of mirror and the use of e-shutter - when I tried the 500pf on the Z7ii I did not notice the VR improvement but candidly, I was so frustrated with the AF misses that I did not pay attention to whether stabilization was improved.
* There are a couple things to know though. It's is heavier and more front-heavy than the 500pf. It's not unmanageable - just feels different.
* More annoying to me is that there is no focus distance recall function which is a great way to address the cases when AF gets stuck on the background. There is also no option to manual focus without pressing a button or using the AF/MF switch on the lens to engage MF, so you can't just "rack it back to close focus" when stuck on background.

Finally, the A1 doesn't replace the photographer, it just handles some of the technical aspects more easily to better focus on the photography itself. But even on that point, you still need to make a lot of the technical choices - but once you have made those choices, the camera can be trusted to a much higher level than any other I have used before (disclaimer, I have not shot the D6 or R3).

I hope that helps demystifying some of the hype vs reality. Another poster here said it best, the A1 is actually more fun to use and I think it boils down to the fact that you very rarely have to second-guess it and every time I go shoot with it I learn to trust it even more and so far it doesn't let me down. It's a tool that does its job well, is more reliable and simplifies my picture-taking process; for me that's good enough.
Thx for your feedback.I have been promised A1 by 26 Oct & reading your comments make me feel that I am making the right choice ( apart from Steve's views on A1 )
As a person who owns D 850 ,D 500 & two 500 PF lenses this is a great leap of faith to Sony ( though I do have Sony Rx 10 Iv which too has a good AF tracking & I use it for mainly video)
 

abc123brian

Well-known member
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about the A1 and its performance. I'm currently shooting the D850/500pf combo as you mentioned above. I was really curious to know how well the A1 performed with the 200-600 compared to the 500pf. I love the 500pf for what it is and how it performs. I know the D850 can't compete AF wise against the A1...it was interesting to learn about the lower ISOs on the A1 having more noise. But, as you mentioned, with some software adjustment...noise isn't a problem.

I'm headed to Bosque del Apache next month ... contemplating buying the A1 (currently second on a waiting list) and making the move to Sony... or possibly renting the A1/200-600 and then holding out for the Z9. If the 200-600 is outperforming the 500pf...I'm not sure what's holding me back from making the jump. LOL Nikon does have their 200-600 listed as a new lens in the future...how far into the future...that's the question.

Anyways... I'm rambling. Again... truly appreciate your taking the time to share you thoughts about the setup.

Congrats on the new camera combo.
Hatch
If you’re unsure and want to at least consider the Z9 which is about to be released, why not just rent the A1 for the trip? To me, it seems like the clear path. Regarding the 200-600mm, Nikon claims all lenses on the roadmap will be released by the end of 2022 so shouldn’t be too far off.
 
Over the last few days a number of folks have reached out to get my first impressions so I figured I'd share my experience after 3 mornings of photography. This is in no way meant to be thorough or definitive (that will be Steve's video :) ), so without further ado

Handling, Ergonomics and Haptics
* For a Nikon shooter, ergonomics are quite easy to adjust to (maybe Canon shooters might have a bigger adjustment) - the layout is quite familiar with the benefit of adding an extra button under the right thumb for multiple BBF set-ups (something I always missed on Nikon)
* Menus are very deep, complex and laid-out by an engineer, not a photographer (things that should be together sometimes end-up in very different tabs) but you don't need to use menus often. There are plenty of customization options so that everything you need is either on a button or in the quick menu. It's daunting at first but once set up, it's very easy to use.
* Haptics are a bit rougher than Nikon and Canon, especially the shutter trigger but not to the point of distraction. Use it for an hour and you won't notice the difference.
*Overall the A1 is super responsive; lag is mostly non-existent and the difference is quite obvious vs the Z7ii, R5 and A9ii and those don't feel horribly laggy if used alone - but when the A1 comes into the picture, one realizes that everything takes a bit longer with those other cameras (I assume the R3 is at least as good as the A1 but have not had a chance to see one).

EVF
* Others have said it but it is indeed the most natural looking EVF I have used. Even the Z7ii, which has really good optics in the EVF, is not as smooth and fluid. For anybody like me who has major reservations on giving up the OVF, the A1 provides an experience that is finally not a set-back.
* Then we get all the benefits of EVF - wysiwyg is truly powerful and the A1 provides very useful zebras for photography (set at 109+ it shows the true clipping of the sensor, including Raw flexibility). Lots of composition aids, focusing aids etc... that we get with EVF
* AT 120Hz refresh the screen is very smooth but on fast panning there can be the slightest level of stuttering but that disappears at 240Hz. I intend to shoot at 120Hz most of the time and only enable 240Hz when dealing with expected fast action (diving ospreys would be an example). Reality is, even on fast panning, 120Hz is very easy to use and track - you just see a bit of stutter but nothing like the Z7ii and less than the R5 (which is quite manageable already).
* Blackout-free shooting is real and a revelation - the D500 at 10fps has 60% blackout and this camera shoots at 30fps without blackout. So even if there is a tiny stutter at 120Hz refresh, it's far less problematic to deal with than 60% blackout.

Sensor quality:
* Obviously the highlight is speed and resolution but you do pay a slight price in image quality in my eyes at lower ISOs.
* Compared to the D850, the A1 holds its own on noise at iso 6400-12800 but the Nikon sensor retains colors better at those high ISOs
* The surprise (to me) is that at lower ISOs, the A1 always shows a bit more noise than the D850 which is a 5 year older sensor. Clearly the D850 is optimized for low ISO DR and noise, while the A1 is optimized for speed and something had to give (a little)
* Up to now colors have been excellent but Steve mentioned that he's run into some weird green colors casts under a few circumstances - so probably something to be aware of.
* Good news is that from ISO 100 to 25600 (highest I have tested), DXO Pure Raw does an incredible job cleaning up those files, including color retention at higher iso. I find that software mandatory to get the most out of A1 files

AutoFocus
* There is no good way to put it into words - compared to D850 + 500pf or D500 + 500pf, the A1 + 200-600 just grabs focus at a speed that feels "instantaneous" and the lower the light level, the more obvious the difference is; and obviously the difference continues to get wider when adding a 1.4x TC.
* Until you try that combo, you'd never feel that the D850+500pf is somewhat slow but in comparison, it is. Acquisition on BIF is simply in a different category of performance with the A1.
* I don't have a D6 + 600f:4 so you'll have to wait for Steve to know if that difference holds against the big guns.
* Zone focus with tracking is about as magical as it gets - people have said it reads your mind and I swear at times, it does.
* I am still figuring out the best set-up for precise spot focusing - expanding spot is very unpredictable and I am not sure what use it really is for, but the small flexible spot might do the trick.
* Bird eye tracking works about 50% of the time - when it does, it's awesome and when it doesn't the camera just reverts back to head tracking or zone tracking which both work exceptionally well so there is no real downside to eye tracking but it's not the panacea some make it out to be - it's just a really good addition.
* AF on the A1 has some mild cases of the usual mirrorless issues - it does latch on backgrounds and won't let go on occasion. It does catch water splashes rather than the animal on occasion - but in both cases, significantly less so than the Z7ii and no worse than the R5.

Lens:
* Optically the 200-600 is so far at least on par with the 500pf and maybe a tad smoother bokeh and obviously the real benefit of being a zoom
* I also find the stabilizer more effective but it could just be the lack of mirror and the use of e-shutter - when I tried the 500pf on the Z7ii I did not notice the VR improvement but candidly, I was so frustrated with the AF misses that I did not pay attention to whether stabilization was improved.
* There are a couple things to know though. It's is heavier and more front-heavy than the 500pf. It's not unmanageable - just feels different.
* More annoying to me is that there is no focus distance recall function which is a great way to address the cases when AF gets stuck on the background. There is also no option to manual focus without pressing a button or using the AF/MF switch on the lens to engage MF, so you can't just "rack it back to close focus" when stuck on background.

Finally, the A1 doesn't replace the photographer, it just handles some of the technical aspects more easily to better focus on the photography itself. But even on that point, you still need to make a lot of the technical choices - but once you have made those choices, the camera can be trusted to a much higher level than any other I have used before (disclaimer, I have not shot the D6 or R3).

I hope that helps demystifying some of the hype vs reality. Another poster here said it best, the A1 is actually more fun to use and I think it boils down to the fact that you very rarely have to second-guess it and every time I go shoot with it I learn to trust it even more and so far it doesn't let me down. It's a tool that does its job well, is more reliable and simplifies my picture-taking process; for me that's good enough.

Loved your review. The best that I have read so far.

I have a few questions.

1) Is the initial target acquisition on the A1/200-600 faster than D500/500 pf with group focus mode. (Group AF is the fastest AF mode on the D500)

2) Does the A1 have a heavy AA filter as you opined that the sharpness on the Sony combo was similar to the D500/5000pf combo. I just a shot static parrot today evening on my D500/500 pf & with the Sony A7 iii/200-600. The Sony combo was way sharper. I will try posting both cropped raw files soon.

3) How long does the 8k & 4k 120 FPS video work without overheating?

4) Is the 4k 120 FPS video sharp?

5) Do you edit the Sony A1 raw files with Capture One? Matt Irwin opines that it is the best software for rendering the highest quality Sony raw files.

6) How does the Sony A1 perform at initial bird acquisition & tracking with a busy background.

7) Have you tried shooting swallows in-flight? Can the Sony A1 handle them?

8) When you talk about the A1's noise, are you talking about luminance noise or the nasty chromatic noise?
 
Last edited:
Thx for your feedback.I have been promised A1 by 26 Oct & reading your comments make me feel that I am making the right choice ( apart from Steve's views on A1 )
As a person who owns D 850 ,D 500 & two 500 PF lenses this is a great leap of faith to Sony ( though I do have Sony Rx 10 Iv which too has a good AF tracking & I use it for mainly video)
So you have ordered a Sony A1 & 200-600? Congratulations!
 

Hatch1921

Active member
If you’re unsure and want to at least consider the Z9 which is about to be released, why not just rent the A1 for the trip? To me, it seems like the clear path. Regarding the 200-600mm, Nikon claims all lenses on the roadmap will be released by the end of 2022 so shouldn’t be too far off.
It's an option ... one week rental -- Total$698.00

Or, I could order one... shoot for a month before the trip... and sell it if I don't like it... would I lose $700 or more on the sale (maybe) it's a gamble either way IMO. With the camera in high demand, I can't see me losing much if any?

1st world problems for sure. I should just be patient and take the trusty D850/500pf to Bosque and then see what the Z9 has to offer. :) That would be the "adult" thing to do.. :)

Hatch
 
Last edited:

FB101

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Thread starter
Loved your review. The best that I have read so far.

I have a few questions.

1) Is the initial target acquisition on the A1/200-600 faster than D500/500 pf with group focus mode. (Group AF is the fastest AF mode on the D500)

2) Does the A1 have a heavy AA filter as you opined that the sharpness on the Sony combo was similar to the D500/5000pf combo. I just a shot static parrot today evening on my D500/500 pf & with the Sony A7 iii/200-600. The Sony combo was way sharper. I will try posting both cropped raw files soon.

3) How long does the 8k & 4k 120 FPS video work without overheating?

4) Is the 4k 120 FPS video sharp?

5) Do you edit the Sony A1 raw files with Capture One? Matt Irwin opines that it is the best software for rendering the highest quality Sony raw files.

6) How does the Sony A1 perform at initial bird acquisition & tracking with a busy background.

7) Have you tried shooting swallows in-flight? Can the Sony A1 handle them?

8) When you talk about the A1's noise, are you talking about luminance noise or the nasty chromatic noise?
1. Yes, group focus is my reference with D500 and D850 and the A1 is significantly faster to acquire focus. It is really surprising the first few times, especially in lower light levels where I am used to "hunting"

2. I will leave testing under controlled conditions to folks who have an affinity for it - my comment is based on the subjective sharpness of the pictures with both set-ups in the same locations, same subjects. I don't see a huge edge for either system

3,4 I have not done any video yet

5 I only use LRc +/- DXO pure raw

6 So far, outstanding results - much better than I expected. Much better than my experience with Z7ii and certainly no worse than R5 (which is quite good)

7 - not yet - they are not around here at this time but hoping to see some in coming weeks

8 - all luminance noise - I see very little chroma noise (actually surprisingly little even before running DXO Pure raw and absolutely none after)
 

FB101

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Thread starter
It's an option ... one week rental -- Total$698.00

Or, I could order one... shoot for a month before the trip... and sell it if I don't like it... would I lose $700 or more on sale (maybe) it's a gamble either way IMO. With the camera in demand, I can't see me losing much if any?

1st world problems for sure. I should just be patient and take the trusty D850/500pf to Bosque and then see what the Z9 has to offer. :) That would be the "adult" thing to do.. :)

Hatch
That's exactly why I bought one. I am going to a workshop in December - I'll be ready with the A1 and if in the end I want to go back to the Z9, I'll sell the Sony gear and the loss won't be worse than renting for 2 weeks.
 
1. Yes, group focus is my reference with D500 and D850 and the A1 is significantly faster to acquire focus. It is really surprising the first few times, especially in lower light levels where I am used to "hunting"

2. I will leave testing under controlled conditions to folks who have an affinity for it - my comment is based on the subjective sharpness of the pictures with both set-ups in the same locations, same subjects. I don't see a huge edge for either system

3,4 I have not done any video yet

5 I only use LRc +/- DXO pure raw

6 So far, outstanding results - much better than I expected. Much better than my experience with Z7ii and certainly no worse than R5 (which is quite good)

7 - not yet - they are not around here at this time but hoping to see some in coming weeks

8 - all luminance noise - I see very little chroma noise (actually surprisingly little even before running DXO Pure raw and absolutely none after)
Thanks a ton for your answers. Extremely helpful. :)
 

Ed Erkes

Member
Having used the A1 and 200-600 for 5 months, I would agree with your assessment except with regards to your noise comparison to the D850. With my D850, my upper ISO limit was 3200. I'd shoot at 6400 at times for astrolandscapes, being willing to accept some loss of detail for a clean image. But with the A1 my upper limit is ISO 8000, and I'll even shoot at ISO 12800 at times. The A1 images clean up very nicely with Topaz Denoise AI and retain detail much better than I was able to achieve with my D850 files.

I also had a harder time getting used to the ergonomics of the smaller A1 body. Ended up getting a vertical grip to give my hand more to grab onto. The A1 has a lot of customizable buttons, but they just don't happen to be placed where the ends of my fingers seem to naturally find. It was definitely something I had to get used to. The vertical grip helped with this too. I was able to maintain my grip with the lower part of my hand while moving the upper part of my hand away from camera body to enable my thumb and fingertips to press the custom buttons.
erkesphoto.com
 
Last edited:

FB101

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Thread starter
Having used the A1 and 200-600 for 5 months, I would agree with your assessment except with regards to your noise comparison to the D850. With my D850, my upper ISO limit was 3200. I'd shoot at 6400 at times for astrolandscapes, being willing to accept some loss of detail for a clean image. But with the A1 my upper limit is ISO 8000, and I'll even shoot at ISO 12800 at times. The A1 images clean up very nicely with Topaz Denoise AI and retain detail much better than I was able to achieve with my D850 files.

I also had a harder time getting used to the ergonomics of the smaller A1 body. Ended up getting a vertical grip to give my hand more to grab onto. The A1 has a lot of customizable buttons, but they just don't happen to be placed where the ends of my fingers seem to naturally find. It was definitely something I had to get used to. The vertical grip helped with this too. I was able to maintain my grip with the lower part of my hand while moving the upper part of my hand away from camera body to enable my fingertips to press the custom buttons.
erkesphoto.com
i certainly won’t pretend my comments are definitive in any way so as I spend more time with the A1 some conclusions may shift. And I don’t think our views are that different.
i agree that he A1 can be shot at iso 6400 to 12800 andthose files do clean up nicely (i do find that DXO pure raw works better than Topaz at those high isos though).
The D850‘s useability maxes out at iso 6400 for me too and although details fall, I can retrieve Colors from high iso D850 files better than A1 files - it might just be a learning curve thing though.

My biggest surprise though was the higher level of luminosity noise in the A1 file at lower isos. It does clean up very well and is not a practical issue at all, but it’s a difference I see consistently. Just like the D500 files at iso 100 are more noisy than D750 files - both perfectly useable but the differences are visible.
 

vivid

New member
I also had a harder time getting used to the ergonomics of the smaller A1 body. Ended up getting a vertical grip to give my hand more to grab onto. The A1 has a lot of customizable buttons, but they just don't happen to be placed where the ends of my fingers seem to naturally find. It was definitely something I had to get used to. The vertical grip helped with this too. I was able to maintain my grip with the lower part of my hand while moving the upper part of my hand away from camera body to enable my thumb and fingertips to press the custom buttons.
erkesphoto.com
Another D850/500PF shooter here who had the chance to try the A1/200-600mm combo. To echo some of the impressions already posted in this thread - the AF is supernaturally quick and the ability to shoot at 20 or 30 fps is a game changer. The EVF is fantastic.

My gripes are with usability. The battery grip helps, but it doesn't address the main issue that I'm struggling with - the location of the shutter speed and exposure compensation dials in relation to the AF-ON and AEL buttons and the joystick. I feel like I have to break my grip somewhat to effectively work the controls, my thumb hits the side AF-ON button when dialing down shutter speed, and in general the button layout feels a touch off.

This is all exacerbated by the fact that I'm left eye dominant and having my nose to the right of the viewfinder - in an already fairly cramped space - makes things that much more annoying. Perhaps this isn't much of an issue for people who shoot with their right eye.

Aside from that, the zoom ring on the 200-600mm is way too loose for its (conveniently) short throw. It could have really benefitted from either friction adjuster like on the Canon EF 100-400mm II or just having a little more resistance. More than once I found myself somewhere between 600mm and 500mm purely on accident. This can be worked around by applying light clockwise pressure on the zoom ring every time one intends to shoot at 600mm, but this problem shouldn't exist in the first place.
 
Last edited:

Ed Erkes

Member
And I don’t think our views are that different.
i agree that he A1 can be shot at iso 6400 to 12800 andthose files do clean up nicely (i do find that DXO pure raw works better than Topaz at those high isos though).
The D850‘s useability maxes out at iso 6400 for me too and although details fall, I can retrieve Colors from high iso D850 files better than A1 files - it might just be a learning curve thing though.
I guess it depends on how you look at it. I had been stuck at ISO 3200 for wildlife photography for nine years (when the D800 was released). To now be able to use ISO 8000 ,and even up to 12,800 at times...,well, to me, that was a really big advantage to moving up to the A1.
 

FB101

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Thread starter
Another D850/500PF shooter here who had the chance to try the A1/200-600mm combo. To echo some of the impressions already posted in this thread - the AF is supernaturally quick and the ability to shoot at 20 or 30 fps is a game changer. The EVF is fantastic.

My gripes are with usability. The battery grip helps, but it doesn't address the main issue that I'm struggling with - the location of the shutter speed and exposure compensation dials in relation to the AF-ON and AEL buttons and the joystick. I feel like I have to break my grip somewhat to effectively work the controls, my thumb hits the side AF-ON button when dialing down shutter speed, and in general the button layout feels a touch off.

This is all exacerbated by the fact that I'm left eye dominant and having my nose to the right of the viewfinder - in an already fairly cramped space - makes things that much more annoying. Perhaps this isn't much of an issue for people who shoot with their right eye.

Aside from that, the zoom ring on the 200-600mm is way too loose for its (conveniently) short throw. It could have really benefitted from either friction adjuster like on the Canon EF 100-400mm II or just having a little more resistance. More than once I found myself somewhere between 600mm and 500mm purely on accident. This can be worked around by applying light clockwise pressure on the zoom ring every time one intends to shoot at 600mm, but this problem shouldn't exist in the first place.
Ergonomics is definitely something very personal. I have found the A1 very easy to get used to but I should have mentioned that I use the vertical grip too and the camera is indeed too small for me too without it. The controls aren’t exactly in the same place as Nikon, but I found the layout familiar.

i like the ease of zooming of the 200-600; one quick rotation with my left thumb and I get the framing I want - I really like that, but I can see your point, it’s easy to knock off the zoom from its current position.
 

Hatch1921

Active member
"I had been stuck at ISO 3200 for wildlife photography" Same... I photographed a bobcat a month ago at ISO 4000 on the D850 and I just cringed... still turned out decent. That being said... if I can shoot ISO 6400-12800 this is a big leap :)

Looking forward to the A1.
Hatch
 

vivid

New member
Ergonomics is definitely something very personal. I have found the A1 very easy to get used to but I should have mentioned that I use the vertical grip too and the camera is indeed too small for me too without it. The controls aren’t exactly in the same place as Nikon, but I found the layout familiar.

i like the ease of zooming of the 200-600; one quick rotation with my left thumb and I get the framing I want - I really like that, but I can see your point, it’s easy to knock off the zoom from its current position.
I would be interested to know how you end up configuring the camera, if you at some point feel comfortable sharing that. I'd like to try make the A1 work for me, since it's so exceptionally capable... But I haven't been able to work around those annoyances just yet.

As for the zoom ring on the 200-600mm, it's a nitpick, I suppose. Indeed, I'd rather have the ability to shoot at 600mm f/6.3 w/o tunable zoom ring resistance or a lock - as opposed to having it, but being limited to 500mm f/7.1 in Canon RF land, for example.
 

Ed Erkes

Member
Here
"I had been stuck at ISO 3200 for wildlife photography" Same... I photographed a bobcat a month ago at ISO 4000 on the D850 and I just cringed... still turned out decent. That being said... if I can shoot ISO 6400-12800 this is a big leap :)

Looking forward to the A1.
Hatch
Here's a couple images shot at ISO 8000. you can probably see them better as posted on my website, in my two most recent blogs at erkesphoto.com20210626_SonyA1_3823BlackBear-copy.jpg_DSC3633-Pano2-flattenedDenoise-Edit-3-sharpened.jpg
 

Doug Herr

Well-known member
My gripes are with usability. The battery grip helps, but it doesn't address the main issue that I'm struggling with - the location of the shutter speed and exposure compensation dials in relation to the AF-ON and AEL buttons and the joystick. I feel like I have to break my grip somewhat to effectively work the controls, my thumb hits the side AF-ON button when dialing down shutter speed, and in general the button layout feels a touch off.
I've re-mapped the shutter speed to the front dial.
 

FB101

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Thread starter
I'm going to venture a guess, but it seems it works :)
Really great shots, can't wait to give the little guys a try.
 
Top