Great review. I think I concur with most if not all of it. I've owned all that same gear, including R5, but now all I use is the A1, 600GM, 200-600 and 100-400.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).
* 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.
* 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
* 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.
* 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.
I still have my D500 and 500PF (sold the 850) but every time I try to use it I just can't get used to it anymore. Even though I used to rave about it after coming from Canon DSLRs. It is amazing how small the OVF FOV looks in comparison to the expanse of the A1 EVF.
I sold my R5 just before buying the A1 so I never got to shoot them back to back. I recently borrowed an R5 and 600III to try back to back with the A1/600GM. I wanted to reacquaint myself with the R5 in relation to the A1. What I found was the A1 was remarkably better at picking up small, fast swallows against complicated backgrounds. Also tracking a bird down from a sky background onto a complicated background saw the A1 keep on the bird where as the R5 constantly jumped to background. I'd been eyeing the R3 but once I tried the R5 again and saw the 20MP resolution I have removed the R3 from my mind.
I'm curious what your opinion is about the EVF of the A1 vs R5? My friend who just recently sold off all his Canon gear (R5) and bought Sony (A1) says he finds the R5 EVF better, especially when reviewing images zoomed in. I hadn't really found an issue with that but he is always complaining about it. I made sure he wasn't zooming in too far (As the Sony has no preset for 100% and you can zoom way past it) but even though that helped it didn't make him happy about it.