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Sony a1 vs a7R IV Comparison

Storage & Battery

Sony a1

Sony A1 product image

Sony a7R IV

Sony a7R IV
Sony a1
Sony a7R IV
a7R IV
Refers to the year this camera was officially made available for sale.
Announcement Date
Refers to the date the manufacturer publicly announced the upcoming release and general specs of this camera.
January 26, 2021
July 16, 2019
Camera Type
Camera Size
Camera Weight

Sony a1 vs a7R IV Overview

Any Sony a1 vs a7RIV comparison will tell you it’s a trade-off. It will pit the a7R IV’s higher resolution and lower price against everything else the a1 has to offer. And I mean absolutely everything else!

I have a pair of Sony a1s. I’ve field tested them on trips to Canada, Antarctica, Kenya, and Botswana. And they haven’t really let me down.

But the a1’s autofocus has sometimes failed. And the images I’ve taken in difficult lighting conditions have also often been very soft.

In theory, the Sony a1 is the ultimate hybrid camera. You can shoot videos just as well as stills. It also offers a combination of continuous shooting speed and sensor size, that’s usually impossible.

The Sony a7R IV doesn’t come close to matching the a1’s advanced features. That includes the frame rate, autofocus system, viewfinder resolution, maximum flash sync speed, and video quality.

However, the Sony a7R IV’s sensor is 11 MP bigger. That means you can crop in much more with it.

And the a7R IV’s DxOMark sensor scores are also better in all three categories—color depth, dynamic range, and low-light ISO. Plus, it’s less than half the price! So, what camera should you buy?

Sony a1 vs Sony a7R IV comparison image

Body and Handling

These cameras are almost identical in weight, dimensions, and handling. The Sony a1 is 2.5 oz (128 g) heavier, a millimeter taller, and three millimeters deeper. But none of those measurements is significant.

The main difference in handling is that the a1 has a drive mode dial. It lets you choose the frame rate and the autofocus mode.

However, you control these functions in the menu system of the Sony a7R IV. There’s no dial on the top plate.

It’s handy that the a1 automatically closes the mechanical shutter when you turn it off (unless it’s in silent shooting mode). That means there’s less chance of the sensor getting dust spots if you’re swapping lenses.

Apart from that, the other notable changes in the a1’s body are the following:

  • A strengthened lens mount
  • A new sliding lock for the battery compartment
  • A slightly larger video record button
  • A relocated proximity sensor that lets the camera switch automatically from the electronic viewfinder (EVF) to the LCD monitor
Picture of the back of a Sony a1
The back of a Sony a1. © Nick Dale

Sony a1 vs a7R IV Optics

The strength of the Sony a7R IV is its 61 MP sensor. This gives it a slight advantage over the a1 in every aspect of image quality.

We can first look at the Pixel Shift High-Resolution mode. This is a way of taking high-resolution images of static subjects by combining either 4 or 16 frames. This produces a whopping 241 MP image on the a7R IV or a 199 MP image on the a1.

However, size isn’t everything. The Sony a1 came out 18 months after the a7R IV. And we must frame the a1’s lower resolution against other technological improvements in the sensor.

For a start, the a1 sensor has a stacked design. This leads to a faster readout speed, higher maximum frame rate, a “blackout-free” viewfinder, and minimal rolling shutter effect with the electronic shutter.

The pixels on the Sony a1 are also slightly bigger, which reduces noise. And the minimum focus sensitivity is one stop better than on the Sony a7R IV (EV -4 vs EV -3). This gives the a1 an advantage in low-light performance.

Additionally, an infra-red sensor on the a1 improves white balance accuracy with fluorescent or tungsten lighting and LEDs.

The Sony a1’s 50 MP sensor is not that much smaller than the a7R IV’s sensor. And the a1’s overall DxO score (listed at the end) is only one point lower. Plus, the a1 scores highly on all other features offered.

  • Larger pixels of 17.31 µm² vs 14.15 µm² (square micrometers)
  • More phase detection AF points of 759 vs 567. (The a7R IV’s hybrid AF has an additional 425 contrast detection points to fine-tune focus.)
  • Higher frame rate (30 fps vs 10 fps lossy compressed RAW with an electronic shutter rather than a mechanical shutter)

Plus, the a1 has gyroscopic stabilization (post stabilization option), anti-flicker mode, and a blackout-free viewfinder. But both cameras have face and eye AF tracking, AE bracketing, and five-axis sensor-shift image stabilization.

The higher the number of megapixels, the more detail the cameras sensor can capture.
50.1 MP
61.2 MP
Image Resolution
Image resolution is measured in pixels and megapixels, width by height. The higher the number, the higher its resolution.
8640 x 5760 px
9504 x 6336 px
Sensor Type
The camera sensor captures light and records the image. Sensors vary in physical size, the number of pixels, and quality.
Sensor Size
The sensor size contributes to the overall quality as well as the dynamic and tonal range a camera can capture. As a rule of thumb, the more surface there is to read the light, the more information it will capture.
24 x 35.9 mm
23.8 x 35.7 mm
Sensor Format
Refers to the most commonly used sensor sizes.
Full Frame
Full Frame
Frame Rate
The number of sequential frames per second the camera can write to the memory card when shooting in burst or continuous mode.
30 fps
10 fps
Lens Mount
The lens mount will tell you what type of lens range you can fit onto the camera body. Often the same camera company will have different lens ranges for different cameras.
Sony FE
Sony FE
Image Processor
The image processor in the camera converts the information collected on the sensor for digital storage on the memory card.
Dual Bionz XR
Bionz X
Aspect Ratio
The aspect ratio refers to the proportional difference between width and height. The most popular aspect ratios are 3:2 and 4:3.
Minimum ISO (Native)
Refers to the lowest native (or 'base') ISO setting. Lower ISO are less sensitive to light but make a cleaner image.
Maximum ISO (Native)
Refers to the highest native (or 'base') ISO setting. Higher ISO is necessary for low-light situations or night photography, but higher ISOs often introduce grain or noise.
Minimum ISO (Expanded)
Expanded (or extended) ISO is a digitally enhanced feature available on some cameras. It allows you to push beyond the native ISO range if necessary.
Maximum ISO (Expanded)
Expanded (or extended) ISO is a digitally enhanced feature available on some cameras. It allows you to push beyond the native ISO range if necessary.
Minimum Shutter Speed
The minimum shutter speed will tell you the longest exposure your camera can take without using an external accessory.
30 s
30 s
Maximum Shutter Speed
The maximum shutter speed tells you the length inside 1 second the camera will capture. These can sometimes be extended with accessories such as extra external batteries.
1/ 32000 s
1/ 8000 s
Autofocus Points
Autofocus points show where the camera is focusing graphically as squares or brackets in Live View or on an electronic viewfinder. These points are also used for light meter readings.
In-body Stabilization
In-body Stabilization means the camera has a certain technology embedded that counteracts camera shake.
Viewfinder Type
The viewfinder type is either electronic or optical. Electronic viewfinders will have a small screen in the viewfinder. Optical viewfinders will use prisms and mirrors to look through the lens.
Viewfinder Resolution
9,437,184 dots
5,760,000 dots

Sony a1 vs a7R IV Video Performance

Now, don’t get me wrong. Only being able to shoot 4K 30p video at 3840 x 2160 is not bad. It’s just that the Sony a7R IV has fallen behind some of the other leading mirrorless cameras on the market… including the a1.

The Sony a1’s highest video resolution is 7,680 x 4,320. And it can shoot the following:

  • 4K at 120p in 10-bit (rather than 8-bit) for slow-motion videos
  • 4.3K in 16-bit using an external recorder
  • 8K at 30p

That’s mighty impressive. It also has S-cinetone, a popular shooting profile, and unlimited video recording.

Both cameras feature timelapse recording.

Indicates if this camera is capable of recording video.
Max Video Resolution
The best resolution this camera can capture video in. Modern cameras can capture up to 8K video.
Max Video Dimensions
Video resolution measured by the greatest number of pixels possible in each frame, width by height. A higher resolution means more detail or clarity in your video.
7680 x 4320 px
3840 x 2160 px
Max Video Frame Rate
How many frames per second your video will capture. Most cameras have options for multiple frame rates, depending on the resolution you shoot in. For a general video, 24p or 30p is the standard, but more serious filmmakers may need a higher frame rate for creative effect.
120 p
30 p
Time-Lapse Built In
A built in time-lapse mode will allow continuous shooting throughout a prolonged period of time to be compressed into a sped up video.
Video File Format
Different cameras can record in various video file formats. The File format you record in can impact how you edit and use the files.
LPCM 2ch(48 kHz 16bit), LPCM 2ch(48 kHz 24bit), LPCM 4ch(48 kHz 24bit), MPEG-4 AAC-LC 2ch
XAVC S, AVCHD Ver. 2.0, MP4

Sony a1 vs a7R IV Features and Benefits

When Sony engineers first sat down to design the a1, they refused to make any trade-offs. Everything had to be bigger, better, and faster. We see this in the long list of advantages over the a7R IV we’ve already discussed, plus the following:

  • An anti-dust shutter mechanism
  • Greater viewfinder magnification (0.9x vs 0.78x)
  • Higher viewfinder resolution (9.4 million vs 5.7 million dots)
  • A full-sized HDMI port

And the brightness, clarity, and sheer realism of the a1’s electronic viewfinder are astonishing. The EVF was so good when I tried mine out for the first time. I forgot I wasn’t looking through an optical viewfinder!

Having said that, the two cameras are made by the same manufacturer. That means they have a lot of features in common (as listed below), including the following:

  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity
  • Microphone and headphone ports
  • Smartphone remote control
  • Webcam function
Built-in Flash
A built-in flash will often be positioned right above the lens. This will automatically pop up when you activate it.
External Flash
External flashes are often connected through a hot shoe at the top of a camera, or a cable at the side of the camera.
GPS features in a camera will include location metadata to each of your photographs.
Weather Sealing
Weather sealing capabilities will give you more confidence when shooting in unfavourable conditions.
Screen Type
Touch Screen
Touchscreen allows you to change camera settings and access menus with a swipe of your finger, instead of using buttons.
Screen Size
Screen Resolution
Screen dots indicate the resolution of the LCD screen by including each sub pixel.
1,440,000 dots
1,440,000 dots
Flip Screen
A flip screen (or articulating screen) is a second screen which can flip out from the side or top of the camera. This rotating screen allows you more freedom to take photos at different angles.
Live View
Live View feature allows you to see a continuous live video of what is being seen through your lens.
Bluetooth capabilities allow you wireless control of your camera with other external devices.

Sony a1 vs a7R IV Storage and Battery

When you design a high-performance camera like the Sony a1, you need memory cards that don’t slow it down. That’s why the a1 can take either the faster CFexpress Type A cards or SD cards in its two memory card slots. The Sony a7R IV can only take the slower SD cards.

In theory, you can do pretty much everything with an SD card (apart from shooting 8K video). But everything will slow down.

I used my a1 camera with an SD card once. And trying to shoot at 30 fps was like wading through molasses!

Having said that, the need for speed is not so great with the Sony a7R IV. That’s because you’ll only be taking pictures at a maximum continuous shooting speed of 10 fps.

Both cameras use the same NP-FZ100 battery. And you can buy battery grips to hold two of them if you need to.

The CIPA battery life ratings aren’t that impressive on paper for either the Sony a1 or the a7R IV (530 vs 670 shots). However, things are very different in the field.

I once took over 5,000 shots of little bee-eaters (birds) in Botswana. And I didn’t even use up my first battery!

That’s mostly because I was mostly shooting at 30 fps, which made a mockery of the official figures. And I’m sure it would be the same for the Sony a7R IV.

Storage and Battery
Storage and Battery
Memory Card
SD,CFexpress Type A (UHS-II compatible)
SD / SDHC / SDXC (UHS-II compatible)
Dual Memory Card Slots
Battery Type
Battery Life
Approximately how long this cameras battery will last measured by how many photographs you will be able to take.
530 shots
670 shots
USB Charging
Photography Genre
Graded from the first-hand experience of one of our writers
Beginner Friendly
Sports and Action
Value for Money
Sensor scores tested by DXOMARK
Overall Score
DXOMARK overall sensor score.
Portrait (Color Depth)
As described by DXOMARK 'The Portrait score in our camera sensor reviews defines color depth performance and its unit is a number of bits. A color depth of 22 bits is excellent; differences below 1 bit are barely noticeable.'
25.9 bits
26 bits
Landscape (Dynamic Range)
As described by DXOMARK 'The Landscape score in our camera sensor tests defines the maximum dynamic range of the camera sensor and its unit is an exposure value (EV). A value of 12 EV is excellent with differences below 0.5 EV usually not noticeable.'
14.5 EVs
14.8 EVs
Sports (Low-Light ISO)
Described by DXOMARK as 'The maximal value of ISO sensitivity needed to reach a given value of Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR). The greater the value, the better'

Sony a1 vs a7R IV – Our Verdict

Comparing the Sony a1 vs a7R IV is like comparing a fox to a hedgehog. In the words of Isaiah Berlin, “a fox knows many things, but a hedgehog knows one big thing.” The a7R IV’s “one big thing” is sensor size. But the a1 has a list of features as long as your arm!

The Sony a7R IV only beats the a1 on higher resolution (and DxO scores), longer battery life, weight, and the fact it has an NFC connection.

That means the a1 is a better camera than the a7R IV. But you still have to ask yourself whether you actually need all those features.

If you don’t shoot much video, you don’t need 8K. If you don’t take many action shots, you don’t need 30 fps. If you don’t often shoot when it’s dark, you don’t need the lower minimum focus sensitivity.

And then it all comes down to the price of the camera. If you have the budget and want the best possible kit, then fair enough, go ahead and buy the a1. However, if money is tight and you don’t think you’ll need all the extra features, you should be happy with a Sony a7R IV.

Picture of a lion cub taken with a Sony a1
Shot with a Sony a1. © Nick Dale

What Camera is Better Than the Sony a1?

If you want to play with the big boys, especially for wildlife or sports shooters, you really need one of the top three mirrorless cameras. That means a Nikon Z9, a Canon R5, or a Sony a1. They’ve set the benchmark for performance against DSLR cameras.

The Nikon Z9 has a slightly smaller sensor (46 MP) than the a1. It can only shoot at 20 fps in RAW. And it is almost twice the weight at 2 lbs 15 oz (1340 g)—albeit with a built-in battery grip.

However, it matches the a1’s video resolution (8K). And it offers a similarly rapid and accurate autofocus system with eye detection.

The Canon R5 has a slightly smaller sensor (45 MP) and a lower maximum frame rate (20 fps). However, it has a similar video resolution (8K). Plus, the Dual Pixel AF system is excellent, especially when shooting video.

If you can wait until it comes out, you might want to hold out for the new Canon flagship mirrorless camera, the c. It’s intended to replace the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III. It’s supposed to be a “jack of all trades and master of everything”!

It will have an 85 MP global shutter sensor, Quad Pixel AF, and 9 stops of in-body image stabilization (IBIS) improvement if you believe the rumors. It will also have a frame rate of 20 fps at full resolution and 40 fps when cropped at 21MP. Lastly, it will have 15.5 stops of dynamic range and an ISO max of 1.6 million!

Still not sure which camera is best for you? Our camera comparison tool can be useful for narrowing down your options. Check out some more popular camera comparisons for inspiration:

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