Sony Alpha 1 Teardown: The Inside of a Flagship Mirrorless Camera

The Sony flagship camera, the first to release the mirrorless full frame “holy trinity”, which includes Canon, Nikon, and Sony, is now available. This beautiful beast was announced by Sony back in January 2021. Today we will take it apart and modify it to a full-spectrum camera and then (hopefully) put the pieces back together.
This article will show you how to disassemble and tear down the Sony Alpha 1 as well as our thoughts about what Kolari Vision has found.

Table of Contents

  • A brief introduction to the Sony Alpha 1
  • Open the Camera
  • A camera with many layers
  • The Main Circuit Board
  • Revealing The Image Sensor

A brief introduction to the Sony Alpha 1

The Sony Alpha 1 is a powerful camera with 50-megapixel resolution, 8K/30fps videos, and the revolutionary 30-frame-per second burst mode. It’s the Sony Alpha 1, a7R IV and the a9I combined. It is also about the same price as all three of these cameras. It has a full-frame CMOS sensor and 9.44Mot OLED electronic seefinder. There are both electronic shutters and mechanical shutters.

Since the release of the a7 back in 2013, Sony has made great strides.

Let’s start with the outside. The Alpha 1 is built in the same style as the a7 series and has the same hefty body and wider grip that Sony uses in its newest models like the a7R III. The new visible light sensor and IR sensor are located at the front of the camera, just next to the focus assist lighting. They were introduced on the a7SIII. Sony promises it will improve white balance capabilities in artificial light. Once the camera is converted for infrared photography, it will be fascinating to see how this works.

The Alpha 1 is marked with the Alpha model insignia. However, Sony gave the flagship a gold finish similar to the a9. The a9’s drive mode dial, on the left shoulder, has the same feature as the a9 with the new HI+ burst setting. The new focus mode dial is what makes the Alpha 1 stand out.

The top, aside from the new drive/focus dial, is identical to the A9 II. This was not that much different than the A9. It’s not worth fixing what’s broken.

The back looks more like other Sony cameras. The buttons feel more clicky and are much more rounded. The joystick feels wider, more tactile, and works smoothly. A few minor adjustments have been made, including the removal of the drive mode icon near the dial due to its relocation at the top. It has been moved from a red dot into a red circle. This is a minor change, but it makes the button feel more prominent.

It was a smart decision by Sony to give this a tilt-screen instead of a flip-out fully articulated screen like they did with their a7C/a7S III. This is sure be a disappointment for some but a relief for others. Sony could have tried a hybrid like the Fujifilm X-T3 or Nikon Z9, but they chose to keep it safe with this one.

Note: Sony has changed from a metal mount to a plastic mount on the Alpha 1. This means that the camera is not compatible with the Kolari Magnetic Clip in Filters for Sony E.Mount. We are currently working to create a magnetic adapter plate that will allow our filters to work with the Sony Alpha 1. Other recent Sony cameras, such as the Sony a7 IV and a7R IV are compatible with our filters!

Let’s now take it apart.

Open the Camera

Start by unscrewing the screws at the bottom and then removing the plate, as well as the battery door.

The bottom frame is very open, which should allow for good cooling. It’s the same one we saw in the a7R IV, a7S III and a7S III. This compartment was also updated from the a7III. It can hold the Sony FZ100 battery, so if you upgrade from an a7 or A9 camera you will be able use the same batteries.

It is also distinguished by its battery, which makes it stand out from other flagships. Sony chose to keep the body compact over the Z9’s built-in grip battery like the R3 and Z9, resulting in a lighter body than the Z9. Personal preference is to keep two spare batteries in my pocket or bag. We’d love to know which one you prefer in the comments.

Next, we will need to remove the leathers from the grip. This will allow us to take a closer look at the NFC antenna.

Take out the bottom frame.

Next, we will remove the screws from the port panel. They may have used Loctite to give the screws extra grip.

It’s then just one screw on your back, four on your viewfinder and one on you diopter.

We can then remove the port panel and lift the back.

We can see the weather sealing material underneath the seam when we look closely at it.

Let’s now take a closer look at the engine.

Camera with many layers

Sony cameras have many layers, so there’s much to be unpacked.

My first impression is of the metal thermal frame. Similar plates were seen in the a7R II. However, these were absent from the III, R III and R IV. They have now added an updated version to the Alpha 1 and the a7SIII. Given the 8K and 4K 120FPS performance of these cameras, it’s not surprising that they needed more heat distribution.

It is very similar to the layout of other a7 cameras. The card readers are placed side-by-side on the top of each other. The HDMI port’s connection is new and different. Instead of being soldered to the board, it is now connected using a folded flexible cable. It is held in place by a bracket. This will make it much easier to repair or replace the part. Let’s take a closer look at it shortly.

The viewfinder will need to be removed. The thermal pad behind the viewfinder could have stuck to the back of the previous models, making it difficult to remove. However, they have now added a cover to it.

Next, we remove the brackets for the audio ports. We can now take a look inside the ports.

Next, we will need to unscrew a few carefully hidden screws.

Take out the ribbon at the top. Two new coaxial cables run up the top of the antenna wire, and are located alongside it.

Let’s now take the top off, since everything is connected.

We can see more of this weather sealing material by looking along the edges of the top pieces.

Let’s now take a closer look at the HDMI port connection. It hangs free once the bracket that held it in place is removed. The port block is simply soldered to the ribbon that is attached to the board. This will make it easy to replace.

Let’s remove the plate so that we can see the board.

The Main Circuit Board

The brains of the operation are in the middle, the dual Bionz XR processor.

Sony claims that the processor is 8x faster than the Bionz X processor and that it can handle all the tasks this camera can do.

There are many ribbons in this, as usual. It is interesting to note that two sensor ribbons have changed from clip-ins and to press-on connectors. These have their pros and cons. It makes it easier to take it out, but can be difficult to put it back on. It’d also be easier to accidentally disconnect it, but you are less likely to cause damage if you forcefully pull the flex cable from its clip. Pins are generally less susceptible to damage and more easily repaired.

It is easy to damage the board accidentally by removing a few ribbons from the bottom of the board. These include the USB-C connector connector. This is something that we have seen on many Sony cameras over the years. These are easy to overlook for inexperienced techs, but this isn’t our first rodeo.

The board is now out.

Below the board is another layer of metal heat sink. This one is more compact than other models.

It extended to the battery compartment on the a7III and a7R III, while the heatsink of the a7III had ‘feets’ that connected to the front. They also used a more skeletal design for the a7RIV, which left gaps in the plate to reduce weight. They have made sure to keep it cool in order to meet the performance requirements. The middle is covered with heat pads. It doesn’t seem as effective as they hoped. We have heard complaints about overheating. However, nothing as severe as the Canon R5.

The wings on the NFC Flex Cable that hook into the heatplate and hold it in position are another nice update. It can be difficult to get the ribbons around the board in the right place, so this will make it a little easier to reassemble.

The coaxial cable has been protected by a clear cover at the top.

The sensor is found by removing the plate.

The Image Sensor: Reveal the Secret

A few heat tape strips are placed around this amazing piece of engineering for temperature control. We can now remove the sensor by peeling it back and removing the screws.

Recently, we learned that this camera uses the IMX610 sensor. This is a brand new sensor that Sony created exclusively for the Alpha 1. It is here in all its glory.

Although the Alpha 1 may appear identical to its predecessors in appearance, there are many small changes that make it a very special camera.

This concludes our lengthy review of the Sony Alpha 1 mirrorless camcorder. We hope you found it informative and interesting. We appreciate your reading.