One of the best things about owning a Sony mirrorless camera is that virtually every button, feature even the menu system can be customized and tailored to your shooting style, and this includes the newly released Sony a1 flagship mirrorless camera. While I have written a complete setup guide to the a1 for those that are brand new to this camera, I decided to separate out all of the unique customized buttons and menus I did to my A1 here on this blog post so that I had more room to explain and walk you through my choices. As a Sony Artisan that extensively photographs landscape, travel, and wildlife photography, there are certain features and functionality that I want near-instant access to on my own Sony a1 that I didn’t feel I had when I first took the camera out of the box. Feel free to use this as a guide when setting up your own camera, but feel free to change things to best suit your style of shooting.
This article will be broken down into three core sections: Customized Buttons, the Fn Menu, and the My Menu section inside the camera’s menu system. I will do my best to explain my choices as I lay out each of these customizations, but if I miss something or you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.
With the Sony a1 you have the ability to fully customize 16 different buttons found throughout this camera. What is really interesting is that you can apply different functionality to each of these buttons depending on if you are in Photo, Video or even the Review modes within the camera. So what functionality should you apply to these buttons? For me, the custom buttons on a camera are for features that I want instant access to no matter if I am using the rear LCD or shooting through the viewfinder. Of all my customizations to my a1, these features tend to take the highest priority. Everything here is customized for “Photos” unless I mention otherwise.
Rear 11. ISO – By default the rear wheel does nothing, but I prefer that it allows me to adjust my ISO. This is a fast and super convenient way of changing your ISO on the fly, but for some, it will be too convenient. If you aren’t paying attention, you can accidentally adjust your ISO, so keep an eye on it.
2. AEL hold – This button doesn’t change from stock, but essentially it stands for “Auto Exposure Lock”. It will help you look in a certain exposure within an image when shooing in one of the creative modes like Aperture or Shutter Speed Priority modes.
3. AF On – Didn’t change this from default either as it allows you to easily use Back Button Focus with the camera. For some, separating the focus functionality away from the shutter button allows them to more efficient when it comes to achieving AF with one finger and taking shot with another.
4. Movie Shooting – This will start recording a movie no matter what mode you are in. There is however a setting in the menu system that allows you to turn this button off when shooting still images.
5. Bright Monitoring – One of the hidden gems of the Sony mirrorless camera system, this must use feature is perfect for shooting in low light situations. When you turn on this feature, the a1 artificially increases the ISO of the rear LCD screen, essentially allowing you to see and compose your shot in the dark. I use this feature a lot when shooting Astro/northern lights images.
6. Touch Operation Select – One feature I love using with most of my Sony cameras is the rear LCD Touch Screen when it comes to achieving focus. That said, there are times when you want to turn it off so that you accidentally don’t change your focus point. This button will turn on and off the touch functionality of the rear LCD screen.
* In Video Mode, I change button 5 to “Focus Magnifier” so that I can quickly check MF when shooting video.
* In Review Mode, I change button 5 to “Voice Memo Toggle” to add voice notes to images.
Rear 21. Focus Standard – This is left to default, as pressing in this joystick button allows you to move your AF points in most AF area options.
2. Face/Eye Subject Select – Sony’s Eye AF system is pretty incredible, but currently you need to select Human, Animal or Bird so that it knows which algorithms to use. This button allows you to switch between the three modes on the fly.
3. Switch Right/Left Eye – When photographing a subject and using Eye AF, the system doesn’t always know which eye you want to focus on. This button will attempt to switch to the other eye.
4. Switch Right/Left Eye – I duplicated this functionality from the button above to give me a left/right feel when using each button, although this is not required. You could change either one of these buttons to another feature and still move between both eyes of a subject.
5. White Balance – Even though you can easily adjust your White Balance in post when shooting in RAW, it is nice to be able to quickly adjust the white balance of a scene quickly.
Top1. Aperture/Shutter Speed – This dial is set to default to control Aperture/Shutter Speed depending on the Menu settings you choose.
2. Aperture/Shutter Speed – This dial is set to default to control Aperture/Shutter Speed depending on the Menu settings you choose.
3. Metering Mode – To quickly adjust the camera’s metering mode, I have customized that feature to this button. This way I can quickly move from Multi to Center or Spot metering quickly to adjust how my camera is reading the light within a given scene.
4. Focus Area – While the “AF Mode” on this camera has a dedicated top dial, I still want quick access to change the Focus Area from Wide to Zone to everything in between.
* In the review mode, I set Button 3 to “Rating” to rate my images while still inside my camera and Button 4 to “Protect” which makes it so I can’t accidentally delete a particular image.
Lens1. APS-C S35/Full-Frame – With a 50mp sensor and an incredible AF system, this camera is a sports and wildlife photographer’s dream camera. So when you want a little more reach, you can press the custom button on your Sony telephoto lens to jump in and out of APS-C crop mode, putting out a 20mp image file while filling more of the frame with your subject.
After you have customized your camera’s buttons, the next place you need to focus on is the Fn. Menu. On the back of the a1 is an Fn Button that pulls up the following menu on your screen. It is here that you want all of the features that you couldn’t assign to a button, but still wanted relatively quick access to. You have 12 different spots (two rows of six items) that you can customize differently depending on if you are shooting still photos of video. Unlike with the custom buttons on my Sony a1, I have two completely different menus for Photo & Video, as you can see below.
Still Photo Upper Row:
Shoot Mode – While you cannot adjust the camera mode from this menu item, it offers a great reminder of which camera mode you have the camera set to.
Rec. Media Settings – This is where you can adjust how you want your still images and videos recorded to your memory cards. Do you want to duplicate content to each card, write photos to one card and videos to another? You have lots of options.
Exposure Comp. – This is a little redundant as you have an exposure compensation dial, but I like having another indicator of what this is set to as I often forget that I have adjusted the dial on the top of the camera.
Image Quality Settings – Want to shoot in RAW or JPEG or RAW+JPEG. Here you can change that setting on the fly.
Selftimer during Bracket – If you bracket your images, this is where you can choose to add a small 2, 5 or 10 second delay before the bracket begins. With this set, it will capture every image in the bracketed set for you.
Interval Shooting – If time-lapses are your thing, this is where you would set all of the controls to capture it.
Still Photo Lower Row:
Shutter Type – While the camera defaults to AUTO, you can manually choose to use the Electronic and Mechanical Shutter via this option.
Steadyshot – Most lenses will control Steadyshot/IBIS, but if you are using a lens without that feature, you can make sure Steadyshot is turned on or off here.
Silent Mode – If you want to shoot in complete silence, turn silent mode on with this option.
AF Tracking Sensitivity – To adjust how quickly the a1 refocuses on a subject or finds a new subject, you can experiment with the AF Tracking Sensitivity.
Face/Eye Subject – While I do have this feature set to a custom button, this is another opportunity to see exactly which mode you are currently in while shooting.
APS-C S35 Shooting – If you are using a lens without the custom lens button that we configured above, you can manually set your camera to shoot in APS-C mode with this setting.
Video Mode Upper Row
Shoot Mode – In video mode, this is the best way to change between the different Camera Modes for shooting video, such as Manual, Program, Shutter or Aperture Priority.
Rec. Media Settings – Just as with stills, you can shoot where your video files are being written to on your memory cards.
Exposure Comp. – Same as above, a reminder of what kind of Exposure Compensation you might of added to your video either intentionally or accidentally.
Picture Profile – With video, there is a good chance you want to adjust the kind of color and tone you can work with to color grade later. With the A1 you have PP1 – PP11 which represent a variety of different modes such as S-Log2(PP7), S-Log3(PP8 or PP9), HLG2 (PP10) or Sony’s Cinetone (PP11).
Zebra Display – A great way to check to see if you have blown out the highlights in your video is to turn on the Zebra Display function. Any area that is over-exposed will flash bright lights at you to indicate you are clipping your highlights.
Zebra Level – Different Picture Profiles can handle highlights differently, so if you want to adjust how sensitive the Zebra Display is to highlights, you can do it here.
Video Mode Upper Row
S&Q Frame Rate – S&Q is a fun feature to play with when you really want to shoot a slow-motion video with the a1. To control the actual S&Q frame rate, use this menu item.
AF Subj. Shift Sensitivity – Adjust the sensitivity of the camera to focus on another subject once your subject leaves the focus area of your scene.
AF Transition Speed – Adjust the speed at which the focus moves from one point to another while using AF in movie mode.
Steadyshot – Use this to turn on Steadyshot/IBIS for smoother handheld video footage when using lenses that don’t have their own dedicated Steadyshot button.
Face/Eye Subject – Adjust the Eye AF subject selection from Human to Wildlife to Bird while filming. Having this set in the Fn. menu acts as a reminder of which mode you are in.
APS-C S35 Shooting – Jump into APS-C S35 mode when filming video if needed. Do note that not all video modes allow for this, such as shooting at 120fps with the a1.
Sony's My Menu
The last place that you can customize your Sony a1 will be in the My Menu section of the internal updated Sony Menu System. This is where I tend to put the features that I don’t need instant access to all the time, but also don’t care to search through the menu system when I need them. But to be honest, I find myself using this section less and less now that Sony has redesigned it’s menu system. This started with the Sony a7S III and now comes to the a1 and I presume all future Sony camera bodies as well. In total, Sony gives you a total of 6 different “My Menu” tabs within the a1, which gives you plenty of options to experiment with!
I ended up creating 3 “My Menu” tabs: One for general settings, one for still images and another for video-centric features.
Format – When I need to quickly clear and format a card, you will find this setting at the first spot in my general settings menu.
IR Remote Ctrl – If you have a Sony-branded or 3rd party wireless remote, it is important that you have this setting turned on (as it is off by default).
File/Folder Settings – When I need to set a custom file name, change folder type or adjust the unique number given to an image.
Create New Folder – If I want to create a completely new folder to record images/videos to.
Select REC Folder – Select the default or custom folder you wish to record to.
Area/Date/Time Settings – I always try to keep the timestamps of my images accurate, especially when shooting with multiple cameras on a trip. Here you can adjust the actual time, date and time-zone that will be applied to your images/videos.
Save/Load Settings – One of my favorite features of the newer Sony cameras, the ability to save and load entire all of your settings to duplicate with a 2nd camera or share with other users on the internet (like you can find in my Setup Guide for the A1).
ISO AUTO Min. SS – When shooting in aperture priority mode along with AUTO ISO, it is important to set the minimum shutter speed you want to shoot with before the camera will increase the ISO to match the exposure you are going for.
Pixel Shift Multi Shoot. – If you are shooting from a tripod with a static subject, experimenting with Pixel Shift can help you create more detailed and larger images using this technology.
Gide Line Type – Select the kind of virtual grid you want to be displayed as an overlay on the rear LCD and viewfinder with the a1. I occasionally find the “Rule of Thirds” option can help with subject placement in certain scenes.
Grid Line Display – Choose to show or hide the gridline display you have selected in the option above.
File Format – Easy access to change the video file format between all of the 8k, 4k and 1080 settings.
Movie Settings – With a video format selected above, here I can adjust the frame rate as well as the bit rate of the videos I am recording.
S&Q Settings – Quick access to all of the Slow & Quick video settings when I want to shoot slow-motion video with this mode.
Anti-flicker Set. – One of the most important camera settings for when you are shooting still images or videos in a scene with LED lights that tend to have a higher frequency than standard lightbulbs. I use this all the time when recording in my home studio because of the RGB LED lights I use with my setup.
Audio Recording – Turning on or off internal audio recording with a video.
HDMI Resolution – Selecting the resolution you want to output via the HDMI port if you are streaming to a computer or recording on an external recorder like an ATOMOS Ninja 5.
HDMI Output Settings – All of the rest of the HDMI video output settings.
What Questions Do You Have?
As I mentioned above, if you have any questions, comments, or even suggestions for other Sony a1 users, please let me know in the comments section below…