New Sony DSC-RX1: Full-Frame Meets Point and Shoot

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Just when you thought the DSC-RX100 was Sony’s exciting new product of the year, out comes its bigger, badder, and totally sexier brother – the DSC-RX1. The RX1 looks a lot like the RX100, and it’s clear that the two cameras were designed together from the beginning. As part of the new RX line, the cameras are supposed to recall Sony’s high-end, fixed-lens camera of yesteryear, its well-received DSC-R1. Like that camera, these two mix business and pleasure, and the result is something completely unexpected.

The DSC-RX1 packs a 24.3MP Exmor CMOS sensor into a body that’s only 4.5 inches wide, and three inches tall. It weighs about a pound. On the front of the body is a fixed, clear, f/2.0 Car Zeiss T*t lens. Sony claims that the camera’s new sensor and lens setup have been engineered for the sort of performance that “few interchangeable lenses can match.” Of course, the cost is, well, the cost, and to no small extent, the versatility. You won’t be putting 200mm telephotos on this camera, after all.

 Sony DSC-RX1

Given the camera’s professionallly oriented bent, it should come as no surprised that all the manual controls you might be looking for are probably on here. What’s interesting, at least to me, are the way many of them are set up without requiring users to fiddle with looking at any displays – the exposure comp dial, for example, (in the upper left on this photo) lets users dial things in directly. Dedicated lens rings give you access to focus and aperture settings, and a dial in the lower left (photographer POV) of the front lets shooters swap between the focus modes.

The RX1’s sensitivity ranges from 100 at the low-end to 25600 at the high, though an expanded sensitivity mode allows a photographer to go down to ISO 50, while new Multi Frame Noise Reduction will let users boost the range all the way to 102400. The lens on the front of the camera features a 9-bladed circular aperture, and a curious macro switching ring. The macro ring snaps the RX1’s minimum focusing distance down to 20cm.

Sony DSC-RX1Sony DSC-RX1

Inside, in addition to that massive sensor, you can find Sony’s BIONZ image processing engine. That lets the RX1 burst shoot full-res shots at up to 5FPS. Images can be shot in either JPEG or if necessary, in 14-bit RAW. Sony went ahead and incorporated their By Pixel Super Resolution tech, which reportedly lets users zoom digitally with less impact on image quality. You can also find 13 different creative styles plus various picture effects, and like the RX100, a digital level guage that lets you see pitch and roll in one chart on the camera’s LCD.

Also available with the new RX1 will be several specially made accessories. One of Sony’s stellar OLEDs was slotted into an XGA resolution Tru-Finder EVF, while Carl Zeiss optics can be found in the optional OVF. Sony also produced a thumb grip, lens hood, and jacket case. The camera features a new proprietary hotshoe mount that’s backwards compatible with standard hotshoe accessories.

Sony DSC-RX1Sony DSC-RX1

I mentioned earlier that a big downside to this camera will be cost (although, what do you expect – the thing is still amazing), and cost it will…to the tune of about $2800. The accessories are pricey, too, with the EVF coming in at $600 extra, and the OVF not much better at $450. The thumb grip (just the thumb grip) will run users $250, while the lens hood and jacket case will come in at $180 and $250, respectively.

Sony DSC-RX1

All items are expected to launch sometime this November.

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