Sony took a big step toward making point-and-shoot-style cameras appealing to pros tonight by introducing the 24.3-megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-RX1, the first compact camera to use a 35mm-size, full-frame CMOS image sensor.
The camera, which has been leaked on to Internet rumor blogs and websites the last few days, has to be seen to be believed. We got some hands-on time with a prototype RX1 last week and it’s impressive, to say the least. (Images from our time with the prototype RX1 are included in this story.)
Along with the full-frame sensor, the Sony RX1 sports a Carl Zeiss-branded, 35mm f/2.0 fixed lens. (No, the Sony RX1 does not uses interchangeable lenses and no, it does not optically zoom.)
While the RX1, itself, is a smaller camera: approximately 4.5 inches wide and three inches tall and weighing at just over a pound, the fixed lens is a hunk of glass, metal and polycarbonate, extending about an inch from the camera body.
The RX1 does create a rather portable package though and during our time playing with a prototype camera, it was quick on the draw both during start up and shut down and while locking in focus and snapping off pictures.
While the fixed 35mm lens is somewhat limiting, we could see street photographers really enjoying this camera. (It does not, however, have an optical viewfinder though an optional accessory will be available.) The Sony RX1 shoots five frames per second and can capture images at ISO 50 to 102,400 in expanded mode.
The Sony RX1 will not be cheap. It will go on sale in November for $2,799. Ouch.
The 24.3MP sensor is the same one used in the full-frame, flagship Sony A99 digital SLR also unveiled tonight by Sony. The Sony RX1 has a fairly robust build for a compact camera: it’s made from a single chunk of magnesium alloy and has a front focus mode dial.
Like some classic rangefinder cameras, it also has an aperture ring on its lens as well as a macro switching ring, and a focusing ring.
Though we only got to shoot with the RX1 prototype for a short while, we came away impressed. While it’s as expensive as some top-line DSLRs, the RX1 presents a whole new picture-taking opportunity for serious photographers: small, compact, fast, and with the beautiful, low-light shooting chops from a full-frame sensor.
Ladies and gentlemen, the bar has just been raised for compact cameras.
Read more of this story and see more photos here.
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