Sony has announced an updated version of their very popular full frame compact camera Sony DSC-RX1. The new Sony DSC-RX1R will come without an optical low-pass (anti-aliasing) filter which promises even sharper images. The R-version will also support Sony`s proprietary TRILUMINOS color technology. The latter lets you enjoy expanded color gamut on any TV equipped with a compatible display. That is about all that has been updated. The previous Cyber-shot model featuring the optical low pass filter on the sensor will be kept available alongside the new offer. Both will have the same price tag. Consumers will have to decide which version they prefer.
The basic specs of the new Sony DSC-RX1R:
- 24.3 MP full frame CMOS sensor
- no low-pass (anti-aliasing) filter
- Zeiss Sonnar T * 35mm f/2 lens
- 3″ LCD screen (1.229.000 dot resolution)
- built in flash
- hot shoe for external flash or viewfinder
- Auto HDR feature
- ISO 100-25600
- Full HD 1080p Video (24 or 60fps)
- high speed AF
- up to 5fps burst speed (full frame)
- on sale from August 2013 for €3.099/$2798
This new R-version (of a camera that has already received a lot of praise for its outstanding image quality) is a welcome little update. Removing the anti-aliasing filter is a clever move too. No doubt it will entice a few photographers who did not pull the trigger yet and were waiting for an early update. Removing the filter seems quite in vogue nowadays. Since Nikon did it with the Nikon D800E consumers are raving about having cameras without the anti-aliasing filter. It promises sharper images at the price of possible difficulties with artifacts such as moire. For the most part this can easily be compensated for in post processing. So this is no big deal unless you want to use the Sony primarily for videos. With only a fixed 35mm lens attached this would be highly unusual anyway.
Basically the Sony DSC-RX1 and Sony DSC-RX1R can boldly be described as high end point and shoots. But the full frame sensor makes both camera models quite unique. The only 35mm non-DSLR camera that comes close in resolution and image quality is the Leica M Typ 240 (see my previous review). With the AA filter now removed the Sony DSC-RX1R might easily trump that nice piece of German engineering. We will have to see a real comparison to confirm this. According to Dpreview (see their report) the new Sony DSC-RX1R does have the edge over the older Cyber-shot RX1 when it comes to sharpness with a slight but noticeable increase in resolution.
The new Sony may not be what most photo geeks were craving for. No doubt a full frame compact mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses is in the pipeline and Sony will probably be releasing it as early as the end of 2014 – but nonetheless the incremental update of the fixed lens full frame camera will fill the void until then. No other manufacturer has yet had the cojones to produce a camera like that. This leaves Sony with quite a unique selling point with no competition anywhere in sight. The price may be high for point and shoots in general but compared to inferior offerings in the same price range this cam seems like a steal. Just look at the Leica X Vario (see my article). This may be a nice enough camera on its own but in my opinion you would have to be a very passionate Leica follower to prefer an APS-C camera with a slow fixed zoom lens rather than to choose a full frame offering featuring a superb 35mm Zeiss lens all coming in at about the same price.
The only thing to beef about is the lack of a built-in viewfinder. For me this is a no-go. It does not seem to bother most people though. If you don`t mind squinting your eyes in bright light or if you can afford to pay around €400/$450 for the optional external viewfinder Sony EV1MK, the Sony DSC-RX1R may be just what you have been looking for. Maybe the previous version will come down in price over time. Bargain hunters will be on the prowl soon.