Sony RX1 Brings Full-Frame Sensors to the Point-and-Shoot World… for a Price

Sony shook up the digital camera world today by announcing the RX1, a game-changing camera that was somehow kept under wraps until news about it leaked a few days ago. Regardless of whether or not ordinary consumers will readily adopt it, it’s a bold camera that sets the bar for what the world can expect in a point-and-shoot. Why is it so revolutionary? It’s the first time a full frame sensor has been put inside a compact camera body.

The fact that the camera uses a fixed lens will be a downer for photographers who want the flexibility of an interchangeable lens system, but Fujifilm did the same thing when it kicked off its X-series lineup with the fixed-lens X100 (which it soon followed up with interchangeable lens cameras). Sony made a fantastic choice for the lens though: it’s a 35mm f/2 Carl Zeiss lens — the perfect lens for photojournalism and everyday photography.

Other specs and features include 24.3MP resolution images, a near-silent in-lens shutter, an ISO range of 100-25600 (expandable to 50-102400), a 3-inch LCD, a macro switching ring on the lens that reduces the minimum focusing distance to 20cm, 14-bit RAW files, 5fps continuous shooting, the ability to save/restore 3 sets of camera settings, manual focus assistance via magnification and focus peaking, and 1080p/60p and 24p video recording,

The RX1 is smaller than every full frame DSLR by a large margin, yet features the same image quality and manual controls. There’s dedicated rings on the lens for controlling focus and aperture, a dial on the front for selecting focusing mode, a main dial on the top for choosing shooting mode, and a secondary dial on the back for adjusting your settings based on which mode you’re in. If you’re familiar with DSLR controls, this camera should feel quite natural.

There’s even a mode dial on the top that’s dedicated to exposure compensation adjustments.

Although the lack of a built-in optical viewfinder is a turn-off, the camera has two special viewfinder attachments built for it. The first is a high-res OLED electronic viewfinder, and the second is an optical viewfinder that uses Carl Zeiss optics. Here’s what the camera looks like with the optical viewfinder attached:

Here’s a video introducing the RX1:

…and a quick hands-on first look:

The RX1 will hit store shelves in November 2012 for the not-so-compact price of $2,800, putting the camera in the same price ballpark as popular full frame DSLRs. The external EVF and OVF attachments will cost $600 and $450, respectively, further increasing the price for serious shooters.

This launch feels very similar to the X100 launch two years ago (wow, time flies, doesn’t it?). Both featured a revolutionary camera (with the X100, it was the sleek, retro design) with a fixed-lens and relatively steep price tag. Hopefully Sony follows Fujifilm’s lead and unleashes an interchangeable lens full-frame RX camera soon, even though it would cannibalize the NEX line of mirrorless cameras. After all, what’s a little friendly competition among family members?

  • Benicio Murray

    $2,800. GTFO

  • tttulio

    I would buy one if the wheel at the top had the shutter speed, who serious photographer uses AP / SP/ Program / scene modes?

  • E

    Seriously?! That’s what stopping you from buying one? Considering how you hold a camera like this it makes sense having the shutter controlled by a wheel on the back where you thumb rests. And anyway, many (I would guess most) serious shooters use aperture and shutter priority in combination with exposure comp. Even pros.

  • John R

    That is exactly my thought. What have camera manufacturers got against the shutter speed dial? Preferably one that resists unwanted movement.

  • John R

    OMG! Just saw the price. £2600.00 and no shutter speed dial. Where is the market for this product?

  • sierrarobba

    How funny and stupid this full frame hype!I have a smena 8m its also full frame and palm size,and if you buy a leica m2 its also full frame.

  • tttulio

    At least Fuji got it right. turn to A in the lens aperture ring for Shutter priority and A on the Shutter speed dial for A P. turn both to A for P.

  • Sporkguy


  • Alexander Petricca

    Sony has hit the nail on the head here- good job!

  • Alexander Petricca

    Actually, I’ve just seen the price. Sh*t.

  • Mute

    It’s the first ‘consumer’-level (in terms of design) compact with a full frame sensor, which is great, but the price is high. They seem to be charging a premium price for a non-premium product just because they’re ftm. There’s a reason Leica’s cost so much, the build and engineering is peerless, not because they are a “chunkier RX100″ as the ergonomics of the RX1 have been described. Around $2k would seem realistic, but even then you’ve got accessories that are expensive, $600 for a viewfinder! Does this mean the camera would have cost $3500 with one built in?

    Considering the form factor this seems to be aimed at gadget first-adopters with cash to spare, rather than photographers. Fair enough, the camera is welcome as a first attempt in this growing sector, but there’s plenty of potential left for someone to produce a sub-$2k full-frame compact with a decent viewfinder built in. There’s also opportunity for Fuji or someone to jump in with a camera in the ‘retro’-style that people seem so happy to pay a premium for.

  • Mute

    You’re talking about film cameras. Until the mid-90s every compact camera was full frame, whether it cost $20 or $20,000. The hype here is for digital full frame sensors in compact bodies.

  • Michael Comeau

    Oh come on, no built-in viewfinder? Meh.

  • Ivan

    Nice design and ergonomics, but I wish it were smaller, cheaper, and with an APS-C sensor. I can’t understand reasons behind making a fixed lens camera with an FF sensor.

  • Helvio Silva

    I’ll never buy a compact camera for this price, even with large sensor. This is price of Pro DLSR full framed! Its a joke.

  • dez

    Ordinary consumers dont need a fullframe. Who needs a fulframe, needs also a built in viewfinder. Checkmate!

  • Mute

    Some people want full frame quality in a compact body.

    There are now quite a few choices of APS-C sensors in compact cameras, like Sony’s own NEX range, or the new Canon EOS M, or the Fujifilm X-E1 or X-Pro1, and so on.

  • Jason

    I would still prefer the x100…not for the price…but sony and retro design just can’t mix

  • Richard H. Weiner

    A most interesting read…but even at 1/2 the asking price it’s way out of line.

  • Toadman

    This looks amazing and with such a budget price tag I’m sure most 1%ers will scoop them like hot cakes. But really, it looks great, I’d love to get my hands on one, but as Benicio says, “$2,800. GTFO”

  • Antonio Carrasco

    This coulda been great, even with the ridonkulous price tag. But no interchangeable lenses means it’s DOA

  • Simon Meisinger

    that’s totally not a retro design

  • Helvio Silva

    The serious photographers likes FF, even the amateurs. Spend US$2800 for this camera is insane. Who likes photography prefers to be in total control otherwise better to purchase a US$250 point-and-shot.

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    viewfinder and interchangeable lenses will be on the next model they bring out – this camera is just to test if the market is right. Sony always test products like this, they don’t do in-house beta testing, they just put something out there because they can afford it and wait for the feedback and sales results

  • brob

    why so much? crazy

  • wako

    so… its a $2800 35 prime… and thats all.. oh! yes.. great DoF.. hmmmm….
    Manual aperture ring? *grabs 1970’s prime from bag..* oh look!!
    No viewfinder, but giant LCD… I love manual focus on a screen… :/
    I’ll stick with my DSLR. Canon G12 is good enough for me if I really dont have the space..

  • Drew

    there is a shutter speed dial….but yes expensive…