Sony Goes After Leica With The Amazing RX1 Full-Frame Compact

Rx 1

Sony has launched a whole new range of cameras at the Photokina camera trade show, including the new full-frame A99 SLR with 24MP sensor and a translucent mirror, the NEX 6, with 16MP sensor and Wi-Fi, a 35mm camcorder with interchangeable lenses (the VG900) and several others.

But we're not going to talk about them, interesting as they are (nice launch strategy Sony — burying your own products). We're going to look at the RX-1, the high-end, full-frame mirrorless camera. Why? Because I want one, that's why.

First, this thing is tiny. It has a fixed 35mm lens (a Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* ƒ2), which helps, and the flash folds out like a contortionist stick-insect climbing out of a thimble, but even that won't pre-empt your surprise when you see one in a normal human hand.

And then there are the specs (this list is cribbed from DP Review):

  • 24MP full-frame (24x36mm) CMOS sensor
  • 35mm F2 lens
  • ISO 100-25600
  • Focus range switch for focus down to 0.2m (14cm from the front of the lens)
  • Dedicated aperture ring
  • Five user-customizable buttons
  • Multi interface hotshoe (combines ISO 518 standard contacts and proprietary connector)
  • 1.23M dot RGBW 'WhiteMagic' LCD
  • 1080p60 HD movies in AVCHD (50p on PAL region models)
  • Focus peaking to aid manual focus
  • Bulb mode and threaded cable release socket in shutter button

It's also $2,800. That's expensive, but it is also an alternative to the Leica M9, a camera which costs three times as much. Yes, the M9 can change lenses, but most people buy one, snap on a 35mm ƒ2 and call it good. I owned an M6 (film) for years and never wanted anything but my 35mm lens on the front.

But really, this is a photo-taking machine, and is the exact kind of thing which will appeal to photojournalists. It does everything that the Leica did when it was first introduced last century, back when the first M-series cameras were small and light compared to the existing order. The RX1 is tiny; has proper manual control but also autofocus and modern niceties like focus-peaking (an aid for manual focussing usually found in movie cameras); and it has what should be ana mazing lens and a tough, tough body.

The only oddity is the lack of viewfinder, but Sony will sell you an electronic one for $600, or an optical one for $45 . And right there you see the biggest similarity with Leica: price gouging on the accessories.

Whatevs. I still totally want one, even though I'd probably still take most pictures with my dorky old iPad camera.

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  • Source Sony Blog
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    • TheKnightWhoSaysNi

      An $80 camera without a viewfinder is a practical choice.
      A $2,800 camera without a viewfinder is ridiculous.

    • Markus Berger

      An $80 camera without a viewfinder is a practical choice.
      A $2,800 camera without a viewfinder is ridiculous.

      And you really do not know a lot about about photography…

    • MrsCleaver

      So few shooters these days appreciate the joy of using a rangefinder camera. Like the author, I used a Leica for many years, a fully manual M4. There is simply no better glass in the world than that made by E. Leitz, whether it’s fitted to a Leica, or any other camera that will accept the lens. Beyond that, there’s just something about holding a small rangefinder (or rangefinder-type) camera, versus an SLR. I don’t criticize those who love their SLRs or DSLRs. It’s just that most of them have never used a lighter, smaller camera with a viewfinder… a GOOD viewfinder.

      If only this little Sony would accept M-mount Leitz lenses, now that would be something! But then, perhaps the next version will.

      Thanks for the mini-review!

    About the author

    Charlie Sorrel Charlie Sorrel is the Reviews Editor here on Cult of Mac. Follow Charlie  on Twitter at @mistercharlie.

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