This week,, Sony announced the world’s second full frame point and shoot digital camera, the DSC-RX1R, which is an exact clone of the original RX1 except that the “R” lacks an anti-aliasing (AA) filter, which, in theory, will mean for more detailed pictures without extra pixels. In its announcement, Sony brags of its continuing efforts to “redefine the levels of performance for a pocket-sized, fixed lens camera,” Unfortunately, there’s just one problem: the camera is not pocket-sized.
When it comes to camera lenses and sensors, bigger sensors require bigger lenses. At a full 24x36mm in size (the same as on a 35mm film camera or a full frame dSLR), one needs a lot of glass in order to cover the imaging circle in order to prevent a tunnel effect from not enough light falling on the sensor. Compounding the problem is that, when designing lenses to match sensors, size has to increase by the area squared. Example: a full frame digital sensor (24x36mm) is 864 sq. mm. In contrast, a 1.5x crop APS-C sensor (18x24mm) is only 432 sq. mm, exactly half the square area of the FF chip. For lenses. The implication is simple: any lens of a given focal length must be twice as large in order to cover a FF sensor tan it need be to cover APS-C.
Herein lies the problem for the RX1R.
Sony has accomplished quite a feat in stuffing a full frame sensor into a camera body that is small enough to fit into a pocket with ease, not to mention all of the electronic components that make the camera take pictures. In all, the camera is approximately 4.5 inches wide and 2.5 inches tall, which, while large for a compact, is still small enough to fit into a pocket with the greatest of ease. Unfortunately, with that giant chip inside of it, Sony was forced to hang a huge lens off the front of the camera. In this case, the lens settled for is a 35mm f2 Zeiss, which single-handedly kills any hope of portability and make the RX1 nearly 3 inches deep, far, far too big to fit into any pocket.
Now, this is not saying that the RX1R is a horrible camera, far from it. However, for anyone who was hoping for a full-frame compact that could be fit into a pocket, you’re out of luck as the dime a dozen point and shoots already on the market for less than $200 will be required for anytime, on the go, spur of the moment photography. The RX1R? While far smaller than a dSLR, it’s way too big to just grab and go with just in case something interesting happens along. Oh, yes, it costs $2800, too, which is far too expensive for many people to want to go casually walking around with, anyway.
Obviously, Sony will not have the full frame “compact” monopoly for long as someone else is sure to make a similar, hopefully more compact product. For starters, instead of a fast f2, a slower pancake lens would be a good starting point or would an optic that is fully or partially collapsible (just like on a traditional small sensor point and shoot). When a competing product comes out, look for the RX1R’s price to drop and, hopefully, Sony’s next FF point and shoot to shrink a bit closer to true pocket camera territory. Bet me on this: by Photokina 2014, there will be quite a few full frame point and shoots on the market, some of which will be almost as small as today’s small sensor compacts.
Want to buy the Sony RX1R in the Cleveland area? Well, there’s Cleveland-based Dodd Camera, with its downtown superstore. In addition, there are many smaller Cleveland metro area chain stores in the Cuyahoga County area, too. Dodd is an authorized Sony dealer. As for pricing and availability, the camera will start to ship in July for $2800 (same as the original, which will stay in production), which goes to show that Sony, unlike Nikon, cares about is customers by not screwing them over by charging extra money for keeping the AA filter out of the camera.
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