We know it’s hard to believe, but there is a world beyond smartphones. For all the debate about the Nokia Lumia 920’s imaging capturing prowess — or lack thereof — Sony just unveiled a bunch of devices that simply blow it or the iPhone 12 to bits of Gorilla Glass.
Let’s start with the one that’s been buzzing around the ‘net — the Sony RX1. This camera, which looks all the world like the RX100, has a 24.3-megapixel full-frame sensor and costs $2,799 (available November). Not content to introduce one new full-frame digicam today, Sony also announced the SLT-A99, a more classic-looking DSLR with the big sensor, plus a camcorder with one as well, the NEX-VG900. On top of this trio, there’s the new NEX-6, a Compact System Camera that comes closest to fulfilling the promise of mirrorless cameras.
Check out our review of the Sony Cyber-shot RX-1 camera.
The RX1 is unique. Although there are cameras with full-frame sensors such as the Nikon D800, they have the typical DSLR size and bulk. The closest physically to the RX1 is the Leica M9, a $6,500 rangefinder-style that uses legendary Leica glass. The RX1, however, is a fixed-lens digicam so unlike DSLRs and CSCs, you have only one focal length. It’s a traditional f/2.0 35mm, which is just fine for many shooters, but if you like to zoom like crazy, this is not the camera for you. The price might put you off as well.
On the more prosaic side, the RX1 has an ISO range of 100-25,600 with a custom setting of ISO 50. When you shoot using Multi-Frame Noise Reduction, it can reach 102,400. The one-pound camera has a 3-inch monitor to frame your images, plus it takes AVCHD 2.0 movies (1080/60p). Just as Apple fanboys drool over any new iPhone, photo buffs will be jumping up and down to get this one for Christmas.
Check out our full review of the Sony NEX-6 digital camera.
Due in November, the NEX-6 16MP APS-C model is the first Compact System Camera to use faster phase detect AF rather than contrast detection, giving it DSLR speed and focusing capability in a compact body. This means you can shoot 10 fps with continuous AF tracking, just like a high-end DSLR. It also has DSLR-like operability (two dials) rather than mostly touchscreen operation of other NEX cameras. The NEX-6 has a top ISO of 25,600, a built-in OLED viewfinder (similar to the NEX-7) and a built-in flash and accessory shoe. The new multi-interface shoe allows mounting of more powerful flash units. In a continuing trend, the NEX-6 also has built-in Wi-Fi allowing you you push images to your computer or smartphone using the built-in PlayMemories mobile app. Granted, this isn’t the one-step solution of a smartphone, but it’s close and the quality is vastly superior.
The NEX-6 will cost $999 with a 16-50mm lens. This new Power Zoom lens is half the height of a standard NEX 18-50mm lens, making the entire package much smaller than a typical DSLR rig. Your shoulders will certainly appreciate it.
Of course we can’t attest to its imaging prowess since we haven’t played with a production model, however, the latest generation of NEX cameras have received very positive reviews for stills and videos (AVCHD Progressive). Can any smartphone come close to this capability? You know the answer to that one.
We won’t even pose the quality question for the new full-frame Translucent Mirror Technology SLT-A99 DSLR, due in October for $2,799. As we’ve noted before, full-frame sensors deliver the absolute best images but they are still very, very expensive. The camera has a new-generation 24.3-megapixel 35mm full-frame Exmor CMOS sensor and a new BIONZ image processing engine. The company claims this is the best imaging quality ever in a Sony camera, and we’ll reserve judgment on that one too. Sony also notes this camera uses a Dual-AF system for more accurate and controlled focusing, and is the lightest full-frame DSLR available. It has a maximum ISO of 102,400 and the same OLED viewfinder as the NEX-7 and A77.
We’ve always been big fans of TMT for shooting video as it has the most accurate and speedy focusing of any DSLR. The A99 captures 1080/60p videos (AVCHD Progressive) and has built-in stereo mics. To help budding filmmakers, the camera has a headphone out, balanced audio inputs plus the new hot shoe accepts an XLR mic kit.
Film students’ delight
Speaking of cinematography, Sony unveiled a camcorder that’ll have the students at USC and NYU film schools drooling. The new NEX-VG900 interchangeable lens camcorder is the first with a full-frame CMOS sensor; the same as the one used in the A99. Due in November, it’ll cost $3,299 for the body alone, which accepts E-Mount lenses. Sony noted that the imager has 45 times the area of a conventional camcorder. The sensor offers filmmakers much greater control over background defocus, so you can create more dramatic movies by shifting the plane of focus during scenes.
On a more affordable note, Sony introduced an update for its NEX-VG20/20H interchangeable lens camcorders. Also due in November, the new VG30 costs $1,799 while the 30H kit with a new 18-200mm powered zoom lens is $2,699. Hardly inexpensive, the camcorder has a 16-megapixel APS-C sensor.
And there will be more — Sony is announcing more cameras in the weeks ahead. Get ready.