What do you get when you merge a small, rugged action cam with a Sony RX100 advanced compact? Probably something a lot like the Sony RX0. On Aug. 31, Sony introduced the Cyber-shot RX0, a waterproof camera that uses the company’s popular 1-inch Exmor sensor for high-resolution photo and video capture. The RX0 has a fixed lens, and it’s designed for multi-camera setups. It has been a while since Sony updated its rugged point-and-shoot and Action Cam lineups, but Sony said the RX0 is neither. Instead, it is a new type of camera that’s designed for a new generation of creative filmmakers, combining key elements from various camera categories and use cases.
Powered by the same stacked Exmor RS CMOS 1-inch sensor and Bionz X processor that’s behind Sony’s advanced cameras, like the RX100 V and RX10 II, the RX0’s body resemble that of an action camera. That little boxy body, however, weighs only 3.9 ounces and measures just 2.38 inches at the widest point. Its weatherproof attributes, however, are more in-line with rugged point-and-shoots: The RX0 is waterproof (down to 33 feet), crushproof, and shockproof (from 6.5 feet), and weather-sealed to protect it against dust.
The 15.3-megapixel sensor features Sony’s stacked technology for faster speeds and improved low-light capture. Due to the small form-factor, it accommodates a fixed, 24mm Zeiss Tessar T* wide-angle camera lens with a constant f/4 aperture — more Sony Action Cam than RX-series, but minus the distortion and fisheye effects you normally get from an action camera.
The RX0’s autofocus system, however, functions more like those in regular camera. It offers a single-shot autofocus mode, manual focus, and a preset focus, all using a 25-point contrast detection autofocus system.
For still photos, if the focus and exposure is locked on the first frame, the RX0 can shoot as fast as 16 frames per second (fps). For other shots, the camera can manage 5.5 fps. Shutter speed ranges from 1/4 to 1/32,000, using an electronic shutter designed to eliminate the rolling shutter distortion in fast action.
The camera includes full manual mode and programmed auto for both photos and video, as well as a handful of full-auto modes. Aperture priority and shutter priority mode are missing, but that’s not surprising considering you can’t adjust the aperture anyway. The camera can shoot RAW files in addition to JPEG, making it more advanced than most action and point-and-shoot cameras.
For video — the primary purpose of this camera — the RX0 can shoot Full HD at 60 fps. While 4K is supported via a clean HDMI output, you will need to use an external recording system. Other advanced video features include S-Log2 picture profile. The RX0 can also shoot slow motion with frame rates up to 960 fps — made possible in part by the stacked sensor and processor. But like an action cam, there’s no optical stabilization system.
Sony says multiple RX0s can be rigged together to create “bullet-time” effects (like in The Matrix). Sony’s existing PlayMemories app can control up to five RX0s at once, while the FA-WRC1M wireless radio commander can control up to 15. Sony says they are working on a camera control box and updated firmware specifically for creating multi-camera setups, with both expected to launch around January 2018.
The RX0 is launching with a number of accessories, including a cage with 35 screw holes for adding extra accessories (like that external 4K recording equipment), housing to take the camera deeper underwater, and a filter adapter kit that allows the camera to use filters and lens hoods.
As you can tell, the RX0 is a bit of an oddball that mixes features from many different Sony cameras. But it’s really neither an alternative for any camera that’s currently in the market. It has the makings of a niche camera, but from an engineering standpoint, it’s another feat for Sony, as it managed to squeeze a large sensor inside a compact camera (and we thought the RX100-series is small enough).
The RX0 is priced at $700, with availability in October. That’s $300 more than GoPro’s flagship, but it’s $300 less than the RX100 V. The RX100 V is likely still Sony’s reigning champ with more megapixels, zoom lens, and adjustable, brighter aperture, but if you can’t decide between a compact camera and an action camera for your video workflow, the RX10 appears to mix the best of both worlds.