Sony's Camera Division is on Fire: Updates its High End Compact Cameras
Sony's camera division has been on fire lately. What I really admire about Sony, is that unlike a lot of other manufacturers they're not afraid to embrace the future. While other camera companies have gone the retro direction, Sony keeps trying new and different technologies, and is not afraid to break away from traditional camera design or form factors. And, while they may not always be successful or appeal to everyone, at least they're not afraid to try. Their translucent mirror technology is unique, and their OLED viewfinder technology really pushed the envelope for electronic viewfinders when it first came out. They were the first to put an APS-C sized sensor in a tiny body with the Nex-5 and Nex-3 and their NEx-7 is still the highest resolution sensor in a compact sized camera body. But it is their RX series of compact cameras that has really been impressive, technologically speaking. The RX-100 was a real game changer when it was released, and still is today. It is a tiny compact camera with a zoom lens, but unlike similar models it has a 1" sensor. The result is superb image quality from a compact camera. And it's tiny too. If you have never seen it in real life, the pictures don't do justice to just how small it is. If you put two iPhone 4's back to back, that's about the size of the RX100. I have lusted after it since it came out, but I never got around to getting one. A friend of mine did though and he loves it. The picture quality is really impressive too. It can give many mirrorless systems a run for their money. It is expensive as compacts go, but you are getting what you pay for. The image quality really is that good.
Well, today, Sony upped the game agin, and released an updated version of the RX100, the oddly named RX100M2. The new model adds some new features which are particularly welcome. The most important of which is a flip up screen and an accessory hot shoe which allows you to add an electronic viewfinder. It also adds wi-fi and an improved sensor which sony claims offers 40% more sensitivity. This is pretty impressive as the RX100 was no slouch already. Another interesting feature is that you can now shoot 24p video with it. I have seen video shot with the RX100 and it's really impressive, but you were limited to shooting 60p. To be fair 60p its advantages as you can use it to shoot slow motion video, but it meant that you have to do some conversion in post to get to 24p. Well, not any more apparently. Another interesting feature is what Sony Calls "Step Zoom". This allows you to jump to popular focal lengths such as 35mm, 50mm and so on, so it's as if you're using a series of primes on your camera rather than a continuous zoom. It's an interesting idea that I'll be curious to see in real life.
DPReview has posted a selection of samples on their website, and again, they're damn impressive for the size of the camera.
The second of the Sony announcements was a companion to the amazing albeit expensive RX1. The RX1 is the only compact camera with a full size 35mm sensor and like the RX100, it's remarkably small for what it is. It also has stunning image quality from the combination of a superb Zeiss lens and the amazing 24mp sensor from the A99. The new version released today is a companion to the RX1 and offers a version without the anti-aliasing filter for even sharper images, and it's not like they weren't sharp to begin with.
It's an expensive camera, and some people take issue with the price, but let's be fair, it's a full frame camera in a tiny body. And the images are stunning. Just check out this blog of RX1 images to see just how impressive the photos this tiny little camera produces are.
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As I said at the start, Sony's been on fire lately. I can't wait to see the much rumoured NEx-7 update or what they have in store for their Alpha line (The rumours are rife about a major re-design of the whole approach to the high end). If nothing else, having a strong third manufacturer after Nikon and Canon* gives the other makers a push to keep innovating.
* yes, I know there's Pentax, Fuji, Samsung and so on and they're all good camera makers too, but Sony is the only other manufacturer with the widespread market clout that Nikon and Canon have.