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By 14 September 2012 | Categories: news

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The last few weeks have seen a number of new product announcements coming from Sony, which included its a massive 84" Bravia TV, a hybrid ultrabook and slate device, the Windows 8 Vaio Duo 11, and a trio of Xperia smartphones.
 
The latest one though, is particularly notable, as it entails the imminent arrival of Sony’s new compact camera that astonishingly, boasts a full frame sensor in a small body.
 
Full frame, compact form
 
The Cyber-shot DSC-RX1, has the distinction of packing a full frame sensor and 24.3 megapixels - normally associated with larger DSLR’s - into a body that is small enough to cater for travel and street photography, as well as portraiture and general shooting.
 
According to Sony, the camera’s 35mm full-frame Exmor CMOS sensor is more than twice as large as the APS-C sensors found inside regular DSLR cameras. This, the company elaborated, is capable of resolving the finest image details and subtle textures, while the full-frame sensor “assures absolute fidelity, rich colours and an impressively broad dynamic range.”
 
Additionally the large sensor size on the RX1 is responsible for boosting the camera’s sensitivity range to a generous ISO 100 to 25600. Sensitivity can be further adjusted as low as ISO 50in expanded mode, while ISO settings as high as 102400 can be achieved using Multi Frame Noise Reduction.
The RX1 has a clean top, while the lens hosts the aperture control ring.
 
Fast lens, fine controls
 
However, as any pro photographer knows, a camera is only as good as the lens placed on it. On this front, the RX1’s is no slouch. The camera sports a fast (f2), bright Carl Zeiss Sonnar T lens with a fixed focal length of 35 mm. The lens has a macro switching ring on the lens barrel, which shortens the minimum focusing distance to 20 cm, and thus enables users to capture small subjects close-up.
 
While a great sensor is well and fine, we are most excited about the attention that Sony has paid to its controls on the camera. Along with manual control modes, the camera has dedicated lens rings, which apparently allow fingertip control of focus and aperture, while a DSLR-style Focus mode dial on the front of the camera allows easy switching between focus modes.
 
Sony explained that top-mounted exposure compensation and mode dials are ergonomically placed for easy operation, while custom function and AEL buttons fall comfortably to hand. On the back of the camera, users will find a 3" 1 229k-dot LCD for viewing their images.
 
Additionally, a Quick Navi mode, which is accessed via the camera’s pro-style control dial and cross keys, allows fast, intuitive adjustment of camera settings, while a memory recall (MR) mode allows storage and instant recall of up to three sets of camera settings.
 
Video too
 
The Cyber-shot RX1 further caters for Full HD (1080p) movie footage at a choice of 50p/60p or 25p/24p (progressive) frame rates. Sony pointed out that 24p recording enables the camera to transform everyday scenes into film-like movies, while making it “easy to record beautifully atmospheric video in very low lighting, such as at dusk”.
 
Even wider compositional possibilities are offered by Auto HDR and D-Range Optimiser, bracket shooting (Exposure, DRO or White Balance) and Auto HDR shooting modes. There’s also a Digital Level Gauge that indicates camera pitch and camera roll on the LCD screen for straight, even horizons and architectural shots.
 
The Cyber-shot RX1 is not being launched on its own. Instead, it is being accompanied with a range of dedicated optional accessories, such as an Optical Viewfinder (FDA-V1K), which adds functionality with Zeiss optics. Also available are an Electronic Viewfinder (FDA-EV1MK), exclusive Jacket Case (LCJ-RXB), Lens Hood (LHP-1) and a Thumb Grip (TGA-1) for comfortable handling.
 
The camera will further come pre-installed with a ‘lite’ version of PlayMemories Home for managing, editing and printing images from the camera. The full version, however, will be freely available to download and will add movie editing and disc burning functionality as well.  
 
An additional flash can be added to the camera's hotshoe.
 
To the point
 
While there is no word as yet on the pricing of the camera, Sony has confirmed that it will be coming to South Africa later this year.
 
While cramming a full-frame sensor in a compact body is an impressive feat in anyone’s book, more importantly, it signifies a no-compromise; innovative approach by Sony, and happily, shows that the company can still elicit exclamations of surprise.
 
We suspect that, for photographers for whom image quality is paramount, and who favour the portability of compacts, the RX1 will be on the top of their shortlist when it does arrive on our shores.    

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