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Sony bets big on SLR-likes with full-frame sensors

Consumer Reports News: September 12, 2012 12:09 AM

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Full-frame sensors have most often been included on large, higher-end SLR cameras. But Sony today bucks that trend by introducing a compact, fixed-lens digital camera that includes such a sensor. In addition to having a full-frame sensor, the 24-megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 will include a fixed-lens 35mm f/2, which according to Sony, is the "best lens in their cyber-shot lineup."

A full-frame sensor is the same size as a frame of 35mm film and touted for exhibiting the superior image quality possible with the best 35mm film cameras of the past. Sony also today announced the SLT-a99, a larger SLR-like camera that includes a full-frame sensor.

The big news today, though, is the RX1, with its huge sensor and a camera body small enough to make it very portable. (According to Sony, it's just a bit smaller than the Sony NEX-7. Sony claims that the sensor can handle light better and more evenly, with exceptional corner-to-corner sharpness.

The RX1 also has a nine-blade aperture, a top ISO of 25,600 and a 3-inch LCD. It can fire off 5 frames per second at full resolution, full-res video (1080p at 24 or 60fps), and has three different function rings, including a focusing and aperture ring. And like most advanced cameras, it can capture RAW as well as JPEG images.

The combination of the RX1's bright f/2 lens and large full-frame sensor may yield photos that exhibit a shallower depth-of-field than is possible on a point-and-shoot, or even on some advanced cameras with a micro 4/3rds sensor. We will report more on this model when we get it into our labs for testing.

However, at $2,800, the RX1 will be the priciest point-and-shoot we've seen. And if you want extras such as an optical or electronic viewfinder, they'll cost you—$600 and $450, respectively. But the camera (available in December) will be compatible with a plethora of other accessories, provided you want to spend more money.

Sony also announced two other cameras today: The 24-megapixel SLT-a99 ($2,800) has an overhauled its autofocus system and the same high-quality XGA OLED found on the SLT-a77 and NEX-7, and includes a sophisticated audio system. And another advanced model, the Sony NEX-6 ($1,000), comes with a smaller APS-C sized sensor as well as the same wireless features found on the NEX-5R, but has similar specs to the NEX-7, including a high-quality OLED viewfinder. Both the a99 and NEX-6 will be available in mid-October.

Terry Sullivan

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