Smartphone cameras are getting incredibly good, with image quality and low-light performance that seem impossible given their slim form factors. These same phones have dramatically cut into the sales figures for dedicated compact cameras. People are taking more pictures than ever; they’re just doing it with their phones.
But compact cameras themselves are getting impossibly good, too. Sony’s RX series has become a sort of gold standard in the past few years, with pocketable shooters that deliver bigger sensors, brighter lenses, and better image quality than similarly sized models. And now, with the RX1R II, the company has created its most-powerful compact camera yet.
Due in November, the Sony RX1R II will be priced at $3,300.
This palm-sized shooter simply has features that no other camera at its size has ever had. The RX1R II packs a full-frame 42-megapixel sensor—the same huge backside-illuminated imager found in the interchangeable-lens a7R II—in a body that’s just 2.88 inches deep. That’s just one of several revolutionary things about this camera, which kinda sorta fits in your pocket, depending on the size of your pocket: Its fixed 35mm F/2.0 lens sticks out a little, so you’ll need a bigger jacket pocket or a pair of overalls to be safe. Still, this is an absurdly small camera for the size of its sensor.
As you might expect, this semi-pocketable Hercules costs a pretty penny. A pretty 330,000 pennies, to be precise. Due in November, the Sony RX1R II will be priced at $3,300.
In order to squeeze all that sensor into a modest body, Sony’s engineers had to get pretty creative. The sensor is actually attached to the lens, a design feat that Sony says widens the angle at which light can pass through the optics and hit the sensor, which helps the camera capture as much detail as possible. What’s more, the camera’s shutter is actually in the lens. Compared to the traditional focal-plane shutter found in the DSLR bodies, the in-lens design contributes to the RX1R II’s compact size and gives the camera a flash-sync speed of 1/2000 second.
There’s also a growing trend in the world of professional-level DSLRs, and it involves picking a camera that does or does not have an optical low-pass filter (OLPF). The OLPF combats moire and odd color artifacts in finely detailed patterns, but it also makes the resulting image look a bit softer. Sony has created a first with this camera: The ability to turn the OLPF on, off, or in a “standard” mode that combats artifacts but also tries to bring out more detail. There’s a layer of liquid crystals in between the low-pass filter stack that blocks or allows light to pass through them, much like the way LCD TVs work. Sony has even added a bracketing mode that allows you to take a burst of shots at each of the camera’s OLPF settings.
The combination of sensor size, resolution, and filter settings adds up to a “compact without any compromise in image quality,” according to Sony senior technology manager Mark Weir. The camera is built with street photography and “the decisive moment” in mind, Weir says.
The new camera also borrows a feature from the lower-end RX100 series—at least the more recent ones. Along with a tilting 3-inch LCD, the camera has a retractable 2.3-million-dot OLED eye-level viewfinder. You enable it by pushing a little lever on the side of the camera, and the eyepiece pops up from the body. It’s been redesigned a bit here: The eyepiece component of the EVF now automatically pops out when the EVF emerges from the camera body, and there’s a menu setting that lets you keep the camera powered on if you retract the EVF back into the body.
So how about the raw specs? They are not too shabby. The RX1R II captures 14-bit uncompressed RAW images, ramps up to ISO 102,400, has a hot shoe and 3.5mm microphone port, offers built-in Wi-Fi and NFC, and has a continuous shooting speed of 5fps. The autofocus system is plenty peppy, with 399 phase-detection points and 25 contrast-detection points that combine to cover 45 percent of the full-frame sensor.
One thing it doesn’t do is 4K video, as Sony says the RX1R II is built primarily with still photographers in mind. Still, it shoots 1080p at up to 60fps in AVCHD format.Go Back to Top. Skip To: Start of Article.