I have been reading about a Sony camera, the RX1 with built-in lens, that’s said to sell for about $3000. I thought that was a mistake, but I checked and it does cost $3000. The RX1 is the Compact Camera of the Year on several websites, but it costs more than most digital SLRs. Can you explain why it is so expensive?
You’re right, Ken, the 24-megapixel Sony DSC-RX1 is pricey, but after testing it recently, I can appreciate why it retails for $3000. First, it’s equipped with a 23.9 x 35.8 mm sensor vs. the more typical 5.58 x 7.44 mm size. This allows for huge pixels for outstanding image quality at up to ISO 1600 and very fine quality even at ISO 3200. In fact, one review indicates that the RX1 “rivals (and sometimes surpasses) full-frame DSLRs.” The very large sensor is expensive to manufacture, and Sony also had to develop special technology to make the camera compact in spite of the oversized CMOS chip.
Note too that this diminutive camera features very solid build quality, with a rugged (482-g) magnesium-alloy body, not just a few panels made of metal. It’s equipped with a 3-inch LCD with a much higher than average resolution of 1.3 million dots, a built-in flash plus hot shoe for external flash, and DLSR-style controls including an aperture ring and a manual focus ring. The knurled external dials are made of milled metal. There’s no viewfinder, but Sony markets an optional electronic finder ($600) and a very classy optical viewfinder ($450).
The built-in Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 35-mm lens—with an incredibly wide maximum aperture of f/2—is better than many others that are made for DSLR cameras. Even at f/2, my images are sharp across the entire frame. This lens employs three aspherical elements, including an “advanced aspheric” element, and a leaf shutter for nearly silent operation. When you consider that a Zeiss 35-mm f/2 Z lens for Canon and Nikon DSLRs sells for $1150, you can understand part of the reason for the high price of the Sony DSC-RX1 with built-in lens.
The smallest full-frame camera on the market, it offers DSLR-style features, including 25-point AF and convenient manual focus; 14-bit Raw, HDR and Sweep Panorama modes; wireless off-camera flash support; Full HD Movie mode with stereo sound and overrides; as well as a 5-fps continuous drive mode. Some industry observers have suggested that the price is too high, but the RX1 is clearly a premium-grade product with the best available technology, construction and lens. It should certainly appeal to the most serious photographers who want a jacket-pocket-sized, take-anywhere camera when not carrying a DSLR kit.