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A Full-Frame Sony NEX Soon? And Maybe a Surprise?

See Thoughts on a Full-Frame Sony NEX.

APS-C versus full frame really does matter. It’s a “style” thing, just as full frame is not the same as medium format. But one might ask: where is the “missing link” between a full frame camera like the Sony RX1R and a PhaseOne digital back? Some sort of Mamiya 7 II or Hasselblad 500 in digital form with a 42 X 42mm sensor in a relatively compact form factor with an EVF and rear Retina display like the iPhone. We can hope. Are you listening Pentax*?

While there is clamor for interchangeable lenses on a full frame NEX body, the fact is that high optical quality for a full frame sensor is not going to keep the form factor small unless the lenses have speeds in the f/2.8 to f/4 range. Sure, f/2 can be good, but it won’t be exciting in quality terms, it won’t be great. Actually that’s the case for even APS-C already. That’s the way it is. It’s not mediocrity, it is in fact pretty darn good on APS-C, which is to say it’s far from exciting. But there is an exciting lens, very exciting, coming soon for Nikon and Canon DSLRs.

Which is why I believe a fixed-lens camera is simply better: a lens optimized for the sensor, with the Sony RX1R the embodiment of the optimized full frame camera. My desire is not for a full-frame NEX with interchangeable lenses (which have to hit a price target that makes them boring) but rather for more variants of the RX1R, such as 18mm and 24mm and 28mm variants, with killer lenses. Because really good lenses are going to cost $1800 or so anyway. I would much rather have a smaller and faster lens fixed to a camera body than a slower bulkier lens on an interchangeable-lens camera. It comes with other benefits like a leaf shutter that allows flash sync at full shutter speed for outdoor shooting; that can’t happen on an interchangeable lens camera with a focal plane shutter unless the lenses use leaf shutters, which so far has not happened.

While fully acknowledging the general appeal and occasional utility of interchangeable lenses, it’s doubtful that the vast majority of users (or even pros) really need more than two focal lengths to cover 80% of the shooting situations. Less is usually more. And for those types of imaginative scenarios, that’s what a 2nd DLSR system is for. After all, the “dead” DSLR still solves a lot of challenges.

* Pentax builds cool oddball stuff like the Pentax 645D and the Pentax DA HD lenses and the excellent Ricoh GR, so why not a 42 X 42mm digital medium-format fixed lens camera? A sort of super-sized Sony RX1R but in the Pentax flavorings.

The full-frame fixed-lens Sony RX1R with Really Right Stuff grip and Sony EVF

Eleanor B writes:

Lloyd, thanks for this "hint" to Sony! I would buy an RX1R 18 and RX1R 70 ( or whatever short telephoto they would make) to supplement my current RX1R 35!

Great review on your part on the RX1R by the way...thanks.

I can't put my Sony R version M9, D800e and Phase One haven't been out of the bag!

DIGLLOYD: that’s the feeling I had in the field while shooting the RX1R.

Brian T writes:

I could not agree more with your assessment. While I continue to use my D800E for some work, I find more and more that my little Sony RX1R can handle much of my workload it such an easy, light and unobtrusive fashion. I would have never believed that we would have reached this state of affairs so quickly that such a small and portable camera could produce such stunningly beautiful images.

I would also mention the stealth nature of the Sony is a real plus. With the focus assist light and focus confirmation sound turned off, the camera draws so little attention to itself that I have secured pictures that I know I could not have captured with my D800E as my subjects would have been more conscious of its presence.

I completely support and appreciate your call for various focal length options. If I could have a 24mm, or thereabouts, and a 50mm, I would be completely satisfied. May I also suggest that you add to your list that Sony release a monochrome series of these fabulous cameras?

DIGLLOYD: if Sony can play the strategic gaping hole left open by the two dinosaur DSLR companies, I could see half of their market share lost in less than 18 months: so fare they are clueless about producing anything good other than DSLRs. All it would take from Sony is clear-eyed vision along with some aggressive strategic and tactical investments, and the Nikon/Canon hegemony would collapse of its own myopic weight. Such things are not about making a short-term profit, they are about remaking the market entirely. Dang I wish I had a $200M budget at Sony and I’d proceed to eviscerate the market share of the two dominant players, both at the middle rang ($1500 - $3000), but also reaching above (for thought leadership) and below (to eat their lunch).

A monochrome Sony MX1R with 36 megapixels (or even 24) would blast the Leica M Monochrome out of the water so many ways. Unlikely at best though.

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