Sony stoked our interest last month when it announced the RX1 — a $2,800 compact camera with a full-frame sensor and a fixed 35mm f/2.0 Carl Zeiss lens. It promises to be the smallest full-frame camera to date, so we had to see the seemingly physics-defying shooter for ourselves. Unfortunately it's locked away behind glass at CEATEC in Japan, but that didn't stop us coming away with a fuller appreciation for Sony's technical achievement.
The RX1 looks beautiful in person and is astonishingly small for a full-frame camera; we had our RX100 with us for comparison, and there's really not much of a difference in body size. However, the lens is considerably larger and that protrusion means the RX1 won't make its way into most people's pockets, unlike the tiny RX100. Further bulk is added by the optional electronic or optical viewfinder attachments, but the overall package is still around the same size as a small mirrorless camera. Sony is obviously positioning the RX1 as a premium device considering its sky-high pricing, and if it shoots as well as it looks the company will have achieved that goal for sure.
Also on show was the new 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 E-mount lens for NEX cameras. This is a pancake power zoom in the mold of Panasonic's popular 14-42mm Micro Four Thirds lens, and should address the concerns of many who have complained about the lack of slimline optics for Sony's system. We tested it on a NEX-6, and like the Panasonic lens it does indeed make Sony's mirrorless cameras much more pocketable.
Unlike many power zooms, however, you're not restricted to adjusting focal length with a rocking lever; Sony's lens has a ring around the barrel that can be used for either manual focus or zoom, and it appears to work excellently. The manual zoom performance is very fast and goes some way to making the lens feel more responsive, while the standard power zoom lever will be useful for smooth action when shooting video. We can't comment on the sharpness or otherwise speak to the optical quality of this lens just yet, but we do expect a lot of NEX owners will want to replace their previous 18-55mm kit lenses when it goes on sale in January.