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Sony is making a $2,950 screenless, battery-less full-frame camera for drones

Sony is making a $2,950 screenless, battery-less full-frame camera for drones

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The ILX-LR1’s 61-megapixel sensor in a camera this small may sound tempting at first blush, but this pricey body is really meant for select pros and specialty fields.

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The Sony ILX-LR1 camera with a lens attached, on a white background.
The camera isn’t much bigger than the E-mount itself.
Image: Sony

Sony’s got a teeny-tiny new box camera that’s small and light enough to be sent into the sky on a drone, and it’s packing the high-resolution 61-megapixel full-frame sensor of its A7R V camera.

The Sony ILX-LR1 is a new E-mount full-frame mirrorless camera that’s only a bit larger than an average deck of playing cards and weighs just half a pound, yet it has the latest Bionz XR processor and supports 4K video up to 60 fps. That’s an incredibly small package for a lot of imaging output, but it also lacks an electronic viewfinder, a screen of any sort, a standard handgrip, and even a battery. This $2,950 camera, expected to launch in December, is tailor-made for flying on high-end drones and specialty industrial uses — like surveying and photogrammetry measurements.

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Image: Sony

While box cameras are nothing new, the ILX-LR1 is a particularly specialized design with drone-first priorities. Since it doesn’t have a battery, it must rely on a drone’s external power source while in flight, and it also lacks in-body image stabilization of any kind because Sony claims its absence saves precious size and weight and that pilots turn it off anyway. And Sony should know, as it’s been testing the ILX-LR1 with pro-focused flight systems from companies like Skyfish and Event 38. (Though, somehow, the company overlooked its own Airpeak S1 drone, which the ILX-LR1 is not compatible with.)

This nifty little camera may not be for normies like you or me — further emphasized by its retailers being limited to specialty B2B and volume sales networks — but it looks like a cool little bit of crafty engineering. And after splitting its A7C camera into two new models (one of which also has this 61-megapixel sensor), Sony just can’t seem to stop itself from creating new camera models for even the most niche of cases.