If you were looking for proof that Sony is at the top of its game in image sensor technology, here it is.
Today at a press conference in New York, the electronics giant announced three new cameras -- the Cyber-shot RX10 II and RX100 IV enthusiast compacts and the α7R II interchangeable lens compact -- with "world's first" sensor designs.
The RX100 IV and RX10 II both feature a unique 1-inch type stacked Exmor RS CMOS image sensor with high-speed signal processing and an attached DRAM memory chip. Sony says this design enables the cameras to capture 40x superslow-motion video at up to 960 frames per second (fps) -- something that was previously only achieved with pro-level video cameras.
The sensor design also allows for 4K-resolution movie capture (QFHD 3,840x2,160 pixels). Using Sony's XAVC S codec, it can record at high bitrates of 100Mbps during 4K recording and 50Mbps during full HD shooting. The RX10 II can shoot 4K video for up to 29 minutes in the US, while the pocketable RX100 IV can shoot 4K clips at up to about 5 minutes in length.
The image sensor's design also made it possible to give the cameras a high-speed anti-distortion shutter with a maximum shutter speed of 1/32,000 second, so you can shoot with these with their apertures wide open at brightness levels up to EV19. The fast readout also minimizes rolling shutter-artifacts.
The RX100 IV features a Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* f1.8-2.8 lens 24-70mm (35mm equivalent), while the new RX10 II has a Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 24-200mm lens (35mm equivalent) with a constant f2.8 aperture.
Each model has a new high-contrast XGA OLED electronic viewfinder with 2.35-million-dot resolution. While the dSLR-style design of the RX10 II allows it to always be available, the RX100 IV's viewfinder retracts into the body to maintain its compact size.
Sony also updated the contrast-detection autofocus system for these models, promising they'll be able to lock onto a moving subject in as little as 0.09 seconds.
The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV and RX10 II will be available this July for about $1,000 and $1,300, respectively. Presales for each model will begin on June 17. Pricing for the UK and Australia were not announced, but the prices convert to about £650 and AU$1,300.
The new A7R II interchangeable lens camera features another "world's first" sensor: a back-illuminated full-frame Exmor R CMOS with a 42-megapixel resolution and an ISO sensitivity of 102400. The anti-aliasing-filter-free sensor also has 399 focal-plane phase-detection autofocus, boosting its AF performance up to 40 percent over its predecessor.
Sony says the new sensor pairs a gapless on-chip lens design with an antireflective coating on the surface of the sensor's glass seal to improve its light-collection efficiency. The result is a sensor that promises to deliver high sensitivity with low-noise performance and wide dynamic range. The ISO range for the camera goes from 100 to 25600, but is expandable to ISO 50 to 1024002.
Like the two new Cyber-shots, the A7R II can capture video in 4K quality, but ups the ante with the availability of a Super 35mm crop mode or a full-frame mode. According to Sony, the Super 35mm mode allows the camera to gather data from approximately 1.8x as many pixels as 4K by using a full-pixel readout and then oversamples the information, resulting in 4K movies with less moire and jaggies -- something that can be an issue without the anti-aliasing filter.
Shooting in full-frame mode, you get use of the full width of the sensor for recording, making this the "world's first digital camera to offer this in-camera full-frame format 4K recording capacity."
Of course for all of that movie making, you'll want good image stabilization. The A7R II has Sony's five-axis image stabilization system, but its performance has been tweaked for this camera's high-resolution shooting. Sony claims the shake compensation is equal to shooting at a shutter speed approximately 4.5 steps faster.
The Sony A7R II full-frame interchangeable lens camera will be available in August for about $3,200. Pricing wasn't available for the UK and Australia, but converts to approximately £2,100 and AU$4,125.