ANYONE who has held a compact camera and wished it had the power of a top SLR will want a Sony RX1. It stuffs a 24-megapixel full-frame sensor into a tiny 482g body just 7cm tall.
That makes it the world's only full-frame sensor compact. One of the main things that sets SLR cameras apart from compact ones is the image sensor that records pictures. The bigger the sensor, the better. And even though mirrorless cameras from the likes of Olympus, Panasonic and Sony itself combine big sensors and small bodies, not all SLR sensors are equal. Only top-of-the-line SLRs use full-frame ones.
A sensor's only as good as the lens it's mated with. The RX1 has a 35mm non-zoom F2 lens. It's fast, bright and can blur the backgrounds of photos far more dramatically than its F2 aperture rating would suggest. A rotating ring on the lens barrel adjusts aperture. Another switches between macro and normal focusing. But the catch is that it's fixed to the RX1's body. You can't swap it.
This makes the RX1 a really niche camera, for all its jaw-dropping ability and handbag-friendly size. At its asking price just shy of four grand, there are a dizzying array of alternatives that are far more flexible. None as small. None as cool. But the RX1 will probably only appeal to professional photographer looking for a second camera, and to sybarites with specific hobbies such as casual portrait-taking. This is in Leica territory without the Leica brand.
Available accessories include a genuine leather case ($349), lens hood ($249), thumb grip ($349) and choice between electronic ($349) and optical ($829) viewfinder kits.
The RX1 is only available in black, at Sony Stores and retailers, such as Alan Photo, Cathay Photo, MS Colour and Sprint-Cass.
Samsung Galaxy Camera
THE first thing that strikes you after using the Samsung Galaxy Camera for a few minutes is its intuitiveness. Unfortunately, the impression that hits right after that is that this hybrid animal is still bulkier and clumsier than it needs to be.
The big deal about the Galaxy Camera is that it's powered by Google's Android software, which is typically found on mobile phones. And while one might assume that traditional operating systems purpose built for cameras would suit photography more than a jack of all trades like Android, the touch-screen interface of the Galaxy Camera has an easy logic that will keep your head nodding appreciatively.
Perhaps Android's just well thought out. And maybe people are so used to touchscreen phones that familiarity is instant. But whatever the reason, the inevitable conclusion is that all cameras should become as easy to use as the Galaxy Camera.
The gadget isn't small but one of the reasons for that is obvious. The entire back of the Galaxy Camera comprises a 4.8-inch screen that would be quite at home on a phone. And while there are physical power, shutter, zoom and flash buttons, you can do almost everything without leaving the screen. Although the standard set-up caters to photographers, you can easily surf the Web, check e-mail on the Gmail app, or browse YouTube.
But the Galaxy Camera's similarity to a phone means that it's hard to avoid judging it by phone standards. And it can't replace a phone because the version sold here only has Wi-Fi and therefore can't make phone calls, nor send SMSes. From this angle, picture quality is its sole redeeming strength. The 16-megapixel image sensor is far from huge, but still larger than those found in most phones. And the 23mm lens give you 21x optical zoom, which no phone can match. The camera's also fast.
But it's hard to say if these abilities are worth the heft. There are compact cameras of similar size and price capable of better photos. And the best camera phones, such as the Apple iPhone 5 and Nokia Lumia 920, don't fall too far short of the Galaxy Camera's picture quality. It will probably appeal more to Android fans and less to photography buffs.
The Galaxy Camera would make a lot more sense if Samsung decides to bring the LTE version here that's available overseas, but Samsung only has a 3G version for now. And that's a shame because being able to snap a photo, immediately edit it in an app, and then upload it to Facebook quickly, without having to hunt for Wi-Fi, would be compelling.
The Galaxy Camera is available in black or white from Samsung's flagship store and authorised retailers such as Harvey Norman and Courts.