RX10 Speculation

The next week looks to be an exciting time for Sony digital imaging. With rumours flying about “full frame” E-mount cameras (the existing NEX-VG900 notwithstanding), another curious rumour has popped up regarding an RX10. This presumably slots in between the RX100/M2 (13mm x 8.9mm sensor) and the RX1/r (36mm x24mm sensor) fixed lens cameras. The assumption had been that the RX10 would be an APS-C (24mm x 16mm sensor) camera but recently it has been reported that it has in fact also a 1″ sensor (like the RX100/M2) coupled with a 9-74mm/2.8 zoom lens (equivalent to the field of view of a 24-200mm zoom on a 35mm film camera) but at a price of $1300 (presumably USD).

A common reaction to the rumour is that the price is too high and they can’t see a market. Just because you can’t see a market for it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Lots of people said there wasn’t a market for a fixed single focal length lens camera at $2,800/€3,100/£2,600 (RX1). The general impression is the the RX1 has done well enough so that Sony saw fit to release a second model (RX1r) to capitalize on its success. Sony seem to be aiming for niches where there are no comparable products. As for the rumours RX10, there’s nothing available that matches a 1″ sensor to a high ratio large aperture zoom.

RX100M2The RX100/M2 showed that people are prepared to pay for image quality in a convenient compact package. The premium price is backed by premium images and features. No other manufacturer has anything to match it yet. If the rumoured RX10 can bring near DSLR-level quality to the bridge camera category, then I can see it attracting both travel photographers wanting to ditch not just DSLRs but even CSCs, and the discerning bridge camera buyer wanting the convenience of an all-in-one camera but looking for better image quality.

Look at the Nikon 1 system for the closest (though not close) comparison. From the Nikon USA website, the Nikon 1 V2 2 lens kit is $1150 and the All-In-One lens kit is $1350 (SRP). They’re not strictly comparable as the zoom ranges and max apertures do not exactly match up with the rumoured RX10. A $1300 SRP for a 1″ sensor with a good high zoom lens could be an attractive proposition to the right demographic.

The RX10 doesn’t need to be a blockbuster for it be a success. If it can cover itself and earn back its development costs, it would help Sony consolidate the premium compact camera market as exemplified by the RX100/M2 and RX1/r. We saw hints of Sony’s strategy in previous financial reports, e.g “…Sony has shifted its product lineup to high value-added models…adding new models to the `DSC-RX’ series, which created a market for high-end compact digital cameras with large sensors developed by Sony last year.”

It is widely acknowledged that smartphones are destroying the low-end compact camera market. Camera companies have been scrambling to develop other markets to cover this vanishing source of income. There will be interesting times ahead but if the camera manufacturers are forced to think outside of the box and deliver innovative imaging solutions, then perhaps we the consumer will benefit. Let’s just hope that it doesn’t become a race to the bottom and that quality trumps price in the minds of the buyer.