Feature Design

DSC-RX1 / SLT-A99V / NEX-VG900

Photo of the DSC-RX1 / SLT-A99V / NEX-VG900

Setting the standard in imaging

Some camera innovation is only possible
when a company develops
and produces their own sensors.
On these Sony cameras,
the gleaming umber ring
on the lens mount means
there’s a powerful full-frame sensor inside.
It’s a reminder
not only of engineering prowess
but also of design savvy across categories.


〈 DSC-RX1 / SLT-A99V / NEX-VG900 〉

A grand shade of umber

Sony is behind many advances in image sensors. A good example is our full-frame CMOS sensor, as large as a frame of 35 mm film. Both our passion for photography and our en-gineering expertise are clear in the diverse trio of cameras we chose to introduce the sensor. Learn more about this special DSLR (SLT-A99V, or α99 for short), high-end compact camera (DSC-RX1, or RX1), and interchangeable-lens movie camera (NEX-VG900, or VG900) below. This passion and expertise was where it all began.
Knowing that camera functions and operations vary by category, we didn’t set out to make the models structurally similar. Instead, we considered other ways to make the full-frame range look consistent. This thinking led to a ring around the lens mount, in a shade we call "grand umber." It’s not too different from the cinnabar traditionally used in A-mount α (alpha) DSLRs, and it sets the perfect tone for these Sony cameras. In the VG900, which is sometimes used professionally, the color helped us avoid radical design changes affecting usability or compatibility. Just spicing it up with a dash of grand umber conveys the premium performance of a full-frame camera.

Designing flagship models

We decided that the premium sensor should go in our flagship cameras in each line. This kind of cross-category development was also a rare opportunity for us. We were ready for a greater challenge than usual in design. Although design conditions and themes differed from one model to the next, the cameras are linked by the grand umber accent. As soon as you see and touch them, even before shooting, you can sense the promise of full-frame Sony cameras. Succeeding at this makes us feel lucky to be designers.

Niitsu, general manager

Industrial Design

〈 DSC-RX1 / SLT-A99V / NEX-VG900 〉

A paragon of
"Tensile Skin" aesthetics

"Tensile Skin" styling was introduced in 2011 with the SLT-A77V (or α77) DSLR. With this approach, complex shapes look more natural together. Edge lines and other surfaces that seem to push outward are balanced by inward-curving surfaces. The newer α99 builds on this aesthetic. Unlike most DSLRs, where the mount is surrounded by a flat oval sur-face, the α99 has natural, flowing curves everywhere except for the prominent edge line above the Sony logo. The α99 is also easier to control. For easier control in viewfinder shooting, buttons are carefully shaped so that you can find the right buttons by touch.

Exquisite edge lines

The edge line above the Sony logo—this truly highlights the beauty of "Tensile Skin" styling, so it was meticulously designed. Pick up a camera, and you’ll notice that the surface with the Sony logo faces downward slightly. This part hangs over the mount surface a little, which makes the edge line look powerfully taut.

Obata, senior designer

New classic design

The RX1 is a camera lover’s compact. It’s for those who appreciate timeless, universal camera ideals and what’s essential. Here, our homage to these users took the form of a classic camera. But for an innovative company not bound by tradition, this was challenging. Which camera traditions should be honored? By no means a modern copy of classic cameras, the RX1 builds on Sony minimalism in two ways. First, it ensures convenient shooting horizontally and vertically. Cameras will always be held both ways, and this is reflected in the shape of the body. Second was the lens layout. The central position is fitting, considering its central role. We insisted on this, especially because uncompromising engineering went into the RX1 lens.

Keeping it real

Design required a more delicate touch than usual. The lens layout is a good example. Although it’s actually offset to keep your hands comfortably apart as you hold the grip and focus, it looks centered, thanks to submillimeter logo positioning. The tapered ends also called for careful design, or the overall appearance would change radically. The Sony logo extends onto the curved surface, but despite concerns about challenging production, this tapering was important to avoid a boxy appearance.

Dedication, down to the details

Markings and labeling are not printed but etched in. If the RX1 is your lifelong companion, you’ll be pleased at the care taken to keep the labeling intact. Engraved markings, a brushed metal finish, and two-tone markings are lavished on the exposure compensation dial. For clarity and precision, the negative symbol itself serves as a dial marker, with gray bars between the values. In accessories, the thumb grip folds neatly out of the way, following the camera contours when not in use. Sketch after sketch preceded lens hood prototyping, and thoughtful design is also clear in the metal lens cap, which makes a convenient finger rest when attaching or detaching the cap.

Subdued, focused design

RX1 design called for greater discipline. We had to keep our goals firmly in mind. For example, although edges are sometimes rounded to make cameras look slimmer, this would have undermined the vertical/horizontal emphasis. It was a different kind of project, so after some debate, we narrowed down what needed our attention.

Takagi, producer and senior designer