Sony has just announced the ILX-LR1, an advanced full-frame camera designed specifically for drone use.
The ILX-LR1 is a fully fledged E-mount camera, featuring a 61MP full-frame sensor, with full remote-control ability, as well as an SDK for custom development. The camera is being primarily marketed for industrial use, however it's hard to escape the fact that it's image quality will no doubt be of interest to movie makers and television producers.
The camera allows an ISO range of 100-32000, and can take continuous stills at up to 3fps, making it ideal for survey imagery. At 100 x 74 x 42.5 mm in size, and weighing in at only 243g, the ILX-LR1 will assist with battery times that may be curtailed when lifting larger cameras such as traditional mirrorless models. The E-mount lens interface also means that users have access to a huge range of glass, including telephoto lenses, that will suit any use case scenario.
The advanced SDK for the camera allows users the ability to control the drone from within their own software applications, which can also be made to link unique image IDs with drone position data in post-processing.
The ILX-LR1 is powered externally by a DC port, and it features indicator lamps for recording and power, so it is easy to reference the status of the system. The power supply, exposure output, focus, and record trigger can also be sent to and from the camera with a single terminal, while a lock button helps prevent any unwanted changes to the camera's settings while handling.
Internal video recording can take place with an SD card in 4K resolution up to 150Mbps with 4:2:0 colour sampling with HEVC encoding. Although it should be noted that the camera features an HDMI port, which could be connected to an external recorder. Power consumption is very low at 3.8W, with the lens attached.
Camera choice for professional drones is quite limited, with most heavy lifters using either cinema cameras or mirrorless models. For industrial survey it is a very similar situation. Whilst manufacturers like DJI make drones with integrated cameras, the lens choice for these is quite limited, so a camera like the ILX-LR1 would appear to open up the flexibility to customise the image capture to very specific needs.
The ILX-LR1 will be available from the end of November at $2950.