Sony just made a tiny full-frame camera for drones – and it'll cost you big

Array of Sony ILX-LR1 cameras
(Image credit: Sony)

Sony is taking photography to the sky as the tech giant reveals a new small camera that’s been specially designed to be placed into drones: the ILX-LR1.

While the name may not be super catchy, it does exemplify the idea of big things coming in small packages. The camera measures approximately 100 x 74 x 42.5 mm (about 4 x 3 x 1.7 inches) and weighs 8.6 oz. Despite its tiny stature, the ILX-LR1 is quite powerful as it’s capable of shooting videos up to 60FPS. Sony explains its device can shoot content up to 4K resolution (3840 x 2160 pixels) thanks to its 1.38-inch Exmor R CMOS image sensor. This hardware gives the ILX-LR1 “extraordinary sensitivity, resolution, and dynamic range” so it can capture the “finest details”. Additionally, it sports a BIONZ XR processor to deliver low-noise photographs with, Sony promises, “realistic colors”.

Sony goes on to say the camera has a wide ISO range from 100 to 32,000, allowing the ILX-LR1 to “operate in most daylight conditions.”

Stripped away

To make the lightweight design a reality, Sony stripped away a lot of the basic features you’d expect to see on a camera. There’s no viewfinder of any kind, no rear LCD screen, or handgrip – it doesn’t even have a battery. The company explains “the lower weight means longer flight times”. Plus, the compact body allows it to fit “into smaller drones”. In order to power the device, users will need to connect it directly to a drone’s power supply. 

Front and back of Sony ILX-LR1

(Image credit: Sony)

This same connection can be used to control key aspects of the camera. On the same day that Sony revealed the ILX-LR1, the company announced new changes to its Camera Remote SDK (Software Development Kit), introducing “enhanced function for drone applications.” These include “expanded menu settings” to more easily control the device at a distance and notifications for certain events like when a recording starts or stops.

The patch is split into two. Version 1.10 releases on September 13 with the first set of features. Version 1.11 is set for November 2023, bringing its own set of upgrades to video shooting applications.

Other notable features of the ILX-LR1 include support for a wide variety of E-mount lenses. If you’re not familiar with the tech, it brings the lens close to a camera’s sensor so the hardware can be “smaller and lighter without compromising quality. 


It’s unknown when the ILX-LR1 launches although some online reports claim it’ll release this December for a whopping $2,950 in the US only. We should mention Sony is marketing their latest gadget to a professional audience. To buy one, it looks like you'll have to contact Sony directly.

ILX-LR1 in a drone flying

(Image credit: Sony)

It may be worth the trouble, though. With the right drone, the ILX-LD1 could – if Sony's promises are accurate – provide nearly unmatched drone photography.

We reached out asking if it plans to release the camera internationally. This story will be updated if we hear back.

Be sure to check out TechRadar’s list of the best Sony cameras for 2023.

Update 9-7-2023: A company representative got back to us and said the ILX-LR1 is actually going on sale at the end of November for $2,950 USD and $4,016 CAN.
When asked if Sony plans to release the camera in other countries, the representative said the device is part of a "global initiative" so it may launch elsewhere but they're not 100 percent sure.

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Cesar Cadenas

Cesar Cadenas has been writing about the tech industry for several years now specializing in consumer electronics, entertainment devices, Windows, and the gaming industry. But he’s also passionate about smartphones, GPUs, and cybersecurity.