Sony Introduces its Super-Compact ILX-LR1 61MP Drone Camera

A drone flying over a cell tower in the desert.

Sony’s newly introduced ILX-LR1 may be compact, but it’s definitely not designed to be your average little street camera.

The extremely lightweight professional interchangeable lens shooter is aimed at industrial and aerial drone applications more than anything.

With those uses in mind, this little camera offers a massive 61-megapixel full-frame sensor that according to Sony is expertly made for inspection, mapping, surveying and investigation work from the air.

A black camera with a lens attached to it.


Curiously though, despite being designed specifically as a top-notch drone camera, the ILX-LR1 isn’t compatible with Sony’s own professional Airspeak S1 drone.

According to Yang Cheng, VP, Imaging Solutions at Sony Electronics,

“As the industrial market for drones expands, we recognized the need for a compact, lightweight, and full-frame option that prioritizes image quality and offers remote capabilities. This is a gamechanger for many in the industry,”

The Sony executive also adds,

“With the launch of the ILX-LR1, we’ve taken Sony’s trusted legacy and expertise in imaging and paired it with the benefits of our E-mount interchangeable lens system and Camera Remote SDK to create a versatile new ecosystem optimized for photography, which supports a diverse range of industrial applications.”

In other words, if you’re looking for a serious, high-quality aerial industrial and commercial photography camera for your surveying needs, the ILX-LR1 is probably just the thing for you.

Like almost all Sony cameras, the ILX-LR1 is an E-mount device, meaning that it works with most Sony lenses, even those built for the company’s huge range of consumer and prosumer photo and video cameras.

This makes it ideal at least in the sense that lens options for this drone camera are extremely diverse and capable of handling all sorts of specific and unique needs.

Physically, the ILX-LR1 really is quite compact and remarkably so, with a weight of no more than 240 grams or 0.53 lbs and a tiny physical size to boot.

Its form factor and weight make it smaller even than the tiniest of Sony’s mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras for street photography, such as the a7R V (723g, 1.6 lbs), a7CR (515g, 1.14 lbs) or even Sony’s older, ultra-compact a6000 camera (344g, 0.75 lbs) and its descendants.

These really are impressive build specs considering the ILX-LR1’s huge sensor size but they also make sense when you consider that this model is designed specifically for agile drone photography.

The little camera is also just 3.94 inches wide and 2.91 inches tall with a depth of just 1.67 inches (10 x 7.4 x 42cm). These specs also make it considerably smaller than even Sony’s smaller mirrorless cameras such as the a6000 family or a7R C.

I’m definitely impressed and could easily see the camera having some interesting street photography uses, if it only had a viewfinder or LCD screen, both of which it lacks, along with its own battery.

Sony ILX-LR1

That’s right, the ILX-LR1 can’t even power itself, because again, it’s designed for industrial aerial uses. Thus, Sony took out everything that distracts from that, leaving nothing but critical shooting parts inside the device.


Instead, several screw mounts attached to the ILX-LR1 let you attach it to a compatible drone or other type of mounting device. These same screw mounts are also useful for attaching 10-18v power accessories too.

On the other hand, the ILX-LR1 does come with USB-C and micro-HDMI ports. It fortunately also sports a memory card slot along with a few physical control buttons for hand-held use if really needed.

Overall though Sony has very explicitly built the ILX-LR1 to be an industrial use device that connects to workflow solutions via other hardware like drones.

For control and handling, the camera is also compatible with Sony’s soon-to-be-updated Sony Camera Remote SDK (software development kit)

This software integrates directly with the ILX-LR1 for fully controlling shooting via laptops and other devices.

Through the Sony Camera Remote SDK, users of the ILX-LR1 and other compatible Sony cameras will be able to remotely work their menus, settings and many shooting functions.

With the updates that are coming to the SDK users will be able to shoot images, record video, set focus points and take advantage of live view on the fly through remote control via the software.

According to Sony, the Power and Control Terminal in the ILX-LR1 will also let users have “low-latency data communication for remote applications that require an instant response, such as capturing an image at a particular moment.”

Sony is releasing the ILX-LR1 for shipping later in September of 2023 for a fairly reasonable retail price of $2,950.

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Shotkit Journalist, Writer & Reviewer

Stephan Jukic is a technology and photography journalist and experimental photographer who spends his time living in both Canada and Mexico. He loves cross-cultural street photo exploration and creating fine art photo compositions.

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