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Sony made a $600 point-and-shoot camera for the visually impaired

The DSC-HX99 RNV features a viewfinder that can project images directly onto a person’s retina.


With models like the A7R V and A7S III, Sony is known for pushing camera technology to the bleeding edge. With its newest release, however, the company isn’t touting the capabilities of its latest sensor or autofocus system. Instead, it’s a device that’s about making photography accessible to those who couldn’t enjoy the hobby before.

Announced today, the DSC-HX99 RNV is a camera kit designed for those with visual impairments. The system consists of two parts: a Sony point and shoot and a viewfinder with a retinal laser projection system. The camera is a Cybershot DSC-HX99. First released in 2018, the HX99 features an 18-megapixel backside illuminated sensor with built-in image stabilization and a 24mm to 720mm zoom lens.

A photo of someone using a DSC-HX99 RNV. They're standing against a brown background.
A photo of someone using a DSC-HX99 RNV. They're standing against a brown background. (Sony)

As for the viewfinder, it’s a Retissa Neoviewer from Japan’s QD Laser. It projects a digital image from the camera directly to the retina of a user. Sony notes the technology won’t work for everyone, but for those who it does, the viewfinder will allow them to use the HX99 to see faces, read signs and capture photos and videos. “The laser retinal projection of Retissa Neoviewer is a completely new technology that has been put to practical use for the first time in the world,” according to Dr. Mitsuru Sugawara, the president and CEO of QD Laser.

The HX99RNV kit will cost $600 when it arrives this summer. That means it won’t cost more than a DSC-HX99 on its own. In a show of support for the low-vision community, Sony says it will bear “the majority” of the cost to produce the device. That said, the kit will only be available directly through Sony, and the company will limit purchases to one per person. Sony also plans to work with American and Japanese schools to provide the device to low-vision individuals.