Jan 082013
 

jettytt

USER REPORT: The Sony RX1 : Small, Simple, Satisfying

By Alwyn Loh

Introduction:

Hello! My name is Alwyn and I love to take photographs. You may remember me from a previous review on the Leica 21mm f3.4 Super-Elmar lens I wrote, also published on this site. I’ve been shooting digitally for just under a decade now and it was with great pleasure, anticipation and excitement that I managed to acquire one of the earliest sets of the Sony RX1 up for sale in Singapore. Here are my thoughts after extensively shooting with it for the past month.

Over the years, I have longed for a small camera with a full frame sensor and a singular fixed prime lens – either a 28 or a 35. I feel that it is generally easier to compose and shoot with a wide or slightly wide-angle lens over a standard 50mm focal length. My favourite focal length and lens on the Leica M9 has been the 35mm f/1.4 lens. Looking through my Lightroom directory across 2012, it accounted for a good 40% of the images I shot in total.

plant

With the Sony RX1, my wish has finally come true – with the exception of the price. There is no easy way to justify the high price tag at a rational level. For me, I made this purchase more as an end of year gift to myself and also as you will see, the simple joy that I receive when using it in varying settings. The only way I can rationalise its cost is that for the price, you are paying for (1) a full frame sensor, (2) an amazing 35mm focal length lens, (3) small-sized dimensions and (4) excellent build quality.

As I prefer to take pictures over recording video, I have no comments on the video functionality of the RX1 at the moment, save that the record movie button is in a place that does not interfere with the normal stills mode capture function of the camera..

scallop

In Use:

The RX1 is a very simple camera to operate. You flick a switch on the shutter to turn it on and it is ready to shoot within 1 to 2 seconds. Usually it takes longer to remove the front lens cap, so I simply cover the lens with a 49mm UV filter and don’t bother with the cap itself. On a random side note, the cap is of extremely good build quality – I dropped it on my wooden floor twice and both times it left a dent on the floor.

cat

For the moment, I’ve savoured the pleasure of using this exclusively as a point and shoot camera, so without either the OVF or the EVF. The rear screen is crisp, clear, refreshes at a fast rate and is reasonably visible in the bright sunshine outdoors of Singapore. The leaf shutter lends to its very quiet operation – so this can be used in very discreet settings – though I figure in darker environments the use of the EVF or OVF would be ideal vis-a-vis composing on the LCD itself.

Autofocus speed is reasonably fast. It is about the same as the Fuji X100, definitely faster than the Leica X1 and X2, slower than the Nikon 1 series and the Olympus OMD-EM5. Granted that it is running with a full frame sensor, so the depth of field for a given distance and focal length will necessarily be shallower – hence the AF system needs to be much more precise and hence sacrifice some measure of speed to ensure accuracy of focus. I am able to get reasonably good focusing performance indoors under dim conditions, so for myself, nothing that irks me in this area. I usually have the AF assist light disabled because it is distracting and at times, elicits an unwanted reaction when photographing people at closer distances.

jetty

with a small twist of a ring on the barrel, one can set the lens into a macro mode. Normally it focuses down to 30cm, but with this mode engaged, it can focus down to 20cm. From what I see, this manual twist basically imparts a 2mm extension tube like shift of the front lens elements away from the sensor. I have forgotten on several occasions to twist out of this mode, and wondered why later on the camera “couldn’t” focus on regular subjects at normal shooting distances. There is also a manual focus dial seems to work as a focus by wire setting when the manual focus switch is engaged, it is reasonably accurate and useful, though I haven’t had any real reason to use it, as the autofocus is so convenient.

While the massive lens occupies the build of its dimensions, making this a camera more unsuitable for the average sized pocket. It is small and light enough to carry around all day with a wrist strap. Likewise its diminutive size lends itself to avoid drawing attention and I find that it does not elicit the same reactions in my subjects as would a big digital SLR. Most of my non-photography inclined friends thought that I had downgraded to a “crappy point and shoot” when I met them carrying the RX1 around. Of course, they were later wowed by how such a small “crappy point and shoot” could produce images with such beautiful background blur, sharpness and vibrant colours later on.

poke

Playback is reasonably fast, you can either press the wheel like button itself to scroll back and forth, or spin it to scroll through quicker, or bring up other details about the picture with the up key. All these buttons can be personalised and customised in the settings manual, but I am happy to leave them at the defaults. The RX1 for me, is a minimalist shooting device. Only thing is that sometimes, even with a high-speed card, playback can take a few more seconds longer – unlike on the DSLR where one could fire off a shot and have the review show up instantly, this is not possible when attempted if the camera is still writing the picture to the card.

drink

 

The Lens:

 stopdown

After carefully shooting thousands of frames and evaluating it on-screen and in prints. I believe that this is an outstanding lens. Granted that the only negative thing about is that it has a good degree of visible barrel distortion which can be easily corrected in post (or in camera if shooting JPEG), at the expense of some micro contrast and detail in the corners. Please allow me to set the record straight. The lens is very sharp wide open at f/2. Given that this is the only lens that you get from this expensive purchase, it performs splendidly across the board and I am very satisfied with it. In fact I am so satisfied that I’ve done 98% of my photography on this camera at maximum aperture.

pink

The classic sonnar design also lens itself to some very beautiful background blur – reminiscent of the “3D” look that Zeiss lenses are known for. I feel that there is a small measure and degree of “swirly bokeh” towards the edges of the frame and this lens design is basically a synthesis of using a very classic lens design from the past and having it corrected and optimised as far as possible with modern glass and coatings. You can see that the central part of the image retains the pure circular bokeh, while it gets somewhat elongated and stretched out as it nears towards the edge.

wheelchair

There is some chromatic aberration visible in the bright highlight to shadow transitions, as well as at the edges of the out of focus bokeh. But nothing too serious that cannot be corrected in post. Contrast at maximum aperture is also high, contrast does increase slightly when stopping down the lens but I have been rather pleased with its performance wide open that for my needs and purposes in general, no stopping down is necessary, unless it is for depth of field reasons.

bokeh

At f/2.0, vignetting is present and visible even on the LCD screen. Lightroom at the moment does not correct for the light fall off automatically, it has to be dialled in manually. I appreciate and enjoy this natural light fall off because at times in situations where a wider dynamic range is required – typically pictures that encompass the sky and the land, this vignetting acts like a sort of natural ND filter that helps retain some degree of highlights within the fall off zone. I use this for creative purposes and in doing so does not detract from my use of the camera or my photographic vision.

garden

The lens stops at one-third stop interviews, and generally holds the selected aperture quite well. I’ve come across a few times whereby I’ve shifted the aperture ring down to f/2.2 on occasion, but that is like a physical shift of 2mm on the ring itself – so it could happen to anyone. I feel that the click stops are firm enough to hold onto the desired setting, but easy enough to shift rapidly in a heartbeat. The combination of a fast lens and a good sensor, as far as I can tell, yields images with surprisingly high level of fidelity, detail and flexibility in post production. Overall, I think it’s a very capable lens – capable of excellent sharpness and very beautiful bokeh.

leaf

 

Real World Observations:

As the leaf shutter only goes up to 1/2000s in shutter speed, I have discovered that the RX1 possesses an exceptional dynamic range. While not as wide as the D800/E cameras, it is sufficient across the board for most shooting circumstance. This applies only if you shoot in raw, and for a camera like this, it would be a pity to not optimise the resolution and detail offered by this combination of sensor and lens. For my own real world shooting, with ISO 100 and a 1/2000s shutter speed, I have been content to take pictures wide open outdoors here in sunny Singapore.

 

chijmes

For many years, I have subscribed to the photographic philosophy of “expose to the right” and with the RX1, this is no different. Unless the background of my subject is a very dark, I typically have +1 EV of exposure compensation dialled into the camera permanently. This is made easy with the exposure compensation dial. The dials click firmly and so far I’ve not experienced any accidental adjustments whilst in use or in storage. What really surprised me is that usually in these situations, it is easy to clip the highlights, but as far as I can see off my calibrated screen, sometimes at first glance what appears to be overexposure is indicated by the Lightroom histogram to be just short of clipping the highlights.

For the most part, I am content to let the camera default to auto ISO, set my aperture at f/2.0 and then the RX1 automates its shutter speed. It usually picks 1/80s to use when the lighting conditions go dim. While this is not fast enough to freeze all action at times, the smaller size of the RX1 means that it is much more susceptible to camera shake, especially when not composing with the camera closer to one’s centre of gravity. Without image stabilisation, I find that 1/80s is about the minimum to ensure that reasonable sharpness is maintained across the frame in low light conditions. Of course, this means the difference between using ISO 5000 at 1/80s or else ISO 2000 at 1/30s. These days, I would rather a sharp picture with noise than a blur one with less noise.

bouq

For all intents and purposes I find that the ISO range afforded by the RX1 to produce pictures with good detail and the advantages of a full frame sensor when it comes to signal to noise ratio is clearly evident. I find that the colour palette to be very beautiful, and close to what I saw with my eyes. Skin tones look good to me and the white balance performance is remarkably accurate for the most part. As far as I can tell, there is no AF tracking in stills mode, only in video, likewise no stabilisation in stills mode, and only in video. The autofocus, is sufficiently fast to get some moments with movement in it, and I wager to be much faster than what I could manually focus with my Leica M9 and the 35/1.4 lens.

car

Experienced photographers should be able to grab it and start using it with ease, I myself bought it on a Friday evening and was shooting a wedding with it (for fun) the following Saturday morning. There was no need to read the menu, and all it took was to set up the various settings, charging the battery and it was good to go. I was surprised as to how sharp the pictures it yielded was. For this one of the bride’s hands, in the original, it was so sharp you could see the individual strands of hairs on her fingers. It was taken hand-held indoors with the typical point and shoot one-handed technique that is not ideal for sharp images.

bride

and a 100% crop

hands

 

Sony RX1 vs Leica M9

As silly as this sounds, I got the RX1 because I enjoy taking pictures of food. We love our food here in Singapore and eating is a national pastime. One thing I couldn’t really get whilst seated at a table enjoying food was a shot of the said food up close, since the M prime glass usually only focused down to 0.7m. Some third-party glass focuses down to 0.5m, but that was not enough in my opinion on a full frame sensor, and the 0.3m afford, with the option to go up to 0.2m was a real plus for me. As I have observed with the Fuji X100, the lens on the RX1 does soften somewhat at closer focusing distances, but it remains sharp enough wide open to produce acceptable performance. Only thing is that sometimes, the food is so steamy it fogs up the lens!

 beef

Another strange perk of the RX1 has been that it is easy to pass the camera to someone else to take a picture of you. That would have pretty much been impossible with the M9 with a random stranger on the street. The RX1 has facial recognition built into its firmware, so one can opt to utilise it if desired. I understand that across the web, battery life with the small battery has been reported to be low. But strangely I have managed to achieve more than 500+ shots when shooting this in between charges on several occasions. I did buy an extra battery just in case, but so far haven’t seen the need to use it yet except on the heaviest days of photography. Perhaps this is due to the warmer climate here, battery drain from the cold is not as big a factor, and also it is easier to hit 500+ images if you shoot photographs in quick succession, rather than on a “one by one” basis whilst letting the LCD drain the battery.

bakut

Resolution wise, I will still give the edge to my M9 at base ISO and the use of 35/1.4 FLE over the RX1. There is a level of crispness and sharpness and clarity and saturation and detail that the M9 manages to yield with its AA free CCD sensor when the light is right and the user is good at his craft. Yet from the perspective of sheer convenience, and the ability to ramp up the ISO to 6400 or higher at a whim, having autofocus and a general ease of use plus the ability to focus up to 20cm; the RX1 will take the cake when it comes to all around flexibility and practicality. This applies if you are a person that shoots the 35mm focal length extensively, of course.

orchid

Granted that the M9 only had a centre rangefinder patch, so one usually needed to hope that focusing and recomposition would still yield a sharp picture at wider apertures. With the RX1, if there be enough time, one can set the focus point to an off centre position on the screen. There are two one point only focusing modes – one is a default “central” only option that does not allow you to shift its position, but comes with bigger brackets. And then the one that allows you to shoot and fine tune the area to focus upon, at the expense of giving you a much smaller Autofocus zone bracket. I find that this is especially helpful because it seems easier to make focusing mistakes wide open when focusing and recomposing with the camera held out in front of my face, instead of when the camera leans onto my face.

One very personal take between the M9 and the RX1 would be in the nature of the shutter buttons themselves. On the M9, I have managed to score sharp pictures wide open at 1/8s because over time I have been able to progressively utilise the camera to its strengths. On the RX1, I find that the shutter button still needs a little bit too much pressure to depress effectively, and when carefully examining my personal release technique, I notice that I impart a slight and small but visible “bump” to the camera as a whole. Granted that its small size does not make this easier, yet I do note this in my observations of real world shooting. The shutter will accept a remote shutter release though if you need to use one.

night

The RX1 also comes with an inbuilt small pop up flash which can be handy and nifty in situations when required. The LCD is obvious vastly superior to the one on the M9 and it is easier to check the sharpness of your image files as well. Upon review you can opt to zoom in and then use the wheel button to fine tune the level of zoom detail required, and use the direction buttons on the wheel itself to scan through individual files. The RGB channel histograms are also reasonably accurate, and the highlight detail blinkers are also present, if a little bit conservative in their indications, as I’ve been able to recover most highlight detail in my photographs from experience.

 

Criticisms:

I have to say though, that Sony does deserve a kick where it hurts sometimes because for such an expensive camera. It does not come with a proper battery charger! This is annoying to say the least. Why would I want to charge a battery in the camera whilst plugged into a wall socket or a USB port? It simply makes no sense at all! Now, a wall charger adapter is provided that allows you to plug in your CAMERA in order to charge the battery. But no charger? I know that they are trying to cut costs at some point, and so whilst I can ignore the cheap packaging, the lack of a proper charger is a rather regretful omission to me.

rain

While I understand that not all the world is right-handed like me, I think sony should have put some sort of sculpted ergonomic grip on the right hand side of the camera to aid confidence in one-handed operation and stability when shooting. Something like the third-party after market add ons that one can attach on the Sony RX100. While Sony has already put some measure of grippy rubber onto the right hand side of the camera, I think that it is not so much the traction itself that inspires confidence for a camera of this side, than an actual notch that allows a more secure grip with curled fingers.

Apart from this, I would like to also praise Sony for cooperating with Adobe in allowing for camera raw support for the RX1 to come to pass before it was up for sale in the stores. One of my biggest hesitations in adopting a new camera is normally the need for raw support, and by allowing me to continue my normal workflow in Lightroom, with a new camera, the day it was launched, deserves good recognition and praise. While there is no automatic correction for the lens light fall off yet, it is a nice touch to have automatic distortion correction in place already in Lightroom 4.3

glass

 

Closure:

I bought this camera because I primarily enjoy the 35mm focal length and for its full frame sensor. That it had a fast, high quality and super sharp lens to go along with it was a major plus for me, likewise autofocus and the small form factor and excellent build quality too were factors that tipped me over the edge into becoming an early adopter. So far, I have no real regrets. I enjoy carrying it around with me wherever I go, I enjoy making snap shots with this on an almost daily basis. In 2013, I will hopefully get to take many great and beautiful pictures with it to share in future with readers of this site and see how things go on from there. One thing I must say is that the ease of capture with this camera has made me somewhat more laid back and lazy as a photographer, who is easily given into short cut compromises now that I no longer have to work as hard as before for the capture of the picture. You will most likely have a different experience, but this has been mine.

angel

While this on paper pose a challenge to the Leica with a 35mm market, I would say that the charm and rationality for shooting with a rangefinder system still would be in the essence of the rangefinder experience – focusing with a rangefinder patch, composing through an optical viewfinder, taking pictures indoors with the ability to capture sharp images at slower shutter speeds and near silent operation, along with a heritage of lenses through the past century. It has been a really fun time with the RX1, if each individual digital frame I took was shot with film, and counted as such, I would have spent enough on film and processing to buy myself an RX1 already. Rather than seeing them as competitors, I see them as complimentary tools in our pursuit of developing an individualised photographic vision mastery.

dimension

While some regard the RX1 as an overpriced point and shoot, and it is… It has also provided me with a great deal of fun, and I take pictures on this camera just because I want to see how they turn out. I believe that the RX1 heralds the possibility that someday in the not too distant future, full frame mirror less interchangeable lens systems will become a common reality. For the moment, though, this is the only camera out there in the market that offers what it has, and as a person who appreciate the image “dimensionality” of a full frame sensor, it was the one to go for, despite the costly buy in. I am satisfied, but if you are interested or keen in buying this, you should ideally have the chance to handle it in person first before making that all important decision whether to buy it or not.

chikin

 

  92 Responses to “USER REPORT: The Sony RX1. Small, Simple, Satisfying by Alwyn Loh”

  1. nice and honest. nailed on the charm of the RF system. good read as always.

  2. Thank you very much for this wonderful review! Your writing style is a joy to read and I like your comparison with other cameras like Leica or Fuji. This camera really seems to be one of the best on the market, there is only its price that makes it difficult to make a clear decision. I think its worth having a look again by the end of this year but looking at your photo examples its easy to see that this camera provides a very enjoyable shooting experience based on its quality and small size.
    Cheers, Martin
    http://www.pholux.com

  3. Nice review and great photos accompanying it. It really is a little powerhouse of a camera.

  4. Great read. Thanks. Question: my aperture blades form an irregular circle from f 5.6 onwards. Same with Steve’s and some others on dpreview. How about yours? Do you perceive this as an issue? Otherwise I agree it is so much fun to work with and results are very rewarding.

  5. Thank you for your very good review. Excellent work and many will appreciate it, including me. You comment that the camera should come with a charger. Not only that, but for it’s outrageous cost, it should come with the lens hood too. Let’s see…..$3,200US for the camera……$150US for the lens hood…….$500US for an eye viewer………$20US for a battery………..$35US for the charger………….Way, way, way too much for what it is. Way too much.

    • It is $2800 US for the camera not $3200 US for the camera :) Batteries can be had for $3.99, chargers can be found for $10. As for lens hood, knock offs can start to be found soon for $20. EVF is pricey at $450 but less than the lower spec and not as nice Leica EVF. It is what it is. If you want the worlds first (and excellent) full frame compact with a super lens attached you pay the price. Leica M9 and 35 cron = $10k. RX1 with hood and EVF – $3300. $6700 LESS for just about the same sharpness but better low light performance and even more 3D pop than the Leica/Cron combo in a smaller and just as well built camera. You have to look at it for what it is.

      • I knew someone would jump on my point about the pricing structure thing. I am a little surprised it was you Steve.

        Albeit my figures are some off, my overarching point remains the same and is correct. The camera is overpriced for what it is.

        It is NOT Leica. it is a Sony, a very nice Sony, but a Sony. It should be priced accordingly. Something more like an X2 and complete. With Sony’s sensor capacity, it doesn’t cost them much more to make the FF sensor than the crop sensor Thus, internal (manufacturer cost) is minimally, incrementally more. Thus, I believe Sony’s pricing is usery.

        I don’t think comparison to a “M” camera is fair because I get two huge steps up with an “M”: an eye viewer and an interchangeable lens mount.

        Sure, Sony is paying Zeiss something for the lens – a licensing fee if nothing else. But again not a huge cost consideration – especially if you want to compare to an “M”. The reason you choose to do that, and arguably so is because of sensor size. I get that. But purchasing a R1 I also get a fixed lens and no viewer.

        With that said, do I want one? Well, sort of. Can I afford it? Yes. Will I buy it? No, for the reason below.

        I will wait for round two. I am hopeful the R1 is a proof of concept camera as was the X100. I hope Sony take a cue from Fuji and that round two is an interchangeable camera with an eye viewer. The problem with my hypothesis is that Sony would need a whole new line of lenses, to follow. If and when this happens, and I hope it does, Sony will be in a position to poke Leica somewhat in the eye. Did Leica sit up and take notice of the R1? Sure, but they are laughing.

      • I’ve had the camera for a few weeks now and I think its a bargain.

      • He listed US in his pricing so he is probably not in the US. $3200 is probably for the UK.

        Also, not everyone can go to Scottsdale and only pay 1% tax assuming you can find one there (no Sony stores) =)

        Here in LA, the Tax on the camera is around $240 bring the total price of the camera close to $3,000.

  6. Thank you for this good review of the Sony RX1. As you mention that the Leica M9 out-resolves it, it might have been nice to have seen the same image shot with both cameras at similar settings. (As a sharpness junkie, I’d like to see just how much sharper the M9 is.) Thank you again.

    • I’ve found that a smidge of sharpening in Lightroom yields very similar results to the M9. I wonder if it’s possible to remove the AA filter from the RX1 sensor – that would be interesting.

  7. Stunning image quality and very nicely written review. As soon as Sony comes out with a built-in viewfinder, I will jump on board. Until then, it will have to be the X100S for me.

  8. Excellent review that matches my own experiences of this delightful little camera completely.

    Note that the shutter goes to 1/4000th but only as you close the aperture down, but 1/2000th is the max speed at f/2.

  9. The Nikon D3100 with 35/1.8 yields essentially the same results in terms of sharpness, color, and contrast (ok, it is a 50mm equivalent, not a 35mm one).
    The 3100 with 18-55 and 55-200 lenses is now sold for Euro 399 in Germany. Add the 35/1.8, and you pay about 600 Euros for a complete photography equipment.
    Now reflect the insane price of the RX1.
    Just food for thought.

    • Really you gonna tell us to compare this full frame COMPACT with CZ glass to a big crop DSLR using cheap kit lenses? You probably think that D3100 has the same quality as 5D3 with L glass too, and guess how much a 5D3 with L glass cost.

      • You didn’t get my point. It’s not that difficult. I said that you get an excellent tiny DSLR body for much less than 399 Euro. Throw in the brilliant Nikkor prime, and you have, at very low cost, an excellent piece of equipment.
        The price of the RX1 is insane.

        You can also consider it the other way round: A Nikon D600 with CZ 35/f2 ZF.2 Distagon sets you back 2500 Euros. The RX1 sells for 3000 Euros in Germany.

        The price of the RX1 IS INSANE.

        • I paid the “insane price”, to use your words, and did not regret it for a second. The Sonnar lens and its rendering alone is worth a premium to me. Throw in one of the currently best FF sensors and the premium build and the price is ok.

        • If you think the price is insane, it is not for you.

          Leica prices are insane as well. yet, they are targeted at a particular group of people.

          how many full frame cameras + 35 mm brilliant prime lenses come for less than 3000 $? and at that size??

          sure, most people don’t need full frames. hell, they don’t even need dslrs.

          this, on paper(i have never used it), is a brilliant camera. it isn’t for me, though.

          • every second a sucker gets born, all you need is find him on your way. Leica does…..

            Now, call that a particular group, just any name fits anyway.

        • The RX1 is not cheap at $2800. The value proposition comes in the fact that it has a full frame sensor in a camera that can fit in a coat pocket. I’m sure the image quality of the D600 + Zeiss lens will come very close, if not be identical but you’re not going to fit that in any coat pocket.

          • Varun, you hit it right on the head. I have the RX1 and do not regret the price I paid for it. For the size and IQ, you can’t beat it.

          • Reply to JP (original poster):
            As pteoh says, the value proposition is different.

            1. Is the Zeiss Distagon able to AF on the Nikon? (no).

            2. If you want to do street photography, the reaction from people on the streets is different when you point a smaller “point and shoot” camera at them, and when you point a honking big DSLR + lens at them.

            Is the Nikon D600 + CZ lens good? Of course! But again, different value proposition.

            That said, the RX1 is not for me. Way out of my budget. I’m happy with my little E-M5 + prime lens :-)

            PS. Where in Singapore did you go to get that bowl of pork rib soup? It’s not bak kut teh… the soup is not dark enough :-)

  10. Nice review, I enjoyed reading it through and getting your honest opinion on this great looking camera. As an RX100 owner I understand how you feel about not having an included battery charger. I think it should always be included. However, I think in camera charging also should always be included. With my RX100 I always have it with me, and it’s easy to plug into my computer and have it charging while I am working and that’s one less thing for me to lose. A charger would be nice for additional batteries though.
    Best,
    Hans

  11. Wonderful review of this little beauty, thanks therefore!

    The pictures however really remind me very much of the NEX-7 + 24mm 1.8 Zeiss (also 35mm eqv.) which I own and am very satisfied with. But what I am always asking myself since I heard of the RX1 is, how different are the results?
    In good light I guess there will be hardly any visible difference, as the Zeiss 24 is also sharp and contrasty wide open already. Colors also look the same to me.
    But how different is the depth of field and the look of the pictures real world? I really wonder if someone already compared both cameras. I only can find ISO and dynamic range comparisons on the internet. In low light ISO 6400 on the RX1 is maybe around ISO 1600 on the NEX-7 (expected), dynamic range is very similar (very high) on both cameras.

    Has anyone made a real world comparison or knows where I can find one?

  12. Thank you for a very thorough and entertaining review with beautiful pictures. You deserve the camera :-)

  13. Thanks for your review. It’s fair and easy to understand.
    I’m weeks away from starting a big trip to India and Myanmar, and I’m planning to upgrade my Sony 5N to a full frame.
    This camera seems to be able to do the kind of photos that I’m envisioning. I was considering a Nikon D600, because zoom can and is quite useful when travelling. But I’m seeing now that having a fixed lens will make me work more for a good photo – move more, interact more with subjects and really think about the shot – which is the kind of pictures that to take.
    In terms of lens, from what I read, it’s a very suitable lens to capture the richness of colors in India.
    Thanks again Alwyn and Steve, and please comment if you have some suggestions.
    Daniel

  14. Great review, well written and beautiful images! Love the wine glasses with blue bokeh shot.

  15. I’d trade this for a bit bigger camera with a real in-camera VF and a 35mm f/1.4.

  16. Your report seems unbiased, honest, thoughtful and interesting. Thank you. Since I am also an M9 / 35 1.4 fle user I can wholly appreciate your comments, once again thanks for this hugely interesting post. Guess I’ll have to have a play with one of these. A quasi related question falls out of this: Is the forthcoming M really going to deliver better image quality than the the M9 at low ISO? (It will no doubt beat it every which-way in other respects).

  17. No doubt this is a great small FF camera. Price reasonable for the technology. But for me…too small in the hand. In agree re the ergonomics and grip comment. Sony needs to think more about this imo. That’s why I passed on this when considering.

  18. Thanks for the review, well done. Just wondering about the UV filter you leave on the lens…you find any IQ loss? Use it just for the protection? Thanks again, great shots.

    • I had a cheap UV filter on it and it affected the IQ quite a bit. I ended up taking it off. The difference without it was like night and day.

      • which is why in the history of me using cameras (30+ years) I have never used any kind of UV filter on any lens. The only time I used filters is when I had to such as with the M8 and the whole IR/UV filter deal.

  19. I’m happy to report that B&H photo in Manhattan has not one but two RX1 cameras on open display for anyone to play with! My first impression nit-picks: grip could be better, but the rubber is good and soft and grippy. Mode dial is a bit too hard to turn, and completely inaccessible with your thumb. I see the logic there, you won’t turn the dial by accident, but I like to be able to set the mode while shooting. Most people will like the aperture ring on the lens, and I do think it’s cool, but it’s problematic for me. It means you have to use both hands, and with such a small camera it’s a bit fiddly. My pinky and ring finger got into the frame. One would imagine the lens would be smaller without the aperture and focus limiter rings. I do love the focus limiter though. I’d rather the exposure composition dial double for aperture in manual mode. I’ve gotten a bit spoiled with the thumb and forefinger dials on my OM-D with the grip, which I can easily hold and operate with one hand. I don’t mean to knock the RX1 though. The size, weight, and build are simply amazing for a compact full frame camera. Or should I say THE compact full frame? I think I would have liked it a lot better with the EVF, which they don’t have on the display models. Personally, I think I’m done with fixed lens cameras, and for the money they’re asking I’d rather get a good EVIL with lenses, which is what I did with the OMD. I can definitely see the attraction however, having that much power in such a small and charming package. Even at 35mm I was able to get some lovely bokah, something I can’t get at that focal length with my crop sensors. Whether or not you’re interested in buying one, you should definitely go to B&H to check them out if you’re in NYC. I think you should always try to play around with a camera before you put your money down, no matter what the price is. I’m not sure if the $2700 is justified here, but I have to agree with Steve’s assessment that it’s probably the most significant camera this year.

  20. I’m not at all convinced Alwyn’s photos will have everyone rushing out to buy an RX-1..

    Or that no viewfinder and a fixed lens are great magnets.

    If tomorrow an RX-2 appears with a viewfinder and interchangeable lens, which model would you buy? Which would you expect to be more “satisfying”?

    Save your money.

    • I have to agree, I don’t know if it was done on purpose but the photos of food were a bit too shallow in terms of DOF. Though you do realise you are telling Leica owners to save money lol

    • What camera are you saving your money for?

      • I’m not. My suite is complete. But I thought I made it obvious. If anyone wants a FF with a better set of features my “RX-2″ may make them far happier. It’s only a matter of (a short) time.

        (However, while waiting they may discover the very versatile D600 could tide them over for considerably less money than an RX-1. Sell it or keep it when the inevitable “RX-2″ appears.)

    • I personally find his shots to be very nice.

      Your suggestion of waiting is, of course, the problem with modern consumer technology. There’s always a better one around the corner, so the question is, at what point does one decide to buy?

      Perhaps, this camera, has enough to justify a purchase. Perhaps it doesn’t have what others want, which justifies waiting. Perhaps an RX 2 won’t be around the corner until several years later, who knows.

      I guess you could also apply the same process to marriage as well: why marry this person when there’s someone else who’s going to come along offering a better package? In fact, there’s always going to be someone better so why make the decision at all?

      or.. why buy *that* car when in 8 – 12 months, they’ll release a newer version… and a newer one after that and so on and so forth.

      It’s not a useful or practical way to make decisions or even to recommend to others to employ that kind of circular decision making process.

      • Good grief, Wansai!

        If you are thinking there is a better wife around the corner than your current choice, then you’ve never fallen in love. What a dreadful state of affairs (pi). You deserve your confusion. It most certainly is not a parallel example. And I pity your spouse. Hope she didn’t read your post..mmm, maybe she should.

        As for an RX-2, I think there are very few who do not expect an EVF and interchangeable lens version before long. “Who knows”? Well, from what I’ve read I think most of the pundits seem in agreement about it.

        While I agree with your sentiment about modern consumer technology, in this case the high likelihood of an RX-2 camera arriving in a short time is really part of the very scenario you espouse! I suspect someone on a budget would be very, very annoyed to have spent their hard-earned only to see the prefered featured model arrive soon after. So in this case I would most certainly advise my initial recommendation and save.

        But stop thinking about better human models in the pipeline, Wansai,

        • James: You just don’t get it! His example is a PERFECT parallel and he clearly struck a nerve with you.

          You just keep waiting for that “next” model, the one that gives you what you’re looking for while the rest of us enjoy the heck out of this amazing feat of engineering. Most of the pundits that are lamenting the lack of evf or ilc are the on Nikon or Canon fanboy sites. Here at Huff’s place, where celebrating what the RX1 DOES provide to the photographer, not what it doesn’t. You should consider actually shooting with one before offering such opinions.

          • But then; we’re always celebrating the next wonder on sale aren’t we?

          • Skorsch, hoping that someone has struck a nerve is very different from striking one. Cheer up.

            The spouse example most certainly is not a perfect parallel and not within a bull’s roar of being so – it’s a very sad comparison in fact – what a pity that you perhaps are always coming across a better “Mrs RX-2″. Set your goals first! I guess some folk are just not lucky.

            And what on earth are you talking about – I’m not, “waiting for the next model” (re-read my post). However, I read that many other people for good reason are going to do just that, and I’m sure they’ll be happily using their present non-RX1 gear until it arrives.

            “Here at Huff’s place where(sic) celebrating…etc”; I had not realised that you speak for the website (are you a new co-owner?) and that there is only one opinion – yours! :-) That does seem very much at odds with what some others have expressed. Perhaps you wish to create that impression to bolster yourself? Embrace diversity, Skorsch!

            There are many things to like about the RX-1 but there are two important features missing and worth a short wait for those who cannot afford buying two RX’s in rapid succession.

    • Every time I read comments on the RX1, there are inevitably comments saying that the commentator will not buy a RX1 until Sony adds an EVF, an articulated LCD, and interchangeable lens to some imagined “RX2”. Well, without any inside knowledge of Sony, but a lot of reading and reasoning, I can tell you that you don’t have to wait any longer, because your “RX2” of the future will most likely NEVER happen.

      I own the RX1, the NEX-6 and the Alpha 99, so I am very familiar with Sony’s current offerings. I already have the Sony lens hood and leather jacket for the RX1, and I have the EVF on order (but, with the NEX-6 and Alpha 99, I am familiar with the EVF that will be on my RX1). The RX1’s EVF is available for those who want the superb Sony EVF on their RX1, or for those who want it on the camera part of the time, without permanently making the RX1 larger.

      First, the good news: if you really don’t care about how big an EVF, an articulated LCD, and interchangeable lens will make your FF “RX2”, then the wait is over, and Sony calls it an Alpha 99. The Alpha 99 has everything you want in your “RX2”, size be damned.

      The bad news: there may be an “RX2” down the line, and it may come with improved auto focus, improved FF sensor, etc, but it will not have a built in EVF or interchangeable lens, because it would make the RX1 substantially bigger, and thus destroying the whole point of the RX1: FF, great lens, great build quality, and the small size it has. As Steve has pointed out before, the RX1’s lens goes 3/4th of the way into the body, so an interchangeable lens system alone would make the RX1 quite a bit bigger.

      I have seen NO reports or rumors about a “RX2” in the pipeline that includes an EVF, an articulated LCD, or interchangeable lens. But, what I have seen reports and rumors about is a full frame NEX camera (call it a NEX7-FF, NEX 8, or whatever). The current NEX 7 (and my NEX 6) already start with the EVF, an articulated LCD, and interchangeable lens, so a NEX-7 FF/NEX-8 would “only” involve modifying the NEX to hold the Alpha 99/RX1 FF sensor and develop new FF lenses for that system. It would be stupid for Sony to develop both a FF NEX and a RX2 with an EVF, an articulated LCD, and interchangeable lens. They would be virtually the same camera. By developing a FF NEX, Sony would once again shake up the CSC camera world. By developing a “RX2” with an EVF, an articulated LCD, and interchangeable lens, Sony would be destroying the rational for a much more niche market camera by making it way bigger. So, which way do you think Sony will go?

      Besides a FF NEX, the other camera I see Sony coming out with in a year or so is a new flagship Alpha. Sony makes the sensor in the Nikon D800/D800E, and I can see Sony leapfrogging the technology in the D800’s sensor and pushing out a new Alpha with it, to give it more credibility in the pro market.

      So, that is my guess as to where Sony is going: yet another new Alpha flagship, a FF NEX (with FF lenses), and NO “RX2” with EVF, articulated LCD, or interchangeable lens. Will I be 100% correct? Maybe not 100%, but I will be glad to eat my words if I am not very close. I base my speculations on what would make sense for Sony, NOT on what I want, nor on what Sony has to produce before I will buy. So, if you want a FF camera with the RX1’s size and quality (with or without the attachable EVF), try the RX1 out, enjoy it, and don’t spend too much worrying about what it doesn’t have if you like the RX1 for what it is.

  21. Thanks for the amazing review! Am tempted indeed!

    Question; if you turn off noise reduction does the writing to card happen more quickly? With the OMD on long exposures I found the writing to card to be a real pain. Switched off noise control and shot only with raw and hey presto superfast writing to card for even 30s exposures!

    Suggestion; maybe all RX1 users should buy something like this, to solve the battery issue? http://www.amazon.co.uk/PowerGen-External-sensation-Thunderbolt-Blackberry/dp/B005VBNW2G/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1357688276&sr=8-8

  22. FUJI please give us a X-200 Full Frame fixed 35 f/2 lens. PLEAAaAaaAS.

  23. lovely pictures, good to see Singapore through your lens :)

  24. Excellent article. Thank you.
    My metal lens hood, charger and two batteries have cost me less than $25 on ebay.
    Now two weeks since I got my RX1. Stunning IQ. Pro quality lens and sensor. Amazing possibilities.
    I am so glad I got it.
    Many people know about the price but not the value of this quality camera.
    The price will soon be forgotten but the camera will continue to inspire me to be a better photographer for many years to come.

    • Value is subjective. I love mine, it’s all what Steve said and more. Excellence has its price and the law of diminishing return comands a price premium over the already very good cameras with aps-c sensors. The excellent Sony FF sensor coupled with the exquisite Sonnar lens is a combo difficult to beat.

  25. It is an outstanding camera for sure. I don’t think my M9 with 35 ‘lux had anything on my RX-1 at low ISO. In fact, I would say the RX-1 has a better lens and far better sensor. I doubt there is a 35 mm FF lens as good as this one on any system.

    Using the EVF let’s me hold the RX-1 as steady as any Leica. It is a little less steady with just the rear LCD.

    I disagree with the idea that the RX-1 is a P&S. No question, I can use my Nikon D4 like a P&S if I want to but to get the best results I need to know what I am doing. Same with the RX-1.

    Thanks for the article,

    Bill

    Fashion Meets Fighting

    http://www.hatakeyamagallery.com/april-2012-bill-fulcher/

  26. The image quality is super, absolute zero defect, but I’m not sure if love it. Every time I see RX1 images, I feel the same.

    I’m wondering why…

  27. Fantastic shots and write up. I snickered at the “letting someone take a picture of you”… you guys are trustful over there in Singapore! I’d be concerned handing that camera over to a stranger to let them take a picture and/or make a mad dash haha :)

    • The laws in Singapore are known to be quite strict. There was a story about a 17 year old teen in Singapore who was facing up to 3 years in prison and a $6,425 fine for stealing WIFI.

  28. Great review. Now my camera wish list just got a little longer….

  29. Alwyn, your pictures are delightful and the quality of the RX1 seems outstanding from what I can tell from the web-size pix. Also, I like the fact that your processing lends a very film like appearance to many of your pictures. Nice work, and thanks for sharing your thoughts on the camera!

  30. Thank you for the well-written review. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and seeing Singapore through your lens.

    Although the price is hefty by today’s standards, it appears that this is somewhat akin to the Contax T that I owned years ago as far as market segment. While the Contax T was more pocketable, it also had a high-quality Sonnar lens that produce images that made it very welcome substitute when carrying a SLR was not feasible or desirable for whatever reason. The RX1 appears to compensate for its size by offering an even faster lens and a host of accessories that add to its utility (except for the lack of an included charger of course).

    I like your idea of the year-end gift to yourself. That’s how I got the “T”…maybe I need to follow your example with the RX1.

  31. Hi Alwyn, Nice to see a good review from fellow Singaporean.
    Where can I find a RX1 on display for hands-on in Singapore?

    Sun

  32. The RX1 is a freakin awsome camera.. But for now, the D600 have to suffice as my compact alternative (vs Nikon D3) BUT, I will buy the next generation of the RX1, or maybee the compact cheaper alternative (RX10) with aps-c sized sensor.

  33. Thanks for the interesting feedback re the RX1. I concur with most of the comments made re this marvelous camera and I share Steve’s enthusiasm about this little marvel. Of all the pro-level cameras I have owned over many decades, none has been so much fun, pure simple fun! I’ve taken about 1,000 pics so far and I have never had a camera where I have so many “keepers.” The sharpness, the dynamic range, etc., all are truly amazing. Re the comments about holding the camera, I bought the TGA-1 accessory (Leica used to have a similar thumb grip) and love it – it totally solves the hold-ability issue. Only problem is that you cannot use it in conjunction with the EVF, the optical viewer, yes, but not the EVF. My only real disappointment is that my iPad 3 processor just does not have enough umph! to download the RX1 output – you can see the thumbnails, but it will not download the full-res pics – however, it does download the lower-res “zoom” pics, so up to about 16-18 MP pics. However, downloading them onto my iMac and then moving them to iTunes, then to the iPad, works just fine. Kudos to Sony for having the guts to develop and market this camera! Worth every penny as far as I am concerned.

  34. The RX2 will undoubtedly have a built-in EVF and, hopefully, the body will be a bit larger – so easier to hold. I recommend waiting unless you don’t know what to do with your money… :-) The very first camera of something as revolutionary as this is never the best. It always gets better in time. See Olympus’ EP-1 and now the OMD EM-5.

  35. Thanks for the recommendation but I’m not going to take your advice. I will purchase the RX1 and enjoy it until and if the RX2 comes along and then I’ll buy that one too. Sony products hold their value extremely well so when and if the time comes, off to eBay the RX1 will go. Not a big deal really and I thoroughly enjoy getting to use the new technology every six months to a year or so, which has been the cycle of late. Waiting around for the next model is worse than watching paint dry…

  36. Excellent post! We will be linking to this particularly great content on our website.
    Keep up the great writing.

  37. Great (&detailed) review, thanks. I’m getting my RX1 tomorrow! I also ordered the EVF and Lens Hood. But a questio: You mentioned a UV filter. Do you recommend using a UV filter with RX1, and if so, why? And an even bigger question. Can the filter be used with the lens hood? I see lots of UV filters out there. Which do you recommend (and it must allow use of the hood). THANKS!!

  38. Before I sent my question regarding the UV filter for the RX1, I failed to read all the comments from readers. I saw that Steve already mentioned he never uses a UV filter, and that’s good nuff for me. I was thinking of it more as protection for the lens, not as a filter, per se. Well, I’m going home now and check out the RX1 which was delivered TODAY! [EVF and Hood on backorder].

  39. I tend to agree with Steve regarding the UV filter. I used one before and the image quality was degraded quite a bit. Switched to using a hood for lens protection and the hood does a nice job of keeping fingers and other things from accidentally hitting the lens.

  40. Nice reviews & pictures. Thanks! One thing for sure, you got anymore of that chicken? Sure does look good.

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