The Sony RX1R around the world by Dick Hoebee

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The Sony RX1R around the world

by Dick Hoebee

Hello Steve,

The subject of this write-up is the magnificent Sony RX1R and some of the places I’ve taken it so far. Every photo you see here was shot in RAW and edited in Adobe Lightroom.

Positive points and general comments

Going to New Zealand was something I wanted to do for a very long time, and in late 2013 I finally had the means and time to do it. My trusty Canon Eos 450D was becoming unreliable after five years of heavy use, and I took this opportunity to go out and get a new camera. The logical choice would be a new Canon, as I had accumulated two nice lenses and a great flash. Mostly thanks to the raving reviews on this site, I checked out the Sony RX1R as well, and ended up buying it, to my own surprise.

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It was either this camera, or an EOS 5D Mk. III. That’s not an easy choice to make, but I’m ultimately glad I went with the Sony. I was a little anxious about limiting myself to one lens, especially for the monumental price tag that the camera has (I bought it when it just came out, too), but that turned out to be unwarranted, as I never enjoyed a camera more than this thing.

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New Zealand was the maiden voyage of the RX1R for me, and boy was I glad I took the plunge before going. This country has many sights that are truly awe-inspiring, and I recommend anyone visiting it at least once in their lifetime. I felt very small there many times. It is a humbling, unforgettable experience.

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Besides the incredible image quality of this camera, I absolutely love this thing for its size and weight (or rather, the lack thereof). It is also built like a tank, which gives confidence to carry it all over the place. And I do. Because it’s so easy to take everywhere, I take it everywhere. I left my EOS 450D at home many times when I shouldn’t have, because I didn’t feel like lugging it around, and that’s even a small DSLR. Another advantage about its size is that it is an unintimidating camera to subjects. When you point a big, professional-looking camera with a large lens at people, they sometimes get self-conscious. The RX1R looks more like a cool-looking hobby-camera than the full-frame monster that it is. The shutter is completely silent, too. Most people have no idea what it is (including those who have nice cameras themselves), and some even think it is an analog camera. An older gentleman I met commented that it looked like his Leica M6.

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At low to medium ISO settings, photos are incredibly clean. That said, the high ISO performance of this camera is one of the reasons I fell in love with it. I can take it out at night, and take hand-held shots without having to use flash in pretty much any situation. The results are great, and photos still look alive and punchy at ISO 6400 and even 12800. Things naturally get more grainy once the ISO goes up, but it’s nice-looking grain, almost film-like. I leave luminance noise-reduction completely off in Lightroom. With a tripod and long exposure + low ISO, it really shines, too.

I use the RX1R for landscapes, portraits, and as a walk-around camera. The dynamic range is really something else, and it’s possible to achieve some amazing results. Colors are wonderful, and black & white is rich and deep. It’s easy to pull tons of detail out of shadows and highlights, and I’ve never felt the need to pull tricks like multiple exposure HDR. RAW files have an incredible amount of headroom. After having owned and used the RX1R for two years, I still get blown away every singe time I load the files in Lightroom. The image quality is absolutely staggering, still in 2015.

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Settings & usage

I shoot in Aperture Priority (the ring is nice) or Program most of the time, and I use Manual for long exposure shots and stitch-panoramas. The exposure compensation dial on top is a useful tool for quick adjustment. I assigned the little C-button on top to ISO-settings, which I usually leave on auto with a range of 100-6400. Sometimes I lock it when I want to go for a specific look. All 5 buttons are programmable, as well as the four-way buttons under the wheel on the back. I set metering to multi-metering, and it is generally accurate. The auto-focus does a great job most of the time. It sometimes has a little trouble in the dark, but it usually catches what I want after a try or two. I set it to one focus point in the middle. Focus speed isn’t super fast, but fast enough for me.

I never really use the flash (not needed) or video mode (I’m a photographer, not a video guy). The only accessories I have in my bag these days are a GorillaPod and an extra battery. It really feels like everything I need now.

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The Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 35mm f/2.0 lens is incredibly sharp at every f-stop, and it seems to be at its sharpest at f/5.6 and f/8. The photos are so sharp in fact, that Adobe Lightroom’s default sharpening-setting of 25 is too high and creates harsh edges. Usually I end up setting it around 10-15. Having a 35mm prime lens is easy to get used to, especially when it’s as great as this one. I love primes in general; they force you to get creative and walk around to find a good angle.

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Dislikes

The battery-life is not great. I immediately turn the camera off after I’ve taken a shot, and I don’t spend much time reviewing photos already taken. I have an extra battery, but since Sony doesn’t include an external charger (at this price point, I’d say that’s strange), I need to switch them around while the camera is hooked up to charge them. The camera has a standard micro-USB port for file transfer and charging, which means it is compatible with pretty much every standard phone charger out there, which is convenient.

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Manual focus is useless without a viewfinder (save for forcing infinity focus), as focus-peaking only works with a magnified view. I don’t know why this is, as the Sony A7 cameras are able to do this on the overview view. Another little quirk is that the camera always returns to infinity focus when it wakes up or turns on. This is something I’d like to be able to lock when I’m waiting to take a shot of something that moves. Both these things are fixable with a firmware update, but Sony doesn’t seem to do those with this camera for some reason.

I miss having an infrared shutter release. That seems like a more logical choice to build into this camera than an external mic-input.

The prices for accessories are ridiculous. I’d like to have the viewfinder (partially because using a circular polarizing filter is almost impossible with the LCD screen), but I’m not paying 500 bucks for that. Even their simple metal lens hood costs 200 bucks (check eBay for knock-offs for 1/10th the price). The only official Sony accessory I bought for it was the leather case. Although that hurt my wallet, I’m glad I got it. It provides good protection, and it really emphasizes the old-school cool look.

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Sum-up

I’ve never been this happy about a camera, or any electronic device I’ve ever owned. It is not perfect (no camera really is), but the positives easily outweigh the negatives. The more I use it, the more I love it. The Zeiss lens, overall image quality, build quality and size, make the RX1R nothing less than a masterpiece.

I would probably still love this thing if it gave me an electric shock with every photo I take.

It is that good.

If you liked this write-up and my photos, check out my personal portfolio and blog. I update it constantly.
http://dickhoebee.com/photography/

I also have a Facebook-page. Give me a “Like” and tell your friends, it always helps!
https://www.facebook.com/dickhoebeedotcom

Or, follow me on Twitter if that’s your thing.
https://twitter.com/DickH86

I will visit Australia in the near future and many other places after that, so keep an eye on my website and social media pages for new photos soon. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or comments, I’m always more than happy to talk.

Many thanks again, Steve, for allowing me to send this in. Keep the website going, I enjoy the hell out of it.

-Dick

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36 thoughts on “The Sony RX1R around the world by Dick Hoebee

  1. There is ugly banding in some shots (moon). Can you see it in your original photos or is it visible just here in web?

  2. Nice write-up and photos. I didn’t jive with the RX1, I had it for 6 months. While IQ is nice, I found it somewhat dull or uninsipring, in lack of other words. Also I found the lens not giving the same separation as other 35/2 lenses. Beautiful camera, no doubt. (Use X-T10, A7 with C/Y, ZF.2 etc.)

    1. Thanks.

      It is a specific kind of camera that’s not for everyone. I just happen to personally really like it.

      Interesting comments about the lens. I think the Zeiss glass on it is pretty damn amazing.

  3. Just thought Id chirp in on the, charger, EVF gripes about the RX1; The charger is worth having but in camera charging is so much more essential, USB outlets are all over the world, in cars, planes , trains, some strangers laptop in the middle of nowhere, I even take a motorcycle battery wilderness camping so I can plug in the USB cord using an off the shelf auto adapter, I have charged my A7M2, and RX1r Dozens of times on one motorcycle battery charge! oh and my Iphone too! So please no more whining, it’s the future. As far as the EVF goes well it’s well worth the $500, I mean you’re already in debt so who cares 🙂 I really love the tilt up feature, wish the A7’s had it; ESSENTIAL for manual focus and with peaking this is where the RX1 shines, even in low light. The RX1r is still blowing me away after almost 3 years, I think it really is a classic. Cheers
    ps. I’ll post some photos someday.

    1. In-camera charging is indeed convenient, and I mentioned that in my write-up as well. By the way, how would you say battery life compares to the A7M2? I’m just curious.

      Dismissing my comment about the charger as wining is uncalled for. It’s a valid point that pretty much everyone who ever reviewed this camera agrees on.

      The EVF is indeed great. I’m sure I’ll get it someday somehow. I do not understand why they didn’t enable focus peaking at the overview zoom-level using the rear LCD. If you use focus peaking and it switches over to 1:1 zoom, you still see it for a very brief moment after it zooms out again after a few seconds, so it’s not like it’s a technical limitation. They can obviously fix this with a firmware update, but it looks like we’re not getting it.

  4. Yes, it is strange that a $3K camera comes without an external charger. But on the other hand, it is also strange that so many people who can spend $3K on a compact camera, complain about $50 more for an external charger. Sony should include the charger, increase the retail price by $50 and all will be fine. 😉

    1. For me, it’s about the principle.

      If I buy a top-of-the-line product for a very large amount of money, I have certain expectations. If I have to spend a bunch of extra money for basic things that are included in products that are priced way below said product, I feel like I’m getting ripped off.

      Having cleaned toilets, washed dishes and worked other shit jobs when I was younger, I know the value of a Euro very well. 50 bucks is a lot of money, and I would still feel that way if I had a 100 million to my name.

  5. The RX1r is a fine camera for your type of photography (e.g., travel, landscapes, sedentary family). Lovely lens and solid build. It struggles, however, with moving targets (e.g, street photography) whether in auto-focus or manual-focus mode.

    1. Yep, I agree.

      It does have focus-tracking, and it works alright, but it is too cumbersome to pick your target. I ended up never using it. One focus point in the middle does the trick for me for every situation.

      Manual-focus is useless without the viewfinder. The screen is too small to really see what you’re doing. When you turn on focus-peaking which should solve this, it zooms to 1:1 when you turn the focus ring, which makes you completely lose sight on everything again. You cannot turn this 1:1 zoom off unless you have the electronic viewfinder. Very strange design decision.

      As for speed, although I have missed some shots when taking photos on the street, it is usually *just* fast enough to get the job done. I can totally imagine that it is too slow for some people out there, though!

  6. Very nice review of a camera that I once really wanted. (Until the rumors of the “curved sensor” RX-2 started, which are all gone by now.) Really interesting photos and thoughts as well!

    As the battery is the same as in the RX-100-series, I recommend the Sony BCTRX external charger, which will also charge a battery much faster than the camera itself.

    Also – as you say you miss an IR remote – I would consider the Sony RMVPR1 cable release shutter, a very high quality gizmo. It is compatible ONLY with the RX-1R (NOT RX-1) and with the RX-100 Mk II upwards (NOT RX-100 Mk I), and with numerous other more recent Sony cameras.

    Happy shooting with your RX-1R!

    1. Hi Andy,

      Thank you very much.

      I’ve had my eye on that charger you mention for a while now. I might just go out this weekend and pull the trigger.

      Although there’s always something nicer around the corner, you will surely not be disappointed getting this one. Prices are getting really reasonable on the 2nd hand market now. Worth a look.

      The Sony RMVPR1 is sadly not compatible with the RX1R. The mention on the compatibility list is an error by the marketing department. I can’t believe they STILL haven’t fixed that on their website. Do a Google search and you’ll find several threads of people who went out and got one, only to find it not working.

      The only way to do it is using an old-fashioned plunger-cable on the threaded shutter release.

  7. The lack of a viewfinder is an issue imo. Can’t you buy a cheap after market charger?

    I would love it if you added the place names where you took these shots. Not all of them in New Zealand, I guess? I kind of recognize two shots taken in Belgium, right?

    1. > Can’t you buy a cheap after market charger?

      There are quite a number of those in the market… Amazon sells nice sets (two batteries, one external charger) for reasonable money…

    2. Hi Ivan,

      The lack of a viewfinder is surprisingly easy to get used to. I rarely encounter situations where I genuinely miss it. The LCD screen is great, which helps.

      Sure I can buy a cheap after-market charger. Thing is, I would expect it to be included with this camera. Cameras that literally are 1/30 the price of this one usually have one included. It kind of feels like an insult that I have to go out and buy one separately.

      And yes, not all of these pictures were taken in New Zealand. Steve made a selection of the 30-something photos I sent in to put on here. I recommend you check my website to see all the photos from New Zealand and other places! I put the link at the end of the write-up.

      The photos of this post are taken in (from top to bottom):

      -Navarre, Florida
      -Bourbon Street, New Orleans
      Somewhere in the hood in New Orleans (Took a wrong turn, got lost, decided to make the best of it and took some photos)
      -Bruges, Belgium
      -Bruges, Belgium
      -Hirschhorn, Germany
      -AAA Fresh art gallery, Rotterdam
      -AAA Fresh art gallery, Rotterdam
      -Hirschhorn, Germany
      -Hirschhorn, Germany
      -Heidelberg, Germany
      -Heidelberg, Germany
      -Twizel, New Zealand
      -Rotterdam, The Netherlands
      -Milford Sound, New Zealand

      1. Hold on, Steve just added a bunch more photos.

        Top to bottom:
        -Navarre, Florida
        -Bourbon Street, New Orleans
        Somewhere in the hood in New Orleans (Took a wrong turn, got lost, decided to make the best of it and took some photos)
        -Jules Deelder, “Rotterdam’s mayor of the night”, and two friends
        -Hans Kleinjan, painter
        -Bruges, Belgium
        -Bruges, Belgium
        -Hirschhorn, Germany
        -Roderik Faasen, painter, at the AAA Fresh art gallery, Rotterdam
        -Maikel Kleinjan, painter, at the AAA Fresh art gallery, Rotterdam
        -Hirschhorn, Germany
        -Hirschhorn, Germany
        -Heidelberg, Germany
        -The Urban Biker Coalition, Pensacola, Florida (dudes struck a pose after I asked if I could take a picture of them because they looked cool)
        -Piano player has a rough day in New Orleans
        -Kinderdijk, the Netherlands
        -Heidelberg, Germany
        -Twizel, New Zealand
        -Rotterdam, The Netherlands
        -Milford Sound, New Zealand

  8. Yes but whatever said it does not have view finder and this is a ban for me.
    I has one in 2013, concur about the quality etc etc but the lack of on board vf was a complete push back. I also bought the 2 vf, evf and ovf, but it did not do the trick. I sold it and bought the A7 35mm zeiss. Now I smile…

  9. Brilliant review and excellent pics. I’m waiting for the RX1R sucessor if it ever appears. I have the bat brother of this camera, the RX100mk2 with external viewfinder, and love it. In the meantime I mostly use the Fuji X100T which is good but………. the Rx1r looks awesome! Thanks for posting.

    1. Hi Bob, thanks for the kind words!

      There were rumors a while back about a successor that supposedly had a hollow-shaped new type of sensor, but nothing ever came of it. I’m sure there’s something great around the corner. There always is. If you want to get a new camera now, give the current model a try. You’ll love it for sure. The prices have become more reasonable lately, too.

      Both the RX100mkII and the X100T are really good cameras that take fantastic photos. I love the hybrid viewfiender on the X100T, very cool stuff. The RX100 has incredible image quality for its small size. Good choices!

      1. The rumours are that the RX1r sucessor will have the worlds first curved sensor which needs a fixed lens to make the technology work. Therefore it’s logical to assume it will be the RX2!

        The lack of a built in viewfinder on the RX1r put me off – I went and bought the viewfinder for the RX100 as I kept putting the rear screen to my eye!!

        I am tempted by the Leica Q but the Sony RX2 (when it arrives) will be so much better as Sony are the mirrorless market leaders at the moment, in my opinion. I have the Fuji X100T – I can be patient and wait! Loving that camera proves to me that a fixed lens camera is not an issue for me.

        1. Or it could be called the RX1R Mk II. Either way, they’re cooking up something I’m sure.

          I don’t find myself missing a viewfinder a whole lot to my own surprise. The LCD screen is great, which helps a lot.

          I was also worried about limiting myself to one lens at first. At one point I realized some of the most famous photographers in history picked one prime and stuck with it their entire career. That made me realize having one lens can be a good thing. After having used a setup like this for two years now, I know it better than any piece of gear I’ve ever owned.

  10. Superb pictures and a very good write-up. Thankyou. Also so instructive to see how you make use of 35mm – especially for someone like me who prefers 50 or 28.

    1. Thank you for the kind words, John!

      I mostly used a 50mm prime on my Canon, and it took some getting used to 35mm. It is a great middle-ground focal length; not quite wide-angle, not quite zoom… a little bit of everything. Love it now.

  11. Some real nice ones… Loved the cool look of the little grainy B&W…and the others! Reminds me why I enjoy mine so much my RX1r. And makes me question why I even think about the A7RII (I fear the size)… Thanks!

    1. Thank you!

      Always wanting to get new stuff is a part of being a photographer, I guess.

      The RX1R has gotten rid of my gear acquisition syndrome almost completely. I try new stuff all the time because I’m curious, but nothing has given me that feeling of “I gotta have it NOW!” since I have this one.

      The A7RII and the new Olympus OM-D cameras were the last two great cameras I tried in the store. Sure, it would be nice to have it all, but when I looked at the price tags, I realized wouldn’t gain a whole lot (if anything) by getting those and spending a whole bunch of money.

      The RX1R is a unique, wonderful device. There’s nothing quite like it out there.

        1. The OM-D 5II is a gorgeous, fantastic device, but the A7RII is a monster. It’s about the same body-size, yet has a full-frame sensor. Sony has been doing some really cool stuff over the last couple of years.

          They also just announced the RX1 Mk II, so your decision just became even more complicated. Good luck, haha!

          1. 🙂

            If I didn’t have the RX1r, I could be tempted. But with the RX1R II, I would gain mostly AF (which never bothered me much) and crop factor. In the end, I’m going with the A7RII, should be buying it in a few days when I go to Korea. Want to play with different focal lengths, and there is the video.

  12. Hi Dick!
    Thank you very much for your very comprehensive review and nice photos!
    I bought my RX1R two years ago and it is my #1 camera of the choice today even that I still own Sony A7R2 and Leica M with 35mm and 50mm lenses. Everything you have mention above is almost correct except battery life is not that short in comparison with other Sony mirrorless cameras and the LCD screen is much better than Sony’s A7 series.It is a true gem and still very much relevant today.

    Cheers,

    Sergey

    1. Hello Sergey!

      Thanks for the kind words.

      You own an RX1R, an A7RII and a Leica M? Wow, that’s bad-ass. I’ve only played around with the A7RII briefly, and that thing is dangerous. I wanted to have it a minute after I had it in my hands. I’m not even going near Leica stuff. I’m afraid I’ll sell my organs or my soul to get one.

      The fact that the RX1R is your favorite camera over those two beauties is very cool to hear. As I said above with many more words, I couldn’t be happier with it.

      I’m surprised about your comment about the difference between LCD screens, as the A7 series is also top-of-the-line for Sony.

      As for the battery-life, I’m comparing it to what I was used to on my DSLR camera, which isn’t fair, I guess. It usually gets me through a day, but barely. I always make sure I’m having a full extra battery with me.

      Thanks,

      Dick

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