The Sony Rx1R Mark II. Ballet, Bikinis, The President and More! By Joe Marquez

The Sony Rx1R Mark II: Ballet, Bikinis, The President and More!

By Joe Marquez

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been quite busy with a number of shoots including photographing The Nutcracker ballet in Honolulu. During this time I’ve tried to incorporate the new Sony RX1RM2 into my workflow to test if it works for me. This is not a review, but rather an opportunity to provide my initial impression while using this camera and share a number of photographs. In the future you can see more of my Sony photographs at www.thesmokingcamera.com.

Overall, I am pleased with the improvements over the first generation Rx1 (which I sold about a year ago). In particular the autofocus speed is substantial. Sony claims a 30% increase, but I’m not sure I can quantify the improvement. The first generation camera struggled with ballerinas in low light. The new version is much improved and now focuses on moving dancers even in poor lighting. I’ve included a number of black and white ballet rehearsal photos – all shot wide open at f2 and all at iso 3200.

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The tilt-able LCD screen is a bonus as I am able to easily compose low angle shots. In fact I had to stop myself from shooting so low and try out the retractable electronic viewfinder. At first glance the built-in EVF seems a bit toy-like, but I found it more than adequate. It is bright, responsive and easy to put away when not needed.

Face detection and Eye AF are very useful features. When turned on I can concentrate on composing the image and confidently allow the camera to handle focusing.

Image quality is superb as one would expect and I have no problem getting sharp, detailed images wide open. The Zeiss Sonnar T* lens is easily on par with my Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art lens on a Nikon DSLR – with a substantial weight savings.

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And the Sony is so small and light I am able to carry it around my neck at the same time I have a DSLR attached to a 70-200mm or 85mm 1.4 lens around my shoulder. This gives me focal length flexibility without having to carry two DSLRs or change a lens in the middle of a shoot. This was my setup at a couple of beach photoshoots and when President Obama shook hands with a small crowd (I’ve always wanted to use this oxymoron) while vacationing on Oahu. My guess is this is the first time The President has been photographed with the Sony RX1RM2.

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At a recent shoot I attached a Nikon Sb-800 strobe to the hotshoe via an older inexpensive sc-17 cable. This setup worked flawlessly and potentially gives me a small lightweight off-camera flash solution at future events when I need or want super high quality images. Of course I will be limited to manual flash adjustments but I can live with that.

And finally, I have to do more testing to determine if the new Sony is workable as a very long exposure rig (several minutes). My initial images contain a significant number of hot pixels that require post work, but it is so tempting to have this lovely lens in font of 42 megapixels for long artistic exposures.

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Although I’m pleased with the improvements I do find the camera a bit sluggish and I’m not able to make quick adjustments when shooting fast action. Of course this could be attributed to the large files and my lack of familiarity with Sony’s menu system and controls. Also, I wish there was a way to simultaneously keep Eye AF on while using the AEL button as an AF-ON equivalent. Just saying.

In conclusion, the Sony RX1RM2 has been a nice upgrade for me and I plan to carry it along on future assignments, shoots and just for fun. Happy holidays to all.

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43 Comments

  1. Nice variety of shots all fun to view. I especially liked the ballet which I sometime shoot and therefore appreciate the challenges to capture well. In your hands that camera is versatile!

  2. I Love all of them. They are fantastic!
    I could not give up my Rx1 before I see your works, my Rx1 gave me so much fun, but now it seems I need fund for the new one.
    My I ask what cameras and lens are using mostly?

  3. FYI. Did some street shooting today in good light and found the AF and face detection on this camera quite impressive. I did not have to zone focus at all – I let the camera do all the work. The only other mirrorless camera I’ve used that focuses this well and is this fast is the little Nikon 1.

  4. No matter what camera you have Joe , you create art. If I remember rightly to used to use a Fuji X100.

    Adam.

    • Thanks Adam. Oh yes I remember that little camera – kind of got the whole small camera with a big punch concept going. I continue to like the controls on the Fuji more than the Sony, however, the Sony really is in a different league for me with it’s AF, sensor/lens combo, etc. Nevertheless I would still be a happy photographer with an x100 in my hands.

  5. Very nice photos and good user review. You do mention at the end that you find the Sony a bit sluggish when using it to photograph fast action, but I’m not sure that this camera was designed for that, as evidenced by its 5 fps shooting speed. I guess that this is the same with the new Canon megapixel behemoths.

    • Thanks Eric. Actually, I’m probably more sluggish than the camera as I reacquaint myself with Sony menu and controls. However, does take a little time to write to the card and zoom in on an image. Much speedier than a Sigma DP Merrill, just not as fast as my DSLRs.

  6. Thanks everyone for the super nice comments. It has certainly been a fun couple of weeks shooting with this camera. Hoping I find some time to go out and do a little street shooting for fun.

  7. Nice work Joe! The RX1RM2 and Df look to be a killer combo for assignment type work.
    I was fortunate enough to recently pick up Mr. Cronnenberg’s RX1 and am looking forward to shooting with it more.
    All the best for the Holidays. Mele Kalikimaka!

    • Mahalo Mars Observer. I predict some magical images from your new RX1. I really enjoyed that camera but AF was too slow for my needs. Don’t know if you have the add-on EVF, but I actually enjoyed tilting the eyepiece vertical and shooting it like a rolleiflex. Very cool. Mele Kalikimaka to you my friend.

  8. Hello great stuff with a little tiny Dynamo me thinks this camera should be number 1 this year pro results for 3200 amazing lens included

  9. Hi Joe,
    I like your photographic style a lot.
    Did you struggle with the AF for the dance shots? I use Nikon and I am very pleased with the AF capabilities. I am using also the Nex/Alpha cameras from Sony with mixed results. Until now I prefered the Nikon AF for low light situations. How is your keeper rate in low light and is the Sony Rx1R Mark II quiet enoungh for not disturbing photography with “sensitive artist” ?

    Thank you for sharing
    Erik Neu

    • Thank you Eric. The Sony felt reasonably snappy in low light but I’m not ready to make a direct comparison because I’m still in the learning phase with this camera. Ballet photography is quite demanding and requires a lot of things to go right. My keeper rate was low for the Sony, just as it is low for my Nikon DSLRs. This is more due to dancer positions rather than focusing. The quiet mode is superb and sometimes I wasn’t certain I was even taking a photo.

  10. I love your ballet photos, especially the fifth one. It looks like the The Force is very strong in that dance coach. You framed him perfectly.
    You need to really get in close to get such sweet shots. It definitely paid off.

  11. This could be a very expensive post. The photos are just superb; not to take anything away from others, but they are among the best I have seen posted here in a while Particularly like #1 (shoes), #5 (dance from behind — and guy giving you the finger??), #8 (seascape), #9 (two guys), #12 (Obama, and I don’t even like him), and #14 (the pianist). Bokeh, composition, dynamic range. Wow.

  12. “Also, I wish there was a way to simultaneously keep Eye AF on while using the AEL button as an AF-ON equivalent. Just saying.”

    Not sure if this is what you mean, but: On the A7RII, which has similar controls to the R1RII, eye-af can be assigned to the AF-AEL lever. Fiip it down to enable eye-af; flip it up to disable eye-af. So you can turn eye-af on and off while continuing to use back-button focus.

    Thanks for your report; very useful.

    • Hmm. Not familiar with the A7RII controls. I don’t believe the RX1RM2 has the same lever you describe. Will double check when I get home. Nice to know there is a possibility.

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