USER REPORT: A Sony RX1 Review by Michael Osei-Ampadu

USER  REPORT: A Sony RX1 Review by Michael Osei-Ampadu

Actually I promised Steve this review for February already (it was 90% done by then) but I had some urgencies distracting me. Anyways – I had more to time to use the RX1 and some more to add.


Some background

I’ve always wanted a Leica for it’s compat-fullframeness so obviously the RX1 caught my attention when the first rumors hit the Net. I’ve been pondering a lot but now I’ve finally done it. Owner of the camera that Steve is praising so much, Ken Rockwell hates so much and ‘normal’ people shake their head about. It’s also the camera that Sony wouldn’t let me play with at photo plus NYC “non working prototype” and that hardline Leicaristi only smile at “haha, dude – not even close”…

I’ve actually decided before not to get it and stick with the X100 because the simple answer to the simple question “will it improve my photography” is “hell no”. Maybe that’s why I got it or maybe just because I sometimes feel that I’m victim of my logic brain and need to do something irrational.

I’ve been a Sony user (maybe fanboy – mostly because I think the Nikanon war is sooo stupid) and I’m glad that Kai Wong finally made a video about me. I use the a850 for my “serious” stuff and I’ve owned the NEX-5 and NEX-7 – and also the DSC-V3 back then…

I deeply believe in prime glass (therefore this wasn’t a hurdle) and (candid) street photography was my first love. Before getting the RX I used NEX’s (w/ Voigtlander M-Mount glass), the X100 and the Sigma DP2. Liked all of them, hated something (different) on all of them.


A lot of talk about me but that’s because I want to put my views into perspective.

2800 on the table – boom here we go. Stupid that the accessories are so effing ridiculously overpriced (does someone think he’s Leica…) and that the EVF was unavailable everywhere for the first 2-3 months. I got mine at as a bundle at Adorama with some extra swag and I finally got the EVF now a unique photo.

I don’t want to repeat what Steve et all said before (I’m afraid, I’will) but I think I have some points to add.


Use case

I used to shoot a lot candid street and whatever comes to in front of my lens when I walk around and that’s what I’m using the RX1 for. I also do portraits and fine art but that’s not my main use case for the RX1. I shot some street photography in San Francisco and Vegas and I also took the RX1 for a trip to Barcelona. I actually ended up using it for a actor portraiture assignment because I don’t have a 35 for my DSLR and wanted to shoot him in front of a graffiti in a narrow street…

After that I’m afraid that I cannot get a 35 for my DSLR anymore because the ZEISS LENS IS SOOO BRILLIANT.


My experience and feelings

I did use the X100 more… I got mine for 600 dollars and just took it everywhere and put it in my bag… pulled it out when I saw something. I hate myself for being like that but you just act different with a 600 dollar camera than you act with a 2800 dollar camera.

Other than that I’m pretty happy with the camera overall and could just repeat what Steve already said. I’m still blown away by the lens – also by the sensor but the lens is just great. Super crisp at f/2, beautiful bokeh and color. Great contrast.

As Steve also mentioned, the image quality get’s a bit weird in long distances. The lens has some distortion but Lightroom’s preset perfectly (YES PERFECTLY – way better than X100) kills that.

Focus by wire sucks but at least we’ve one of the better implementations here. I don’t get why so few people complain about this new focus by wire trend. Everyone who has ever manually focussed with a Leica glass knows what I’m talking about. It’s a different world…universe.

Build is top of the line. Fuji, you better hide – but it’s not Leica. Sorry. Maybe it’s the plastic lens barrel…


Alternatives for me?

I actually thought about selling the RX1 to free some money for a 2nd DSLR but I ended up not finding an alternative. After you’ve used the Zeiss lens you REALLY HAVE A HARD TIME going back to the X100(s) lens that is just too soft above f/4. In my opinion the only camera that is similar right now is the Fuji X100(s).


What NOT to like (Sony read this!)

1. Unclear Positioning:

Who pays 2800 for a camera? Serious folks and rich people with money to waste who think a expensive camera makes them a photographer (it actually makes them an expensive-camera-owner). Who is Sony’s target group? Obviously not the serious people… Otherwise I missed the reason for…

1.1 Menus

The menus are totally amateurish. Wish it had some more hardware buttons plus the A900 software. I understand that a lot of rich kids will buy this camera, make photos of themselves in the bathroom and then complain that it doesn’t have enough “filters” and no Facebook upload but they could’ve at least done a expert mode. This mode would remove all the things that the serious photographer never uses – such as smile-detection…*cough*… At the end of the day it’s still annoying but you get used to it and it doesn’t really affect your pictures.

But there are also things that are clearly missing. Auto-ISO gives you no control at all. You cannot set ISO and shutter limits which is – amateurish again. It always goes for 1/80 and never goes above 6400.

Sony: Force one of your product people to use a X100 or a serious DSLR and talk to a photographer…


1.2 Hardware Buttons

Again: Why is there a mode dial but no shutter speed dial?

1.3 Overall

I don’t get why Sony put it under the Cybershot brand. Ok – also the NEX and the whole SLT-Range has a lot of stupid stuff in their software but this one is a bit more stupid. Also the missing viewfinder – again…

2.0 View Finder:

Ok, this might sound weird: I got the EVF and I have mixed feelings. On one hand I highly recommend it because “Long-arm” shooting does not only look stupid but is also less “fixed” than pressing it against your head and costs you at least 2 stops. This makes the high-iso sort of irrelevant. Practically I get better low light results with the X100 than with the RX1 without the EVF. I can easily shoot 1/15 without blur – can’t with the RX1. Also there is the LCD vs. direct sun issue.

On the other hand: I never use it. You can’t really store the camera with the EVF attached so you remove it and attaching it again is so much fiddle that you end up not using it if you don’t absolutely need it. Not to mention that it’s overpriced and bulky.

BUT: The worst part is, it blocks the hot shoe. And that really really sucks. You’ve got a leaf shutter that syncs flash at every speed but you cannot use it because your viewfinder blocks the port and you don’t have a PC sync jack either.

I’ve made a little mockup how I’d have designed the external EVF if I was the Sony product manager (and someone would have forced me to make the EVF external).



3.0 Hot Shoe

Everybody kept blaming Sony for not using a “Standard HOT Shoe” for years… Well… there is no such thing. Of course there is the ISO hot shoe standard which is essentially just the dimensions plus the contact that shoots the flash. Everything else is proprietary and if you have Nikon you buy a Nikon flash and if you have a Canon you buy a 580 EX II because you want to use all the TTL and so on features. A $500 Nikon flash on a Canon (or Sony) can only fire (in manual mode).

So now Sony hot shoe is ISO? No it’s not! It’s sort of ISO but different. It’s slightly wider and has a extra contact panel in the front which blocks some “ISO standard” accessories to fully lock on. So it’s kind of a gamble. The Yongnuo flash won’t work, the Cowboystudio Wireless Triggers sometimes and I’ve heard mixed results for other stuff. The same issue exists with the new HVL-60 flash – most wireless triggers won’t fit and it does not have a PC sync jack. ( Congrats…

Also: Sometimes there is a weird delay in firing the flash. Some NEX-6 users reported the same issue.

Honestly: I prefer the old Minolta hot shoe. This was a clear thing: You need an adapter, you buy the adapter: Works.


4.0 Grip

I’d have preferred the NEX-7 design which give more grip when holding it in one hand – or two ;). I also liked the asymmetrical lens placement. Not to mention the integrated EVF. OUCH… again…


Black and White

The black and whites are incredibly beautiful. A lot of contrast and depth. Clearly wins over the X100 and is close to the Sigma DP2 (which is a different league because of the Foveon sensor)




Sum up

It’s a nice camera and a brave move from Sony which I highly appreciate. It is the best compact at the moment and in terms of IQ in a league with all the top players (D4, D800, 1dx etc.). Period. There’s a lot to love about this camera. The lens and sensor are just amazing – it’s “vehicle” is also good but could use some improvement which sounds awkward because making the lens and the sensor should be the hard part.

Do you need it? No, but you might want it because you want to be irrational. If you’re on a budget I strongly recommend getting the X100(s). The main reason for me over the X100 is clearly the lens – not the FF sensor.

Why do I have it? I want a camera that I can carry around and that does not get me in a situation where I say later “That was THE shot and I want to use it for XY but can’t because the IQ is not good enough”.


Sony RX1


B&H Photo


  1. I recently tried to replace my M9+35/2 ASPH with an X100s, and the files just let me down. Not only do you loose the look with the smaller format, but X-trans has chroma issues that are particularly apparent at lower ISOs. I actually preferred the files from my old X100.

    Now I’m shooting the RX1, and the files are even better than the Leica with my Summicron. Surprisingly, I like shooting with an OVF and the LCD so much that I actually returned my EVF after a couple of days. While a tilt screen and or built-in EVF would have been nice, I think it’s important to stress how much room is being taken up inside this camera with the large sensor and lens elements. The sensor is at the very back of the camera, unlike NEX cameras, where the sensor is essentially in the middle. A tilt LCD or built-in EVF would likely add more to the size of the camera than people realize, and I’m now glad that Sony kept it modular. I like using the OVF most of all, anyways, and the built-in EVF might have actually bothered me.

  2. Thanks for a good read.
    The price comparison is I think academic.
    “You pay 6x the price of the X100 but you don’t get 6x the performance.”
    Same goes for all high-end products from watches to cars.
    And with the RX1 you get state of the art IQ.
    You will never be left wondering, “What if?”
    As for the inevitable My DSLR etc comment. That’s the whole point. It’s NOT a DSLR.
    Michael, may I ask you to elaborate on
    “The black and whites are incredibly beautiful. A lot of contrast and depth. ”
    How are you shooting B & W? Are these examples shot RAW then converted in PP?


    • Regarding the B&W: I always shoot in RAW and convert in Lightroom and adjust settings light the B&W mix, contrast etc.

      I’ve been doing this with various cameras and I noticed that there is a significant difference how the results come out between lenses and cameras.

      Personally I like contrasty B&W with very defined shades and crisp details. The best quality I got so far was from the Sigma Foveon sensor. The B&W are actually way better than the color images above ISO 400. A lot of people praise the Sigma Sensor for the B&W results… Google for some examples – it’s stunning. I can also give you some files if you want.

      To me the X100 B&W converts look very flat in comparison to the Sigma. The Sony comes very close to the Sigma plus it has a way better resolution. I don’t get the same quality from any other camera I’ve used.

      Hope that doesn’t sound weird 🙂

  3. As an RX-1 owner, I think the review is fair. I absolutely LOVE the camera, and have not had the desire for something else since I purchased and began using it. I sold off 4 other cameras, including D700, X100, and X-Pro1, and I have not looked back. At the end of the day, we are all looking for the ratio in terms of size and IQ, and for my needs that is the RX-1. No knock to other bodies, but my budget felt comfortable with the Sony, and I haven’t regretted it one bit. My biggest issue is the lack of lock for the viewfinder – I actually lost mine at a festival and had to buy a second one (which is now taped on). But the RX1 makes me want to shoot, and when I do I know I am capturing an incredibly high quality image with which I can do whatever I want.

  4. It might good to point out that you can actually set the maximum and minimum ISO for Auto ISO. It is really simple. There is also a shutter speed dial.

    I have an RX-1 and I love it. I have not had the handling problems the author has. I primarily use the rear screen and can hand hold at 1/15s easily. It is a great low-light camera.

    It might be nice to point out the 1/80s limit when AE and AutoISO is used. The camera is simply maximizing DoF and keeping the shutter at useful limit. It would be nice to choose the lower limit though.

    • Just an update. You can also set the shutter speed when in P with AutoISO. You are not limited to 1/80s that Ken Rockwell complains about.

      • Yep, the shutter speed and aperture combination can be changed up or down with the rear dial when using Auto ISO in P mode. Works just fine. Also works with Auto ISO Multi, which even though it combines several frames into one, appears to work surprisingly well with moving subjects at night. The more I use this camera the happier I am that I put aside my big concerns and went for it.

  5. What is really missed is how bad the battery life is. I was recently street shooting, or trying to with the RX1. The battery went belly up after 1.5 hrs. Second battery was no better. One battery was a Sony the other a Wasabi. Used only the EVF no LCD screen and definetly no chimping. I also had my Leica M 9 and it roared all day with no battery change. Sony has a battery problem with this camera

    • Agree – the battery is too small. It’s about 2/5 of the (physical) size of a NEX battery and 1/4 of a a900. It wasn’t too much of an issue for me though. I always survive with one spare one.

  6. ‘After you’ve used the Zeiss lens you REALLY HAVE A HARD TIME going back to the X100(s) lens that is just too soft above f/4. In my opinion the only camera that is similar right now is the Fuji X100(s)’

    Huh? The lenses on the X100 and X100S are both the same….

    I agree with you though…the RX1 is an awesome camera….wish I had one.

  7. One more thing to add: I don’t get why I can only use mechanic cable remotes. All alphas and nexes have a IR receiver and work with the same remote. They have removed that feature from the RX1. I like the old school cable screw thing but can’t I just have both? X100 has the same issue…

    • i actually prefer the the old screw in remote, it lets me do lots of long exposure/timelapses by holding it down rather than using timer. for self shots i turn on the smile shot function and use my smile as a wireless remote

  8. Thanks for the review and yes, the lack of an easily useable viewfinder kills any camera stone dead for me. Another thing; I’m not a leftist softie by any measure, but buying any remotely appealing new camera that appears on the market just isn’t for me. I prefer to really get to know my photograpic tool and to use for at least 3,5 years – my D700 – and now my D800 – which I hope to keep for at least 4 years 😉 -.

    I just came back from my lunchbreak carrying the D800 by it’s wriststrap, 50mm Makro-Planar attached, without lens hood; it’s front element is deeply recessed so no fear there. It’s really not that big or heavy. It’s got a viewfinder which works adequatkey with manual focus, it’s got great IQ and dynamic range and it’s reasonably quiet (about as loud as the strangely clockworklike Monochrom I handled in a shop yesterday; I wasn’t enamoured by the “feel” and it felt pretty heavy for it’s size as well).

    I liked the XPro-1; bit light though for it’s size. The Monochrom on the other hand felt too heavy for it’s size.

    Oh well… 😉

  9. Yup, I got my RX1 after reading Steve’s Review. I just love this camera! I was so close to get x100s but so glad that I got RX1 instead. x100s is just another camera but RX1 is one of kind! It’s real Zeiss lens and FF sensor combo is just amazing!

  10. Michael,

    Thanks for taking the time to lay out your thoughts about the RX1 and mentioning the other cameras you have (most of which I also considered for myself). Your review was most helpful. It turns out your assessment confirmed my suspicions on what I would like and not like about the RX1.

    As for me, an amateur photography trying to cut the ties to always lugging a DSLR system around, I pulled the trigger on the X100s mostly for its hybrid viewfinder and dedicated aperture, shutter, and EC controls. I’m having a great time using this camera and find it gives me extra motivation to go out and shoot.

  11. Michael,

    You are mistaken about the auto-ISO. You can set the min and max ISO limits. Mine is set to go to 25600. It is true there is no shutter limit setting. However this is one of few cameras that gives you auto-ISO in manual mode. That’s a fantastic way to shoot when you know what shutter and aperture you want, and you just want auto-iso (and exposure comp) to make up the difference.

  12. Initially I had some similar feelings as stated in the report. However, I have used this camera now wuite some time and I would not like to part from it. It is the camera that I always carry in on me and in so many times, it came in handy because the light was just right – or a shooting situation occured. I have been to Japan and the US with the camera and it was just right. The camera has its limits – which is merely the battery and the autofocus in low light – however, it produces images of a stunning quality and color – and black/white is amazing. I guess we have become friends – and no friend is perfect.

  13. Yes it’s expensive – but so are most other cameras with a full frame sensor. Not only are you paying for a camera with a full frame sensor, you’re paying for an amazing 35mm lens. Now add the innovation of a small body form and the ability to produce stunning files – price doesn’t see all that crazy to me. I mean, while I agree it’s expensive – I feel it’s also worth the money.

    My friend thought I was crazy that I spent 3k on a camera, yet he drives a 75k car. When asked why he didn’t buy something like a Honda, or other fine affordable car, he shut up.

    “I don’t get why so few people complain about this new focus by wire trend. Everyone who has ever manually focussed with a Leica glass knows what I’m talking about.”

    Few people complain because few people have had the luxury of owning a Leica lol.

  14. Nice post Micheal. I sold FF stuff for OM-D+lenses and RX1 and very happy. Same feedback about EVF, I hate external one. A suggestion: check ReallyRightStuff RX1 grip, can improve ergonomic a lot, even if very expensive.

  15. You can get a CZ 35mm lens for your DSLR. A D600 and CZ 35mm F2.0, same price. For me I would go back to DSLR. and buy all the other fine Nikon and CZ lens. Viewer and interchangable lens. So fine sensor and fine lens, same price. Sony RX1 needs a make over.

    • Of course you can and you’ll get a similar IQ – no doubt. The question is: What do you want the camera for? Do you want the best performance to carry around everytime everywhere: RX1. Do want it for set up work where you carry your lights and tripod etc. anyways you’ll totally go for a SLR.

      It’s a matter of use case but I’m very happy that Sony was brave enough to fill this gap.

      I hope the product people at Sony listen to the market feedback and incorporate something into the next version. All we’re complaining about is available technology that Sony have. They can make it perfect any time.


  16. Hi Michael:

    Thank you for reviewing this interesting camera. Full frame sensor and a fixed, Zeiss 35mm f/2 lens is a great combo for street photography. However, you were silent on one key issue I’ve read about with the RX1. How did you find the camera’s auto focusing when street shooting?


    • Hi,

      It’s not the fastest autofocus. It gets smoked by any phase detection AF and also some mirrorless are faster. But you also have to take into account that we’re talking about full frame here…

      I didn’t find it much of an issue for street shooting but I’m used to even slower AF. Some of my best street shots were done using the Sigma DP2 which everybody hates for the slow AF. Street is very doable with the RX1 especially if you stop down a few stops. In addition you can always zone focus as a fallback.

      I did a portrait shoot with it and AF was much more of an issue here. I was relatively close to the model and tried to focus the eyes of course. As she was moving slightly I had to refocus almost every shot and that was very time consuming. If you have a moving subject and constantly have to refocus and try to shoot quickly in a row it’s really slow. But I think most cameras w/o phase detection AF are…


  17. “BUT: The worst part is, it blocks the hot shoe. And that really really sucks. You’ve got a leaf shutter that syncs flash at every speed but you cannot use it because your viewfinder blocks the port and you don’t have a PC sync jack either.”

    From Steve Huff’s first review of the RX1, this too was what I thought was the RX1’s achilles heel. I still can’t fathom this in a $3000 camera.

  18. I agree with you 100% on the EVF/OVF placement issue, so instead i’ve just gone and taped a 35mm OVF onto my RX1. Seriously, having a rangefinder styled viewfinder is so much more comfortable than a SLR styled viewfinder because my big fat nose doesn’t get smooshed into the screen

    the RX1 is sort of a baby that you’d slowly learn to love, at first I was a bit hesitant about buying it because it was so expensive, however after using it for a while…. it is pure joy…. I have been having some problems with the canon cameras which bothered me, so i’ve moved onto NEX, while the system is good, its not perfect… the RX1 (for me at least) is another step forward towards the perfect camera, and as a gear head, i think thats what we’re all searching for…. perfection

  19. A useful user report Michael. Thank you. Congratulations on your lovely purchase. The RX1 is a superb photographic tool which obviously offers class leading image quality. No doubting that.

    Unfortunately , I cannot afford one and have instead purchased an X100 ( not the S model ) I am very pleased with its image quality and for me , it’s all I need.

    I believe that the RX1 is 6 times the cost of a new X100 right now, once the additional viewfinder has been factored in. It is however my opinion that the image quality of the RX1 is not leaps and bounds ahead of the X100.

    In this ever changing world of technological advancement , it seems that some are continually chasing the next “evolutionary” product.

    Two years ago the X100 was considered to be wonderful. I think that it still is. Furthermore, it has matured like a fine red wine, over time due to Fuji’s brilliant firmware updates. And for that I applaud them.

    X100 ready to be consigned to the photographic scrap heap ? No way, even though there is a trend for some to disregard its capabilities now that they have moved on !


    • I agree with you: You pay 6x the price of the X100 but you don’t get 6x the performance. You either buy it because you want it or because you’re a pro and it somehow pays back for you easily.

  20. It’s a nice camera for close ups and family shots, but as a fast shooting, street camera, sorry, I prefer using any Leica…

  21. Great and honest review, thank you for writing.

    Personally, I love mine and use it constantly. I like the 5 customizable buttons but I’m a gadget freak, I like anything techy/computer like. But I can see why traditionalists won’t like the button layout. But for me the camera gets out of my way and lets me take the shot how I want to take the shot. The image quality is amazing. The hotshoe thing is annoying but so far my cowboy triggers have worked which is all I can hope for. Headed into the studio soon with a few models. I’ll keep you posted.

    My EVF is on the way, should be here today but for the past two weeks I’ve actually liked using the LCD, it makes people relax. The funny thing is no one doubts that the camera is great and expensive. A few people already commented that the camera must cost 3k dollars. Which is funny since a lot of reviewers say that the Cybershot labeling isn’t professional. That’s a professional problem not a real world problem in my view. Already you’re bringing a real small camera on a shoot and sometimes that is problem enough, clients aren’t going to care about the Cybershot name, they’re gonna say, “What’s with that tiny camera?” But then again, it’s the photographer not the equipment.

    I agree with you with a lot of points, it’s not a camera that you need. I definitely didn’t need it. But I wanted the highest IQ and quality in the smallest package. I could have bought a Fuji X100s, but I got addicted to Zeiss glass with my Contax 645 and the Zeiss 24mm 1.8 NEX lens. It’s hard to go back to regular lenses after that, for me.

    If I was to recommend this camera, I would only if the person could really afford it, and understood the 35mm focal length. Then I would say where can you get a full frame sensor and a autofocus 35mm f2 lens for only 2800 dollars.

    Here are some shots I took with the RX1,

    Thanks again, keep shooting.

    Steven Jermaine

  22. Excellent honest review. I checked one out at the Sony store where it was tethered to the table just like the much cheaper Sony snapshot cameras around it.
    I expected so much from what I read with re. to build quality but to me it has nothing on top end DSLRs, let alone M Leicas. Another disappointment.
    I’ll ignore the menus as Michael already covered that..
    I guess, for me, spending big bux on a camera means that I want to hold it all the time, take it with me all the time, and shoot with it all the time. I’m sure the Sony takes incredible photos, but it just does not pass the ‘in hand’ test for me.
    It looks and feels like a fancy P&S camera. I way prefer handling the Fuji X100 series. I think the Sony should be priced at the same level.

    • The very last sentence of Michael’s review was a telling factor I think. From what I’ve seen the image quality from this camera is stunning. That can’t be stressed enough, yet at the same time it’s not a camera that would make me want to pick it up and go take photos.

      For a pro who may be more motivated by the ability to sell a shot it makes sense. For someone who loves *using* equipment as much as the images they make it might not be the ticket. I admit there may be some nostalgia involved as well–high tech versus old school.

      I went through something similar but at a MUCH lower price point. After reading so much positive about the RX100 I sold my little X20 and bought one (I also have an X-E1). I spent a month using the RX100 a lot. The RX100 flat out makes nicer images than the X20. True in almost every conceivable situation. But it was just no fun to shoot with–everything is modes, scenes, and menu-diving (and zoom by wire–ugh). The X-E1 was a constant reminder of how fun a camera could be so I just bought another X20–simply because for me it’s so much more enjoyable to use and make beautiful images–that I don’t have to worry about marketing.

      The RX1 seems like the same thing. Amazing technology, fantastic images, in a package that doesn’t appeal to me.

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