Sony RX1

11 June, 2013

The camera body that surprised EVERYONE.

SONY RX1.

Full frame, 35mm f2 Sonnar ‘made for’ lens in a tiny… TINY body.

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As is with all of my ‘reviews’, this is a ‘real world’ opinion.  Under conditions I would shoot all my gear and putting it through its proper paces

(and stretching it to it’s limits I might add).

Considering what else is in my bag, it should be quite insightful for the photographers out there that are considering this wonderful tool.

I had a loner of the RX1 back in January for a couple of weeks.  It did not come with the hood or the EVF, but it was enough to show me it’s wares,

what it could do and what it couldn’t.

I didn’t want to post a review until I have had a good amount of time with the EVF.  I now have.

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There is a lot to be enamored by this combo.  Let’s get the positives out of the way first.

Size.  It is INCREDIBLY small (almost too small!) Even with the EVF and hood attached, it looks like a toy -

which is a massive compliment and one of it’s best attributes.

It is built like a tank, the body is almost 100% metal, ala Leica, but there are a couple of plastic points that let it down slightly.

In comparison, the Fuji’s feel very plasticky and ‘hollow’.

Feel and ergonomics are very important things to consider when purchasing your next camera.

No matter what the technical sheets say, if you don’t like the feel of it, you won’t pick it up to shoot and you won’t enjoy shooting when you do… catch 22.

Thankfully, this isn’t the case here.

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Leica have recently stuffed up, calling their new Vario camera a ‘mini M’… One of the stupidest marketing lines I have ever seen.

If we were to play along with this using the RX1, I would easily say if Nikon made the RX1, then it is definitely a ‘mini D4′.

No hesitation in stating that.  It’s that good.

The 24MP sensor is sublime, I believe that they could (and should) have made it a 12-16MP.  That would have been perfect.

Files are perfectly usable up to 6400 without breaking a sweat and the native 12,800 is a nice touch.

The DxOMark score of #4 is well founded.  The dynamic range on this is incredible.  Canon users will disagree vehemently about DxOMark and it’s merits,

however, if you have shot with everything… you will know the facts.

Pulling shadows in Canon files aren’t ‘fun’…  M9 files past iso 640 won’t do your cholesterol any favours… if you know what I mean…

and yet the M9 is my favourite.  Funny that right?  :)

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Currently the RX1 has no direct competitor in the market place.  Sony saw it fit to give a huge middle finger up to the rest of the manufacturers and bring this out as a first.

It is technically wonderful, the Zeiss is superbly sharp corner to corner wide open.  It’s bokeh is very very smooth and creamy and the transition is not jarring.

Comparing it to the Nikon 35mm f1.4 AFS, pixel peeping, the Nikon has the advantage of about half a stop in rendering.

The Zeiss is ‘smoother’ in the OOF areas… but of course, the Zeiss can’t go to f1.4… :)

Autofocusing.

Now here is where things get ‘tricky’.  In a skilled/competent shooters hands, you can get mostly anything out of the RX1.  There are workarounds.

No problem.  The AF area box is just a wee bit too big.

Given that most users would shoot wide-open, it leaves a certain degree of slight inaccuracies in critical work.

However given that it is a wide f2, DOF isn’t terribly small, even on a full frame.

Where the top dog DSLR’s perform magically is the ability to acquire small targets at large apertures in an accurate and speedy manner.

That is priceless to me.

In good light, the AF is fine, not fast, not slow.. but still very accurate.

In low light (i.e. a bar, a dark alley or night time street shooting) it is hit and miss,

but that is when the Photographer can take over and override.  Easy.

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Image quality is superlative.  Think a cross between a D800 and a D4.  Distortion is huge though, but given software correction takes 1 second, that’s a non-issue.

It does have the colour palette of the CMOS sensors (a good and not so good thing) but that is a subjective topic.

The battery life on it is ‘adequate’… depending on your shooting style and use of the EVF.  If you are a heavy user of the EVF for everything and you chimp.

Expect to buy 2-3 batteries for a hard’s days worth of shooting.

If your not a chimper and rely on the EVF occasionally (as you will do), then 2 batteries for one day’s shooting is perfect.

In a camera of this pedigree, this is atrocious on Sony’s behalf.

The OM-D and Fuji’s are wonderful ‘alternatives’ (and a helluva lot cheaper too I might add), but they don’t have the power to compete directly with the RX1,

but with everything in life, performance costs.

So with the myriad of customizable functions, the tactfulness of it’s size, the output of its files… if your serious about your shooting and size is a premium

(and cost isn’t a consideration)… This is your bad boy.

In a perfect world?  and I’m sure it’s coming… I see Sony upping the size to incorporate interchangeable lenses, built in EVF and bigger battery.

But for right now and into the immediate future… IF Full Frame is your game, you have a craving for great optics and 35mm focal length entices you.

Just do it.

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If you have any questions that I might not have mentioned here, feel free to email me on van@vandang.com.au

Happy shooting!

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