Thursday, 1 August 2013

Sony RX1R - My Feel

A little history before my thoughts on the Sony RX1R. Many moons ago a storm was brewing and that film SLR was going the way of the dinosaur. There were many debates on the 'new' digital platform online with furious exchanges lined with derogatory phrases. I remembered holding my Minolta Dynax 7 and emptying rolls of Konica Centuria 1600 at a night shoot with some buddies and the subject came up. The general consensus was - Digital SLR will be too expensive for the masses and will never take off. Which was the case as my 1st serious digital camera at that time, the Sony F505, cleared out whatever budget I had left for the month and it had a small noisy sensor!

Many moons later and we now live in a different world. Today or since last year with the RX1, Sony delivered the Power of A Full Frame (FF) Into The Palm of Your Hands. It's not exactly cheap at S$3,999 and again not for everyone. I skipped the RX1 for various reasons but namely (1). Too darn expensive for a fixed lens (2). I already have the Canon 5DM3 (3). Out of stock all the time. In case anyone thinks I am contradicting myself, I am! It's a cognitive process I go through every time I reach for the wallet. Heh. Anyhow I borrowed a RX1 unit for a short time early in the year and was pretty much impressed but I have had other cameras keeping me busy then.

R for High Resolution

In a nutshell Sony removed the low-pass filter in front of the sensor and the RX1R was born. For the layman a low-pass filter acts as a sieve to 'clean' up incoming light before transmission to the sensor. So when the low-pass filter is removed you get practically everything that is coming through; In principle you get a higher resolution image. Read more. All these for the SAME price as the original RX1 without a price premium like Nikon D800 / D800E.

The Outing

I just had to do a shootout and brought the 5DM3 along together with the Sigma ART 35mm f1.4 as I have not been using them as much as I have liked. And also the Sigma has garnered a reputation for being one of the sharpest (if not the sharpest) prime in recent times. The 5DM3 combo is a little more expensive and on paper the 5DM3 will eat the RX1R for breakfast with much to spare. All will shot wide so a slight advantage to the RX1R.

All JPEGs from RAW (NR - OFF) and imported through Lightroom 5. No Sharpening added. Minor contrast / EV adjustment to taste. Clarity +15. Saturation +5. Vibrance +5. *Some noise reduction for 5DM3's files to remove banding / colour noise. Default 0 for RX1R.







I Like

  • Compelling combination of FF sensor + lens in a small body
  • Perfect heft - Not too heavy not too light
  • Just the right amount of customization (at least for me)
  • Amazing noise control
  • Excellent IQ
  • Wide dynamic range - slurp!
  • Aperture settings on lens
  • Good but not great battery life

I Hate

  • Spotty AF in low light 
  • Not the fastest AF speed around - probably 6.5 - 7 out of 10
  • Not much of a grip - very nearly dropped the camera twice
  • Expensive accessories - No EVF / OVF in cam!
  • No charger included??
  • A little slow getting ready
  • Can't change size of AF Points 


  1. Wait wait, what?! No charger included!

  2. @Angel, it's probably the same way the Sony NEX-6 is. The camera is the charger, so you just plug in the USB cable with the camera off to charge the battery or with the camera on to transfer photos. So remind me why I have wifi in this camera... ;-) It does come with a USB wall charger, but not one that the battery fits in like previous NEX cameras. It's frustrating to juggle two batteries and keep them charged with this setup.

    1. I would bet that everyone who buys this camera also buys an external battery charger.
      Thousands of words have been written moaning about the fact that an external charger is not supplied with the RX1. Sony obviously don't see it as a big issue otherwise they would have shipped an external charger with the RX1r. (And probably upped the price to pay for it).
      OK, we get it. Maybe Sony should have included a charger. But they give you the option to charge the battery while its still in the camera, a la phone, tablet etc. And if you spend $15 on ebay you can buy a charger and two spare batteries. Thats what I did.

  3. Dude, why using f1.4 on Sigma?
    Again, insisting "5d3 is better on paper than RX1" is strange at least: canon lags behind in sensor tech for a long time already — worse color separation, worse DR, etc, RX1 lens is sharper at all apertures than Sigma, according to dxomark.

    1. A camera is not based solely on sensor tech and if so, 3/4 of everything on the market will be a bad choice :) What I am trying to do is to present it as a package as you are typically buying into a system at this level. However the RX1R is not your average system as the lens is fixed. In term of the target market the 5DM3 is still selling pretty well (the AF is miles better for one) and further tests coming right up at the theoretical 'sharp' f5.6 for both.

  4. 5D shots are at ISO-200 f/1.4 and RX1R are at ISO-100 f/2... This is not a fair comparison at all