About two weeks ago Sony Belgium asked me if I was interested to test out their RX1 for a couple of days. I’m all for manufacturers who are not afraid to try out new ideas and concepts instead of just copying a camera from the competition and squeeze a couple more megapixels in it. A full frame compact camera with a high quality fixed 35mm prime, certainly qualifies as “different”. But different doesn’t always mean “good”, let’s see where the RX1 stands.
The RX1 may be rather large for a compact camera but for a full frame camera it’s tiny. A decent size coat pocket can hold it and the option of having a full frame camera with a fast prime in your pocket certainly will appeal to a lot of people. It has a sturdy feel and weight to it without being too heavy. But for one handed use it may be a bit on the heavy side, mainly because there’s no real grip on the front of the camera. Buttons and dials are rather well placed and easy to operate. Especially the exposure compensation dial is a pleasure to use. The aperture ring on the other hand could use a bit more grip.
The camera I reviewed came with a stupid USB charger with an even more stupidly short cable. If you can get a dedicated charger with a 100 EUR point-and-shoot, you should be able to get one with a 3100 EUR camera. On the other hand, the RX1 comes with the best lens cap and neck strap that I’ve ever seen included in the box.
Kudos to Sony for making this camera easy to use for everyone. The automatic features make it easy to take pictures even if you don’t know a thing about photography. At the same time the experienced photographer can easily access and adjust pretty much every parameter. Most buttons are easy to reach and logically placed. The menu system is also very clear.
I had hoped the autofocus would be a bit faster and better but it’s pretty much on par with most mirrorless cameras. I liked the face detection AF, but when shooting (near) wide open it’s a bit hit and miss because of the shallow depth of field. Sure there’s usually a part of the face in focus but often not the nearest eye. I’d like to see a more advanced version of this technology called: near-eye-face-detection-AF. Maybe I should patent it.
A full frame sensor coupled to a dedicated Zeiss lens takes care of images that will satisfy every pixel peeper. I had expected a bit more from the high iso performance but in my totally unscientific opinion it’s not better than the smaller sensors used by Fuji and some other brands. But in the lower and mid iso range, the images really shine. There’s also quite some dynamic range to play with and the lens clearly is a Zeiss masterpiece.
Value for Money
On the internet, the RX1 is a pretty popular topic. That seems logic since we gearheads love the idea of putting a full frame sensor in a compact body. People love to talk about that but they like to talk about the RX1′s pricetag even more. 3100 EUR is a LOT of money for a compact camera. And if you want a viewfinder for your RX1, you better have deep pockets. But at the same time 3100 EUR is not that much money for a full frame camera and and excellent Zeiss lens. It all depends on what YOU need.
It’s definitely not a camera that I would buy. I’d rather get the new Fujifilm X100S. It’s flatter so it fits better in a pocket, it looks way better, and you get a viewfinder build in for way less money. So for me it’s a no brainer to choose the X100S over the RX1. Others will choose differently depending on what they value more.
If you shoot all the time with a full frame DSLR and a 35mm prime because you love the unique look of a full frame sensor and a fast prime and if you would like all that in a smaller body, the RX1 might be an excellent choice for you.
The RX1 is in my opinion an excellent niche product and an interesting link in camera development. It’s one of those cameras that may not sell in huge numbers but will probably be pretty influencial in future technology. I don’t think it will be the last compact full frame camera we’ll see.