I have been shooting with the Sony RX1 for about 3 weeks now and decided to do a little review.
First let me say this is a great little camera, if you have $3,000 sitting around (check the couch cushions) go buy it. The image quality (IQ) coming out this thing is insane, and it has some nice little extras that will appeal to UL backpackers. However it’s not without its problems and if, like the rest of us, you don’t enjoy that kind of financial liquidity you have a decision to make. Ultimately this decision will boil down to one question: how much do I value image quality vs. size and weight?
Lets start with the numbers: It has a 24mp full-frame (FF) (35mmx23mm) sensor housed in 112mm x 65mm x 70mm body. The lens is a fixed 35mm f/2 Zeiss. All this tips my scales at 516g (that’s operational weight-incl. batteries, SD Card, lens cap, and UV filter). At first glance that really isn’t THAT amazing (a canon G-series comes in right around 400g) so what’s the big deal? Well, as far as IQ goes the RX1 can only really be compared the FF giants (1kg+) from Canon and Nikon, as well as the wallet-busting FF Leica. There is simply nothing like it on the market, period. But the small form factor is not the only thing to be excited about. For UL backpackers (UL Alpinist in my case) there are some features that might make the price tag a little more palatable. Firstly, the batteries are 22g a piece compare this to at least double that for a comparable camera. But the real exciting part is that the RX1 is capable of charging its internal battery via USB. That means I can charge my camera over-night via a solar USB set-up on the mountain without any other chargers, this is not possible on any FF canon or nikon camera and is still very rare on smaller cameras.
Now, there exists a very well represented (on this and other photography forums) portion of people who, for whatever reason, have a visceral, emotional response to…well, cameras (google canon vs. nikon). And with the announcement of the Sony RX1 those people came out in droves. Is the RX1 the perfect camera? Absolutely not. But nor is any other camera out there. However I do have some complaints, technical and otherwise, about the RX1. First, to perfectly honest, it’s too small. It’s practically just a lens with lcd on the back. Handling this camera is tough, there’s just not that much there to grab on to (although attaching the thumb grip and Sony leather case make it substantially easier to hold but also heavier and more expensive). Piggybacking on that, they should have built-in an EVF. I get it Sony, you were trying to make this thing as small as possible. I think they went a little overboard. The exposure compensation dial is a little awkwardly placed, I have accidentally changed it a couple times while picking up the camera to shoot. The placement of the focus distance ring around the lens is also a little annoying. The only other real technical issue I have with the RX1, is that if you want to use the exposure compensation dial the camera has to be set to AUTO ISO. More of a theoretical annoyance, it hasn’t affected any images so far. Apart from those minor issues I think the biggest problem is the price-not the price of the camera-but the price of accessories. I would have loved to be in the meetings where these Sony suits decided to price a lens hood at 200 american dollars. What could they have possibly been thinking? The packaging is also disappointing, I mean seriously Sony I just dropped 3k on niche camera and it arrives in little more than a box? Sony needs to learn to pamper their high-end products.
Either way you look at it the Sony RX1 is a huge step forward for backpackers who take their photographs seriously. As with the NEX-series, I don’t think Sony expected there to be much of a market for a camera like the RX1 (I believe this might have contributed to the outrageous accessories pricing). I think the major photog companies are going to take notice and start investing more into this segment of the market. Hopefully that means smaller, lighter AND cheaper!