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My thoughts on the SONY RX1...a little review
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Dan Sol
(dansol) - MLife

Locale: So. Cal
My thoughts on the SONY RX1...a little review on 12/25/2012 16:11:45 MST Print View

Hi everyone,

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!

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: My thoughts on the SONY RX1...a little review on 12/25/2012 17:52:03 MST Print View

At 1/5 the cost maybe the RX100 might be better for us mere mortals. Smaller, lighter, zoom lens, and shares a lot of the RX1's technology. No accessories. Only has a 1" 21mp sensor though. :)

Kyle Meyer
(kylemeyer) - M

Locale: Portland, OR
Re: My thoughts on the SONY RX1...a little review on 12/29/2012 14:15:19 MST Print View

Post some photos Dan!

Without seeing your photos though, my thought is that the RX1 isn't worth it. I have a Sony NEX-6 which I think makes better trade offs for the photography-interested backpacker. Similar weight, similar image quality, interchangeable lenses (if you want that), and a litany of features that the RX1 doesn't include such as a tiltable screen, electronic view finder, optical image stabilization (imperative for video), built-in time lapse photography, etc. All this for thousands less.

Right now, the RX1 is a wonderful proof of concept. If you're rich and don't care about wanting to buy another camera in six months, fine. For us mere mortals, wait a year when the full-frame interchangeable mirrorless cameras come out, or buy into one of the existing systems that are better photography systems such as micro four thirds or the NEX system.

What's the point of an awesome full-frame sensor if you can't take an ultra-wide-angle landscape or capture a photo of a herd of elk across a drainage from you?

Dan Sol
(dansol) - MLife

Locale: So. Cal
Re: on 12/30/2012 14:56:44 MST Print View

I think the major question here is: are you a photographer who backpacks, or backpacker that likes taking pictures? Because if your the later (which i imagine most everyone, including you @kylemeyer, on this forum is) then spending anything more than $500 on a one-camera quiver is totally unnecessary. That's not meant to be a put-down of any kind, Im just saying different strokes for different folks. I want to take pictures to sell and print and hang as art, as opposed to just having them on your HD and posting them to your FB or IG.

And while the NEX series is great (i have an NEX-7), the NEX-6 isnt even in the same conversation. First, after you get some decent lenses (ie the Zeiss 24mm, the 50mm 1.8) you have already spent at least 2k. So the nex-6 is NOT "thousands less"...its A thousand less. Ill tell you what's "thousands less"...a canon s110, a nikon p7700. These two powerhouses truly do have "similar image-quality" to the NEX. On that note, saying the NEX and RX1 have similar IQ is just wrong. Try blowing up a NEX RAW image to 100% and see what happens. Again the RX1 (as far as IQ goes) can only be compared to other FF sensors ie 5MkIII, Leica, etc.

"...if your rich and dont mind buying another camera in six months...wait a year..." So is it a year or six months that this new FF interchangeable camera is coming out that no brand has announced or heard of or mentioned ever? But your right im sure when that FF mirrorless comes out it'll be soooo much cheaper than $3k. WRONG! Not to mention the current NEX series lenses dont cover a FF sensor, so that means that a new line of lenses need to be manufactured and bought. Obviously, SONY will release an "RX2" within two years. But it wont have a removable lens, it will most likely come in a zoom lens configuration.

What's the point of having a picture of an ultra-wide angle landscape or a heard of elk that has such poor IQ that you can't print or crop it?

While not a terribly amazing shot these images will demonstrate what only a couple cameras (RX1, 5dMkIII, some Leicas) are capable of. The second image is 100% crop of the first image that i took with my RX1 by Mammoth, notice the limited loss of detail (definitely good enough to post to your profile).

Original: http://500px.com/photo/21897651

100% cropped image: http://500px.com/photo/21897653

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: My thoughts on the SONY RX1...a little review on 12/31/2012 15:08:55 MST Print View

Hi Dan,

Appreciate your thoughts and input, especially as somebody who's had one "out there." And your samples--yeow, that's some detail packed into that frame--good flare control too.

The little RX1 is the first digial equivalent to my favorite backpacking camera, the Contax T3--in many ways they're nearly identical, save for the Sony's extra stop and vast feature set. I bring this up in part to note we're about ten years since release of the N Digital--the first full frame digicam. The RX1 provides an interesting historical bookend.

I suspect Sony didn't anticipate the demand for what's in many ways an engineering exercise that was probably only greenlighted for production to serve as a halo camera for their other lines. Virtually everybody else has been caught flatfooted, but certainly others will follow. But for today, it's a one-pony race.

I get why non-photo enthusiasts don't understand the RX's appeal and as long as they don't tote a $600 cuban shelter I'll stay on the sidelines when they whinge about the price. ;-)

Looking forward to your further input as you get out more.

Cheers,

Rick

Kyle Meyer
(kylemeyer) - M

Locale: Portland, OR
Re: Re: on 12/31/2012 17:12:50 MST Print View

Dan,

I'm a somewhat-professional photographer with at least one wedding already booked this summer. I'm also a nerd—a software developer by day—that definitely keeps up with and understands the technical underpinnings and optical principles behind modern photography. Simply put, what you're showing in your (beautiful) photo isn't the result of a full-frame sensor, but rather a quality lens. Modern sensors consistently allow better resolutions than the lenses in front of them—with the exception of truly quality glass.

This is exactly my point. The Sony RX1 is a resolution monster that takes great photos. Unfortunately, it's high technology mated to a fixed lens, where it's potential is limited to a single field of view. I'd rather have a 60% smaller sensor (APS-C) but have more flexibility in composition, enabling creativity and the capture of moments that the RX1 simply can't.

At base ISO, any NEX camera is capable of equivalent resolution to the photo you posted (given quality glass) and by switching lenses, would crush your 100% crop. It's silly to talk about the RX1 and NEX cameras like there's a huge gulf between them. There's not. You're just furthering the full-frame snobbery by saying that point-and-shoot cameras (which are only 13% the size of an ASP-C sensor) have similar quality as the NEX, but the RX1 is in a league of it's own.

An RX1 with a lens hood and an EVF is $3,400. A NEX-6 with the Zeiss 24mm is $1950. For an additional $1500, you could buy a litany of truly quality lenses to mate with it. And a year from now, when sensor technology is leaps and bounds better, you can spend another $850 to upgrade your camera body and keep the $2000 you invested in lenses.

Kyle Meyer
(kylemeyer) - M

Locale: Portland, OR
Re: Re: Re: on 12/31/2012 17:39:33 MST Print View

Last point I'll make —

The NEX-6 has a 16 megapixel sensor while the RX1 has a 24 megapixel sensor. That's 33.3% less pixels.

The NEX-6 has a sensor area of 328.6mm while the RX1 has a sensor area of 864mm. That's 62% smaller.

The difference between the size and number of photosites dictates the ultimate per-pixel resolution. The photosites are approximately 28% smaller in the NEX-6 according to this math. While significant, it's not as big a deal as one might think. At least, until high ISOs where the differences are significant.

To get to the same pixel "quality", one would need to scale the 16 megapixel photo from a NEX-6 to 9 megapixels, which is fine to print at great quality at up to 8x10.

So to conclude—if you want to take photos at night and print poster-sized images, get the RX1. Otherwise, get the NEX-6.

Edited by kylemeyer on 12/31/2012 17:42:53 MST.

Chris Townsend
(Christownsend) - MLife

Locale: Cairngorms National Park
Re:My thoughts on the SONY RX1...a little review on 12/31/2012 18:35:43 MST Print View

Interesting discussion. As I take photos for publication in books and magazines and occasionally sell fairly large prints image quality is important for me - I need to keep publishers happy apart from wanting good results anyway. I've also always wanted the lightest camera gear that would get me those results. With sensors APS-C is the smallest that's okay, which used to mean a DSLR. Megapixels comes next. My first DSLR had 6mp - images from it appeared in a photo book last year along with ones from follow-up cameras of 8 and 12mp. These were Canon cameras and most images were taken with the 18-55 kit lens. They all look fine, regardless of which camera was used.

Recently I changed to the NEX system because of the low weight and bulk. I started with the NEX 5 and now have the 6 and the 7. The latter is 24mp, which is useful for images that will be cropped - which I take with that intention. The NEX 6 is slightly better in low light. Images from all three NEX cameras are higher quality than those from my Canon DSLRs.

The RX1 looks a great camera but the fixed lens puts me off and I'm not convinced it would actually produce much better quality images than the NEX 6 or 7.

Jon Leibowitz
(jleeb) - F - MLife

Locale: 4Corners
or... on 01/01/2013 11:18:47 MST Print View

"So to conclude—if you want to take photos at night and print poster-sized images, get the RX1. Otherwise, get the NEX-6."

Or get an OM-D instead of both those options and have an incredible selection of native glass, IBIS, and a weather proof body. :) Come on, you Sony people can't have all the fun.

Kyle Meyer
(kylemeyer) - M

Locale: Portland, OR
Re: or... on 01/01/2013 12:22:29 MST Print View

That's a whole different set of math :]

A micro four thirds sensor area is 243mm—72% smaller than full frame and 26% smaller than APS-C. Seeing as the sensor is also 16 megapixels, the photosites are even smaller.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Re: or... on 01/01/2013 12:58:20 MST Print View

And yet, the E-M5 has better high-ISO noise characteristics than the NEX cameras, including the 6, demonstrating the folly of picking cameras solely based on arithmetic.

http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2012/12/11/the-sony-nex-6-and-nex-5r-review-the-best-nex-cameras-yet/

Like the man said, the E-M5 is a fantastic backpacking camera.

Cheers,

Rick

Jon Leibowitz
(jleeb) - F - MLife

Locale: 4Corners
Re: Re: or... on 01/01/2013 16:57:39 MST Print View

Just for the sake of conversation, I have to add.......If you are going to argue that there is practically no difference in IQ between a FF and an NEX, it is ludicrous to contend there is any difference between a OM-D and an NEX.


The OM-D won camera of the year at DPReview, Sansmirror...just sayin :) And like you said above, it's all about the glass.

Anyways, both the NEX6 and the OM-D are great cameras. Neither come close to the quality you can get out of a FF, IMO, especially if you want to crop pictures and/or blow them up big.

Edited by jleeb on 01/01/2013 17:00:07 MST.

Kyle Meyer
(kylemeyer) - M

Locale: Portland, OR
Re: Re: Re: or... on 01/01/2013 17:18:45 MST Print View

Actually, there are two things at work there. First, there is noise reduction applied to the photos from the E-M5 that Steve Huff posted, but not any from the other cameras. The second is that the E-M5 actually lies about it's ISO; at ISO 3200, you'll need to use a roughly 50% longer shutter speed to get the same exposure compared to any of the Sony cameras, which rate their ISO sensitivities much more accurately. At ISO3200, the E-M5 is actually only at ISO1489, which is a full stop discrepancy and one of the largest lies currently on the market in the camera world.

There's zero folly in using science to choose a better photographic instrument. Don't get me wrong—the OM-5 is an excellent camera, but don't go basing opinions based on a nonscientific, mistaken test.

All that said, I agree that it's a great camera :)

Dan Sol
(dansol) - MLife

Locale: So. Cal
Re: on 01/01/2013 17:35:38 MST Print View

@Rick Dreher: I agree completely. I used to have a Contax too! What a great little camera THAT was!

I think the RX1 was always meant to appeal to photographers with a full Canon/Nikon rig, as opposed to people looking to upgrade.

@Kyle Meyer: Obviously if you add up all the obscenely priced accessories, that you don't need to maximize IQ, its going to be more expensive. I was just trying to point out that one would also need to invest a considerable amount of money to get the best IQ out of the NEX system.

However, i do disagree with you about the "gulf". I think there is indeed a huge difference between the RX1 and the NEX-7 (which I own, I cant speak to the IQ of the 6). If nothing else, the IQ gulf is certainly bigger between the NEX and the RX1, than the NEX and something like the S110 or RX100 (both of which I also have).

I also will take issue with your claim that "...any NEX camera is capable of equivalent resolution to the photo you posted (given quality glass) and by switching lenses, would crush your 100% crop". Im not sure I understand what your trying to say here. If your saying that ANY (3, really?) NEX camera (with this theoretical quality glass) is capable of coming anywhere close to the IQ of the RX1 your smoking the good stuff. If, on the other hand, your saying that you can buy glass for the NEX in a longer focal length that will have better results than the 100% crop then that may be true....I would invite you post such a picture. Because with my NEX-7 and the best glass currently available (canon "L" series lenses mounted with a NEX adapter), the NEX is still miles behind the RX1.

It's interesting, i have heard this reference to "full-frame snobbery" a lot lately (and always by someone that doesn't own a FF camera). I dont understand why by stating a fact (ie. "everything else being equal, FF sensors will always outperform smaller sensors") that's considered "snobbery" (if I drop the money for a ferrari you better believe i'm going around and making fun of everyone in a porsche boxter). Its funny, because i am actually a huge photo snob...but not about FF cameras. Rather, i have found that people who get into photography without working with film, can not (in any way), contribute to a meaningful discussion about the art of photography. I'm sorry but a film-based background is crucial. And I think this where a lot of backlash for the RX1 comes from...ie photogs that buy a $1k+ rig and call themselves professionals. Again, not trying to put anyone down (or include you in that group), but it seems that this group is the most vocal when it comes to the focal length issue. When I first got hired at ESPN magazine, they forced all the rookies to go out on their first shoot with a fixed-focal length film camera (everyone grumbled, except me, I had a huge smile and pulled out my A-1). I would suggest you do the same thing. You might find that focusing on what your camera CAN do and forgetting about what it can't will make you a better photographer.

Look, Im def not the king of all photography. And im def not saying that the RX1 is the perfect camera (there's no such thing). These are just my opinions, which are based on 10 years of my personal experience as a professional staff photographer.

Chris Townsend
(Christownsend) - MLife

Locale: Cairngorms National Park
Re: My thoughts on the SONY RX1...a little review on 01/01/2013 18:42:40 MST Print View

I shot film for well over 20 years (mostly low ISO transparency film) and I agree that this teaches you a great deal, especially when you start, as I did, with a fully manual camera and a separate light meter. However there's a whole generation appearing that has grown up with digital. Their views on the art of photography are just as valid as those of us who started with film.

When it comes to cameras I'm sure that the differences between APS-C and Micro Four-Thirds cameras isn't that great and that any of these cameras, whether DSLR or compact, can take excellent quality images. I've chosen Sony NEX because it seemed the best for my needs and I liked the ergonomics (I spent some time handling cameras - one was quickly rejected because it was so hard to hold firmly I was afraid I'd drop it). If I'd chosen Olympus or Panasonic or Fuji or Samsung I'd probably be just as happy. I've gone from a DSLR to a CSC because of the weight and bulk not because I expected better quality images - I just wanted the same quality from a smaller, lighter camera. If a full frame camera with interchangeable lenses at the same weight and size as the NEXs appears then I'll be interested. As it is FF cameras are just too heavy so I've never considered one, just as I never considered Medium Format when I shot film. The RX1 obviously isn't heavy or bulky but that 35mm lens would be just too limiting for me.

When it comes down to it composition, lighting, knowledge of a camera's limitations and capabilities and care in getting the right settings are all more important than whether you have an OM-D or a Sony NEX or .............

Kyle Meyer
(kylemeyer) - M

Locale: Portland, OR
Re: Re: on 01/01/2013 19:15:10 MST Print View

This thread is starting to make me cringe.

Dan, you realize that the RX1, behind the Zeiss 35mm ƒ/2 lens, is simply an analogue device that collects light, right? Now would you believe me if I said that it's the same technology that drives the NEX-6, NEX-7, and RX1 (and the NEX-5R, NEX-5N, and Nikon D7000 for that matter) with simple differences in the size of the photosites and the ultimate dimensions of the sensor?

Further, you understand that while a sensor dictates maximum potential resolution (e.g. 16 megapixels), it has very little to do with the ultimate clarity of the photograph taken, right? The fact remains that most lenses do not resolve detail to the level that modern sensors are capable of resolving.

The RX1 is the combination of a high-end lens mated to a high-end sensor—there's nothing more to it. My entire argument is that the NEX range of cameras is just as capable as any of resolving detail, whether or not you've found that in practice with your subset of lenses.

And then you devolve to an ad hominem attack about not owning a full frame camera or being too young and not having shot film. I've shot a 5D Mark II professionally for years. I own fully manual 35mm film cameras and use them. I also own a Fuji X100 and understand the appeal folks have for the RX1. None of this matters though.

The argument I'm making is that you're simply wrong about there being a large difference between the RX1 and a CSC camera. You're quantitatively, scientifically, incorrect about your assertion that there is a bigger difference between the RX1 and a NEX-7 then there is between a NEX-7 and a compact camera with a 1/1.7" sensor.

You're just arguing partisan photographer nonsense to make any such claim and you do a disservice to those trying to better understand this incredibly complex world of modern, lightweight photography.

Dan Sol
(dansol) - MLife

Locale: So. Cal
Re: on 01/01/2013 20:46:52 MST Print View

"This thread is starting to make me cringe."-Well, at least we agree about one thing.

You're doing a disservice to readers by boiling down the "...incredibly complex world of modern, lightweight photography" to a math equation (I like the "modern" part, like I have no idea what im talking about...im 29 btw).

Its the ART of photography, not the MATH of photography.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Re: Re: Re: or... on 01/02/2013 14:51:02 MST Print View

You might have missed this above the samples:

These are from RAW with ZERO Noise Reduction and no sharpening at all:

"First, there is noise reduction applied to the photos from the E-M5 that Steve Huff posted, but not any from the other cameras."

Noise is clearly better managed on the E-M5--more critical if one shoots at higher shutter speeds in dim conditions. Effective IBIS and fast native primes do
allow one to shoot longer exposures to keep ISO lower, of course.

Enough thread drift for now.

Cheers,

Rick

Kyle Meyer
(kylemeyer) - M

Locale: Portland, OR
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: or... on 01/02/2013 15:48:03 MST Print View

I know it says there is zero noise reduction applied, but that is in fact noise reduction applied. He's mistaken. You can tell by the complete lack of color noise that's visible in the photo at ISO6400.

Here's a real test of the OM-D's noise levels at ISO6400 in a controlled environment:

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews_data/oly_em5/boxshot/p1010017.acr.jpg

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: or... on 01/02/2013 20:11:15 MST Print View

So...Steve Huff is deluded or a liar. Got it.

I think you have exactly the right camera. Carry on.