The Sony RX1, revisited.

Inspiration, Teaching point

Sony RX1


Back in September 2012, on the day Sony announced the revolutionary RX1, I weighed in with my opinion and made a prediction concerning its image quality.  Of course, I was as uninformed as anybody else, but I went on record based on a hunch.

Months and months later, after analysing countless images produced with this camera, I can safely remark that the RX1 produces the best image quality of any “full frame” camera I’ve seen.  Yes, that includes any full-sized and conventioanl DSLR, and even my beloved Leica M9.

And yes, the RX1 sports a CMOS sensor.  Sony gets full credit for taking this CCD diehard and making him “see the light”.

The fact that this camera is also tiny is a testament to the technical prowess of Sony‘s engineers.

Putting aside size considerations, if the new Leica M(240) sported this Sony sensor, I’d be all over it in a heartbeat.  I’d like to be able to use my Noctilux 50mm f/0.95 with this sort of sensor, and I’d accept a larger-than-RX1 camera if I could do that.  But in this brave new world of lenses and sensors being customized for each other (and where both, ultimately, are destined to be disposable), it remains to be seen whether any manufacturer other than Leica would, in the future, bother optimising a sensor for Leica M lenses (yes, I know Ricoh did it with the Ricoh GXR with A12 M Module, but it was in the context of a small APS-C sensor).

I’ll tell you one thing though, I’m very tempted to pick up the RX1.  What Sony and Zeiss (let’s give credit to the lens designers too) have accomplished with respect to image quality is simply inspiring: the dynamic range, the sharpness, the micro and macro contrast… ohhh!

(I write this from the perspective of a photographer, not a techno-geek.)

I realise the RX1 is not a rangefinder, and thus cannot mesh with my brain the way rangefinders do, but I really want to reward Sony (and Zeiss) for what they’ve done.  Who knows, maybe I’ll be rewarded too.

Suffice it to say, I know Sony has a full frame interchangeable camera in the works.

It’s only a matter of time.



19 thoughts on “The Sony RX1, revisited.

  1. Hi Peter

    I’m really not surprised by your comments here, I also have a huge appreciation for the image quality of this camera……

    A full frame interchangeable lens offering from Sony will put the cat amongst the pigeons so to speak.

    I for one would be very interested in it…..

    All the best, Jason.

  2. Hello Peter,
    This is very interesting! I am surprised because I thought you only use professional gears. Also a coincidence, I was considering RX1 and X2 to complement my M set. Yesterday, I was trying the RX1 again in the shop. The images are just superb and I cannot argue with it. The sharpness, the bokeh, the color richness etc. are just great. The only thing I dislike RX1 is the size of the lens in a small body. With the lens hook, & the EVF on the camera, it feels like a mini DSLR, heavy & bulky as a second camera in my bag. Anyway, I totally agree with you that image quality of RX1 is really good! Thanks for sharing!

  3. …More than once have I been tempted to pick up the RX1! The images that people are posting at are simply jaw-dropping.

    The lens is fantastic, and it is wonderfully portable. However: 1) the price seems a tad high for the package; and 2) I simply cannot bring myself to “shooting digital at arms length” once again. (Yes, I know there are viewfinders, but they make they whole thing extremely “kludgy”). Now if Sony ever came out with a “version 2” including built in EVF (like the X100 or EX-1) I would be ALL OVER IT.

    Interesting to see your opinion “evolve” my friend…



    1. A built in EVF would certainly have been welcomed, even if it meant slightly increasing this camera’s size. And I agree about accessory viewfinders being a “kludgy” solution.

  4. Personally, I have heard so much hype about this camera that I was expecting the tablets of the ten commandments to drop from heaven when I went to see it at the dealership. It was very nicely finished, a nice size, and of course the lens and sensor are great. But when I got home with the test images I shot with it and compared them against the same test images, shot at the same time with my Leica X2, there really wasn’t all that much to tell between them. And I prefer the ergonomics and feel of the Leica X2, in the end.

    Sure, the Sony does video (not that I do video), and it allows a little shallower DoF (not that I usually focus on using a wide lens when I want to do shallow DoF), and has about a stop or some more sensitivity than the X2 (which seems to produce pretty darn clean results right up to ISO 6400, which I only rarely use). But it seems lacking in the innovation and advantage plus department to me. It doesn’t focus any faster than the X2, I still have only the one lens to work with, and it has the same limitation in terms of “I can’t use the dedicated hot shoe for flash and the viewfinder at the same time” problem. Etc. It costs another thousand dollars more, which I find interesting that people find just fine where they complain bitterly how much the X2 costs.

    It’s a nice camera, and I’m sure it makes a lot of people very happy. But it’s not the Sony Coming for me. I’ll stick with my M9 and X2. I might pick up the NEX 6, as that camera has actual advantages in operation for me that the RX1 does not (and works well with my M-mount lenses when I use them with an adapter). It will make a good complement to my Ricoh GXR, with a more modern sensor.


  5. I held off from this with a view to see what the FF ICL system will look like from Sony…and will continue to wait.

    I agree though Peter, this pre-cursor, the RX1 bodes well for that system when it does it come out.

    1. I really wish the RX1 had a built-in viewfinder, and also came with a 50mm prime. Then again, it’s not a rangefinder. Still, I’m tempted…

  6. I had an RX1 for about a month and sold it. Currently I have an M9P/MM/D800E. IQ wise it’s on par with anything else. Has amazing ability to shoot great macro shots. For me, the downsides were too much though to keep it, at least at the price I got it. I had gotten it used and sold if for close to what I bought it for. If it got a little cheaper, maybe down to the $1500 range, I may get it again. you can buy nice used ones for $2100-2200. Here were my negatives:

    1) Too bulky with the EVF which I feel mandatory. EVF was fantastic, reportedly much better than the EVF on the M240. That is one reason buying the M240 with EVF would be difficult as I would be frustrated not having something with the latest EVF tech. With the EVF though it sticks out a lot!

    2) F/2 is not fast enough for me. I’m addicted to shallow DOF, and at 35mm I like the look of my Lux too much. That’s just my preference.

    3) It’s really not that small, even without the EVF. The lens is pretty big, and the barrel is much bigger than the actual glass. Attach the hood, and it’s decent size.

    4) Focus is slow. somewhat better than the Fuxi XE1 but still slow, and limited on where it focuses.

    5) Battery life is terrible. Sure you can get more, but still terrible, and annoying. Charger is extra.

    6) Crazy fast depreciation drives me crazier still. Don’t buy one new, because if you do you just lost $500 right out the door. Used ones with minimal use are going cheap. They will depreciate quicker than average with the fixed lens, and like a rock if the RX2 or rumored NEX-9 comes out.

    Even with all that, it’s an amazing camera though. Just not worth the cash at this time for me. The IQ is amazing though….but with my current setup I couldn’t justify running one more system

      1. Oh and of course that’s the main reason Leica is so different. Totally different user experience using an RX1. It’s fun, but I love rangefinder focusing too much to give it up. If a sony FF cam came out and let me use my Leica lenses on it, I’m not sure focus peaking would give me that same satisfaction.

  7. Manual focus is the RF style but with this type of camera I want really super AF which it didn’t deliver and that drove me nuts and it’s quite easy to miss focus..also i find the files too Zeissy for my Leica eye..I was pleased when the camera developed a fault and went back after a few days.

    1. RE: “too Zeissy”, funny enough, I know what you mean, although I’m not sure I see it in this camera-lens combination.

      And “super AF” would certainly make sense in this sort of camera, I agree.

  8. My opinion I know, but my M8 Summicron 35mm ASPH combination still wins for me. However a smaller less valuable take everywhere camera is starting to appeal, we came down on the DSLR for being to big and heavy but our Leica cameras and lenses have another problem, there to valuable to carry everywhere and you would never leave it in your car. If I had a MM and Noc I would be too worried to take it out the house. The camera that is starting to appeal to me is the Ricoh GR digital V not released yet, could be the perfect take everywhere camera, your friend Ming has as always a wonderful review.

    1. Hi Ian,

      I’ve always had a soft spot for Ricoh cameras, ever since owning the original GRD. However, I’m not much of a 28mm shooter, so I haven’t been tempted much.

      1. Would be the back up camera, the RX1 is to big (looks like a Hobbit) the Ricoh fits easily into your pocket.

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