Wither RX1-R? Thoughts after the A7 and A7R Announcements

October 18, 2013  •  4 Comments

Sunset Through the TreesSunset Through the TreesAt Grass Lawn Park in Redmond, WA

I'll come right out and say it: despite having a vague notion that Sony was planning a full frame NEX system at some point in the future, having them announce the full frame compact A7 and A7R cameras on Tuesday was a kick in the teeth for someone who just bought a Sony RX1-R less than two months previously (but over one month previously - no returns available, my friend).

Obviously there's a risk whenever you buy any technology that what you bought will subsequently be rapidly outdated, even by the company you purchased it from. But in this particular case, what makes things hard is the A7R (in particular) represents almost everything I wanted the RX1-R to be.
As I mentioned in my previous first-impressions-review of the RX1-R, the camera is fantastic except for a few problems, chief among them the lack of an integrated viewfinder and the short battery life. The A7 and A7R both include built-in electronic viewfinders and have larger, NEX-7-life grips that allow for larger batteries (how much better the battery life actually is remains to be seen). They are also interchangable lens cameras, and the A7R in particular is 36 megapixels with no AA filter, matching the Nikon D800E (and higher than the RX1-R's 24 megapixels), and that sensor is said to be a generation newer than the one in the D800E with full 14 bit depth colors. They are also both weather sealed.
Reflections in VancouverReflections in VancouverWalking around downtown Vancouver on a warm, late-summer evening
The extra kicker? The A7R with the newly announced 35mm f/2.8 FE Zeiss lens will cost you less than the RX1-R with external electronic viewfinder will. You drop from f/2 to f/2.8 and lose some macro ability, as well as go up somewhat in size with the A7R, and the image quality of the 35mm f/2.8 FE remains to be seen. But more than likely the A7R is the better buy, here, than the RX1-R - 36 megapixels, newer generation sensor, weather sealed, and (this is key) interchangable lens.
The RX1-R does have a few things in it's favor over the A7 and A7R: the silent leaf shutter, for one; threaded shutter release; very fast flash sync speed; slightly more compact size. And the fantasic Zeiss f/2 lens, specifically designed and matched to the RX1-R sensor, may yet prove to be the better lens than any 35mm on the A7 or A7R. We'll see.
What are the drawbacks of the A7 and A7R? Clearly the FE lens line up is lacking breadth and depth right now. Announced with the cameras were the 35mm f/2.8, the 55mm f/1.8, a kit zoom for the A7, and a 24-70mm f/4 Zeiss pro zoom, with a 70-200mg f/4 zoom coming soon. Sony claims they'll have 15 full frame lenses for the system by 2015, but we'll see. If I was building a core system from these I'd personally pick the A7R with the 55mm f/1.8 and the 24-70mm f/4...but, then again, if I was building a core (not secondary, but main) system I would probably wait and see how the "FE" Alphas mature before buying wholesale into it. As a second camera system, sure, go for it now.
Waterfall in the CityWaterfall in the CityA man made waterfall in Seattle, WA
I think Sony mis-stepped in not including in body image stabilization on these cameras. They have a stake in Olympus and in theory could have gotten access to Olympus's five-axis image stabilization system - the most advanced in the world right now. With that in place these cameras would really be in the ultimate position to trounce Leica - people are already foaming at the mouth to try these new cameras with M mount lenses via adapters, and with IBIS the Sony cameras would've been that much further ahead of the more costly Leica M240 and M9. Using the 35mm f/1.4 Lux or 50mm f/0.95 on a full frame with EVF, focus peaking and IBIS? Yes, please.
My plan? I can't return the RX1-R and the market will probably get flooded with people trying to offload their RX1 and RX1-Rs (so now might be a good time to hit up the like-new-used market if you want to get one of these little gems). So I'm keeping and enjoying mine - it's my take-anywhere-travel-hiking camera. My D800E remains my 'serious' tool for gigs and serious landscape images (though the RX1-R does an admirable job there, if I am okay with the 35mm focal length). I'll let the A7 and A7R prove themselves and the FE system mature in terms of lenses and bodies, and see if Sony sticks to their guns and makes this a true pro-worthy system.
Oh, and Sony? You really got to clean up the naming here. NEX was your most successful system and now you've killed the name. You are confusing your customers with Alpha now being represented by two mounts with four separate lens types - Alpha (full frame), Alpha Dx (APS-C), E (APS-C) and FE (full frame). Not to mention the RX line, which now has the RX1, RX1-R, RX100, RX100II and RX10, all of which are vastly different cameras with huge variance in price, all for different users wanting different things.
And, pray tell, whither A mount? I still have a soft spot for the 'real' Alpha line after using the A850 for a few years. I'd love to see a 56+ megapixel A1 (or whatever) with no AA filter, pixel binning options, advanced new EVF, on-sensor phase detect AF and next-gen 5 axis IBIS. Not so far fetched, really, if you consider the pixel pitch of the diminutive sensor in the 20 megapixel RX100.
We'll see. At least it's still an exciting time to be a photographer, if you are a gearhead.


Having awaited for a year for the launch of the a7, I now find that I have the same dilemma.
I require a full frame mirror lens camera for use with a single lens. I sold the Canon 5D lll and a collection of 'L' primes and zooms, to travel lightly. I don't wish to build
up another lens collection.
The Sony a7 with the 24-70mm f4 will come in at around £2000 ,or the Sony Zeiss 35m f2.8 for slightly less. Alternatively I can buy the RX1 with a Sony EV from Amazon fr for £1900 plus the EV, total £2300. Therefore for a similar price point with the RX1, I get one of the best 35mm (f2.0) lenses on the market.
I am still struggling with the decision.
3.MIke S(non-registered)
The best screen protector I have found is the following:
LARMOR by GGS Self-Adhesive Optical Glass LCD Screen Protector.

It is a thin piece of glass and works much better than the plastic ones. It does not get all scratched up. It states that it is for the RX100 but both the RX1/R and Rx100 have the same size LCD.
2.Robert Stahl(non-registered)
Thanks for your thoughts 're' the RX1r as well as the new Sony A7/A7r models. Agree
with you that the new Sony bodies will need to prove themselves over the next few
months. In the meantime, I'm considering the RX1r and would like to get your take on
a good screen protector for it?
-Many thanks, Robert
As someone aware of everything that is available now and no ties to any particular brand right now (I just bought a 5DMkIII but am starting to rethink that purchase), I have a unique perspective on this. I'm considering returning the 5D due to the fact that I don't make money with photography and I would much prefer a small, compact FF.

How small and compact? Well, RX1R size, preferably. I actually would rather have the RX1R than the A7. Yes, on paper, the A7 sounds amazing; but, add in the nasty looking EVF "hump", and the grip and it looks just like an uglier condensed mirrored FF camera. Of course, I'll admit I still prefer the square shape of the body itself, that "hump" just doesn't do it for me. I feel the RX1R is the PERFECT all around camera despite the lack of expandability.

Again, this is coming from the outside in. I can't see why you see your RX1R as obsolete when it isn't really competing for the same thing.
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