I preordered the Sony RX1-R from Adorama about a month ago and received it last week. I’ve been shooting with it non-stop, and wanted to post my first impressions. I’ll put up a full review a bit later, after I’ve satisfied myself that I really know everything about the camera and its performance in every situation.
The RX1-R is exactly the same camera as 2012’s RX1, just with the antialiasing filter removed. As a Nikon D800E owner, I vowed never to go back to a camera with an AA filter – to me the small risk of moire is well worth the bump in per-pixel resolution and acutance that removing the AA filter gains.
The RX1-R, like the RX1, is the world’s smallest full frame digital camera. It has a fixed 35mm f/2 Carl Zeiss lens, and uses the same batteries as its smaller brothers, the Sony RX100 and RX100 II. It is designed to be compact and quiet – the leaf shutter is nearly silent when you turn off all the needless beeps and boops that are enabled by default for some reason – and still dense and of obvious quality (as it should be, considering the price). The RX1-R is the same price as the RX1, a trend that I’m very happy to see Sony start, given that the Nikon D800E had a $300 premium over the D800.
I have some pros and cons to list right away, even after just using the camera for a week and having taken about two hundred photos:
The biggest first impression I have, and want to convey here, is that the image quality coming out of this little camera is really exceptional. This is the first time I have ever felt like I could take a compact camera with me in lieu of my big D800E setup and get professional level results absolutely on-par with what I would’ve gotten with the D800E – and I have owned and used extensively in the past the Fuji X100, XE-1 with 35mm f/1.4, and Sony RX100, all of which are or were considered top ‘compact’ cameras. The RX1R is the first truly professional-quality compact camera I’ve personally ever owned, and the RAW files it produces are fantastic.
A large part is the lens. This is a great lens – very well controlled LoCA and LaCA (i.e nonexistent) even at f/2, surprisingly and remarkably sharp even wide open at f/2, very nice bokeh (not as nice as the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 ZF.2 or 100mm f/2 Makro Planar, but very, very close), pleasing vignetting (for that filmic, atmospheric look), strong color and microcontrast and ‘Zeiss bite’…I could go on and on, but suffice to say I’ve been extremely pleased with this lens at f/2 and going up.
The sensor is also great, delivering great high ISO performance, enough so that I’m comfortable leaving Auto ISO on with a max at 6400 (I have 3200 as my max on my D800E, for reference).
Now, the main issue for a lot of people: the price. If you compare this camera to other fixed lens large-sensor compact cameras, like the Ricoh GR or the Fuji X100S or Sigma DP1/2/3, the price of the RX1 and RX1R is gasp-inducing, especially since its most direct competitor specs-wise – the Fuji X100S – also has a great 35mm f/2 lens, faster autofocus (apparently) and comes with a hybrid optical and electronic viewfinder. But the Fuji X100S is APS-C – as is the Ricoh GR – and, while I haven’t used the X100S, the shots I got with my old, now sold Fuji XE-1 were never as sharp, clear and window-real as what I get out of the RX1. The Sigma DP series may get close to the image quality of the RX1R or even surpass it in some ways, but only at low ISO and only with some color combinations.
Really, you need to look at the price of the RX1/R in comparison to a Nikon D600 with Zeiss 35mm f/2 ZF.2 or Canon 6D with Zeiss 35mm f/2 ZE, or maybe those camera with the Sigma 35mm f/1.4. The price then becomes more understandable – the RX1/R is a full frame 24 megapixel camera with an exceptional, custom-matched Zeiss 35mm f/2 optic attached to it. Or, if you prefer, a phenomenal Zeiss 35mm f/2 with a sensor attached to it. Then the price suddenly becomes more reasonable. Yes, the other cameras mentioned have optical viewfinders and are interchangeable lens, but they are also a whole lot bigger and bulkier. I guarantee you’d prefer the RX1/R on a long hike – or your back and shoulders would, at any rate.
And if you compare the Sony RX1/R to a Leica M240 with a Zeiss 35mm f/2 or, even worse, any Leica 35mm m-mount lens, then the Sony starts to look like a downright bargain.
I never feel like I really understand a camera or lens until I’ve used it for many months in a variety of circumstances. So I’ll revisit this review at a later date. But I am confident in saying now that if you are a serious enthusiast with the money to spend, or a professional looking for a second and high-quality compact backup, and you love the 35mm focal length…then the Sony RX1R is the best show in town to date.