Review: Sony FDA-EVM1K EVF (Electronic Viewfinder) for Sony RX1/RX1R

February 14, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Seattle LightingSeattle LightingThe sun going down behind the Columbia Tower in Seattle

It took a few months for me to receive my FDA-EVM1K after I ordered it from Adorama – apparently it was on back order for some time, whether due to unexpected demand or insufficient production (or both). I eventually did receive it, and I’ve been using it on my RX1R ever since.

So. How is it?

It’s good. It’s a worthwhile addition to the RX1/RX1R, if you are committed to that camera. But it’s also ridiculously expensive.

Pros:

  • High quality electronic viewfinder that integrates seamlessly with the RX1/RX1R
  • WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) when looking through the finder (for the most part)
  • Great color, detail, and sharpness, though it is still not quite up to a full-frame Optical Viewfinder
  • Feels pretty robust and has survived without issue on my RX1R in my shoulder bag without me having to constantly take if off and put it in its protective case
  • Allows for better bracing (mass-coupling to your body, rather than holding the camera out like a point and shoot) for noticeably better low-shutter speed sharpness
  • Tilts, allowing for a little more creativity and shooting flexibility\

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Adds a hump to your RX1/RX1R body, making it slightly less portable (and certainly less pocketable)
  • Can make the camera look more professional (not necessarily a good thing for street shooters trying to be invisible and blend in) and expensive/scary
  • Takes up the hotshoe so you can’t use an extra flash or other accessory with the EVF on the camera
  • Doesn’t lock on the hotshoe as you might expect (the way a Nikon flash locks onto the D800E hotshoe, for example) – it can theoretically slide right off, though in practice it has remained firmly attached for me

Baton Twirlers With FireBaton Twirlers With FirePainting with light, long exposure shot of a baton twirler with fire on either side of the batons - on a chilly night in Redmond, WA

Review

This is going to be fairly short and straightforward, because there isn’t a ton to say. I’m going to avoid the “EVF vs OVF” debate in this article and just focus on this specific Sony-brand accessory.

Basically: if you own an RX1 or RX1R and intend to keep that camera for a long time, get the FDA-EVM1K. It is expensive but worth it for the user who sees themselves keeping the camera and the viewfinder for years. If you are on the fence about keeping your RX1/RX1R – maybe the Sony A7/R caught your eye – then you might want to try to rent or borrow this viewfinder first before buying, especially if you think the viewfinder is going to be the decisive factor regarding whether you’ll keep the camera or not.

At $448, this is not cheap. At all. I used built-up rewards to pay for most of mine through Adorama (from purchasing other camera gear in the past), but even so, it can be hard to justify when you think that for just $200 more you can buy a new Sony A6000 (sans lens) or a new Ricoh GR (ready to go with its fixed 28mm f/2.8 lens and APC-S sensor). And, of course, there’s that persistent feeling in the back of your mind that Sony is successfully screwing you over, having introduced the A7 and A7R with integrated (and apparently very high quality) EVFs for significantly less than the RX1/R + EVF combination (even including the price of the 35mm f/2.8 lens for the A7/A7R in that equation).

Hot Air Balloon Demo at NightHot Air Balloon Demo at NightDuring Redmond Lights 2013 in Redmond, WA

Setting aside the price, for now, and judging the EVF on its own merits as an accessory, it succeeds in doing exactly what it should do. It integrates flawlessly with my RX1R. By default the camera was set to switch between the rear LCD and the viewfinder depending on the proximity sensor on the EVF, but I was able to quickly set it up so the EVF remained active without turning on the LCD unless I physically pushed the little button on the side of the EVF. This seems to save battery life (the EVF actually turns off when the proximity sensor doesn’t sense your eye looking through it), and for me made more sense given my shooting style.

It’s sharp, contrasty, and has good color, and usually shows you exactly what you are going to get when you press down on the shutter. The only real exception to this is when you are in extremely low-light situations; the EVF bumps up the sensitivity (and noise) considerably in order to show the scene to you, and the result after pressing the shutter down can be quite different (depending on aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc).

There is one quirk: on starting the camera with the EVF attached, it always first turns on the rear LCD and then registers that the EVF is attached and switches over. It’s half a second or less, but still a brief delay between startup and shooting, and extra time on top of the normal camera start-up when the EVF isn’t attached.

I was pretty worried about the build quality/strength of the EVF and its connection to the RX1R, especially with regard to taking it out of the bag repeatedly. I was thinking I would have to leave the EVF in the little protective case it comes with for the majority of time and only take it out on vacations or longer shoots. However, I’ve been happy with its robust build and after a few months of use it shows no ill effects from remaining on the camera 100% of the time.

Bottom line: if you love your RX1/RX1R and are going to keep it for a long time, get this EVF. It allows for a more stable shooting platform (mass coupling with your forehead/body) and general improves the shooting experience, especially if you are used to a DSLR and their optical viewfinders over the point-and-shoot style of photography.


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