Sony RX1 - the final destination ?

Started Mar 3, 2013 | Discussions thread
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harold1968
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Sony RX1 - the final destination ?
Mar 3, 2013

Travel and street shooters like me (strictly amateur I must add) are continuously striving for highly quality, more silent shooting and lower size and weight! Is the RX1 the final destination or is there further to go, and if so, how much further ?

Just to provide a background, I started my photography hobby shooting with mid-range minolta film cameras. It was more for fun in those days, enjoying the mechanics of film development and tweaking the photographs. When digital came out I remained uninspired for sometime and sank into depression when Minolta withdrew from the photographic market. I tried a number of digital cameras but found them slow and imprecise. The main fun I had was from the original consumer digital camera, the Sony Maviga, anyone remember that ? It recorded VGA pictures on a 3.5" floppy disk. Never had so much fun with a camera before:

Its VGA mum! - Sony Maviga in action

The first real "epiphany" with digital was the Canon 5D. Sharp, colourful and beautiful pictures. I think this camera still trouces much of the cameras still developed today. Here is the 5D at ISO 1600 - not bad for 2005:

Canon 5D at ISO 1600 - seven years ago technology - an eon!

The 5DII improved on the 5D but was somewhat boring. It wasn't until my love affair with the Leica M8 and M9 that I crossed the next level of quality and control. By having less functionality the Leica forces the photographer to take the picture, not the camera. Its kill or cure, but it taught me more about light then I had learnt previously. But there are sometimes when a silent shutter is needed. There are sometimes when even the M9 + lens is too heavy and there are sometimes when AF is quicker (now I'm a Leica marked man....)

After marvelling at the Fuji X series and Olympus OM-D, nothing quite satisfied me. I need full frame and the German len's mystic draw (I would like to say that the Panasonic Leica f1.4 is an awesome lens and the Fuji 35mm f1.4 is also something quite special).

I used to be a 50mm man but and now a 35mm man (90% of my shooting). Is the RX1 a dream come true ? could it replace the M9 ?

RX1 build and handling

Just a word on the packaging. Its good quality for a CSC, but oh dear not really luxury territory. I can't say that Nikon or Canon's packaging is better but someone at Sony should buy a Fuji or Leica lens and just learn everything from their packaging!

The RX1 is at first small and unassuming, however it has some reassuring heft for its size and fits well in my medium hand. The next thing that struck me is the quality of the buttons and switch gear. This is all very uncanon/nikon like. In fact its better IMHO then on the M9 and MM. The buttons are all very well positioned and there is just enough for my needs: Aperture (that wonderful dial - it really is as good as anything I have turned), ISO, Metering, drive and focus magnify. There is some about a device which is functional, there is also a jewellery factor which makes you smile everytime you pick it up or use it. The RX1 has both. Quite a feat for Sony and also shows that they are capable of providing this, given the price.

Technical capability

Everything you need to know is in the DXOMARK review and lens and sensor chart: http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Publications/DxOMark-Reviews/Sony-Cyber-shot-RX1-Carl-Zeiss-Sonnar-T-2-35-Is-this-the-ultimate-moderate-wide-angle-lens

but check out the rear element on this baby. Sony have really engineered this properly to work with a sensor at such close quarters:

Yummy!

The RX1 picture quality

This is a not a P&S camera! Please heed this warning. Its as difficult to get good pictures with this as with a Leica or Zeiss Ikon. You need to work at it. There is no image stabilisation. There is no colour or saturation boost - everything is very neutral. This is completely, and I stress completely different from every recent camera I have used except for Leica. I think that even Nikon pumps saturation in the D800E sensor (the finest commerical sensor on the planet IMHO) and of course Canon has always warmed things up, but the Sony RX1 is DIY folks!

Get Lightroom (or one of the other raw convertors) and be prepared to find a good workflow. Everyone has their one favourite colours I can get mine, now I know what the RX1 photos require:

Low light gig. Its backlit as well - the horror!

Is f2 enough ? Or course not, f1.4 is good, f0.95 is better. But realistically f2 is enough for anything except the most extreme art. And the RX1's AF nails f2 for me almost every time, even with kids:

Jump, bow, jump, bow, etc.

The DR is awesome. For me, its not what the photograph looks like when it just comes out (although this helps), its what it can take. The RX1 photograph can take a hell of a beating (e.g. shadow recovery) even at ISO 3200 even with the brightest backlighting:

Shooting with the RX1

There is some talk about the AF system which I will not add to here. Its pretty fast in good light (better then the Fuji X100 but not as good as the OM-D or the Nex-5N) but can occasionally hunt in low light combined with low contrast. This is not a camera for sports tracking but no CDAF is, even the OM-D can't track properly.

Also this is a full frame sensor (sorry for those that are familiar!). That means even with a moderately wide 35mm much less is in focus then smaller sensors, even APS-C. So obtaining pin sharp across the entire picture is very difficult. You are better off with a M4/3s system if you don't want as much hassle from DOF. It can be done, but be prepared for good light, or to whack up the ISO. Don't even think about below f8:

A really dull day but I wanted the picture, so what can you do .....

For street photography it meets my requirements for:

1. Whip it out and shoot:

2. Moving target:

3. Erratic target:

In summary, the Sony RX1 is a very rewarding camera if you are prepared to put in the time to get to know it's quirks, and to understand, in a Leicaesque manner, the intimacy of light.

Its a very honest light recorder. In pin sharp detail but be prepared to receive dull photographs if you have dull light and contrast (of course you can place in PS as much as you have the time).

What would I like for the RX2 ? Replace that flash with an EVF - probably impossible due to space but I can only dream Speed up the CDAF in low light (please don't pixel assist Sony, I'm an IQ fanatic - every pixel for the picture please!)

Sorry, almost forgot, the obligatory brick wall picture - well almost:

Best rgds

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harold.co.il

 harold1968's gear list:harold1968's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS30 Sony RX1R Olympus E-M1 Sony Alpha 7 Sony FE 35mm F2.8 +1 more
Canon EOS 5D Canon EOS 5D Mark II Fujifilm FinePix X100 Nikon D800E Sony Alpha NEX-5N Sony RX1
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