Note that this page covers the basics of the RX1R's design, but for a really detailed look at how the RX1R's operation and ergonomics, we'd recommend taking a look at our in-depth review of the physically-identical RX1, published earlier this year. Some of the images on this page show the RX1.
With its minimalist style, straight lines and rounded edges, the RX-1R follows the RX1 exactly, which itself followed the design philosophy of the Cyber-shot RX100 enthusiast compact camera (the new M2 version is also very similar in terms of layout). The camera's electronics are encased by a metal shell, and while there isn't really much of a hand grip to speak of, the grip and thumb rest areas are covered with a soft rubber material that feels comfortable in the hand.
Key control elements can be found in various places around the RX1R's body. There are dedicated flash release and playback buttons above the screen on the camera rear. To the right of the screen is a 4-way control dial with a central button used for confirming options. Above it you'll find the rear dial which lets you change shutter speed in M- and S-modes and program-shift in P mode.
The rubber inlays on the metal body provide good grip, but given its size and weight (not to mention lens-mounted aperture ring) we would recommend two-handed operation of the RX1R. Both the rear dial and the exposure compensation dial are in good reach of your thumb, which can also be placed on the rubberized rest. Sony also offers an optional metal thumb-rest which connects to the camera's hotshoe as an alternative.
The top plate houses the mode dial, shutter button and a dedicated exposure compensation dial on the far right edge. Aperture and minimum focus distance are controlled via rings on the lens while the focus mode can be set using the focus mode switch on the front.
Movie recording can be initiated from any shooting mode with the press of of the dedicated movie button, which has been placed at a 45 degree angle along the camera's right edge. If you find yourself catching it too readily, there's an option to only make it active when the mode dial is set to movie mode.
Overall, the camera has a very solid high quality look and feel to it. You have to decide for yourself if it feels like it's worth $2800, but if you hold the RX1R in your hands it is immediately obvious this is a premium product which is being targeted at a demanding clientele.
The RX1R's lens, which is designated as a Carl Zeiss Sonnar T*, features a leaf shutter for essentially silent operation (though you can engage a sound effect if you wish). This design means the camera can sync with flashes all the way up to its 1/2000th maximum shutter speed, as well as allowing the lens to reach closer to the front of the sensor.
The lens itself is a complex design including 8 elements in 7 groups, with 3 aspherical elements, including one 'advanced aspheric' element. It can focus down as close as 30cm from the imaging plane (24cm in front of the lens), in its native configuration. If you need to focus closer, a ring around the front of the lens can be rotated into a different position, shifting the focus group, allowing focus down to 20cm from the sensor plane.
Compared to Fujifilm X100S
The RX1R's most natural peer (forgetting the massive price difference for a moment) is Fujifilm's X100S, which offers an APS-C format 16MP X-TRANS sensor with phase-detection focus pixels, and a similar 35mm (equivalent) F2 lens as the RX1R.
Given that the RX1R is packing a full-frame sensor inside it, the camera is impressively compact. The X100S is slightly taller and wider, but on the plus side, it has a better-defined grip, and of course that wonderful built-in hybrid viewfinder.
From behind, its the X100S's viewfinder that represents the main difference between the two cameras. The rear control cluster on both models is pretty standard, but the RX1R does have a larger display (which partly makes up for the lack of a finder).
From the top, it is very obvious just how big the RX1R's lens is compared to the almost pancake design of the Fujifilm's 23mm F2. Both cameras have manual aperture rings, and external exposure compensation dials, but the X100S also offers a manual shutter speed dial. The RX1R features an exposure mode dial, in the same position.
The RX1R's 'Multi Interface Shoe' allows for ISO standard accessories, as well as Sony's two viewfinders and stereo microphone.
The built-in flash pops up at a press of the flash button on the back of the camera and offers GN (6).
On the front of the camera is the focus mode dial, which has AF, DMF and MF positions.
The AF position is S-AF in stills mode and C-AF in movies.
The DMF position is essentially S-AF with manual focus override once focus has been achieved.
Like on the NEX-6, the recessed movie record button is placed, somewhat awkwardly, along the camera's right edge at a 45 degree angle.
Should you ever find yourself operating it accidentally, it can be customized to only be active when in movie mode.
The camera's connectors consist of a USB and HDMI port and an external mic input. They are accessible behind a door on the camera left.
The battery and SD card go into a compartment on the base of the camera. The RX-1R uses the same 4.5Wh NP-BX1 Li-ion battery as the RX100 compact camera.
Sony claims it provides 270 shots per charge with the rear LCD set to standard brightness according to the CIPA standard. This is a little on the low side, compared with most mirrorless cameras, but not terrible.
The tripod mount is aligned with center of the lens axis but the mount is pretty close to the battery/memory which means, depending on the quick-release plate you use, you might not be able to open the door with the camera on a tripod.