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Performance

Overall Performance

The RX1 is, in general, a pleasantly fast and responsive camera. We suspect that few RX1 users will find much need for its continuous shooting modes, but 2fps continuous shooting with live view (and live metering, but no continuous AF) is perfectly acceptable in a camera of this type, and shot to shot times in single capture mode are limited only by the time it takes to re-acquire focus. On this topic, in normal (daylight and average indoor) lighting the RX1 can acquire focus within a second, almost all of the time. Impressively, focus acquisition speed does not drop when the lens is switched to its close-focussing 0.2-0.3m range, either. Our experience is generally that the RX1 finds its mark quickly and as we'd expect from a contrast-detection AF system, and if you place the AF point correctly, focus is very accurate.

Where focus accuracy falls down, unfortunately, is in poor light. In the low lighting of a dim bar, or outdoors at night under street lamps, we've found that the RX1 can be very reluctant to find focus, and really does need to be pointed towards a light-source before it can 'lock'. It normally can, eventually, but even then it usually takes a couple of seconds of hunting before you'll see the green circle appear in the lower left corner of the LCD screen.

The RX1's built-in (and screamingly bright orange) AF illuminator helps when shooting at relatively close quarters if your subject is fairly centrally positioned. However, the focus behavior changes with the illuminator active - perhaps because its designers expected the camera to have an easier time focusing - and the camera seemingly gives up on finding focus more readily than with it switched off.

Focus peaking in magnified live view can help in these situations but noise levels can often overwhelm contrast, so the camera won't find anything to highlight.

Continuous Shooting and Buffering

The RX1 has two continuous shooting modes - 'continuous' and 'speed priority continuous'. In plain old 'continuous' mode the RX1 can shoot at a maximum framerate of 2.5fps, which decreases to ~2fps if you turn shutter AE lock off in the camera's menu system (meaning the camera will adjust metering between exposures).

You'll get around 5fps from the RX1 in 'speed priority continuous' mode but no live view feed during shooting. This makes speed priority a better choice for capturing subjects that don't require you to pan the camera. Although you'll only get a fraction of a seconds' worth of live view in 'continuous' shooting mode, between exposures, it's enough to pan with a moving subject with a decent degree of accuracy.

JPEG - continuous drive mode (AEL w/shutter 'off')

Timing
JPEG Large/XFine
JPEG Large/Fine
Frame rate 2 fps 2 fps
Number of frames 30 unlimited
Buffer full rate ~1.2 fps N/A
Write complete 11.5 sec 11.5 sec

As you can see, the main benefit of shooting continuously in the RX1's higher-compression JPEG 'Fine' mode as opposed to 'Extra Fine' is a greatly expanded buffer - with our Sandisk Extreme UHS-I SD card, it's effectively unlimited, in fact, and you can shoot at 2fps until your card is full (or your finger gets tired). Switching to Extra Fine JPEG limits the buffer to around 30 images at 2fps. Most of the time though, we suspect that RX1 users will be perfectly happy with a 30-frame buffer, so we see little reason to switch from highest-quality JPEG mode.

JPEG - speed priority continuous mode

Timing
JPEG Large/XFine
JPEG Large/Fine
Frame rate 5 fps 5fps
Number of frames 16 35
Buffer full rate ~1.2 fps ~3 fps
Write complete 11.5 sec 11.5 sec

In speed priority mode the RX1 can achieve its maximum framerate of 5fps, regardless of whether the shutter button is assigned to exposure lock or not. In maximum quality JPEG mode you'll get about 16 pictures before the camera slows to 1.2 fps but if you drop the quality down a notch to JPEG 'fine' you'll get 35 images at 5 fps slowing to around 3 fps until your memory card is full.

RAW - continuous drive mode

Timing
RAW
RAW+JPEG (Fine)
Frame rate 3 fps 3 fps
Number of frames 18 14
Buffer full rate ~0.6 fps ~0.6 fps
Write complete 11.5 sec 11.5 sec

Switch to RAW mode and the RX1 can manage around 3 fps in continuous drive mode - fractionally faster than the maximum rate when shooting JPEGs. The setting of exposure lock from the shutter button makes no difference when shooting RAW files and as you can see from the table above, if you select RAW+JPEG (the RX1 can only capture 'Fine' JPEGs in this mode) you'll get a lower burst depth, of only 14 frames at 3 fps. In both RAW modes, the framerate slows to around 0.6 fps after this point, and you can shoot at this rate until you fill your card.

RAW - speed priority continuous mode

Timing
RAW
RAW+JPEG (Fine)
Frame rate 5 fps 5 fps
Number of frames 14 10
Buffer full rate ~ 0.6 fps ~ 0.5 fps
Write complete 11.5 sec 11.5 sec

Speed priority continuous shooting is possible when capturing RAW files and you'll get the same maximum framerate of 5 fps as you do when shooting JPEGs but as we'd expect, burst depth is much lower, at 14 frames when shooting RAW only and around 10 in RAW + JPEG (Fine) mode. Once these bursts are done, framerate drops to around 0.5-0.6 fps (our results varied fractionally in repeated testing).

Battery life

We had low expectations for the RX1's battery life, given that the super-slim NP-BX1 offers a mere 4.5Wh capacity, but actually, the RX1 has more stamina than we thought it would. In normal use, we easily got a days' worth of shooting out of the camera (the CIPA rating of 270 shots seems unusually representative in this case), but obviously once you throw in some intensive image reviewing and/or movie shooting, things go south. Also, as we'd expect from lithium-ion batteries, the RX1 will run out of juice much quicker when temperatures drop, so even if you're looking at a full battery indicator on the RX1's LCD screen we'd recommend packing at least one spare (charged) battery before heading out into the snow.

Sadly, because the RX1 charges over USB, the only way you can charge up a spare battery (without going out and buying a dedicated charger) is to insert it into the camera and then plug the camera in. This can be frustrating, but on the plus side it makes 'top-up' charging easier, especially if you're driving, since USB car chargers can be picked up pretty cheaply.

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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1

Comments

Total comments: 25
moji
By moji (5 months ago)

With my budget I can only buy the EVF for this camera! Shall I invest in this system by buying the EVF and stop smoking and save money to get the camera later on? God, some people have money!

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
LegacyGT
By LegacyGT (5 months ago)

It is certainly pricey... but then I remember a story passed on by a friend who worked in Africa.

He helps a local village build its first deep well to provided reliably clean drinking water. Stream water is bad because if it is contaminated by animals or human excrement it can cause illnesses that are deadly in those parts of the world. Afterwards a village asked what was on the cover my friend's book (postcard? I can't remember exactly) and he said it was a public fountain, something similar to the well they had just built in a village. The village asked what it as for... and my friend said "well basically it is pretty to look at" and the villager was just against that someone would use water... which is one of precious things in the world to that village (either for irrigation of crops or for drinking) merely for decoration.

Moral of the story... much of the world is aghast at how much money we Americans have. Yet we are always aghast when someone else might have even more money.

3 upvotes
jburrows500
By jburrows500 (3 months ago)

Have patience grass hopper... In 3-5 years you will see full frame compacts going for $1200.. Today you can go to Walmart and buy a 55" flat screen for less than $500. Five years ago that same TV was $2200.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 1 minute after posting
2 upvotes
jrlosangeles
By jrlosangeles (6 months ago)

"The main drawbacks stem from the camera's autofocus performance. While not at all bad, it's not fast enough for 'decisive moment' street shooting."

Kind of a strange comment, given that the man who coined that phrase and mastered that style (Henri Cartier-Bresson) shot with a manual focus camera ...

2 upvotes
RodluvanII
By RodluvanII (6 months ago)

Word, difference is though, he had a great viewfinder, zone focused and didn't care about this new fandangled thing called bokeh. If this had a great MF lens and viewfinder to match, I'd be all over it.

1 upvote
mtsporty
By mtsporty (4 months ago)

Rod you are dead on but unfortunately many shooters don't understand depth of focus. Leica lenses have almost always had markings for virtually Every aperture. When I first moved to auto-focus I complained to the owner of the professional shop about the lack of markings and he laughed and told me very few even knew what they were for. At least my Nikkor lenses had 4 or 5 . Point being, unquestionably HCB was not walking the streets stressing about focus. But today we are stuck with the autofocus speed of a particular piece, fast or slow. I think this camera has strong appeal, I'm wrestling over the cost for a fixed 35mm lens. Zeiss lenses combined with Sony software offer a camera that can compete very strongly with other major brands.

1 upvote
Paul Richman
By Paul Richman (7 months ago)

The Leica comparison in the Introduction is dated. Leica now offers the X Vario at basically the same price point, but with a zoom. I prefer it, from the little testing and comparing I've done.

0 upvotes
mcshan
By mcshan (6 months ago)

Is "it" the Sony or the Leica?

1 upvote
avronaut
By avronaut (6 months ago)

@ mcshan:

It is a Leica with APS-C sensor and slow lens (F 3.5 - 6.4).

0 upvotes
Rooru S
By Rooru S (6 months ago)

mmmmm Leica with APS-C, slow lens, yes a zoom, but proturdes more than the Sony-Zeiss 35mm F2 Fullframe lens. And let remember again...Fullframe.

0 upvotes
mtsporty
By mtsporty (4 months ago)

f 3.5 to 6.4 ? SLOW isn't even the word :(

0 upvotes
Marksphoto
By Marksphoto (7 months ago)

why would a working pro consider this camera when they can get a nikon D3100 + a 35mm 1.8 lens for about $500, which will practically do the same thing for a fraction of the cost and still have the option of taking the lens off. And no, Sony is not a better brand than Nikon as far as cameras go and hopefully never will be in my lifetime because most photographers own Canon or Nikon lenses which makes Sony practically on the island of their own. I can't even put my canon flash on this thing so why would I even consider this as my 2nd camera?

It's not like the rx1 will fit into my pocket, I still have to hang it around my neck which makes this camera irrelevant in my opinion as far as compacts go...

This camera is aimed at a rich audience but then again if you have an RX1 and not a Leica M9 than you are not very rich, are you?

Who is the target market here?

I am off to look at Canon S120, that's my next camera I will be buying for my wife to take great family photos and videos.

Comment edited 3 times, last edit 8 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Mike99999
By Mike99999 (6 months ago)

A D3100 with 35mm f/1.8 does NOT do the same thing. The Nikon is a 50mm f/2.8 equivalent. To get the equivalent from Nikon you would have to buy a D3100 plus the $2000 Nikon 24mm f/1.4. THAT would be the equivalent of 35mm f/2 on full frame.

That Nikon setup might be marginally cheaper, but is ridiculous in size and balance.

And Zeiss makes much better glass than Nikon. The 35mm f/1.8 from Nikon is a joke of a lens.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
3 upvotes
harold1968
By harold1968 (6 months ago)

There is no comparison
Firstly the IQ of this thing is the best there is in the 35mm FF space. That includes dynamic range, ISO performance, colour, etc.
Secondly it is quite small.
Thirdly the shutter is silent, as compared to the DSLR you mention
This really is the best there is. If you don't want, don't need, or can't afford, he best, well that is something else.

2 upvotes
Raonisk
By Raonisk (6 months ago)

Maybe we are not talking about the same camera.. RX1 is a full frame camera....more light enters its sensor, the overall picture quality is far superior in many ways. Nikon D3100 is not even close or comparable to this RX1. Take a look at the image comparisons, it beats out many high end cameras. I'm not going into that thing about which brand is the best, but specifically in this case, Sony has beaten the heck out of any other camera with similar size and class.

1 upvote
mtsporty
By mtsporty (4 months ago)

Thanks Guys :) When I read the post I got a little annoyed until I scrolled down. I know we're supposed to be "polite" here & I respect that, but there's a lot of misinformation floating around too, and some of it comes from lack of depth in understanding. For laughs, ref my post above re "depth of focus". Beyond all the hype, one issue at point here is still the theoretical differences between SLR & rangefinder. Leica of course started the rangefinder market (for all practical purposes @ least) and even Nikon was first a rangefinder. Even as a stringer for Nat Geo, David Allen Harvey used Leicas for years. It's a niche, for sure, but what a sweet corner to duck into occasionally. Unquestionably there will be working pro's who will want this camera. As a non-pro I'm wrestling between emotion and intellect. But you folks are dead on.

0 upvotes
Gabriel Yeo
By Gabriel Yeo (7 months ago)

$4000 for this fixed-lens....This has to be the biggest joke of the year.
At that price, I can buy a real full-frame slr.

1 upvote
shawnfb
By shawnfb (7 months ago)

when you own one you can comment, I have a 5d3, Fuji xpro1, and this Rx1R.. guess which one is most portable, shoots the best Raw images, and is the most fun to use?

2 upvotes
mcshan
By mcshan (6 months ago)

You can also lug around a big camera.

0 upvotes
mtsporty
By mtsporty (4 months ago)

Well, I don't know what the price was when this thread started but it's about $2800 USD today. And of course you can buy a full frame DSLR for $4000, probably just a bit less, but you're talking apples and oranges. The RX1 is essentially a rangefinder style camera, hence the comparisons to the M8 and M9's. Leica now makes an X series, which would actually be a much more accurate comparison to this, & close in price. Granted in today's modern photography the comparison is not 100% accurate, but it's close enough to make a point. This camera is going to have a very strong appeal to shooters-pro or non-who might own or consider a Leica M or X. I think you have to start with an understanding of those products & their history.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
UnitedNations
By UnitedNations (8 months ago)

The JPEG quality rating is below that of even the Fuji x100, & significantly worse than the Fuji x-E1.
So I am not sure How dpreview can say that the the JPEG is one of RX1's pros?

0 upvotes
Paul Farace
By Paul Farace (8 months ago)

This is the Erminox of the 21st century! Someday tyros will handle one in a camera show and wonder how a few folks could spend that kind of money for a bauble.

0 upvotes
Under The Sun
By Under The Sun (1 month ago)

I think you are missing the white elephant in the room: Leica

0 upvotes
Greg Gebhardt
By Greg Gebhardt (8 months ago)

The best of the best for less than the cost of a medium cost Lecia lens!

1 upvote
harold1968
By harold1968 (6 months ago)

Indeed, the same price as a summicron 35mm lens only. Actually I think it is cheaper now

0 upvotes
Total comments: 25