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Conclusion - Pros

  • Excellent image quality in both JPEG and Raw
  • Full frame in a compact, well-built body
  • Dedicated aperture and exposure compensation controls
  • Exceptional build-quality - solid feeling without being too heavy
  • Superb high ISO output in both JPEG and Raw images
  • Essentially silent operation
  • Wide dynamic range Raw files
  • Pleasing metering and white balance results
  • Good level of customization to tune camera to your needs
  • Auto ISO and exposure comp. available in manual mode
  • 1080p60 video with mic input
  • Clever Auto modes and processing features if you want them
  • USB charging is convenient

Conclusion - Cons

  • Autofocus speed not fast enough for moving subjects
  • Autofocus struggles in low light
  • Significant vignetting (as with similar lenses), corrections 'baked into' Raw files
  • Multiple button presses required to move AF point
  • No built-in viewfinder (and accessory options rather expensive)
  • No focus guides for video shooters
  • Disappointing video quality even when in focus
  • Focus peaking in un-magnified live view would have been a major benefit
  • Rear shoulder dial makes it less engaging to shoot in shutter-priority mode
  • Can't shoot X.Fine JPEG and Raw
  • No option to re-process Raw in camera
  • Lack of included charger makes it harder to keep a spare battery charged
  • The standard Sony Alpha function screen seems simplistic and inappropriate for this camera
  • Laggy to engage magnified image review
  • Awkward separation of movie and stills in playback

Overall conclusion

We said the RX1 was a brave step for Sony - a truly top-end product from a brand still establishing its photographic reputation at that level. And it's a gamble that pays-off to a great degree. The RX1 is much more than a brand-enhancing flagship that few people will ever get to use - it's also truly effective as a camera.

The market it's aiming for is supremely niche - the market for fixed-lens, full frame cameras is not likely to be a big one - but we believe many of the would-be buyers who make it up will be well served by this camera. Which isn't to say it's perfect, nor to underplay how narrow its capabilities are. But, it's a camera designed to be the quintessential tool for a certain kind of photographer, and there are very few things that detract from that ambition.

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. Many of these photographers will be able to use the camera's manual focus, though there's no way of previewing the image and confirming focus at the same time. The autofocus performance in low light also gets in the way of capitalizing on the camera's excellent low-light performance.

In practice, the Sony RX1 is a pleasure to use - the aperture ring and exposure compensation dial give a sense of connection to the photographic experience that is missing in many modern cameras and is essential in a camera costing this much. The five customizable buttons give direct access to most of the other settings you might want to change, making it a pretty quick camera to use and adding to the sense of involvement. It's also as close to silent as any full-frame camera is likely to get - its lens-shutter giving off the slightest of swishes as it operates.

Image Quality

The image quality is exactly what you'd expect from the sister camera of the SLT-A99 - it's excellent, giving the low noise and subject/background separation that you'd expect from a full frame camera. Its relatively short focal length means you'll rarely get truly defocused backgrounds but, as you open the aperture, you can get a degree of subject/background separation.

The 35mm lens is certainly sharp and the effects of chromatic aberration and distortion are minor. They're also easily removed if you're shooting JPEG. The lens does exhibit significant amounts of vignetting and any corrections are baked into the Raw files if you choose to engage them, which we're disappointed to see. In a sense it's positive that Sony allows you to disengage the correction (it could easily have applied the corrections in the background), but by irrevocably changing the 'raw' data, it complicates the decision of whether you should apply the corrections.

Noise performance is good - both in JPEG and Raw shooting. The camera's context sensitive noise reduction seems fairly effective - it's only at the highest ISO settings that noise or excessive noise reduction start to become major problems. However, you can still often get better results by processing the Raw files and manually tuning the noise reduction to match the subject.

Handling

The RX1 does a pretty good job of balancing its role as a classic photographic tool and its reality as a complex electronic device. To this end, it offers direct, mechanically-solid feeling aperture and exposure compensation dials, along with the beautifully-damped ring at the front of the lens to engage close-focus. From these you get the sort of 'real camera' feedback you really should from a camera costing this much money. However, its mass-market underpinnings mean it also offers a fairly coherent and well-considered menu structure and user interface.

The level of customization offered by the RX1 is nicely judged - five customizable buttons mean that you can put your most frequently-used settings right at your fingertips. Two of these buttons (C and AEL) are well placed so that they can be reached without having to shift your grip on the camera. This means, even if you decide you want the AEL button to perform a focus acquisition in manual focus mode, you can still have AEL on another button.

The small unmarked dial at the top right of the camera is used for shutter speed control and doesn't give the same engaged sensation as using that lovely metal aperture control. We're also a bit disappointed that the RX1 gets the same Fn menu as the cheapest Sony SLTs - its point-and-shoot appearance and inclusion of features of processing gimmicks such as 'Soft Skin Effect' undermine the high-end shooting experience. We would have liked to see the Quick Navi interactive status panel as the main Fn menu.

The Final Word

The RX1 has no direct competition. The closest comes in the form of Fujifilm's X100S, which can't offer full frame image quality but is half the price and has a hybrid viewfinder, fast focus and digital split image focus system in its favor. However, if image quality is paramount for you, there's nothing that comes close in such a small package this side of a Leica and its small-car price tag. As a bonus, the RX1 is an engaging photographic tool.

We've seen several more famously photographically focused brands attempt to build dedicated high-end photographer's compacts but few have resulted in such a well-polished product. Its faltering autofocus in low light hampers the ability to exploit its full after-dark potential, and 'decisive moment' street shooters may find themselves wanting to shoot in manual focus. Ultimately, though, the RX1 is still a better, more capable and more satisfying camera than niche cameras usually are, which is what earns it our Gold award, despite the niggles.

At the start of this review we asked if the RX1 was a good enough camera to play in the same league as Leica. The answer is yes. The lens is excellent, as is the sensor (something that's not been true of digital Leicas so far), meaning it'll more than hold its own against the M-series cameras in image quality terms, even if it's not quite as engaging as a true rangefinder. Or, put another way, it's arguably the camera the Leica X-series aspires to be.

There are plenty of photographers who are likely to appreciate a camera with a fixed prime lens, precisely because it offers something that interchangeable lens cameras don't - in terms of size and dedication of purpose. So, if what you want or need is a fixed 35mm full frame camera, then the RX1 not only offers you that - it also offers a camera you can really love. And its combination of image quality and size make it one that will allow you to get photos you wouldn't get with any other camera.

Sony SLT-A77
Category: Mid Range Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Movie / video mode
Value
PoorExcellent
Good for
Everyday stills and video work in a wide range of situations, and casual sports and action photography.
Not so good for
High ISO available light photography, and 'serious' sports and action work.
Overall score
81%
The A77 is a well-designed camera which spans the mid-range and semi-professional categories. Its headline features, high pixel count and blazingly fast continuous shooting, will attract a lot of interest, but of greater utility in day-to-day use are its effective ergonomics, reliable systems, and excellent full-time live view system and full-time AF.

Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1
Category: Enthusiast Large Sensor Compact Camera
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Optics
Performance
Movie / video mode
Value
PoorExcellent
Good for
The best image quality of any carry-able camera.
Not so good for
Fast action or anyone looking for flexibility. Video shooters.
Overall score
79%
The RX1 is a small camera capable of astonishing image quality. Its handling marries classic camera ergonomics with a couple of cyber-shot quirks but it's still a lovely camera to shoot with. If a fixed 35mm lens will fulfill any of your shooting requirements, there's nothing to touch the RX1.

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Enter the 'Sony Cyber-shot Talk' Discussion Forum

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Comments

Total comments: 31
BesonGER

There is a petition for an long overdue firmware update to the RX1 and RX1R:
https://www.change.org/p/sony-firmware-update-for-dsc-rx1-and-rx1r

1 upvote
Dylthedog

Anyone used this and the new Leica X type 113? I'd be interested to hear what you thought. I was looking at the Leica and found this but clearly the Leica delivers only APSC/16MP but it does cost less (there's something you don't hear often!!).

I've always fancied a Leica but will go with better performance if justified, which on spec the Sony seems to do...

0 upvotes
Max Bancroft

The RX1 does not is in my opinion noticeably suffer from moire. In over 7000 exposures I have come across significant moire once - a product of the scene rather than the camera.
This camera has exceptional dynamic range. Blown highlights are not an issue.

0 upvotes
jim seekers

I am about to buy a Sony RX1 as it is £500 cheaper than the Sony RX1R.
but can anyone tell me the following about the Sony RX1 Please.
1. Does The Sony RX1 Suffer from Moire.
2. Does it Suffer From Overblown Highlights as the Sony RX100 Does.
and Remember this is info I need for the RX1 and not the RX1R

0 upvotes
moji

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

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

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
4 upvotes
jrlosangeles

"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 ...

4 upvotes
RodluvanII

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.

2 upvotes
mtsporty

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.

2 upvotes
1486CF0C80AA47A4AB757729847DF085

Thanks. I always wondered who started the decisive moment street scene – Henri Cartier Bresson

0 upvotes
Paul Richman

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

Is "it" the Sony or the Leica?

1 upvote
avronaut

@ mcshan:

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

0 upvotes
Rooru S

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

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

0 upvotes
Marksphoto

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

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
4 upvotes
harold1968

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.

3 upvotes
Raonisk

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.

2 upvotes
mtsporty

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

$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

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?

3 upvotes
mcshan

You can also lug around a big camera.

0 upvotes
mtsporty

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

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

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

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

0 upvotes
Rowland Scherman

The Ermanox changed the history of photography.

0 upvotes
Greg Gebhardt

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

1 upvote
harold1968

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

0 upvotes
Total comments: 31