Image Quality - first look at Raw versus JPEG

As we mentioned on the first page of this article, removing the AA filter from a sensor should deliver superior detail resolution, but potentially at the expense of increase moiré patterning in areas of very find detail.

Sony claims that in-camera processing has been tweaked to deal with moiré and from our limited early shooting we've found that although moiré is visible in both JPEG and RAW files (in areas where we'd expect to see it, like distant railings and very fine patterns) it is much less obvious in JPEGs. Bear in mind here that we've only had a few days with the RX1R so the analysis in this page (and in our studio comparison pages) should be regarded as provisional, pending a lot more work both in the studio and out in the real world.

Example 1 - natural foliage and distant artificial structures

Sure enough, in this scene, moderate moiré patterning is visible in the very fine detail of the railings in the middle distance, in both JPEG and RAW files - although it is less noticeable in the JPEGs, probably thanks to in-camera processing. If you turn your attention to the foliage, though, you'll really see what the RX1R's modified sensor can do. The fine organic detail of the plants and flowers in this scene is beautifully rendered (this is much more apparent in the RAW file, even at default ACR sharpening settings).

ISO 100, F8, 1/500sec, AWB
In Camera JPEG 100% crop
RAW - Adjusted in ACR 8.1 (white balance tweak, all other settings default) 100% crop

Example 2 - architectural details and fine lines

In this scene, it is again very obvious that there are bags of detail in the RX1R's RAW output, but despite the excellent resolution of the very fine details in the woodwork etc., moiré really isn't a problem anywhere in this image. If you look very closely at the rigging in the middle distance you can see mild rainbow 'stripes' in the converted RAW file, but it's hardly problematic (and barely visible in the JPEG). The second 100% crop here is taken from the foreground, and demonstrates the excellent detail-gathering abilities of the RX1R's 24MP CMOS sensor.

ISO 100, F8, 1/400sec, AWB
In Camera JPEG 100% crop
RAW - Adjusted in ACR 8.1 (white balance tweak, all other settings default) 100% crop

First Impressions

We've only had a very short time with the RX1R, but because the design and handling characteristics are identical to the RX1, it felt reassuringly familiar from the moment we turned it on. The RX1R is - like its nominal predecessor - a well-designed camera with an excellent lens, pleasant handling characteristics and few bad habits.

As you have hopefully seen from our early studio shooting, the lack of an AA filter does make a difference to resolution - probably not enough to provoke buyers' remorse in someone who's recently purchased an RX1, but enough that somebody with $2800 to spend might plump for the RX1R for the sake of slightly more detailed output.

We're in two minds about the fact that the RX1R is operationally identical to the older RX1. On the plus side, the RX1 is a perfectly pleasant, capable camera that we really enjoy using, which captures great results. We gave it a gold award when we reviewed it, and we don't just hand them out like candy.

But it isn't perfect. Its autofocus system isn't fantastic (and is prone to failure in moderately dark conditions), it still feels a bit 'Cyber-shot-y' in places, which it really shouldn't for a camera costing close to three thousand dollars, and the cost of the optional accessories is borderline extortionate ($180 for a lens hood?). These concerns remain unaddressed in the RX1R, which is a little disappointing. As always though, here on this imperfect Earth, everything is a compromise. And for many people, the RX1R's good points - both those which are inherited from the RX1 and those which result from the removal of the AA filter - will outweigh the minor frustrations.

It should go without saying that we're looking forward to running the RX1 through our usual gamut of studio and real-world tests as soon as we can.

Sony Cyber-shot RX1R Samples Gallery

There are 80 images in the Sony Cyber-shot RX1R preview samples gallery, including a selection of processed .ARW Raw files (processed using ACR 8.1, at default sharpening and noise-reduction settings). Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.

Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution. Because our review images are now hosted on the 'galleries' section of dpreview.com, you can enjoy all of the new galleries functionality when browsing these samples.

Sony RX1R Preview samples gallery

Sony Cyber-shot RX1R preview samples - Posted 24th July 2013 (updated August 19th)