Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 Review
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 BufferingThe 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')
|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
|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
|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
|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).
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.
|Douaumont Ossuary by Eric 54-BNF|
from Armistice Day
|Silhouette at sunset by Jill Hancock|
from Portrait Lens (around 80mm or equivalent - please check the full rules)
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