Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 Review
Video quality options
The RX1 offers video specifications that are immediately familiar from recent Sony models, with the frame rate topping-out at 60p (50p in European models). A range of frame rates and bitrates are available depending on what you're planning to use the footage for.
|Sizes|| Frame size/frame rate/bit rate
1920 × 1080; 60p/50p; 28Mbps
1920 × 1080; 60i/50i; 24Mbps
1920 × 1080; 60i/50i; 17Mbps
1920 × 1080; 24p/25p; 24Mbps
1920 × 1080; 24p/25p; 17Mbps
1440 x 1080; 30p; 12Mbps*
640 x 480; 30p; 3Mbps*
|Audio||Stereo internal mics, Dolby Digital|
|Format||AVCHD, MOV* (1440 x 1080 and VGA resolution only)|
|Recordable time||29 min. 59 sec.|
Movie mode handling
Movie shooting has a dedicated position on the camera's mode dial or can be initiated using the record button on the rear corner of the camera. Engaging movie recording from a stills mode gives movies in program exposure mode. We found the button a little too easy to knock accidentally, so tended to disable it in the menu.
When the dial is set to movie mode, you can take more control over movie exposure - gaining the options of full aperture or shutter priority and manual control. Thankfully, unlike the SLT cameras (which need to retain a fairly wide-open aperture to be able to use their phase detection AF sensors) the RX1 doesn't have to put restrictions on the working aperture, so can offer autofocus in all movie exposure modes.
Movie shooting is the only time the camera will attempt continuous focus (AF-C). Its performance is certainly on the conservative side - it refocuses slowly and occasionally feels the need to shift the focus back and forth to re-confirm that it has successfully focused (a common problem with contrast-detection focus systems).
It's possible to use autofocus tracking in video mode, where the camera will try to maintain focus on an object moving within the frame. This isn't tremendously successful - the focus moves at too pedestrian a pace to keep up with even gentle movements of a subject or camera - leaving a pause while the camera's focus catches up with the previous change. However, at least the progression between focus points is subtle, so the footage remains watchable. The only other control you can have over focus in movie mode is to switch to manual focus or set a button as AF/MF Control Hold, so that you can halt its attempts to refocus if you wish.
As for manual focusing, the RX1 is something of a let-down. Magnified live view isn't available when shooting movies, with the consequence that focus peaking isn't either (despite the lower resolution of video making precise focus slightly less critical). The focus distance indicator is also unavailable in movie mode. Instead you have to focus 'by eye' in manual focus mode, essentially ruling-out the likelihood of getting results that live up to the potential of the specifications.
Movie mode offers essentially the same viewing modes as stills shooting, though histogram and QuickNavi display modes are not available (they appear the same as 'No Disp. Info.' and 'Display All Info.' options, respectively if selected).
The field-of-view you get depends on whether you have Movie Steady Shot (the camera's only stabilization option) turned on or off. With stabilization off, movies are taken from the same full-width 16:9 crop that you can use in stills mode. Turn Steady Shot on and the camera uses a tighter crop, presumably to allow information from the cropped-out regions to be used if the camera is shaken.
|The movie mode screens are essentially the same as the ones from stills mode.
QuickNavi and Histogram mode aren't available, so are replaced by this screen and the one shown below, if you have them selected as display modes.
|The camera uses two different crops for video, depending on whether you have Movie Steady Shot engaged. The preview screen represents the correct crop for the mode you've chosen.
The focus limitations of the RX1 (either the rather sedate autofocus or unassisted manual focus) mean it's hard to ensure the video from the camera consistently lives up to what the camera is theoretically capable of. It seems odd to have a camera capable of 1080p60 and to give it an external microphone socket if it's then impossible to guarantee sustained focus on moving subjects - something that is likely to rule-out its use as a portable documentary camera.
Turning the (digital) SteadyShot stabilization on not only changes the camera's field of view, it also adds a slight shimmer to any significant horizontal movement either of the camera or the subject. This is a common interaction between digital stabilization and the rolling shutter effect. It's far from the worst we've seen but it's worth planning your shots to avoid it if you can.
The video quality itself is ok for casual use but the footage is achieved by line skipping so is too prone to moiré and artefacts to be much use to video professionals. Resolution is a tolerable 700 lph, but the likelihood of you getting it into perfect focus and maintaining that is so small that you can't rely on getting this. Reportage photographers hoping to shoot pro-grade footage alongside their stills are likely to be disappointed, but the option to grab clips is there if you want it.
Dpreview is partnering with Vimeo to bring you high-quality embedded video in our test pages, but as always, the original files are available for download from the links beneath the thumbnails. We've turned HD playback on by default for our embedded videos, but depending on the speed of your internet connection, you may get better performance by turning it off.
|1920x1080 60p, MTS, 16 sec, 45.0 MB Click here to download original file|
This video was shot in 1080p60 mode (28mbps compression). With autofocus tracking. The small aperture (F8) the camera has chosen means that most things are in focus. The slight refocusing around 5 seconds into the video is barely noticeable. Sharpness and detail aren't particularly impressive, though.
|1920x1080 60p, MTS, 10 sec, 26.3 MB Click here to download original file|
This video was shot hand-held without stabilization. Despite this, the footage is of similar quality to that of the tripod-mounted sample above. Note the moiré on the truck's radiator grill as it turns the corner. Despite capturing progressive frames (whole-image frames), the lettering on the truck's cab are never clearly visible.
|1920x1080 60i, MTS, 17 sec, 41.1 MB Click here to download original file|
This video was shot at 1080i60 at the camera's 17mbps compression quality. Image stabilization judder and moiré are both clearly visible.
|1440x1080 30p, MP4, 19 sec, 26.9 MB Click here to download original file|
MP4 video, shot at 1440 x 1080p30. Again stabilization judder and moiré are both apparent and resolution is never striking.
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