Despite looking like bigger brother to the excellent RX100 and having a very similar feature set, the RX1 has a rather different control system. The direct control of aperture (the effect of which is more meaningful on a larger sensor camera) and exposure compensation means there's less to be done through the on-screen interface - making the shooting experience more engaging.

The RX1 offers a good amount of external controls, and with 5 customizable buttons which can each be assigned to any one out of 26 functions, you can tailor the user interface to your specific needs. The primary customizable controls are the 'C' button on the top of the camera, along with the AEL button on the rear of the camera, since these can easily be reached during shooting. Meanwhile it's also possible to assign functions to the left, right and downward position on the four-way controller.

The major control elements of the camera can be found in three areas - on the right side of the top plate, on the lens barrel and to the right of the LCD screen on the back of the camera.

Lens Controls

The RX1's 35mm lens offers three control rings. The aperture ring offers click stops, but there is no direct mechanical connection to the aperture blades - the camera can happily set its aperture independently of the ring's position when used in P or S modes. Nevertheless the dial's operation feels very nice, with very well defined clicks, pretty much the same as on a mechanical lens.

The second ring lets you adjust the minimum focus distance, which basically makes it a macro-mode switch. The third ring, the furthest form the lens mount, is the focus ring. It's nicely dampened and moves very smoothly, but has no mechanical connection to the focus elements of the lens as the RX1 uses a focus-by-wire system, which we'll look at in more depth later.

Top Controls

In addition to the standard PASM modes, the mode dial on the RX1 offers Auto, Scene, Sweep Panorama and movie modes. The Auto position can be set so that it either enters Intelligent Auto mode (which selects an appropriate scene mode to use), or Superior Auto, which will also invoke multi-shot modes such as HDR if necessary. There are also three user-definable custom modes.

Directly to the right you find the shutter button with a threaded connection for a cable release. The power switch is a ring placed around the shutter button. The right edge of the top-plate is the location of the exposure compensation dial which allows you adjust exposure by up to +/- 3EV. The tiny 'C'-button above the exposure compensation dial is customizable and can be set to any of the following 27 functions:

Drive Mode Flash Mode Autofocus Area
Soft Skin Effect Smile/Face Detection Auto Portrait Framing
ISO Metering Mode Flash Compensation
White Balance DRO/Auto HDR Creative Style
Picture Effect Image Size Aspect Ratio
Quality AEL Hold * AEL Toggle
AEL Hold (Spot Metering)* AEL Toggle (Spot Metering) AF/MF Control hold*
AF/MF Control toggle Smart Teleconverter Zoom Focus Magnifier (for MF)
Memory Deactivate the LCD Not Set

* Not available for the left, right or down positions on the four-way control dial

Rear Controls

On the camera rear you have the flash and play buttons above the screen. The control dial at the top adjusts shutter speed in S-mode and Program Shift in P mode. To the right of the screen you've got the AEL-button, the Fn-button to enter the Function menu, and at the bottom the MENU and Delete buttons. In the middle of it all is the 4-way controller/dial with center button.

The AEL button and the right, left and downwards positions of the 4-way controller can all be customized to control most of the same functions that are available on the 'C'-button (see table above). The only functions that can't be assigned to the four-way controller are the three 'hold' options, that require you to hold the button down to retain the effect. These can only be assigned to the 'AEL' and 'C' buttons that are more convenient to hold down when your hand is in the shooting position.

Hands-on Preview video *

* Note that this video was prepared at the time of the RX1's launch - focus peaking has been removed from movie mode since this point