Displays and operation

The RX1's interface has most in common with that of the A99 full-frame SLT. It has fewer direct control buttons than that camera, but the five customizable buttons mean that you can easily get to most of the settings you need to engage with.

In addition, the RX1 has a dedicated aperture ring and an exposure compensation dial, meaning the thumb dial at the top right of the camera's rear only has to control shutter speed in M- and S-modes. Beyond this it controls program-shift in P mode. The four-way control dial consequently has little to do, beyond navigating the menus.

In playback mode both dials are well used in playback mode though - both are used for scrolling between images until you hit the AEL/Magnify button, at which point the four-way dial controls zooming in and out, while the thumb dial continues to scroll between images, while retaining the chosen level of zoom. This makes it very easy to skip back and forth between images to check focus on a particular detail.

Record display modes

There are five main display modes that can be used either on the rear screen or the optional electronic viewfinder, with a sixth mode (Quick Navi) reserved for the rear LCD. A menu setting allows you to select which display modes are available when shooting. Pressing the DISP button cycles through the selected modes. A different set of modes can be defined for the rear screen and the viewfinder.

It's worth noting that the DISP settings are some of the only ones that require confirmation before taking effect - quit the menu by pressing the shutter button, rather than the Menu button and the settings won't be registered.

There are six different views available on the camera's rear display, five of which have equivalents when using the viewfinder. The views available for the EVF and rear display can be defined separately.

Function menu and Quick Navi

The camera's primary interface is the Fn menu, available from five of the camera's display modes. Pressing the Fn button sees thirteen icons appear down the sides of the screen, with the last changed setting highlighted in orange. The positions of these icons are consistent with their positions in the 'Display All Info.' display mode.

This menu can be navigated using the four-way controller. If you want to see all the available options for each parameter then pressing the central button takes you to a dedicated screen for each. Alternatively you can use the four-way dial to cycle through the options without leaving the Fn menu. Parameters with sub-settings, such as the different levels of DRO, can be adjusted from the Fn menu using the thumb dial, which becomes very quick, once you're familiar with the trick.

Pressing the Fn button brings up a standard Sony function menu. (So standard that it's got a space left where AF drive mode icon would appear, were that not set by a dial on the front of the camera).

Most of the camera's main settings are arranged down either side of the screen and can be adjusted in either of two ways:
Pressing the center button takes you off to a dedicated screen for each parameter and includes a list of available options.
Alternatively, once you're familiar with the options, you can spin the four-way dial on the back of the camera and it'll scroll through the options without leaving the Fn menu screen.

Sub-options, such as the extent of DRO or HDR can be adjusted using the thumb dial.
The Quick Navi display mode works in essentially the same manner. The settings are already shown on the screen of course and, unless you're using the options EVF, you'll probably have to press DISP to get to this screen from a viewing mode that actually shows you what the camera's doing.

Once here, pressing the Fn button makes the panel 'active' - highlighting the selected setting in orange, just as with the standard Fn menu.
Again, from here you can change a setting either by turning the four-way dial or by pressing the center button to visit a dedicated screen.

It's worth noting that the Quick Navi screen includes more parameters than the standard function menu - we'd really like to see this screen accessible as a Fn menu, rather than a display mode.

The sixth display mode - available only on the main screen - is Sony's resurrected 'Quick Navi' interactive control panel. As with the SLT-A99, the intention is that this screen is used in conjunction with an electronic viewfinder - recreating a pre-liveview-DSLR experience. The Quick Navi screen shows all the camera's settings, arguably more clearly than the Fn menu and allows more of them (including Image quality) to be adjusted without needing to visit the main menus.

Pressing the Fn button from Quick Navi mode activates the panel, allowing you to navigate around the screen and adjust settings just as you can in the normal Fn menu (only with 16 options, rather than 13). We found Quick Navi a nicer way of operating the RX1, even without the electronic viewfinder and even though it means scrolling through the other available display modes before reaching it. We'd really like it to be an option to replace the Fn menu, rather than as a combined display mode/Fn menu.

Playback mode displays

The RX1's playback display modes are pretty conventional, with the exception of its insistence on separating stills, MP4 and AVCHD video. Switching between the three file types can be achieved either via the main menu or from a tab on the corner of the thumbnail view. It's a rather annoying way of coping with the camera's need to put its image and AVCHD files in different locations. Still more annoying is the camera's insistence of playing back all its video clips as a continuous run of footage - with the risk that the camera has moved on to the next clip if you try to delete while it's playing.

There are three playback views - full screen, full screen with basic info overlaid or a full info screen with histograms and highlight/shadow 'blinkies' on a small thumbnail.

The playback options are pretty basic - the full-screen view works well to get an impression for how the shot has worked out. The playback image rotates in response to you turning the camera but this can be switched off if you're rather the images simply retaining their native rotation and taking up the whole screen.

There's still the slightly disappointing lag between pressing the magnification button and anything happening, though this seems to depend on the capacity of the SD card used. It would also be nice to have the option to see the highlight and shadow warnings on a full-screen view but, other than this, the system is simple and effective.

Pressing the AEL/Magnify button zooms in. Rotating the four-way dial changes the magnification while the thumb dial jumps between images. Pressing either the center button or the AEL button jumps back to full-size view.
Pressing the Fn/Thumbnail button jumps out to a 2x2 thumbnail view with a file-type tab on the left. The four way dial scrolls through individual images, the thumb dial jumps up or down by four images. Pressing Fn or the center button returns to full-size view.