Look familiar? The Sony Cyber-shot RX1R doesn't replace its near-clone the RX1, but sits alongside it at the top of Sony's Cyber-shot lineup. The only difference between this camera and its cousin (brother?) is that the RX1R lacks an anti-aliasing filter on its 24MP CMOS sensor. Removing AA filters seems to be very fashionable at present. Nikon has done it in the D800E and D7100, let's not forget the Pentax K-5 IIs, and, of course, Fujifilm's X-Pro1, X-E1, X100S and X-M1 all share an X-TRANS sensor that never had an AA filter in the first place.

So why did Sony do this? Let's start by looking at what AA (anti-aliasing) filters are designed to do - namely, reduce aliasing, which most commonly takes the form of rainbow-like moiré patterning in areas of very fine detail. Very simply, this is created when the frequency of the subject approaches the frequency of the photodiodes on the camera's sensor. Most digital cameras' sensors are fitted with AA filters which reduce the effect by very slightly blurring the image before it hits the light-gathering photodiodes. Broadly speaking, most of the time AA filters are a good thing, but removing them does provide the potential for slightly higher detail resolution, although with the risk of increased moiré in areas of fine detail.

If you're curious to learn more about all this, check out our review of the Nikon D800 and D800E, published last year.

Sony DSC-RX1R specification highlights

  • 24MP full-frame (24x36mm) CMOS sensor (without AA filter)
  • 35mm F2 lens
  • ISO 100-25600
  • Focus range switch for focus down to 0.2m (14cm from the front of the lens)
  • Dedicated aperture ring
  • Five user-customizable buttons
  • Multi interface hotshoe (combines ISO 518 standard contacts and proprietary connector)
  • 1.23M dot RGBW 'WhiteMagic' LCD
  • 1080p60 HD movies in AVCHD (50p on PAL region models)
  • Bulb mode and threaded cable release socket in shutter button

When Sony showed us the RX1 last year, we called it 'arguably the most serious compact camera we've ever seen'. Featuring a full-frame 24MP sensor and a fixed 35mm F2 lens, the RX1 was very clearly aimed at serious photographers, and in our testing we found that it was capable of delivering stunning images, as well as being a very enjoyable camera to use. What's not to like about a near-silent shutter, fast lens and excellent image quality?

Spot the difference: The Sony Cyber-shot RX1R is on the right, the original RX1 is on the left. What separates them is the sensor, which in the RX1R, comes without an AA filter for superior detail resolution (in theory).

Really, apart from slightly sub-par AF performance in low light, just about the only thing preventing the RX1 from becoming an instant classic was its decidedly steep list price of $2800 - a little more than twice the price of Fujifilm's very well-liked APS-C format X100S, which also offers a 35mm equivalent, F2 lens, but with a built-in hybrid optical/electronic finder. The good news about the RX1R (sort of) is that it won't cost any more than the 'stock' RX1. The bad news is it won't be any cheaper either - both cameras will retail at a recommended $2800. If you recently purchased an RX1 but fancy the idea of the RX1R's modified sensor, we can imagine you might be somewhat annoyed by this.

Optional accessories

Speaking of spending large amounts of money, a range of accessories is available for the RX1R (note, the functionally-identical RX1 is our model in the images below). This includes the optical viewfinder FDA-V1K, electronic viewfinder FDA-EV1MK, lens hood LHP-1, and thumb grip TGA-1. The viewfinders and the thumb grip slot into the camera's hotshoe and the latter has a hinge, so you can flip it back and still press the play button which is hidden underneath it.

The thumb-grip connects to the camera's hotshoe and it's hinged to give access to the play button. The thumb-grip also comes with an integrated shoe, so you can combine it with the optical viewfinder if you wish.

At around $249 the thumb grip isn't cheap, although it does improve the camera's handling. Likewise, at $599 for the optical viewfinder and $179 for the lens hood, the mark-up on these items appears to be rather excessive, to say the least. The electronic viewfinder will set you back $449.99 - $100 more than the equivalent unit for the NEX series of cameras.

Fujifilm X100S users can sit smug in the knowledge that their camera offers both optical and electronic finders built-in, at a total cost only slightly higher than the combined total of Sony's two optional finders for the RX1R.

The FDA-EV1MK electronic viewfinder uses the same excellent 2.4m dot OLED display as Sony's high-end SLT models. However, the huge rubber eye-cup makes it difficult to get your eye near the screen - all the more so if you wear glasses.

The FDA-V1K optical viewfinder will, no doubt, appeal to some retro-fetishists, but the FDA-EV1MK is the more practical option, since it's cheaper and shows the camera's settings. Furthermore, it allows you to make proper use of the Quick Navi menu (since you can set the viewfinder and rear display to offer different display modes). Sadly the cost and an enormous eye-cup which makes it difficult for wearers of glasses to use, rather takes the edge of its appeal for us.