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Sony RX1 24-Megapixel Ultra-Compact Full-Frame Camera

I deem the Sony RX1 a breakthrough camera, a “first” because of the following features which are unprecedented in this combination:

  • Full-frame sensor with 14-bit images.
  • High quality Zeiss lens with fast f/2 aperture and 9 aperture blades and aperture ring (no fiddly push-dial crap, a real aperture ring) , image Stabilization optical and digital.
  • Manual focus assist with focus peaking.
  • 24 megapixels (Leica M is only 18 megapixels, though maybe an M10 with 24 will emerge).
  • Ultra compact form factor (for full-frame). 1.06 pounds, 480 grams.
  • 1/3 the cost of a comparable Leica M + 35/2 Summicron ASPH.
  • Ultra high resolution rear LCD; makes the Leica M9 look like the stone age.
  • Built in flash — the #1 thing I adore about the RX1’s little brother, the RX100, is how its built-in flash makes for perfect outdoors portraits and self portraits, via fill flash at -1.7.

Whether the ergonomics work well remains to be see; I’ll be assessing that when I review the RX1.

It is my understanding that there are two optional viewfinders, though the Sony web pages seem to omit any mention of them.

  • The same EVF as on Sony NEX can be used on the RX1.
  • A Zeiss 35mm optical viewfinder (subject to all the usual parallax issues).

Pricing

The Sony RX1 $2798 price is certainly off-putting, but in the context of full-frame and Leica M and the Zeiss 35/2 lens, that is not an entirely fair criticism. Still, the RX1 is really a $3400 camera once one adds the “optional” EVF, which apparently costs $599. Wow. More on that non-feature below.

Let’s be fair and deem the Zeiss 35mm f/2 lens to have a value of $1100, since that’s what a Zeiss 35mm f/2 Distagon costs for Nikon or Canon. Which means you are paying $1700 for the camera body (plus $600 for an EVF). Which straddles the price of the Nikon D600, which is also 24 megapixels, but far larger and heavier and bulkier than the RX1. But the Sony RX1 cannot take any other lenses either.

Design issues

First kudos to Sony for daring to produce this camera and with a high quality lens it (or so one must assume). Nothing but praise for taking this market risk, and the combination of features is very attractive, with one fatal flaw.

No matter how good the RX1 might otherwise be, there are two things get in the way of getting the job done, at least for what I’d want.

No built-in EVF

A rear LCD (only) is an impediment for those of us with advancing presbyopia (e.g. EVERYONE from mid 40's and older, presumably the bulk of the prospective audience due to cost). Holding the camera at arm’s length is a disaster in terms of sharp images and composition (wavering framing as one shoots). And except for wanting to look like a newbie or tourist or incompetent, it’s a secondary way to shoot, not a primary approach.

The EVF as an add-on I deem a FATAL design flaw. Sleek is good, but a $599 EVF wart on top of the camera is problematic for my usage: a design and ergonomic disaster for field use (stow/unstow, catches on things, adds weight bulk, awkwardness). Who wants to carry extra crap around on a sleek small camera? Self defeating. And the added expense makes it doubly irritating.

No interchangeable lenses

This is not a system camera, you get a 35mm f/2 and that’s it. Which restricts the range of shooting to a certain style.

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