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Sony DSC-RX1 Camera; Most Unique Small Camera
Imagine a full-frame 35mm camera that combines the best build quality of traditional film cameras with absolutely cutting edge digital technology, and will still fit in a coat pocket.
Sony has turned this concept – which many photographers have been talking about for years – into reality. Not content with that, they have also added into the mix the usual Cyber-shot ease of use and technological brilliance, such as full HD video, proven sweep panorama, and a range of genuinely useful scene modes and picture effects. The result is the RX1, one of the most unique small cameras we have ever handled at OP. But is this just an expensive proof of concept offering or a genuinely viable photographic tool?
With a shape reminiscent of the diminutive Sony RX100, but roughly one third larger, the Sony RX1 has a small (by SLR standards), fixed, high quality Carl Zeiss 35mm f/2 lens on the front – partially sunk back into the body to reduce the profile.
The body has a solidly hewn metal casing, beveled manual dials – for mode and exposure compensation – and a small, flush-fitting pop-up fl ash. It feels like a camera that could be with you for years to come, a relatively rare thing in the digital age. The hotshot has contacts for an optional, if rather pricey, electronic view finder or an optical viewfinder, which costs even more.
Around the lens barrel are manual aperture, close-up mode and manual focus rings. The shutter release is threaded, old-school style, for a manual remote and has a solid on/off lever surround. A small, configurable control button nestles close by. All controls function with a delightful precision reminiscent of the Leica M.
Taking up almost the entire back of the camera is a sharp, clear 1.2 million dot, 3in TFT-LCD. There is a control dial, thumb wheel, menu button, and FN and AEL buttons to the right side of the screen, and playback and fl ash release buttons above. This layout might be minimalist but it is also highly effective and intuitive when combined with the excellent manual controls and the fact that many buttons are user assignable. Three custom settings are also available on the mode dial, for instant recall of favourite shooting modes
The front of the camera is unassuming and low profile, with a leatherette grip for the right hand and a small focus mode switch low down on the other side. Etched in simple white type on the front of the lens are words that will catch the eye of more advanced and professional photographers: Carl Zeiss Sonnar 2/35, T. Suddenly, the not inconsiderable price starts to make more sense. Consider also that behind that legendary lens is also one of the best full-frame sensors currently available. Featuring 24 million pixels, it produces outstanding images. Then, factor in how much a similarly specified DSLR and lens combination would cost, and its size and weight compared to the 482g, pocket-sized RX1.
One has to forego lens changing, but with such a wonderful lens that can be welcome, especially as the 35mm focal length is a moderate wide angle – a longtime favorite of street shooters and landscapers. With a handy 20cm close focusing minimum distance in macro mode and the fast, f/2 Sonnar design, it is possible to achieve outstanding subject isolation, or broken, for smaller subjects.
Manual and auto focus implementation is great, with magnified focus assist when needed. While the auto focus isn’t super fast, its overall response to be perfectly adequate for almost every situation and the virtually silent leaf shutter makes it very discreet.
Given the fixed lens limitation, can a Cyber-shot really go toe-to-toe with top DSLRs or a Leica M? In many situations, it can. The sensor and lens combination has been highly developed and, of course, also benefits from the lack of vibration from a mirror. So, all round image quality is outstanding. This is also one of the best cameras for control of noise, meaning you can set auto ISO to very high limits and shoot in almost any light conditions with absolute confidence.
Likes and Dislikes of Sony DSC-RX1
✓ Craft smanship
✓ Classic lens rendition
✓ Dynamic range
✓ High ISO
✘ Auto ISO shutter speed in aperture priority mode is not user configurable
✘ peaking only in magnified view
✘ Overpriced accessories
Sensor type 35mm full-frame Exmor
Effective pixels Approx. 24.3MP
Metering C, S, Multi, Flexible
Shooting modes S, A, M, P Exp comp ± 3.0EV, 1/3EV step ISO 100-25,600 (extendable)
Lens Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar T 35mm f/2
Minimum focus dist ance 30cm (20-35cm in macro mode)
Image stabilization Yes
LCD screen 3in TFT Extra Fine
Media memory stick (various), SD, SDHC, SDXC, micro SD, micro SDHC
Format JPEG, Raw (stills) and AVCHD, MP4 (film)
Battery NP-BX1 Lithium-ion
Weight 482g (with accessories)
Size 113.3mm x 65.4mm x 69.6mm (WxHxD)
Sony DSC-RX1 is ‘liberating’, Classic look to the image quality from this very desirable small camera. The fact that it can be used like a point-and-shoot added to my sense of creativity rather than limiting it. Using my feet instead of a zoom lens or cropping from the generous image detail captured means you can have a discreet but exquisitely crafted camera that can be with you all the time. It can do pretty much anything you ask of it, with fully professional results