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Sony DSC-RX1/B Cyber-shot Full-frame Digital Camera
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- 24.3MP full frame CMOS sensor
- 5 frames per second continuous shooting
- Fixed 35mm F/2 lens
- ISO 100-25,600
- 1080/24p HD video (MPEG-4/AVCHD) with manual control and stereo input
- 3.0 inch LCD with 1,230,000 dots
- Optional electronic and optical viewfinder accessories
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|Auto Focus Technology|
|Battery Average Life||270 Photos|
|Continuous Shooting Speed||5 fps|
|Display Fixture Type||Fixed|
|Display Resolution Maximum||1229000|
|Display Size||3 inches|
|Effective Still Resolution||24.3 MP|
|Expanded ISO Maximum||102,400|
|Expanded ISO Minimum||50|
|Exposure Control Type|
|External Memory Included||No|
|File Format||RAW (ARW2.3 Format), RAW+JPEG, JPEG|
|Flash Memory Type||SD/SDHC/SDXC, Memory Stick Duo/Pro Duo/Pro-HG Duo|
|Flash Modes Description||Auto, Fill-in, Flash off, Slow synchronization|
|Flash Type||via hot-shoe|
|Flash Type||Built-In Flash|
|Focus Description||Contrast Detection|
|Focus Type||Includes Manual Focus|
|Form Factor||Large sensor compact|
|ISO Range||Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800, 25600|
|Image Aspect Ratio||3:2, 16:9|
|Item Dimensions||2.56 x 2.76 x 4.45 inches|
|Item Weight||1.06 pounds|
|Lithium Battery Energy Content||4.5 Watt Hours|
|Lithium Battery Voltage||3.6 Volts|
|Lithium Battery Weight||3 ounces|
|Maximum Aperture Range||F2.0|
|Maximum Focal Length||35 mm|
|Maximum Shutter Speed||1/4000 of a second|
|Maximum horizontal resolution||6,000|
|Metering||Multi, Center-weighted, Spot|
|Minimum Focal Length||35 mm|
|Minimum Shutter Speed||30 seconds|
|Optical Sensor Resolution||24 MP|
|Optical Sensor Technology||CMOS|
|Photo Filter Thread Size||49 mm|
|Photo Sensor Technology||CMOS|
|Sensor Cleaning Method||No|
|Shipping Weight||2.4 pounds|
|Supported Battery Types||Lithium-Ion NP-BX1 battery|
|Video Capture Format||MPEG-4, AVCHD|
|Video Capture Resolution||1920 x 1080 (60, 50, 25, 24 fps), 1440 x 1080 (30, 25 fps), 1280 x 720 (30 fps), 640 x 480 (30, 25 fps)|
|Viewfinder Type||Electronic and Optical (optional)|
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This item Sony DSC-RX1/B Cyber-shot Full-frame Digital Camera
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|Sold By||Amazon.com||Adorama Camera||Amazon.com||Amazon.com|
|Screen Size||3 in||3 in||3 in||3 in|
|Item Dimensions||2.76 x 4.45 x 2.56 in||8 x 8 x 5 in||2.38 x 4 x 1.63 in||1.41 x 4 x 2.29 in|
|Item Weight||1.06 lbs||2.45 lbs||0.6 lb||0.53 lb|
|Optical Sensor Resolution||24 megapixels||—||20.1 megapixels||20.2 megapixels|
|Video Capture Resolution||1920 x 1080 (60, 50, 25, 24 fps), 1440 x 1080 (30, 25 fps), 1280 x 720 (30 fps), 640 x 480 (30, 25 fps)||—||4k||1920 x 1080 (60 fps), 1440 x 1080 (30 fps), 1280 x 720 (30 fps), 640 x 480 (30 fps)|
|Viewfinder||Electronic and Optical (optional)||electronic viewfinder||flexible LCD||None|
World's first fixed lens 35mm camera. For a more in-depth look, check out the DSC-RX-1 brochure.
From the Manufacturer
We've made the impossible possible. Once considered merely a dream
is now a reality that can sit in the palm of your hand. Introducing the
revolutionary RX1: The world's first fixed lens digital camera with a
full-frame sensor. Take it wherever you go and explore full manual
control photography that knows no bounds.
|Full Frame 24 Megapixel resolution |
with 14-bit RAW output .
|Bright F2.0 Carl Zeiss® Sonnar T* lens |
with macro capability .
|World’s first fixed lens 35mm digital |
camera – it’s small.
A whole new world of high-quality images are realized through the 24.3 MP effective 35 mm full-frame sensor, a normal sensor range of ISO 100 – 25600, and a sophisticated balance of high resolving power, gradation and low noise.
F2.0 Carl Zeiss® Sonnar T* lens delivers refined background defocusing – bokeh, and macro capabilities.
The DSC-RX1 is the world's first fixed lens 35 mm full-frame digital camera which offers an uncompromising design that focuses on an intuitive, user-friendly operation.
Explore the full range of features and options below.
|24.3 MP 35 mm Full Frame Sensor |
A whole new world of high-quality images are realized through the 24.3 MP effective 35 mm full-frame sensor, a normal sensor range of ISO 100 – 25600, and a sophisticated balance of high resolving power, gradation and low noise. The BIONZ® image processor enables up to 5 fps high-speed continuous shooting and 14-bit RAW image data recording.
Bright F2.0 Carl Zeiss®
Sonnar T* lens
Newly developed large-diameter F2.0 Carl Zeiss® Sonnar T* lens delivers refined background defocusing – bokeh, and macro capabilities. A premium multi-layered T* coating also dramatically reduces ghost and flare caused by light reflection.
World's first fixed lens 35mm camera
The DSC-RX1 is the world's first fixed lens 35 mm full-frame digital camera which offers an uncompromising design that focuses on an intuitive, user-friendly operation. The camera fits in the palm of a hand and allows users to carry it nearly everywhere to capture any shooting opportunity that arises.
Full HD 24p video
Full HD 24p video with manual control and audio input.¹ For creative flexibility while shooting movies and stills, users can enter Program Auto (P), Aperture Priority (A), Shutter Speed Priority (S) or Manual Exposure (M) mode for manual shooting and exposure control. Enjoy clear sound recording and playback via built-in stereo microphone and mono speaker. Additionally, an optional microphone can be plugged
into the camera.
Amazing Low-light performance
Experience incredible low-light shooting without a flash. The camera captures six images in a fraction of a second. Combining the data from all six, it creates a single image with a reduction in noise equivalent to two additional steps of ISO sensitivity. Sensitivity selectable up to ISO 25600. (Recommended for still subjects.)
High speed Auto Focus
Focus fast with high speed AF. To improve focusing speed and sensitivity, the Exmor® CMOS sensor uses its rapid throughput to deliver high-quality image signals to the camera's BIONZ® processor, which provides intelligent response data to a new high speed actuator motor in the lens. The result is fast, DSLR-like focusing speeds even in low light.
Full frame burst shooting
High speed continuous shooting at up to 5 frames per second (fps) is made possible by the BIONZ® processor and 24 megapixel sensor.
Three control lens rings
Full manual operation is intuitive on the RX1. Users can keep their eyes on the subject and concentrate on the composition while comfortably adjusting the dedicated aperture, focusing, and macro switching rings.
|Conveniently placed dials |
Quick access to conveniently placed exposure compensation and focus mode dials.
Quick Navi – settings at a glance
Quick Navi enhances direct control of your favorite functions. Pressing the Fn button activates Quick Navi, which allows the user to check camera settings at a glance and promptly change settings without having to search for dedicated menus.
MR (memory recall) mode can memorize up to three groups of the user's preferred settings. Settings include zoom magnification, white balance, exposure compensation, shutter speed, drive mode and metering modes. This enables quick switching of settings at the right moment.
Nine aperture blades
Nine aperture blades form a nearly perfect circle throughout the normally used aperture range of F2 to F22, resulting in background defocusing that is smooth and genuinely beautiful.
Expandable with multi interface shoe
The multi interface shoe allows easy connection with wide-ranging accessories expanding the range of photographic expression. Available accessories include a powerful external flash unit, electronic viewfinder.
3" Xtra Fine LCD™ Display
The 3" (1,229k dots) Xtra Fine LCD™ Display makes it easy to scroll through menus and preview live Picture Effects. WhiteMagic™ technology increases visibility in bright daylight. The large display delivers brilliant-quality still images and movies while enabling easy
Auto HDR mode
Captures more scene dynamic range than a single exposure can handle—and more range than photo film. Combines the best highlight detail from one shot, the best mid-tones from a second and the best shadow detail from a third for one incredible shot (up to 6 EV stops), all in a split second. (Recommended for still subjects.)
Dual-aspect ratio recording
for still images
Capture still images in either 3:2 or 16:9 aspect ratio. This provides the freedom to choose a ratio that matches the scene or the specific
Built in pop up flash
Enjoy the convenience of flash photography everywhere you go. Guide number is approximately 6. Choose from Auto, Slow Sync, Rear Sync, Fill-flash and Flash Off modes.
Capture JPEG files, RAW files, or both
The DSC-RX1 saves pictures as compact JPEG files and/or ultra-high quality RAW files. RAW files save images prior to de-mosaicing, white balance, sharpness and color enhancement. This retains maximum latitude for enhancing the image on your PC.
|Three focusing modes |
This camera has one Autofocus mode, Single-shot AF (AF). It also has Manual Focus (MF) for manual focusing freedom, and Direct Manual Focus (DMF), that first uses autofocusing to focus on the subject, and then allows fast and easy switching to manual focusing for even more precise adjustment.
Digital level gauge
Digital level gauge to allow easier leveling
of the camera.
MF assist and peaking
Manual focus becomes much easier because peaking highlights the edges that are in focus in your choice of three colors (white, red, or yellow). This is especially helpful during macro or portrait photography where your focus setting can make or break your shot.
Creative Style settings
Control how the camera processes your images with 15 finishing styles: Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Clear, Deep, Light, Twilight, Night View, Autumn Leaves, B&W, Sepia, Sunset, Portrait and Landscape. You can even fine-tune contrast, saturation, and sharpness to your
Picture Effect mode
Realize your creative potential with Picture Effect, a fun and simple way to convert ordinary landscapes and portraits come to life by heightening mood and emphasizing certain attributes. Effects are Soft Focus, Posterization, Retro Photo, High Contrast Monochrome, Rich-tone Monochrome, Miniature, Soft High-key, Toy Camera, Pop Color, Partial Color, Watercolor Painting, HDR Painting, and Illustration.
MF assist and peaking
Manual focus becomes much easier because peaking highlights the edges that are in focus in your choice of three colors (white, red, or yellow). This is especially helpful during macro or portrait photography where your focus setting can make or break your shot.
Face Detection/ Registration technology
The camera can automatically detect and register up to eight individual faces and adjust focus, exposure, white balance and flash to help deliver crisp, properly lit images of family and friends. Can prioritize children or adults.
Auto portrait framing
Simply photograph a person and Auto Portrait Framing will save an additional, optimally framed image in portrait or landscape orientation. Combining Face Detection and By Pixel Super Resolution technologies with rule of thirds, Auto Portrait Framing provides beautifully composed and appealingly balanced full resolution portraits.
Sweep Panorama™ Mode
Capture expansive landscapes automatically. Press the shutter, sweep vertically or horizontally. The camera does the rest, continuously shooting images and stitching them together. Capture expansive landscapes automatically. Press the shutter, sweep vertically or horizontally. The camera does the rest, continuously shooting images and stitching them together.
1. Records in 29 minute segments
2. Requires HDTV and HDMI cable sold separately
© 2012 Sony Electronics Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Sony, Cyber-shot, SteadyShot, Smile Shutter, Sweep Panorama, Exmor and the Sony make.believe logo are trademarks of Sony. Microsoft, Windows, and Windows Vista are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation. Mac is a trademark of Apple, Inc. All other trademarks are trademarks of their respective owners. Features and specifications subject to change without notice.
Read about our customers' top-rated cameras on our review page: Point-and-Shoot Cameras
Top Customer Reviews
I have spent the last 2 years evaluating many different camera systems to find something that best meets my needs. In addition to some travel, I have 2 children (4 and 2) and capturing their lives is of the utmost importance for me. This means I need something that has fast focus, can be easily carried around, has great imagine quality, shallow DOF, and take great photos indoors (in low light). In addition, I prefer shooting with a viewfinder so that I can really view the image prior to capture. Lastly, while I'm no videographer, I ideally would like to have a camera that take really good video (maybe not movie-quality, but much better than typical home movie quality).
My evaluation set has been:
Nikon D700 (which I had for years with many pro-grade lenses)
Fuji X-Pro (with all 3 lenses)
Sony RX-1 (most recent)
I have purchased and owned all of those cameras, each for more than a year (i.e. I didn't buy and play for a weekend, then send them back - I really used them actively). I'll cut to the chase - I have sold every one of those cameras and lenses on eBay in the last 2 weeks except for the Sony, and the E-M5. However, my day-to-day is now the RX-1. The only reason I kept the E-M5 was to use the 45 1.8 and the 75 1.8 for longer focal lengths when needed. The RX-1 is (for the most part) the camera I have been waiting for.
Instead of writing a long review, let me explain the cons of the cameras above that caused me to make a different choice. EVERY SINGLE CAMERA ON THAT LIST HAS ALMOST TOO MANY POSITIVES TO NAME. I don't want you to think they are poor cameras; they are all fine photographic devices. A good photographer could make great images with any of them. So, I'll list why I didn't pick each one and opted for the RX1. D700 (Rendering is incredible, but body and lenses too big for casual use and in no way pocketable), X100 (very strong with latest firmware, but not as good at high ISO or as shallow DOF as Sony), X-Pro (focusing not quick enough to keep up with kids, and not really pocketable, even though images are great), GH2 (Great video but no Image Stabilization built in (via by body or software) but never impressed by stills).
The RX-1 is my choice b/c:
- The image quality has the same amazing dynamic range (or better) than D700 with greater resolution
- Incredibly sharp 35mm F2 lens
- Same shallow DOF as D700 with F2 lens
- Incredible high ISO (I can't seem to make 6400 noisy enough to even matter, and have actually used up to 25600 with some reduction and been comfortable)
- Relatively pocketable (more on this in a minute)
- Video quality that is extremely usable, with IS built in (via software)
- Dial-based system much like X100
- AF system, while not super fast, is quick enough for use with kids (and the issue isn't so much the focusing speed, which is fine, but the occasionally back and forth lens racking as it tries to lock on to something, which happens even for stationary objects in some cases)
But, the RX-1 isn't a slam dunk b/c:
- NO VIEWFINDER! This is my biggest issue with the camera (and why I really give it a 4.5 and not the 5). A photography machine of this caliber needs a viewfinder. So then you say, get the hot shoe finder....
- The Hot Shoe finder doesn't lock into the hot shoe, and slides in and out with relative ease. I learned this the hard way today as a LOST the finder in the park - $500 down the DRAIN. SO FRUSTRATING! Next time I'll be gaffers taping it to the body somehow.
- This depth of the camera makes it a little dense for a jack pocket. In addition, with the added Hot Shoe finder, it's still pocketable but not easy to get in and out. Something like an X100 or X100s would be WAY more functional in terms of very quick access. But, the camera does technically fit in a jacket pocket even with the viewfinder installed.
- Focus distance could be better, but flipping to macro mode is well done. BUT, the camera hunts much more in macro mode, even with direct sunlight.
There are other pros (like panorama mode, button placement, and menu system) and cons (like no external charger) but those aren't as critical to me. What I wrote matters most.
Notice in this write-up how I never mentioned price? Yes, it's expensive. But, until now I have had to buy multiple cameras to get the mix of situation (outdoor and indoor), portability (small and large), and Media (great stills and great video), but now I can do all of those with just the RX-1. I'm fine with the price considering that, and that there are technically no other true competitors in the market (i.e. compact body full frame chip).
I'm incredibly pleased, and haven't even thought twice about the sale of all of the other cameras. I anticipate that I will have the RX-1 for awhile, and then will upgrade to an RX-2 which I'm sure will address the little issues I named above. But, from a portability (manageable), image quality (breath-taking), speed (enough for shooting toddlers, which is what I need), and video (stunning for my needs), this camera is killer.
But the Viewfinder situation is STILL STUPID! :-)
Sorry for any typos.
This camera is in a class of one. There's really nothing like it anywhere in the marketplace. It's absurdly expensive for a point-and-shoot, and yet it takes pictures that rival in overall image quality - and in many cases equal or even exceed - what the very best full frame professional cameras are capable of generating . . . . . while fitting fairly comfortably in your jacket pocket. It looks like your neighbor's point-and-shoot $350 Canon, but costs more than your last vacation. It doesn't even have a viewfinder, either optical or electronic - although you can get a great electronic one, if you don't mind being soaked for another $450 on top of what you've already shelled out for this expensive but marvelous piece of technology. Or you can get really hosed by Zeiss, and get an optical viewfinder for another $650 - easily the most overpriced accessory in digital photography. It isn't the fastest focusing, and it requires you to move closer or farther to get the shot that you want instead of zooming in or out given the fixed focal length lens. It can be both maddening to struggle with under the wrong circumstances . . . and at the same time a breeze to use like any other point-and-shoot. It seems wildly overpriced in some sense (compared to any other compact?), but is a genuine bargain in terms of what you are getting (best current 35mm 2.0 lens, best 24MP FF sensor in tiny package with highly customizable operating system).
It's like nothing else really. Its high ISO performance is equal to anything and I do mean anything out there (UPDATE - ALMOST anything - it is a big step behind its cousin, the Sony A7S, and the new Nikon D4S, which is close to Sony's A7S low light performance - but it's right there with most other FF cameras). It's capable of taking low noise images at ISO 6400, and with a little bit of cleanup and working in RAW, you can easily salvage fairly high quality pictures at ISO 12,800 with lots of detail and little loss of information due to noise. This competes with some of the most expensive FF models in terms of low light ability (the Canon 1Dx, 6D, 5DIII, Nikon D4 and D600 - at worst, it is very close to those benchmark systems in terms of low light ability - at best it is equal to any of them).
Overall, the camera is something of a walking contradiction in terms in many ways (a full frame compact), and at the same time, it's a camera that's capable of inspiring enormous loyalty and will likely generate a truly cult-like following, while many other people may simply shake their heads at what they see as Sony's foolishness. People will complain about the cost, but it's really a good value and you get what you pay for.
1) Remarkable compactness and portability for such enormous low light capabilities w/full frame sensor - an engineering tour de force in terms of cramming full frame capabilities into a point-and-shoot size and form factor (achievable only with a fixed lens).
2) Capable of remarkable detail due to its 24 megapixel full frame sensor with excellent color and dynamic range. DxO sensor score of 93 (4th highest of any tested camera including some medium format sensors).
3) Superb Carl Zeiss 35mm F 2.0 fixed lens that is sharp edge-to-edge (which for FF camera might cost $1200 or so by itself). (F4-f8 offers sharpest pictures edge to edge but f2 is still impressive). Highest rated 35mm lens available by DxO testing.
4) As good high ISO as virtually any full frame camera.
5) Intuitive but deep operating system and menu structures, immediately familiar to those coming from Sony Alpha background. Easy to run as full manual camera (excellent manual control dials for exposure, lens aperture, etc) . . . or put on full AUTO, and all shades in between. Good aperture priority mode operation (my personal fav).
6) Capable of shooting 1080 at 60p and taking good video in low light, and with full IS (image stabilization) but see cons.
7) Macro functionality in CZ lens (but see cons). Macro mode works well with built-in flash (not always the case suggesting they paid attention to this issue).
8) Customizable buttons and other nice user config operating system features.
9) Crop/zoom functionality of x1.4 and x2.0 partially mitigates fixed lens restrictions (equivalent to 50 and 70 mm lens but with obvious loss of resolution).
10) High build quality w/ nice magnesium chassis - has very solid feel (it ought to for this much $!).
11) Decent flash.
12) Nice JPEGs vs. the competition - Sony's stay fairly sharp to 3200 at least, while Nikon and (to a much lesser extent) Canon default JPEGs are losing detail at those ISOs. Adjustable NR on high ISO images in JPEG - setting to LOW can help to preserve details.
13) ISO scale goes all the way down to 50 and all the way up to 25,600 (ISO 50 is useful in bright light to get super clean noise free images).
14) More standard ISO hot shoe (but see cons) - can be adapted to older Sony flashes with neat accessory from Sony. Older flashes then work flawlessly.
15) Many excellent shooting modes, including fascinating watercolor and illustration modes for some really amazing posters (part of Sony's firmware).
16) Much better than average AUTO WB. With most cameras, leaving WB on auto is invitation to some funky pictures. Sony is able to get this close to 'spot on' more than almost anybody in their recent operating systems.
17) Noise at high ISO is really almost film-like.
1) Price. Decent value for the money, but still costly.
2) Fixed focal length lens means extra work to get the shot properly framed - and forget about shooting subjects at a distance.
3) Problems with focus lock in low light - mostly a standard contrast detection focus issue (but for example OM5 does better job). Fixable in firmware updates? Can take a long time to acquire focus, missing key moments. Slow focus even in good light.
4) Blinding auto-focus assist lamp. At nighttime light levels, where autofocus really struggles, almost as bad as flash. Without it (can be defeated), forget about focus in low light. Problems 3/4 underscore that Sony hasn't really figured out contrast detection autofocus on this sensor.
5) Possibility of semi-planned obsolescence, as Sony may release a zoom lens version sometime in the next year or two (would require another set of engineering breakthroughs to get FF zoom lens down in size). UPDATE - Sony A7 ILC series is really the replacement to the RX1 (see discussion below), and Sony sadly appears to have abandoned this camera :-(.
6) Disappointing that Sony did not include an electronic viewfinder as either standard equipment at this price, or at a discount.
7) Macro mode won't get closer than about 8 inches.
8) No IS for stills - given that this is always sensor-based in Sony systems, not sure why omitted (hi ISO performance plus 35mm focal length?). Would still potentially give two stops advantage - not trivial even with great ISO performance.
9) Sony STILL hasn't made viewing photos and videos in any kind of alternating fashion easy - must surf menus or shoot video to get easy viewing access to videos on card.
10) Poor battery life. Must carry two batteries for any extended shooting.
11) Lens zoom and crop functionality not available if shooting in RAW.
12) Flash has really quite modest output and no bounce functionality.
13) Can't use both optional viewfinder and external flash at the same time.
14) Poor thumb grip with not enough contour - not easy to hold onto the camera with one hand. Optional thumb grip goes for $250?
15) Charging only in-camera, and only with proprietary micro USB interface - can't charge with typical USB charger (if connected to computer that is on and camera detects an active data line). What is the logic of that? Absolutely bizarre.
16) Accessories cost? $250 for a decent case? $250 for better (add-on) thumb grip? $650 for a simple OPTICAL viewfinder - you're kidding right?
17) Disappointing video quality with both moire and fuzziness (shouldn't have both?) despite impressive specs - realistically lucky if you get 720 lines or so, and with again at best average focus lock. Video is passable overall w/ excellent color but still disappointing in FF camera where one expects better.
18) Auto compensation for vignetting (corner shading) introduces subtle color artifacts. Baked in to RAW files too, not just JPEG - but this auto correction can be turned off in menu (probably easily fixable in firmware updates?).
Having more cons than pros doesn't mean that I don't like/love this camera. I'm a bit stunned by its capabilities on the one hand, and frustrated with its limitations and very quirky design logic on the other (such as the bizarre charging limitations!?*&^%! that prevent charging with most micro-USB chargers). On balance, it's obvious that what makes it so remarkable actually locks in some of its limitations. You simply couldn't get this compact form factor with an EVF and even a 3x zoom lens. The lens alone would be huge, and this Zeiss lens itself is an engineering marvel, in terms of how small it really is for a FF sensor 2.0 lens. In the end, it's all about image quality, and here, at least in stills if not in video (which is a bit disappointing frankly - like the A99 video), there is little to complain about. One also wonders how much the somewhat fuzzy video could be fixed in future firmware - it would appear that the A99 has been saddled with the same weakness, suggesting that Sony hasn't figured out how to get the best video out of this new chip at least not yet. But if you take this pocketable wonder instead of your huge DSLR and bag of lenses, just because it's so damned convenient, isn't that in the end the strongest endorsement one can make? I find that I am transitioning away from a very favorite Sony A65 w/a very fine 16-50 2.8 as my default camera, just because this is so easy to carry, and makes the DSLT seem huge and bulky by comparison.
I'm still exploring the performance envelope of the RX-1, and will update this review as I go. Some have commented that this is a Leica 'wannabe'. But Leica would LOVE to have the image quality of this camera (not really all that close frankly, not even the M9 which was way better than the X1), so perhaps it's really the other way around. It's a remarkable camera by any standard, and perhaps the most INTERESTING/INTRIGUING camera that has been made in the last 10 years, with the possible exception of the new SLTs made also by Sony. Suggests that Sony is thinking outside the box, and doing so more creatively than anyone else. 4.5 out of 5 stars - but Amazon doesn't allow such a rating so settling for 4/5. If they had fixed the (lack of) external charger situation, and provided a cheaper EVF option at purchase, would easily give 5/5.
UPDATE April 4th, 2013
This camera continues to grow on me. Its upside is pretty amazing. I have been able to print out 19x13 prints from ISO 3200 images, and have them be sharp, detailed and with excellent color - something I would have thought impossible two years ago. On the other hand, I am still at times frustrated with the poor focus lock, but am finding ways to work around it. Have gotten two extra batteries with an external charger to obviate the craziness of the USB charging (Wasabi power - highly recommended for $16) and the EVF, which really makes shooting stills a lot easier. Pictures are often just superb, even just stock JPEGs. Most of the time run with high ISO NR set to low, and sharpness at +2 - wouldn't want to do that with a Canon, but with the default JPEGs being rather over-smooth to begin with, this gets the most detail out of the sensor without any sharpness artifacts that I have been able to find so far. RAW images can be turned into decent large size prints with some work up to ISO 12800 - also something I would have thought impossible several years ago. I also believe that the default JPEG settings (overly smoothed) are probably a function of Sony compensating for the relatively weak anti-aliasing (otherwise known as a low pass filter). More and more camera makers are weakening that or leaving it out altogether (like the Nikon D800E and new 7100) chasing the consumer's endless demand for sharpness and resolution. In any case, I haven't seen any increase in aliasing or moire artifacts at the 2+ sharpening - but don't use for portraits of your wife or girlfriend or they won't be posing for you much longer :-).
Movies are still a minor disappointment in terms of resolution, but color and dynamic range are excellent so I am living with the roughly 720p instead of the 1080p I thought I was getting. Hoping that some of the camera's quirks can be fixed or at least improved with firmware updates - although after consultation with Tim Naff (see his superb review of the A99 on Amazon) I suspect that a simple firmware re-write probably won't be able to fix the fuzzy video, as the problems may lie deeper in Sony's processing of video, as the same video is seen on the A99, and milder versions of the video issues are seen on other product lines. A real puzzle given Sony's broadcast video resume, which is among the best.
Surprised at least a bit that Sony hasn't released firmware 1.1. I suspect they are probably busy with all the change items. There have been several blogs devoted to the wish-list for the 1.1 firmware re-write. Curious how much Sony has been listening. They know they have a huge hit on their hands. This camera is going to be a classic. I love the images that it is capable of making if you know how to max out its performance, and it is just so much more convenient than the big 20+ lb bag for the DSLR and three lenses. It's a keeper.
Update June 2013
Still no news on the firmware update front. However Sony did release the RX-1R which drops the anti-aliasing (AA) filter - consistent with an increasing trend in the marketplace to push resolution as much as possible and successful (from a marketing standpoint and sales standpoint anyway) in relationship to the Nikon D800E, and the recently released Nikon 7100, along with several other cameras including a couple of new Pentax models where the AA filter has been removed. Otherwise the cameras are identical, and after looking at moiré vulnerability of the new RX-1R, I think the plain ordinary RX-1 with the AA filter is the smarter choice for almost everybody except for studio photographers or people shooting exclusively nature scenes where small fine repeating patterns rarely exist. In all honesty, I can't really see that much extra resolution from the RX-1R, as the AA filter was rather weak to begin with (at least IMO) in the original RX-1. In any case, the camera continues to hum along, working flawlessly and continuing to create superb stills both in JPEG and RAW, except for some problems with lowlight autofocus that I've learned to live with. It works also superbly with an older Sony flash unit HVL-F42AM which gives it excellent bounce flash. And unlike on the Sony A65, flash is NEVER overexposed. The one significant limitation of the camera is the lack of any real capacity to shoot anything at a distance, but for 95% of the shooting that I do, moderate wide-angle along with the 1.4 crop (which yields about a 50 mm view) is adequate. And for when I need really wide-angle, composite stitching of images also works just fine, even without using Sony's panorama mode which sacrifices too much resolution. HIGHLY recommended - if you can live with the camera's few major limitations (fixed lens and weak focus lock being the two biggies).
Update October 2013
Well things have gotten a whole lot more interesting . . . Sony has blown everyone out of the water with the announcement of the A7 and A7R (please don't call them NEX cameras as this will upset Sony's cachet/rebranding strategy) but let's face it, that's what they are, souped-up NEX cameras. However, on paper, they simply are leagues ahead of anything else at this form factor in terms of potential performance, with the really interesting one being the A7R with its 36 megapixel sensor without an anti-aliasing filter - clearly the basic sensor from the Nikon D800E (which only the hard-core Nikon fan boys ever denied was a Sony sensor). The reality is that the A7/7R competes with the Sony RX 1 directly, and may have been Sony's notion of how the upgrade path would work for that camera all along. It's about the same weight, and about the same size even, as long as you have the smaller 35mm lens on the A7, with the same sensor in the A7, and a very similar operating system albeit with a different shutter (way louder on the A7 unfortunately) and better autofocus on the AR7. The A7 and of course the A7R obviously will have a big advantage that the RX 1 of course can't claim - the option for multiple lenses. The really interesting one of the proposed 5 new full frame FE lenses is the Zeiss 24-70 F4, which is priced at $1200 (prior generation NEX E lenses are not full frame and will result in severe vignetting unless you select significant image cropping). The biggest problem with the NEX series was simply mediocre lenses unless you are willing to spend a boatload to get a Zeiss lens, and some believe that even the Zeiss lenses in the E mount system were a step down from their A mount lenses (but I haven't seen enough hard testing data to draw a conclusion on that). Because of all this, I believe that the Zeiss 24-70 needs to be a virtual homerun in terms of its performance for this system really to take off. If it is as good as the Alpha mount 24-70 2.8 (a monster lens BTW in terms of both size and price), the A7/7R becomes a viable alternative to the RX 1 and begins to look like a compact pro camera. I haven't actually shot yet with either model and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on an early release model to really evaluate it. A major question is whether they have done something to improve the video quality, which was not bad but not great on the Alpha 99/RX 1.
Here's my parsing of pros and cons of the RX-1 against the new AR7/7R.
Pluses of the AR7-7R versus RX-1
1) interchangeable lenses - far and away its biggest selling point and advantage.
2) included OLED electronic viewfinder (extra cost upgrade option on the RX-1).
3) slightly cheaper identically equipped (AR7 with 35mm 2.8) $2500 versus $3200 for the RX-1 with Sony's add-on EVF.
4) improved auto focus system relative to RX-1 with phase detection on sensor (but A7R stuck with just contrast detection after deleting AA filter).
5) significantly better accessory support including a nice battery grip - Sony appears to be positioning this as a viable professional camera and not just something for photography enthusiasts with money to spend.
6) significant resolution bump for A7R with identical sensor to Nikon D800E - making it a potential alternative to medium format in a way-smaller form factor (but watch out for moiré if you're not shooting exclusively natural scenes). Having that much resolution in this little a package is really a bullet point for Sony.
7) No firmware update for the RX-1 in over a year since release! Does this mean that Sony has already orphaned this fantastic camera, with all their attention on the A7/7r?
Pluses of the RX-1 versus the AR7-7R
1) a true coat pocket camera versus I don't know what kind of pocket for the AR7? Without taking the lens off no AR7 is going to fit in even a generous coat pocket (unless it has the 35mm 2.8 which puts it close in size to the RX-1). But with the 24-70 f4 Zeiss, forget about any pocketability. Removing lenses frequently obviously exposes the sensor to dust and other potential environmental negatives.
2) questionable and frankly disappointing lens systems for NEX camera group up to now means a bit of an uphill push for Sony to get the new FE lenses up to alpha Zeiss/G lens standards. (UPDATE: Testing on the first of the FE full frame Zeiss lenses suggests that the 55m 1.8 lens is exceptionally sharp!)
3) even roughly identically equipped, the RX-1 has a faster lens (2.0 versus 2.8). In any case, the lens on the RX-1 is by any measure a screaming homerun and might be the best 35mm lens anyone has made up to this point.
4) lighter weight for the RX-1.
5) nice little flash on the RX-1, nothing on the AR7-7R. A dedicated flash is going to really add bulk. This is one of my biggest concerns about the A7/7r - I find that the flash on the RX-1 really comes in handy, and provides very consistent exposures. I have an older Sony HVL-F42AM which I love for bounce flash, but it is large and bulky.
6) UPDATE!! - big problems with sensor reflections (or some other type of artifacts) are emerging in the early reviews of the A7, in relation to bright light sources. See discussion of this on DPReviews Sony Users blog, where you can also find some striking examples of this - other cameras have demonstrated these types of artifacts, but the A7 and even the A7r show major problems (streetlights, other bright light sources, esp. sun - and this is NOT simple lens flare, which is universal at least to some degree). In addition, both the A7 and A7r show more dramatic 'sun-star' artifacts than most cameras show. These are a potential downside. Sony is doing their usual damage control - minimizing, denying, and basically just hoping that the negative press dies out. If you shoot a lot at night with street scenes and various artificial lights, the sensor reflections on the A7/7r are going to be a potential distraction. Troubling that Sony didn't pick up on this and fix it. On the other hand, let's hope that the Zeiss FE lenses (35 2.8, 55 1.8 and 24-70 F4) are good to great and every bit as good as the Zeiss lens on the RX-1. If so, these will allow the A7r to really exploit that fantastic sensor.
JULY 2013 UPDATE - formal testing of the FE lenses by Imaging Resource shows that the 24-70 F4 is really a big disappointment for a Zeiss lens, and simply not very sharp in the corners zoomed out, and the 35 2.8 is good but not quite as sharp as the 2.0 35mm lens on the RX-1. This means that for my money, this system still isn't able to really exploit the fantastic sensor in the A7r, outside of the 55 1.8, which is REALLY sharp. So Sony still hasn't solved the lens problem that plagued the NEX line, even if that line is technically dead and replaced by their Alpha branding strategy. This detracts from the A7/A7r as an upgrade path for RX-1 owners looking for more lens options, until someone comes out with a native FE zoom lens that is really sharp - although you can use almost any lens with an adapter, but that kills the compact form factor. Don't hold your breath in terms of anyone solving the zoom lens equation for this body. I had high hopes for the 24-70 F4 as a killer full frame system with the A7r. Big disappointment . . . . but there is good news in that Zeiss is planning to release a whole new line of FE prime lenses, including a Zeiss Loxia 2/50, a 2/35 and perhaps one other.
So aside from the usual trade-offs here of lowered weight and portability versus operational flexibility, lens and other support ecosystem options, what separates the RX-1 from the A7/7r? Not much. The interesting thing here is that Sony is clearly going to be competing with themselves given that no one else, well almost no one else excepting Leica whose products are simply out of reach, is making a full frame relatively compact ILC. It's a real throwdown to the rest of the ILC world and looks positioned to capture most of the high-end of the ILC market. Will be interesting to see what the marketplace does with this.
Meanwhile back at the RX-1 ranch, I have to conclude that not even Sony (with the new A7/A7r) can beat the portability of the full frame RX-1 - and neither can anyone else. My overall conclusion is that if you can live with the limitations of a fixed lens, there is still nothing out there close to this camera right now.
UPDATE JULY 2014
I have had this camera for over 18 months. It still hums along taking great pictures, mostly without a hitch. It's biggest limitation is clearly the fixed lens, and the somewhat funky autofocus in low light and in video. I have decided that the RX1's stiffest competition is actually the Sony RX-100 III - as a camera with a (very) small footprint (smaller than the RX1) and high image quality. It beats the RX1 soundly in video quality (due the upgraded processor enabling a better sampling paradigm than the RX1 line skipping approach), and beats it also in flexibility, but just not in picture quality, most esp. in low light. Its 24-70 lens is a huge advantage over the RX1, and its inclusion of a high quality EVF means that in exchange for a small drop in image quality and in low light shooting, the RX-100 III beats the RX1 almost everywhere else, while getting close in image quality. I may buy one as a travel camera, and keep the RX1 for home shooting.
UPDATE SEPT 2014
I believe sadly that Sony has orphaned this camera, as they have not updated the firmware in two years. Part of the problem is that it competes poorly with Sony's own A7, which offers only a slightly larger footprint, interchangeable lens options, a great built-in EVF (costs $400 extra on the RX1), all for less money, even equipped with a 35mm 2.8 Zeiss. And for about the same money, you can get the A7r with the same 2.8 35. For WAY less money, there is the RX100iii, which has better video, 3x zoom in the very useful 24-70mm range, and is even more pocketable, and its image quality (particularly using the two stop advantage of its great IS) is shockingly close to the RX1 - not quite its equal obviously, but for $2000 less, the margins are surprisingly slim. Given all these competitors, Sony has simply outdone themselves. What was a very attractive niche camera has been marginalized by all these developments. I still love the pictures it takes, but progress marches on, and eventually leaves everything behind it, even what were benchmarks at one point. Get a used one in good shape and if you can live with the fixed 35 perspective, you'll love the pictures. But I wouldn't recommend buying an orphaned camera from its manufacturer.
• Excellent image quality. I feel confident shooting in low light, without using the flash.
• Great metal build. It's not heavy, but it feels sturdy in your hands.
• Ninja quiet. I can shoot in a library and no one would hear the camera.
• Autofocus is slow, especially in low light. This is not an action camera.
• Writing RAW files to the SD card is a little slow. I am using a PNY 64GB SDXC UHS-1 90MB/sec card. Basically, after taking a picture, you have to wait 1.5 seconds before you can review it. I know it sounds nit-picky, but I have a habit of immediately pressing the Review button after taking a shot.
• Explaining to my wife why I spent thousands of dollars on a camera.