A few months back I started looking for a new digital camera to replace my aging Panasonic GX1. I had been using the GX1 constantly since 2012 and it was by far one of my favorite cameras I had ever owned. But, on one trip to London last year I carried my much larger and heavier full sensor D800 camera with me and I just loved the results. I realized the much larger sensor on the D800 allowed me to capture shots I wouldn’t be able to with my GX1, mostly very high ISO shots in very dim light. Because of the size though the D800 isn’t a very practical take everywhere camera and so I started doing my research trying to find a replacement for my GX1. Some of the cameras I considered were:
Olympus OM-D E-M1
Olympus OM-D E-M10
Sony Alpha 7R
Sony Alpha 7
From the list above the only ones that ended up grabbing my attention were the Sonys since they were the only cameras on the list that had full framed sensors. Having a full frame sensor would mean I’d be able to capture a lot more detail, have shallower depth of field in my shots and most importantly have better dim light capabilities. In the end I opted for the Sony RX1 because of the size. One of the things I loved about my GX1 camera was the size and the RX1 was practically the exact same size except the lens on the RX1 made it slightly thicker (check the GX1/RX1 overlay visual below). The newer Sony A7 was tempting but since I already had a main camera (the D800), I needed a secondary camera, something small and inconspicuous to take with me on my restaurant reviews and when I traveled. The A7 was a lot more bulkier especially once you added the lenses.
I’ve had the RX1 now for around 2 months and I’ve already traveled with it a number of times and used it in various situations and I really really love it. It’s by far the best compact camera I’ve had. The camera has a full metal body and feels very solid, we’re talking Leica M series quality here without the Leica price tag. The lens is a really bright 35mm F2 Carl Zeiss, its fixed which means I can’t zoom in or out but that isn’t an issue since I was only using the 20mm lens (40mm equivalent) on my GX1 anyway.
The RX1 has allowed me to take a ton of great shots and I’ve been carrying it with me everywhere I go. It has a lot of physical controls as well as customizable buttons so I always have quick access to my most used options. I love the way the camera looks and feels in my hand, it has a slightly retro look but it’s really understated which is how I love my cameras. Another great feature about the camera is the fact that the shutter is silent. When I turn off all the sounds I can take a photo in a quiet room and no one would be able to hear me take photos. It’s how I was able to take the photo of the guy sleeping on the car below without having to worry about waking him up. Finally the ISO capability on this camera is nearly as good as my D800. I’m so confident about the capabilities of the camera I have it set on Auto ISO with the max limit at 12,800. That’s how good the noise at high ISO is, I can shoot up to 12,800 and not have to worry about noise. Combine that with the bright F2 lens and there really isn’t a condition anymore where I would have trouble shooting in.
I really can’t think of anything negative to say or highlight about the camera but I will bring up issues I had read about online and answer them here. Battery life, it’s not that great but that’s an easy fix, the batteries are very cheap, I bought two more and now carry three batteries with me. In the two months I’ve had the camera I don’t think I’ve ever needed more than one battery a day so even though battery life isn’t that great it’s good enough to last you a day out. Some people have complained about the focusing being slow. I don’t think its slow and only faced an issue focusing once and that was because there was hardly any light. I just ended up shooting in manual focus mode and that solved the problem. Finally a lot of people online complained about the fact the screen isn’t tiltable or the fact the camera doesn’t have a built in view finder. Both are good points but Sony built the most compact full sensor camera in the world so I’m sure they had to cut some options to keep the size compact. Personally I’m glad they kept the size small and instead released the A7 with all the extra features they couldn’t fit into the RX1.
I can’t recommend this camera enough, the sensor and lens combo is just unbeatable and I can’t believe how small this camera is. The price is the only reason why not everyone is walking around with this camera strapped to their necks. Amazon sell the camera for $2,800 which is pretty expensive when compared to all the other compact cameras in the market. But, I personally think the only real competition is the Sony A7 and the Leica M series. The Sony A7 costs $1800 without a lens and another $800 for the 35mm F2.8. That brings the total to $2,600 for a larger camera with a lens thats not as bright. The Leica M series on the other hand costs nearly $7,000 without a lens. So when you compare the RX1 to the two the price becomes pretty reasonable. If you can afford the RX1 then get it, you’ll have a hard time finding anything else as good with the same form factor.