Review: The Sony RX1

Post by Mark

rx1

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:

Fujifilm X-T1
Fujifilm X100s
Leica X2
Olympus OM-D E-M1
Olympus OM-D E-M10
Panasonic GX7
Ricoh GR
Sony Alpha 7R
Sony Alpha 7
Sony RX1
Sony RX1R

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.

gx1-rx1-size

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.

rx1-sample-3

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.

rx1-sample-2

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.

rx1-sample-1

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.


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26 comments, add your own...


  1. Frederick says:

    That’s an honest review Mark! +1 for Sony leading the way to mirrorless camera. Looks like I need to upgrade to an RX1 and retire my Sony NEX7.

  2. Mathai says:

    Nice review Mark. Doesn’t the RX1 have a mechanical shutter? Is it just very quiet or actually silent?

    btw typo
    ..One of the things I loved “about” my GX1 camera was the size..

  3. WnM says:

    Great Review Mark.

  4. Nixon says:

    What’s up with guy on the car?!? Doesn’t look like a pose

  5. ertfd says:

    Mine is Sony DSCHX60. Lets be honest we all use Photoshop to edit our photos no matter how sharp ur images are :)

    In my humble opinion the power is in the zoom not the censor. Peace

    • Mark says:

      Doesn’t matter if you use photoshop to edit the photos, photoshop won’t make your photos sharper nor will it magically add more details to it. Photoshop allows u to work with what you have but it won’t add anything that’s not there.

      Take a photo with your camera at ISO 6400 (if it goes that high) and compare it to a similar ISO shot taken by an RX1 and then tell me sensor size is not important ;)

      • ertfd says:

        Honestly Mark with instagram and mobiles screen my eyes cant tell any differences unless if I am going to view the images in my laptop which I rarely do :) my pictures will be whether in ipad or in my electronic frame.

        • Mark says:

          Even if you’re using just Instagram, the last shot in my post above was meant for instagram, but theres no way you could have captured that with an iPhone. Even with your camera it would have been difficult, I shot it at ISO 3200 with the lens wide open at F2.

  6. Nomad says:

    Great Review. By the way, have you sold your GX1 or still with you?

  7. Em says:

    Excellent review and great visuals! Enjoyed the read even if I didn’t know jack about these camera’s, but I felt I learnt something quite informative :)

  8. yousefq8.com says:

    Nice review.

    I am looking for a more compact camera for traveling photography myself. I think the RX-1 is a great camera but the price is too high for what it is, even if it full frame. I think lately developments in m4/3 and APS-C sensors, especially from Olympus and Fujifilm, have closed the gap in high isos and quality. I’ve shot with full frame digital and film cameras and I don’t feel that its that much more worth it to spend $1000 extra on a camera and lens just to have full frame.

    Right now I think the Fujifilm X-T1 is a great camera, and the reviews are very favorable with samples images that are incredibly sharp. You can get the camera with an everyday lens like the 35mm (55m equiv.) 1.4 for a total of $1900, or for the sake of comparison, with the 23mm (35mm equiv) 1.4 for a total of $2200, and the Fuji has the ability to change lenses and has a large digital viewfinder and lots more features compared to the Sony RX-1.

    Never-the-less, the pictures you took are fantastic and the quality is great. Enjoy the camera!

  9. Tibs says:

    I owe Samsung NX300 mirrorless camera. Superb clarity, handy, and user friendly.

  10. Stu says:

    Hi Mark,

    Not sure if you’ll see this msg with it being such an old post, but a question please.

    Have you faced any customs issues when ordering a camera from the US to be delivered in Kuwait?

    I’m looking to order a mirrorless Canon EOS M3 from B&H in the US – nothing fancy but Amazon seems to have issues.

    • Mark says:

      you need to check with your shipping company, i didn’t have an issue with my camera but maybe Canons are problematic. In any case they sell Canons in Kuwait for nearly the same price as Amazon maybe even cheaper. Check aabworld.com

      • Stu says:

        Thanks for your quick response to your 199,364th comment and congrats (belated apparently) on the 10,000th post.
        That’s some score. Well done!
        Will check aabworld.
        Thanks again.


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