Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1



      When Sony unveiled its DSC-RX1 Cyber-shot camera at Photokina 2012 last September it created a frisson of excitement. Here at last was a compact camera with a 24-megapixel ‘full-frame’ sensor. And it was built like a ‘real’ (traditional) camera, to boot. Measuring 113.3 mm wide, 65.4 mm high and 69.6 mm thick and weighing just under half a kilogram with battery and memory card installed, the RX1 drew covetous eyes from far and wide.

      So, is this the pocket-sized, ‘serious’ camera we’ve all been waiting for? Maybe ““ and maybe not. Its price tag (AU$2999 or US$2800) will be a major deterrent for many. But there are other factors that will take the RX1 off the ‘must have’ lists for many photographers. The table below lists the pros and cons we’ve uncovered since receiving a review camera.

      Who’s It For?
      If you’re planning to fork out almost $3000 for a compact, fixed lens camera, you need to be sure you’re making the right investment. So, let’s look at how well the RX1 is suited to specific tasks serious photographers might use it for.1.  Landscape photography: The 35mm angle of view may not be wide enough to provide the dramatic coverage some landscape photographers desire. However, it’s close to ideal for using vertically to capture a series of shots for panoramic stitching because it shouldn’t introduce excessive distortions. A lens hood is a must for most landscape work.

      2.  Portraits: Wide enough for environmental portraits but too short for head-and-shoulders shots. Too short, as well, for candids.

      3.  Sports and Action: Only if you can get close enough and, even then, focusing may not be fast enough and using flash will be difficult on the small camera body.

      4.  Close-ups and Macro: Close focusing limits make the camera unsuitable for both applications.

      5.  Photojournalism and Street Photography: Maybe. The camera is small enough to be inconspicuous and the manual controls are easy to adjust on-the-fly. The threaded shutter release  allows use of a cable to trigger the camera’s shutter inconspicuously. Superior low light performance allows high ISO settings to be used in poorly-lit situations but the lack of stabilisation may present problems.

      6.  Indoor Photography: Depends on the subject and the photographer’s approach. The 35mm lens may not be wide enough for cramped situations but the camera’s low-light capabilities are a big plus.

      7.  Architecture: Inherent barrel distortion and vignetting could present problems, although in-camera corrections are available.

      How Does it Handle?
      The solid metal body and accessible manual controls leave no room for complaint in both areas (hence our 9.0 rating). However, the aperture ring on the lens barrel requires you to use the camera with two hands, which means you want to raise it to your eye when shooting. Sadly, no viewfinder is provided.

      The design and control layout of the RX1 is reminiscent of traditional rangefinder styling, with the front panel is dominated by the Carl Zeiss Sonnar 35mm f/2 lens. The only other features are a focus mode selector switch on the lower left hand corner, an AF-assist LED   between the lens and the RX1 name plate and the leather-clad grip moulding.

      The Sonnar lens design dates back to 1929 and is renowned for its simplicity, relatively light weight and fast maximum aperture. Because it has a short back focus, it is well suited to the RX1, where roughly 20% of the lens is contained within the relatively slim camera body.

      The lens has eight elements arranged in seven groups. Three elements have aspherical surfaces, one of them with an ‘advanced’ design. The iris diaphragm has nine blades, which close to a circular aperture. This lens has a normal focusing range of 25 cm to infinity but can focus to about 20 cm with the macro shooting mode.

      It’s great to have a ring on the lens for adjusting aperture settings. Unfortunately, there’s no auto setting on the aperture ring so the aperture ring is disabled when the camera is set to the Full Auto or S modes.

      The position of the sensor is indicated by a ‘Plimsol’ line on the top panel just left of the hot shoe. The top panel carries two dial controls: one for selecting the shooting modes and the other for exposure compensation. Between them sits the shutter button, which is threaded to accept a traditional cable release and surrounded by the power switch. A customisable ‘C’ button is located just in front of the exposure compensation dial.

      A hinged, pop-up flash (similar to the one on the RX100) is recessed into the left hand side of the top panel. Between it and the mode dial is a Sony multi-interface hot shoe, which is mechanically compatible with Sony’s flashguns but doesn’t give the camera control over most third-party flashes.

      There’s no built-in viewfinder so you’re forced to use the monitor for everything. Sony offers two add-on viewfinders as accessories but neither was supplied with the review camera so we can only provide basic information about them.

      The FDA-V1K is an optical finder that sells in Australia for $599. The FDA-EV1MK  is an OLED electronic viewfinder with a resolution of 2,359,000 dots. It has an RRP of $499. Both attach to the multi-interface shoe, which means the FDA-V1K will suffer from parallax error due to its position with respect to the lens. The FDA-EV1MK   will display the same view as the image sensor.

      The rear panel monitor is a 3-inch LCD panel with a resolution of 1,228,800 dots. To its right of the monitor lie two dial controls and   five buttons. The flash pop-up switch and playback button are located just above the monitor.

      The main control dial, which is used to adjust a selected function, is near the top of the rear panel. A second control wheel surrounds the arrow pad, which has a central selection button and four directional ‘buttons’. Users can assign different function to the left, right, up and down buttons using settings on page 3 of the set-up menu.

      The top button below the main control dial handles the AE Lock function in shooting mode as well as the playback zoom function. Below it is the Function button, which can be programmed to access one of 19 settings in the shooting mode and also handles image index views in playback mode.

      The RX1 must rate as one of the most customisable cameras on the market. In addition to the three user-programmable memories accessed via the mode dial (C1, C2 and C3), 25 functions can be assigned to the rear panel buttons.

      The ‘C’ button on the top panel and the other arrow pad buttons can each have a single function assigned to them. But you’ll have to remember which one adjusts the drive modes, ISO, white balance or whatever function you’ve assigned to it. Sadly, there are no labels on the arrow pad’s directional buttons to help you remember how you’ve set them up, save for the DISP label just above the ‘up’ button and the AEL (auto exposure lock) button.

      To some degree this can be overcome by using the ‘Fn’ button on the rear panel to access a ‘quick’ function menu, which displays the most frequently-used camera settings overlaid on the scene shown on the monitor. The Quick Navi display, which is accessed via the DISP button, shows the same adjustments without an overlay ““ and adds a few settings that aren’t provided by the screen overlay.

      It also makes it easy to set image size and quality and displays a level indicator and brightness histogram. Pressing the ‘Fn’ button in this mode allows you to navigate around the screen and adjust 16 functions, rather than 13 supported by simply pressing the ‘Fn’ button on its own.

      The interface ports are tucked away under a lift-up cover on the left hand side of the camera. Here you’ll find a Micro USB connector, an HDMI micro jack and a 3.5mm microphone jack for external microphones.

      On the opposite side of the camera, just back from the right hand strap lug is the movie record button. It’s positioned just to the right of the thumb grip moulding and, while not in the ideal spot for triggering and stopping recordings, is usable in most situations.

      The battery and memory card share a compartment in the base of the camera. And it is here we have our first ‘beef’ with the RX1: the battery has to be charged in the camera via a USB cable and AC adaptor (both supplied). You can also charge the battery directly from a computer via the USB cable ““ but it’s VERY   slow.

      The problem with this system is that the camera becomes unusable while the battery is being recharged. You can buy a ‘travel charger’ (the BC-TRX) for AU$69 and spare batteries cost AU$69 each. But we feel the charger should have been included in the overall camera price.

      The user manual supplied with the RX1 is designed for Cyber-shot cameras and almost totally useless for serious photographers. The index omits many key functions, making it difficult to locate the meagre information provided.


      In summary

      Good for:
      – Landscape photography, particularly when shooting panorama sequences for post-capture stitching.
      – Group portraits.
      – Street photography, especially scenic shots.
      – Shooting in low light levels.
      – Travel ““ if you can live with the fixed focal length lens.

      Not so good for:
      – Shooting sports and action.
      – Close-up shooting.




      Ease of use




      Still image quality JPEG


      Still image quality RAW


      Video quality




      RRP:  AU$2999, US$2800 (MSRP)




      • Image sensor: 35.8 x 23.8 mm Exmor R  CMOS sensor with 24.7 million photosites (24.3 megapixels effective)
      • Image processor: BIONZ
      • Lens: Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 35mm f/2 prime lens
      • Digital Zoom: 2x (via  “By Pixel Super Resolution” processing); 14x digital zoom
      • Image formats: Stills ““ARW.RAW (v. 2.3), JPEG (Exif 2.3), RAW+JPEG; Movies ““ AVCHD, AVC MPEG-4 with stereo soundtracks
      • Image Sizes: Stills ““ 3:2 aspect: 6000 x 4000, 3936 x 2624, 2640 x 1760; 16:9 aspect: 6000 x 3376, 3936 x 2216, 2640 x 1488; Movies: 1920 x 1080   at 60, 50, 25, 24 fps; 1440 x 1080 at 30, 25 fps; 1280 x 720 at 30 fps; 640 x 480 at 30, 25 fps
      • Image Stabilisation: No
      • Shutter speed range: 30 to 1/4000 second
      • Exposure Compensation: +/- 3.0EV in 1/3EV steps
      • Exposure bracketing: 3 frames in 1/3 EV or 2/3 EV steps
      • Self-timer: 2 or 10 seconds delay
      • Focus system: Contrast-detection AF with 25 selectable AF points; range 25 cm to infinity; macro to 20 cm
      • Focus modes: Single, Multi-area, Centre, Selective single-point, Tracking, Face Detection
      • Exposure metering: Multi-pattern, centre weighted and spot modes
      • Shooting modes: Superior Auto, Intelligent Auto, Program Auto, Shutter Speed Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual Exposure, Memory Recall (x3), Movie Mode, Sweep Panorama, Scene Selection (Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Sunset, Night Portrait, Night Scene, Hand-held Twilight, SteadyShot EIS   for movie)
      • Picture Style/Control settings: Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Clear, Deep, Light, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, Night Scene, Autumn Leaves, Black & White, Sepia
      • Picture Effects: HDR Painting, Rich-tone Monochrome, Miniature, Toy Camera, Pop Colour, Partial Colour, Soft High-key, Water Colour, Illustration
      • Colour space options: sRGB, Adobe RGB
      • ISO range: Auto, ISO 100, ISO 200, ISO 400, ISO 800, ISO 1600, ISO 3200, ISO 6400, ISO 12800, ISO 25600
      • White balance: Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Incandescent, Flash, Custom
      • Flash: Built-in pop-up flash; GN 6 m / ISO 100; Auto, On, Off, Slow Sync modes
      • Flash exposure adjustment: +/- 3.0EV in 1/3EV steps
      • Sequence shooting: Max. 5 fps for up to 14 Large/Fine JPEGs or up to 12 RAF.RAW   files (14-bit) using an SDHC UHS-1 card
      • Storage Media: Memory Stick Duo, SD / SDHC / SDXC; Micro cards accepted
      • Viewfinder:   None
      • LCD monitor: Fixed 3-inch Xtra Fine TFT LCD with 1,228,800 dots and brightness adjustment
      • Playback functions: single, index, movie playback, slide show, delete, rotate, protect, specify printing, add Picture Effect, volume settings
      • Interface terminals: USO 2.0, Micro HDMI
      • Power supply: NP-BX1 rechargeable lithium-ion battery; CIPA rated for approx. 330 shots/charge
      • Dimensions (wxhxd): 113.3 x 65.4 x 69.6 mm
      • Weight: Approx. 453 grams