Meet the world’s first full-frame digital compact
Changing settings while shooting is relatively painless, thanks to the function menu. A quick press of the Fn button brings up all the settings you’ll likely need. We appreciated being able to change ISO by simply turning the rear control wheel while ISO was highlighted in the function menu. Sometimes manufacturers make you select with another button press before changing this setting, which only slows things down.
The dedicated exposure-compensation dial is a classy feature. Not only can you see if any compensation will be applied without turning the camera on, you can also count clicks to apply compensation while using the optical finder. The downside is that exposure comp doesn't go beyond +/– 3EV. While this is commonplace in compact cameras and entry-level DSLRs, we always like to see more.
Street shooters will appreciate the threaded shutter release. Not only is a mechanical cable release a great way to trigger the shutter without tipping people off that you’re shooting, it is also less expensive than most electronic cable releases (welcome relief after springing for the thumb grip and optical finder.) You might also want to keep some extra cash around to get the optional LHP-1 lenshood ($178, street). This mounts on a bayonet found neatly recessed into the front of the lens barrel.
In addition to all the normal shooting functions, Sony includes its array of auto modes, some of which are useful as well as fun. Sweep Panorama makes wide vistas easy to capture. Handheld Twilight combines multiple exposures to minimize noise. Auto HDR merges three shots into one high-dynamic-range image without the need for a computer. The results are nice, and you can select how much of a bracket you want, but dedicated HDR software still yields the best possible results for these types of images.
The RX1 can capture video at up to 1920x1080p60 thanks to the inclusion of AVCHD progressive recording. Footage we shot looked fine for a compact camera.
If you like the extremely close focusing you would normally find in Sony’s compact cameras, you should know that the RX1 can’t match it. The physical limitations that go along with the large sensor prohibit it. However, we found that it got close enough for most of the shots we wanted to do, once we switched to the close-focusing range that spans about 8 to 14 inches.
The Bottom Line
It’s hard to compare the Sony RX1 to other cameras because it really is unique. As such, it carries a hefty price tag. For significantly less money, you could opt for the Sony Alpha NEX-7 ($1,198, street, body only) paired with the new E-mount 35mm f/1.8 OSS lens ($448, street). You’d end up with the same pixel count (though notably less measured resolution in our tests), better noise performance, and better color accuracy. You’d also have a built-in OLED EVF and the versatility of swappable lenses.
But you wouldn’t have the world’s first full-frame compact. And when it comes to a camera like this, you may find that even more alluring.
IMAGING: 24.3MP effective, full-frame CMOS sensor captures 6000x4000-pixel images with 14 bits/color in RAW mode.
STORAGE: SD/Memory Stick Pro slot stores JPEG, ARW RAW, and RAW + JPEG files.
BURST RATE: Full-sized JPEGs (Extra Fine mode), up to 20 shots at 2.5 fps, up to 14 shots at 5 fps (speed priority); RAW (14-bit), up to 14 shots at 2.5 fps, up to 12 shots at 5 fps using an SDHC UHS-I card.
AF SYSTEM: TTL contrast detection with 25-point multi, centerweighted, or flexible spot; face detection and tracking.
SHUTTER SPEEDS: 1/4000 to 30 sec, plus B (1/3-EV increments) at f/5.6 or smaller; up to 1/3200 sec at f/4; to 1/2000 sec at f/2.8.
METERING: TTL metering with 1200-zone multi-segment (evaluative), centerweighted, spot (size of spot not specified).
ISO RANGE: Standard, ISO 100–25,600 (in 1/3-EV increments); Expanded, ISO 50–25,600.
VIDEO: Records at 1920x1080p at up to 60 fps in AVCHD v. 2.0; at 1440x1080p at 30 fps in MPEG-4 MOV format; built-in stereo microphone; stereo mic input.
FLASH: Built-in pop-up; GN 20 (feet); Multi Interface Shoe for dedicated flash or other accessories; flash sync to 1/4000 sec.
LENS: Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 35mm f/2 with 8 elements in 7 groups (3 aspherical elements); 9–bladed aperture; minimum focusing 12 inches or 8 inches (macro).
LCD: 3-inch TFT with 1,229,000-dot resolution; 5-step brightness adjustment.
OUTPUT: USB 2.0, micro HDMI video, composite video, analog audio.
BATTERY: Rechargeable NP-BX1 Li-ion, CIPA rating 220 shots (with LCD set to maximum brightness) or 270 (with LCD set to middle brightness).
SIZE/WEIGHT: 4.5x2.6x2.8 in., 1.1 lb with a card and battery.
STREET PRICE: $2,798.