The Sony Cyber-shot RX1 is the World's first compact camera with a full-frame sensor and fixed lens, and uses the same 24.3 megapixel sensor as the Sony Alpha A99, but with the use of the fixed Carl Zeiss Sonnar 35mm f/2.0 lens the camera is able to have a compact body. The RX1 offers 5fps continuous shooting, a 3 inch screen, built in pop-up flash, and 49mm filter thread.
Sony Cyber-shot RX1 Features
A Carl Zeiss Sonnar 35mm f/2 T* lens sits on the front of the camera and in normal use has a closest focus distance of 30cm. Rotating the macro ring allows the camera to focus from 20cm to 35cm. Nearest to the camera is a manual aperture ring with settings from f/2 to f/22 with 2 click stops between each marked aperture.
A recessed pop-up flash can be found on top as well as a standard flash hot-shoe. The side has connections for microphone input (standard 3.5mm jack), HDMI, MicroUSB for both connections to the computer and charging the battery when inside the camera.
24.3mp Full Frame Exmor CMOS sensor
Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 35mm f/2 lens
3 inch 1229k dot screen
20cm macro mode, 9 aperture blades for high class rounded bokeh
f/2 - f/22 aperture lens ring
Macro ring (middle), focusing ring (at front)
AA lens (advanced aspherical lens)
Mode dial on top. On/off/ flash hot shoe
ISO100 - ISO25600, extended range ISO50 - ISO25600
Multiframe noise reduction: ISO51200, ISO102400 available
Full HD PASM video, 24p
Magnesium body, with customisable buttons, dial at front focus modes, exposure compensation dial on top, control wheel at back
Sony Cyber-shot RX1 Handling
Handling - The camera feels well built with a solid metal body, with a rubber grip on the front and back. The copper coloured ring is designed to represent all the full frame models from Sony, and gives the camera a bit of bling, on what could otherwise be considered a somewhat plain design. The battery cover is plastic, although seems sturdy enough.
The top C (Custom) button can be set to: Drive mode, Flash mode, Autofocus area, Soft skin, Smile/Face detection, Auto portrait framing, ISO, Metering mode, flash comp, white balance, DRO/HDR, Creative style, picture effect, image size, aspect ratio, quality, AEL hold, AEL toggle, spot AEL hold / toggle, AF/MF control hold / toggle, smart teleconvertor / zoom, focus magnifier, memory, deactivate the LCD, or to not set. In addition to this the function of the AEL, left, right and down buttons can be customised to any of these options. The movie button can be set to be active in every mode, or alternatively just in the movie mode.
A number of new accessories are available for the RX1: FDA-V1K Zeiss OVF (£499), lens hood, thumbgrip TGA-1 (RRP £199), 2.359 million dot OLED EVF is also available (RRP £379), leather case (RRP £199). The camera comes with a wide Sony RX1 branded camera strap. The thumb grip aids grip, making it more comfortable to hold, and is particularly useful if you are using the optical (or electronic) viewfinder available, however it does cover the playback button and control wheel on the back until you flip it out of the way.
Menus – The camera uses menus that are very similar to Sony's Alpha cameras, making it easy to navigate and change settings, particularly if you've used other Sony Alpha Digital SLRs. A built in pop-up flash is found in the body, as well as a standard ISO flash hot-shoe. A microphone socket is included for anyone interested in using it for video recording.
RAW + JPEG option reduces JPEG image quality, eg a detailed image will be 10mb in size, compared to a "Super Fine" JPEG of the same subject being roughly 19mb+ in size.
Battery life - Battery life is rated at 220 shots according to Sony / CIPA test results, we were able to take just over 200 shots before the battery went flat.
Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.
Continuous Shooting - JPEG
(shots before slow down)
5fps (13-18 shots)
7fps (speed priority mode, 15 shots)
Continuous Shooting - Flash
Continuous Shooting - RAW
4fps (11 shots)
4fps (13 shots)
The camera can take shots at 5fps for upto 13 shots without slowdown with all lens correction options switched on, switch these off and it can shoot up to 18 JPEG images. Shutter response is excellent and focus is relatively quick, although ocassionally it can hunt for focus, which can double the amount of time it takes to focus correctly.
Sony Cyber-shot RX1 Performance
Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.
Sony Cybershot DSC-RX1 Sample Photos
Sample Photos - Colour reproduction is very good with bright saturated colours and excellent control over settings if you want to alter them, with several presets, each with the option to customise contrast, saturation and sharpness. Although not the ideal focal length for portrait photography, the shallow depth of field can be flattering, and the flash performance is good with no sign of red-eye.
Sony Cybershot DSC-RX1 Outdoor images
Lens Performance - Purple fringing or chromatic aberations were not a huge problem, and when spotted were quite minimal with the built in correction helping. Vignetting can also be noticeable with the shading correction feature switched off.
Dynamic range is good, Centre and edge quality is excellent, with very good detail across the frame it's possible to take very sharp images,and despite shooting into the sun lens flare was very well controlled. Exposure is reliable with consistently good results.
Sony Cybershot DSC-RX1 Lens test images
The closest focus distance is 20cm, when the lens is turned to macro focus mode, which won't allow great macro photos, but does provide the option for some close up work, as well as pleasing bokeh.
There is quite noticeable barrel distortion when shooting straight objects near the edges of the frame and the camera does a good job of correcting this. Options for lens correction include shading (vignetting, shown above), chromatic aberation, and distortion correction and we've shown an example below of distortion correction off and on.
Distortion Correction Off | 1/25 sec | f/2.0 | 35.0 mm | ISO 50
Distortion correction on | 1/25 sec | f/2.0 | 35.0 mm | ISO 50
Sony Cybershot DSC-RX1 ISO test images
ISO Noise Performance - Noise is excellent at ISO50, ISO100, ISO200, ISO400 and ISO800 with very good detail. Noise is still very low at ISO1600, and it's only at ISO3200 where you start to see a noticeable increase in noise, and a slight loss of detail. ISO6400 sees noise increase and there is a slightly loss in colour saturation. ISO12800 sees a further increase in noise, with additional loss of colour and detail. ISO25600 shows the highest levels of noise, however results should still produce useable images if re-sized or processed further. ISO default range: 100-25600. ISO extended range: 50-25600 (manually selectable), although in Multi-Frame NR, ISO can be manually set to ISO51200 and ISO102400. ISO Noise reduction settings: Long Exposure NR (On), High ISO NR (Normal, options: Off, Low, Normal).
Sony Cybershot DSC-RX1 White-balance test images
White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance (AWB) gives a slightly warm result under tungsten lighting with the tungsten preset giving a much more neutral result. AWB performs well under fluorescent lighting, although using an adjusted preset can give a better result and is easy to apply using the on screen diagram. The fluorescent preset (without adjustment) gives a slight magenta cast.
Panoramic | 1/500 sec | f/7.1 | 35.0 mm | ISO 100 - Panorama mode - Sweep panorama lets you hold down the shutter button while you pan the camera. The camera then automatically stitches the image together.
Sony Cybershot DSC-RX1 Digital filters
Digital Filters - Creative styles adjust the colour, and RAW files can also be recorded. Creative effects can only be selected when shooting JPEG only. HDR shooting is also only available when shooting JPEG, we've shown examples with this set to Auto, 3EV and 6EV.
Video - The camera has a number of video options, including AVCHD, MP4, 50i, 50p, 25p, or 60i, 60p, 24p in NTSC mode. Digital steadyshot is available, as well as wind noise reduction. Quality appears to be very good as can be seen in the video below, and manual controls are available.
Digital image stabilisation crops the view, another video recorded with image stabilisation and the wind filter switched on can be found here.
Value For Money
The Sony Cyber-shot RX1 is available for £2600 from WEX and as the only full-frame compact camera with fixed lens, it's difficult to find alternatives for comparison. If you think about a full-frame Digital SLR, you could get the Nikon D600 for £1299 body only, plus a Carl Zeiss ZF.2 35mm f/2.0 Distagon for £819 which comes to a total of £2116. Another option is to look at other full frame cameras, such as the Leica M-E, although this will set you back around £3900 body only, although neither of these options are anywhere near as compact as the RX1. Other serious compacts with a larger than normal (APS-C) sensor and fixed lens include the £1575 Leica X2, and the £1099 Fujifilm X100s. Included in the box is a black fabric pouch for the camera, as well as a grey lens cloth, and a wide neck strap, however there is no external battery charger, as this is performed with a USB cable and AC adapter provided and with the battery inside the camera.
The Sony Cyber-shot RX1 is currently unique in being the only compact camera with fixed lens and full-frame sensor. Due to the expense of developing a camera like this, it's likely to be unique in its field for a long time to come, with APS-C sized sensor (or smaller) compact cameras being developed in greater numbers. The only other option is to invest in a full-frame Digital SLR and equivalent lens, with the added bulk, or look at a digital rangefinder, albeit with much higher costs involved.
The Sony RX1 is clearly capable of delivering extremely high image quality with a sharp Carl Zeiss 35mm f/2.0 lens on the front. The camera is roughly the size of a medium sized mirrorless camera with a compact fixed lens on the front, but with a full-frame sensor its noise performance is excellent, and for those who are looking for the highest quality in the smallest package available, the Sony Cyber-shot RX1 is an excellent camera, particularly if you have the money to afford it.
With a premium camera you would expect to have an external charger so that if you invested in a second battery, which is recommended due to the short battery life, you would be able to charge the battery while still using the camera, but unfortunately as charging is performed in the camera with a USB charger you will have to stop shooting. Although if you have the money to buy the camera, then buying the additional batteries, charger and accessories may not be too much of an issue.
Without doubt, the Sony Cyber-shot RX1 is capable of delivering stunning images.
Sony Cyber-shot RX1 Pros
Smallest full-frame camera available
Low noise at high ISO settings
Sharp Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* f/2.0 Lens
Excellent image quality
Extremely quiet shutter
Very good build quality
5fps continuous shooting
Built in HDR / Panoramic shooting
Sony Cyber-shot RX1 Cons
High Price / Price of accessories
RAW + JPEG option reduces JPEG image quality (to JPEG Fine)
RAW shooting not available with HDR / Creative Effects
Battery charger not included (internal charging)
Short battery life