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Sony Cyber-shot RX1 Camera Review

We review the full-frame compact camera, the Sony Cyber-shot RX1 with 35mm Carl Zeiss f/2.0 lens.

|  Sony Cybershot DSC-RX1 in Compact Cameras
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Sony Cyber Shot Rx1 (3)

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

Sony Cyber Shot Rx1 (7)

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.

Sony Cyber Shot Rx1 (12)

Key Features

  • 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)
  • BIONZ processor
  • 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

Sony Cyber Shot Rx1 (9)

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.

Sony Cyber Shot Rx1 (11)

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.

Sony Cyber Shot Rx1 (14)

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.

Sony Cyber Shot Rx1 (13)

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.

  Sony RX1 Sony RX100
Shutter Response 0.0 0.0
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.3 0.3
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response N/A 0.3
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 2.5 2.2
Shot to Shot without Flash 0.8 0.9
Shot to Shot with Flash 2.8 2.1
Continuous Shooting - JPEG
(shots before slow down)
5fps (13-18 shots) 7fps (speed priority mode, 15 shots)
Continuous Shooting - Flash 2.4s 1.6s
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 (16)

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.

Sony Cyber Shot Rx1 Iso50 Distortion Correction Off DSC00001 | 1/25 sec | f/2.0 | 35.0 mm | ISO 50 1/25 sec | f/2.0 | 35.0 mm | ISO 50
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 DSC00073 | 1/500 sec | f/7.1 | 35.0 mm | ISO 100
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.

You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.

Sony Cyber-shot RX1 Verdict

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


Sony Cybershot DSC-RX1 Specifications

Max Aperturef/2
35mm equivalent35mm
Optical Zoom0x
Image Sensor
Pixels24.3Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)6000
Pixels (H)4000
Sensor TypeCMOS
Sensor SizeFull-frame
Sensor Size (width)35.8mm
Sensor Size (height)23.9mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 3:2
  • 16:9
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution1,229,000 dots
Touch ScreenNo
Min Focus20cm
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Spot
  • Multi
  • Centre
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/2000sec
Shutter speeds longest30sec
Bulb modeNo Data
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
  • A
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Multi Pattern
  • Spot
ISO sensitivity100 - 25600
White balance
  • Auto
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Shade
Exposure Comp+/-3
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting5fps
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080 FullHD
  • 640x480 VGA
  • 1440x1080
Video FPS50i, 50p, 25p
Stereo SoundYes
Optical Zoom with VideoNo
Other Features
Image StabilisationNo
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • Memory Stick (Sony)
  • SDXC
File Type
  • RAW
  • JPG
  • RAW + JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeRechargeable Battery Pack NP-BX1
Battery Life (CIPA rating)220shots
Box Contents
Box ContentsRechargeable Battery Pack NP-BX1, AC Adaptor AC-UD11, Micro USB Cable, Shoulder Strap, Lens Cap, Shoe Cap, Instruction Manual

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Photographs taken using the Sony Cybershot DSC-RX1

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The sigma Dp2m is a worthy alternative costing a third the cos and delivering 24 to 30MP equivalent shooting at 1/3 the cost.
Tseg 9
2 Feb 2013 5:14AM
...or if you are in a situation wanting noise free images between ISO 800 and 6400, as well as descent AF speed, you can pay 2/3rds more for the RX1. If you ever shoot jpeg, you may also want the excellent WB rendering of the RX1. And if you just want the Full Frame shallow DOF bokeh Zeiss goodness, you'll need the RX1. Ultimately the price/value equation is very personal... so just want to ensure when alternatives are considered, the differences between alternatives are considered. The RX1 is a niche camera. The Dp2m is an even more niche camera that is amazing if you like to carry a tripod.
josa 10 25 Czech Republic
2 Feb 2013 6:31PM
Great piece of engineering but not as sharp as Sigma DP1/2 M in my opinion. What a pitty Sigma doesn't have flash, simple glass VF, 35mm eqv. lens. Well maybe next time...
Paul Morgan 21 19.7k 6 England
3 Feb 2013 12:07AM

Quote:What a pitty Sigma doesn't have flash

Anyone prepared to spend this sort of money is not going to need on-board flash, with its leaf shutter this would be a killer camera for off camera strobist type stuff Smile

Love the camera but not the price.
simmybear 16 32 United Kingdom
5 Feb 2013 2:23PM
199 for a leather case, 199 for a thumb grip - somebody is taking the p***.

And before you say its envy - I'm an amateur but own 2 FF DSLRs so I don't skimp on my hobby but I would cringe to pay that much for a case.

Even my d3s came with a charger as standard.
josa 10 25 Czech Republic
7 Feb 2013 2:15PM
It's for guys driving Luxury cars, living in Luxury homes...Sad
dandeakin 15 209 3 England
13 Feb 2013 11:04PM
2.5 stars for value for money is abit generous...Smile
seahawk 15 1.4k United Kingdom
10 Oct 2013 3:36PM
It had better be real good at that price - I can't see Sony selling many of these.
sasan 9 36 England
23 Jan 2014 7:58PM
2,600.00!! Tongue
I should work many years without any spending!I'm gonna buy it for next century.These cams came from mars...

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