Sony RX1 – review

The Sony DSC-RX1 is a truly pioneering product: the world’s first point-and-shoot with a full-frame sensor. Despite its (relatively) dinky dimensions, the RX1 rocks the same glorious 24.3MP sensor as Sony’s flagship SLT camera, the A99, and pairs it with a fixed focal 35mm Carl Zeiss Sonnar lens. The eye-watering price tag reflects these features.

Sony RX1 – build quality

The RX1 may be a point-and-shoot camera, but it’s certainly not light or pocket-friendly. It weighs around twice as much as most high-end point-and-shoots, and the lens adds a substantial bit of bulk. You’ll need unnaturally large pockets, then – or a proper case to keep it in. The build quality is top notch, though, with the metal body feeling sturdier than a brick. Textured plastic on the front and back ensures you can grip it well with one hand.

Sony RX1 – user-friendliness

While the RX1 might be priced for pros, it’s aimed at enthusiastic (and affluent) amateurs and as such comes with a fairly decent auto mode. Flick the mode dial to this, simply point and shoot and you’ll get good results – but it doesn’t really make the most of the lens’ wide F2.0 aperture, instead choosing to use smaller aperture settings and up the ISO sensitivity to compensate. You’ll need to use aperture or manual priority settings if you want to shoot wide open and achieve a shallow depth of field in your snaps.

On the control front, there’s a nice set of physical dials and buttons to use, making the process of tweaking settings on the fly painless.

Sony RX1 – lens

Bolted to the front of the RX1 is a top quality Carl Zeiss Sonnar lens, but don’t expect an optical zoom: this one is fixed at 35mm. It’s a nice “classic” focal length for photography, but given the price you might expect something a little more flexible. We can’t moan about the sharpness of the images, though: the lens (which features a big manual focus dial, macro/normal switch and aperture adjustment ring) really is straight out of the top drawer when it comes to image quality.

Sony RX1 – photo and video quality

Paired with that huge sensor, the lens helps to produce the sort of images you’d normally get from a high-end DSLR: rich, low in noise and (provided you use the right settings and composition) with an attractively smooth, out-of-focus background. It’s unusual – and very cool – to see shots like this coming out of such a compact camera. Likewise the 1080p videos look fantastic.

Sony RX1 – accessories

The RX1 doesn’t come with a viewfinder supplied (a bit surprising given the price), but there are two available: a $629 OLED electronic viewfinder and a $829 optical viewfinder. The former replicates the screen display (it switches automatically when you put your eye up to it) but offers a higher resolution. The latter is exceptionally bright and clear, with a frame to show the area that will appear in show, but it does seem a little overpriced.

Sony RX1 – verdict

There isn’t the flexibility of a DSLR or SLT camera here, due to the fixed lens – and this limiting factor, coupled with the lofty price, makes the RX1 a curio rather than something you feel like you need to own. It’s impressive, but we’re waiting for the next generation – or at least a version that supports swappable lenses.

Stuff says... 

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 review

An exceptional point-and-shoot but a full-frame DSLR offers more flexibility