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December 29, 2012

Sony DSC-RX1 Full Frame Cyber-shot User Report: The Body – Part 1

Shooting with RX1

I have had the Sony DSC-RX1 full frame camera just over 2 1/2 weeks and in this User Report I will be sharing my experiences using my Sony DSC-RX1 related to the body and how it feels to shoot.  I plan to continue sharing my experiences using this camera as I learn the camera’s nuances and enjoy its image quality. Many of my articles should be pretty specific and that will help keep them short enough to easily digest.

This first post targets my initial impressions about the Sony DSC-RX1 body. I started this review on my own blog very informally and that’s how I ended up being “discovered” to write for SonyAlphaLab. I’ve improved what I had on my blog and added images so this review should be more in depth than what some of you might have read previously. I will intersperse a few of my early photographs from the RX1 as well:

Sony RX1 Plant Photograph with Bokeh

Sony RX1 Plant Photograph with Bokeh

 

Initial Feel of the RX1

Right out of the box, the RX1 had a very professional feeling heft to it at about 500 grams (I have a Canon FD 200/2.8 lens that weighs more than that, though). I knew right away that Sony didn’t cut corners on giving the camera a professional feel. But I quickly also decided that holding this camera is not as easy as my NEX 5N. I can walk around town with a wrist strap on my NEX 5N and the camera dangling from my fingertips and I find this comfortable and secure enough. With the RX1, I use a wrist strap as well, but the camera must be consciously grasped or pinched at all times like I am doing in this image:

RX1 Grip is a squeeze

squeezing the RX1 to walk around

 

Better Grip on the RX1

I suspect I would feel much better about walking about and holding the RX1 if I had the Sony Thumb Grip for the RX1, but that smallish piece of metal is priced at $250. For just another $100 I could nearly buy a new NEX 5N. There is no way in hell I pay $250 for a thumb grip, so I’ll have to be content to work a little harder to hold my RX1 than my NEX 5N and hope a cheaper knock-off appears soon. Or, perhaps a baseplate and grip being custom made to give the RX1 more of my NEX 5N’s feel (something like this FujiFilm X100 accessory).

My trenchcoat and my RX1

An easy pocket fit

Today was snowing a bit and just barely below freezing. I went out street shooting and wasn’t wearing gloves. I tried gloves, but I couldn’t easily take the lens cap off of my RX1 and put it back so I went gloveless. The trenchcoat I was wearing has pretty decent sized pockets on the side. After I would take a shot, I could easily put the lens cap back on and slip the camera and my hand into its pocket. The RX1 isn’t going to fit in a pair of jeans, but it is perfect for my winter coat and my pocket was warm enough to keep my camera and hand warm. I’ve read that the battery can drain faster in cold weather, but I managed to get over 200 photos and I didn’t even notice my battery showing any drainage. Like I noted, I was keeping it in my pocket between shots and it’s a warm pocket. For me, this is a pocket camera in the winter when I need it to fit in a pocket.

 

Customizing the RX1

Before I took any photos, I wanted to set the camera up to meet my needs. On my NEX 5N, there are not many external controls and I often felt constrained having to dig into the menu system. In fact, this is partly why I wanted to upgrade to gain external controls. The RX1 does not disappoint. There are many programmable buttons and I have all of the options I’d want available so that I can access everything I need with 1 button press. I didn’t realize how much I’d appreciate that, but I cannot go back to a camera body that is lacking externally . . . and my plan was to keep the 5N for other focal lengths (e.g., Rokinon 8mm F2.8 Fisheye LensSony 50mm f/1.8 LensSony E 55-210mm Lens) and use the RX1 for my main focal length (35) and most of my shooting. Just playing with the RX1 makes me want to greatly upgrade my other focal lengths, too. I need to figure out quickly if I want to go all in with regard to full frame or whether I just want to upgrade my 5N to the 6 to gain more external controls. Hmmm. But I quickly learned my way around the RX1. I am already using Exposure Compensation more often than I ever considered on my 5N just because of the ease of access. Fortunately, the Exposure Compensation wheel is very sturdy so there is very little chance I’d turn it without meaning to turn it.

An RX1 shot I took while walking around town the other day and this one made start singing, “Don’t worry, . . . “

Don't worry, be happy RX1 photo

Don’t Worry

One of the settings that comes turned on by default is system sounds. This can be helpful in that it provides an auditory beep sound when the autofocus locks in on a subject. This setting also provides a fake shutter sound when you take a photo. I turned this setting off before taking my first photograph. I love having a silent shutter. I went into a beautiful downtown church on Christmas Eve and sat in the balcony. I took a number of photographs from my seat at the back and not a single head ever turned and certainly nobody heard me taking the photographs.

Church with the RX1

Quiet Shutter is Awesome (ISO 6400)

 

Comparing the RX1 to my NEX Camera

I was used to flipping up the LCD of my NEX 5N as needed (e.g., shooting a flower down low I could lower my 5N and flip up the LCD to check focus). With the RX1, I am forced to bend way down to see my LCD screen. This is really annoying to me, but I suppose a person who hadn’t been used to an articulating screen wouldn’t really notice (e.g., it’s similar to shooting with an iPhone or Android phone if you think about it). I know I can buy a fairly expensive electronic viewfinder, but I gave up viewfinders on my old Nikon D70 and was very content with the LCD that articulated on my NEX 5N. With the RX1, I feel like I am taking a usability step backwards. On the other hand, the resolution of the LCD on the RX1 is incredible. Do you remember the first time you viewed a high definition television after being on standard definition? That’s how I felt when moving from my NEX 5N to the RX1. The screen is simply gorgeous. I feel like I am looking through a window at the subject I am shooting and the colors appear to be very accurate with regard to white balance (at least in my home with my lighting, which is really nice). I played with a Nikon D600 the other day and I thought its LiveView made my 5N LCD seem innovative and impressive. Well the RX1 LCD puts the NEX 5N LCD to shame. I just wish Sony would have made the screen adjustable, particularly since the camera does not come with an EVF or VF by default. I am happy to shoot just using the LCD, but the RX1 makes this more difficult than my much cheaper NEX 5N at times and that’s unfortunate.

Kids hugging on X_mas eve

Sure, they’ll hug on X-Mas Eve

 

In Front of the RX1 Lens

Finally, I bought a cheap $7 metal lens hood off of Ebay. I also attached a nice 49mm B+W UV clear filter I bought on Amazon for well under $40. The filter screws into the lens and recesses a little bit, which is nice. The lens hood screws into this filter just fine as well, but the filter and lens cap do add bulk to the front of the camera as seen in my next photo.

RX1 with filter and hood

RX1 with B+W UV Filter and Cheap metal hood

I do not notice any vignetting when shooting with this combo. However, if I use the flash then there is some shading on the bottom right portion of my photos so I would have to remove the lens hood when using the flash. I actually only use the hood if I am shooting out in the sun because I prefer to have less bulk. I want to also note that the lens cap does not fit into the lens hood very well. I can get it so sit in the hood and seem stable, but it doesn’t lock, per se, like it should. If I just pop it into the hood when it’s not attached to the camera, I can pop the cap off of the hood from the backside without much force. But, I am comfortable with how it does fit. Speaking of the lens cap, it’s really nice. The lens cap is metal and has a nice professional heft to it. Very complimentary to the RX1. And it’s certainly the nicest lens cap I’ve ever had on a camera lens. Given the price of the thumb grip, I’d hate to have to pay to replace the lens cap on the RX1.

I should note that I used the lens hood for the first week and then decided that I did not want to use the hood any more. I am fine with the 49 B+W UV clear filter as my only lens protection. I think the RX1 does a tremendous job of avoiding lens flare so I don’t think the lens hood is a necessary for my shooting. Another photographer might feel differently. I have read 2 reports of people who have accidentally dropped their RX1 and bent up the lens, so I suspect the lens hood could help in this regard. I just make it a point to always put my Gordy’s camera strap on before I even take the RX1 out of its bag (no exceptions). I also don’t have the RX1 dangle from the wrist strap; it’s just back up insurance for me.

 

Conclusions on the Feel of the RX1

So, that’s my initial impressions of the RX1 body (click here to buy one on Amazon). The RX1 is still very new to me so perhaps I am overly cautious in how I am handling it. Then again, I hope I am never complacent with this camera. More than anything, I want a cheaper thumb grip to emerge just to provide an easier way to hold the RX1 as I walk around. But as long as the weather is this cold, my trenchcoat pocket is working just swell in this regard.

RX1 Breakfast

RX1 Breakfast Photograph

 

60 of Sean’s favorite photos from this past year (a few RX1 images and many more from my 5N with the Zeiss 24 lens)

 

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About the Author

Sean Lancaster
I have had cameras stretching back to my first SLR in 1992 that my dad bought me when I graduated from College. I have owned a Nikon D70 and a few decent lenses. I started doing a photo a day project in 2011 (Jan. 1) and haven't missed a day since. But I didn't really start to learn photography until the summer of 2011 when I bought an NEX 5N. And even then I didn't have the lightbulb go on until later summer of 2012. I recently bought a Sony RX1 full frame 35mm beautiful camera and I continue to grow in my photography skills . . . always learning.




7 Comments


  1. Thanks, Sean. I’m really enjoying your RX1 reports but they’re giving me a bad case of GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome)! :-)
    The camera looks (and sounds) great and the image quality is just superb. I look forward to the next installment.
    (And, NO, I can’t be getting one of these things any time soon – my “Gear Budget” is already looking like the U.S. budget … in the Red! LOL)


  2. John Fleming

    One thing I noticed about the RX-1 is that leaving the lens setting on ‘macro’ produces unsharp / fuzzy non-macro photos. In other words, after taking your macro shots, remember to reset your lens. I have a Leica X1 and the macro setting doesn’t affect non-macro photos. A quibble, yes; otherwise the RX-1, so far, is a fantastic camera. Most of my low light photos (dusk and night) came out great. Now, if only I can get a hold of the EVF…


    • John, I make the same mistake. On my 5N and Zeiss, I could focus down to 6″ without any setting changes. On the RX1, of course, we need to turn to the macro setting, which shifts the lens forward a pinch. I am slowly getting into the habit of shifting out of macro as soon as I finish my macro like shot. I am sure it’ll happen again where I forget, but you’re right . . . just a quibble.


  3. Jay

    Great job Sean and thanks for sharing!! I really enjoyed the read and the killer photography as always ;)

    Really looking forward to your next installment and more sample photos!!

    Jay



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