Sony RX1 Preview – Full Frame Compact Camera

September 12, 2012

I have to admit that Sony was able to surprise me with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1. a Full Frame compact camera, who thought that we’ll see such camera in 2012.  Yes, the camera comes with a fixed 35mm F2 Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* lens and not a zoom lens, and it doesn’t have a viewfinder. Even so, a 35mm image sensor with a Carl Zeiss F2 lens should certainly result in some gorgeous stills and video footage.  One of the biggest downside of this camera is maybe not related to its features, but the price. Sony asks $2800 for it, and that’s certainly a stiff price, shrinking the amount of people who can afford enjoying this camera.

Sony RX1, 35mm Compact Camera

Sony RX1, Full Frame Compact Camera

Sony RX100 – Opening Words

I think that the Sony RX1 will be shadowed for some current and future cameras that are rumored to be announced.  I guess many enthusiasts will want to get their hands on the RX1, but in reality, few will be able to afford it. I personally prefer getting the Fujifilm X-E1 or wait for an affordable Nikon Full Frame DSLR (Nikon D600?). It’s pity tat the price is the barrier here. I’m pretty sure that if this camera cost $2000, there will be more people who will certainly be happy to get one.

The Sony RX1 certainly reminds us the Sony RX100 large-compact camera. The RX100 has 1-inch sensor, which is much smaller sensor than 35mm. Still, the RX100 sensor is much larger than conventional P&S compact cameras, has more manual controls and of course it’s price is not in the sky. It seems people really love large sensor compact cameras. Sony made the most evolutionary move by releasing a large sensor compact camera with a 35mm sensor.


Pre-Order The Sony RX1 now from Amazon!

Pre-Order The Sony RX1 from B&H Photo!


I personally think that DSLR market loses customers every day in favor of mirrorless, large-sensor compacts and mobile phones. The world moves forward and people want smaller devices. I think this is a logical move to offer enthusiasts the option to shoot with a full frame camera, but that’s have to come with a lower price tag. Most people just can’t afford getting a full frame DSLR, it’s out of their budget.

I’m pretty sure that in the near future we can see that ‘rescue’ move being made, more companies will release affordable 35mm DSLR cameras. This will attract more customers and is good for maintaining the enthusiasts segment. Professionals will continue using full frame DSLRs, the problem is not there.

Si I think that the Sony RX1 move is Sony’s answer to the high demand for large sensor compact cameras. The Sony RX100 is one of the most successful cameras for 2012, positioned 5th on Amazon Best Sellers in Digital Cameras for the time of writing this article. The Sony RX1 can certainly compete against cameras like the Fujifilm X100, but it has its drawbacks that will prevent it from being able to convince Fujifilm loyal customers to switch to Sony, despite the fact that the X100 features an APS-C sensor, which is smaller than the 35mm Full Frame sensor of the Sony RX1. Both the Fujifilm X100 and the Sony Rx1 have a 35mm equivalent lens and F2 aperture.

I know that many people would have loved to see the RX1 with a viewfinder and option to change lenses (aka Full Frame Compact System Camera). This camera is aimed for enthusiast and pros, but the lack of viewfinder will certainly be a deal breaker for many photographers, that”s for sure.


Pocket-size Full Frame Camera!

OK, I am excited like you to see Sony innovating. I didn’t expect Sony to be the first one to release a full frame compact, but what the hack. I’m sure that this camera will make other companies follow the same path.  This is certainly a positive thing to note. Maybe you can’t afford buying a RX1 now, but future models will cost less and we will be able to enjoy more selection for such cameras.

Let’s take a look at the most interesting features that the Sony RX1 has to offer:

  • Pocket-size Camera!
  • 35mm Full Frame Exmor 24.3MP CMOS Sensor
  • 14-bit Raw image capture
  • f/2 Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* lens with 9 aperture blades
  • P/A/S/M modes
  • Full HD video recording at 24p/60/60p with manual control
  • Ultra-fast Focusing speed. FOcus as fast as 0.13 seconds with high speed AF
  • Newly developed multi-interface shoe, which will give you the option to mount various accessories for both stills and videos
  • Three control lens rings
  • Auto HDR mode
  • 5 fps continuous shooting
  • 3-inch Xtra Fine LCD 1229K-dots with MightMagic technology
  • Built-in pop-up flash
  • Dual-aspect ratio recording for still images (3:2, 16:9)
  • Sweep Panorama Mode
  • Four focusing modes: AF-S, AF-C (continuous AF), Manual focus and Direct Manual Focus (DMF)
  • Intelligent Scene Recognition System
  • Face detection
  • Picture Effect mode and Creative Style Settings
  • JPEG + RAW
  • Digital level gauge


Sony DSC-RX1 Official Introduction YouTube Video:


The Sony RX1 enjoys the great features that you get with most recent Cyber-shot cameras, but at the same time emphasize on performance and manual controls. The person who buys this camera will do it mainly for the full frame sensor. Without this sensor, the Rx1 would have been more like the RX100.

Full Frame sensor brings many benefits, including: being able to achieve shallower depth of field (for the same equivalent focal length compare to smaller sensors), much better low light performance, less noise and higher dynamic range. Image quality as a whole for both videos and stills will be improved compare to cameras with smaller sensors. The combination of a Full Frame Sony sensor with a super high quality pro-grade Carl Zeiss fast lens should result in awesome image quality.


Sony RX1 with optical viewfinder

Sony RX1 with optical viewfinder (sold separately)

Sony RX1 Video Samples

Before we get to talk about the stills image quality, let’s look at the video quality. The Sony RX1 video quality should be superb. You are limited to the fixed focal length, but it’s a very useful focal length for general purpose photography and you eve have an option to shoot as close as 20cm for better closeup shots.

Let’s take a look at a sample videos taken with the RX1 (720p)

Gorgeous image quality. You can see how effective is the Bokeh in close shots, and looks at the colors and clarity – beautiful!

You can see how good the video quality is in low light. The large sensor and fast lens really help get some great footage with available light which looks just amazing in this HD footage. The photographer switched from 24p to 60p so you can see the differences (not the right corner of the video for the specified framerate).  I want a full frame and I want it now!


Canon 5D Mark II vs Sony RX1

For $800 less you can buy the Canon 5D Mark II instead, but without a lens. Anyways, the Canon 5D Mark II is all-around better camera, but of course it’s much bigger.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II vs Sony RX1 - size comparison (via

With the RX1 it’s all about the size. I’m pretty sure that you will come home with much more interesting photos when you have the RX1, because you can take it everywhere you go. The Canon 5D Mark II is much more flexibly  of course.  However, I have a feeling that some people who could afford getting the 5D Mark II, many of them are probably professional, will also won’t mind getting the Sony RX1 is their compact camera. It can be a great second camera for pros like wedding photographer for example. Pros that learn to appreciate image quality, will certainly wont to have a highly-capable camera like the RX1.


RX1 Quesions & Answers

What the Sony RX1 body is made of?
The  Sony RX1 body is made of magnesium alloy.

Is the RX1 weather-sealed?
No, the Sony RX1 has no weather sealing.

When the Sony RX1 will be released?
The Sony RX1 will be available this November 2012 for $2800

Can I attach an Electronic Viewfinder to the RX1 as an optional accessory?
Yes, you can use  either the FDA-EV1K (EVF) for $600 or the FDA-V1K (OVF) for $450, those are sold separately.



Does the Sony RX1 have image stabilization?
According to the Sony RX1 specifications page in the ‘Advanced Features’ the Sony RX1 features SteadyShot image stabilization. Also note in the ‘Optical/Lens’ section it’s written “f=44mm (SteadyShot On”. There is a debate about whether the RX1 have image stabilization, some say it doesn’t have, some say it does. This is what the specs say so..

What is the maximum ISO on the RX1?
Native ISO up to 25,600 and you can also shoot at 102,4000 using Multi frame.

Can I put the Sony RX1 in my jacket pocket?
Yes you can!

Is the RX1 much bigger than the RX100?
View the size comparison here on 


The Sony RX1 is certainly one of the biggest surprises we’ve see in 2012. I don’t know how many people will get this camera for Christmas, but we had to give it to Sony for releasing such a camera. It seems that Sony is attacking the Full Frame market with the announcement of the Sony A99 and the Rx1. The A99 replaced the A900 that was announced on 2008. If not now, when ? – Sony has to push harder to attract more enthusiast and pro to its camp. People aren’t blind and they can see that Sony is doing a magnificent job releasing very interesting camera models to the market. Still, even with the A99 and RX1. Sony still behind the competition (aka. Nikon and Canon) when it comes to semi-pro and Pro equipment.

I wish I could put my hands on the Sony RX1. Those who have the chance to buy it will be lucky. Of course we still need to wait and see some more sample images and videos to be sure how to categorize this unique camera.


Pre-Order The Sony RX1 now from Amazon!

Pre-Order The Sony RX1 from B&H Photo!


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  • Tas Khan

    A fullframe camera and with a price tag of $2800 and without a view finder is a joke for me.