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First Impressions: Sony Cybershot RX-1

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony Rx1 hands on review  (2 of 8)ISO 400

Amongst all of the items mentioned amongst the rumor sites, the only item that seemed to not be mentioned at all was the Sony RX-1. The company kept this one under extremely tight wraps and actually called the NYC press into a smaller meeting that was uber secretive.

So what makes this little point and shoot so kick ass? I wondered the same thing when Sony decided to call us in for a Cybershot. However, what you’re looking at is the world’s first digital point and shoot camera with a Full Frame (yes, 35mm sized) sensor.

Now, get ready to get excited.

Tech Specs

- 24.3MP EXMOR CMOS Sensor (same as the Sony A99)

- Multi-segment optical low pass filter

- Zeiss lens: 35mm f2 T* Sonnar with Advanced aspherical lens elements

- 14 Bit Raw Output

- Adaptive noise reduction technology

- ISO up to 25,600

- Nine aperture blades

- 20cm minimum focus

- Macro mode that works similarly to Fujifilm’s X100 and X Pro 1

- 1080p 24p and 60p

- Aperture ring around the lens and another dial that is programmable

- Magnesium Alloy Body

- Macro mode switch

- 3 Inch display

- Sony’s Multi-interface shoe (NEX)

- Accessories include an optical external viewfinder, thumb rest and lens hood.

- New electronic viewfinder: the EVM1K designed for the new multi-interface shoe

- MF assist in the form of peaking

- 5FPS shooting

- First curtain flash sync

- Contrast AF with 25 area focus points

- 49mm front filter thread

- 8 elements in 7 groups and 3 Aspherical lenses

- $2,799.00

Ergonomics

The unit I handled was a super rough pre-production unit. The top of the Sony RX-1 is characterized by a mode dial, on/off switch, threaded shutter button, custom function button, exposure compensation dial, hot shoe, and pop-up flash.

Around the lens is an aperture ring, focusing switch, and manual focusing ring.

The front of the camera is also pretty plain looking and not cluttered. If anything, the only major control is the switch for the focusing type in nearly the same position as Fujifilm’s X10.

Other than that, there is a grip.

The back of the camera is where things become more technical as this is where most of the controls are.

Above the giant LCD screen is a pop-up flash and the playback button. This camera also has no dedicated video recording button: and the company is pushing its still abilities much more.

Editor’s Correction: there is a video record button on the side. Thank you for the catch.

The camera also sports a magnification button, Auto Exposure Lock button, custom function button, info, menu, and trash button. Press the control dial in different directions and it will access a different feature depending on what you set it to.

Other than that, the camera is also very straightforward.

Oh, and it’s only a tad taller than the Rx100. However, it is much deeper with a much larger lens.

Autofocus

The focusing was pretty darned fast. It is a contrast detection AF system, no phase detection. However, it is fast enough for street photography and candid shooting.

Ease of Use

The camera seemed pretty easy to use, though I still have never totally gotten used to Sony’s menu system. There are a bunch of hidden features in the camera that have yet to be explored. But the firmware wasn’t final.

Image Quality

We couldn’t stick a card in the camera because of the fact that the unit was a pre-production unit. However, we saw prints from this and the 5D Mk III. The RX1 controlled noise better while the 5D Mk III had better retention of details.

First Impressions

The RX1 seems very exciting, but during my less than 10 minutes with the camera, I went away feeling like I needed more. Where is the built-in electronic viewfinder? Where is the new standard hot shoe so that I can mount Pocket Wizards onto this thing with ease?

More importantly, this camera has a leaf shutter, which is nice and quiet, but the rep told me that flash sync will only be up to around 1/250th for some odd reason. In order to go higher you’ll need to attach a Sony flash and activate HSS mode. If that is true, then that’s utterly ridiculous.

Someone won’t do that you say? Consider this: street photographers have been shooting in the style of Bruce Gilden forever. With that said, they mount a flash via a TTL cord, stop the lens down and shoot. But what if you want to get more creative and shoot at an even higher shutter speed? You’ll get clipping. Why not give me more creativity?

Other than that though, this is a truly exciting and revolutionary camera and I only hope that it’s a sign to the big two (Canon and Nikon) that they’ll need to catch up. Sony is doing some amazing things in the camera space right now, but no matter what one says, some consumers may not take them seriously simply because, “They’re Sony.” In my eyes, that’s utter rubbish. But there are people out there that would love this camera but are simply brand snobs.

I think that the company needs to start branding their top of the line products under the Minolta brand to help them grow. Otherwise, I really also just wish that people would just open their eyes and put their discrimination away.

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