SONY RX1 AUTOFOCUS AND MANUAL FOCUS
Sony RX1 uses contrast detect for auto focusing. In plane word it means it is slower than the phase system in DSLR cameras and there’s not much to be done about that right now. AF speed in RX1 is very similar to that on NEX cameras. It gets the job done, but it will take a second or two, especially in low-light. The good thing is once it focuses and the subject distance does not change, it will focus almost instantaneously for the next shot (god for consecutive portrait shots).
There is a problem though: autofocus is sometimes prone to mistakes. More than once during my review time, it got completely confused and missed focus. In such cases it will focus on infinity. I am not sure where’s the problem, since there were misses even at the broad daylight. I wouldn’t make a big deal out of it since the problem occurred sporadically and at the same time I got perfectly focused shots during night (when it’s much harder to focus), but keep in mind focusing will require more attention with this camera. Often as possible, I used DMF (dual manual focus) and verified the focus before exposure to make sure it will be where I want it to be.
There is one thing though I think could be made better with some forward thinking: manual focus implementation. Sony RX1 manual focus ring is not mechanically linked, but has a “focus-by-wire” system as seen on NEX E-mount lenses. That’s not bad by itself, but RX1 is a street wannabe camera, and fiddling with electronic focus while decisive moments unravel beside you is not something Henri Cartier-Bresson would approve. Since the focus ring rotates freely, there is no purpose in hyper focal distance markings on the lens and therefore no way to set it on RX1. This could be avoided in software: I am sure it would be quite easy for Sony engineers to calculate focus distances and display it in centimeters or inches on LCD, together with hyperfocal distance depending on aperture selected. Instead, distance scale shown on LCD is there only for the sake of visual appeal – too imprecise to be of much use. Thankfully, you get the standard option to magnify part of the frame for focus assist and focus peaking function, so it’s possible to get some really nice street shots once you get used to camera.
RX1 manual focus ring is speed sensitive; when rotated slowly, focus will move very gradually and allow precise setting, and when rotated fast focus will jump from macro to infinity in a heartbeat.
SHUTTER SOUND AND CONTINOUS SHOOTING
Sony RX1 has a maximum burst rate of 5fps. Buffer is big enough for 10 RAW frames and 13 JPEG. Smaller resolution files can give you up to 17 frames without speed decrease.
RX1 is completely silent; courtesy of the leaf shutter. Therefore it could be perfect for users shooting in quiet environments like churches or libraries. Just make sure to switch Audio signals to “Off” in menu system… if left “On”, RX1 will playback fake shutter sound through its speaker… it took me two days to realise that.
SONY RX1 COMPETITORS
There are none.
Some might compare RX1 with Leica M9, but it can change lenses and costs significantly more, so they are not that similar. Others might draw parallels with Fuji X100 or Sigma DP2 Merill, but both have APS-C sensor and therefore are also not quite comparable.
As I said, RX-1 is unique.
SONY RX1 PRICE POINT ISSUE
At $ 2,800 RX1 is quite expensive. You can get A99 or Nikon D800 for the same amount of cash, Canon 5D MkIII will cost you around $ 3,500, and for “only” $ 2,000 Nikon D600 will be yours. Yet, those are body-only prices. My guess is that this particular Zeiss lens used on RX1 would cost in $ 1,000 – 1,500 range if it were available separately. And think of the size difference between RX1 and DSLRS mentioned. Suddenly, it is not that expensive anymore…
Overall, Sony RX1 is a definite winner. It might not be perfect, but never before could we buy a camera this small with such superb sensor and lens combination. Silent shutter makes it ideal for street or photojournalist work, and if someone finds the time (Sony are you reading this?) to develop hyperfocal on-screen distance scale in a form of firmware update, RX1 might become digital street camera unlike any before.
Image quality is in the same league with Nikon D600, D800 or Canon 5D MkIII used with similar high quality lens… in plain words there are only 5-6 cameras on the market today capable of competing with RX1 (excluding medium format) and none of them as small.
Even more, RX1 could be a very good choice for amateur users who can live without optical zoom, because RX1 delivers better image quality than any other small-sensor equipped camera. It has classic “green auto” mode, so if you like shallow DOF shots under candlelight and have a terrible itch in you wallet go for it…
SONY RX1 PRO:
- Sensor performance
- Lens performance
- Superb image quality
- Plenty of dials and controls
- Completely silent operation
- Camera vs. sensor size ratio
SONY RX1 CONS:
- Battery charger not part of the retail package
- Low battery life
- Auto-focus speed
- No mechanical manual focus and hyperfocal distance scale