Snow In The City: a real world shooting experience with the Sony RX1

Snow In The City: a real world shooting experience with the Sony RX1

shot raw (converted in ACR) with the Sony RX1 at 1/640, f4.0, ISO 1000

I finally got my hands on the Sony RX1. Excellent timing since I also have the Fuji X100s here. You might remember I was totally blown away by the RX100, a great street camera (click here for my Paris street shots) AND video camera (click here for the Sandy Hurricane video). Needless to say my expectations for the RX1 were very high. OK, let’s get right to it, my impressions about image quality, handling, responsiveness from my time with the RX1 so far, after the break


Exceptional build and solid feel, we have all read about it, however, the real experience to hold and shoot this little gem is something else, all manual dials and control wheels felt better than most cameras I have used recently and reminded me of my good old Leica M days.


Little things like the feel of the shutter button, the almost inaudible leaf shutter sound which reminded me of another oldie, the fantastic Mamiya 7. The most impressive aperture and macro ring and finally, it is about time, a fly by wire ring mf ring which felt (almost) like on a mf Zeiss lens!


I encountered a few challenges during this photo walk:
Wet snow, flat, white top light, moving subjects.
The LCD is very good and I was comfortable using it most of the time, at certain angles however, the glare was annoying and I would have much preferred a built in EVF.


Which brings us to the auto focus performance, the Achilles heel of the RX1 with non static subjects.
If you have been following my reviews you probably noticed my low tolerance level for crappy af performance. There are just too many cameras out there that get auto focus right. This one doesn’t.
However, in this case, I will make an exception.
I am so impressed with the files, Sony did a fantastic job with the sensor/lens combo, this is not only a FF camera that fits in my pocket, the RX1 is approaching medium format quality ( the bokeh rendering of this lens has a lot to do with it) and if I look at it as a pocketable medium format camera, the af speed is fine for a unique, first generation heavy weight champ in sheep’s clothing.

not everbody likes snow :)

This does not mean that Sony doesn’t need to address these issues in the RX2:
Here is my wish list for much needed improvement.
A) Auto focus speed.
B) Built in EVF.
C) Interchangeable lens option would be nice.
D) A more direct way to change AF point and focus peaking in non-magnified view!
I hope this can be fixed via firmware on the RX1.
I didn’t have a chance to check out the video yet.

And here are my impressions when shooting with the Fujifilm X100s (link to my first shoot with the X100s):

The Fuji X100s is way more responsive and in AF-C mode, blazing fast, moving subjects during street photography are not a problem!
The built in Hybrid finder is also a huge plus, I am biased of course, I really dig that thing, but even if you don’t care about the OVF you will appreciate the EVF.
The feel of the Fuji X100s, dials and controls is every bit as good as on the RX1 except for the new
scrolling will on the back, it feels too loose.
Menu based Macro mode activation isn’t as straight forward as the ring on the RX1.
Fly by wire manual focus ring feels just as good as on the RX1.
Shutter sound is so low, it practically doesn’t exist.
The lens is very good already wide open and accepts the Fujifilm WCL-X100 Wide-Angle Conversion Lens.
Battery life sucks on the X100s, not a big deal, I have two spares on me when I am out.
ISO, still inflated as with all Fuji X cams (not a practical negative)

I will post real life comparison shots from the X100s and the RX1 in a couple of days for you guys to see the difference in bokeh and sensor qualities, stay tuned.

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8 thoughts on “Snow In The City: a real world shooting experience with the Sony RX1

  1. derek

    many many thanks to Mike for this real life review,I could save 2.5k that, thank you for your honesty.

  2. mike.kobal Post author

    Hi Dan, thank you so much! Zone focus wouldn’t have worked, the zone was too shallow. I had it on AFS and my subjects but got lucky, esp my older subjects moved slow enough, I did miss quite a few money shots though, still, I love that camera.

  3. Dan

    Hi Mike, very nice pictures, congratulations! Your brief video comparing RX1 and X100s is very informative, thank you for that. A quick question for you regarding AF in street shooting with RX1: did you use Zone focusing here? Some of your subject are moving and I wonder how you get them in focus using large aperture (judging from the beautiful bokeh). Thanks. Dan.

  4. mike.kobal Post author

    Thanks Derek. Yes, I agree. Although I fell in love with the files and I wouldn’t mind (not that I would be happy about it) having to fork over another couple hundred bucks for the EVF wart, auto focus really is a problem if you like to shoot moving subjects. I know exactly what you mean, shooting with the D800/speedy G lens, or the OM-D, Sony’s af feels like cruising down the road at 2 miles per hour. If I were a landscape, city scape photographer, of shoot mostly stationary subjects, I would get it in a heart beat, the files are truly stunning.

  5. derek

    Mike , I really appreciate your hands-on review on this fantastic camera , I’ve been debating to replace my D600 and OM-D with it, while keeping my D800 and all my F mount lenses in my camera bag.
    But I am nervous as you report the RX-1 has slow AF.
    I am spoiled by my OM-D and D800 so it might be a big issue for me.

  6. mike.kobal Post author

    Hi Jan, yes, I know, it is just not a very reliable option during street photography with many moving subject, but I did notice it works quite well in more controlled situations.

  7. Jan Safranek

    Dear Mike, have you tried the face detection on RX1? That way, the autofocus performance is much better experience for me, because I don’t have to focus + recompose or change AF point position. The face detection works even in A, P, M-mode; not only in Auto, like some other cameras.

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