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12-20-2012, 06:18 PM   #1

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Sony RX-1 Review on Luminous Landscape

I can't stress this enough. The RX1 is almost totally silent in operation because of its leaf shutter. If you turn off the electronic focus confirmation sound all you hear is a soft "snick" when the shutter is released. Someone standing a few feet away, even in a totally silent room, won't be able to hear it, and in any normal environment the camera is effectively totally silent. Of course there are many small cameras with leaf shutters that are also silent, but full-frame, 24 MP? No, nothing else past or present.

For real stealth you need to do a few more things. One is to turn off the focus assist light. I find that it hardly helps at all in any event, and simply draws unwanted attention to you and the camera. If you're using either the optical viewfinder or the EVF, you can also turn off the rear LCD, and so in a dark environment there is nothing to give away the camera's presence. Put a little black electrical tape over the white lettering on the front of the camera and you have about as discreet a street shooting and night shooting camera as one could wish.

The RX1 retails for about USD $2,800 at the time of its release in December, 2012. The only other current model 24 Megapixel full-frame cameras at the moment are the Sony A99 also priced at $2,800, the Canon 5D MKIII at $3,500, and the Nikon D600 at $2,000 (what a bargain!). The "end of life" Canon 5D MKII is about $1,800.

But, each of these is for a body only. You do want a quality lens to match the sensor's resolving capability, don't you? The RX1 comes with a superb 35mm f/2 Zeiss Sonnar lens. There is no exact equivalent interchangeable Zeiss lens, but the Zeiss Distagon 35mm f/2 in Canon or Nikon mount costs about $1,100. (The Sonnar design does not lend itself to DSLR configurations).

So what we see is that the RX1 at $2,800 is substantially less than any other full-frame camera. A Canon 5D MKIII with a Zeiss 35mm f/2 lens will cost $4,600, while a Nikon D600 with that same lens would be $3,100. The Sony A99 won't take a Zeiss ZE or ZF mount lens, but even with an modestly priced 35mm lens will still be hundreds more than the RX1. And, of course, if you want to really talk expensive there's the 18MP Leica M9 with 35mm f/2 Summicron, which will set you back just shy of $10,000.

"Ah ha", you say. "But those cameras take interchangeable lenses, while the RX1 has a fixed lens". My response to that is "Of course it does". But then the RX1 will fit in a coat pocket, which none of the others remotely will, and it also has a totally silent shutter, which for anyone doing candid street shooting, documentary work, or photojournalism is a huge plus, if not a must.
Sony RX1 Review

I'm not an optical engineer, but I found the above shot of the camera's lens assembly separate from the body to be fascinating. The size of the rear element is huge compared to any comparable lens that I've ever seen. Given how close it sits to the sensor this was obviously a design necessity, along probably with a unique microlens layout on the sensor itself.

Zeiss' Sonnar lens design dates for the 1930s. It is optimized for fast apertures (f/2 or wider) and typically has high contrast and low flare. Sonnar designs are preferable on short register distance cameras (unlike DSLRs) and thus seems to be an ideal choice for the RX1.

12-20-2012, 07:55 PM   #2
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Another point of interest is that an $1100 Zeiss lens on the various bodies listed would be manual focus only.

I might get one in 5 years when these resell for $700.
12-21-2012, 12:10 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Aegon Quote
Another point of interest is that an $1100 Zeiss lens on the various bodies listed would be manual focus only.

I might get one in 5 years when these resell for $700.

Why wait? By that time there will be many other models on the market.

12-21-2012, 01:47 AM   #4
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I love his comments on the packaging -

Leave the Genuine Imitation Carpathian Burled Elm wooden grips and Reticulated Ostrich Testicle Leather body coverings to Hasseblad and its re-branded NEX-based faux-luxury Lunar cameras. But don't short-charge the savvy buyer with small economies that irritate, when the buying and unwrapping experience should be one of gratification.

12-25-2012, 10:38 PM   #5
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Steve Huff made this his camera of the year. No surprise there for his style of shooting. If most of my shots were street shooting...and I had the cash...I wouldn't hesitate to get one.
12-26-2012, 12:00 AM   #6

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The 'camera is small and unobtrusive' type remark is often used to justify one camera over another, but practically, I've never found any camera I used mattered in this respect (and I've used my 5D; various Pentax Dslrs; Q; m4/3; film slrs; RF; RB67)

The grouchy street guy will still cover his face/scold/act agressive/etc whatever camera you use.
The sweet lady/cool guy willl still say 'yes' for a portrait whatever the camera.
Most ppl will not be certain if you really took their picture or was checking the camera or taking something behind/beside them.
That has been my experience.

Looking at the progression of the Fuji series from X100 to Xpro1 and XE1, I'd just wait for a ILC version.
Don't care that much about the CZ lens either since there are many other good lenses out there too from all brands.
Not to mention that for street shooting, one of the usual techniques is f5.6-f8 and pre-focus, which don't always need one to appreciate the finer wide open qualities of a lens.
The lens is also a 'spent cost' which can never transfer to another camera in 2-5yrs or if the camera breaks down.

Nice camera for those who think they 'need it' or just can afford it.

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