Sony RX1 vs Canon 5D Mk III / Sigma 35mm f/1.4

February 13, 2013 | Mark Goldstein | Digital Compact Cameras, Digital SLR Cameras | 40 Comments | |
Sony RX1 vs Canon 5D Mk III / Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Image

Before we reluctantly send the RX1 back to Sony, we thought we'd compare its Carl Zeiss 35mm f/2 lens with another full-frame / 35mm combo, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and excellent new Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lens.

Take a closer look at how these two 35mm full frame, 35mm lens camera systems compare in our side-by-side comparison...

Sharpness at 35mm

The sharpness tests for this review were carried out using a real-world subject rather than a test chart.

Both the Sony RX1 and the Canon EOS 5D Mk III DSLR / Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lens were mounted on a sturdy tripod.

The camera's self-timer mode was activated to avoid camera-shake.

Tonal and colour variances across the crops are due to changes in natural light during the session.

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 full frame at 35mm

The full frame at 70mm

The Canon EOS 5D Mk III / Sigma 35mm f/1.4 full frame at 35mm

The full frame at 70mm

Centre Sharpness

Centre sharpness is very good from f/2.8 onwards on both the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 and the Canon EOS 5D Mk III / Sigma 35mm f/1.4, remaining high until the respective minimum apertures of f/22 and f/16, where is a slight drop in sharpness due to diffraction.

Aperture Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 Canon EOS 5D Mk III / Sigma 35mm f/1.4
f/1.4 N/A
f/22 N/A

Edge Sharpness

Edge sharpness is very good from f/4 onwards on both the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 and the Canon EOS 5D Mk III / Sigma 35mm f/1.4, but the Canon / Sigma combination gives slightly sharper results at all comparable apertures. Sharpness remains high until the respective minimum apertures of f/22 and f/16, where is a slight drop in sharpness due to diffraction.

Aperture Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 Canon EOS 5D Mk III / Sigma 35mm f/1.4
f/1.4 N/A
f/22 N/A

Entry Tags

sony, 35mm, sigma, cybershot, f1.4, compare, comparison, rx1, sigma 35mm, dsc-rx1, sony rx1, canon 5d mk iii, canon 5d

Your Comments

40 Comments | Newest Oldest First | Post a Comment

#1 Jeff Sham Photography

Very impressive! Not sure of Sony’s target market though at £2600! Much as I’d like one there is no way I can justify the spend. Let’s see if Sony will introduce a full frame NEX!

1:09 pm - Wednesday, February 13, 2013

#2 Jack

Wow, the Sony is awesome. Especially considering it is much much cheaper than the Canon/Sigma combo.

Not to mention the weight and size difference…

I am definitely going to get one soon. :)

1:37 pm - Wednesday, February 13, 2013

#3 Pedrow

It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on low-light performance of both systems.

1:46 pm - Wednesday, February 13, 2013

#4 stevenrlong

Yes, the Sony is a nice camera if the only fl you need or ever want is 35mm

3:39 pm - Wednesday, February 13, 2013

#5 Derek Amengual

Why not do this review with a Carl Zeiss 35mm lens on the Canon to yield results worth comparing?

Not trying to knock the quality of the Sony, but a sigma lens is a pretty serious handycap.

4:18 pm - Wednesday, February 13, 2013

#6 JC

The Sigma is considered an excellent lens, probably not as much of a handicap as you may think, see

5:34 pm - Wednesday, February 13, 2013

#7 Barry

Why is the field of view so much smaller on the Canon than it is on the Sony??


5:47 pm - Wednesday, February 13, 2013

#8 love me for no reason

Instead of flash Sony should go with viewfinder and it would justify the price. As is camera is just an expensive rich boy’s toy.

6:44 pm - Wednesday, February 13, 2013

#9 paolo

maybe the test is not so rappresentative.. I mean the shot arectaken at verybdifferent distance from the subject. You can see the difference of view and to confirm this the difference of DOF at the same aperture in the nearest book a little bit far “PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE” write

10:03 pm - Wednesday, February 13, 2013

#10 Tommy

I imagine they did not move the tripod.  As a result, the Canon lens in closer to the subject where it starts bending light because the body/lens combo is so darn big.  As a result, the RX1 is effectively farther away, creating a wider field of view as we see in the cropped images.

1:26 am - Thursday, February 14, 2013


What was the reason to use a Sigma lens? Compare apples to apples, this doesn’t mean anything at all. I have no problem with Sigma, but if you’re going to do a comparison, do it right. Now you’re giving the Sony back, why did you waste time with this?
... Joe Prete

2:42 am - Thursday, February 14, 2013

#12 come on

you could have an appples to apples test if the sharpness on the Canon were turned down, this would also minimize the jpg artifacts and noise

it is always interesting to read tests where one camera or the other is configured differently and then skewed results claimed as if they were truth

I know you can do better

3:11 am - Thursday, February 14, 2013

#13 John Koelsch

...both “nice” cameras, each with huge liabilities:  the Canon IS HUGE, the Sony is a “one trick pony”...I’ll wait for a FF NEX-9…the Canon is old tech with its flopping mirror

3:58 am - Thursday, February 14, 2013

#14 Tyler Breeden

What’s wrong with a one trick pony if the trick it performs is incredible?

6:51 am - Thursday, February 14, 2013

#15 Sky

Especially when it beats crap out of mirrorless solutions in terms of portability and image quality.

Meanwhile this “old solution” still offers better image quality and ergonomics that are far better than any “new solutions”, so good that there’s no comparsion.

Each one have it’s own place in the market, and if anything: it’s Sony AND Canon, not ‘or’.

8:21 am - Thursday, February 14, 2013

#16 mihalakis

Well to me it looks more like Zeis 35 vs Sigma 35. For instance there is no low light performance test, no dynamic range test, battery, focusing speed, flash performance, ease of use.

8:42 am - Thursday, February 14, 2013

#17 lui

if we compare a Sony and a Canon Canon should have the Canon Lens 35 or 50 mm

12:16 pm - Thursday, February 14, 2013


I’m sure Mark had a reason to do this. There’s usually a method to his madness, so let’s see what he has to say. Maybe they wanted the Sony back before he had a chance to learn too much about it. This might have been the only thing he had to work with, and he thought it was better than nothing at all. These companies can really be a bitch to work with. I’ve had a camera put in my hands and then grabbed right back before I could even get a look at it. One time a camera was pulled out of my hands by the guy right next to me, as we were both there waiting. We were talking one minute and the next minute he was like an animal, I thought it was going to end up on the floor!
... Joe Prete

1:14 pm - Thursday, February 14, 2013

#19 Dave

Please do more like this.  The first thing that struck me was the difference in color.  If you do similar tests, it seems like it would be interesting to compare AF as well.

7:27 pm - Thursday, February 14, 2013

#20 Warren Lyons

This was a fun comparison.  Practically speaking, it is like computerized fight between a 300 pound strong man and a 150 pound martial arts champion.  That fight is unlikely to happen in real life and few if any buyers would be likely to cross-shop those two models as they are so different.  A more helpfull side by side matchup would be a three way contest between the Sony RX1, the Fuji X100, and a Leica rangefinder.

5:53 pm - Friday, February 15, 2013

#21 Frank

The posters here seem to overlook the edge sharpness test where the lowly Sigma betters the Zeiss. It would clearly indicate that the comparative test is a draw with no real winner!

3:49 am - Saturday, February 16, 2013

#22 derek

hey those annoying Zeiss fanboys if you complain about their review , why don’t you come up with your own and post it somewhere?

and you guys must know this Sigma 35mmf1.4 and Samyong 35mmf1.4 are both a bit sharper than the way overpriced manual focus only Zeiss35f1.4ZE that you guys seem to worship for.

anyway, the Sony is a great camera if you only shoot in good light where the camera can focus or you are still-life or landscape shooter or your mdoel never move.
that said both combo are too limiting in different areas but it is very interesting, indeed!
I guess if you’d included the Samyong 35mmf1.4 and Nikon AFS35f1.4G on the D800E , it would have been a near perfect 35mm FF lens comparison.

4:02 pm - Saturday, February 16, 2013

#23 Dave

It is always funny to read comments where people assume a certain camera will only be good for still-life, based on the autofocus speed. 

The Sony AF is pretty fast, and even if it was not, people used to shoot sports with manual focus lenses.

In addition, a flash sync speed of 1/3000
helps you freeze action pretty well.

12:09 am - Sunday, February 17, 2013

#24 David Burke

Interesting, but as someone pointed out previously shame no low light performance test.

7:51 pm - Sunday, February 17, 2013

#25 fiatlux

I’m not questioning the choice of the Sigma 35 1.4 - it seems to be currently the best 35mm available for any DSLR so it is a valid choice -.

What is more annoying is that the tests are done at very close focusing distances. Normally, tests are done at 10x the focal length (i.e. 3.5m in this case). Performances at minimum focusing distance can be very different than at typical focusing distances. More so for zooms than primes, but still…

Hopefully both cameras were used in RAW and shots developped in the same converter (e.g. ACR), or different sharpening/compression settings would also complicate the comparison.

12:48 pm - Tuesday, April 9, 2013

#26 Frank

You would have to be nuts to buy that , or have more money
To waste than most of us. It may be a great little camera . But it comes down to all your getting is a very costly short lens . You cant shoot wild life with it unless its in a zoo . I have a 500cc lens for eagles , owl’s etc. And am still wish i had a 600cc . What is the range of that fixed lens , its a joke
For what you pay and what you get . Go and spend $500 for a pocket camera . Better yet go and get a couple lens for your d800 or D7000. And say no to the sony rx1

9:03 am - Wednesday, April 10, 2013

#27 Frank

For a fixed 35mm llens i would have to be nuts . thats all i would be getting is a over priced 35mm lens. I would sooner go out and buy two $1300 lenses. To put on my d7000

9:13 am - Wednesday, April 10, 2013

#28 Lucky

I am trying to understand what my eyes are seeing, in so many photos on the net the RX1 photos are astounding to me.

I had the rx1 for a few day their e turned it because the auto focus as too slow. I regret it now and am reconsidering it.
Use manual or center amp focus and recompose because eos the quality of it,s photos. I own nikons and canons, tested Canon files especially at ISo’s but there no comparison the rx1 destroys the Canon in high ISO and clarity and color rendering.

I’m starting to think my 5d3 is broken, and when I see tests like this when the 5d looks better I am even more confused!

5:09 am - Monday, May 13, 2013

#29 Dave


The 5d3 and the RX1 take very similar pictures in most light.  Assuming that you are using an appropriate lens and the right settings, the average person will not be able to look at the pictures and tell the difference.

The pictures in the article above are so similar that if you mixed the pictures up, the only people who would know the difference would be people who memorized the color and noise signature.  Even if you really prefer one “look”, no one would seriously claim that either one dominates the other.

If you have a 5d3 and the pictures don’t look good to you, check your settings first.  (If you don’t want to buy a 5d3 book, there are some good forums on the web that will help.)  Then check your lens, then the ambient light, etc…  If all else fails, then maybe have a camera shop look at it to see if there might be some other issue. 

These days, nearly all cameras take good pictures, and the 5d3 is better than almost any other tool you can buy.

10:24 am - Monday, May 13, 2013

#30 Hank

You are SO Right, in fact these pictures may well have been mixed up already!

11:08 am - Monday, May 13, 2013

#31 lucky

thanks for the advise, and I agree with you, IF it was not for the sheer weight and clarity that I see in both online photos of the RX1 vs the Canon 40mm and I am using the new 24mm on my 5d3 comparing it to the RX1.

I find the rendering on the RX1 to be far superior and when comparing noise and raw file latitude, I find the the RX1 destroys the 5d3.

Then I look at comparisons online like this post and the 5d3 looks far better in clarity even at high ISO.

I use the exact same settings and ambient light etc. and still I find the rendering to look more electronic than the RX1 even at iso 200.

So I am either doing something very wrong, or my 5d3 is very wrong.

I did have it sent in for a sensor cleaning when I first bought it cause it had an oil smudge on the sensor.

I am not certain to what extent Canon went to make sure the sensor was in best condition, but I am having serious doubts.

I suppose more testing will be needed and that may include rebuying the RX1 , to continue the tests other then using old raw files from when I had the unit.

8:43 pm - Monday, May 13, 2013

#32 Hank

I don’t think you are doing anything wrong at all, in fact you sound like you know exactly what you are doing! One thing I wonder about is the “smudge of oil” on the sensor. Maybe someone looking at it before you bought it had touched it in the wrong place? Oil from our skin can be very detrimental to the delicate inner components. I always try to be the first one looking at the gear, but that is hard to accomplish while looking for the best price. A guy that writes here (Joe Prete) had been to the “Modern Photography” testing lab before the mag’ was bought by “Popular Photography” mag’ in 89’. He says he’s never seen a lab like that before or after that. Of course, those where the days of film, but I’m sure they would have adapted just fine.
Many of the tests, like the lens “Pin cushion test” were never done after that. It seems that now, the people who try to do the tests just err on the side of fault and so many just believe them. The truth is that they call many perfect results faulty, but who can tell when they picture a set of old books on a shelf, and just compare with the naked eye. The guy has had dinner with Jason Schneider, I think I’ll believe him. Besides, look on Wikipedia or find an old copy of “Modern Photography” They had the same customer base, they bought it for the lab. Now the young lady that runs it is a bit short on experience. If it was Canon’s own repair that cleaned your sensor, I assume it will be fine. Hey, Good Luck to you, and be careful about the tests that you read because, they just don’t do everything right these days!

10:04 pm - Monday, May 13, 2013

#33 Dave

Lucky;  If you were shooting in RAW on both cameras, you might find that you just don’t like the way their 5D3 files convert from RAW.  There are several converters out there and each one comes out a little different.  All of them come out very flat.  (This allows you to change the color map yourself and keep as much dynamic range as you want.)  Do you have the same issue in both RAW and JPEG?

If not, and you hate the RAW, you might find that you like it better if you just shoot in jpeg (his res) with the NR, ALO and HTP turned off.  Many people using the 5D3 shoot with the noise reduction turned off.  (Even if you turn NR off, the 5D3 still does a little.)  Canon’s noise reduction works differently from Sony, but I don’t like either of them.  (I would rather have grain and detail than non-grainy smear, because at least grain looks like film.)

You also might want to change the sharpening to 2 if shooting jpeg, and the contrast to -1.  I would disable ALO and HTP just in case. 

Then, rather than compare to Sony, you might want to compare to a less expensive Canon (using the same lens) in the same light to see if you like the color and sharpness.  If a cheaper Canon outperforms your 5D3, with the same settings, then you might have a bad camera. 

Neither camera is perfect, but if you sent back the Sony, the AF must have been bothering you way too much.  I would rather get a cheap camera with fast AF than an amazing camera that is too slow, but I chase around little kids, so focus trumps everything.

10:31 pm - Monday, May 13, 2013

#34 Hank

Do you agree that the RX1, EOS 5D MK III and Sigma 35 F1.4 are all excellent pieces of Photographic Gear, even if the test wasn’t really exactly comparing apples to apples? They never answered us clearly as to why they used this combination to do the tests. Asking them for an answer can be very frustrating when they just don’t reply.
Matt Grayson does at least reply to the early questions, but Mark never does. Often his silence speaks volumes!

11:12 pm - Monday, May 13, 2013

#35 Dave

Hank, I have tried out the Nikon version of the Sigma 35 F1.4 on a D700, and I have to say it seemed amazing.  I don’t have any of the shots, but it was fast, sharp wide open, and the drop-off near the edges was so small that you had to be looking for it to tell it was there.  In my book, it is as good as the lens built in to the Sony.  Depending on what you are looking for, it might even be better.  I have to assume that if you put the Canon version on a 5D3 it would be fun to use, and razor sharp for a pretty good portion of the frame.

Lucky said he was using the Canon 24mm, and we have kind of turned this into a forum, so we may as well go down that path some more. 

Lucky:  If you are using the Canon 24mm 1.4, then it should be just as sharp as the Sony at F2.0.  And it will do something the Sony will not do at all, which is shoot faster than F2.0

If you are using the old 24mm F2.8, then you might be using the wrong lens for the camera.  The older 24mm F2.8 is adequte, but not well-matched to the strengths of this camera.

The new 24mm F2.8 is the IS USM, and works very well on a full frame camera, unless you are looking for sharpness near the edges, which is a weak spot for this particular lens.  It is as sharp in the center as Sony, but not the edges.  It does add image stabilization, which is a great feature for low-light shooting.  But, at F2.8 you are giving up a little speed, which you might not want to give up in such a wide lens.

1:43 pm - Tuesday, May 14, 2013

#36 Hank

To Dave and Lucky,
I want to thank you both, this was informative for me. I know it’s not like a Forum on dp, but their actual forum here isn’t anything to brag about. This is just comments I guess, because questions are only answered by other readers. Very puzzling to say the least. One would think that the editors would supply answers, but they don’t think it’s worth the extra work. But I do appreciate the information you two provided. I find that at dp the questions take on lives of their own, the more people that try to answer them because they come way off of the topic. Many thanks to both of you.

8:15 pm - Tuesday, May 14, 2013

#37 lucky

Yes you may be right about the smudge on the sensor perhaps creating iso problems.
Yes Canon was the repair shop that I sent it too for cleaning.

I always shoot Raw, love Raw and on occasion raw and jpg to compare my workflow.
I am using LR and Aperture and tested the raw conversion of raw files from several of the current popular cameras.
OMD-EM5, Fuji 100s, Canon 5d3, Nikon d3s with a few similar iso settings from the SOny Rx1
I found LR raw conversion to be superior IMO.

I shot all four cameras in exact same settings, light, time and used similar lens, I wanted to see the 100s smaller sensor stand up to the 5d3 and how my workhorse the Nikon would stand the test of time.

Interesting results.

I was using the new Canon 24mm IS USM, love the IS for low light shooting, but i found the Canon very noisy at higher ISO which is where i mostly shoot. I don’t find it as sharp as the Sony Rx1 as you said.

Sigma is on my list since it scores so high DXO with Zeiss and I was going to use it on my C300 until Magic Lantern blew the world away with raw firmware, a few days ago.

A few quick surprises for me was how much the 25mm leica lens helped the smaller MFT push IQ and sharpness.
I found the Canon’s rendering with the 25mm to be rough almost a bit blotchy at times, up against the Nikon’s 50mm superior rendering especially in the dark even at low ISO of 320.

So I was going to buy the RX1 again and use manual focus when contrast detection failed me, because it’s worth the effort to get a quality shot that borders on M quality.

But I may be forced to buy another Canon 5d3 for video, if the RAW hack turns out as a workable solution.

Or better yet buy both, I think the EM-5 will be going to the selling block, the IQ just can’t reach where i need it to go.

Though I have found the Fuji 100s enjoyable to shoot and it’s pumping out some sharp images under the right light, thanks to the new Xtrans sensor and the missing anti aliasing filter. For sheer usability when you must know that AF will get you that moment when you never want to voice excuses on a set.

Of course, The Nikon d3s though only 12mp is the king of Low Light and for Rock photography there is no other for me right now. In fact, I would have never sold my d700 if I had known the D4 issues so many of my friends have had.

I hope that I didn’t go too far off topic, but it all helped me to see where the Canon 5d3 stood in IQ in the current crop of popular cameras. And how it stood against some of my previous shot from the RX1 in similar settings.

Unless the Sigma can bring some sweetness in rendering and sharpness to the Canon 5d3 sensor, the Rx1 is still far superior in my opinion. yet when looking at the photos above of the red book, red not being the Canon sensors best color for rendering, it looks to stand out very nicely against what looks like blotchy red rendering on the RX1.

Usability vs quality is really the issue between these two camera and lowlight comparisons.

11:25 pm - Saturday, May 18, 2013

#38 Are the RX1 sharpness images enlarged more?

Based upon the top two images I was wondering if you had to enlarge the RX1 sharpness images more to compare details at the same size?

10:37 am - Wednesday, June 5, 2013

#39 NoPerv

I don’t know what to buy. 5d mk3 with zeiss 35mm f2.0, or Sony RX1. Canon + zeiss is too heavy for street camera. RX1 is too small for my hand and i don’t like the macro ring so close for the focusing ring and the external VF ruins the design purity.

5:03 pm - Wednesday, August 14, 2013

#40 acp

Exactly the comparison I was looking for! Both cameras having different uses. I was debating with myself about which one to get first since I already have a 5d3 and I wanted to get the sigma 35 as it is one of the top 35mm’s for dslr’s and I wanted to know how it compares with the rx1’s IQ (which is less intruding when it comes to street photography and when you want to travel light). For those saying why not compare apples to apples, that is not the purpose of this comparison. It is for those people who like 35mm or it is their style of photography who want to compare the 35mm side of the sigma with a specific body and the rx1.

8:59 pm - Monday, August 25, 2014