Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 Review

February 7, 2013 | Mark Goldstein |


The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 is a compact camera like no other, delivering full-frame 35mm image quality paired with a fantastic lens in a compact and highly customisable body. No camera is perfect - the auto-focusing is a little sluggish, the cost of the optional accessories is eye-watering, especially if you follow our advice and buy the almost-essential electronic viewfinder, we don't like the in-camera battery charging or the short life, and the fixed lens will simply put off many people - but all in all there's nothing to beat the RX1 if it matches your photographic vision.

The 24 megapixel sensor provides excellent results from ISO 50-3200, with only the faster settings of 6400 and 12800 suffering from a little too much noise and smearing of fine detail, with ISO 25600 not too bad either. Chromatic aberrations are very well controlled and colours a little dull but largely accurate, and the fast f/2 lens is perfect for achieving that shallow DSLR-like depth-of-field and using the camera in low-light conditions. The RX1's sensor and lens feel perfectly balanced together and would be hard to match on a 35mm DSLR system, proving that you don't have to buy and lug around a larger camera to get truly outstanding results - it really does hit the sweet spot between portability and image quality.

As the RX1 is a Sony camera, it boasts a long list of other stand-out features. Shutter lag is only notable by its apparent absence, and image processing times are thankfully non-intrusive, even for the large Raw files that the RX1 produces. This camera really does deliver DSLR-like performance and image quality in a pocketable format, music to the ears of most enthusiasts, with the exception of the auto-focusing speed, which lags behind the very best contrast-based systems. It's certainly not bad enough to prevent us from recommending the RX1, but it does limit the camera's versatility somewhat.

It's difficult to rate the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 in terms of value-for-money. To some would-be-buyers the combination of the full-frame sensor and quality Carl Zeiss lens actually looks cheap at £2600 / $2800, while others will think they're mad. We're with the former camp, except when it comes to the RX1's pricey accessories. £379 / $449 is a lot to pay for an electronic viewfinder, even if the latter does greatly enhance the camera's handling, £499 / $599 for the optical viewfinder is even worse, while £199 / $250 each for the thumb grip and leather case might make us question our sanity (not to mention the lens hood at $179.99).

Sony have truly blurred the lines between compact and DSLR in terms of the RX1's features, performance and image quality. The RX1 is the first truly pocketable camera to offer a full-frame DSLR experience, something that money can actually now buy...

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 5
Features 4.5
Ease-of-use 4.5
Image quality 5
Value for money 4.5