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Monday, 01 July 2013


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Over $3000 and there's no IS.
Personally, I'd rather have a 43mm or 50mm lens.

That's a mighty cool camera and a really well written review but a glance at the Amazon page of this modern day Contaflex clone (fixed lens, leaf shutter, exquisite quality & similar price tag) makes me thing of this poster with camera gazing in place of star gazing, alas...


Suddenly I'm starting to think this little camera makes a lot more sense than it appeared when it was announced. It's not because I love the 35mm focal length (I don't), but it dawned on me that small sensors have unsurpassable dynamic range issues, which became even more conspicuous after I started shooting film with an Olympus OM-2n and compared the results with what I got with a Micro 4/3 camera. Now I'm a believer: full frame is the only way to go.
With the RX1, Sony proved it was possible to implement a full frame sensor in a small, compact body (which in itself was no mean feat); now it's just a matter of making it possible to swap lenses.
Mr. Haley's photographs are a case in point: not only they're beautifully executed - that was expected, anyway -, but they show how useful full frame's dynamic range is: highlights are so right, and detail under the shadows so clear... this is what we need. It makes me feel like all makers of APS-C and Micro 4/3-based mirrorless cameras are wasting their time. (And ours...)
Of course, full frame is expensive. Just like a V12-powered car is more expensive than a 4-straight, or even a V6. Does it have to be so much so, though? My hope is that one day mass production makes 36X24 sensors less expensive. After all, wasn't full frame the norm in the days of film, and smaller formats like APS and 110 the exception?
And this review is based on JPEGs taken with the RX1's anti-aliasing filter. Can't wait to see Sony's RX1R's raws!

Love that second photo of Nanji. Awesome. It's refreshing to hear a pro photographer's perspective on the RX1, especially the part about just leaving it in AP mode, letting it do its thing and concentrating on composing the shot. Thanks!

Thanks to Bruce for the column/user review. I have been resisting getting one of these, as it would be a change in the way I work, but as I read, I recalled a period during which my main day to day camera for unplanned shooting was a Plaubel Makina 670, due to the great looking negatives with the fixed 80mm Nikkor. I forgot about its quirks [of which there were many]. So much for the fixed lens issue, at least for me. This article tended to get that back into perspective, although I get the impression it's may cost me...

Exactly the sort of camera non-review review I love, from a pro who simply wants equipment that doesn't get in the way. And I learned about a musician I never heard of before, to boot. Thanks, Mr. Haley!

Is there an optical viewfinder available for this camera? (Forthose of us who can't adapt to electronic vf's.)

That was a great "review"!
Thanks Bruce, thanks Mike.

That was a pleasure to read.

I'm a total gearhead, but I love reading about people who get gear that does what they want then ignore it and just focus on the shoot. That's what gear is for after all, enabling our visions. And those are some good looking pictures in the article.

I hope you try the raw versions, the tonal control and better handling of strong colors is worth it.

Personally, I think an EVF is really necessary, especially in sunny weather like this. I'm not old, I have decent eyes and in hard sunlight it's a pain trying to look at a rear LCD and figuring out the details.

Interesting to have Bruce Haley write about the Sony. He is a Photographer in what I consider to be the true sense, using tools to record what he sees and feels. His website confirms the significance of photography in any age. My only comment about the Sony is my feeling that Sony(and other companies) uses a lot of software to achieve the camera-lens-digital file effect. This is why these days, Leica and Fuji start making statements like "lenses optically corrected" which of course costs more.

I'd like to see more articles like this, because it's great to see how other photographers work.

WOW. 5 shots and I still don't know what the guy looks like.

One of the best camera reviews I've read. And, for obvious reasons, one of the few utterly lacking in (mostly silly) comparisons with other digital cameras. I was wondering about the viewing situation, until the end when the EVF appeared. Makes complete sense to me. Probably won't check out the camera (I'm into m4/3), but might check out the music.

Your film shots are amazing. They have realism,dimension, depth & soul.
I am now a fan of your work.
Your digital shots lack all the above.

After I read the review I clicked the link to his website to get an idea of his work (you know, understand the reviewer...) and, um, I was humbled and felt like I lead a pampered life playing with my cameras in comparison to the real and important work done with a camera on display at his website. A camera review from a man who uses a camera as a tool and not a toy. Well Done.

Excellent review for a camera that continues to fly under the radar.
I've had mine for several months and find the Sony RX1 to be the
closest thing to a 'baby M6'...solid, sturdy, with files that i find
reminiscent of my 35mm film days. Photography has become fun again! The thumb grip from Sony, though expensive, greatly improves the camera's ergonomics as does the L-bracket/front
grip from RRS. Interestingly, the step-down ring (49mm-37mm)
from Sensei makes a nice, unobtrusive lens shade. Plan to get the
28mm OVF from Voigtlander to round out my Sony RX1 add-ons.

Afghan mujahideen? Did you get to meet bin laden? It was OK under Reagan. But today, with all due respect, I wouldn't mention Afghan mujahideen in any positive / neutral context.

Ben ng, from distortion, to CA, to vignetting, to color shift, all of the camera/lens companies are correcting some aberrations in-camera, including Leica and Fuji.

I've used the M9+35/2 asph, X100 and RX1 quite a bit, and the RX1's lens is as good as people say. It is sharper across the field than the Leica, and it blows the X100's lens away. The only negative aspect of the RX1's lens that I can think of is that it has some barrel distortion, but it is easily correctable, if need be. Sometimes, when I have people's faces away from the center of the frame, I prefer not to correct the distortion, as it flattens them out a bit. Distortion, vignetting/color shading and CA are all correctable in-camera, but you have the option of turning them off/on. I just leave it all off and worry about it in raw.

Mato Nanji much better with hipstamatic.

I know the focus here is the Sony RX1, but I can't resist plugging Haley's 13 Million Tons of Pig Iron portfolio. I bought a copy of it a several years ago and continue to enjoy viewing it to this day. If you like industrial or "urban decay" photography as much as I do, then it's a must have...

Nice to read a non-techy review - the camera does sound very nice to use, but still seems to expensive to me. I actually like an SLR size camera when shooting - probably habit I guess. Nice work by the way!

The photos really aren't that great examples... too distant, very harsh, no intimacy.

[You should bear in mind you're not really seeing the pictures as they were meant to be seen. The blog software restricts our illustrations to 800 pixels in width, and in most cases even those "opened" illustrations are somewhat darker and have slightly lower sharpness and DR than they do on my monitor. Given that the original pictures are 6000 pixels wide, you need to make some allowances. --Mike]

Can't afford the camera (although, if it came with a 24 mm...), but thanks for the introduction to Mato Nanji. Sold!

@GH: You say that you use an OVF with the RX1. Could you please explain how you achieve focus, as there is no connection between the OVF and the camera? Are you focusing and metering with the rear LCD first and then using the OVF for composing?

I find the greatest strength of the EVF (other than being able to see it in bright sunlight) to be the live histogram. It takes all the guesswork out of metering and virtually eliminates the need for bracketing or taking he same shot over and over to get the correct exposure.

Good review, thanks. The RX1 sounds like it delivers much the same experience as my Leica X2 does, despite the difference in format. It just gets out of the way and let's me shoot, concentrating on the subject. There's great value in that. Image quality is a given with either camera.

I use both the EVF and an OVF. They are best in different shooting circumstances.

It's nice to see real use being given to these great cameras.

@GH & Other RX-1 users, I too am interest in the RX-1 with OVF. I just can't adapt to EVFs. I use Sigma DP's - pre Merrill - and zone focus. But the smaller sensors give more depth of field, and they are easy to use in that way because of their dedicated focus wheel, which the RX does not have.

Do you pre-focus on the approximate center of your OVF, and re-frame your shot? If so, how fast is the focus? Or do you have some other technique?

Thanks in anticipation.

Since this is my first (and perhaps only?) guest article on TOP, and I know that Mike and Ctein and others respond within the comment section itself, I wanted to come in here and take a quick drive-by and write out sort of a blanket reply to everyone. I am packing for some work-related travel and am in a bit of a rush, so my apologies that I'm not referring back to individual comments and addressing you by name; also, this will be my only chance to respond, as I will be without internet access for a while and upon my return this piece will be buried and forgotten, deep in the TOP archives.

To those who responded positively, thank you for your kind words. To those who responded negatively, thank you also for taking the time to read and express yourself. It is always interesting to see what does and does not resonate with viewers. When you work the photo room you find out that it's a tough crowd, but if everybody liked everything that I did, it would probably frighten me - or at very least make me think that I was doing something wrong...

I put about 20 images from the Mato shoot up on my website ( here: http://tinyurl.com/kb3ca7h ). Mike noted that the photos he selected for TOP only open to 800 dpi width; on my site you can see more of them, and also embiggened (I still haven't been into the RAW files yet, though). I don't usually put this sort of thing on my site, but in this case, since there were so many click-throughs from TOP, I thought I would put them up at least for a while. For those who thought the examples were too distant, etc., you can see some closer shots there, and get a better idea of the overall shoot.

On this same note, since several mentions were made regarding the subject distance in the examples that Mike selected to run with the piece: management usually gives directives, or at very least some specific ideas on what they would like to see and have, and often this translates into shooting their subject in a way that is different from what is already available to them in their artist archive. There is a certain look and feel that they're after, and it's my job to deliver that. In this particular case, it wasn't supposed to be about headshots or extremely tight close-ups, and the clients are very pleased with the results. As I try to give every client 150% of my abilites, I'm really happy when they're really happy. This was a recent shoot, and they've already used a few of the images for an interview with Mato, as well as putting some of them up on the Indigenous Facebook page; one of the images is being used as their Facebook "cover" image, and a photo of Mato smiling has gotten 400+ "likes" and 20 comments since yesterday... yes, I realize that Lady Gaga could post a photo of her morning bowel movement and it would have 250,000 "likes" before noon, but everything is relative... in my mind, in a perfect world, Mato's guitar playing should garner more Facebook followers than whatever it is that any of the Kardashians do, but that's just me....

To the reader who mentioned the mujahideen - yes, that was 1988 and things were much, much different then. Without getting too political here, historical hindsight often bears out the fact that the old adage "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" often leads to policy decisions that later come back to bite you on the ass.

I don't know what to say about the Hipstamatic comment - somehow I don't see anything Hipstamatic in my future...

I really have to go finish packing now, but let me say that I'm a big TOP fan, it was really fun to do a piece here, and my thanks again to everyone who took the time to read and comment.

And for those who may have discovered Mato's music and bought a CD or two, know that you're helping to support a really nice guy who also gives 150% with each performance!


- Bruce

Bear, there are couple of different ways of focusing with the RX1's OVF (I use a Voigtlander.) When in manual focus mode, the camera displays a focus distance scale on the LCD, although it is a bit rudimentary, but you can set your focus distance from there. The biggest issue is that the camera returns focus to zero when shutting the camera down, so you have to refocus every time you start up the camera, which I hope is fixed in a firmware update.

Personally, I use center point AF most of the time. The AF of the RX1 isn't super fast, but it almost always locks on, and you can "feel" the AF moving in your hand, so you know when it locks. Since the OVF is directly above the lens, you only have to deal with a bit of vertical parallax when the subject gets close, and it is easy to visualize with a day's practice. I also de-link the camera's exposure from the shutter button, so focusing and recomposing doesn't cause exposure issues. The camera's metering is so good that I feel more confident in my exposure using the "dumb" OVF than I did with my M9.

I certainly didn't expect to like the "dumb" OVF, but it's permanently attached to my camera, now. My hit rate is surprisingly good.

You can deactivate this terrible movie button:


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