Review: Sony RX1 – the modern classic

The Sony RX1 when announced promised a new era of digital photography for the masses. Up until that point, full-frame digital cameras were either huge SLR-shaped devices or hugely expensive manual-focus Leica rangefinders. The best we were able to hope for were APS-C compacts – starting with the Sigma DP line, then the Leica X1 and Fuji X100. I remember thinking when I first held the Fuji X100: “Surely this is the best it can get for compact cameras?” Apparently Sony had other ideas.

001_s The Sony RX1 marked a complete shift in what I thought was possible from digital cameras, especially compact cameras. Every other large-sensor compact up until that point had some element of compromise in order to retain the ‘compact’ element – be that limited usable ISO range (of the Sigma DP line) or slow lens. When the RX1 was announced, it replaced in my mind the desire to buy full-frame mirrorless (which, at the time, was limited to the Leica M9) – here was a full frame sensor compact married to a superb 35mm Zeiss optic, capable of beautiful results. That, strange as it may seem, was a full five years ago in 2012. Since then we’ve seen the A7 range, the RX1R, RX1R mk2 (42.4mp!), the Leica Q and even Pentax finally came out with a full-frame DSLR. But in my opinion, having tried most of the alternatives, nothing quite comes close to the simplicity and beauty of the original RX1/R.


Examples of the type of output this sensor/lens combination can create can make you weak at the knees, so I’ll leave that for another post. If you ever get the chance to pick one of these cameras up, even only as a demo – make sure you do and prepare yourself for a treat.

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