Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Sony RX1R II improvements over Sony RX1

There are lots of exciting news for Sony full frame today!  There was the announcement of the Sony a7S II, which everyone saw coming.  There was also an announcement of a firmware update to add 14-bit Uncompressed Raw, to be available October 19.  Finally, Sony also announced the Sony RX1R II, the successor to the RX1 and RX1R. 

People had been speculating about the RX1's successor but for a long time there was no news about it, and people shifted their attention to the a7RII.  So when Sony announced the RX1R II today, it came as a surprise.

I had the Sony RX1 (reviewed here), and the RX1R II looks like an attractive upgrade with several improvements over the RX1.


1. Sensor and variable OLPF. The RX1 had a 24 mp sensor, while the RX1R II has a 42mp sensor, similar to that of the a7RII.  Other than the improvement in resolution, the RX1R II also has a variable optical low-pass filter, which essentially allows you to choose whether to shoot with a low-pass filter (to minimize moire) or without the filter (for maximum resolution). 

2. Built-in EVF.  The RX1 was criticized for not having an electronic viewfinder, except as an expensive accessory.  The RX1R II has a built-in electronic viewfinder that pops up, a novel feature that first appeared on the Sony RX100 III.

3. Continuous autofocus (AF-C).  The original RX1 had no continuous autofocus capability at all.  The RX1R II has continuous autofocus and has an improved autofocus tracking capability.  This should make it easier to track and capture moving subjects.  In my opinion, this is a significant improvement, because the RX1's difficulty with moving subjects made it unsuitable for candid photos.  If the RX1R II performs as promised, it becomes a good candidate for candid and family photos.

4. Faster autofocus.  The RX1 wasn't slow to focus, but it wasn't that fast either.  Although it would sometimes focus quickly, much of the time, it was not much faster at focusing than a good point and shoot such as the Panasonic LX5.  The RX1R II has the same autofocus system as the a7RII, with 399 AF points covering almost all of the frame.  Sony claims the new system is 30% faster than the autofocus of the RX1.  To be honest, that does not sound very impressive, considering the RX1 wasn't that fast to begin with.  However, I will withhold judgment until we have more information.

5. Tilting screen.  The RX1R II adds a tilting LCD screen, which is very useful for taking photos at unusual angles.  Regretably, the LCD screen cannot be flipped 180 degrees for a selfie mode, which can be very useful for family photos and candid shots.


1.  No built-in image stabilization.  Although the RX1R II uses the same sensor as the a7R II, and the latter has built-in image stabilization, the RX1R II does not have optical image stabilization.  That's unfortunate, but not a deal breaker in my opinion.

2.  No curved sensor.  Ever since Sony announced the development of a curved sensor, everyone had assumed that it would be used in the RX1's successor.  A curved sensor would have improved image quality at the edges of the frame.  On the other hand, it would be difficult to develop zoom lenses for it.  Naturally, most people figured Sony would use it for a premium fixed lens camera such as the RX1.  However, for whatever reason, Sony apparently did not implement its curved sensor in the RX1R II.

3. No touchscreen.  As with other Sony cameras with an EVF, there is no touchscreen on the RX1R II.  I'm still not sure why Sony can't follow Olympus, Panasonic, Samsung and other camera manufacturers in having cameras with both an EVF and a touchscreen.

4. Lost the popup flash.  The RX1 had a popup flash which was useful in part because of the RX1's 1/2000 sync speed.  The RX1R II's popup EVF now occupies the space that used to be for the RX1's popup flash.  For flash users, it's not the end of the world because the RX1R II retains the hotshoe, and still has a 1/2000 sync speed.
5. No 4k video.


1.  Color fidelity.  One of the strengths of the RX1 was its color fidelity.  It had awesome colors and faithful reds (unlike some Sony cameras that have reds that look more orange).  I'm hoping the RX1R II has similar fidelity, though I can't be sure without seeing more samples.  However, Sony posted a sample photo of a maiko (geisha apprentice), and the red of her lipstick and her obi (sash) look pretty good.

2.  Does the sensor outresolve the lens?  The RX1's Zeiss 35 f/2 was superb.  It was very sharp and in my opinion, it had the best bokeh of any lens I've used.  The RX1R II appears to use the same lens.  With the higher sensor resolution, I don't know if the images from this lens will look as sharp when pixel-peeped.  However, even in the worst case scenario, we can expect the overall resolution to be improved.

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