RX1R II: First Look

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Finally got my hands on the new Sony RX1R II yesterday, after a couple of years (anxiously) waiting for an iteration on the original RX1. The following is a quick first look while I gather more thoughts and spend more time with it for the full review.

The biggest pain points that I had with the original RX1, which you can read on my review here, were the AF hunting and the fact that mirrorless cameras are not as responsive as the DSLR we all are used to and love. In the meanwhile, I also started missing a good viewfinder, which I was so happy about when Sony announced the new one.


The body on the new RX1R II looks very similar to the original one — same compact form-factor, and same ergonomics —, but it is in fact a completely new body modeled after the RX1. As for the changes, Sony included a really nice swivel screen, which makes the camera a tiny bit thicker, the dial in the back has an extra indent around it, the thumb grip is slightly shorted, and it weighs a little bit more (about 50 grams, from what I could gather). The design is the exact same one though, with its beautiful industrial look.

Straight out of the camera, no editing.
Straight out of the camera, no editing.

As you might know, Sony decided to keep the same Zeiss 35mm f/2.0 lens, which I absolutely adore, but is now paired with a 42.4 MP sensor (!!!). This pairing could be problematic since the lens was initially optimized for the original 24.3 MP sensor and could not have enough resolution power for the new huge sensor. A studio test from DPReview last week started a lot of controversy on this because they were largely misinterpreted, but the last thing I would criticise on this camera it’s the lens — it’s tack sharp!

Original size.
Original size above, and 100% crops below (corner and center).
mutelife.com photo
mutelife.com photo

With a new sensor comes new functionalities, and this one brings 399 AF phase-detection points which completely changes how this camera behaves. In the few hours I had with the camera, simply put, I no longer see any hunting (which bothered me a lot in the original), I have a much higher rate of in-focus pictures because the AF is just faster (by a 30% increase, as reported by Sony), and I can focus without a problem in very, very low light situations. The AF feels solid, decisive, confident, and fast!

The sensor that the new RX1R II uses was borrowed from the a7R II, which also means it has super capabilities in the high-sensitivity ISO department. If on the original RX1 I was comfortable using auto ISO up to 6400, with the new backlit high-sensitive sensor and huge images (up to 7952 × 5304!) combo I expect to be getting very usable images up to 12800. And again, even at night, being able to focus without a problem. Not to mention a crazy wide dynamic range.

ISO 10000, f/3.2, 1/100 sec
ISO 10000, f/3.2, 1/100 sec
ISO 12800, f/4.5, 1/10 sec — shot handheld in the dark.
ISO 12800, f/4.5, 1/10 sec — shot handheld in the dark.
ISO 12800, f/4.0, 1/20 sec
ISO 12800, f/4.0, 1/20 sec
ISO 64000, f/2.0, 1/13 sec — literally no lights around, this camera sees in the dark.
ISO 64000, f/2.0, 1/13 sec — literally no lights around, this camera sees in the dark.

The new viewfinder really is a delight to use. It’s bright, fast, and big. This changes how you use the camera and the joy you get out of it.

My original RX1 is a fully Japanese camera with Japanese-only menus, so I never used them that much. Got the camera, set it up to my liking, and occasionally had to jump in, but never really fiddled with it much. Funny side story: when I bought the RX1 had to download the Japanese and English user manuals and compare both to see what options to change — that certainly made it a very special camera. But the point is that having to set up the new camera, that in itself added a bunch of other functionalities, I had to go through the menus and made me realize how terrible and unorganized they are.

Original shot.
Original shot.
Lifted up the shadows to show the amazing dynamic range on this thing.
Lifted up the shadows to show the amazing dynamic range on this thing.

In sum, it’s clear that Sony is listening to its customers (and kicking Canon’s and Nikon’s butts while at it) and released what some thought would be impossible. The RX1 was a risk on Sony’s part, but I’m glad they recognized its potential enough to develop and release a second iteration that is already as mythical as the first one was.


The final shot

Hi there, welcome to my blog! I'm Filipe Varela, a designer at Automattic passionate about photography and video. In this site I post photos from my journeys across the world — a slice of life. Browse through the archive or check the homepage for the latest posts.

20 thoughts on “RX1R II: First Look

  1. Aminul Islam Sajib November 26, 2015

    Whoa! It sure looks like an amazing camera! Congrats!

    1. Filipe Varela November 26, 2015

      Thank you! :)

  2. professionalgun November 26, 2015

    YESSS – thanks for getting your early impressions up so quickly! I can’t wait to see more of the photos that you take with it over time. Mine arrives tomorrow. That ISO 64,000 image looks great for the web. . . truly remarkable. I remember shooting a Nikon D80 and being afraid to go above ISO 800. Amazing how far technology has come.

    1. Filipe Varela November 26, 2015

      Exactly my thoughts! Not that I’d use 64000 on a regular basis, but it’s great to know it’s there and it’s usable if I ever absolutely need it. You must be really excited to get yours — let me know what you think about it once you take it out for a spin. :)

      1. professionalgun December 2, 2015

        Shipping delays are playing with my fragile emotions. The camera is now supposed to arrive today. . . . Question for you: A lot is being made of the extra care needed in technique because of the high megapixel count. That 64,000 ISO shot was at 1/13 – did you use any kind of stabilizer, or was that hand-held? (Your dog is awesome – can’t believe he sat still for that great shot!)

      2. Filipe Varela December 2, 2015

        Oh boy, hate those delays. :

        Yeah, I read an article that had a theory of how you’d be twice more prone to get shaky shots given the sensor size. I can assure you though, that in practice you can dial your minimum shutter speed to a value you’re comfortable with and not get shaky shots at all. I’ve found this camera to be as reliable as any other I’ve ever used in terms of that.

        Also, all the photos above were shot handheld, so that must count for something. :)

        Akira the dog thanks you, but is not new to this kind of posing: https://mutelife.com/2015/05/akira-the-dog/

      3. professionalgun December 2, 2015

        Thanks a lot, Filipe. You should get Akira the dog an agent!

        AND. . . the wait is over! I’m initially surprised that the camera size doesn’t feel like the handling issue that I anticipated. Nice weight, and I don’t think I’ll need an accessory grip at all. Filter, hood and strap attached. . . it’s go time.

      4. Filipe Varela December 2, 2015

        Fantastic!! Glad to hear that and I really hope you enjoy it fully. It’s not a camera for everyone, but if it’s yours, you won’t ever be able to go back!

  3. Tiago Silva November 27, 2015

    Uau, grande câmara. O que fizeste à outra? Vendeste ou vais-me oferecer como prenda de Natal? eheh

    Incrível como tu com um ISO tão alto as fotos continuam com um bom detalhe. Eu experimentei tirar aqui fotos com 6400 ou 3200 e elas parecem sempre ter um bocado de noise, não sei bem porquê. Será que é mesmo da lente? Digamos que a lente é a de fábrica e não baixa dos f3.5, por isso talvez?

    1. Filipe Varela November 30, 2015

      Acho que a Lena vai ficar a outra, e vamos tentar vender a Fuji X100S que ela tem utilizado até agora.

      Este sensor é uma besta, nunca tinha visto nada igual em termos de low-light vs noise. Estás a tirar em JPG, não é? Experimenta tirar em RAW e abrir directamente no Lightroom, que também ajuda a “estabilizar” o noise ou, pelo menos, a interpretar melhor o padrão de ruído. :)

      Isso é só mesmo sensor, mas claro que com uma objectiva mais rápida vais conseguir mais luz em menos tempo, logo vais ter que utilizar um ISO mais baixo (= menos ruído).

      1. Tiago Silva December 2, 2015

        Ok, então vou fazer isso. Ainda bem que em Frankfurt tirei em JPEG+RAW, foi a minha primeira experiencia com fotografia à noite com a Sony. :D

        Pois, realmente em relação à lente não há muito a fazer, tenho de esperar pelo Japão para comprar a tal lente :D

      2. Tiago Silva December 19, 2015

        Olá novamente Filipe! Nesta semana estive a andar por Berlim e por Potsdam, não sei se estavas a pensar em visitar Potsdam como te tinha sugerido. Se tiveres interessado em visitar, posso-te dar umas opiniões acerca de Potsdam, sendo como é inverno, não foi tão bonito como se vê nas fotos do Google.

  4. Serge December 2, 2015

    a lot of people are talking about softness wide open and all of that, how are you finding it compared to your original rx1?

    1. Filipe Varela December 2, 2015

      That was never a problem with the original, nor it is with this one. I get tack sharp images at f/2.0 — as you can see above or checking the old photos here: https://mutelife.com/tag/rx1/ — but now with much more resolution thanks to the huge sensor. This lens is the best part of the camera by far.

      1. Serge December 3, 2015

        good to hear, thank you for the reply!

  5. Mathias December 15, 2015

    Akira is great but you are cute ;)

    1. akanekinomoto April 5, 2016

      Couldn’t agree more! ;D

  6. Mathias December 22, 2015


  7. Sven Kräuter January 2, 2016

    Thanks for the review and: cute dog :-). I came here from the imaging-resource post & wondered if you found a cure for the poor battery life? Currently test driving that great camera myself (http://blog.svenkraeuterphotography.com/2015/sony-rx1r-ii-review/ ) & I’m close to glueing together a DIY battery grip ;-). With viewfinder turned on, the camera lasts an hour no matter if I take pictures or not.

    1. Filipe Varela January 5, 2016

      Hi Sven, Akira says thanks!

      I’ve been getting mixed results when it comes to battery life. The first two runs were incredibly awful, and like yours, the camera didn’t even last past a couple of hours. On recent trials, I’ve been getting far better results, and much closer to what I have experienced with the original RX1. That is to say it lasts me a full day of on and off shooting.

      Now, the EVF runs through power much more than the far larger backside LCD — even Sony said this before the camera came out — so I don’t use it all the time. I also usually turn on the camera, shoot, and turn it immediately off. Not specifically to save battery, but it’s just the way I use it, which ends up saving some.

      On to read your review! :)

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