Sony RX1R Review - The Sony RX1R loses an optical low-pass filter, but what does this mean for serious photographers?
The new Sony RX1R is essentially exactly the same camera as the RX1, with just one key change – it has no anti-aliasing filter over its sensor. These filters are designed to slightly blur the image reaching the sensor. With no anti-aliasing filter on the RX1R images should be sharper and more detailed than those from the standard RX1. However, with no anti-aliasing filter the risk of moiré patterning being introduced is a possibility.
Moiré patterning occurs when two linear grids are overlapped out of alignment with each other. It can be commonly seen when grid mesh of net curtains overlaps, creating a new concentric pattern to appear. The same thing occurs when the grid array of a digital camera sensor photographs a similar linear pattern, such as a tightly woven fabric, or intricate brickwork on a building, but we’ll cover more on this later.
Interestingly, the Sony RX1R will cost exactly the same as the standard RX1. This is significant as we’ve seen other manufacturers charge a slight premium for versions of their cameras without an anti-aliasing filter. Given that the RX1 costs £2,600, the fact that there will be no premium to be paid for the new model is a blessing, the RX1 costs enough already.
Sony RX1R Review – Features
As stated, the new Sony RX1R is virtually identical to its older sibling, the RX1, so we won’t dwell too much on the features of the camera. Both cameras use a 24.3-million-pixel full frame Exmor CMOS sensor, with the RX1R lacking the anti-aliasing filter of the RX1.
A Sony Bionz processor controls the camera’s image processing and camera operations, allowing images to be saved as either Raw or JPEG files. The combination of processor and sensor also allows for an impressive sensitivity range of ISO 100-25,600, extendable to ISO 50. In addition to this there is a multi-frame noise reduction, which combines a short burst of images into a single frame. In this mode the sensitivity can be increased to ISO 102,400.
Of course the other key feature of the Sony RX1R is its fixed Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 35mm f/2 lens. When we used this lens in our test of the RX1 we found that it produced superb images, which is one of the many reasons that the RX1 rated so highly in its previous review.
Sony RX1R Review – Build & Handling
Besides the addition of an “R” to the camera’s designation, the Sony RX1R is identical to the RX1, with both cameras having an extremely well built metal body.
On the camera’s top plate sits a multi-interface hotshoe that allows a flashgun, or either Sony’s optical or electronic viewfinders to be attached.
Overall, the Sony RX1R handles excellently, with a simple button arrangement, and equally easy to use on-screen menu. The exposure compensation dial makes it quick to adjust exposures and having an aperture ring on the lens helps to recreate the feeling of using a more traditional film camera, particularly when the optical viewfinder is also being used.
There is an electronic motor-driven focusing ring on the Sony RX1’s lens as well, and manual focusing is aided by display magnification and also focus peaking. Another nice touch that enthusiasts will appreciate is the traditional remote release screw thread on the shutter button.
Sony RX1R Review – Moiré Patterning
Sony was quite open at the launch of the RX1R saying that moiré patterning could be an issue with the camera, but whether or not it will affect your images would depend entirely on the type of photography you do.
An example of Moiré patterning as captured on the Sony RX1R.
Whilst I was shooting documentary street photography and landscape images I encountered little moiré patterning and it was only noticeable if you really searched for it. That is not to say you won’t encounter it when taking these types of shots, just that it shouldn’t be a concern and it is generally easily removed or reduced in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.
Moiré patterning is less noticeable in the images produced by the original Sony RX1.
When shooting specifically to see if moiré patterning affected the Sony RX1R more than the RX1, I found it far more noticeable and easy to create. Photographing a dress with a hounds-tooth check pattern with the RX1R created a rainbow of swirled moiré patterning almost all over the dress. Again, I found that I could reduce this in Adobe Lightroom 5, but couldn’t remove it altogether, however this is an extreme example.
Signs of Moiré were reduced in the Sony RX1R’s images using Adobe Lightroom 5.
It’s probably worth noting that the RX1 also showed some patterning, but it was softer and far less frequent.
Sony RX1R Review – Image Quality
The Sony RX1R produces almost identical results to the RX1, with one major difference. Without the anti-aliasing filter, the RX1R resolves more detail than the standard camera.
The Sony RX1R resolved 30 lines per millimeter on our resolution chart at ISO 200.
The original Sony RX1 resolves 28 lines per millimeter at ISO 200.
A close inspection of Raw images taken with the RX1R reveals fine details that aren’t visible with the standard RX1. In fact when editing Raw images in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 I found that images taken with the RX1R needed virtually no sharpening.
The Sony RX1R resolves an impressive 28 lines per millimeter at ISO 6400.
The Sony RX1 resolves 26 lines per millimeter at ISO 6400.
Anything more than a slight nudge to the sharpness slider was actually too much. Whether or not you will appreciate this difference will really depend on what you do with your images. If you regularly make large prints, then the differences in the details will be noticeable, but anything up to around A4 in size and it will be difficult to see much difference between the RX1R and the original RX1.
Sony RX1R Review – Verdict
With no anti-aliasing filter the RX1R is capable of producing highly detailed images that surpass the quality of the standard RX1. However, without the filter in front of the sensor, moiré patterning may be an issue for some photographers. The only downside is the price, but it is currently a unique product in the market.