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From Leica M to Sony RX1 - initial impressions
Old 12-09-2012   #1
elverket
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From Leica M to Sony RX1 - initial impressions

A few weeks ago I sold my M8.2 and 35mm cron v4 to fund the RX1, which I picked up a few days ago. In case anyone is considering something similar, here are my initial thoughts:

- Getting rid of the Leica felt strange, it was harder than I'd thought, but necessary: I've been missing way too many shots the last months due to the iso limitations on the M8.2 and lack of autofocus. When I get old, wise and rich with plenty of time to spare, I'll pick up a Leica again.:-)

- Coming from a Leica, the body of the RX1 feels small - too small. I have fairy large hands, and to me the Leica both gave me a better grip and was far better balanced in the hand. It seems to me that Sony went out of their way to make the camera as small as possible, and this combined with the relatively large lens makes it kind of difficult to hold in a comfortable way. Personally I'd take a bigger body with an integrated viewfinder any day; due to the size of the lens the RX1 is hardly pocketable, and as long as it's not a few centimeters here and there would just add to the usability.
That sead, the thing feels like it's built like a tank with the same kind of "heavy metal" feeling as the M.

- The lens renders very nice on the RX1, although can surely see that it has a very different character than my old cron v4. The cron had a kind of softer more creamy bokeh, but the zeiss looks just as sharp. I'll need more time to examine this further, but for now I'd say I'm fairly impressed even though I loved the cron.

- In use, the lens feels ok, but I miss the size and the overall feeling of the cron. The Leica is so small, the focusing is so smooth and the rings turn so precisely that there really is nothing like it. If you're used to Canikon gear I'm sure you'll be impressed by the aperture clicks on the RX1, but after the cron I'd go with "OK".

- When it comes to the manual focusing, though, I'm VERY impressed. I'd never been able to focus so quickly and easily with an LCD and there is no fuss and uneccesary distractions. Very nice.

- Menus: In general, I loved the simplicity of the Leica user interface: Simplicity in an almost minimalist way. The RX1 is not like that (of course), but it's better than I feared. You can customize just about any button and there is not too much rubbish in the menus. As long as I can set up the camera the way I want it I don't have to care too much about menus later anyway. I'll say well done Sony in this regard. Coming from the Leica everything naturally also feels instantaneous; no more waiting for the camera to zoom in one step further (on that useless screen..)

- Speaking of screen, the RX1 screen totally puts the Leica screen to shame, but we all knew that already.:-)

- Image quality and IQ: The concept of the Leica rangefinders always appealed to me. No "scene modes", no video, no uneccesary distractions, just setting the parameters and taking the picture. Simplicity. As a handsome bonus i find the Leica M a product that is beatiful to look at with a superb quality feel.

That last part made it hard for me to part with it, but regarding the simplicity, I found a paradox: The simplicity of the M made it too hard to take good pictures. Before I was done light metering, focusing, setting shutter, ISO and aperture the moment was too often gone and too often I didn't set everything right and missed anyway. In light of this I have a tremendous respect for those of you who focus by feel and see the right parameters to set before they happen. I'm sure everything is possible with lots of practice, but for me life is - at least at the moment - too short.

What I wanted from the RX1 was a different kind of simplicity, because I just wanted to take pictures without caring too much if I had enough avaliable light to manage without the tripod. You make the shot or you don't. In this regard I think the RX1 has truly delivered so far. Pick just about any scene, almost no matter how dark and the camera will give you something that is often suprisingly close to what you see with the naked eye. White balance and metering is very impressive, and ISO 6400 is still great for my use. As many have pointed out the AF could be better, though: In low light it often struggles quite a bit, but for me coming from a camera with no AF it's still a whole lot more comfortable.:-) In addition, as stated above, the MF is surprisingly easy to use.

So I guess some may be thinking: "You're using €3000 on a point and shoot, are you out of your mind?" To me, the RX1 is the first true P&S I've shot with in medium to low light, and that's a great thing. Pick up the camera, frame the shot and fire away. As long as focus is on, the camera captures what you imagine it will in almost any light condition. To me, that's a great feature, and in that regard i think the RX1 should carry its P&S label with pride. It's all about simplicity.
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Old 12-09-2012   #2
semilog
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GREAT review. Thanks for taking the time to write it up.
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Old 12-09-2012   #3
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Every camera has its limitations. Good read.
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Old 12-09-2012   #4
back alley
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i still want one...
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Old 12-09-2012   #5
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Thankyou very much for your review, I found it useful..Please could you say more about the rendering/look of the files compared to your leica.

Many thanks.
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Old 12-09-2012   #6
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Back Alley... I still want one too but will admit to having had moments of doubt occasionally since placing my order in September. Not too much doubt mind you... mine should be at my retailer in just over a week.
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Old 12-10-2012   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elverket View Post
The simplicity of the M made it too hard to take good pictures. Before I was done light metering, focusing, setting shutter, ISO and aperture the moment was too often gone and too often I didn't set everything right and missed anyway. -- -- I think the RX1 has truly delivered so far. Pick just about any scene, almost no matter how dark and the camera will give you something that is often suprisingly close to what you see with the naked eye. White balance and metering is very impressive, and ISO 6400 is still great for my use.
It almost sounds like you just went from full manual to full auto (or perhaps more likely aperture priority). While the M8.2 is no high-ISO machine, you can pretty much use it in the same mode if and when you like, there is auto-ISO and AE. The main conceptual difference in controlling these cameras is MF vs. AF. Another point to consider in actual use is the metering pattern on each camera, where Leica M is very limited but predictable and easy to learn, while Sony (and, well, everyone else) traditionally has many modes where to choose from. For the simplest point-and-shoot use the latter can be miles better as you have observed.
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Old 12-10-2012   #8
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@peewee: As I said I think it's a bit too early to draw conclusions regarding image quality, and for me that has two reasons:

1: For now I'm only shooting JPEGs with the RX1, while I was always shooting RAW with the M. I found that RAWs from the M usually required quite a bit of work in post, but when the exposure was right I was often blown away by the results. Too bad that too often exposure was not dead on..:-(
For now, I'm not bothered by the lack of RAW conversion for the RX1, because the JPEGs are in a word fantastic. I find the colors a bit on the cold side, but as mentioned AWB is great handling most indoor lighting without problems. Very predictable, and that makes me wonder if it will be worthwhile to work with huge 24mp RAW files later. We'll see. As I said I'm looking for simplicity, and as I am no pro I love the off the camera JPEGs with a touch of editing here and there for now.

2: I live in Norway, and right now it's the darkest time of the year with sunset around 3pm. For that reason I've been shooting mostly pics I would never get with the M, at ISO 3200-6400. I have to say It feels great after trying to get results with ISO 640 on the M. In other words, not that many directly comparable shots so far..:-)

In general though, I would say that I find the Leica images slightly warmer, the Zeiss slightly on the cold side. The soft bokeh on the Leica adds to this impression, while sharpness seems pretty equal to me.

@Lss:
Of course you're right, and I often used the M this way as well. It was just as much making a point: With an ISO range of 160 to 640, very basic light metering and no focusing closer than .7 metres, I found myself struggling in almost all indoor settings, no matter if I had the camera in S, A or was doing everything manually. My point is that for me, I way too often I found myself using my energy on getting this right, not on the subject I was photographing. I know that gets better with time and experience, but you have to invest that and even then every low light situation is a struggle (was for me, anyway).

For now I've found the metering on the RX1 to be extremely predictable in any situation I've exposed it to, more so than any other camera I've tried. In this regard, I find that more advanced technology makes it a whole lot easier to get the results I want and thus bringing me closer to the subject.

A couple of more observations:

Finder: I really miss the fantastic rangefinder itself. Framing using the screen takes some getting used to and it will never feel as good. I considered an external finder, but found that it adds to much bulk and is too expensive. If I get too frustrated over time I might reconsider..

Battery: The battery on the M8.2 sucked big time, and the RX1 does not seem to be that much better. Does technology really develop this slowly?
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Old 12-10-2012   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adanac View Post
Back Alley... I still want one too but will admit to having had moments of doubt occasionally since placing my order in September. Not too much doubt mind you... mine should be at my retailer in just over a week.

mine will have to wait...after buying into the fuji x family i am broke and currently off work...but in time i hope to add one to my bag.
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Old 12-10-2012   #10
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Thanks very much for the useful info.
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Old 12-10-2012   #11
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Thanks for the detailed write up and responses to the question. Could you clear up a matter for me. Is there image stabilization or not?

Sorry if I have missed it elsewhere, but here it says steadyshot - but maybe only in video?

Cheers,
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Old 12-10-2012   #12
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@xpanded

Yes, the steadyshot is only in video
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Old 12-10-2012   #13
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Thanks processedmeat
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Old 12-12-2012   #14
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Thank you for the great write-up.

I'm happy I upgraded to a reasonable used M9 from my M8 before finding out about the new Sony, as I might have been more conflicted otherwise. For now I decided to add an X100 as a companion for those low-light/auto situations, but maybe if prices come down one day and/or they include a good built-in finder, that Sony might tempt me to replace the Fuji.
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Old 12-14-2012   #15
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I just purchased an S-100 for my daughter. She keeps taking my X100 and is pressing me to let her shoot film. I think that lack of viewfinder a reasonable compromise in a pocket-able camera, but once the camera reaches X-100 size, it isn't pocket-able, so I want a viewfinder. Once it doesn't fit my pocket, I don't care if the camera is X100/RX1 size, or the size of the new Leica 'M'. Also, once we are north of $2000.00, I want some sort of viewfinder and if EVF, the NEX-7 EVF is a minimum in terms of functionality. This camera looks fantastic, but I'll wait for an in-body EVF.
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Old 12-14-2012   #16
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Thanks for the write up. This camera or the version after it is in my list, but not in the near future.
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Old 12-20-2012   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elverket View Post
@peewee: Battery: The battery on the M8.2 sucked big time, and the RX1 does not seem to be that much better. Does technology really develop this slowly?
Note that on the M8.2 what work does the battery have to do? Is it constantly updating a live view on your LCD? Constantly adjusting focus?

It was a fair compromise to keep the battery small to keep the overall size down. However, I believe they should have found a way put the door on the side rather than the bottom, so one would not have to remove a tripod plate.
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Old 04-09-2013   #18
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Picked up my RX1 yesterday and have to admit I am really happy with it. Had an accident with my M9 and replaced it with an SLR and really missed having something small to go with my film RFs. RX1 I think could become my number 1 camera. Played with XE1, XP1, OMD, Sigmas but at end of the day this is a full frame camera and after M9 I couldn't go back. It is an amazing piece of engineering

Back Alley I thought I could resist but couldn't. I am surprised you have resisted so far.
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Old 04-09-2013   #19
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Originally Posted by hausen View Post
Picked up my RX1 yesterday and have to admit I am really happy with it. Had an accident with my M9 and replaced it with an SLR and really missed having something small to go with my film RFs. RX1 I think could become my number 1 camera. Played with XE1, XP1, OMD, Sigmas but at end of the day this is a full frame camera and after M9 I couldn't go back. It is an amazing piece of engineering

Back Alley I thought I could resist but couldn't. I am surprised you have resisted so far.
well...you're not helping!!
being out of work and not looking too hard for a new one keeps me out of the camera stores as well.
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Old 04-09-2013   #20
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Yes. excellent review. Thanks for taking the time to post it.
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Old 04-09-2013   #21
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Originally Posted by PKR View Post
"A camera man has got to know his limitations" - Clint Eastman

See John Vink's review of the RX1 just past the 3 Rivers stuff. I think much of his new work was done with an RX1 - the long and short FL Canon stuff is obvious.

http://johnvink.com/news/

http://johnvink.com/news/page/6/
links not working
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Old 04-09-2013   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elverket View Post
That last part made it hard for me to part with it, but regarding the simplicity, I found a paradox: The simplicity of the M made it too hard to take good pictures. Before I was done light metering, focusing, setting shutter, ISO and aperture the moment was too often gone and too often I didn't set everything right and missed anyway. In light of this I have a tremendous respect for those of you who focus by feel and see the right parameters to set before they happen. I'm sure everything is possible with lots of practice, but for me life is - at least at the moment - too short.
i know we're all responding to a semi-necro thread but at the same time it was a great review thanks for taking the time to put it up. i'm glad that you got positive feedback for your review as i partially expected the ludites to come out and complain about technology taking over photography.
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Old 04-09-2013   #23
back alley
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Originally Posted by PKR View Post
Hi Joe;

I know you are interested in this camera - me too.

www.johnvink.com/

In going to this URL it doesn't load. John is in Asia and there may be net trouble.

My site/server is in Hong Kong and it loads right up. I'll check this again in an hour or so.

best, pkr
working for me now...
interesting read...the rx1 is clearly a flawed camera but can i live with those flaws? i think so.
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Old 04-09-2013   #24
back alley
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my budget allows me to wait for a while

i actually don't mind using the lcd...it works just fine on the rx100 for me.
an interchangable lens body is just a dream i think...35mm lens suits me...

i think the fuji x-e1 with the 27 pancake might be a satisfying alternative for me...
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Old 04-10-2013   #25
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Great review , I really enjoyed it and thought it was well balanced. Being an M9 user myself I wonder if you would have had similar thoughts if you had moved from the M9 ...

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