Sony RX1R II - Nothing compares to you

The Sony RX1 already had a fantastic reputation as full-frame compact camera, so I was extremely happy to be able to work with the Sony RX1R II for a while. In this post you will read about my experiences with the device, which I guess is just about as good as it gets.

First: this is not for me. I'm afraid I'll never be able to spend €3499 on a compact camera, and I guess that as a photographer I'm not exactly worthy of it either. On the other hand it might be possible that this compact would dramatically improve my skills - I didn't have the chance to prove that to myself due to the temporary physical handicap I've had in the past weeks. So I've only used the Sony RX1R II in a "limited" way: in manual mode, fooling around with aperture and shutter time mostly to get the best result I could think of. 

In this post you'll be seeing nothing but resized shots and crops coming from this amazing device. Although it has a 42MP sensor that might seem very familiar to the one most of us know here, I'm not going to make a complete fool out of myself comparing this beast to the Nokia 808 PureView. Hence my headline, after the famous Prince/Sinead O'Connor song: Nothing compares to you.

However, you will recognize some scenes I captured in Amsterdam with the Fujifilm X70 - I had both with me that day, but I'm not going to make a one on one comparison since the specs simply are too different.

Let me just give you a few specs of the RX1R II - probably enough to make you drool already. It has a 42MP full-frame BSI-CMOS sensor behind a 35 mm f2.00 prime lens. ISO ranges from ISO 50 - 10.2400. It has a 3 inch tiltable screen (though not all the 180 degrees way up which I think is cool). It has a built-in EVF with 2359k dots. It offers WiFi as well so it's a "connected" camera and sure qualifies as "smartcam" in my book. 

Want to read some of the negative points right away? Video is limited to 1920 x 1080, so no 4K - this is a photographers camera first. It lacks OIS, which might be frustrating in less favorable light situations. Battery stand-by time could seriously be better - you can't do a day of shooting with one charge, so you'll need an extra battery or battery pack (my solution mostly, especially since Sony uses the micro-USB standard, which is great). It's not "weather proof" which would have been welcome.

Sensor and lens
Like in my previous post, the fastest way to show you how large the sensor actually is, is by blatantly copying the image from, a site I love for fast specs comparsion. Since I was pretty enthusiastic about the previous compact camera I wrote about here, the Fujifilm X70, it might be useful to show you how its APS-C sensor compares to the full-frame sensor in the Sony RX1R II.

The full-frame sensor on the Sony is more than twice as large as you can see. But I realize it's all just specs, numbers, words. Wait to you see this thing, the size of the lens it carries. Then you'll know what a serious piece of equipment this really is. Below you'll see two shots I captured, one with the EVF closed and one with it popped out.

Sure this is a compact camera - but is it still pocketable? Hardly, although I did manage to get it all inside my jacket once - it's definitely not the way to carry this. This is the one you want around your neck like always, since you never know when a great opportunity arises. Speaking of which: is this a "street photographer's dream"? Probably, not sure though. I understand street photographers like their device to be even smaller, less conspicuous. But it's not that enormous and certainly smaller than my Samsung NX1 including lens, of course.

In my product shot above you can already see some of the fast ways to work with the RX1R II. Quick way to switch from close-up to normal/infinity at the top of the lens. Fast aperture change below that. Button for different settings and exposure correction "as usual". Hot shoe for the flash in the middle - it doesn't have a flash built-in and you won't find one in the box either. I don't like flash all that much myself so I never missed it - I can't imagine it would be a deal-breaker for anyone seriously interested in this machine.

Below you see how the display show the too bright parts in what you're about to capture. Using the scroll wheel on the right top it's extremely easy to change shutter time and find the right exposure for your shot.

In the shots above you'll see a few important other more or less usual buttons: AEL, FN, Display, menu and the delete button (the good old trashcan icon).

Next to the AEL function (used to fix the metering of a certain part of your shot) you'll see a zoom symbol, which of course you can use to zoom into you shot. Being as large as it is - between 12MB and 40MB in .JPG (!) depending on the detail in what you captured - it takes quite a bit of time to show the result at 100%.

Let me share my very first shot with this device and my amazement about the detail it captures. Keep in mind this is all straight from the camera. First the resized version...

And the 100% crop..

If this kind of detail doesn't blow you away I don't know what will - although I have some more to show you in this post. Like I wrote, I didn't really get to try out all different settings, but of course I had a glance at them. The software enables you to change "creative style" and "photo effect" for instance - stuff I briefly worked with but was not really overwhelmed by since it's not what I'm really interested in personally.

I guess I'm too much of a "purist", although I must admit that choosing "autumn leaves" produced a seriously better shot in the woods - less "cold". So no doubt there are other situations in which you can choose a specific setting to make sure you won't have to work on your shot afterwards. I'm not into stuff like "hip colors" either - matter of taste I guess - but I'll share some results in that mode below as well. Of course, the menu enables you to work in b/w right away. You probably know my "grumpy friend" by now - here's the big red cat in black and white for a change (again, no edit)

Let me share another shot that blew me away the very first day I got this device. Just a simple night capture of my wife's desk with a bottle of water. Colors, contrast, bokeh, sharpness - it all simply takes my breath away. It confused me in fact: such a simple, even somewhat messy scene, such a great result - did I really capture this? 

Amsterdam revisited
I managed to capture well over 450 shots with the Sony RX1R II, and one day I brought it on my trip to Amsterdam together with the Fujifilm X70. Again, no direct comparison - it's useless, specs are too different and there's a factor 5 (!) price difference. But I did capture a lot of the same scenes with it, so let me share just three of those here as well - including the 100% crops (again, you'll be amazed, I'm sure).

Yes, these are all directly from the camera and 100% crops. You might want to see what these looked like with the Fujifilm X70 in my album on Flickr.

More shots and crops
There's more where it came from though, so let me share a few more shots the Sony RX1R II amazed and graced me with. This street artist (from California) to begin with

Does he look familiar to you? Wanted to send him the shots but he hasn't been able to check his email for over two years. That's something the next guy doesn't have to deal with

Of course there's more than amazing detail to what you'll be able to capture with the Sony RX1R II. The bigger the sensor, the better the bokeh (with lowest aperture), so I captured some close-ups you might like as well. Here you go, including the crops

And - in a supermarket - a plate filled with cheap rings. The bokeh makes it look like if they're flying...

So you'll get more detail and bokeh than you can possibly wish for. Now how about atmosphere? Does the RX1R II really capture the feeling of the scene I'm in? I think it does. Here's a few examples in typical "Dutch" weather I'd say...

And how about this one...

Hip colors
Okay, it's not exactly my thing, but I captured quite a few shots using the "hip color" setting... Why? Simply because I forgot to put the settings back to normal after fooling around with them. And I must say - effects like these can be quite charming in fact. So to give you an impression about what you may expect, here you go:

Final words
I asked Sony for a review sample of the RX100 IV - they sent me the RX1R II as a bonus, something to try out as well. I didn't even get to testing the RX100 IV. My time has been limited even more than usual since my temporary handicap - but even without it, I wonder if I could have been able to concentrate on anything else but the RX1R II. I don't think I've been able to squeeze everything out of it I could have. No night captures for instance, but I don't doubt for a second they will be perfect. 

As you might know, I've been testing dozens of smartphones and cameras in the past. Sending them back is sometimes a relief, sometimes just okay, as it may be quite frustrating to do without afterwards. It's only once in a while I really fall in love with a device and it hurts when I know it'll be out of reach like forever. And it definitly hurts to send this one back.

The Sony RX1R II simply is as good as it gets. State of the art, top of the bill as they say. Or to quote famous pop songs again: Nothing compares to you. And: Forget about the price tag - if you can... 

You'll find all the original shots above - and quite a few more - on Flickr. If you want to make a contribution to the club, please do, there's a PayPal button on the right hand side of this page and I'll add you to the list of sponsors! If you're willing to sponsor a Sony RX1R II I'll put you on top with any (decent) picture or commercial add you like!  :-)

I found a shot very simliar to the first one, the view with the bus, "a landscape" so to say captured with the 808 PureView in full res, in 16:9. My friend Bigs asked for the comparison I didn't want to make at all in fact, so here it is. You'll have to forgive me for the very different circumstances though, I think the details speak for themselves nevertheless. First Nokia 808 PureView, next Sony RX1RII.

I don't think it's the different circumstances that account for the difference in detail. But it may be interesting to see how big the difference is. After all, a new Sony RX1RII is about 17 times as expensive as a second hand 808 PureView - if you can find one, that is :-)