Sony RX1R Mark II: First Impressions

by Hugh Brownstone3 Comments

Sony Senior Technology Manager Mark Weir must have mentioned “decisive moment” during his presentation of the RX1R Mark II at least three times – and in spite of my best efforts, each time he did a little chill of excitement ran down my spine. A modern interpretation of Cartier-Bresson’s Leica? Yum-bo!

We didn’t know what to expect at Sony’s press briefing last Wednesday morning, so the announcement of the RX1R Mark II was a surprise to most of us.

Especially me, since I generally don’t pay attention to expensive, single focal length fixed lens cameras.

I think maybe this is because I’m an interchangeable lens, hybrid video/stills kind of guy, and my frame of reference for specialty cameras like this is Leica.

And that means: while I’ve loved the Leica brand for decades and owned a IIIa with collapsible 50mm Summar and M8 with 35mm Summicron and 90mm Elmarit, the last time I looked at a single focal length fixed lens camera – Leica’s X2 (since replaced by the Typ 113) – I was non-plussed.

Introducing the RX1R Mark II

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Still, I was already in a good mood after a few hours roaming the streets of Manhattan the prior evening with the new Sony a7s Mark II (courtesy of Sony). I’d also gone on record last year saying Sony’s a6000 is what the Leica M should have been.

Mark, you had me at “decisive moment.”

But it was when Sony Electronics President & CEO Mike Fasullo introduced surprise guest and head of the entire Sony Corporation President & CEO Kaz Hirai – and Kai himself announced the RX1R Mark II by first talking about Dektol (the very chemical I used to develop black & white prints in my youth) – that I was a goner.

 

I should know better, especially with a retail price of $3,299 — $101 MORE than Sony’s own game-changing a7r Mark II [B&H | Amazon].

I definitely DO know better.

BUT…

Here’s the thing: I’ve specifically challenged myself to get by with less, and used Cartier-Bresson with his trusty little Leica as inspiration. I’ve come to rely on my iPhone 6 with its 8 megapixel, fixed 30mm full frame equivalent lens for family and travel photos – even video interviews.

It has been a rewarding and revealing exercise.

I’ve been pretty darned happy. I always have it on me, it’s unobtrusive and very quick, and as long as I view the images on another smartphone or tablet – even a laptop display – it usually looks great.

Unless the light is low, or the contrast is high, or I try to do much of anything in post – or I print on A3 or bigger, depending on subject.

Am I in the market to overcome those problems with a $3,000+ camera?

No, and the RX1R Mark II doesn’t do 4K video, either.

And yet…

A camera that one can slip into a pocket as a matter of course that happens to have the a7r Mark II’s full frame 42.3 megapixel sensor and what promises to be a top-notch 35mm f/2 lens – and adds in a revised pop-up viewfinder borrowed from the stellar little RX-100 Mark IV [B&H | Amazon] that no longer requires you to pull out the actual eyepiece when it opens nor push it in before closing – well, that’s pretty much an engineering marvel.

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And might – just might – get me into printing again, variable optical low pass filter or not.

I can tell you that simply holding the RX1R Mark II in hand is an occasion.

No matter.

In the end, the RX1R Mark II is a halo product for the entire brand. Sony is not looking for the RX1R Mark II to sell in high volumes any more than Audi is looking to sell boatloads of the TT RS: both companies can amortize the cost of common bits among their dramatically higher volume models like the VW Golf (you’d be surprised how much those two cars have in common) and Sony’s RX 100 Mark IV or even their HX90V [B&H | Amazon].

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As a pro photographer’s or affluent enthusiast’s personal camera, the RX1R Mark II is a camera to contemplate, a camera to reignite the passion, especially against the first Leica single focal length fixed lens camera that looks interesting, the announced but not yet available Q Typ 116.

We’re actually excited about getting these cameras in hand and actually making some…prints.

(cover photo credit: snap from Hugh Brownstone)


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Comments

  1. William Sommerwerck

    I grew up with silver-based photography. Once you’d loaded the film, you’d pretty much chosen the “character” of the images you’d be making. * Settings were limited to shutter, aperture, and focus. Even with TTL metering, there was pretty much only one way to set flash exposure.
    Digital cameras have so many options that you can be caught in an “ass among a half-dozen bales of hay” situation. If one is distracted by them, one can miss “the decisive moment”.
    It seems to me that cameras trying (???) to emulate the Leica ** will succeed only if they keep the clutter away from the photographer. The harder it is to access all those fussy options, the more likely the photographer will be to set the camera for the sorts of pictures he or she is likely to take, and then forget about the settings. ***
    I could make some suggestions, but why should I do their work for them?
    * That’s a gross over-simplification, especially with B&W materials.
    ** The Olympus M-1 was a conscious attempt at a Leica SLR.
    *** Japanese designers suffer from “acute feature-itis”. Feature, features, and more features, with little regard for rational hierarchical organization.

  2. Pingback: New reviews and preorders of the new stuff (A7sII, RX1rII, Loxia 21mm, Otus 28mm and Sigma 20mm). | sonyalpharumors

  3. maczpiku

    It will fit into a jacket pocket may be, so will the any A7 with 28/35 lens. Yes, these would be slightly slower (2.8 vs 2.0), but you’ll have an option to switch them to whatever you want at least

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