Is the RX1 the compact photojournalists are waiting for?

By Paul Carroll - Tuesday January 08 2013

Sensor Review
Introduction | Sony RX1 sensor performance | Sony RX1 versus competition | Conclusion

Sony RX1 vs. Nikon D600 vs. Nikon D800: Dizzying heights of 3rd on the podium

If you’re a little surprised at how well a high-end compact is performing it’s time to let you in on its secret. The Sony RX1 uses the same 24megapixel 36x24mm Sony sensor Nikon put into their D600 DSLR. So we can expect the RX1 to perform just as well.

Sony RX1
With the same 24x36mm Sony CMOS sensor in the RX1 and D600 their Scores are similar and only just behind the best performer on our database the Nikon D800.

If we take a closer look at the top three performing Sensors in our database the results are mighty close. To all intents and purposes they have the same Portrait (Colour Depth) and Landscape (Dynamic Range) performance. There is however a minor difference with the Sports (low-light ISO) scores and the D600 & D800 perform fractionally better in low light. With overall ISO scores of 2980 ISO for the Nikon D600, 2853 ISO for the Nikon D800 and 2534 ISO for the Sony RX1 the difference is less than 1/3 of a stop, but it’s just enough to give the Nikon DSLRs the edge in the Overall Sensor Scores.

Sony RX1
The three best sensors on the DxOMark Sensor database put in a similar ISO performance with great results up to ISO 800 despite their high resolution.

All three cameras have an excellent SNR up to ISO 800. At higher sensitivities however respectable results are achieved up to ISO 3200, which is great for photojournalists working in low light.

 Sony RX1 vs. Sony RX100 vs. Fujifilm X100: The best high-end compact at a canter

Before we start here it should be pointed out the Sony RX1 isn’t really in the same category of high-end compact as it’s a completely unique camera. Pitting its full-frame sensor against the Sony RX100’s smaller 1-inch sensor or even the Fujifilm X100’s APS-C variety isn’t really fair, but how much better are the results? Especially considering at $2,800the RX1 currently costs over 4 times as much as the other two?

Sony RX1
Boasting the sensor with the largest physical size it’s not surprising the Sony RX1 demolishes its nearest rivals in the high-end compact category.

In terms of Dynamic Range and Colour Depth the RX100 and X100 are very similar and both are outshone by the RX1. Colour Depth of 25.1 bits on the RX1 gives it 1.5 and 1.6 stops better Colour Depth than the X100 and RX100 respectively and with a Dynamic Range score of 14.3 it is also a full 2 stops better than both cameras in this regard.

Sony RX1
In low light the RX1is significantly better than the RX100 but against Fujifilm’s high-end compact it’s closer, although the X100 only shoots up to 1600 ISO.

The Sports (low light ISO) comparison however is the most illuminating and really shows up the difference sensor size makes. Compared to the Fujifilm X100 score of 1001 ISO the RX1 is only 1.3 stops better in low light with a score of 2534 ISO. It’s against the much smaller 1-inch sensor on the Sony RX100 however where the RX1 really shines producing a massive 2.7 stops improved ISO performance over its cheaper sibling. To put that into context our SNR chart shows while acceptable images are possible on the Sony RX1 up to 3200 ISO using the RX100 you can’t go beyond 640 ISO.