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Sony RX1Rii Camera Review: On the Road with the RX1Rii

A Highly Capable, Palm Sized and Stealthy, Full Frame Beast

Just got back from a week-long trip visiting my buddy in Portland. I spent time in the city and did lots of walking. Drove to the Oregon coast for a day. Went for a six-mile hike in the woods. Enjoyed a day trip to wine country in the Willamette Valley. Took in Portland’s amazing downtown Framer’s Market…a visual and gustatory culinary feast. And took long walks through the historic city several times capturing some of the historic and contemporary architecture. While on my trip it dawned on me that I’ve had my RX1Rii for over 2 years now and haven’t don a Sony RX1Rii camera review.  If you are expecting a technical review, this isn’t it. There are plenty stellar Sony RX1RII camera reviews out there. Instead, this is a visual review of what the RX1Rii is capable of, in perfectly lit situations, in challenging light situations and as a great traveling companion.

Sony RX1Rii Camera Review

ISO 100, f/8, 1/400th

Sony RX1Rii Camera Review

The body of water {to the left of the beach,}  you see in the distance is Manzanita ISO 200, f/16, 1/100

Sony RX1Rii Camera Review

Some wonderful Portland architectural vignettes with a circa 1950’s Coca-Cola bottling plant sandwiched in the middle.

Portland is an amazing city that is reinventing itself.  Portland’s waterfront is undergoing a major renaissance.  The food and wine scene in Portland is unlike anything else I’ve seen in the US. The city of Rose’s roots go back to the mid 19th century when it became the second largest city in the US known for, {in no particular order}: fur trade, logging, a major transportation center due to its proximity to rivers and railroads, fish, wheat and produce. Comprised of districts, Portland is steeped in architectural heritage, Dating back to the mid-1800’s, its ripe for architectural photography.  And, it’s proximity to wine country and the Orgon coast, {both, only an hour’s drive from downtown} provides opportunities for stunning landscape imagery.

Sony RX1Rii Camera Review

“Haytack” at the famed Canon beach. ISO 80, f/8, 1/ 200

Sony RX1Rii Camera Review

When you are going on a 6 mile hike, in 80 degree weather,  the last thing you really want to take is abackpack full of camera gear. Sony RX1Rii to the rescue. ISO 1000, f/11, 1/80

Whether you are a pro-photographer or an enthusiast picking your favorite camera’s and lenses to take on a trip with you is always a dilemma. Especially with airline carry on regulations these days. You can only carry-on one regulation size roller and one personal item.  Optimally I like to bring three bags on every trip.  My clothing in a roller, my shoulder bag and a laptop in a backpack with my camera gear. Typically, my minimum gear that I bring with me for a week on the road {whether flying or not} are two bodies and 3-4 lenses, chargers, extra batteries, tripod, lens and camera cleaning gear, and an intervalometer for long exposure and time-lapse. It ends up being a good size backpack of gear.  Because I don’t like to check-through my clothing baggage for fear of the airlines losing it, so, I always opt for carry-on. I’m not going to baggage-check my camera gear.

Sony RX1Rii Camera Review

Cropped for cinematic presentation.

An in-camera pano, using the pano mode located on the top right dial. When photographing a panorama, the RX1Rii will automatically switch to Jpeg and chose an arbitrary f/stop. Between f/5.6 and f/8. ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/500th

Enter the Experiment:  Bring only one camera and only one lens. My choice….the Sony RX1Rii.
What I love about this camera.  It’s a 42.4 megapixel, full frame camera with a fixed Carl Zeiss 35mm f/2.0 leaf shutter lens with macro capabilities that fits in the palm of my hand and weighs in at a whopping 1lb. and .o9 ounces. Because it’s a fixed lens means that I never have to worry about sensor dust.  It’s stealthy and completely silent. The images are razor sharp at f/2.0 all the way through the f-stop range. The batteries are tiny, about the size of a restaurant sized box of matches. I take 9 along with me, one 128GB SD card and two extra 32gb Sd cards. The RX1Rii has a killer EVF. I can work it in AV and Manual mode with ease.

I purposefully underexposed the beach and tree dotted hillside to keep the water from being overexposed. ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/2500

ISO 100, f/11, 1/200

Here’s the thing about taking one camera and one lens with you for a week-long journey.  It’s super liberating.  Think about it.  You have one small inconspicuous palm-sized beast of a camera.  No lenses to change. No heavy gear bag or backpack to tote around with you.  I took it as a personal challenge. Would I have loved to have my 70-200 f/2.8 GM with me to zoom in on some coastal vistas when I was perched above Manzanita at an observation point, or while hiking Cape Falcon on the Oregon coast?  Sure.  But I made some lovely images with the RX1Rii. How about my FE 12-24 f/4 G for some architectural photography while walking past some of Portland’s fabulous architecture and to capture Willamette Valley’s stunning landscapes? Yes to that too.  RX1Rii to the rescue.  And my FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS for food photography at the legendary downtown Portland Farmer’s Market? Yes again. But with my RX1Rii I have the ability to photograph at close range with my 35mm f/2.0 in Macro mode.  Here’s the thing … Sometimes as photographers we need to challenge ourselves. And sometimes we need to free ourselves up, travel lite, and still be able to capture the beauty of our travel experiences.

ISO 800, f/11, 1/500

ISO 800, f/11, 1/200

ISO 800, f/11, 1/1250

ISO 800, f/11, 1/1600

Sony RX1Rii Camera Review

Macro mode was used to capture the Nebbiolo row marker.

The sky was pretty blown out on the original handheld capture. I was able to bring it back by using first the Highlight slider and then used a Gradient and pulled down the Highlight slider and used the Dehaze slider. ISO 640, f/11, 1/500th[/caption]
With any challenge like this, there are always what ifs.  What if my camera fails? I had no back-up.  Truth be told, I’ve traveled all over with my RX1Rii for over two years now and have never had a single issue with it. What if I need another lens? Tough it out.  There were times I wish I’d had a few other lenses on hand, but I made it work.  I think as photographers we are problem solvers. I believe we all have two toolkits. Our mind, heart, and eyes are one, and the second is the physical toolkit of gear. Relying on your first toolkit can open your mind, heart, eyes, and soul to new possibilities and push you to try new ways to use your gear to compose, expose and capture images.

The RX1Rii excels at resolving fine details. ISO 2000, f/11, 1/160th

ISO 2000, f/8, 1/100

ISO 2000, f/8, 1/250

ISO 2000, f/5.6, 1/800

ISO 2000, f/8, 1/60

ISO 2000, f/4, 1/640

ISO 4000, f/5.6, 1/150

ISO 4000, f/5.6, 1/160