Caffeine Priority: The drain game - EVFs and short battery life with the Sony RX1R II?


posted Wednesday, November 25, 2015 at 9:11 AM EDT


I was recently asked to photograph a big evening fundraising event for a local non-profit organization and thought it would be a great opportunity to take the new Sony RX1R II out for a spin to test its high ISO chops. (I also shot some simple daytime photos while I was out and about the next day.) Though a fixed 35mm lens is not my ideal focal length, personally, that's really beside the point -- the RX1R II is packed with cool new features and sports a serious sensor that can capture some genuinely impressive images. Needless to say, I was excited to shoot with this camera and see what I could get.

Yes, the RX1R II did a great job at capturing crisp, detailed images -- check out a handful of those out here -- and I'll go more in-depth with image quality soon in my Field Test. However, my first experience or impression of the RX1R II turned out to be one of disappointment, a surprising disappointment, with the camera's battery life.

Now, I was already warned about the camera's less-than-stellar battery performance thanks to our lab technician Luke, and I came prepared with a spare battery. But I wasn't expecting to swap the battery just an hour or so into shooting this event. The battery was at 100% when I arrived, and I hadn't shot with the camera at all prior to that evening's event.

f/2, 1/200s, ISO 20,000 -- Yes, ISO 20,000! Look at the amount of detail in the inset 100% crop.

Now, I can't pinpoint a single cause for battery issues. For one, the Sony RX1R II itself uses a rather small battery in the first place -- the same rechargeable Li-ion pack as the pocketable RX100-series -- and the RX1R II houses a huge full-frame sensor and lot of horsepower. Furthermore, the RX1R II now has a built-in, pop-up EVF, and according to CIPA ratings, the EVF reduces the shots per charge from 220 with the LCD to just 200. Lastly, it was a chilly November night, and cold weather makes battery life worse.

I believe it was a combination of these elements, but I'm thinking the EVF was a primary factor. I prefer to use a viewfinder to the LCD, so, naturally, I had the EVF opened and the camera at-the-ready across my shoulder as I documented the event. After a while, I realized that having the camera up against my body, it was triggering the proximity sensor and enabling the EVF constantly and perhaps draining the battery more quickly. I had assumed that turning the camera on and off repeatedly would use more battery than just leaving the camera on stand-by, though maybe I'm wrong.

f/2, 1/1000s, ISO 100

I own an Olympus E-M1 and haven’t experienced such a quick battery drain, and I make use of its EVF eye-sensor setup all the time. I've gone through an entire day with that camera and not drained the battery completely. Though I do switch it off if I'm not shooting after a while, I don't feel overly anxious to always power-off the E-M1 after a shot to preserve the battery. The E-M1 sensor is much smaller than the RX1R II's, however, and therefore much less power-hungry I assume. The Olympus has a higher CIPA rating for battery life at 350 shots (no spec is given for battery life with the EVF, however).

f/2, 1/60s, ISO 10,000

In the end, the RX1R II survived the night after swapping batteries and making it a point to either turn off the camera often, or pop-in the EVF at least, between shooting opportunities. On the plus side, the RX1R II batteries are very small, so you can pack a bunch into your camera bag, and they're relatively inexpensive at around $36 apiece. Now, I just need to remember to get larger SD cards…42-megapixels RAW+JPEG files fill your cards up quickly!

f/4, 1/250s, ISO 100

Sony RX1R II OverviewGalleryLab Samples


Caffeine Priority is a new series of short photo-tidbits to ease you into your day, and give us a chance to share a bit more of what life’s like here at IR. We're more like a group of friends testing and talking about cameras and lenses than the buttoned-down, big-corporation world that some of our photo-friends at other companies work in; hopefully these little snippets will share some of that. So... grab another coffee and join in the conversation with us down below!