Impressions of RX100 (words not pix)

Started Jul 19, 2012 | Discussions thread
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DavieK
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Impressions of RX100 (words not pix)
Jul 19, 2012

(I wrote this for the Alamy forums as a few stock shooters are interested in whether or not the RX100 will be on the banned or accepted list - if Alamy blacklist it, they would be doing so from blind prejudice as it's visibly better than many DSLR+kit combos).

I obtained one a few days ago and have had a chance to try it in varied conditions. It's tiny, so small that like a Canon S100 it can be concealed in one hand. If the lens did not pop out like it does, it could be mistaken for a camera phone or basic digicam. Obviously the operation, despite a full PASM and extras set up and every aspect of control you could want with customisable buttons and rings, is not all that fast and can be a bit fiddly.

Major points - completely silent; extremely effective stabilisation; very good image quality at ISO 80-125 (by that I mean as good as you'll expect from a DSLR in the same range), ISO 200 to 1600 about equal to D300/50D generation of Nikon and Canon DSLRs but of course it's 20 megapixels and when shrunk to 12 megapixels or so it's ahead of these. ISO 3200 to 6400 better than you would expect. Colours very good, exposure a complete surprise (final JPEGs always looking even better than the screen), focus not fast every time but accurate. Sony is not famous for good JPEGs but I'd be happy to shoot JPEG direct for Alamy on this camera at 80-400 ISO.

Lens: 28-100mm f/1.8 to f/4.9 equivalent. At first I used it on close up stuff set to f/8 and thought the corners were a bit soft. In raw conversion, a profile will be needed as the lens is actually a strongly curved near-24mm, corrected to be 28mm with impeccable geometry in the camera for JPEGs (not a hint of distortion in those). In the process, very soft corners are removed entirely. Using the JPEG field of view - lens with full internal corrections applied - there is simply no reason ever to stop the lens down. I was shooting this evening at f/1.8 and it's sharp into the corners, grass blade/gravel sharp (you'll know what I mean) wide open. That applies at the long end too within depth of field at f/4.9. It is as sharp into the corners as either the Canon G1-X or Fuji X10, both of which have excellent lenses. The depth of field at 10.4mm is such that f/1.8 looks like a normal scene for general views, but close-ups do show differential focus.

I'd rate the coverage across the frame, corner to corner, as better than any 24-105mm lens or similar on a full frame DSLR and just as good as, for example, the Canon 15-85mm, Nikon 16-85mm or Sony Zeiss 16-80mm (these do have rather wider/longer ranges though). What looks worst is something like trees against sky in the distance in the corner at f/1.8 when the focus is set around 20ft, but that is nothing unusual for APS-C or full frame zooms either.

I wouldn't choose this camera to replace a NEX or Panasonic G (etc) but as a sealed unit it's free from dust issues and truly pocketable. At over £500 it should be good and technically the results are better for most normal subjects than any DSLR with kit or superzoom quality lens up to the 12 megapixel 'era'. In some ways it's also better than Canon's 18 megapixel APS-C (7D etc), in that I can drill into black tones around ISO 400-1600 and see just regular clean grain with very little colour noise and no patterns or banding. This does not make the camera better, it just points in an interesting direction - the sensor is the equivalent of 32-36 megapixels APS-C depending on factor, or 78 megapixels full frame.

It's got peculiar tethering/uploading habits and also has a battery which charges from USB. There is a software 'disc image' in firmware on the camera which mounts alongside the SD card when you connect to a Mac or PC (functional for the PC, just provides instructions via a web link for the Mac). But you also get the normal USB mass storage, so I've been connecting the camera and grabbing new files this way, and leaving it to charge. It now sits next to my Mac.

Alamy should not have any reason to put the RX100 on the not recommended list, it is not a case like the Canon S90-95-100 where a good sensor is teamed with a consumer level zoom (the G-series zoom lenses being generally much better than the S-series compact designs).

Also, it shoots ridiculously good video - too good for iMovie to import, I wish they would update, have to ClipWrap the takes. True 50 or 60fps progressive 1080p at 28Mpbs bitrate. The power zoom is silent and dead smooth, the digital extension of power zooming softens a lot and it's a pity they did not have a true cropped 1920 x 1080 out of the sensor area, which would been a 2.8X non-digital teleconverter effect for videos. As with stills, the video stabilisation is s good as you could wish for hand-held stuff and there is no jello (at least at 50p) for quite strong 'floating camera' tracking and panning.

David

Canon PowerShot S90 Fujifilm X10 Nikon D300 Sony RX100
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