My Sony NEX6 and 18-200 vs Sony RX10

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My Sony NEX6 and 18-200 vs Sony RX10
5 months ago

I have had a Sony NEX6 with an 18-200 lens (plus a couple of others) that I have been very happy with. Last week as a bit of an impulse purchase I decided to get a Sony RX10 to try. (It was a very good deal so I can sell it on without making a loss if I decide not to keep it.)

There are a few RX10 vs other camera + big zoom range lens threads so I thought that i would post my thoughts.

After having done some testing comparing the NEX6 with the RX10 I have to say that, in practice there really isn't that much between them for me personally. I would be happy with either.

Lens Quality

I do not see a significant difference in sharpness between these two lenses - both seem good to me. As an indication of quality the Sony 18200 is much better than the Nikon 18-200 VR that I had previously but not as good as my 50mm f1.8. I would say that for a non-ILC camera the RX10 has a very good lens.

In terms of DOF I find the two cameras very similar. The faster aperture of the RX10 seems to be offset by the shorter actual focal length i.e. smaller sensor.

The RX10 lens is a bit wider (24mm vs 27mm) but the 18200 reaches further (300mm vs 200mm). Not sure what is more useful for me.

Image stabilisation is very good on both lenses. (Unlike my RX100 which seems to have the worst IS of any camera that I have had. )

Photo Quality

On the debate of faster lens vs bigger sensor again there isn't a huge amount between these two options in terms of the end result. I find that in terms of low light ability the NEX6 sensor is about 1.5 stops better than that in the RX10. ISO 800 on the RX10 is better than ISO3200 on the NEX6 but not as good as ISO 1600 on the NEX. Broadly speaking this generally seems to negate much of the advantage of the faster lens of the RX10 for low light shooting.

The NEX6 does appear to have slightly better dynamic range in that I get less clipping but this could be the result of the auto settings - see below.

JPEGs and Auto Settings

I am a JPEG shooter. The RX10 colours are very similar to my RX100. Very realistic but can sometimes seem rather muted. The NEX6 generally has warmer (primarily slightly more yellow/orange) JPEG colours which quite often give a nicer feel but occasionally go too far. Both handle (Caucasian) skin tones well.

In low light both cameras go up to their ISO3200 maximum. The NEX6 is clearly better at this point but will have a slower shutter speed. I have now essentially negated this difference by setting maximum ISO on the RX10 to 1600.

In terms of shutter speed vs ISO, with the same Auto ISO settings the NEX6 seems much more keen to go to ISO3200 than the RX10 - which often seems to pick ISO800. This probably makes sense because of the relevant sizes of the sensors.

At first I thought that the NEX6 had a better dynamic range than the RX10 becasue the RX10 clipped more often. Now I think that this is simply because the RX10 tends to expose to give significantly brighter images that the NEX6. This is probably why the NEX6 far less often clips highlights. However, the NEX6 is also more likely to clip to black at the other end. Reality tends to be somewhere between the two. I am more likely to use positive exposure compensation to the NEX than set negative exposure on the RX10.

Handling

The RX10 is lighter and better balanced. With the big Sony 18 - 200 lens the NEX6 is very front heavy. However, this isn't too much of an issue as I find that it just makes me handle the camera in a different way, i.e. I hold the camera weight predominantly with my lens holding hand. and balance it with my hand on the camera body.

The screen on the RX10 feels larger because of its better proportions for photos. EVFs on the two cameras are equivalent. Though the RX10 refresh rate seems faster, especially in low light.

Personally, I prefer a good quality electric EVF on the RX10/NEX6 with all the info and picture review, to the smaller traditional VF that you get on something like the D5300.

Both cameras are well thought out from an ergonomic perspective but the finishing touches on the RX10 are better. The RX10 has the extra ISO control and a thumb dial. The NEX6 has the second dial under the mode dial. The menus on the RX10 are better. It also has a top panel LCD but as I have this info in the viewfinder and the VF I don't tend to use the LCD much.

Overall a win for the RX10.

Video

A significant differentiator in the RX10's favour.

The NEX6 with the 18200 is pretty good for video. ()Apparently the 18200 is a video centric lens.) However, the RX10 is excellent. Its IS is rock steady. A power zoom works much better than a manual zoom for video. Especially if you are holding the camera by the lens as I tend to with the NEX6. manual zoom with the 18-200 is really awkward.

AF

Both have fast AF. I am starting to feel that the RX10 has better AF in low light (possibly due to the faster lens letting in more light) but I am not certain about that.

Sometimes I feel that the NEX6 focus is slightly more accurate. I have got some incredibly detailed NEX6 portaits even with the 16-50. I wonder if this was due to having PDAF points on the sensor??

(Photo) Versatility

The NEX 6 is bigger with the 18-200 but is significantly smaller (just about jacket pocketable) with the 16-50. In the past I have used my NEX6 with the 16-50 more than anything else. I imagine that this will still be the case. With the NEX6 I can also use my 50mm fast prime.

If I really wanted the range all the time though then the RX10 would be more comforable to carry around for a long day.

Long term Value/Cost of Ownership

A lot of discussion on this topic here in these forums.

The RX10 new price in the UK is about £900. A Sony NEX6 with 16-50 and 18-200 is around £1000. So these two combinations are in the same ball park.

Some have been arguing that the RX10 is cheap because a constant f2.8 18-200 APS-C lens would be much more expensive than the RX10. However, this is not a fair comparison as the RX10 lens is for a much smaller sensor. In terms of image quality and DOF I get results similar to an APS-C all in one lens such as the Sony 18200 which is about £550.

However, about £650 of the NEX6 kit cost is for the two lenses. I have generally kept lens that I have liked for a long time. Assuming that I have stuck with the E mount bodies then I will probably still be using the 18-200 in 5 years time. The RX10 I probably would have replaced in less than 3 years and in that time I would expect it to depreciate significantly more than the lenses. (In the same way that bodies generally depreciate much more than the lenses.) So cost of ownership is quite high.

Conclusion

For those wanting to always have the full lens range all the time or wanting to shoot a lot of video the RX10 is the better choice.

For those who wan't the versatility of going pocketable with the 16-50 as well as sometimes having the 18-200 range or perhaps using other lenses such as fast primes then the NEX6 is the better choice.

The RX10 is a great camera and I applaud Sony for continuing to lead the industry in delivering innovative cameras. I expect that the RX10 will remain a very niche player though. Not many people are prepared to pay £900 for a fixed lens camera. Perhaps if it comes down in price like the RX100 did after a year that it will become far more attractive an option.

Nikon D5300 Sony Alpha NEX-6 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 Sony RX100
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