By Jeff Keller
While I wasn't always thrilled with the controls on the camera, the RX10 is still one of the best superzooms I've used (and I've been doing this for a long time).
The real highlight for me is the RX10's 24-200mm equivalent lens, which has a constant maximum aperture of F2.8. Quite often, superzooms make compromises in order to stuff a big lens into a relatively small package. On the RX10, Sony went for lens quality over compactness. So, the RX10 isn't what I'd call a travel zoom, but I had no trouble carrying it around on a shoulder strap.
The RX10 gets mixed reviews for its controls. On the one hand, the manual aperture ring is great, and made it super-easy to fool around with depth-of-field. The 'by-wire' zoom/focus ring was less impressive. It requires too much rotation to adjust the zoom, which works okay for movies, but not so much for stills (which is why I relied on the zoom controller on the top plate). Turning on step zoom makes it a bit more responsive, but it would have been nice to be able to adjust the sensitivity.
The two dials (mode and exposure comp) on the top of the camera are well-made and didn't turn accidentally. The rear control dial felt cheap, on the other end. Having run into issues with the scroll wheel on the a7/a7R, I was pleased to see that there wasn't a function pre-assigned to it. The RX10 has a number of customizable buttons as well as a Function menu, though the only changes I made were adding focus peaking and image quality to the latter, and assigning Drive to the left direction on the four-way controller.
|While sharpness is generally a good thing, the RX10 can go a little overboard, such in this case, where the already mushy background gets even worse. ISO 125, 1/800 sec, f/4.5, 154mm equiv.|
I enjoy taking photos of planes (see above) and while the RX10 doesn't have as long a focal range as most plane-spotters like, its 20 megapixel sensor allows for some pretty tight cropping.
|The high resolution sensor on the RX10 can compensate for the 200mm zoom. The shot above is a crop of the original and still has about 3.5 megapixels left to work with. ISO 200, 1/200 sec, f/2.8, 199mm equiv. (uncropped), brightened.|
Actually taking pictures with the RX10 was a snap (no pun intended). The camera starts up as quickly as one would expect given its lens size. While the RX10 isn't a very stealthy camera, the tilting LCD did let me fire off some photos without everyone noticing. I did have to crank up the brightness a bit, though. The EVF had good resolution, but as a glasses wearer, too much incident light enters, so I often had to put my hand over the top. Focusing was great in good light, and not-so-great in low light. There wasn't any noticeable lag, and the RX10 was always ready for take another shot. I didn't have any problems with the battery running out of juice while out shooting.
|HDR off (ISO 200, 1/30 sec, f/2.8)||HDR on|
Sony cameras have some of my favorite added bells-and-whistles, including Sweep Panorama and Auto HDR. The latter came in handy on countless occasions where there was just too much contrast in the scene, such as in the example above.
Something else that's really nice about the RX10 is that, when all the 'blips and beeps' are turned off, that it shoots silently. I didn't want to be 'that guy' making noise taking photos in a library, but since the RX10 is so quiet, nobody noticed my presence.
I used to scoff at the idea of Wi-Fi on a camera. After reviewing three Sony cameras in a row, it's become a feature I can't live without. If I take a particularly inspiring photo, I can transfer it to my smartphone with just a tap (thank you, NFC), and off it goes to friends and Facebook. I was disappointed to see how stripped down the remote control app is, given the price of the RX10. After speaking with Sony, it sounded like this wasn't going to change, but I hope they can find a way.
Recording video is fairly easy on the RX10, and the results are very impressive (see the video page for proof). Sony gives you plenty of tools for more sophisticated recording, such as focus peaking, frame enlargement, and zebra pattern. I personally had some trouble perfecting manual focusing using peaking, and I think a distance scale would've been very helpful.
The variable speed focus dial is a blessing and a curse. For stills shooting, we think the 'gearing' is wrong: when making fine adjustments to focus, the ring isn't sensitive enough, taking lots of turns to make any appreciably change, but move it quickly and it becomes too sensitive, jumping all the way through the camera's focus range. As when it's being used to control the zoom, it would be nice if Sony let you adjust the sensitivity of the ring. For video shooting it's still more of a problem, since you can't tell how far you need to turn the focus ring to change focus by a predictable amount. Ideally we'd like a 'linear' mode for manually pulling focus, so that the rate of focus change wasn't dependent on the speed the dial is turned.