Canon lover switched to RX-100, and it was terrible! Need advice....

Started Feb 1, 2013 | Discussions thread
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jeffreyrdiamond New Member • Posts: 24
Canon lover switched to RX-100, and it was terrible! Need advice....

I have always loved reading this forum, and this is my first time asking for help.  I am not as sophisticated photographer as the folks on this list.  I've only used pocket cameras (although the highest end I could find.)  My main uses are taking videos of my daughter and taking landscape photos.  I value high image quality (why I don't just use a phone camera) and good video quality. Canon won me over a decade ago with the amazing quality of the S330, and my last camera was a Powershot SD950.  I was generally happy with the SD950, although I wish it were a bit faster, especially for video.

In 2012, I decided it was time to look for a new camera.  So naturally, I first tried Canon.  I was SHOCKED!  Not A SINGLE pocket camera camera offered had acceptable quality!  (OK, the S110 was OK, but not a significant upgrade from my SD950).  Why did no one seem to notice this?  The quality was almost as poor as cell phone cameras!  I later was to learn that since I bought the SD950, sensors went CMOS, and that meant noise.  All the photos were so grainy as to be unusable as native resolution - like drawing a photo in sand...

At this time the media juggernaught praised the RX-100 as the best pocket camera of 2012, and it well may be.  So I bought it - and I was horribly disappointed!  I spent months with this camera, working on manual settings, doing side by side comparisons with my old SD950.  And what I found was that almost everything I hoped to get form the RX-100 was WORSE, not better than the SD950.  Although this was contrary to most media hype, I then spotted more thorough reviews that noted issues with the RX-100, such as excessive camera noise beyond base ISOs.  And as I started researching CMOS sensors, I found that it wasn't surprising that the 1/1.7 CCD sensor in the old cameras could outperform the RX-100's on backlit CMOS sensor.

Here's what I found:  Consider this an honest, genuine review from a real user who wanted to make this work more than anything in the world!  (I mean, I saved over a year to buy it.)

PICTURE QUALITY:  The RX-100 was a little better, but compared to the old CCD cameras, had more graininess (noise) than I could tolerate.  Comparing a native resolution patch of an image to that of a cell phone camera, the results were similar.  Sure, shrinking the image to a 2 megapixel web image looked perfect, but it does on most cameras!

LIGHT SENSITIVITY:  The RX-100 was dramatically worse in light sensitivity - and I did endless tests to confirm this, with my SD950 side by side.  Forget night shots, or even dark rooms.  Compared to the RX-100, my old camera seemed like a pair of night vision goggles.

CONTRAST:  The RX-100 had worse contrast than my old camera, as a result of the sensor noise and low light sensitivity.  Because of this, even manually overexposing images could not bring back the darks in a scene.

FOCUS:  Most of the time, the RX-100 missed focus, creating a slightly blurry image.  I don't think this was due to poor lens quality - it was probably that the software wasn't hitting the exact target.  It might also have been due to camera vibrations that couldn't be fixed by image stabilization - not an issue on my old camera...  This also I believe is one source of the noise issues - this camera defaults to an insane 1/1000th of a second shutter, and I believe this is to try to reduce blur from camera motion.  Unfortunately, it also means the sensor can't overcome the noise.

THE FLAW WITH IMAGINE RESOURCE / COMPAROMETER:  How could you get such a different impression from reading imaging resource, a website I've long relied upon?  Because the typical comparison shot is an indoor photo of a high resolution poster.  I wouldn't have understood why this matters before, but since the RX-100 forced me into manual mode, I now understand that this shows each camera only in its BEST POSSIBLE PERFORMANCE - not its real world performance:

-> Long focus depth costs.  You have to use a high aperture number, which drops the incoming light and causes massive noise on the RX-100.  Most of the people on this list love the blurry background effect, but for my personal uses, most of the time I want the whole scene in focus.  This is why a photo of a poster can't cut it - because shallow depth of focus is the easiest part!

SPEED:  Absolutely incredible!  Compared to the super slow Canons, this was a miracle.  It is so fast sometimes I'd accidentally hit the shutter button and fire off 3 photos by mistake, and it didn't even matter!

VIDEO: I *LOVED* the RX-100 video!  I am so addicted to it, I don't know if I can do without it.  There are minor issues of course.  It still suffers from lack of contrast and poor low light performance, but focusing the entire 1" sensor on 2 megapixels virtually eliminated noise!  And I had to buy a new computer to play AVCHD in real time, and software to convert the file format to m4v.  But MAN it was good - 60fps is a godsend, the Full-HD was great, the fast autofocus excellent, and the ability to optically zoom while filming without noise was unmatched!  I thought the 29 minute limitation would be a bummer, but I so rarely need more...

MENU:  Contrary to reports, I found the menu system quite intuitive and easy to use, and nothing beats a dedicated movie button.

BUT... as much as I love video, I also like usable photos, and to pay $650 for a camera that's only good at video is tough...



I'm tempted to get an S95 for my pocket, which also won't be a lot better than my SD950, but OK for those spontaneous shots.  I don't feel great having to do this - it's like sticking with Windows XP forever because Vista was so bad.  I'd much rather find a modern camera that's good.

For premeditated photography, I'm prepared to try ANYTHING, even my first non-pocket sized camera!  Only catch?  I've been looking around, and I'm not sure if they're enough improved over the RX-100 to be worth 3x the price!  They still use CMOS sensors, even if they're larger.  In comparing video quality, many had a slight edge on the RX-100, but not enough to justify the cost.  So it comes down to photo quality, features, and image noise..

Can any of you recommend camera models I might like, knowing that I like noise/grain free images at native resolution, good low light performance (by 2008 standards, not 2012 standards), and optical zooming while filming video?  I was thinking the Canon G1X might be a possibility, but in this new CMOS world I have no idea.  I realize that some of you on this list might not be sensitive to image noise, especially when printing.  But my whole life I've been use to WYSIWYG photography - you see it with your eyes, you take the photo, it matches - not images drawn in sand.

-- hide signature --

Sorry if this email was long and drawn out.  But this has been the culmination of 6 months of despair, trying to make an RX-100 as good as an old CCD camera by any means.  I don't really understand why such relative few people seem to have an issue with camera noise.  Why waste hard drive space with a 20 megapixel image if really it's only useable at 4-5 megapixels at best?  Sure, I could just suck it up, and say, "2 megapixels was good enough for me in 2001, so it should be good enough now."  But desktops are already at 4-5 megapixels in resolution, and might go higher in the future...  Also, I found that even when I post-processed RX-100 images and shrunk them down 4:1, I couldn't remove the noise.  Again, this isn't just me here - professional have noticed it as well.

While I'm still a bit partial to Canons, now that I've tried a Sony and found it not such a big deal to switch brands, I'll try anything up to around $1,500.  (I can't justify more than that for my needs.)

Thanks so much.  For those of you that loved the RX-100, or think current Powershots are fine, please don't be defensive - I'm just sensitive to different issues.

- Jeff

Canon PowerShot S110 Canon PowerShot S95 Panasonic Lumix DMC-S3 Sigma SD9
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