Choosing the ‘type’ of camera, be it a Point & Shoot (P&S), full-sized DSLR or one of the newer hybrid mirror-less types is a difficult decision. The selection is akin to the kind of car you might choose to purchase. Let me take you through an interesting decision process for the type of camera you should choose for yourself and highlight this wonderful new addition, the Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 to Sony’s Point & Shoot lineup.
Think of the different types of cameras as cars. The P&S is the sub-compact that is easy to maintain, good on fuel consumption but wouldn’t necessarily deliver on high-end performance factors such as speed, cornering or even load-carrying capacity. The DSLR is the sports car delivering on speed and being able to handle more while in the hands of a professional driver. Enter the new hybrid cars – they run on both electric motors and smaller-capacity petrol engines, but come fitted with a turbo and / or super-charger.
What about a vehicle that is more multi-purpose? The MPV is like the latest breed of compact cameras. This type of camera features a decent power plant, room to grow as the family grows and features to appeal to all walks of life. I call this camera the jack-of-all trades. It does a lot of things but does not necessarily do any one function very well like a master or a specialist.
The Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 is the combination of a sub-compact and multi-purpose vehicle in the digital camera world. In the RX100 (it almost sounds like the model name of a car) is a decent-sized powerplant – a 1-inch EXMOR CMOS sensor. The larger sensor size allows the camera to deliver quality images even at higher ISOs and still maintain a high pixel density of 20.2-megapixels. The beauty of this camera is that it fits easily into the pocket of your jeans, or a small pouch or purse. Even though it is pocket-sized, it packs quite a punch.
To prove that the larger sensor really does a good job, I’ve shot a scene using ISO settings all the way up to ISO 3200.
Original (resized) JPGS of ISO Composite
To familiarise myself with the RX-100, I took it everywhere with me over three weeks. Sometimes I even gave up carrying any other camera because I felt comfortable knowing I could get a usable shot for my other journalistic works using the RX-100.
Here’s the variety of shots I took with the RX100. These are shots you would shoot everyday if you were on a holiday, being Mr. or Mrs. Tourist at a new destination.
Long night-time exposures require a tripod and ideally a remote shutter release trigger. The trigger could be a wired or wireless device. The RX100 does not include the feature of a wired connection or an infra-red receiver. This means long adhoc exposure times are not possible without pressing and holding the shutter button manually. This will usually result in some shaking so it is best to keep your exposures within the preset exposure times available.
The RX100′s widest focal length is the equivalent of 28mm – this means for wide landscape shots, you might need to take a few steps backwards to capture the entire scene. I would prefer the widest to be the equivalent of 24mm but I’m sure there are engineering and cost reasons for not fitting the RX100 with a 24mm lens. The shot above looks pretty good, it is however a little tight on the left and right, which does not make for nice composition and doesn’t convey the same scenic feeling as one gets seeing the landscape in real life.
Sony does have a little trick up the sleeve and that is ‘Sweep Panorama’. This mode allows you to sweep the camera in an arc to capture a wider view without the 24mm or even wider equivalent lens. The downside to sweep panorama is it only shoots in JPG and not RAW. So, you can run into some exposure issues when trying to capture your shot. The Sweep Panorama shot of the dragon boats and pagodas is the perfect example. If I had locked my exposure to the boats, everything on the right hand side of the sweep would have been over-exposed. So, I locked exposure on the pagodas before sweeping.
Shooting close-up macros and portraits rounds up the RX100′s capabilities. And it is really very easy to do – point and shoot. For the more advanced user, you can dive into the menus and configure the ring to perform focusing, zooming, aperture, ISO or some other setting changes. It is really handy and allows the user to learn and expand his / her photography beyond point and shoot.
If you are a journalist or a blogger and need a camera to capture a scene, product or food dish for your story, the RX100 is more than up-to the task.
Check out some of my food shots. Note that these were shot using the built-in camera Macro Scene Mode setting. I left everything else up to the camera. I only selected the focus point and pressed the nicely weighted shutter button.
Here’s what I liked and disliked about the RX-100:
- small compact size
- familiar menu structure and operation if you’ve used a Sony NEX or SLT
- button layout is easy to navigate
- soft button press for the shutter half press and full press travel
- battery charging is via the micro USB port but I do wish it included a standard charger
- No front handgrip, not even a small extrusion
- Features get disabled when shooting in RAW
The camera isn’t perfect but what it has will satisfy a wide audience. However, to appeal to the more advanced and professional user, I suggest the camera should incorporate the following features.
- A third control wheel so I can shoot fully manual without having to press the navigation wheel to switch between aperture and shutter
- Remote flash trigger either infra-red or RF
- A wired trigger or wireless remote trigger for long exposure or hands-off triggering
- Ability to set the exposure bracketing beyond 0.7 EV
Note: All the images are out-of-camera jpegs. None of the images were processed from RAW. Images were resized or cropped using Apple Preview.