10.16.2013

The latest descendant from the Sony R1. The best bridge camera ever?

Sony's new RX10. The Ultimate Bridge Camera?

Let's see. First you take the sensor from the new Sony RX100ii (which is widely acclaimed as being.... a great sensor), couple it with a zoom lens designed specifically for the characteristics of that sensor by the people at Carl Zeiss, add in full bore, high def video capabilities and then package the whole thing with a very good EVF and a great LCD. Give it 10fps at full Jpeg with an unlimited shooting buffer and you're starting to put together a damn good camera. Not just good for the category or a good value for the price/performance matrix but a damn good camera overall. 

Of course we'll have to wait for it to ship and then we'll have to shoot it for a while to make a final determination but it seems to me that Sony has a pretty exciting camera on their hands. In one quick release they've redefined the current bridge camera market. People will bitch about the price but I remember reading the review of this camera's predecessor on DPReview when it came out in 2005. 
The editor hemmed and hawed and finally proclaimed that he was giving the camera two thumbs up because the quality of the lens alone justified the full price of the camera. This is the spiritual descendant of the R1. Sure you can get a Canon Rebel for less cash but does it come with a Carl Zeiss 24-200mm stabilized f2.8 lens? Not on this planet...

Who will this camera appeal to besides me? Well, with mic and headphone inputs+1080p HD video,  new higher quality video sampling, focus peaking even during video operation, and image stabilization as well this camera is an obvious contender with the Panasonic GH3 (or with the larger new Sony cameras) as a solid production video camera. They've even seen fit to supply a clean, uncompressed video output via the HDMI port! I'll try one just for the video.  But I know, I know.... you hate video and you wish it was never shoved into your camera.

So lets look at other applications. An all purpose, high quality travel camera with a Zeiss 24-200mm f2.8 lens on the front. After several recent trips with lots of gear I'd sure love to toss this into my carry on backpack and gleefully march through several major capital cities snapping great images to my heart's desire. It's not the lightest of the bridge cameras but it certainly will be one of the highest performing where overall I.Q. is concerned. Of course, if you're in it for superior/ultimate I.Q. you'll probably also be looking at the Leica Vario X. Hmmmm. The Leica might be a bit sharper but I'm betting the Sony will focus quicker, it obviously has a lot more lens range and the lens range it offers is so much faster than the Leica's. I'll trade that last one or two percent of potential quality for a image making monster like the RX10 any day.

Now, if they tell me it's also weather resistant we've almost certainly got a deal. Why? Because I've found these Quixotic Sony bridge cameras to be great values. Huh? Yes, I still have and still shoot with the original Sony R1 bridge camera from 2005. Why? Because a 10 megapixel APS-C size sensor (based on the sensor construction of that used in the Nikon D2x) coupled with an insanely good Zeiss lens means the camera is still a formidable picture taker. I bought the camera (actually I bought several of them) for around $899 back in 2005. I've shot it now for eight years. I've done high end commercial real estate brochures with it and have a glorious annual report for a large financial services company shot solely with R1s. Wonderful images and it was fun using the camera to take them. Those cameras have paid for themselves many, many times over and they're still rolling along making great images.

If I got that kind of use out of the R1 I can only imagine how useful the new RX10 will be when it comes to the new hybrid video/still approach we're taking with my business. The market is changing. If one camera at $1300 can do double duty and do it as well as the multiple cameras it replaces it seems logical to swim with the  tide instead of fighting against it. Maybe it won't work out this way when we have product in our hands but can you imagine running an entire imaging business with just two of these?  Nice.

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22 comments:

Michael Matthews said...

Looks like a good time to consider moving backward (?) from interchangeable lens cameras to the all-in-one approach. Fortunately, I am constrained to buy stuff at year-old (like day-old bread) prices or even later in the cycle. That means you will have had plenty of time to check it out in my behalf. Thank you, Kirk. Just don't stop blogging.

Mark Bridgers said...

This looks like it might be my "decade" camera, if the IQ holds up like I expect it will.

John Krumm said...

This is the sort of camera I could recommend to a lot of people who want decent quality and good flexibility without the bother of maintaining a "system" camera with multiple lenses. It's a little expensive for that market though (they tend to want to keep things in the $500-700 range).

Peter F. said...

I'm very interested. The zoom rocker around the shutter button could be annoying. Wonder if there's an option to click it into manual zoom mode? The close focus seems to be real nice, and IMO is very welcome on an all-in-one type camera like this one.

Peter

Brian Fisher said...

It appears Sony has finally made the successor to the Konica-Minolta A2 I've been waiting for since 2006. This looks like the camera I had hoped my Fuji X-S1 would be, with just the right amount of zoom. The RX100 has a DXOmark score 5 points higher than the Panasonic G5 I'm currently using (with the much slower 14-140mm lens). In the last couple of years I've become gear adverse. If this lens holds up I'd be more than happy to pay the asking price for an all-in-one machine like this.

meandmycanon said...

Kirk, your last comment about running an imaging business with two of these is, no doubt, more factual than most of your readers would care to admit. Camera worship and photography are two entirely different pass times. I'm a photographer who has travelled the world with an Fz 35. My pictures are as stunning as anyone else's.

Kirk Tuck said...

I wasn't making some tongue in cheek joke. These are powerful enough cameras to do most commercial businesses. No more big investment necessary. Of course, that just pushes barriers to entry that much lower... floor level.

Not a professional said...

I'm a hobbyist only, but my reaction upon seeing this pretty much coincides with your own. I missed out on the R1, but I'll be giving this serious consideration to avoid making the same mistake. I recently "graduated" from using an older bridge camera from around the same era as the R1, and I know how useful they can be despite some others perhaps looking down noses at such obvious non-professional gear, heheheh.

rlh1138 said...

And the R1 had those xtra lens, a WA and a tele, available. A bit clunky to be sure, (I have them both), but the tele is very very sharp. A great portrait lens for me. I wonder if the new camera will offer those? Probably not, I don't think they sold well, but.... Maybe time for me to move up from my R1.

Anonymous said...

I am exactly in your situation Not a professional, I don't see a camera that can be an upgrade of the R1 mate (fixed high quality and fast zoom lens, almost medium format viewfinder with the screen and a big sensor). Although I am sure this RX10 wins in ISO performance I have doubts if it is a clear winner in image quality overall, even the screen is different and I imagine 2.8 in 1inch sensor is different to 2.8 aps-c, at least in the few images in the net I see that the images taken with an RX10 are not something I couldn't take with the R1, even I think the R1 would be better, processing on Raw at least.

Chris Malcolm said...

It's possible the R1 WA adapter will fit this one. Might have to pad out the tripod mount. Less likely but possible is the tele fit.

Michael said...

Funny. I'm actually selling my Fuji X100 because I enjoy the R1 I recently purchased way more. In fact, I'm going to buy a couple more because they're so amazingly well-suited to street photography.

Anonymous said...

From imaging-resource: The lens has two control rings on it, one to adjust the focal length, and the other for lens aperture. The zoom setting can also be controlled via the zoom toggle that surrounds the shutter button. As is the case with most fixed-lens cameras these days, zoom operation is always "fly by wire"

Robert Morris said...

Weather Proof Quote From Sony's Web-Site:

Strong and Light Enough for Anything
Magnesium alloy top and front casings make RX10 light, solid and robust enough for long, rigorous use by advanced photographers and videographers. Shoot in rugged outdoor environments without worry as the dust- and moisture-resistant design gives you that added level of confidence to follow your subject wherever they may roam.

YMMV

Kirk Tuck said...

Hey Sony! Send me one of these to test...

adi said...

i am actively considering dumping my nikon APS kit and working with just the two of these provided a)they focus fast/accurately and b) the raw files are well supported

Jason said...

Thank you for mentioning that wonderful A2. I was thinking the same about this camera.

Anonymous said...

Lens to Body Ratio: LBR
New criterion of quality: when the lens is almost as big as, or as big as, the camera body, we're in a sweet zone. The pic that leads this post says it all: big lens on small camera (and not big in the wrong way).

Daryl Davis said...

Count me among those who realized, too late, he should have bought the R1: I was tempted, but bought the Pentax K100D instead. I'm not hating the K100D, but realized the R1 would have suited my purposes, especially on my trip with the family to Vietnam, better.

I now have the Olympus EM-5. I like it a lot. The EM-1 fixes the couple of minor grievances I have with the EM-5, but I can't afford the second body and don't want to take the financial hit of trading up: as I said, the grievances are minor. My major grievance is that I have two slow lenses: the 12-50 kit zoom and the 15mm f8 body cap lens. So now, do I get the new Oly 12-40mm f2.8; start building my set of fast m43 primes; or chuck it all for this Sony? Then too, there's the Linhof Technika I've been dreaming about...

George said...

Really interesting options for those who travel and want quality with a big zoom.
But it's been quite a while (been on photography and occasional gear sine 08) and no big sensor superzoom.

Frankly, I am more excited about the Lumix GM-1 being the first pocket sized m4/3 (at least the body) and a nice option for travel. And need nothing more than a modest zoom or primes.
Got an EPL2 so won't upgrade for a while but it opens new market doors.

JJ Semple said...

Would this compare favorably with the Nikon Coolpix A, featured on Ming Thein's page? Lens is 28mm equivalent, but image detail is excellent. I guess a lot of people think they need a zoom.

JJ Semple said...

Would this camera compare favorably to the Nikon Coolpix A, featured on Ming Thein's page?

That camera has a 28mm fixed focal length, but image detail is excellent. Depends on whether you believe you must have a zoom. Many times I think I do, but when I go out with a fixed focal, I learn a lot and everything seems to work itself out.