The first sniff test with the Sony RX10. Stills only right now.

VSL CEO gesticulating wildly at an advisory board meeting for the photography 
department at Austin Community College. Image taken by fellow board member during the "new camera pass around."

Claire knew that it was inevitable that I'd be buying an RX10 and deep down I knew it from the day of the first announcement. How could I not after having experienced nearly nine years of perfection from it's noble ancestor, the Sony R1? For those who've chosen to remain out of the new product loop I'll make a brief detour to flesh out what the camera is: Sony has taken the backlit 20 megabyte sensor from the RX100-2, put it in a body with a serious and uncompromising 24-200mm (equivalent) Carl Zeiss Sony with a constant f2.8 aperture (yes: all the way to 200...), designed in a very good EVF and added enough video feature sets to make most new school video artists very happy. 

They packaged all of this into a beautifully designed package with lots of button and dial controls, a snazzy and easy to navigate menu and the ultra cheap price of $1300. If it does everything it's supposed to do it will be a bargain. One video reviewer who was virtually salivating on his keyboard about the lens made the point that he would pay upwards of $2,000 if he could get just that lens alone for his preferred video system. My friend Eric summed the lens up yesterday by saying that if it performed as advertised it represented the "holy grail" of lenses for videographers...

I'll reserve judgement on the ultimate quality of both the lens and the files until I've had a bit more time with the camera. Today was my first day out with the new toy and of course it was a gray and rainy day (just what one of our UK commenters suggested I try only yesterday. 

So far I'm having glorious fun with the camera and I have not yet revved up the video half. The lens is a "power zoom" and it's "fly-by-wire" so it takes a little getting used to but it's well damped in it's action and doesn't exhibit any of the overshoot I used to get from the first version of Canon's 85mm 1.1:2 L series lens with its fly-by-wire manual focusing. 

The camera is light and agile and while you know you are using a contrast detect AF camera there's really very little focus hesitation or hunting, even in lower light situations. 

I set up the camera today by selecting Jpeg, extra fine, AWB, Auto ISO and I shot mostly in the aperture priority mode sticking to f-stops on the fast side of the dial. It's perfectly fine at f2.8 and I like the bountiful depth of field I can get at the 24mm equivalent when I stop down to f5.6.  I used the center focusing system in S-AF as I do with most cameras and didn't mess with stuff like HDR or fast frame rates. 

I am probably the last person in Austin to discover the Royal Blue Grocers but I went to one of the downtown stores for lunch today and was pretty impressed by their wine inventory and their fresh foods. They are a small grocery/convenience store model and they seem to locate near or in high end residence towers or luxury hotels like the W. Above is a sample of wine bottles shot at a very close distance, wide open showing some fun focus fall off. How's that bokeh in the distance?

 I like the way the the bottles look and I wanted to do a shot of one with a red foil cover to balance the blue one in the image above this one. The colors, even in AWB, look right on the money...

An amazing selection of champagnes for a corner market.
The Louis Roderer Brut is my all time favorite. 
As it was lunch time I decided to forgo popping any corks....

It's fun to have a lens that goes very close up. 1:3 at the tele end and 1:2 at the short end...

These are various tacos. I've heard that the bean, avocado and cheese are really good. 
True, long time Austinites don't eat ready made tacos from a steam table. They go to 
TacoDeli and order fresh ones. But in a pinch it's nice to have options.

My lunch today was kale and white bean soup with a bit of sausage in it. I thought it  was delicious and the RX10 did a good job of capturing it. 

This is an image of Jerry Sullivan, the man who, along with his wife, owns the biggest and best camera store in all of Texas; Precision Camera. I took this during our meeting at Austin Community College. The ISO was 2500 and the camera was set to AWB. Works for me. Not much noise for such a high ISO and you can still see plenty of detail in Jerry's hair and the edge of his glasses. Not a bad performance for an image taken in a (dimly) florescent lit conference room with no windows. And yes, I bought the camera at his store. No, his staff did not give me a discount. I paid the same price I would have paid at B&H or Amazon. The difference? I didn't have to pay for and wait for shipping....

For some unknown reason today was "dog day" downtown. I saw more people out walking their dogs than I've ever seen before. I thought it would be a good test of the RX10 as a long lens, street shooting camera. It's really nice in that regard. 

This is the camera at 200mm f4. Handheld.

The two images above are a sad reflection of modern culture. No respite from engagement at any time or for any reason. A total withdrawal from present reality....

Sign up for Zip Car and get a free cup of coffee. 

The Menu at a restaurant called, Congress.

I shot some stuff with the 24mm side of the lens but this is the only one I'm posting. The camera must do some interior post processing of every file because all the samples I shot have absolutely correct and linearly perfect edges. I included this one for two reasons. First, I am enchanted at the sheer depth of field you can get with a shorter lens and a smaller sensor and secondly, I am amazed at the sheet ubiquity of the Starbucks franchise. This really enormous Starbucks in the making is hooked onto the corner of the W Hotel and is, literally five blocks from the original downtown Starbucks location at 6th and Congress Ave. Amazamundo.

I was so enchanted by the camera that I started shooting dumb stuff like gratings and that's when I knew it was time to turn the power switch to "off," put the lens cap on and get to the car. After all, I had a 1:30pm meeting on the other side of town....

In the next few days I'll try using the camera for a studio portrait (which implies lighting) as well as for some rigorous video tests. So far it's looking really good. Can a professional photographer and video producer do everything on his first quarter schedule with one little $1200 system? it might be interesting to find out. What do you think?


Frank Grygier said...

Amazing performance. I have no doubt you will satisfy your clients. Maybe you found the camera of your dreams for the moment at least.

Anonymous said...

Do it! Do it!
I'll pop some corn and be right back.
Kirk, those of us who enjoy photography as a hobby love seeing a real, live working professional photographer (rumoured soon to be extinct;) taking chances, mixing up systems, seeing if the latest wonder box imaging device will or will not cause the world to end when pressed into service in an unorthodox manner.
Please keep the trail of bread crumbs coming. Those of us reading on the other side of the ether, the equivalent of the photographic armchair quarterback, count on your regular updates that allow us to taste the dream. ;)
Love your vim and vigour.
Please give us your best Hail Mary pass of a commentary on the RX 10.

Unknown said...

I read that this was a world camera so it can do 24/60 and 25/50 fps, with zebras.

The only thing stopping me from getting this thing is, I suspect it still has the firmware restricted 29min filming limit DSLR's have?

Claire said...

You're making me sound like your Jimini Cricket, but truly this one was totally expectable. You know you're actually making me consider one !?

Unknown said...

Certainly you can, to some extent, you will still need the fat pixels in the full frame sensors when the light goes dim, or when you have a background that is not far away behind your subject and you want to throw it out of focus.

I have the RX100 myself, and it can do wonders even with the not-so-brilliant lens it has, like you, I prefer the RX100 for landscape/street shots where I need a huge DoF, at ISO 125 and f/5.6, I get very detailed 20MP files, with spot on colors and a very nice shadow recoverability tolerance (not so much with the highlights).

However, in a controlled studio environment (whether stills or video), I don't see a reason why this camera won't be enough to do everything you need.

I am a fan of Ming's reviews, and his RX10 review was very convincing for me as well, so I am glad to see you got one yourself, and am eager to see how well it does in video mode.

Congrats Kirk. :-)

Cedric Canard said...

I do like your reviews. Between your photos and your words I can actually get a sense, a real sense, of how the camera performs. You give just enough technical info to help us understand what you get for the money as well as where the limitations lie and then you get into the important stuff: what you think of it and how it feels to you, what impresses and what doesn't. And your photos, well they speak their own words about the camera and about your keen eye.
Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. Between you and Andy at ATMTX, I never feel like I need to read any other reviews. Lucky for me that between the two of you all the cameras I'm interested in are covered.

Wally said...

Curious about the decision about the decision to go with a camera - video solution vs the video - camera solution. It looks like the fusion of technology will soon allow for a high end video to also capture still images with enough resolution to provide both high definition video and high enough resolution for still images. This could address both indie, commercial, and even home users. It makes for interesting times for the photo community. I now think of my work, an enthusiast, as shifted to working in graphic arts as opposed to photography.

Michael Matthews said...

Don't take the "rumored soon to be extinct" quip in comment #2 personally. With that much enthusiasm boiling away barely beneath the surface, extinction is far off in the distant future.

For those of us who actually are old enough to ponder that possibility, the one-camera-one-lens approach becomes increasingly attractive. It would mean giving up the anticipation (and expense) of adding lenses and other shiny toys. And, it might mean disposal of the collection to-date to make possible the purchase. Always a bit of a nag, because it means invalidating earlier buying decisions.

Ming Thein sees all the advantages of this camera in his review, but finds it most likely to end up as an footnote because of its odd marketing position. Given enough success to justify a second generation it also could be the future.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Never would take the extinction thing seriously. I'm having too much fun and my tendrils on photography cover many angles. Photography is ever growing we commercial guys just need to find new ways to distill money from the bytes.

It's a challenge but it's also a fun game.

Racecar said...

Dang it Kirk! Now I gotta have one of these. I've been holding out and had nearly convinced myself that I didn't "need" the Sony RX10. But with the image quality, awesome lens etc. etc. etc. This has to be the best travel camera ever! I'm going abroad soon, and I think this little image maker will eliminate a bag of lenses and my Micro 4/3rds cameras, and ease my aching back.

Anonymous said...

I got one, expecting to like it, but it was love at first use. Amazing images! The other cameras in the drawer are getting anxious...

And flash sync to 1/1600 second, no?

Kalai said...

I am a Pentax user from film to digital for many years, I started videography with Pentak K01 two year ago. I made good money covering wedding & events. Small investment big money. Then came RX10 , with all best spec I need yet cheap. Video AF is very good till I use less MF compare to K01.Low light videography is no worry about noise at high ISO. I bought Sony RX10 3 weeks ago for RM 3900.00 & so far made RM 20000 from 8 events. None of my customers complain about camera size or doubt the quality they will receive from this small beast. 1 inch sensor gave me good depth to keep things in focus & less depth when I need. The best from this camera is able to record video at low shutter speed, as low as 1/4. Interesting for creative video. The best focus peaking you can find in any camera with Zeiss lens. I will buy second unit soon. To all of you — Buy & enjoy making money.

Hal said...

Kirk, thanks for keeping things real (and weird) in Austin! Long time reader, first time, commenter.

First, thanks for the fun and informative free Family Portraits course on Craftsy! It made me like your blog all the more as I now feel like I know you a bit more. I plan to try some of your low budget lighting recommendations for some upcoming family events. Great advice!

Second, thanks for your humor, humility, and honesty in your blog posts (and in your educational courses like on Craftsy). I know this is really for you and we're all just along for the ride and that's the way it should be.

I happen to also read the Soundimages Plus blog and while I enjoy what David Taylor Hughes has to say and appreciate his art and craft, I don't agree with his pointed words about various other professionals and bloggers out there. I don't mind reading opinions. I don't mind click throughs to gear vendors and the small commissions that may join them. And generally I don't think anyone's perspective is the gospel so I can see this whole blogosphere for what it is...a way to entertain ourselves...a way to share what and how we see the world through our frame of view...and a way to celebrate the mysterious wonder that is being...right here, right now, all as one!

For you and your readers, be sure to check out British cinematographer, Andrew Reid's, blog EOSHD.com. He has a great review of the Sony RX10 and seems to like its video features a great deal (if my memory serves me correctly). He also recently released a great 250+ guidebook on how to get the best of your Panasonic GH3 for video. I own that camera and his guidebook and I love them both! I am looking forward to filming some training courses for my work in green building.

Looking forward to your upcoming posts on the RX10...but more importantly your wise posts about the art, craft, and love of photography!


Unknown said...

When first viewing the stills, they lacked the "Zeiss" 3d pop of which I'm so fond; however, pop them open and Boom! They look fantastic! I'm impressed!