Sony RX10 in the workplace.

I was shooting some table top stuff against white on Friday. Same as I've done for years and years. Only instead of using a "professional" camera I decided to test the set up with a Sony RX10. I was shooting with fluorescent light and also shooting with the camera on a horizontal arm on a Gitzo tripod so I needed a camera that would shoot without vibration. The image will end up being masked so the cables can be removed from the background and dropped into whatever document or web use the final client has in mind.

I set up the camera to shoot raw files and I enabled a two second delay self timer. Having read the reviews of the camera at DP Review and other websites I decided to use f8 as a good compromise between depth of field and diffraction. Interestingly enough the RX10 is one of the few cameras (according to Sony info) that uses a diffraction correction algorithm with helps to correct for diffraction induced aberrations as the lens is stopped down. In fact, I did test the lens all the way out to f16 and it was much better than my grasp of physics would have led me to believe.  All things considered I thought f8 would be just fine.

With the camera directly overhead I auto focused with a wide focusing pattern and metered using the camera's zebra feature. I have it set for 100% so I shifted exposure until I just got the zebra pattern showing and then I had a reasonable expectation of getting white background in the final image without having to monkey around too much in post. The zebra settings must be a tad conservative because I still had detail in the white areas. In reality the 100% is more like 92%. Good to know.

I didn't bother with a custom white balance since I was shooting in raw and against white. The file certainly didn't need much nudging to get exactly right in PhotoShop.

What I wound up with is a file that has lots and lots of detail, very little noise and no weird lens stuff going on. The electronic shutter with self-timer is vibration free.  The fast set up and the great EVF and rear screen make this a fast camera to use for more mundane work.   Especially work that is most likely destined to run small in a brochure or as an illustration on a back page on a website.

One might be able to make the argument that a Nikon D800 or a Sony a77R would be a better tool for this type of work but with every change one leg of the compromise changes as well. Those cameras would have less depth of field and would require smaller apertures to ensure sharp focus. Being a phase detection AF camera, the Nikon D800 can be subject to focus shift. The Sony lacks an electronic shutter and, according to many, suffers from exactly the sort of vibration that this kind of set up would amplify.  I prefer to keep things simpler and happier.

In the new world of advertising and commercial work the RX10 is a competent and very adequate performer. Not all still life is basic and straightforward and a larger sensor camera would be useful if you were dealing with putting parts of the frame out of focus. But for documentation and representation of (non-glamorous) and utilitarian product a simple solution is effective and efficient.

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  1. If the RX10 is half-as-good as its immediate predecessor, the 2006-era R1, then a fine camera it is. I took my old 2006-era R1 out for some air yesterday on a brilliant Spring day and was again impressed by the detail and sharpness, even in the corners, of a good lens and 10MP sensor at the 24mm setting. In good light, it's still difficult to surpass.

  2. The vast majority of my photography and that of commercial photography demands more DOF not less. For that reason I am starting to use smaller format cameras for the increase in DOF they offer along with the accurate AF that sometimes escapes my Canons.
    The silent shutter in my Panasonics is pure gold for vibration free shooting and for the venues where pacemakers seem loud.

  3. My RX10 was bought as a second camera to cut down on weight. I'm using it as my main camera now while by other is out for repair.

    I really like the RX10.

    Greg Edwards

  4. "The image will end up being masked so the cables can be removed from the background and dropped into whatever document or web use the final client has in mind."
    Probably this question is going to show me up as being dumb as a plank, but given the above, if you had shot the cables against, say, a green background, wouldn't a mask have been easier to create? If I am being dense, please try and break it to me gently :)

  5. Hi Patrick, Masking and clipping paths are part of photography that doesn't apply to much other than to do composites and production so the info isn't as pervasive as some other imaging news. Green Screen works great if you can remove the background far enough from the subject so the green reflection doesn't come back and wrap around the three dimensional edges of your subject. In this case, with the cables and connectors sitting right on the background there would have been inevitable "wraparound" which would contaminate the edges of the wires and BNC connectors and would make using an auto masking program useless. Any color contamination makes the process almost useless.

    I am reminded of this in video when newbies use a green screen too close to an actor without flagging the bounce back onto the actor (or neutralizing it with a magenta backlight....) the cheeks and neck and blond hair reflect some of the green from the background and play havoc with one's ability to make an effective mask.

    If my subject were two dimensional the green would probably work well.

    This was on example of the many products we shot which also included circuit boards (which are green) with cable attached. The green of the boards would also have negated the benefit of a green background so, in the end, we went with white.

    Now, if the client just wants to use the images for standalone illustrations there's no reason to drop out the background. You could just use the existing white background. If you used a green surface you would lose that opportunity unless you went all the way through the masking process and then dropped the image and a drop shadow onto white.

    Hope that was clear. Some day we'll have to do a blog with a big, open discussion about masking. I hate to do it and sometimes farm it out. I hope to do less and less.

  6. Mark Davidson, in this age where every web article waxes on about bokeh and milky smooth backgrounds it seems that the real issue is the same as always for professionals==how to make sure the important stuff is in focus.

    I'm in love with the silent shutter too.

  7. Joseph. My R1 is sitting right on the corner of my desk. It seems to be the one constant in my ever changing inventory.....and I still like it.

  8. I have recently picked up a RX10 and I have to concur about all that you have recently written about it - if there's a "sweet spot" in digital cameras this one really hits it and confirms just how much the lens quality and matching to the sensor matters for the net results… The overall ergonomics also makes a lot of sense and quite frankly something I was a bit pleasantly surprised about esp. since I have previously shot with very well handling Pentax DSLRs… Being able to quickly change aspect ratios (custom setup of D-pad) unlike a DSLR or even A7 is real icing on the cake for us square format junkies and even occasional 16x9 explorers...

  9. I will add that the RX10 is also incredibly fun to shoot with the different aspect ratios quickly available by customizing the D-pad, icing on the cake for us square-format junkies and something that is immediately missed when you go back to a DSLR (and not available on an A7 either…).

  10. Thanks Kirk - a very helpful explanation.

  11. Dammit Kirk - you sold me another camera. No, not an RX10. I jumped onto ebay and bought a Sony R1, thanks to some of your recent writings and Joseph Kashi's comment her.

    I used a Sony 828 for a long time, the only digital camera I ever really loved. I wanted an R1 back then, but went with Nikon instead. Big mistake, but got happy with Olympus a few months later.

    Now I'm going to see what I missed.

    I sometimes wonder where photography would be today had Sony stuck with their own thing and skipped the Minolta buy entirely.

  12. Put that R1 on a tripod and shoot it and you'll wonder why they ever made other cameras. It's nearly perfect. The focusing could be improved, and of course it needs a raw buffer, but the IQ is pretty near perfect.

  13. Just wanted to chime in and say what a happy RX10 owner I am. Here is a link to some great photo's I've taken with it, and 1 low light video of some street musicians I ran into on my way home one night. Even the sound was just from the built in Mic.


    Enjoy and please let me know what you think


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