There's this thing that happens in the camera market. A new camera hits the market and everyone rushes to review it. The camera may be good but it may have some rough edges that keep it from being great. Or perfect. Then, maybe six months or a year later that camera gets the firmware it deserved the first time around but, by then everyone has moved on to the latest miracle camera that's come sliding down the chute. The now improved, earlier camera gets no more love and dissolves into irrelevance in the marketplace. That recently happened to one of my all time favorite, non-DSLR cameras; the original Sony RX10.
I'm revisiting that camera right now because used prices for them have dropped to "bargain" status and that camera model was visited by the firmware update fairy last year ---- with just the right amount of pixie dust and magic. If you have one be sure to update your firmware to 2.0. If you don't have one then maybe you should....
Where did we leave off with that camera? I had used it for an eight page, national shelter magazine assignment with good results and loved almost everything about the camera. It got sacrificed in one of those ill considered trade deals but it wasn't really missed as much as it should have been because, while it should have been the perfect hybrid camera (and all-in-one camera) it suffered from having a mediocre video codec, and enhanced video capabilities were one of the selling points of that camera.
I was working with the Panasonic GH3 and GH4 at the time and just about any other camera would have been hard pressed to match their video performance. Even today some cameras might have less noisy video but few have video that can match the GH4's detail and color. So the camera found a new home probably around the time I was considering the purchase of the Nikon D810, etc.
Last week I came across a used one for less than half the price of the same model new. It had no wear and was in "like new" condition. And I remembered that Sony had made significant improvements just where I thought the camera might need them to rise to it's ultimate potential. In the video.
The new video firmware moved the RX10 from 28 mb/s ACVHD to 50 mb/s XAVC. This was the one parameter that every knowledgeable reviewer stuck on. Each reviewer basically said, "This camera would be the perfect hybrid video/still camera if only....XAVC." It's a much better codec. Same one used for 1080p in the Sony A72 series cameras. It handles motion better and it's a more robust codec for editing as well. It was enough to push me to go back to the change jar and the deposit bottle collection (and a little bit of plasma donation) to see if I could swing the purchase. I was successful with a last push for cushion change diving in the sofa and two arm chairs.
Having bought the camera, and the several additional and requisite batteries, I decided that I may as well test the camera and see if the upgrade was the final piece of the "perfect bridge camera" jigsaw puzzle. One thing to understand though, is that we're talking here about version one, not the latest version two --- which is a sparkling and cool camera in its own right...
I had a strategy when I left the house today. I headed to the graffiti wall with the RX10 and a variable neutral density filter and I shot about 20 minutes of video (which is too boring to show) which proved to me that big improvements had been made and that the camera is very much ready for (well lit) prime time video production. Especially electronic news gathering varieties. Fun to set the manual exposure on the camera and then work the variable neutral density filter along with zebras in the EVF to hit perfect exposure. It worked well and, since I am at heart a very lazy person, I left the VND filter on for the rest of the time at the outdoor gallery; even when shooting still photographs.
What is my assessment of the RX10 now? Well, with one of these and two of the Panasonic fz 1000 cameras (a very close cousin, hobbled only by the lack of a headphone jack) I'm pretty sure I could shoot a serviceable feature or at least a really fun TV sit com. I know, how about a sit com based on a hapless, 60 year old photographer who loves to press "toy-like" cameras into real world shooting assignments only to have unexpected, but very funny, things happen to him? I wouldn't watch it but I bet somebody would.
Seriously, the camera does a great job with video. And I already liked the work I've done with a previous one in still photography. I'm glad to have another one back in the fold. I hope I won't be so cavalier about getting rid of it next time...It's a perfect complement to the rest of my stuff. Now I just need to remember all the menu stuff.
I don't pay attention to all brands of cameras equally but I am sure this kind of improvement over the lifespan of a camera is not limited to Sony bridge cameras. I remember how excited I was when Kodak added Jpegs files to what had been introduced as the "raw file only" DCS 760. I'm also reminded of some recent, valuable upgrades that Olympus bestowed on the current EM5.2 and the venerable EM1. I welcome as many fixes as they'll give us. I don't expect them but I do appreciate them. It's made several of my cameras more fun than they were when they started...
Blog Note: Ben and I are booked on corporate imaging work (my actual job) the first three days of this week and then I head to Denver early Friday for a marketing forum that lasts until Sunday night. The tight schedule and the need to do post production around the edges of our paying jobs may mean that the blog is going dark until next Monday, January 25th. I need some downtime anyway after my last troll skirmish. Not sure where we're going with the blog. I still enjoy writing it but I'm a little concerned that its relevance has passed. That the format and the information have less value than when we started out this little venture. A good topic for discussion at the upcoming media marketing forum. I'll take notes. We'll reconvene. In the meantime, aren't the rest of you just so tickled that I wrote (and serially posted) some extra blogs for you? Stay tuned.