Why a Sony RX10 mark 2? Why not???

So much of our indulgence in photographic gear is motivated by history, legacy and lunacy. The old dinosaurs of the industry remember the days of old when bullet proof cameras were the suit of armor worn into imaging battle by legions of photographic infantry. A camera destined for photojournalism was deemed to be professional only if it did certain things and had certain attributes. For some reason these parameters have been passed down from generation to generation like some commandments from strict gods. To wit: The camera must be made entirely of heavy metal, you should be able to drive nails with it. Even though tons and tons of great work was made with cameras that had to be manually wound from frame to frame the introduction of motor drives meant that every professional camera that came after had to shoot at 3,57,10 and how 12 or 14 frames per second to be used by the pros!. And recently, the misguided mantra about necessary professional cameras is the one must always be in hot pursuit of the most megapixels on the biggest sensor ---- but more importantly, the sensor must be full frame to make the cut.  

All this means bags full of heavy and expensive gear that costs a fortune. If we were all working for clients who needed to blow up all of our images to sizes that would fit on the sides of buildings this might make sense. But the reality is that our targets have changed radically over the years and what we need in cameras is so different from yesteryear. 

The last five professional photography assignments I have done this year have been done on cameras that don't look like or feel like the cameras of the distant past, reworked to evoke confidence in the present. We didn't need to pull out the 36 megapixel, full frame camera or the 24 megapixel camera. I shot two jobs with the Panasonic fz 1000. The photos were good and the client was very happy. I shot one job with an Olympus EM5.2 and the photos looked good and the client's were very happy. And most recently I shot two jobs back to back with the Sony RX10 cameras and I was very happy, the client was very happy and, it was probably the optimum way to shoot the job in question ---- if your brain is willing to start with a clean slate. 

I have had some time to do a few video tests with the new (to me) RX10 mark 2 from Sony. It's not just a good video camera, it's an amazingly good video camera. In fact, when I've come across several pre-reviews from highly excited bloggers covering the hot new (buy it now, buy it now!!!!) Sony A6300 I looked at the con column and realized that the RX10 mark 2 checks way more production feature boxes than the newer camera. Things like a real head phone jack. A 29 minute run time in 4K and the package comes complete with a really good lens. 

The reviewers are breathless about the latest innovations which they apparently overlooked during their cursory date with the RX10.2. Things like: A clean HDMI output so you can use external digital recorders for endless takes. Customizable zebras. S-Log profiles. Focus Peaking. 100 mbs XAVC S files in 4K, right in the camera. Non-line skipping video for much higher sharpness and fewer artifacts. Etc., Etc. It always amazes me when people leapfrog over a bargain in the blind pursuit of the latest package ---- even when the new package is less capable. 

I kiddingly wrote that this year might see "The Rise of The One Inch Sensor Cameras," but now I am more or less serious about it all. I keep looking through 4K video trying to find a fault but, with the exception of high ISO noise limitations (high ISO being a crutch that allows people to think they know what they are doing instead of really learning how to light stuff well) I haven't found any Achille's heel in the mix.

I like the RX10 type 2 because it is so damn capable. So already packed and ready to go! And so perfectly sorted for a vast swath of photographic projects. But the cherry on the top is that this camera is also perfectly suited for a photojournalistic style of videography. Keep a variable neutral density filter (62mm/same as the Panasonic FZ 1000) in one pocket and a couple extra batteries in the other and you are pretty much prepared to shoot at the drop of a hat. Which always brings me back to the same conclusion: The obsession about "ultimate" cameras and lenses is for the entry part of the commercial market. It's the lighting that separates the artist from the gear jockeys. But lighting gear isn't usually nearly as glamorous and much harder to wear (without dire affectation) to the hip, neighborhood coffee shop. 

Below are two samples that I love from the original RX10. 

An ISO 1600 image of a musician on stage at the David Bowie Project
modern dance/concert in 2014 at the State Theater. 

A landscape of flat Texas, between Fredericksburg and Johnson City.
Probably my favorite, personal example in a genre I have very little 
affinity for...

If pushed one could make a business with just one of these little cameras and some decent lights. Very few clients would ever know you weren't shooting with a throwback to an earlier time. And they would like the video better than anything coming out of a Fuji, Nikon, Canon (non-cine) or Olympus camera. Pretty amazing for a retail investment of $1299...

I am running an ad, below, for Lesa Snider's Portrait retouching class. It's the same one I ran yesterday and I'm doing it because I was stuck in PhotoShop today, trying to turn a woman's hair from bright red to a dark brunette without messing up the detail and character of the hair. I watched Lesa's segment about doing that very same thing in her video and it worked so well. I was very happy to remember that the segment was there. It was also a good refresher about using the "refine edge" tool. I thought I'd give it another "two thumbs up" for anyone out there that might want to improve their portrait post production.

Here it is:


  1. The only reasonable answer to "Why Not?" for me is: Because my GH3 still checks all the boxes for my work. AND it is paid for. YMMV (Your Milage May Vary)

  2. A few years ago in rear, our customers had a friendly look on the use of professional big and heavy equipment. The more the equipment was voluminous, the more it reassured them on the quality of our services(performances) and, it kept any trust on the price to pay for the service.
    Today, our customers always are to be asked me: " well, you go to work with this? Your price rates we coast cheaper then? "
    What is your relationship with your customers on this subject?


  3. In your opinion, which camera do you feel is better for still photography; the Panasonic FZ1000 or the Sony RX10 Mark II? Video is not a major area of interest for me.


  4. Kirk,
    You have the discipline to avoid being led into temptation (most of the time), More important, because you have worked diligently to hone your craft, you have the discretion to know which tool is appropriate for the job, and the skills necessary to bring out the best result by using that tool.

    A famous story about Charlie Parker, the great Jazz musician is a good example of this. Apparently, he showed up at a gig in Canada without his saxophone. Some say it was stolen at Customs, some say he pawned it to buy Heroin, but either way, he needed a horn.
    He acquired a plastic sax, and legend has it that he played his ass off that night.

    There are some tools that may be more appropriate for specific tasks, but a good photographer is going to make good use of whatever gear they are using.

  5. The little brother, the RX100, is also amazing. It puts a reasonable chunk of this camera in your pocket.

  6. I'm with George - the Panasonic FZ1000 or the Sony RX10 Mark?

    However, I'm eyeing them for their video capabilities instead (I'm finally starting to get the odd request for video along with the stills) and given that you had both in your hands quite recently, it would be interesting to hear where the pros and cons are when using them both for professional (albeit not that demanding) video projects.

  7. Hi Guys, I think I answered the "which one???" question here: http://visualsciencelab.blogspot.com/2016/01/by-reader-request-battle-royale-between.html

    Personally? Lumix for stills and RX10ii for video...

  8. Ok I like the size and a all in one camera for travel, but it have a lingering question......if you only shot 10% video is it still better that a 43 rig?

  9. The thought about using the first iteration of the RX 10 with firmware upgrade is really good. Now the question is buy now or wait till the RX 10iii comes out and the RX10 ii drops to $500 on the used market.

  10. " … if your brain is willing to start with a clean slate."
    The above quote from your blog entry is the key to creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship, renewal. The wedding studio I am sub-contracted to demands that I shoot full-frame, with dual-card slots. I got a great offer on my a99 that I would have been crazy to refuse so I sold it. Now I shoot with an a7II, to the dismay of the studio owner (1-card slot!!). But, I will still be shooting for the studio. I am slowly going to diffuse my work with the upcoming a6300 (better tracking, faster autofocus) to convince the studio that One can maintain standards with a cropped-sensor. Such is the inertia in this industry.
    For my personal wedding shoots, I use the RX10 to grab candids (the studio demands I shoot FF for all the shots). I get more spontaneous-looking candids my way and there's no convincing the studio that RX10 shots are more than sufficient. There's always the expectation that 1 out of 300 candid images may be blown up to 20x24.
    I'll be getting an RX10II and an AX100 in April for my videos. Based on the reactions I get now when I shoot with an RX10 and a CX900, I know I will be looked on with skepticism when I show up with gear that looks amateurish.

  11. Kirk, what is the microphone in the photo of the RX10? Are you happy with it?

  12. Hi Fred, It's a Rode Stereo Mic. It's been replaced by something else now but I like it as a general use mic.


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