A quick test of the Sony RX10iii video capabilities. Shooting available light, indoors, in 4K (UHD).

Untitled Project from Kirk Tuck on Vimeo.
This video is about Untitled Project

 A short minute of video so you can see the video imaging and hear the sound. The content is part of a program aimed for a new, video oriented blog. Coming soon. ...

I started writing about the Sony RX10iii yesterday and most of what I wrote had to do with the camera's abilities as a photographer's tool. Today I set up the camera and started to put it through its paces for video. Why? Well, because I have video project coming up that would really benefit from this camera's capabilities. So, how did my tests work out?

I'll start with the one downside and work my way up from there.

The camera's files have visible noise in the shadows at ISO 800. There, I've said it. If it was a still camera I'd have whipped those files into PhotoShop or Lightroom and dealt with them in a few slider pulls. But it's video and I can't seem to find the noise reduction menu in Final Cut Pro.

The second caveat isn't really a "downside" it more of a "geez, all these cameras are great at video why aren't they equally great at audio" kind of a thing. I plugged my Sennheiser receiver directly into the camera input and listened through a nice set of headphones to the wireless lavaliere microphone I'd incorporated into the test. The camera's pre-amps are a bit noisy. It's not a deal killer but the noise floor is definitely there and it's higher than I'd like. I'll be running the audio through a mixer with better microphone pre-amps from now on before I send it to the camera. But, of course, I was shooting in the studio where there was very little ambient sound to cover for the camera. For really critical work I'll send the signal to a digital audio recorder and sync up sound in post production.

The video upsides are much more numerous. The range of video profiles is very good and the various gamma presets are highly usable if you are willing to take some time in post to grade your completed footage, and do some contrast corrections.

It's simple to map your audio levels menu item to one of the function button slots so you can access audio level control quickly while shooting.

The continuous focus, when also set to face detection AF and wide area AF is pretty darn good. Not a lot of hunting, even though the model was swaying back and forth. And what re-focusing was done was done gracefully and without drama.

All in all it was a good video performance by the camera. Having now tested it I can refine the way I use it a bit more.

First, I'll always want to do a custom white balance. Every shift I make in color or exposure introduces noise or in some way degrades the overall image quality. I think this is the way of all cameras but we've had the luxury of shooting 14 bit, uncompressed RAW for quite a while and we're used to a more forgiving and information rich file set.

Second, for important (read: "paying") work I'll want to get the exposure right on the money instead of depending on my third party, external monitor, which is exuberantly bright, for validation. This is where a hand held meter comes in handy. Nailing the exposure more exactly will also help to ameliorate some of the shadow area noise too.

Next time on the tripod I'll try shooting more stuff with manual focusing, which means I need to map "image magnification" to one of the function display slots, right next to the audio levels.

Overall, I thought the imaging performance was exactly where it should be. If you have acres of light and can use ISO 100 or 200 I think you'll be rewarded with saturated and relatively noise free image files. The detail out of the files is very good and the tonality is fairly accurate and more layered and nuanced than ACVHD files I've gotten out of previous generations of Sony cameras.

The real test will be outside in bright sunlight. How will the AF stand up to a variable neutral density filter?  We'll find out in a few days.

For now I am praising both the sharpness, detail and color of the files. The first outing is a success in my book. Thanks. 


Michael Matthews said...

Not visually up to the standard set by the earlier similar post, but that's probably a matter of a different setup or lower light level. Also -- what happens to automatic change of focus, as in the mic held up in the earlier sample, when the camera is set to facial recognition? Does it do that remarkably smooth change to the mesh surface of the microphone? Or continue trying to find eyes to focus on?

Another blog devoted to video? That's another demand on your finite supply of resources. Are the still photography readers getting cranky? Or do the analytics show such radical falloff in response to video entries that mixing the two has proved to be a tune-out?

Damn, I'm full of questions today. Time to shut up.

Kirk Tuck said...

Hi Michael, I'll answer the last couple of questions first. Wanna kill a photo blog's popularity? Put in anything having to do with video. Boom. Numbers drop quicker a pound of feathers in a vacuum. No one cares. At least not here.
I thought I'd toss up a blog that's strictly finished projects and tests. We'll see how it goes.

Problems experienced on this test: I was judging exposure from an external monitor that, in hindsight, appears to be about a stop brighter than reality. The footage was under exposed by about 2/3rd to one full stop. I used a profile that I wasn't as familiar with and my grading could be better. While the face detection is good the AF is not as fast and sure under big changes as that of the a6300. I'll pay more attention next time.

Dave said...

I'm fascinated by the RX series, so though my one meager browser visit won't trip your site odometer, I hope you'll continue to update your thoughts on them.

After years of APS-C devotion (and "full" sensor lust) I no longer own a DSLR, simplifying down to the RX10 v1 and RX100 v4. I no longer have much interest in the large cameras, not even bothering to read the D500 p0rn popping up on various enthusiast sites.

The question in my mind is whether the noise floor you see in the RX10.3 is different than the 10.2?

The potential deal killers for me at the increased size/weight and lack of built in ND filter.

Nate said...

I care Kirk! :-) Heck, I'd by another book from you if it's about video production for us stills guys. Maybe if you called the 1-inch sensor size Super 16mm more people will embrace new ideas.

BPete said...

Kirk ... Rah-ra-Rah for the video blogging! That's me cheering you on for digging deep on the RX10 II and III video explorations. It not just about shooting a great still anymore, stills and video are mostly part of the same sentence or headed that way these days it seems. Along side the big camera bag sit's my little RX10 II. The Sony now goes on the casual walkarounds a majority of the time. Once in a while I feel guilty or just hanker for the big gun and heft the big bag for an outing. Even at that I can't really carry all the lenses in the ammo belt for very long without wheels. The II has been good at covering the general need for found subjects, both in video and stills.

Just finished a little impromptu video of the band I happened upon at the beach while out for an evening walk. I just put the camera on profile 3 and used it for a low light, free wheeling hand held test of the camera's video ability. Posted the edit on Face Book for fun and the local beach promotion folks saw it, responded with glee and wanted to introduce me to the mayor etc.,. The point is these little machines have remarkable abilities to let us over into the world of photography in motion, so exploring their wonders is a noble and practical endeavor. Thus my Rah=Rah for your video posting.

I'm extremely interested in the 600 mm abilities for video, can we zoom from 24 all the way to 600 in one zoom move or does the stop change need special handling? How much tripod is it going to take to shoot video at the long end of the range? Are there differences in the II and the III in a side by side? These and many more questions swirl about as I contemplate adding the III to the bag. So yes we are watching to see where your footsteps will lead. Solider on Kirk we're cheering for you. And just in case we forget to say it ... Thanks for doing and sharing with us!