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. 

I like photographs about which I can tell stories. Some people like photographs that tell stories.

Many years ago, on a hot Summer day here in Austin, Ben, Belinda and I went out for lunch. We went to a burger joint called, Hillbert's, that had been on Lamar Blvd. for decades. It was toasty warm outside, the kind of weather where sandals and shorts are the order of the day. Inside Hillbert's two big window AC units blew icy air across the main counter and the row of swivel stools that line the front window.

Ben has always been an adventurous eater and loves the process of going out anywhere for food. I took along my camera, as I have for nearly thirty years now. At the time it was a Leica R8 fitted with a 50mm Summilux lens.

I took two or three snapshots during lunch and this is one of them.

I've always liked this image for a number of reasons. There is Ben's expression, of course; and the wonderful way the image falls out of focus in the middle distance and the background. I enjoy the flow of soft light coming in from the floor-to-ceiling window at the left of the frame, and I like the warm, not totally corrected, color that mixes yellow and red on skin with magneta and blue on the floor behind Ben and Belinda.  But the one attribute I love best about this image is the twinkle and energy in Ben's eyes.

The image stayed with me and, when I wrote my novel (The Lisbon Portfolio) the image prodded me to write a few pages of reminiscence for my character, Henry White, who was in a foreign country, having a trying interpersonal experience, and missing his own child...

The image informed three or four pages of writing and provided a richer texture to Henry White's feeling of being unanchored and apart. I could extrapolate entire stories from visual reminders like the one above. And, in fact, many of the descriptions in the novel are verbalizations of images that tend to stay hooked in my mind, signifying something unfinished, yet not transient.

For some people photographs tell stories. For me I like to tell stories about the feelings and ideas that photographs can spark. I think there is a difference. It's not always one way or the other but sometimes it really is. Interesting to think about the links between our different creative processes...