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The Sony RX100

The Landscape Photographer's Pocket Camera

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Andrew Nadolski

Andrew Nadolski

Andrew Nadolski is a professional designer and photographer based in Exeter. His series 'The End of the Land' has been exhibited in museums and art galleries across England and has been published as a book by Headon House.

DSC-RX100_w_accy_01_lgI bought two digital cameras in 2012, a Nikon D800 and a Sony RX100. Both cameras are class-leading and ground-breaking in upping the pixel count for their respective formats. With the D800, Nikon leapfrogged a logically preceding 24mp model and caught everyone by surprise - the competition most definitely included! In all aspects other than resolution the D800 was evolutionary rather than revolutionary, building on the popular D700. Sony on the other hand with the RX100 made a quantum leap from their previous ‘serious compacts’ - packing 20 million pixels into a sensor a tiny fraction of the size of the one in the D800. Just thing of the numbers for a moment - if the chip in the RX100 was scaled up to 35mm format it would give us around 140 million pixels!

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  • Thanks Andrew

    I bought the Sony RX100 for family photos and videos – it’s so light and discrete, has quick autofocus as you say, is great fun to use, and is a camera I can envisage using for as long as it lasts (hopefully many years!). It’s allowed me to make images that I’ll treasure for years, and in the right situations the image quality is so good. I was sceptical about using it for landscape work but have been impressed with the results in some situations, though most definitely not for ‘wide vistas’ when the lens is used at its widest! Personally, I think this is a huge and exciting jump forward, but it’s not the landscape photographer’s pocket camera yet – I think that a future (and hopefully very significantly cheaper) version of the Sony RX1 which can be hand held in low light and has a much better lens, or perhaps a future version of the Sigma DP2 Merrill would fit that bill (and the camera should be ideally be ‘weatherproof’). But of course at that point, there will be a future camera that would be even better, and so the product development and marketing machines roll on…. :-)



    • Michael
      I think most of the weaknesses of the RX100 relate to the lens. I would have preferred a simple ‘tri-elmar’ approach which may have improved edge performance slightly. I use the camera in 4:3 and 1:1 crop modes which does ‘hide’ some of the slight defects. The prints I have made around 12×16 are really impressive both in resolution and dynamic range.
      I tried a Sigma DP2 Merrill this weekend as I was really interested in the sensor but found the camera unusable for what I wanted. I don’t think Sigma have the resources or the electronics skills to manufacture a better small camera than Sony or even Olympus and Panasonic.

      • Thanks Andrew. I haven’t tried the Sigma DP2 Merrill but I’ve heard that it’s not exactly the most responsive of cameras! I was interested to see that DXOMark have reviewed the Sony RX1 and (mainly because resolution is ignored and low light ISO ‘matters’) it’s ranked above the IQ180!! Wait for the next model and pick up a used RX1 – that could be interesting for landscape work!

  • Chris Pattison

    I enjoyed reading your review Andrew. I have no doubt the future is mirrorless. Tomorrow Fujifilm will announce two new cameras, the X20 and X100s, which will be of great interest to landscape photographers looking for a smaller camera. They both have x-trans sensors and are expected to be more responsive than the cameras they are replacing. By the way, I went the other way and sold my RX100 for a Fujifilm X10! I just did not enjoy the handling of the RX100, although the output, and what Sony packed into the small body is amazing.

    • Chris
      Interesting that you went for the X10. It was a camera I was quite interested in a while back. The manual lens barrel zoom control looked really nice. I just wasn’t convinced about the image quality for large prints. Camera ergonomics are really often down to individual users. The RX100 isn’t perfect but the pluses far, far outweigh the minus points. The dynamic range at low ISOs is really impressive for such a small chip. What Sony have done with the sensor breaks new ground. The more pixels now means greater dynamic range and the ability to down sample which helps tonal gradations.

      • Chris Pattison

        I would agree with you on making large prints. The RX100 will do a better job. The X10 does have the ability to extend dynamic range, and although a ‘trick’ it seems to work well. I do not normally capture images in JPEG, but I do enjoy using the X10’s monochrome setting too. I should try making A3ish prints with the X10 and see what they are like.

  • Richard

    The RX100 certainly appears very seductive but i may opt for the fuji X10 because i mostly use these cameras to help which lens i use. The X10 has lens barrel zoom with focal lengths of the lens i use on the D800, so quick and easy.
    How accurate and quickly can the RX100 go from 28mm to 50mm to 85mm? And is there a focal length display on the LCD in 35mm terms, so you know what focal length your at? Cheers

    • Richard
      Unfortunately there isn’t a way of seeing the exact focal length used. I imagine Sony could add it in a firmware upgrade if they felt it important enough. A big plus for me is just how tiny the camera is with the lens retracted. The lens barrel zoom control of the X10 / X20 looks really nice and I did seriously look at an X10 when it came out I just wasn’t convinced the image quality would enable medium scale prints. It maybe the X20 is better though I have heard mixed opinions of the X-trans sensor Fuji are using.

      • Chris Pattison

        From what I hear the x-trans sensor is fantastic, but RAW support and processing by software is very poor.

      • Chris Pattison

        Hmm, well perhaps not ‘very poor’. I retract that. Not as good as it could be I shall say instead!

        • I think the results from 3rd party raw convertors probably haven’t done the sensor justice to date. I believe CaptureOne is going to be able to handle the raw files ‘correctly’.

  • Tucniak

    Nice review Andrew. It makes me think on whether I should replace the LX5. but then I am quite keen on seeing Fuji or Sony, even Nikon releasing a mirror-less with full frame sensor.
    I was struggling to manual focus on the D700. this has massively improved by adding DK-17M to increase viewfinder magnification. but the big improvement was replacing the stock focus screen with a KatzEye Plus Split Prism (http://www.katzeyeoptics.com/).

    • I think the RX100 is a generation or two ahead of the LX5. It will be interesting if Sony allows other manufacturers to use it. Nikon use Sony sensors and this sensor in a J1 or V1 body might make that system interesting. I believe Panasonic are now using Sony sensors so you might see an improved LX5.
      Interesting to hear your comment on the D700. I have the DK-17 which I sometimes use on my D800 but find it makes the bottom readout harder to see. Unfortunately I don’t think the focus screens on the D800 aren’t user replaceable.

  • pmphotography

    Excellent review Andrew, i’ve also looked at the RX100 as a replacement to my LX5, but I’ve been put off by the inability to use any filters on the camera. I read that you said the DR is very good, but do you consider not been able to use filters an issue? Thanks Paul.

    • Hi Paul
      To be honest the use of filters is less of an issue for me than some photographers. For my landscape work I prefer to work in subtle light and really don’t like using filters, to me gradding an overcast sky to avoid clipping doesn’t look right – I guess that is why I still shoot neg film in some cases. What I noticed when I bought my D800 earlier this year was that dynamic range coupled with the way Lightroom 4 handles highlight retention has meant I can almost shoot as if I was using film. The great thing about the raw files from the RX100 is that they are almost as good as my Nikon for DR (at base ISO).
      What can be achieved from this camera considering it can go in a small pocket is incredible.
      I believe there are filter solutions available involve attaching an adhesive metal ring to the front of the lens and then filters attach via miniature magnets.

      • pmphotography

        Many thanks Andrew for your reply, I fully agree with you regarding filters and neg film. Since using new Portra my filters are slowly becoming less used. I’ll take a 2nd look at the RX100. Cheers.

  • Neville Stanikk

    Well I do want to use a filter, predominantly a polarising filter, and can’t understand why manufacturers of better and better compacts can’t take this into account ?

  • Thomas Peck

    I agree with you that Sony is really beginning to ramp up its attack on the two big giants Nikon and .Canon. The recent release of the Alpha 99 is another case in point where Sony is re-writing the rules, but this time on full frame digital SLR. But of course it’s not a SLR, it’s mirror less. The Slr world is changing, almost invisibly. I would love to see a serious review of this camera, but so far it seems to have been largely ignored. Any chance of on landscape doing a review?

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