RX10

Sony RX10 Exposure Tips

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Sony RX10, f/5.6, ISO80, 1/250", 2 stop ND Grad
Sony RX10, f/5.6, ISO80, 1/250″, 2 stop ND Grad

I mentioned in my last blog that I had been using the Sony RX10 exclusively over the last week and in doing so I noticed a few things about how to get a good exposure. Here is what I learned:

When the highlights clip they literally fall of a cliff. This can make the areas around the blown highlights appear very ugly. The Olympus EM5 highlights by contrast seem to behave much more like film, which seem to be more gradual.

One of the features of the RX10 is that you can display “zebras” in the live view. These “zebras” show you where the scene is exceeding the dynamic range of the sensor and the highlights are blown. You can also set the level of this so that you see a warning before the damage is done. For my camera I have this set at 100%+ so that if I see zebras I know there is clipping which as mentioned above can look quite ugly. I do this because I shoot RAW and can usually recover some of the damage.

What I have found is that there just isn’t much headroom in the RAW files beyond the zebras so you need to take care. With most cameras I have found I can expose to the right (deliberately overexpose the image) and then correct this by careful processing of the RAW file. This typically results in a higher quality image with less shadow noise and more detail. With the Sony RX10 this doesn’t seem to be the case and leaving the camera to calculate the exposure without any compensation seems to render very good images.

So how much can I over expose the image by? Well it seems to be only 2/3 of a stop. BUT a nice feature I have noticed is that the histogram that you can display whilst taking the image seems to reflect what is being captured in the RAW file whilst the zebras seem to indicate where the JPEG file will blow the highlights. I have noticed that I can be showing the warning zebras (set at 100%) but the histogram shows no clipping. The JPEG will show clipping but when I get the RAW file into Lightroom I can fully recover the problem areas.

Hope this helps other Sony RX10 owners out there.

Sony RX10 Surprise

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Sony RX10 in the Lake District. F5.6, ISO80, 1/200". Monochrome conversion in Nik Silver Efex
Sony RX10 in the Lake District. F5.6, ISO80, 1/200″. Monochrome conversion in Nik Silver Efex
ANd I thought I would also share the colour version as the RX10 colours are superb.
And I thought I would also share the colour version as the RX10 colours are superb.

You might have noticed that I haven’t posted anything over this past week. That’s because I have been taking a break in the Lake District enjoying some walking and a little photography. I had with me a range of cameras (you never quite know what you will need):

  • Sony RX10
  • Olympus EM5
  • Panasonic GM1 (including a new 35-100 lens I have just purchased)
  • Canon G16

I started the week using the RX10 as the weather was looking quite changeable and it’s easy to push the camera under a coat. I also didn’t want to be bothered keep changing lenses which is quite a pain when out on the hills. As a backup I had the GM1 in my backpack.

By the end of the week, interestingly, I had only used the RX10. I must admit that some of the images were a little blurred due to camera shake but I just shot a few of each composition to ensure I had at least one good image.

If you had asked me at the start of the week I would never have predicted that I would use the RX10 exclusively. I must admit that I loved it and best of all I learned a few new points about how the camera seems to work out exposures. I will share these with you in my next post.

The RX10 is winning me over by osmosis

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Sony RX10 in the Peak District, 62mm, ISO80, 1/50", f/5.6
Sony RX10 in the Peak District, 62mm, ISO80, 1/50″, f/5.6

I’ve had the RX10 for around 14 months now so I should be in a position to say if it’s a good camera or not. Had you asked me this question 12 months ago I would probably have said (if I was being totally truthful) that it was a bit of a letdown.

You see my expectations were way too high having previously owned a Sony R1. The reason I expected so much was that the R1 had an amazing lens and the RX10 looked pretty much identical. It’s a huge Zeiss lens with a tiny sensor bolted to the back and a bit of a grip to hold on to. It won’t win any awards for being beautiful but it certainly feels good in the hands.

Part of the reason I felt let down also was that the EM5 produces such sharp, crisp, detailed images. I had dearly wanted the RX10 to produce the same “quality” but it doesn’t. It also has corners that are a little distorted and soft in comparison. What I had failed to realise and what only dawned on me when I bought the Nikon D800 is that most cameras suffer from this. In fact the RX10 is a very good performer, it’s just different. In fact, I’m now really quite pleased with the image quality I am able to achieve. The images make lovely prints all the way up to A2 (I haven’t tried anything larger).

But it’s not the image quality that I like, it’s the handling. It’s very easy and intuitive to use. I like the aperture ring on the body of the lens (isn’t this something we had on all lenses at one time). I also like the huge zoom range from 24mm to 200mm and the fast f/2.8 constant maximum aperture. It even has a great battery life.

In all, this is a very impressive camera and great when you don’t want to carry around multiple lenses. I am starting to find myself reaching for this camera more and more, especially when I am out walking.

Sony RX10 Problem and Frustration

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Sony RX10, f/5.0, 1/100" at ISO80
Sony RX10, f/5.0, 1/100″ at ISO80
Sony RX10, ISO80, f/5.0, 1/125"
Sony RX10, ISO80, f/5.0, 1/125″

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I didn’t post the usual Friday Image on Friday. My apologies for this but I am still battling with too much to do and too little time. I have fallen some way behind in responding to emails and queries as the numbers have shot up recently. I love replying to everyone but it takes time.

Anyway, I set out on a walk in the Peak District today with a camera. I was going to take the new G16 but in the end I went for the RX10. I really do love this camera but it’s been somewhat of a frustrating relationship. My first ever outing found that the white writing around the edge of the lens reflected onto my filters when the sun was at certain angles. The other major frustration I have is that the image stabilisation is poor. Sometimes I find myself keep checking if it is actually on.

It’s very easy to find the shutter speed has dropped below 1/25″ as I like to shoot at the base ISO of 80. I find that 1/25″ is pretty much as slow as I can risk, even at the wide end of the focal range (the camera has a 24-200mm f/2.8 constant lens). Below this and camera shake is evident and ruins pretty much every shot unless you are lucky. That’s one of the problems with a sharp lens, you notice the smallest of movement.

More recently I have become attuned to this problem and now push the ISO to 200 or 400. This goes against the grain with me as I always want to shoot at the lowest ISO and I hate noise. But you know what, even at ISO400 you can barely notice it and the image quality is that much better.

So this has been a bit of me rambling (pun intended) to tell you that the RX10 is one of the most enjoyable cameras I have and the one that I increasingly turn to when I just want to walk and can’t be bothered with different lenses.

The Bleak Weather Returns

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Sony RX10 - ISO80, 1/80" at f/5.6. 2 stop ND Grad filter on the sky.
Sony RX10 – ISO80, 1/80″ at f/5.6. 2 stop ND Grad filter on the sky.

I was out walking yesterday in the Lakes – what a mistake. The weather was dreadful. It was windy, foggy and the rain was driving down hard. Despite this I managed to pull out the Sony RX10 and rattled off a few frames. I quite like the one above as I think it conveys well just how poor the weather was.

New Website Call

I’m also going to be taking some time out shortly to build my new Lenscraft website. I know that quite a few people who read the Lightweight Photography blog are members of Lenscraft so I would like to publicise an offer. If you are a Lenscraft member, have your own website and would like me to add a link in the “Members Sites” section, email your details to me at robin@lenscraft.co.uk. I just need your name and a link to your site. Obviously feel free to return the link but there is no requirement.

My most disappointing camera is…

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The hills and moors above Dovestones in Saddleworth
The hills and moors above Dovestones in Saddleworth

I should actually say my most disappointing camera was because there has been some remarkable changes with it. But first you need to hear a story to understand my disappointment.

Back in 2009 I purchased a Sony R1. For those of you don’t know, the R1 was a bridge camera with a fixed lens that was the size of a small DSLR at the time. It was very expensive new and had quickly lost favour with the general public. It was quite a weight really due in part to the huge lens. This was a 24-120mm lens made by Zeiss which was razor sharp. The 10Mpx sensor was the same one as used in some of the Nikon DSLRs at the time and was good at ISO 200 (base ISO) but quickly became noisy. The camera also lacked image stabilisation.

Despite its limitations the camera was a joy to use and produced amazing images. There are many fine art photographers who used this camera at the time and indeed I sold mine to one in 2011. Despite loving this camera I had become convinced that the Sony NEX5 was going to be a direct replacement for it but much smaller. Needless to say it wasn’t and I ended up switching to Micro 43, which I’m very pleased I did.

Roll forwards to December of last year and Sony launch the RX10. I didn’t pay much attention at the time based on past experience but then I say a picture of the RX10. It was clear that it was a reworked R1 with the same huge Zeiss lens. I did have some reservations about the 1″ sensor but already owning the RX100 I knew the sensor was quite capable. I purchased one immediately having traded in a very poor Panasonic 14-140mm lens.

The new RX10 was everything I wanted it to be. It reminded me so much of the R1 but improved. It handled well and meant no more lens switching. The lens range was now improved to 24-200mm with a fast f/2.8 constant aperture. I was so pleased.

But then came the let down. On paper this camera should perform brilliantly but when I processed the RAW files I couldn’t attain the sort of legendary image quality as the R1. At the time I was comparing this to the Olympus EM5 which is my main workhorse camera. The RX10 just seemed a bit, well soft in comparison. I tried all sorts, even convincing myself that the files were good enough. Once or twice I even came close to selling the camera had it not been for the excellent handling and convenience. In the end it was relegated to be my walking camera.

I hope you can now understand my disappointment.

Then to surprise recently I decided to open some of the RX10 RAW files in CaptureOne 8 (more on this some other time). The results were excellent. Image quality was not as “crisp” as the EM5 but then the images appeared more natural. The colours were also amazing.

At this time I also decided to update the firmware in the Sony as it was version 1.0 and version 2.0 was now available. Whilst the firmware talks about improvements to video, I’m sure they have done something to the focusing and image stabilisation. The camera now handles much better and I am getting much less shake than previously.

Over the past couple of weeks I have made a number of A2 prints from the RX10 files and they are really nice. There is a good feeling of depth to the images and they don’t feel so crisp that they appear unnatural.

In summary, a camera that was often left at home as it was disappointing has turned into one that I am happy to use and pleased to have purchased.

Another Drought

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Low water in the reservoir. Sony RX10. See text for details.
Low water in the reservoir. Sony RX10. See text for details.

I had intended to get out yesterday for a long walk (about 20 miles) as I find it helps to clear my mind. In the end the 24 hours of torrential rain and quite severe thunder storms put an end to my hopes.

Today was much better though and despite not having the time for a 20 mile hike I did manage a drive over to the Peak district and a clocked up 12 miles over the hills.

The first thing that struck me when I arrived was how low the water level was in the reservoirs. Above is one of the images I shot with the Sony RX10 and it makes me wonder if we are heading for another drought with all the nice weather we have been having.

As a side note for those of you wondering about my use of the RX10, I have tended not to use it much as I don’t find the images anywhere near as crisp and sharp as my Micro 43 cameras. Despite that the camera has a lovely feel and is a joy to use.

For this particular image I didn’t use the usual Nik sharpening tools but opted for Focal Blade. This is an excellent although quite complex sharpening filter which I have been using on and off for a number of years. I don’t know why but it appears to achieve better results than Nik Sharpener Pro with the Sony images.

The other thing I did was apply Contrast Master which is a contrast adjustment tool from the same people who produce Focal Blade (PhotoWiz). I was reasoning that the images from the Sony seem to lack contrast and pop which is easily corrected in Contrast master. Having just printed this image at A3+, the detail is excellent. It also has a very nice quality to it, very much like film.

I just thought I should try adding some grain and making another print. I’m off to experiment…

Friday image No.013

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The BT Tower at sunset. Captured on a Sony RX10.
The BT Tower at sunset. Captured on a Sony RX10.

This weeks Friday image isn’t anything spectacular. I captured this on my trip to London last week and for those of you who are not familiar with the UK, this is the BT Tower, which was formally known as the Post Office Tower. At least it was when I was young when this was an iconic building. I think for me it was iconic because I watched this show (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitten_Kong) – boy we have come a long way since the 70’s.

Compositionally you can’t really do much with this building. But look closely at the right hand side of the tower that’s facing into the setting sun and you notice some lovely warm light.

Have a great weekend.

Friday image No.012

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Hotel stairs. Sony RX10. Converted to B&W in Nik Silver Efex Pro.
Hotel stairs. Sony RX10. Converted to B&W in Nik Silver Efex Pro.

I spent this week away on a well earned break in London, celebrating my 25th Wedding Anniversary. Wow, how time flies. As you can see from the image above I managed to take some photographs of London – but not what you might expect. This one was the staircase in the hotel we were staying at. It just caught my eye.

Have a great weekend.

Friday image No.011

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Reflections on my walk - Sony RX10
Reflections on my walk – Sony RX10

I love reflections., I find them fascinating and beautiful whether created on manmade surfaces or in nature. I suppose the ones we find in nature are the ones that really enthral me and I can’t help reaching for my camera.

Here is one from my walk last weekend in Jumbles Country park near to Bolton. I just printed this and my immediate thought was that it has a lovely soft quality to it. It was shot on an RX10 which is an easy take anywhere camera. Such a shame it’s so expensive and twice the size of the Olympus EM5.

Have a great weekend.