RX100

RX100 V’s LX5 and LX7 – Part 2

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Death Valley Sand Dunes - RX100
Death Valley Sand Dunes – RX100

Continued…

Sensor quality – Here I would say I am interested in producing natural colours and smooth images (free from noise). The LX7 is better than the LX5 but neither can touch the Sony. The Sony has smooth images with very limited noise that doesn’t get exaggerated when the images are processed. The colours from the Sony are also very lifelike. I have often thought the Panasonic colours, especially Green, look a little unnatural. The ISO performance of the LX7 is better than the LX5 but the Sony is much better than both of these. As I shoot most of my work at base ISO and hardly ever go above ISO800, the LX7 and RX100 are fine. The LX5 struggled above ISO400.

Pixel Count – This only becomes important if you are going to be producing large prints and by that I mean above A3+. The Sony will produce a slightly larger than A3+ print at 300dpi without any enlargement whilst you will need to enlarge the LX5 or LX7. What is interesting is that some of the LX5 or LX7 images enlarged appear sharer and more detailed than the Sony. If you go to A2 printing the LX5 and LX7 can achieve this is you take care whilst the Sony can be enlarged to this easily but it can reveal the soft corners (I said it was irritating). If you are only going to share your images on the Internet then any of the cameras will be fine.

Filters – I shoot landscapes so I need to be able to attach square filters such as ND Grads. All three cameras allow this but the LX5 requires a bulky tube to be attached. I hated this as it stopped the camera fitting easily in my pocket. The LX7 uses a screw in adapter which I like but I can’t leave the filter adapter ring attached as it jams the lens when it retracts. It also causes vignetting at the 24mm end when shooting 16:9 format (which I do alot). The RX100 filter adapter is a stick on affair which is very slim and works well but it’s expensive.

Handling – I find the RX100 small to handle but it is improved by the addition of the Sony leather half case. The layout and dials are good on the RX100 as is the front aperture ring which can be switched to other purposes such as focussing. The LX7 has a great aperture ring and I love the format switching ring. The LX5 is similarly good but lacks the aperture ring. If pushed I would say the LX cameras are easier and faster to work with than the RX100. If your bag is street photography then I think the LX cameras are probably better to work with.

What this all means is that for me, none of these cameras is perfect but all will perform well and achieve the results I want. I suspect (unless you see something above to convince you otherwise) that they would also serve you equally well. The best advice I can give is what I started this blog with – understand what features are important to you and why before investing.

If I had to use just one camera it would actually be the RX10. It has the great sensor of the RX100 but the lens is amazing. Its failure (if you can call it that) is that it’s significantly larger than the others and won’t fit in your pocket. Surprisingly my Olympus EM5 is quite a bit smaller than the RX10 and produces the best image quality of all the cameras – I still can’t fit it in my pocket unless I am using prime lenses.

Remember, no camera is perfect for all tasks.

RX100 V’s LX5 and LX7 – Part 1

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Death Valley dunes - RX100
Death Valley dunes – RX100

It’s funny how the same questions keep coming up in photography and this is one of them. Which is the better camera the RX100 or the LX5/LX7? I see people arguing on forums, it comes up as a search term in the traffic stats for this sight and I even receive emails asking this. I thought therefore it would be good to post a blog on the subject as I can understand people’s confusion.

At the outset I should say that I have owned all three of these cameras and currently still own the RX100 and LX7. Initially I had purchased the LX5 some 3 years back and was delighted by its performance. My only niggle was that I wanted more megapixels. When the RX100 came out I purchased that also and in time found I was using my LX5 less and less, so I sold it. Just before Christmas this year I found myself buying an LX7 as I was missing the LX5 and finding weak spots in the RX100 performance (but more on that shortly).

The first important point is to realise that you can’t expect to compare cameras based on specification alone. If it were that simple we would all be buying the same cameras (providing we could afford them). Buying a camera is a personal thing so you need to understand what is motivating you to make a purchase and what your expectations are. Most people overlook this point and as a result waste money, often being disappointed in the results.

What follows is my comparison using the points that are important to me. What’s important to you may be considerably different.

Wide angle lens – Ideally I want a 24mm equivalent lens at the wide angle. Both the LX5 and LX7 have this but the RX100 is 28mm. It may not sound like much but it is if you shoot landscapes. For me though this isn’t a deal breaker, but it is important and something I find frustraiting when using the RX100.

Long lens capability – Ideally I want 150mm at the long end of the lens or more. The LX5 and LX7 have a long end of 90mm and the RX100 of 110mm (I think). In practice there is little difference and neither gives me what I want here in order to be truly versatile. Again though, this isn’t a deal breaker.

Lens quality – I want a lens that is sharp from corner to corner and displays little chromatic aberration. Detail should be well resolved and appear nice and crisp in the final image. If I chose to resize the image I want to have confidence the image will look good. Both the LX5 and LX7 have great lenses and produce corner to corner sharpness. I would say if pressed that the LX5 lens on the camera I sold was better than the LX7 I now have, but it’s marginal. The RX100 lens is great in the centre but the corners are soft at the wide end and it drives me mad. Also, under some conditions the corners of images from the RX100 can also take on a red tint. These “features” may not worry you but I find them very irritating.

Image quality – This means the ability to shoot RAW (which all three cameras do) but I find the Panasonic RAW files easier to work with than the Sony files. This may just be my personal feeling.

To be continued…

When more is less

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GX1 V's EM5 V's RX10
GX1 V’s EM5 V’s RX10

So, I have done it. I returned the 14-140 lens for a refund and the money has gone against a Sony RX10. My first impressions are that this is quite a large camera. Actually, it’s not a camera at all but a huge lens with a sensor stuck on the back.

You might feel that I am being unkind but this is exactly what I expected and even wanted. It reminds me so much of the beloved R1 that I sold a few years back. This camera oozes quality and the dials and buttons are a joy to use.

In terms of size, it’s larger that my GX1 (which is now Infrared only) and it’s even slightly larger than the EM5 (which I absolutely love). It’s not however as large as either of these cameras plus the three lenses I would need to cover the same focal length as the 24-200mm lens. The lens also seems to produce great image quality across the entire focal and aperture range. It’s early days yet though.

Annoying limitations at the moment are that I don’t yet have a 62mm filter ring so I can’t really shoot good landscapes. Lightroom also doesn’t support the RAW files so I am having to use the dreadful Sony RAW converter (at least until Adobe release an update). I hated this software when I had an NEX5 and I still hate it now.

I’m looking forward to really getting out with the camera. It’s nice that it’s a sealed unit so less chance of dust getting in there. I also don’t need to stop to change lens so I am thinking this is a great hiking camera for the hill and it should make for a great travel outfit also.

I will report back on the image quality when I have been able to put it through its paces properly.

A day at the Beach

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View across the bay from an old outlet pipe I found. (.5 miles in the distance is our destination some 3.5 hours later
View across the bay from an old outlet pipe I found. 9.5 miles in the distance is our destination some 3.5 hours later.

Yesterday was a day out at the beach but not as you might expect. The beach in question wasn’t really a beach but the tidal flats of Morecambe Bay. As not everyone reading this will be familiar with the area, here is a link to Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morecambe_Bay

The Bay has seen more than its fair share of accidents and deaths. The flats are littered with very deep quicksand and if the tide turns on you, you won’t outrun it even if you can avoid the quicksand. So why would I go to such a place? To walk across the bay with around 300 other fools.

Crowds of walkers crossing the bay
Crowds of walkers crossing the bay

There are and have been for many years regular guided walks across the bay which is around 9.5 miles. It’s not something that was high on my agenda (I like mountains not the flat) but as my wife wanted to do the crossing I tagged along with the Sony RX100 in my pocket. Actually it was around my neck as there was quite a lot of wading through water that was waist deep.

Wading across some areas of the bay
Wading across some areas of the bay.

Whilst I didn’t get a wide variety of shots the weather was great and the bay was strangely beautiful once you got away from the shore.

Best Compact Camera for Travel

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Handheld image in a very dark church using the low light feature of the RX100. Even when you lighten the shadows they are free from noise.
Handheld image in a very dark church using the low light feature of the RX100. Even when you lighten the shadows they are free from noise. Click the image to see a larger version.

In my previous blog post I mentioned how I now view the Olympus OMD as my perfect Travel Camera. And whilst this camera is a great package and quite small, it’s still a lot larger and heavier than a compact camera? On my recent trip to France however there were times when I wanted the size and weight of a compact. What I needed was a small camera that would fit easily into my pocket and yet produce good sized image files, with great quality.

Here is why I now think the Sony RX100 meets my requirements better than any other compact camera that I know of:

  • Camera Size & Weight – This camera is small and fits neatly in the hand. Initially I had trouble with it being a little too small and slim but since I purchased the Sony leather half case I have found it very easy to grip. Despite weighing very little you can feel the quality of the build due to the metal construction. It easily fits into a pocket and can be carried (even around my neck) without causing any problems. The small size also makes it very discrete and people tend to ignore you taking pictures where they are very aware and avoid people carrying SLR sized cameras.
  • Image Quality & Resolution – If you are not already aware, this is a 20Mpixel camera with a much larger sensor (1 inch) than a traditional compact, even those that have oversized sensors. The sensor size is just a little smaller than the Micro 43 cameras which helps ensure low noise and good image quality for such a high resolution. The camera has a good sharp lens that will resolve a remarkable amount of detail and will produce good results even when used wide open at f/1.8. The zoom range of 28-110mm could do with being a little more at either end (24-140mm would be perfect) but I am probably splitting hairs here. The camera shoots RAW images so you have lots of flexibility in extracting maximum quality from your images. This all adds up to a camera that produces very clean images at the base ISO but which produces very usable images up at ISO1600 (I am very picky about noise). I have also been submitting images from this camera to photo libraries and have not had any problems with them being accepted.
  • Features – Normally I am not one for being impressed by lots of technical features; I am much more interested in image quality, resolving capability and camera size/weight. With this camera I have to admit that there are a few features I am finding very useful and considering important. These are HDR, Sweep Panoramic and Handheld Low Light shooting.
    • With the HDR feature you simply select the dynamic range you want to cover (or place it in auto). The camera then shoots the required number of frames in quick succession when you release the shutter and merges them into a JPG. The JPG’s look very natural and are of a high quality. I feel the results are quite impressive with the only downside being that the image isn’t recorded as a RAW file. This can however work to your favour as you can set up the camera to shoot as normal using RAW or, when you switch the quality to JPG, start shooting HDR images automatically.
    • Sweep Panoramic isn’t yet perfect but it appears to be an improvement over the Sony NEX5 I used to own. Switch the dial to the panoramic mode and start shooting whilst moving the camera in the indicated direction. The image is then stitched in camera and the result is quite a large, detailed image. If you want straight lines then this feature won’t work for you but the results are very interesting, effective and fun.
  • Low Light Hand Held is something I haven’t used before but I now think is wonderful. When you release the shutter the camera shoots a sequence of images at a high ISO and with the aperture quite wide. This means you will achieve a fast shutter speed but each image will contain a lot of noise. The camera then blends together the various images in order to produce a very clean and sharp image. The results have amazed me. I was able to shoot hand held at night and indoors and produce images that are of sufficient quality to publish (in print). It even handles well situations where people are moving, producing a nice soft blur rather than ghosting. I don’t know how Sony has managed this but it’s very impressive.
100% magnification from the above image. It doesn't look as clean as the original as I added some soft grain in the black and white conversion.
100% magnification from the above image. It doesn’t look as clean as the original as I added some soft grain in the black and white conversion. You can still see th image is sharp and crisp despite this.

So, now you know why the RX100 is now my top tip for a compact travel camera. I definitely won’t travel without this camera (or possibly the RX100 MkII if I decide to upgrade)

This Camera Rocks

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Golden Canyon. Death Valley, USA
Golden Canyon. Death Valley, USA. Click the image to enlarge.

First, I must apologise for the visual pun and poor quality of my humour. I also must admit to a rather strange fascination with rock and a desire to photograph rock. I can’t put my finger on why but I just love the texture and sometimes the colour of rock. The image above is typical of what I like to shoot, where detail and texture are all important. The ability of my camera and lens combination to capture this detail is therefore very important to me. In this example it was a Panasonic GX1 and Panasonic 14-45mm lens (this by the way was the old kit lens for the GF1 and is a real cracker in terms of the image quality it can produce).

As some of you reading this will know, I recently made the decision to sell all my DSLR equipment and switch completely into Micro 43 format cameras. This lead to the purchase of an Olympus OM-D E-M5 which I am very impressed with but leaves me with a Panasonic GX1 doing very little. I had been contemplating selling the GX1 body given that it is pretty similar to the OMD. It produces the same size images and has nothing about it that elevates it beyond the OMD. I can’t however bring myself to sell it.

The GX1 has now come down to such a low price that I don’t feel it’s worth my effort to sell it and that I may be better keeping it. The body is pretty tiny and fits neatly in my pocket or camera bag as a backup. The build quality is very good. And when I look at images such as the one above it amazes me what quality the camera can produce (when shooting in RAW format). Take a look at this section viewed at 100%.

Image detail viewed at 100%
Image detail viewed at 100% shows superb clarity, sharpness and detail resolution. Click the image to enlarge.

So for now at least, I think it’s going to stay in my camera bag – it makes an ideal travel camera.

So, that was the blog I had originally intended to post. The only thing is, the image wasn’t shot on a GX1 at all. It was shot on my Sony RX100 but I had copied it to the wrong location. That’s right, it was captured on a compact camera. WOW!

I wanted to end this blog with a question. Which image is better, the colour one above or the black and white conversion below? I can’t make my mind up but I’m interested to know what others think. I think I prefer the colour image but it’s a close run thing.

B&W conversion using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2
B&W conversion using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. Click the image to enlarge.

Sharing some Pictures

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Whitby after sunset. Hand held on a Sony RX100
Whitby after sunset. Hand held on a Sony RX100

For today’s blog post I don’t want to do much more than share some recent images and rave about how impressed I am with the RX100 compact camera. I tend to forget this until I come to process some of the images that are lying around on my hard disk.

All the images you see in this post were captured hand held using the RX100. Despite the low light and slow shutter speeds the images are detailed, sharp and colourful. I even decided to print a few on A3+ paper (I increased the ppi resolution to 360 to avoid reducing the size of the images and to achieve the native resolution of my Epson printer). The prints look absolutely stunning. I’m going to start taking this camera out much more often given the results I see here.

I suppose I should also mention that Sony have now released the RX100 MkII. This isn’t however a replacement but will be on sale alongside the original RX100. The main difference from what I can see is the improved low light performance and the tilting screen. I haven’t yet seen the prices in the UK so am undecided if it is worth upgrading my existing (nearly new) camera. The tilting screen would come in handy for some of the low and close shots I take.

Enjoy your weekend.

Whitby sunrise
Whitby sunrise
Whitby sunrise on an RX100
Whitby sunrise on an RX100
Whitby sunset on the RX100
Whitby sunset on the RX100

Microstock Update

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Whitby Pier at Sunrise. Captured on a Sony RX100.
Whitby Pier at Sunrise. Captured on a Sony RX100.

Some time back I published a blog post saying that I wanted to test out the Microstock market using Compact and Micro 43 cameras. I already sell stock through a couple of “traditional” agencies who require I meet certain equipment standards. Interestingly these now allow the use of Micro 43 cameras providing they meet the quality and pixel count standards. Most Micro 43 cameras will achieve this when correctly used and I have already had submissions accepted.

Before I started this experiment I did visit a few site forums to pose the question about the acceptability of Compact Cameras for Microstock and the usual view was that whilst the libraries may claim they will accept lower quality submissions you do need a DSLR or they will reject the images.

So, how has my experiment been going?

Not well to be honest. Not because the cameras aren’t good enough but because I just can’t find sufficient free time to shoot and submit stock (I have the same problem with my traditional stock work also). My initial few submissions went well enough but I soon ran into problems with the way some libraries limit submissions. Some have a weekly or daily limit and you need to build up a reputation with them. Others are very time consuming and don’t support FTP batch uploads. There were also problems with the speed with which some of these image batches were reviewed. Because of the nature of this experiment I didn’t want to submit too many images without first having an earlier batch accepted. This quickly caused a backlog of images with some sites taking 3 months to review my submission and one site still hasn’t reviewed my submission from January. I guess they don’t want new photographers.

So the first question I wanted to answer was “will the libraries really accept images from a compact camera”. The answer is yes. I only had a couple of images rejected for being underexposed. These had been shot in the evening and to be honest, I would agree with the rejection. If I brightened them too much it revealed noise and even removing this left the images lower in quality than I would like.

One interesting point is that one of the libraries has repeatedly rejected my LX5 images as showing signs of being shot with a low quality lens. Looking honestly at the images I think this is rubbish and no other library has identified a problem. This has only happened with one library and it is so consistent that I suspect they are checking the metadata.

So what about sales?

Not too bad actually. Despite only having loaded around 20 images many of these have continued to sell regularly and appear to have generated around $60 in sales across the various sites I have submitted to. Not a huge amount but it shows there is potential. The two surprising best sellers are images of the Statue of Liberty and perhaps more surprisingly a rather lacklustre image of Wastwater in the English Lake District.

What all this has done is encouraged me not to leave my compact camera images on my hard drive and to submit them to the Microstock libraries. As for using Micro 43 cameras for stock, I now have no choice having sold my Canon 5DII and switching to an Olympus OMD.

I will provide a further update in the future but if you are wondering if you should try your hand at Microstock using a compact camera, I don’t think there is anything to stop you – especially now I have seen what cameras such as the Sony RX100 can achieve.

The best thing to have with you in a Desert

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Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. Shot on a Sony RX100 using a limited depth of field. Post processing in Nik Viveza.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. Shot on a Sony RX100 using a limited depth of field. Post processing in Nik Viveza.

Stop for a moment and think about the answer to the following question. What is the single best thing to have with you in a desert?

The answer is a Sony RX100.

If there is one subject matter I really love to photograph its sand and where else do you find lots of sand but in the Desert. On my recent visit to Death Valley I therefore headed straight for Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes near to Stovepipe Wells. I have seen many images of the area and whilst they all look a little clichéd, I love them.

The temperature in the dunes was only in the 90’s but having left behind freezing conditions only a couple of days earlier it was a little demanding. This was further amplified by the direct sunshine and the clear sky. This made me happy that the camera I was carrying was the Sony RX100 which is very light and fitted easily in my pocket.

I quickly found that having a small compact camera allowed me to explore different angles and compositions very easily as well as get in very close to the sand. Getting low and close also compensated to some degree for the limited wide angle of 28mm on the Sony. Looking around I could see many of the DSLR users shooting from the usual height whilst stood up. Most looked particularly uncomfortable carrying large camera bags.

The other advantage of the RX100 over my GX1 as I found out later is that the GX1 has dust on the sensor. This is a problem in dusty desert conditions but a well sealed compact camera unit doesn’t succumb to the problem.

And if you do get lost in the Dessert, the battery in the RX100 seems to last all day so you can keep yourself amused whilst waiting to be rescued.

Captured on a Sony RX100. This strange landscape is caused when pools of water in the sand dunes dry out. I like to call it desert paving and its rock solid. Post processing in Nik Silver Efex.
Captured on a Sony RX100. This strange landscape is caused when pools of water in the sand dunes dry out. I like to call it desert paving and its rock solid. Post processing in Nik Silver Efex.

Lightroom Profile for Sony RX100

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RX100 in Wales
RX100 in Wales

I have been trying to create a new camera profile for my Sony RX100 in Lightroom for a few weeks but had been unable to get the software for my Passport Color Checker to work properly. I have now traced the problem to the new version of DNG files that Lightroom 4.3 creates (Lightroom 4.2 seemed to work fine). I resolved the problem by saving my DNG files in the old DNG version 6.6 format.

Don’t worry if the above doesn’t mean much to you, if you have a Sony RX100 and use Lightroom you might want to download and try the profile I created. I found the profile improves the reds and blues (particularly) over the standard Adobe profile.

You can download my profile for free from the Members Area of my Lenscraft. You will need to have signed up as a member but that gives you free access to everything on the site and I don’t pester people with emails other than a quarterly newsletter and the odd announcement.

If you use Lightroom and have an LX5 or GX1 you will also find my profiles for these cameras in the same location.

I hope you find this useful.