A Year with a Sony RX10 Mk3

Hello again after a long break from blogging. I’ve a few articles planned for the next few months as there are a few new Zuiko lenses waiting for a test. This though, is about a Sony RX10 Mk3, which is a much more interesting camera than you might think. No really.

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To the left the RX100 Mk3, to the right an A7R with a Zuiko 50mm f3.5 (for no particular reason).

Many years ago I had a Sony R1 which was an unusually designed camera but produced excellent (for the time) images. My nephew still uses it. Fast forward to 2017 and I bought it’s descendant, the RX10, as a general purpose stills and video stock camera. The headline attraction is that 24-600(!)mm f2.8 to f4 lens and a one inch 20Mp sensor which I like so much in my RX100. So after a year, here are my impressions for stills photography – the excellent video abilities would take another article.

All shots processed in DXO Photolab which does a very good job, especially with Prime noise reduction (see later).

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At the 24mm setting.

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And a more obtrusive 600mm setting.

Knowing where to start with such a fully featured camera is difficult. Let’s start with the lens. Actually that wasn’t a difficult decision at all. There is a de-clickable aperture ring, manual focus by wire is available (though not recommended) and a focus lock button to the rear left hand side of the lens. It takes 72mm filters. There are various focus options selected on a front-of-body switch, but I’ve really only used single AF using a central area point.

It uses standard Sony NP-FW50 batteries and two are more than enough for a whole day’s demanding shooting.

I’ve only shot RAW with this camera so I’ve no comments on the JPEG performance.

Strangely there is a cable release thread on the shutter button which is a nice touch. The camera weighs in at about 1kg (2.2 lb) which feels about the same as my old Canon 60D with a good standard zoom on it. The LCD panes flips up and down a bit, but doesn’t flip out which would have been very useful.

So, let’s get on with it, what does a 24-600mm lens range look like?

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24mm….. Kingston Lacy House on an overcast day.

 

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600mm. This is just the top bit of the building!

Quite (!) a wide to tele lens then, and it’s a good performer throughout the full range – unbelievably so. There’s a lot of processing going on under the hood of course, and I wouldn’t like to see uncorrected RAWs, but the end result is very good. It seems best at f4 throughout the zoom range, but I suspect Sony didn’t build this camera for people who worry about such things.

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The Channel Island ferry with Bournemouth on the horizon at 600mm. Haze and heat distortion start to be more visible at longer focal lengths – something which should be borne in mind when taking the shot.

Minimum focus at 24mm to 50mm is quite good (3cm) but this extends out to about four feet by 200 mm then strangely back to three feet from 300mm to 600mm. A 600mm lens focussing to three feet opens up some interesting possibilities, though auto-focus can be a bit hit and miss so it’s best to take a few shots each time.

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A wary Damsel Fly.

 

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And another. I became a bit obsessed taking insect pictures over the summer with this camera.

The image stabilisation works pretty well – it needs to at the longer focal lengths. Longer focal lengths need faster shutter speeds and therefore higher ISO’s, which is where DXO Prime noise reduction comes in. With noise starting to appear at around ISO 1000, you’d better be prepared to use something good to get rid of it for best results.

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It has a 24mm setting too!

Colors are fine to my eye though I’m used to Sony colours. Blue sky can appear a little cyan sometimes, but it’s easily corrected in post.

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Autumn produce in a dimly lit shed. Not too bad!

Although only having a small sensor, you can get some nice bokeh at longer focal lengths and close focus distances.

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This is as good as my Helios 85mm f2 on an A7R for out of focus blur – and that’s pretty good.

So technically all very good, apart from high ISO performance which can be corrected – within reason.

With such a wide zoom range at your fingertips, walking around a large event presents a sometimes overwhelming set of possibilities. I found concentrating on just wide angle for 1/3 of the time, just tele for another 1/3 and normal mid focal lengths worked for me. The following are a few from the 2017 Great Dorset Steam Fair which is always a good photo day out.

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All in all quite an impressive performance and an excellent ‘reportage’ type camera. You could get technically better shots with a DSLR and a range of lenses, but to cover this focal length range you might need an assistant to carry them all or be a weightlifter.

In conclusion then, I’ll sum up by firstly listing the ‘not so good’.

  • In terms of image quality it’s not up to a micro 4/3 or APSC sensor camera (but not far off at low ISOs), and it won’t focus as fast (or at all) in low light.
  • It’s a bit clunky to operate until you get used to it.
  • It’s not a camera for ‘pixel peepers’.
  • You’d best have some good noise reduction software available for post-processing as well.
  • It’s not particularly charming either – I think Sony just let their engineers loose to design it without hindrance from the aesthetics department.  It’s possibly the best example I’ve come across of a camera designed to be ‘just a tool’. An Olympus Pen F or Sony A7R it isn’t.

However, if you can see past, and work within these limitations, what it does, it does very well – provide an excellent, versatile zoom lens with good image stabilisation and macro capabilities which offer an almost boundless set of photographic possibilities. And a lot of fun!

A 600mm f4 equivalent lens in a package this small would be remarkable enough, but a 24-600mm which performs well across it’s whole range is amazing.

I haven’t touched on it’s video capabilities, but the 4k is very nice. With the timelapse app I can speed time up, and with the high frame rate video (250 fps 1080p) I can slow it down, using focal lengths from 24mm to 600mm. If you’d told me twenty years ago that such a camera would exist I wouldn’t have believed you. I’m not sure I do now.

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I bought this thinking I probably wouldn’t like it but couldn’t resist the technical specs. I can’t say I love using it like the A7R with old lenses, but I do have a huge respect for it’s abilities and can’t think of any camera I’ve used which is as versatile, while producing  results which are good enough (after PP) to submit to some picky stock photography sites.

‘Everything in life is a compromise’ is a phrase I’ve heard often – does it apply to the RX10 Mk3? Well not as much as you’d think.

Hope you find this useful – thanks for looking.

Rob

US Servicemen in Dorset UK – 1944 Pre D-Day?

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A favourite location – I must have stopped here hundreds of times – is Knowlton Church. It’s a Neolithic henge monument (4000 to 5000 years old) with a ruined Norman church in the centre (900 years old). Within the church ruin generations of  ‘recent’ visitors have scraped their initials and the year they were there, and one set in particular caught my imagination, scratched into the chancel arch.

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This second one has the writing enhanced in Photoshop with the brush tool as it’s not that clear in the original (this wasn’t that easy on the right hand side of the photo). The ‘L’ near ‘MHW’ is a bit faint and may not be connected.

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The year (1944) and the ‘USA’ must show these were made by US troops stationed in Dorset before the D-Day invasion. I guess  ‘PA’ indicates Pennsylvania, ‘TENN’ is Tenessee, ‘IL’ is Illinois and ‘DE’ Delaware?

A bit of research indicates that the main US troops in Dorset were the 1st US Infantry Division, the nearest unit being the 1st Division Signals Company at Blandford, but these soldiers might have travelled for miles.

It would be pretty amazing to find out the names of  ‘JHB’ from Pennsylvania, ‘HCG’ from Tennessee, ‘EET’ from Delaware (if the arrow joins the two sets of letters) and a ‘MHW(L)’ from Illinois, stationed thousands of miles from home 60 years ago. Why were they here for an hour or two in the middle of nowhere? If they were combat troops based in Dorset they probably landed at Omaha beach. If they were 20 years old in 1944, and survived the war they may still be alive.

So anyone out there with any ideas/family history which might add some information?

Sorry – nothing to do with photography this time, just something of a mystery. Might get some storywriter’s imaginations fired up too!

In Camera Processing – Misusing the ‘Miniature’ Effect

Many digital cameras offer a ‘miniature’ effect to make city scapes and landscapes look like model villages. It’s all a bit naff, but there’s a real use for this effect – a sort of ‘ Lensbaby on the cheap’ if you like.

You may be able to control the orientation and focus zone -the Canon 60D allows this and the orientation has been switched to vertical for this shot to focus attention in the window’s axis.

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 Same here – plus a layer and some post-processing to add some drama.00177109

Vertical again – there’s a pattern emerging here – looks quite ‘Lensbabyish’.00180138

Finally one I was really pleased with – but horizontal orientation this time. The light was almost horizontal and illuminating the plastic kid’s playhouse against a dark background.

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As always these shots are taken for the book cover market, and all comments, critiques and questions are welcome.

Thanks for looking – hope you like them and they give you some creative ideas for your photography

An Hour with a Venetian Mask

Some subjects are just mesmerizing – and Venetian Masks are one of them.

I found one which we bought on honeymoon (several years ago), and ‘put it to one side’ for a wet Sunday afternoon.

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The agency I shoot for always like stuff on the ‘dark side’ of things (they do a lot of crime novel covers), so I tried a few different angles, being especially attracted to light coming in from behind the mask through the eyes. Maybe it was near Halloween….

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