SONY RX1 / SHOOTING REPORT
I traveled to Morocco and I had the Alpha-99 and the RX1 with me. I brought three zoom lenses (ultra-wide, standard, and ultra-telephoto) for the Alpha-99. I used the RX1 to take snapshots of Medina (famous for old narrow alleys) and people without intimidating them. Just like the Alpha-99, the RX1 captured the contrast between the seasonal and the minimal lighting of that place. Actually, the RX1 did better job in capturing a feeling of live and I think it’s because of the small size. Besides, the picture quality is magnificent thanks to the lens optimized for the sensor. I can say that the Alpha-99 is best for landscapes and the RX1 is best for street scenes. But at the same time, I must call the RX1 "a deluxe super-sub camera" because it may outperform the Alpha-99 with a 35mm single focal lens. See below to eyeball the potential of this camera.
( Photography & Text : K )
A camera that blends in the scene
The Medina is filled with traditional buildings made of soil and it’s virtually a maze once entered. Some places are too narrow for two people to pass by one another, while other places like the most famous "souk" (market) in Marrakesh is overly crowded. Actually in Marrakesh I had a hard time in framing with a viewfinder. But, this was expected and I was so thankful that I had the RX1 with me. As I noted earlier, the RX1 captured the "live" scenes better in this situation. Where does this difference come from? I can think of two factors: 1) with the RX1 I just extend my arms to shoot, while with the Alpha-99 I look into the viewfinder and shoot, 2) the RX1 has a prime lens, while the Alpha-99 had zoom lenses in my situation. Generally, prime lenses are hard to use compared to zoom lenses because it is harder to fine-compose leaving some margin that could be filled by zoom lenses. However, sometimes it is the margin that makes photography interesting because it makes me feel some aftertaste. One more thing. Just like any other compact digital cameras, you won’t have to isolate yourself from the world because you can frame with the LCD rather than looking into the viewfinder. I knew this camera takes great pictures, so I could shoot aggressively under complicated lighting by turning the exposure compensation dial and approximated to the best composition by stepping closer. The feeling of using the best equipment made me want to shoot more. Shooting with the RX1 was truly a fun experience.
The lens shutter sound is so quiet and inaudible in the crowd. The bright light diffused by the tent was so beautiful. A fake photographer like me needs to shoot more by trying many distances and angles to get the best shot, so the quiet shutter is quite helpful in a scene like this. Uncle, thanks for not looking back until I finish taking 5 shots! To be honest, it’s hard for me to review a gear with a fixed focal lens, so I must thank the combination of full frame sensor and the F2 speed.
Sweet lighting. I shot hoping he wouldn’t look back because these people are so friendly to welcome tourists. In a scene like this, don’t you want to shoot without being noticed and show the result to the subject? I did and he was delighted. I digress, but what is in mind when targeting people? I target more than I am targeted, so when I am targeted I feel a little nervous. And the degree of nervousness is affected by the size of a camera, I think.
The RX1 is convenient to chase children in a narrow alley. They are so quick, so it’s easy to shoot by extending my hands rather than looking at the viewfinder. Each child react differently… one begs to be photographed, the other one asks for something. Anyway, they are very friendly.
The child in this vertical shot first tried to go inside, but came out again. I gave him a KitKat and he ate it smiling. I think it was too sweet for a Moroccan child even though their sugar intake is known to be very high.
A great camera for casual and serious shooting
At 1/125. I was able to step down, but chose to shoot wide open. And the result is fantastic. The light from the skylight was intense, but the result was so clear and to me, a little uninteresting. I touched the top lens with my finger expecting some flare and I got what I wanted. At F2, both the top area and bottom area are out of focus, but the in-focus area is very sharp, isn’t it? With a slide film I would have had to give up the shadow in this scene, but I was able to get the rich tonality from highlight to deep shadow.
I reported this in the first review, but very sharp in the entire area of the frame. Again, in this camera, aperture is meant to control the depth of field only.
By all means, this camera is categorized as a compact digital camera. And just like the other compact cameras, this camera can focus as close as 30cm or 20cm at macro setting, so it’s easy to take shots of food on the table. This shot was taken at an alpine restaurant. The light straightly illuminated the vegetables and it was just beautiful. This macro shot is nothing like the extemporaneous one as I mentioned in the first review.
Another shot at the same restaurant visited by a crowd of tourists. The dull glittering on the well-used knife and folk was captured perfectly.
The core doesn’t disappear even in bokeh or blurring.
When shooting snaps in a new place, often we become slaves to the new scenes: we get attracted by the them and keep shooting unconsciously without being independent from the new environment and choosing what we really need to photograph. I can never predict everyone’s motion, so all of a sudden some people can appear in the frame. But this unexpectedness is what makes photography interesting, don’t you think? One thing I didn’t notice in the first review. Cameras in these days do show an increased clarity in the lines that compose images. In other words, ambiguity has been reduced and this influences bokeh or blurring quite a bit. If you have shot films before, I know you have had some shots coming out nicely even though they are out of focus or blurred. Professional photographers used to say, “this camera doesn’t focus anywhere” when they were using older digital cameras. But this camera does focus, and that’s why even bokeh or blurring has their core. This was an interesting finding.
Just like some electric guitar players who don’t like sustain, some photographers like to take diagonal shots. I usually prefer taking shots by leveling horizon, but this one does look interesting. I seldom do this, but I kept shooting with the focus fixed.
To me, this is the color of Middle East. A woman is looking at accessories. This shot was taken while I was having a fun just by looking how the focus changes on the LCD while rotating the focus dial. I wouldn’t do this with a SLR because I start to feel sick without fail.
At a mountain pass in the Atlas Mountains. This scene is just like the one on the TV program featuring a World Heritage. The bus run very fast, so the photo came blurry even at 1/400. Still, the girl approaches to the bus to sell things in the middle of nowhere.
"A high-end compact camera"
I still have many other shots, but I will save them for the third review. In Morocco, I felt this camera belongs a high-end compact camera. Those who have used the Contax T3 for example, should know what I am talking about. Didn’t you feel amazed when the slide came out and found the clear and crisp images? Pictures taken by that camera was a little overexposed and you couldn’t check the results instantly on the LCD, and therefore you got excited when you checked the slide. What about the Minolta’s TC-1. Although the lines get thicker once stepped down, I used to be stunned with the solid image in the center and dramatic vignetting. These high-end compact cameras had interesting or superb lenses and their bodies were made with a style and sophistication. Maybe the RX1 is the first such high-end compact digital camera with a full-frame sensor. Of course, you don’t have to pay for films and developing, so the pricing (about twice as much as the high-end compact film cameras) may not be that high. Anyway, those who read the above with some smile should be attracted by this camera. This camera brings you the best results in a variety of situations. The longer you use it, the more you will like it. If possible, get this camera when you are looking for just one camera for your trip :) and you won’t regret it.