Scotland to Hawaii with the ‘Swiss Army Camera’ – Sony RX10 MkIII by Jim Main

Scotland to Hawaii with the ‘Swiss Army Camera’ – Sony RX10 MkIII

by Jim Main – See his website HERE

Hello Steve,

Your fantastic site is all about ‘Real World’ experiences so I thought I would share this recent experience with you and your readers.

I discovered your site about 5 years ago as I was entering my ‘Leica’ phase of GAS, a phase I’m still in btw and probably always will be 🙂 What I liked about all the articles then, and why I return pretty much every day, is that you publish stuff as it is, no gloss, no hard sell. Anyway this article is not about Leica, it’s about a Sony 1” sensor ‘Bridge’ camera, the RX10 MkIII.

Back in January I was lucky enough to set off from the depths of a Scottish winter on a trip with my better half to travel around various bits of your own varied and spectacular country. We visited NY, Hawaii, San Fran and Vegas, a total of 7 flights in 15 days.

When we booked the trip the first thought that crossed my mind was not “great, can’t wait to see all these places”, it was “sh*t, security checks, TSA, camera bags, nightmare!” The thought of so many trips through the scanners broke me out in a cold sweat, out of my collection of gear what the hell was I going to take to cover all the photo ops I hoped would come my way?

For my Sport and the odd bit of commercial stuff I do I’ve got a couple of Nikons and I wanted to try and get some Surfer shots in Hawaii, but there’s no way I was lugging a D4S and a 200-400mm lens with me for that. My SL and a Fuji X100T would be small enough to take and no problem with anything from 16 to 90mm but nothing beyond. I tried, really tried to get on with a A7RII I bought and had the 24-240mm lens with it but I had just sold it. As fantastic a camera as it is, for me I could not get on with it, especially the shocking battery life. So, what was I to do?

Time for an admission, as well as a GAS addict I’m a FF snob, or at least I was. Till recently even ‘coming down’ to an APS-C in my X100 was a thought, not any more though, the RX10 has changed that, big time.

I had been aware of this type of camera for a while but never really looked at them as there was no need to with all the other kit. I started reading reviews and thought, here we have a single body covering everything from 24 to 600mm at f2.8 at one end to a max of f4 at the 600mm end, image stabilisation, 4k video and charges off my phone charger. One camera in the bag to cover everything, no brainer!

Next, shock, this thing was selling for £1599 in the UK back in October 16! Brexit trashed our exchange rate so all the manufacturers shot their prices up (there was an upside though, I sold my A7RII for £500 more that I bought it for!). I then though “right I’ll buy this from B&H when I’m in NY”, our hotel was only one block away. That was the plan till I managed to get one in the Christmas sales here for £1199.

So off we set from Edinburgh, first stop NY, the only place on the trip I’d been to before. We landed with hats coats and scarves expecting a bitter freezing NY, it was 64f and I spent the first day in a T-shirt! (it was snowing the next day).

I had my first real test of the camera then and boy did it perform. I had stuck a Hoya HD protection filter on the lens and never even bothered with the cap. The battery life was more than adequate and on the odd time when it was running low I simply plugged it in to a portable battery via USB for a quick top up.

The experience of walking around and being able to cover everything from 24 to 600 without swapping a single lens was a revelation to me and just made the holiday ‘simple’ from a photographic point of view. Caroline didn’t have to sit and wait each morning as I decided what kit to take out for the day and then see my frustration when I got somewhere and didn’t think I had the right lens! OR, that horrible thought you have when you leave expensive kit in your hotel room!
If I use Hawaii as an example, one minute I’m standing on a beach trying to get a wide angle shot of the scene and the next I’m stood next to a guy with a Canon 1D and his 600mm f4 monster on a monopod trying to get surf shots. I’m hand-held at 600mm also with f4 and then jump back on the tour bus with no drama.

I took over 1000 shots on the trip and didn’t really get the chance to examine them properly till I got home so it was with some trepidation that I opened them up in LR for the first time. I’ve included 30 of these for you here and I’m not including them all as I think they are the best ones, I’m just trying to show the versatility of this camera in all types of light and all types of conditions. I’ll also add that none of these are OOC shots, they have all been worked on from the Raw files to try and extract the best the camera can do, or at least the best I can get out of it.

In summary this really is a genuine ‘Swiss Army Knife’ camera and makes a pretty decent effort all round. Downsides? Yes a couple of compromises from my other kit, the DR is not so great and it’s easy to blow the high-lights but there’s lots of shadow detail there, as long as you don’t bump the ISO too high, I’d say 1600 max or 3200 at a push. But with IS switched on you can find that you’re able to shoot at low speeds and keep the ISO down. AF was more that adequate I found and the lens is sharp corner to corner, even at 600. There’s a couple of surf shots there and I’ve a string of shots where the AF held on every time, bear in mind this guy was over 100m away and I was hand-held on a very windy day at 600mm, I wonder how many keepers the Canon guy got!

So if you want to simplify your life on your next trip, try one of these, you won’t regret it!

Oh, one last confession, I did take my SL and Nocti with me but hardly used it. I’ve included one shot from it in the bunch, can you tell which one it is?

Keep up the GREAT work Steve and I hope you enjoyed the read and the pics. If you want to see more of my stuff please head over to www.main.scot there’s all sort on there including some more from this trip.

Kind Regards

Jim

Check out the RX10 III at B&H Photo or Amazon

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30 thoughts on “Scotland to Hawaii with the ‘Swiss Army Camera’ – Sony RX10 MkIII by Jim Main

  1. Sorry pixel peepers and nay-Sayers. This was NEVER meant to be a comparison between this camera and ANY FF camera with a true 600mm lens. It was simply supposed to show what a “one camera in your bag” could potentially offer as a simple way to travel around the world in this ever increasing world of regulations. How long before your camera starts being regarded as a ‘large electronic item capable of disguise’?
    For my part I’m pretty happy with the performance and when I balance up caveats versus convenience then convenience wins and I’m not interested in all this BS about why it’s not a ‘true f4’ or not a ‘true 600mm’. This site is all about real world and in that real world this bit of kit did everything I asked of it and that’s all I’m interested in, I’ve got my holiday memories which was why I took it in the first place.
    One last thing, thanks for your guesses and those that thought the couple at the end was the SL Nocti shot were correct. The shallow dof on the guy with the trolley was created by me in PS, much easier doing it in camera in the first place!
    Now please let’s not start another whole debate about how a 1″ sensor camera with a fake 600mm f4 lens is SO much better than a camera/lens combo 10 times the price 🙂

    Happy Easter
    Jim

    1. Enjoying taking picture with any gear and being interested by the science behind has never been incompatible. I do not get why it has to be exclusive.
      Discussing about science behind imagery never stop anybody to make great art or great memories and is interesting on its own. However is most of the time not necessary to make art. You are perfectly right to not care, but saying it is BS to people that are interested in is a bit insulting, specially to people who made effort to read.

      If you do not want people to react about focal lens aperture, light gathered, etc…. do not talk about it at the first place, you started it. Just talk, for instance, about your picture, how far you where from the subject, how was the ambient light, how convenient was to cary the camera around, how you like the results etc …
      If you talk about the the Eiffel Tower and say it is made in wood you can expect some reactions. If you do not care on what is made just talk about its shape, size, beauty, your impression …. etc …

      I have also put together some information of what implies size of camera : http://www.sylvainphoto.com/light-gathering
      Hope it can be useful to understand (not to take picture of course).

      Cheers

  2. Some of these have quite a lot of impact. I’m really impressed. I love the Statue of Liberty shot, as well as the sunset, sailboat and bridge. Solid work. Thank you very much for sharing.

    Some time ago now I got to wondering: why are so many digital cameras tied down with legacy mechanisms like mirrors and prisms? Why not let digital be pure and free? I think that cameras like the RX10 are quite sensible and often better choices than cameras with bigger sensors. If I were a press photographer I’d be using one.

    I think the first version of the RX10 had a 24-200mm equivalent, and although that lens was not as good as the current one, I think that zoom range would suit me for 100% of what I currently do. It would be nice if Sony made two models. It would be useful to have something between the RX100 and the RX10.

  3. I think the fellow next to the shopping cart is the Nocti photo!

    You offer a very compelling reason to own one of these cameras. I’m considering, though, the 12-100mm for my Pen F (24-200mm). That’s an outstanding lens on a somewhat larger sensor. So many good choices nowadays!

    Thanks for the photos. It’s good to see just how good these small sensors can be.

    1. I just took the 12-100mm to Austria and Slovenia for a few weeks and the pictures were very impressive. I absolutely love the range over the 12-40mm, but it is a beast. It might be a little big for the Pen F. I have an EM-1 Mk I, with the 12-100mm it was fine for travel, but significantly bigger than the 12-40mm. The added image stabilization is some else!

  4. Blown Highlights: What’s your way of avoiding this weakness? Also present in the original RX10 which I have and otherwise like. I’d be grateful for your comment. Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi John,
      As with every digital camera, try to expose for the high-lights. Your sensor is usually capable of dragging lots of hidden details out of the shadows once you get it on the computer. Blow the pixels out and they’re gone, all you can do then is try and do some cloning of suitable details back in.
      I usually set my EV to -2/3 (or -1 if it’s a bright scene) and leave it there during the day light hours.
      Also, always shoot Raw, you’ve far more chance of recovering high-lights and shadows from a file than you would from a jpeg.

  5. If you are going to “equate” the reach of the camera with a FF lens, the least you can do is also equate the f stop. That is the only honest thing to do.

    1. I get so tired of the equivalence wars. I do not understand the chip on the shoulder of those who start up that battle every time anything other than a 24mm x 36mm sensor is involved.

      1. Because I guess it does involve honesty.
        People with no technical knowledge can be fooled to think they can compete with a 600mm f/4, with a fraction of the price.
        This is dishonest and many company are surfing on that wave. So better to say it often and loud so less and less people will be fooled by companies tricks.

        1. Why couldn’t one get along with a 600mm zoom on this camera? I know many who do. Sure, DOF is different but DOF is not everything for everyone. This camera will give a 600mm reach and there are many GORGEOUS images online using this camera at the 600mm equivalent end of the zoom. Now, will this give you the DOF and look of an $11k canon 600mm f/4? NO! But it will give you the reach of that lens and for what this camera offers for its cost, it’s a massive bang for the buck. Video, Photo, lens, IS, etc.

          1. DOF and the quantity of light.
            The more you get light in your sensor, whatever it is, even a 100% efficient one, the more you increase your Signal to Noise Ration. i.e. the image quality. (Noise on your pictures are mostly coming from the light itself, not the sensor. It comes from the random occurence of photon arriving).

            In good light condition the Sony will be ok. If you try to get a little bird before sunrise morning, or a moving soccer player in a stadium at night, this will be more difficult. This little camera will gather drafty 7.5 less light than a real 600mm f/4 on a FF. So you will not able to get the same picture quality. Which is probably ok for a lot of people.

            Sale this lens as a 600mm f/4 is a lie, confusions added for business purpose.

      1. So when you look at a ~200mm f/4. It as an pupil size of 200/4= 50mm . And so it can capture as many light as a 600mm/4 = 150mm of pupil size ?
        Does it make sens with what you experience in life or in photo ?
        When you close the curtains half the way don’t you feel that there is globally less light in the room ?

        1. The “room” in this case is 3 times as deep on the real 600mm, so to make the same amount of light hit the back wall (sensor) the opening has to be proportionately bigger. Per sq mm of sensor they both capture the same amount of light. The Sony sensor is more corwded and smaller so more noisy and with less subtlety/tonal gradation, call it what you will. But the exposure values will be the same with either, f4.
          None of which has anything to do with the point of the article, which is if you are not after the shallowest possible depth of field, and want one camera to do it all; this is a pretty good option as Jim’s pictures prove, to me at least.

          Even in “real 35mm” terms this is a 220ish f4, if you can’t get some shallow dof with that with the right composition then you have really got some issues.

          1. Mostly right, but wrong again on light gathering at the sensor, nothing to do wit Iso settings. The longer the lens tube the less light gets to the back (sensor) because so much is absorbed by the lens wall. The reason f stopis a factorof both iris diameter and actual focal length is because longer lenses need a bigger iris to give the same amount of light at the sensor. Yes, that large iris helps dof, image quality etc, but an f4 or t4 lens of any length will provide that same amount of light at the sensor per sq mm. If you stand near a tunnel opening you’ll be able to see, if you go several hundred metres in you wont, the tunnel entrance hasn’t changed but you are further from it.

          2. This forum discussion are a bit difficult. Every kind of idea comes flat in the same level because expertise is unknown or ignored. Which makes sens nobody knows each other.

            A “tube” on a camera lens is just here to maintain the glad in place and to baffle the polluting light that would not come through the glass.
            the focal lens is a property of the glass derived from the radius of curvature of the face on and face off.

            I kind of see what mean with your tunnel analogy but in your analogy your forget that the camera, lens plus detector (your eyes), the one that produce an image, is on the other side of the tunnel. Your analogy is more if you have big long hood that vignet the field of view of your camera. You can feel that your analogy is wrong because where ever you are closing the tunnel entrance change what you can see. Which is not the case on your camera, changing the diaphragme size does not change the field of view.

            About ISO you are right but I dought you red the contrary somewhere in my post.

            At the end I would add who care about the intensity per sq mm, the important is the field of view and the quantity of light in your picture.

    1. Standing on the beach getting shots of the surfers next to the guy with the big Canon I was seeing, and therefore so was the sensor, the same sizes in my viewfinder as he was with his ‘real’ 600mm on his FF sensor. I was gathering an ‘f4’s worth’ of light for my sensor as he was with his. Crop sizes and imagining circles aside THAT is the point I’m making, adequate performance in an easy to carry/use package.

      1. The Canon sensor is 9 times larger, so f/4 worth of light goes a long way. It’s like having 9 1″ sensors next to each other each gathering f/4 worth of light.

      2. Jim, you had almost 3 stop less light (7.5 time less) than the guy next to you. This is why he had a bigger system than you.

      1. Hope I am not wrong, but only the last image of the couple has that “Leica Look”… difference between 99 and 100 is just 1 and that is what is Leica for… IMHO.
        🙂

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