The Decisive Moment & The Sony RX100 V
By Steve Huff
When I was shooting and testing the new Sony RX100 V for a few hours last week I usually kept it in single shot mode, how I have shot forever. Single shot mode goes against everything that this new superspeed jet fuel camera is all about. This new refresh of the RX100V is all about speed, continuous shooting and that crazy 24FPS shooting mode. I mean, the RX100V is much more than that, but this is what the hype was and is about. For those who want to never miss a moment.
Sony said this new 24FPS mode is a way to capture the “Decisive Moment”. Well, this can be good, or this can be bad, depending on who you are, your philosophy on photography, the way you capture images and so forth. Now some out there, for example, someone who shoots with a Leica M, well they will never shoot at 24FPS. Others who shoot action, sports or want to spray and pray for the best shot, this camera may be a miracle worker.
For street shooting I could never imagine shooting at 24FPS. I would have 5000 images to go over after a Sunday downtown stroll! If I were out shooting for a family trip or vacation, nope..24FPS would not be needed. I tried to think of when I would ever use or need this fast of a frame rate.
I decided to look back at some JPEGS I shot during that day last week where I was able to use this new little lightning bolt. Yep, that’s my new nickname for the RX100V – THE LIGHTNING BOLT pocket camera. It’s so damn fast, it’s like a lightning bolt. From the AF lock to the actual crazy frame rates available, this is one responsive serious pocket camera.
As I look over some images I did find a moment where I held down that shutter at 24FPS, here are just a few, a small sample of what was captured during that run of shots..
So did I catch a decisive moment here? Well, sort of. See, if I was not shooting at 24FPS here, I would have never gotten the ONE shot of this woman that I was pleased with. If I tried my skill at my one shot only, even for action, I would have failed to capture what I wanted. What I wanted was to get a shot of her face through the sheer material of her costume as she flew it up over her face.
No way I would have caught this any other way than using the 24FPS mode, and while I have a ton of images that are throw away, it’s easy enough to do just that, throw them away. Luckily I had a 128GB card in the camera 😉
The one shot I was going after, and I was able to capture it thanks to the 24FPS mode on the RX100V. So yes, this mode can indeed help you catch the decisive moment. This is a JPEG. Did not shoot RAW in my initial tests.
The image above was one of the frames captured, and exactly the frame I wanted to capture. Again, using my one shot method would have failed me miserably, unless I was VERY lucky. This mode on the RX100V helped me capture it exactly as I had hoped, so the Sony message is correct. IT CAN help you catch that moment. At 24FPS we are basically shooting video, frame by frame so I would think any moment can be captured if you are willing to sit there and hold down the shutter, and spend the time later to look for the one moment.
This is where we are today, with unbelievably fast cameras that fit in ones pocket and give you the ability to do things such as this.
While I would NEVER use this setting for street shooting (just not my style), some may enjoy it, others may hate it, but one thing is for sure…it will allow some out there to capture those moments they would have otherwise missed. So while on one hand it is dumbing us down as photographers (No skill needed, spray and get the shot) it is also helping some of us with certain types of shots, when that moment you are after is much more easily obtained.
My thoughts on it all is that its a good thing, and gives us yet another choice. For those that want this feature, we now have it. For those who have no need for this feature, this camera still rocks with everything else it offers. Even so, my street shooter of choice is still my Leica M. I do not take it out as often as I used to but when I do I enjoy the hell out of it, and it gives me the pleasure of shooting no pocket camera ever will or could. With that said, keep an eye on the Sony RX100V and the A6500 if you feel the need for speed!
You can PRE ORDER the RX100V Below:
i don’t mind spray-and-pray at all, if it lets me get the shot that I’m responsible for getting. If I want to test my hand-eye coordination, mental quickness, depth of heart, whatever, I’ll shoot in S mode. But there are times I just don’t feel like taking myself so seriously; when getting the right result is very iffy in S mode; when I’m shooting a stage event that comes around once a year with a fresh cast and theme each time. That’s when spray-and-pray is right, just, moral, honorable, and the correct thing to do. And when I’m aligned with the right attitude, detached and centered, wanting to do the right thing, it’s funny how the right thing happens.
It’s all about semantics. The word “decisive” cannot be applied to a machine, machines do not decide (yet) because decisions are based on consciousness. Similarly a “moment” is a vague concept with psychological connotations again and with no relevance to technology. HCB said in French “un moment decisif” to clarify the fact that there is a continuous flow of indecision in the brain and fingers of a photographer who is watching a thing-event unfold and then suddenly, and Zen-like, there is “action”. I quite agree with pbass will.
Is the image quality actually better than the competition?
The mk3 is good enough for my purposes but I do enjoy a speedy responsive camera so I’m a bit tempted. I usually prefer to try to capture the decisive moment even for fast action myself in single shot mode. If my paycheck depended on it, I might think differently. IIf you are going to use a high frame rate, I think a really high rate is the way to go and this new Sony provides it!
Steve, other than the mega FPS, did you find it much improved over the RX100 mark 4?
AF was quite a bit faster and snappier, camera felt more responsive as a whole. IQ, no change IMO. So it’s basically a more responsive faster to AF MKIV with some new video features and that fast FPS.
Nice article Steve. I loved your run of pictures, and instinctively picked out the same one as you.
Sony’s claim that the new 24FPS mode is a way to capture the ‘Decisive Moment’ is totally correct. It is “a way” and I agree with you and the other posters, it is not the only way! As a wedding photographer http://www.timwhitingphotography.co.uk I use Single Shot Mode most of the time. But Continuous Shooting really comes into its own for walking down the aisle and confetti pictures. I for one would much rather capture the highlights of these (even if it does mean compositional decisions are sometimes made out of camera), than fail my customers by missing some nuggets. Throwing away the dross harms no one. It is not always easy to gain the same success in Single Shot Mode, particularly when taking into account everything else that is going on (Bride & Groom reactions, guests on the fringes, me walking backwards etc.).
Whilst this may not appeal to the photography purist (which I do appreciate), we do live in a technological world which strives to enable. Photography is not exempt from this, nor should it be. Armed with this thought I am continuously in awe of our predecessors achievements. I suspect, although not necessarily being their thing, they would have been/are in awe of what can be achieved today.
Now, is this RX100 V any good at anything else?
Tim, which camera and lens did you use for the two bridesmaids (..the younger one looking up at the older one with glasses..) on your website’s Gallery 1 ..?
Tire’s no EXIF info, but it’s an absolutely gorgeous photo!
The bridesmaids picture was shot using a Nikon D700, with a 24-70mm f2.8 at f.28, focal length 66mm. It’s a good workhorse lens at weddings. For weddings I now shoot with a Nikon D810. As much as I love the D700, the D810 gives superior results.
You nailed it, Steve. Really great picture of the dancer by the way. The camera is a tool and it should not limit your ability to shoot the picture you imagine. So yes, the Sonys may be more an computer experience than a Leica M, but it offers the power of speed when you need it.
On the other hand, if you go for ultimative picture quality, bring your SL or M with you. So sometimes it is a good idea to have more than one camera to shoot with, more so if one of the cams is as small as the RX100.
I´m curious to see more pictures of the little Sony.
Glorious enlarged photo of lady dancer, rays of light over her from costume blur.
C’mon Fuji put a 1inch sensor in your X40, with its manual zoom (X10,X20, X30) still best handling compact :
EVF 2.4million dot X30;
Phase Detect Contrast Detect hybrid AF X30.
Now for just 1inch sensor in X40.
I agree, since the only “decision” in this decisive moment was when to activate the burst mode.
Because of digital technology, there will eventually be no functional distinction between video and photography. This was understood not ten years ago, but almost twenty years ago, as far as I can tell.
RED cameras are almost exactly that. They are a little too big for photography, but they can shoot way more than 24fps RAW… in almost complete silence (they have cooling fans). The new sensors have 35Mpx (that’s 8K) and the top end model can shoot full resolution at 60fps.
The brand new models are quite expensive compared to some of our favourite Leicas or Sonys, and I’m not sure that today I would buy one just to take photos. But you can see that the idea of merging photographic and video cameras has been a reality for several years.
RED’s term is DSMC – digital stills and motion camera.
Often I forget that most of today’s photographers have not heard of the decisive moment of F8 and be there or Sunny 16. Today’s photographers have not set in a darkroom waiting to see their photo. They would laugh at my field camera and one photo at a time. Occasionally, I tend to think they have it so easy and do not know what “real” photography is about. Then I look at the photos online today. I turn my head and see the prints on my wall. Then I look back to the screen again. Today’s photographers still use the tools available to capture and share the things that matter to them. Each photo is still a look into one facet of the photographers heart. They use the tools available today and far better than I do. They take photos that I will never see in the Getty Museum. As the tools have changed, the photographers change. I may not want the 24fps or some of the new things. But I am sure excited to see what today’s photographers will do with them. Perhaps when today’s youth are my age they will look back at this as the golden age of photography. The change in photography tools in interesting. The change in photographers is exciting.
and when I was a kid we had it so tough that we didn’t even have TV Remote and had to walk 15 feet through Shag Carpet to change the channel. 15 feet Each Way!
I would love to do bracketing shots at 24fps so i coyld have a decent exposure of the sky and a decent exposure of the mountain….. you know the typical landscape shot which would require a gradient filter.
How is the dynamic range anyway?
Very good example of what this camera can do. Still not sure I will upgrade my RX100 M3 though. Just not sure it’s worth the money for me.
I’m mainly a MFT shooter, and this post by Steve makes me wonder what the Em1 II will be able to do along similar lines, since it can capture images at even higher rates I believe. 60fps JPEG if I recall right?
Great photograph… Perhaps many think C.B. got theirs straight on but he probably spent many rolls as fast as he was able to.
I will wait for 1000fps.
I personally think 24 frames don’t even come close to the dramatic facial expression change that can happen during this eternally long one second.
I’ll try to read the mind of my photographic subjects and stay with a single shot approach, with continous AF-C on.
“while I have a ton of images that are throw away, it’s easy enough to do just that, throw them away”
Turned into a lifestyle, it is not easy… it is a real drag. That is the culture we live in… take in gobs and gobs of low quality data, searching for the prize. Whether it is mega-FPS photo stream or Google News or Facebook, doesn’t matter. All are oppressive.
I just got an M3 partly for this reason. Film will make me conservative with shots. I’ll save mega-FPS for what someone else wants me to do, more than for my own pursuits.
What’s the zoom on the RX100V? Would this be a great street camera if shooting in single shot mode? Is it superior to m4/3 camera’s? I own the E-M1 but I’m probably selling it and leaving the m4/3 system.
Interesting transposition of the term Decisive Moment!
No compositional decision was made in the moment, it was made later, not in ‘real time’, but leisurely perusing the burst.
I’m absolutely in favour of any method that gets you the result you want.
And your chosen shot is an excellent result!
But Bresson’s term described zen-like assertion within a mental state of readiness & receptivity. Decisive Moment is a cherished phrase in photo folklore, and a state that many folks aspire to.
You’re using it differently; as if it meant: “Any method that gets you the desired result from within a whirl of action.”
Can I humbly suggest that the burst method – highly effective with modern cameras like this Sony – needs its own name? Cuz if “Decisive Moment” extends to this completely different process, it will no longer have its original meaning (which captured the imagination of generations of photogs). Which would be a shame.
I always wonder how this myth of HCB taking one photo in the moment got started. Anyone who looks back at his contact sheets sees that he pounded away at that shutter. I’m pretty sure if he was alive today this is exactly the camera he’d be buying.
Steve’s use of decisive moment is pretty much exactly what HCB meant.
One google link grabbed at random:
But seriously all you have to do is look at his contact sheets and you’ll find the romantic version of decisive moment dissolves quickly.
Yeah, it’s curious. Pbass Wil didn’t mention anything about “taking one photo in the moment,” though, so I’m not sure why you brought it up?
In my reading and research, as Pbass Wil mentions above, HCB is speaking to the moment when composition and action within the image lead to gestalt of sorts. HCB focused a lot on composition in his book “The Decisive Moment” and the idea that composition can give extra meaning to an image. In this sense, there is no real ‘myth’ as to the Decisive Moment, only people deploying the term inaccurately and misrepresenting the real meaning. At the same time, with its resonance going so deep into the photography market today, it is never really surprising when companies or individuals invoke it more for personal reasons (like selling a camera, here, in Sony’s use) rather than in the spirit of its actual meaning.
Given that HCH favored the original Leicas for their ultra compact size (even calling them “miniature” cameras), I wouldn’t be surprised if he were to use something similar to the Sony RX100 series if he were alive and shooting today—though his proclivity for clandestineness might also lead him to a mobile phone or something even more compact. Who knows?
As fun as it is to try and dissect HCB’s words, life, and meanings, I agree with many people on this post that whatever gets one the shot should be celebrated. The new Sony sure seems like it’ll work well for spray-and-pray approaches, and likely more methodical processes, too! What an exciting time to be a photographer.
Thanks. That’s exactly what I suggested