Italy. Nov 13th. In my hands I have a camera that can change the news/documentary filming industry forever: the Sony RX10 (available and shipping now). Now, before you raise your eyebrow, please take a moment to read what this camera offers:
-1 inch new sensor and new engine behind it
-“All data read out” from the sensor
-Build in ND filter (first in a bridge/VDSLR camera)
-Nice range of min/max focal length
-Constant fast aperture through the range (2.8)
-Min. focus distance of 3cm (in wide open focal length)
-Good OLED EVF and LCD screen
-Ability to connect Sony’s XLR-K1M (A professional audio accessory)
-Can monitor and control audio while recording
-Ability to zoom in for accurate focus while filming
-Good “auto focus” performance
-Clean HDMI output (8 bit, 4:2:2)
-Clear menu structure
-Extremely customizable “custom keys” feature! You can assign any button you need for very easy control
With so many inventive features I was very excited to finally start shooting the little “custom made” mini doc you see above. My plan was to simulate a real news/documentary run&gun situation when mostly available light is what you have and filming time is very limited. After all, I believe that this camera is aimed for VJ’s (video journalists) and is NOT meant to replace the work/look with a large sensor camera in any way.
OK, enough with “words of wisdom”. How was the camera in the field?
Well, I am a little bit less excited now after working with it and watching the footage.
Here are my main concerns:
-The lens is very confusing. While it is really good with manual aperture it is really bad with zoom.
There is no real “manual zoom”. It is a “fly-by-wire” one.
You can only zoom with your hand on the lens when not in “manual focus mode” as the focus and zoom are using the same ring.
If you use your hand to zoom you will find yourself twisting the focus/zoom ring at least 3 times from end to end.
Now, if you are in manual focus mode, you can use the little rocker opposite the “on/off” switch for zooming. This rocker has a certain “zooming speed” when not filming. In the minute you press the “REC button” it slows down dramatically.
-OLED EVF, the one on the RX10 is less good in my opinion then the one found on the A7/A7r. Focusing is not always easy. For many of the run&gun wide angle situations filmed above I had to rely on the “auto focus” which is pretty good!.
-Another thing to consider is the ability to magnify (zoom in) before or while recording. Unfortunately it is only x4 which makes life a bit harder when searching for optimal focus.
-Low light capability of the camera is as expected from “less then APS-C” sensor size. The “Pizza scene” was all shot at ISO 1000 and the picture turns (in some shoot which I did not include) to very very soft even if in focus.
-Most important, picture quality. This camera DOES have strong aliasing and even worse, kind of micro blocking in “low light parts of the picture” or when it comes to “fine structure” like hair.
I wish Sony would have taken a “brave” decision and equipped all their current new cameras with a better codec.
Creative style: Netural (All settings on 0 as recommended by Sony)
A small amount of brightness/contrast was added to some shots.
I can confirm the following regarding Sony’s RX10 SteadyShot as stated by Sony’s technical marketing manager:
-Optical SteadyShot Active Mode: roll correction is achieved by crop-out of the picture.
-Optical SteadyShot Standard Mode: pitch and yaw correction are done only with optical stabiliser function, therefore no cropping.
-OFF: Neither optical nor electrical stabilisation is processed.
The resolution of Active Mode is a bit worse than the other 2.
Standard mode and OFF should be the same image quality.
A big thank you to Isabella and Enrico from en&is studio
Johnnie Behiri is a freelance documentary cameraman/editor/producer working mostly for the BBC and other respected broadcasters. He is also co-owner of cinema5d.com