Behind the scenes at DearSusan, the contributors occasionally indulge in some robust discussion, mostly not for publication, but sometimes delivering excellent content – just the kind the Monday Post was created for.
This conversation was started last week by my reading of Kirk Tuck’s comments on Sony’s brand newly released RX10 IV: “Sony’s new RX10 camera just got announced. It’s called the Sony RX10 IV and it looks like everything I wanted.”
I’ve always felt the RX10 warranted more credibility than it gets. Kirk Tuck has used his earlier Mk II and III extensively and found them excellent photographic tools. I’ve been toying with the idea of buying one, just to see whether it lives up to the hype.
Here’s what the rest of the Susans thought:
Adrian (Turner): The RX10 is indeed an intriguing camera. I have come close to purchasing earlier versions, but could never quite commit due to the sensor size. Everyone says they are excellent. I have been intrigued by one to use to photograph physique sports competitions. This latest version with its high frame rate and potentially fast AF could be the one that finally convinces me! I might try to hire one next time I need to photograph a competition… It’s a difficult choice as the APS-C A6500 shoots at 11fps with little viewfinder blackout and a buffer of over 100 RAWs too… Choice is a terrible thing. Sony’s enablement (of us to do things we couldn’t do before) marches on…
Steve (Mallett): Doubtless it’s a game changer….
Pascal (Jappy): No experience of the RX10 sorry. Isn’t it a bit … big ?
I think Steve is right though. Small sensor, big camera. Total game changer.
Bob (Hamilton): It’s still a very small sensor (physical dimensions that is) with image quality on a par with its RX100 compact camera stablemates. Reasonable, but very limited, quality and a serious lack of dynamic range.
I wouldn’t waste your money.
Steve: Remind me, what’s the game? It’s changed so many times I think I may be in a game where I’m the lone player 😉
Adam (Bonn): But I thought that little cameras with big sensors was the game charger, or is this the camera that changes the game back to the original game, so it’s old school but with new rules, or is it new school but with old rules?
Bob: The game is profit for the camera companies’ shareholders……..or is it survival…….by dint of being last man standing?
Adrian: Contrary to the statement about dynamic range, the attached measurements from DP Review show the 1” sensor compares very favourably to cameras such as the FF Canon EOS 5Dmk3 and APS-C Canon EOS D70/750/760 – actually the DR and colour depth is very good for such a modest sized sensor. Only the high ISO ability holds it back.
There really isn’t any other camera I can think of that can shoot at 24fps, with potentially good AF, has a 600mm f4 lens of good quality, and shoots 4k video by down-sampling rather than pixel binning, meaning high ISO video footage is cleaner than some full frame SLRs.
My view is “what can I use this for?” rather than “who would want that?”.
I’ve been looking at the RX10 series for events work for some time, and this one really looks interesting as it allows continuous shooting (without viewfinder blackout) and a long fast (ish) lens is a relatively small, relatively inexpensive package. The only camera that I can think of that can shoot as fast as the potential of the RX10 IV is the Sony A9, which costs 3 times as much for the body only – let alone with an f4 lens that zooms to 600mm.
Several of Sony’s previous cameras like the RX100, A7s or A7R2, I see it as an enabler – it will allow people to photograph things in ways that may not have been possible before.
If I can find a way, I may hire one next time I plan to shoot a competition, and see how it performs, because it looks seriously tempting.
Pascal: This, in a single sentence, probably sums up important differences between two types of photographers.
Those like me, who want to do a single thing and just want the camera to get out of their way.
Those like many others, who want the largest possible shooting envelope to try all sorts of new stuff.
Adrian: It’s only recently that I started to consider some of what I photograph as “sports”, as I always thought of it as stage or event type photography. However, the particular challenge of “fitness” gymnastics categories presents as much technical challenge as many other sporting events where there is “action” (and I assume that also translates to other fields such as wildlife, birding, etc).
The A6000 was a revelation as it had excellent image quality, and was one of the first APS-C mirrorless cameras that could AF quickly and track etc. It’s abilities surpassed any SLR I had ever owned, including some very expensive full frame models, and yet this small camera derided by many as a consumer electronics gadget could do so much yet cost only £600 at the time or purchase. I’m not saying it did things that no other cameras could, but it was much cheaper, smaller, lighter, and even had a few party tricks that it’s DSLR peers couldn’t do (eye AF, face detection, object racking). It wasn’t perfect, but it did so much so well, it was a “game changer” for me, because it made some things easier and did things that previously were impossible for me to do.
I see the RX10 series as an evolution of that trend, and what Sony have been doing with most of their range (format sizes). There is no other camera I know in any equivalent or larger format that combines the frame rate, no blackout, and other features – and anything that may come close could be a seriously expensive proposition just for the body, let alone a very long fast aperture lens.
To some extent the RX10 series are a “jack of all trades” camera that combine decent image quality with an excellent lens and generally pleasant handling in an SLR like experience. The view often expressed by those who have used them is that for many, including some professionals, the performance and image quality is more than enough to make it the only camera you may need for all sorts of photography. It’s only limitation is it’s modest sensor size, which limits its performance at higher ISO, yet it still manages to equal the output of the M43 system, a sensor twice the surface area, and some Canon APS-C and FF models from only a year or two ago.
I guess if people don’t understand it, they probably don’t need or want it. There are some things it clearly cannot do well. However, for the price, size, and potential performance, there is little in the price range with the same combination of attributes.
Initially when I saw that the Sony announcement was for another RX series camera I had slight disappointment, as rumours were of new E mount products. Then I looked at the specification, I thought about what I already knew about the “mark 3” version with the same lens, and then I thought “what can I use this for?”. Ultra slow motion video of athletes in flight. A 600mm 4K video camera with good high ISO image quality. A 24fps action camera with a 600mm f4 lens. It opens up possibilities, so rather than say “why would I want that?”, my question is “how can I use that?”. I don’t see Nikon, Canon , Pentax, Olympus or Fuji really doing much of that (Panasonic do some, as did Samsung).
I don’t understand the general negativity every time Sony try to push another boundary – enabling people to do things, and pushing the boundaries of what is possible, can only be a good thing. Sony say they want to push the boundaries to expand the camera market (rather than just expand their share in a declining market), and the obvious subtext is that they believe that doing so will benefit them financially as other brands stagnate and wither away. Jason Lanier points out that for professional photographers to survive, they must do things that people cannot do with an iPhone: this camera is another example of that ethos.
Sorry to sound so serious in what I understand is a jovial conversation. I think Sony push the boundaries.
Philippe (Berend): Though I have no personal interest in the RX-10 III, I agree with everything you state so clearly.
I can see clearly who the RX-10 is for. People who want a fixed-lens camera which can do it all, with as good IQ as possible. Not hard to understand IMHO.
I happened to watch the livestream from Sony, and IMHO one figure says it all. The overall market for ILCs is down 3%. Excluding Sony, it is down 8%, while Sony are up 47%. It is that simple. The market is speaking, the people are speaking. It happens to annoy the cognoscenti and the enlightened, and so what?
BTW, I think you are not quite fair with Olympus, who try to innovate, with, for example, class-leading IBIS, and now pixel-shift.
Adrian: Firstly regarding Olympus, you are right, I paused momentarily over my list, and they went in the naughty list, but they have pushed hard with some technical innovations, and deserve respect for that.
I saw some detailed figures for camera sales from around 2010-2015, and it was sobering reading. As you say, all ILC camera sales are down, including mirrorless. SLR sales are declining at a faster rate than mirrorless… but they are all down. I didn’t see brand specific figures, but if you have seen other data that shows Sony sales growth (which is generally what I am led to understand), doing so in a generally declining market shows that some things they do are “sticking” and generating sales. There was the well reported data from early this year that suggested that in north America their FF sales had exceeded Nikon, although the sample period was short and therefore it’s hard to claim a trend or significant success.
Interestingly, in that time, lens sales are up. Why do you think the challenger brands have been filling out their systems so quickly? Lens sales!
Your comment “It happens to annoy the cognoscenti and the enlightened, and so what?” really struck a chord and made me laugh, if only because it often feels so true. The internet is full of damnation and misunderstanding about some (many?) of their products – I can guarantee right now there is a blog or comment about how the RX100 mk4 is completely unusable as a 4k video camera because of it’s bit-rate or something. As you say, given the sales data, it appears that it doesn’t bother some consumers, just perhaps some of the internet commentators or the users of the established brands. A member in a Sony forum recently noted that the general press attitude to Sony products had gone from critical to complimentary, and as a result Nikon and Canon users were becoming much more vocal in their dislike, probably because at some level they didn’t like a change to the status quo.
None of what Sony is doing should really be a surprise to anyone. When they announced their company financial recovery strategy a few years ago, they clearly stated their goal was using disruptive technology to create unique products with unique features that could command a premium in the market. The camera division have clearly stated their 3 goals are resolution, ISO performance, and speed.
And there we have it – RX1, RX100, RX10, RX0, A7R, A7S, A7R2, A9, several E mount FF/APS-C video cameras, perhaps the A6000 series. None of it should really be a surprise – they aren’t even being secretive about their aims.
My general view is “how can I use this?”, and not worry too much about the imperfections.
Full disclosure: I came to Sony as a Minolta user of a decade, got frustrated with where their SLR system seemed to be going, tried something else and didn’t like it, and ended up back with Sony E mount, where I felt some of the cameras (unique?) abilities opened new possibilities and opportunities.
Steve: Being an Olympus aficionado, as you might expect, I’m with Philippe on this! It seems to me Sony and Olympus are the leading innovators who seriously invest in R&D and produce stuff that is actually interesting, useful and envelope pushing.
Philippe: Come to think of it, in film days, photography was a upper-class sport, to a large degree. Not that you couldn’t use a Brownie, but Cartier-Bresson and others were hardly Mr Everyman. That may (I am thinking aloud here) have led to the Leica snobbery.
Come Canon and Nikon, that is acceptable. Superb Japanese engineering, but with no Gestalt. We’ve seen that happen in bikes (cars as well). That didn’t kill BMW, Triumph is reborn, as is Harley, and Ducati roars on.
But come Sony to contest the title. A mass production electronics company. Mr Walkman wanting to wrestle with Mr Lizard-skin-plated-Leica-for-HCB. I can understand why the litterati and glitterati cringe…:-)
Bob: To a large extent, I can only agree, Adrian, but why, oh why did Sony not make the A9, which is, after all, touted as the outdoor sports/wildlife photographer’s dream camera, “guaranteed weather proof” and why, oh why can one of the largest electronic companies in the world, and the maker of smartphones, not include GPS in their top end cameras at least – even Leica do that…!!
The words “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory” sum up Sony’s approach for me.
I’m fed up with companies such as Sony (and Leica) who do business on the premise that the paying consumer won’t mind spending a further few grand on the latest model, which incorporates features that the previous model could, and should, have had, had they not been so intent on screwing every last penny out of their paying customers. Fuji is not perfect but, at least, their record of firmware upgrades is impressive and demonstrates an interest in keeping customers happy and loyal with a virtually “new” camera once a year at least until the next iteration is released.
Adam: Like most legendary ‘togs HCB basically made his name by taking new tech (35mm) and using it in new places (unobtrusively on the street).
Had he lived today, he might well have selected an RX100 or even a drone (FWIW I think Adams would of used a drone).
Of course SOME of the Leica folk think he selected Leica because it was Leica, but the truth is it was just small and discrete. Ironically, the modern Leica is not that small, not at all light, and that red dot makes it beckon people like a lighthouse.
Personally, I doubt that a modern HCB would have touched an M with a bargepole.
Sony stated their aim was to overtake Canon or Nikon right from the get go, so jokes and glib aside, re the RX10 – bridge cameras aren’t a new thing. That Sony has upped the pace of that genre of camera is not a surprise.
But they didn’t invent the category.
Adrian: That’s an interesting view.
And lets not forget that most of Leicas affordable products are made by Panasonic but with a badge and an aspirational price tag.
Don’t forget the Lenna Kravitz pre aged M edition 😉
Maybe that’s what Sony need – a Louis Vuitton group edition special edition – except Hasselblad already sort of tried that to much derision.
There’s plenty of material there.
Think of the RX10 as a Swiss army knife of photography and videography.
Bob: If he were alive today, I would put money on HCB using a Fuji X-Pro2 (or XE3) not a Sony or a Leica.
Adrian: I’m not excusing it (and Canon and Nikon make plenty of equivalent faux pas), but I saw an interview some time ago that I think explains some of it.
Sony said with such rapid product development cycles for each generation, there is limited time to improve each generation. As a result, the company targets certain features or abilities, such as focusing, and has to overlook other issues until the next product cycle. Basically what is known in the software industry as “agile” – time box the work and focus on what adds the most value. Sony said for example its why the A6000 series used the same body design and battery.
Their “weather resistant” marketing is all rather confusing (disingenuous?). GPS never bothered me, but I know others do – they used to have it in A mount, then got rid of it. I guess not a priority.
I do think the rapid development cycles explain the need to leave much of each generation the same and improve specific areas.
I’m not excusing them… I guess they could do a Nikon and take several years to develop something, and possibly miss the market when it arrives.
As for upgrades and expense… Its a free world, we buy what suits us at the time. What something should have had is a subjective opinion – I’m happy that the features something has work properly, and I don’t have to wait 2 years for a firmware update to fix something that should have been right at the time of sale (I’m distinguishing something not present at the time of purchase from a feature present that doesn’t work properly or whatever). I can assure you that the early days of X system (first 2-3 years) were rather less cosy.
If I buy something from Sony, its because of what it can do today, and that’s my choice. If a year later they bring out something better, more powerful, with extra features etc. it doesn’t stop my old model working, and if the new version offers something of value to me, I may choose to buy it. I still use an original A6000 and A7S and I don’t resent in any way that newer models have replaced them. I’m thinking seriously about an A6500 or an A9 or an RX10 IV, depending on which I think best meets my needs. They all do things that the competition mostly can’t.
As for Kaizen, I have to point out that I paid £1500 for an XPro 1 body, and no amount of kaizen would prevent the need to buy an XT1 to get performance improvements (another c. £1200 at release) and then probably an XT2 for the further improvements (another c £1200). Kaizen doesn’t really give you the added performance such as a new Sony model with 24fps, for example.
Fuji has much slower development cycles. My view is that Fuji are very conservative in their product development cycles, possibly as a result of their market share and position etc. That gives them longer, although the level of true innovation and adoption of new technologies/features can be quite slow.
I admit I got my fingers badly burned with my relationship with Fuji (both emotionally and financially), so I think we sit on different sides of the fence on this one.
#880. Monday Post (22 Jul 2019) – The Sony Empire strikes back: A7R IV (and website news)
#860. Monday Post (20 May 2019) – A tale of two 100s – May challenge – Pixel madness
#851. Monday Post (29 April 2019) – Am I missing something?
#844. Monday Post (15 April 2019) – 100Mp mirrorless cameras, at long last …
#836. Monday Post (25 March 2019) – Love Vs. Hate, or Leica Vs. Zeiss, or Q2 Vs. ZX1
#830. Monday Post (11 March 2019) – Have you lost interest yet?