Thursday, October 29, 2015

Sony RX100 II - First Images, First Impressions

Tasty Quality - Palmdale, California
ISO 1600, f4.9, 1/320, 100mm (equivalent).
I've had my Sony RX100 II for a week, and I haven't used it as much as I thought I would, mostly because I've been busy. So far I have exposed less than 100 frames. That's a small number. For a trip or event I might expose that many images in a couple of hours.

Even though I haven't used the camera much I did want to share some of my first images and first impressions. Early impressions can be proven wrong with time and experience, but I find that many of them are proven true in the end.

Any time you have a new camera, one challenge is to figure out how to best set it up and use it. Controls are in different positions or found in different menus. The way the camera reacts to different situations might not be the same. It takes using the camera to understand it all and become quick at it. I'm not yet at that point.
Dusk Driving - Tehachapi, California
ISO 500, f4.9, 1/125, 100mm (equivalent)
I've also reprogrammed some of the programmable settings multiple times. I thought that I would like the camera set up a certain way, but when it came time to actually use it, I found that I didn't like how I programmed it. I've still got some work to do, because I'm not yet satisfied with it. This is just something that takes using the camera to figure out.

Initially I set up the camera to capture both RAW and JPEG simultaneously so that I could compare the two. I made several adjustments to the JPEG settings, but so far I'm underwhelmed by the JPEGs produced by the camera. Maybe this is something I need to experiment with further, but mostly I shoot RAW so I now have the camera set to RAW only (except I have one of the programmable memory recall tabs set to JPEG only).

The problem with RAW is that you quickly realize some of the flaws of this camera. For example, at wide angle, there's a huge amount of barrel distortion. Chromatic aberrations are somewhat pronounced, as well. The camera fixes these automatically with JPEGs, but with RAW you have to fix them yourself.
Catching The Moon - Tehachapi, California
ISO 1600, f4.9, 1/320, 100mm (equivalent)
The software that Sony "provides" (although I found nothing in the camera box to tell me this--I discovered it through a Google search) to edit the RAW files is Phase One's Capture One Express. This is a robust post-processing program that's free for Sony users (the free version will only work with Sony RAW files). It's similar to Adobe Lightroom, and some say that it's better.

The good news is that the software is powerful and Sony's RAW files look really good post-processed with Capture One Express. The bad news is that it takes awhile to figure it out and become proficient at it. I noticed that it significantly slows down my workflow.

For the images in this post I did minimal post-processing with Capture One Express, saved the files as TIFFs, then finished the editing with Alien Skin Exposure 7. I like using Exposure because I get the look that I want quickly and easily, but I don't like juggling through multiple editing programs, and Exposure can't read Sony's RAW files (or fix the lens distortion). I might have to rethink my workflow a little and find ways to make it more efficient.
Abandoned In California - California City, California
ISO 160, f7.1, 1/800, 43mm (equivalent)
One thing that I love about the Sony camera already is how quiet it is (at least once you turn off all of the beeps and other sounds). The only noise it makes is a light click when the shutter is open. I like that the camera doesn't scream "I'm taking a picture!"

I also really like the leather case that came with the camera. I purchased my Sony RX100 II at Costco, and it was a box set that comes with a leather case, a screen protector, and a nice SD card. I didn't think that I'd like the leather case, but tried it anyway and found that I actually love it. The screen protector is well designed and once in place you can't even tell that there is a screen protector.

Image quality is good. The lens is sharp. The files look just fine--the camera is capable of image quality closer to what one might expect from a DSLR. It's a fairly quick camera. A lot is packed into the tiny body.
Diamond Sneaker - California City, California
ISO 160, f5, 1/80, 50mm (equivalent)
Tasty Quality at the top of this post was captured while eating dinner at an In-N-Out burger joint. The stealthiness of the camera allowed me to capture the image without being noticed or interrupting anyone's meal. The exposure was an accident. In my haste to get the photograph (while nobody was blocking my view) I forgot to take it out of shutter priority mode. The camera underexposed what it thought was the correct exposure because it maxed out the aperture and ISO (I had 1600 set as the highest ISO for Auto-ISO). Turns out the exposure was pretty spot-on. Sometimes you get lucky.

I captured Dusk Driving while riding in the front passenger seat of my car. I saw the scene and thought it might be a good opportunity to test the camera. The scene's got a pretty wide dynamic range, and, while the moon is overexposed and a few of the darkest spots lack detail, overall the camera did an excellent job of handling it all. It looks better if you view it larger.

Catching The Moon was captured a few minutes after Dusk Driving. This was more-or-less a happy accident. I don't think I could have timed it better--capturing the moon just as the blade met it while driving 70 MPH down the freeway--if I had 100 more tries. Again, sometimes you get lucky. I added "film grain" in post-processing, ISO 1600 is actually much cleaner than the image would indicate.
Rusty Door Catch - Cal City, California
ISO 160, f3.2, 1/200, 28mm (equivalent)
While not the greatest image I've ever captured, Abandoned In California is one photograph where the camera really impressed me. The colors and sharpness are fantastic and the tough dynamic range situation wasn't too much for the sensor to handle (some blacks lack details, but a close look shows details hiding in the dark spaces.

The sharpness of the lens is obvious in Diamond Sneaker. Rusty Door Catch is a macro image, which can only be accomplished at the wide angle end of the lens. I should have used a smaller aperture because the depth-of-field is a little slimmer than I wanted it to be.

So far, so good with the RX100 II. I'm still working through some things, but with less than 100 exposures, that's to be expected. It's an impressive little camera that's gives DSLR-like images quality in a tiny and affordable body.

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