Going Clubbing with the Sony RX100

I purchased two Sony RX100‘s to use for life-vlogging.  Per my previous article, I want to have the ability to cinematically chronicle any moment of my life without the equipment becoming a burden. Note that I am not using these as photo cameras, so there will be no review of stills capabilities in this article.

I spent last weekend testing out the RX100 at a club in Hollywood to see how well it holds up in low light.  Also wanted to see if the autofocus was any good with fast-moving subjects.  I was pleasantly surprised.

I found myself usually shooting at ISO 1600 or 3200, but the grain at these ISO’s felt much finer and less distracting than it was on my 16mp NEX-5n.  And since my intended output is web, the H.264 compression mushes away most of the grain anyway.  A dirty secret of web compression is that it actually functions as effective noise reduction.

Autofocus was hit-and-miss but generally performed as well as it would on any camcorder.  It uses facial tracking as well as allowing you to set a custom tracking point with a single push of a button.

I was pleased by how easily I could customize most of the rear buttons to provide me with ISO, White Balance, and AF/MF alternation.  My main functionality caveat is that the manual focus ring cannot be set to ovverride the AF, as one would expect when turning it.  Instead, it can be mapped to any other control – ISO, shutter, etc. So I found myself instinctually turning the ring to focus but instead changing something else.

As for video image quality, I found it to be razor-sharp at 1080p, much sharper than the NEX-5n or 7, or any Canon DSLR below the 1DX, and mostly free of moire and ailiasing.  The lowlight capability is very good at the wide end, but the zoom does narrow from f/1.8 to f/4.9 at the long end (100mm equivalent), so be warned that you won’t be doing much zooming in low light.

Slow motion was smooth, as to be expected with 60p shooting. The tradeoff is that there are definite macro-blocking compression artifacts in all the footage whenever there is too much motion in the frame.  This is because the 28mpbs bitrate is barely adequate for 60p.  There is no 24p option.  However, you can get the proper 24p motion blur by setting your shutter speed manually to 1/50 and then dropping the footage into a 24p timeline in post.

Bokeh with the camera isn’t mind-blowing because it’s a smaller sensor than micro 4/3, but it’s enough to provide some foreground subject isolation provided you’re within about two feet and shooting wide open at f/1.8.  The flip side is that it’s easier to keep the subject in focus.  And the Optical Image Stabilization is remarkably effective.  I’d watch steady, well-focused footage over shaky, blurry full-frame footage any day.

Audio was passable, but I’d definitely want to use a lav mic for all but the quietest environments. Rather than use my previous method, I have a new solution for the life-vlogging project that adds almost no bulk to my gear arsenal, but I’ll have to wait for my Amazon order to arrive before posting a test.

Next I will be testing the feasibility of shooting with two of these cameras simultaneously to film a conversation.


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Latest Comments
  1. Dave

    Was a 32Gb card enough for 3 hours shooting or does this camera store data at a higher rate? Just working out how big the memory card storage should be on these beasts.


    • brandon

      It stores at 28mbps, so slightly higher than the usual 24mbps video rate. Conservatively you’ll get about 2 hours on a 32gb card. If I were you, I’d just get a 64gb card to be sure you never run out of recording time during a shoot. Good deals are to be had at B&H Photo Video lately.

      • Dave

        Good news is Amazon pays for return shipping since the sales page incorrectly said 60P but I doubled checked the camera and no go.

        Unfortunately for us Europeans it’s hard to get US stuff, we can’t order from Amazon.com or Bestbuy they always send you to a European counterpart that makes stuff based on different marketing strategies rather then need. Annoying.

        So I’ll get two shipped to me through friends but then I’ll have to pay tax. Bottom line: check what the difference between US and Eurozone because you might get screwed by comparison.

  2. Dave


    So I got my hands on one but I may have to send it back tomorrow, here’s the issue. I’m buying one from USA and one from Europe. The European models can only shoot in 50p max, there is no 6op mode in the European versions.

    Also there is a 30 minute maximum recording time for videos after that you have to restart the recording. So I might be better buying two from the USA.


    • brandon

      You’re better off getting two US models, definitely. You will still face the recording time limit, but at least you will get 60p instead of 50p. Why not just buy two from your source in the states?

  3. Evan Vandor

    So extra batteries for them are $50 a pop, external chargers for the camera should be out in the fall which is awesome.

    The only real issue is the 30min cut off with filming time and the lack of being able to film and charge at the same time but those issues are easily overcome with a good cameraman and understanding I suppose.

    I definitely wanted to film in 4 hours blocks which I can do with mini-camera resets.

    At the end of the day it comes down to nothing else beating this in the CSC space and DSLR’s are too big for some of the subtler shooting that’s needed.

  4. Raul1

    Wow, these are popular and Sony have actually sold out in the US!

  5. Julian C

    For people that need spare batteries for the RX100 don’t buy the sony ones, ($50) there are $15 ones that work perfectly search Amazon for: Ex-Pro® Sony NP-BX1, NPBX1 High Power Plus+ 1240mAh 2 Year Warranty Replacement Lithium Li-on Digital Camera Battery for Sony RX1 DSC-RX1, RX100, DSC-RX100 Digital Camera

    • brandon

      I got some of these. In my experience the off-brand batteries tend to not communicate their charge level as accurately as Sony brand. So you might end up losing a shot because the camera shuts off while recording. If you can live with that caveat and just not push the battery life to the limit, it’s a great savings.

  6. Lee Mackreath

    Great review… Video is private though??

    • brandon

      Haha yeah…had to make it private for now because of some unexpected girl drama…I’ll message you the pass on Vimeo.

  7. Lee Mackreath

    Quick question on a subject you mentioned in this article about conforming 60p footage to 24p. Here in the UK as you know the speeds are different, 50p and 25p but my question hopefully is still valid.

    You mentioned that if you wanted your 60p footage to become 24p footage you can simply stick it in a 24p timeline and also adjust the shutter speed to 1/50. That’s fine but if you we’re going to use that 60p footage as slow mo footage In a 24p timeline I assume you would leave the shutter speed at double the frame rates, i.e 1/125?

    I only ask as I have a wedding coming up soon and wish to shoot in a mix of 25p and 50p and compile all this into a 25p timeline for editing so I have a mix of slow mo footage and real time footage all conforming to 25p for the filmic effect. Ideally though on the day I don’t want to have to keep deciding for each shot if to use 25p or 50p.

    Could I in theory shoot all my footage at 50p and then use this footage in a 25p timeline and slow down the clips I want to slow down and leave the others at normal speed but conforming to the 25p project settings? If I did this would I set my shutter speed to the normal for 50p at 1/100 or knock it down to 1/50 as i know I will be using in a 25p timeline? If I set all my 50p footage to 1/50 shutter speed how would it affect my slow mo footage?

    Hope all this make sense !


    • brandon

      The “correct” shutter speed for slow mo is 1/100 in a 25p timeline, but I have found that 1/50 (or 1/60 depending on your region) looks good to my eye. If I were you I’d do a motion test and see if you like the look of 1/50. If so, you can indeed just leave the shutter locked and choose slow mo or regular speed in post.

      • Lee Mackreath

        Thanks for the info…will give the 1/50 shutter speed at 50p a go!

        I suppose if I am happy with the results then it begs the question why would I then ever need to shoot directly in 24p anymore if I can get the same results with more choices in 50p?

        Also on my Nex 5N 50p shoots at 28mbps bit rate whereas 25p shoots at slightly less at 24mbps..so thats another pro for the 50p!

        • brandon

          One reason why you would want to shoot 24p instead of 50p is that you’re effectively getting more megabits per frame because you’re shooting less frames. 28mbps at 50p gives you roughly 600 kilobits per frame, whereas 24mbps at 24p gives you roughly 1,000 kilobits per frame. The difference will show in the compression blockiness that appears in fast-moving action at 28mbps 50p.

  8. Chuck

    Nice work. What is the Choir doing Nothing Else Matters?

    • Brandon Li

      Thanks, that would be Scala.

  9. lee mackreath

    I have succumbed and have an RX100 coming this week to be my B camera to my Sony Nex 5N!

    Now that you have had the RX100 for a while what do you make of it in general for video?

    For your life vlogging and general run and gun shooting with this camera do you use A mode or S mode? My concerns of using the camera in A mode for video is the 1/2000 shutter speed which would easily be hit in bright daylight if I wanted to use the lens wide open. Conversely With S mode my concern is that without a reliable ND filter I cannot go wide open in daylight.

    I ideally want to shoot footage on the RX100 to look identical to that of the 5N so if I was to use both at a function I could easily mix in footage from both cameras to create a final piece.

    The constant question marks over shutter speeds at 50p on both cameras is also bothering me. I shot as suggested on an earlier post some footage at 50p 1/50 to see if the footage would be useable both in slow motion in a 25p timeline and also at normal speed in a 25p timeline. In both cases I was not too happy with the motion blur, It just does not look as good as shooting either natively at 25p at 1/50 or 50p 1/100 for slow mo in a 25p timeline.

    Based on the above I think you have to make a decision before you shoot any footage at 50p that is to be used in a 25p timeline. That decision is to whether your footage is going to be slowed down in post or not. Based on this answer you can then decide to shoot 50p at 1/100 for slow mo or 1/50 for nornal speed..although like I said I still think 1/50 shutter at 50p at normal speed in a 25p timeline still does not like as good as shooting natively at 25p on the camera (which you cannot obviously do on the RX100, but you can on the 5N)

    I will always be putting any footage I shoot in a 25p line so that is the only constant I am sticking with…its how I merge the footage from both cameras and get the best settings on both to deliver the best output….that is my main concern and caveat at this stage.

    With all this in mind I think I might choose to use my NEX 5N for 25p 1/50 footage and my RX100 for 50p 1/100 slow mo footage exclusively…if you have any thoughts on everything I have said from your wealth of knowledge and experience I would greatly appreciate your advice.

    thanks in advance!


    • Brandon Li

      Hi Lee! I find the RX100 to be very useful as a wide-angle camera. I pretty much treat it like a fixed focal length 28mm camera because of the narrow aperture at the telephoto end of the zoom. My main caveat with this camera is the battery life; I always carry a spare.

      For RNG shooting I use A mode in bright light, letting the shutter go as high as it needs to, and S mode in low light, setting shutter to 1/50 or down to 1/30 if I’m really in a crunch and don’t need slow motion. I am breaking the 180-degree shutter rule all the time with this camera, but the other option – a variable ND filter – doesn’t appeal to me, as it would be one too many things to keep track of and continuously monitor, and it would increase the bulk of the camera.

      Since I shoot 60p and not 50p, perhaps my results are slightly different from yours. I think 60p conforms nicely to 24p; I have no complaints even when varying my shutter speed. But if you really want that 180 degree shutter look, you do have to decide before shooting if you will be conforming to slow motion or not.

      I use the 5n and the RX100 as portrait lens and wide lens, respectively. I’ve been shooting both at 60p so I would have the option of slow motion at any time. I’m not fond of the macro-blocking that results from the high compression of the footage, and I’ve noticed that the footage is also pretty inflexible when it comes to color grading (again due to the compression), but these are the tradeoffs for maximum versatility and speed when shooting.

      • lee mackreath

        Thanks for your prompt response! I played round with ignoring the 180 shutter rule in one of my recent efforts on Vimeo (August in Elie) and was very happy with using the 5N in A mode and letting the camera pick the shutter speed. I expected the footage to come out a lot more ‘strobe’ and ‘saving private ryan’ like but I was pleasantly surprised.

        At the end of the day I want to be able to use the RX100 as a point and shoot video blogger utilizing the added bonus that this camera brings which is great low light performance and a great size sensor producing sharp footage at 1080p. At the same time

  10. lee mackreath

    I want to produce the best image from this camera which I assume in a lot of cases would mean going fully manual, using tripods and usin ND filters etc when the become readily available.

    • Brandon Li

      Lee, if you want to stay mobile yet get steadier shots I’d suggest one of the tiny gorillapods. Getting creative with your mounting can save you the hassle of carrying a tripod at all times. Alternately consider the Velbon Ultrastick monopod, which is the smallest/lightest/fastest full-length monopod I’ve found.

  11. Jacob

    Aargh, I just stumbled on your lovely site. And you are not making my life any easier. I am trying to determine which camera to buy to start making film/documentary, a lot of it will be walk around as I happen to travel a lot giving me a lot giving me a lot of opportunity to explore different cities and countries. I’m planning to eventually to go into more dock style, interviewing people etc. But first I have to start somewhere…and I have to start filming as reading websites will not bring me anywhere.

    Bringing me to the dilemma, which camera I shoot start with! So much choice: Sony RX100 (limited DOF options?, less flexible) , Sony NEX 5N, 6, 7, OM-D, GH2 (secondhand). External audio recording and later syncing probably.

    I like the idea of a smaller camera as I can also use if for street photography and ditch my old nikon DSLR.

    What can you advice me? please help……..

    • Brandon Li

      Initially, my main obstacle to shooting more footage was just having a camera on me at all times. DSLR’s are too bulky for everyday shooting for me, which is why I got a couple RX100’s and continue to use them on a regular basis. The DOF options are limited, however, so if you truly want that shallow focus look you do have to get something a little bigger. The GH2 + pancake 20mm lens is great for walkaround videography. My short “Roadside” was shot entirely with just this combo. I also like the NEX-5n (or 5r) with a 50mm f/1.4 lens (see my shorts “Balance” and “David Alan Harvey on Torture”). Also don’t discount the appeal of a Go Pro, which is so tiny it hardly adds any bulk to your travel kit. Great for spontaneous wide shots and of course outdoor sports. I have two of the Hero 3 Black. So just buy whatever you’ll actually want to carry all day, and then use it a lot!

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  13. Tom K.

    I enjoyed the video. I am thrilled with the low light performance of my RX100. I shoot stills most of the time. Almost always at 28mm. Great image quality. I shoot some video and it’s been impressive coming out of the RX100. What video editing software are you using? I am searching for something relatively easy to use but powerful enough to get the job done. What do you recommend?

    • Brandon Li

      Hi Tom,

      Glad you’re enjoying the camera. I use Final Cut Pro X. It’s fairly easy to learn (especially if you know iMovie) but can be scaled to work in professional environments.

      • Tom K.

        Looks like I am not going to be able to use that software. I’m on a Windows 7 box. Plenty of power though. i7 processor. What Windows video editing software to you recommend?

        • Brandon Li

          For Windows, the prosumer programs are AVID Media Composer, Adobe Premiere, and Sony Vegas (in that order). The easiest to learn is Vegas, but all the pros use AVID.

          • Tom K.

            Thank you Brandon.

  14. Steve

    I’m thoroughly impressed. Thanks for sharing.

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