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.