Cinematic video settings on the Sony RX100: a step-by-step guide

If you have a Sony Rx100, you know it’s the best compact camera for video.  But getting the settings right can be tricky.  This is meant to be a handy, step-by-step guide for getting the best video out of the camera.  Stills capabilities and settings will not be addressed here.

Optimizing the Controls

Sony is notorious for overly complicated menu systems, and the RX100 is no different.  But fear not because it can be optimized for quick use in a variety of situations.  The key here is using the Memory Recall (MR) mode to create different settings that can be accessed at the touch of a button.  Here I will walk you through how to create the different settings that will be useful for video.

Setting 1: Daytime, regular motion (no slow motion)

Top dial: Movie Mode
Menu –
File Format: AVCHD
Record Setting: 60i 24M (FX) – this becomes true 30p once you drop it into your editing program.  It uses about twice as much data per frame as 60p 28mbps, resulting in fewer compression artifacts. But if you want the slow motion option at all times, use 60p instead.
Steadyshot: Active (switch this to Standard or Off if you want a wider angle lens)
Movie: Aperture Priority
Menu –
Grid Line: Rule of 3rds Grid
Peaking Level: Mid
Peaking Color: Yellow
Function Button – click to enter
Function 1: White Balance
Function 2: Focus Mode
Function 3: ISO
Function 4: DRO/Auto HDR
Function 5: Creative Style
Function 6: Metering Mode
Function 7: Quality
Exit to Menu
Func. of Center Button: Standard
Func. of Left Button: AF/MF Control Toggle
Func. of Right Button: AEL Toggle
Press Fn Button
White Balance: Cloudy (gives a slightly warmer, more filmic tone to daytime scenes)
ISO Auto
DRO Level 2
Portrait Mode, -2, -1, -3
Metering Mode: Center
Raw + JPEG
Press Fn Button to Exit
Turn Control Ring to set aperture to f/1.8

To save this setting:

Menu:  5
Memory – click to enter
Select Register 1
Press Center Button to confirm

Setting 2: Daytime, Slow Motion

Same settings as above, except for the following:

Menu –
Record Setting: 60p 28M (PS)

To save this setting:

Menu:  5
Memory – click to enter
Select Register 2
Press Center Button to confirm

Setting 3: Nighttime, regular motion (no slow motion)

Same settings as Settings 1, except for the following:

Menu –
Movie: Shutter Priority
Press Fn Button
DRO Level 1
White Balance: Tungsten (occasionally, Warm Flourescent and Daylight Flourescent will give pleasing, warmer results. I consider white balance an artistic choice at night).
Standard Mode, 0, 0, -3 (reducing contrast and saturation at high ISO’s will only weaken the color information and increase blue-channel noise, both of which will cause headaches when you try to grade your footage.  You do not gain latitude in either color or luminance)
Press Fn Button to Exit
Turn Control Ring to set shutter to 1/40.  This will maximize low light sensitivity but will disable slow motion.  For slow motion capability, set shutter to 1/60.

To save this setting:

Menu:  5
Memory – click to enter
Select Register 3
Press Center Button to confirm

If you wish any of the above settings to have slow-motion capability, just set your Record Setting to 60p (PS) mode.  Be aware that this will reduce the bitrate available to each frame when played back at regular speed, resulting in slightly reduced quality.

To Access Memory Recall Settings:

Top Dial: MR
Select desired Memory Recall Setting (1,2, or 3)
Press Center Button to confirm

Shooting Tips

I usually shoot semi-manual with the RX100.  I let the camera achieve the desired focus/aperture, then I lock the settings.  This is done by Auto Exposure Lock (AEL) and Autofocus/Manual Focus (AF/MF) switching.

Center subject, let AF achieve sharp focus
Press Left Button on Control Ring to switch to MF
Pan/tilt camera until you achieve desired exposure (compensating for backlit subjects, etc)
Press Right Button on Control Ring to engage AEL

If your subject moves or the lighting changes, just press the Left or Right Button to go back to auto mode and let the camera adjust.

This technique also works well with my dual-cam handheld shooting method because you can hold the camera from underneath and lock/unlock exposure and focus with either your left or right thumb.

Manual focusing on the Rx100 is aided by Focus Peaking, which highlights the in-focus portions of the shot with a yellow outline.  This is dependent on contrast and can be fooled by high-detail, yet out-of-focus objects like vertical blinds or a patterned shirt.  My advice here is to just play around with it until you get the hang of it.

I hope this has served as a helpful guide for getting your camera set for shooting cinematic video.