January 5th, 2013, 09:00 PM
Thanks for the detailed comments. I actually own a Ricoh GXR with the 28mm lens (which I'm currently selling by the way through Serious Compacts). I like the GXR but have found that it doesn't fit within my photographic life. I much prefer the GRD4 for the kinds of photos the GXR can make. Although the IQ is better with the GXR over the GRD, I too have found the start-up time, focus speed, etc. get in the way and frankly, I just don't think of taking it with me. I'm a real minimalist when it comes to owning cameras and I really do not want several cameras sitting on my desk.
I've also done a lot of research on the OMD (particularly when it came out) but I appreciate your comments regarding it's strengths and limitations. I also own a Pentax K-5 (with an assortment of great lens) that I use for studio work or documentary/outdoor work where I might need a weather resistant camera or a camera that can utilize high-end speedlights. In some ways, I think the OMD would be redundant for me since I already have a K-5 (yes, I know there are marked differences but I think the K-5 is a special camera in it's own right).
You are absolutely on target with your question regarding why I want a full-frame camera. The answer is that creaminess, bokeh and high IQ combined with a file that has a lot of latitude (should I need it) in post-production but I'm also looking for that image quality that I know full-frame sensors can deliver (like the 5D for example). I know the RX1 can deliver on all of this in a package that works well for most tasks. As you say, the OMD can't be a full-frame camera no matter what (nor can the GRD or K-5 either).
Anyway, thanks again for your comments.
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Last edited by Paul Giguere; January 5th, 2013 at 09:43 PM.
January 13th, 2013, 11:32 AM
I final had a chance to use the Sony RX1 in a "real-world" situation. That is, I was able to use it (even for a brief time) for an actual social documentary project that I have been working on over the past two years. This gave me a chance to see how to camera behaved and worked in a familiar situation with subjects that I had made hundreds of photos of before using other cameras. To me, this is the best way to test a camera rather than making photos of everyday objects and surroundings that don't fit the pattern of how I usually make photos.
I still don't have photos to post as this project is not yet ready for publication (besides, you can see many test photos just about anywhere on-line now to see how the image quality stacks up) but I can finally address the three main issues that became apparent for me during my preliminary tests while using the camera indoors and making basic test shots to work my way through the features of the camera.
- Manual/Zone Focus: While the RX1 has focus peaking and enlargement that work quite well, I was more concerned that it is difficult to set focus and have it remain set after a power-down. The focus on the RX1 is by wire which means that while you can turn a focus ring on the lens to achieve focus (using the aforementioned focus peaking and enlargement to assist), your focus resets when the camera powers down due to the auto power down of shutting the power off. I thought this might be an issue for it really isn't in practice. The autofocus is actually quite good (even in low or bad light) works just great and is fast enough to capture action as it is happening.
Keep in mind the RX1 is not going to be as fast as a DSLR (which uses phase detection for achieving focus) or even the Olympus OMD-5 but this camera was never meant to be an action/sports kind of camera anyway. I typically found myself setting up a shot using the autofocus and then switching to manual focus (I assigned the Down button on the back toggle wheel to switch between auto and manual focus quickly) to refine the focus if needed (again, using focus peaking and enlargement). This worked very well and I'm satisfied that this isn't really an issue for me in practice.
Is the RX1 a street photographer's camera? Well, it depends on how you like to work. If you can live with the autofocus and you tend to take more time to compose your images, the RX1 should work well. If, on the other hand you prefer to preset the focus to a certain distance and work that way, the RX1 won't work so well unless you set the auto power-down time to something longer (which will of course drain your batteries more quickly). As for me, I will continue to use my Ricoh GRD4 for my street photography but as a walk-about camera and a camera to do my documentary work, the RX1 fits the bill nicely for me.
- Speaking of batteries, this was another area that I thought would be an issue. I have three batteries for the RX1 and after "playing" with the camera and learning the menus, settings, etc. and also shooting almost 500 images so far, I am only on my second battery and that battery is still showing a full charge. Again, I think this isn't an issue and will depend on how you use the camera. I prefer to not chimp my photos so my LCD usage is primarily for composing images. I'm also not a "spray and pray" sort of photographer so I figure I can easily get through a day of making photos (300 - 500 on average but usually less) without worrying about running out of battery power.
- The final issue has to do with cost. There is no doubt that the RX1 is expensive by any measure. Some of the vitriol in the on-line forums I think is due mainly to this issue but, as I have stated in other posts, the quality (both image and camera build) are truly astounding. If I were to buy a full-frame camera (one that uses the latest technologies such as the Canon 6D or Nikon D600) and add a 35mm lens of equal quality to the one used in the RX1, I would easily have a camera that is around $3600 (I'm basing this on a Canon 6D and a Canon 35mm f1.4L lens which I think is equivalent to the RX1). The base price for the RX1 is around $2800.
As I mentioned in a prior post, my own needs revolved around getting a full-frame camera and a 28 or 35mm lens that was also small enough that I could see myself taking it with me for most outings and occasions as well as using it for my social documentary work (which for the way I work requires a camera smaller than your typical DSLR). Although I could have bought a discontinued camera (e.g. the Canon 5D MKII), I didn't want the size and weight. It would have just stayed home 99% of the time (much like my older Canon 5D did). For me, the entry price of the RX1 was worth it and in some ways, was a bargain compared to getting back into another full-frame camera system.
The real issue really has to do with the cost of the accessories (some of which should have been included in with the camera). In particular, I decided that I really do want the lens shade ($180) which I always use on my lens regardless of the camera I'm using. I also felt the lack of an external charger was wrong for a camera costing this much so I bought a third party charger for $25 (versus Sony's which retails for about $50). The other issues have to do with viewfinders. In actual practice, I decided to not bother with a viewfinder for now although if I really want an optical viewfinder, I would pass up Sony's ($600!) and get a Voigtlander 28 or 35mm viewfinder ($210 new). The electronic viewfinder might be nice at some point but for $450, I can pass for now and just use the LCD.
Another thing that I felt would be handy would be a thumb grip which slots into the hot shoe of the camera and provides a very nice perch for your thumb while holding and using the camera. Sony's thumb grip sells for about $250 (much too high) so I found out that the Thumbs Up CSEP-2 thumb grip http://www.matchtechnical.com/Pages/CSEP2.aspx (which is actually designed for the Leica X1/X2 and Fuji X100 and X1-Pro) fits perfectly on the RX1 costs $118 and still provides access to the playback button (Sony's thumb grip is spring loaded so you can push it out of the way to access the Playback button). As an aside, I'm using a leather wrist-strap (I don't like neck straps) which I had on hand to secure the camera rather than the neck strap (which thankfully Sony includes for those who prefer one). With the thumb grip, I feel the camera is pretty secure now and the wrist strap provides some insurance should it drop out of my hand for some reason.
Bottom-line: I like the RX1 a lot. It is a solid camera, high quality design, incredible image quality, and can be customized extensively to work the way I want to work. I feel the more I use it, the more I like using it. I've always been a camera minimalist. I don't own more than two to three cameras at a time and even then, each camera has to have a very specific function in my photographic life that differentiates it from the others.
The RX1 fills a need for me for a full-frame, high quality camera that is compact and will be one I take with me. I will also use it as my primary camera for my social documentary work as well. The image quality is obviously better than that of my GRD4 (which I've been using for this purpose for awhile) and gives me a level of creative control that just isn't possible with the GRD4. As for the GRD4, it remains a camera that is always with me should I want or need it for those times when I don't have the RX1 with me. The GRD4 is still my camera of choice for street photography where the snap focus feature still remains the method I use most often when doing this kind of photography. I'm nearing the end of my 30 day return period for the RX1 and in case it isn't clear by now, I'm definitely keeping this camera. Your mileage (and needs) will vary with a camera like this but for me, the RX1 fits very nicely into my photographic life.
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