Although Sony has already made the fourth iteration of its RX100 camera, sadly, I have not had a chance to test and review any of the earlier models. After the Sony RX100 IV was announced, I told myself that I had to give this camera a try. Partly because our readers have been asking about it and partly because it looked like a killer camera based on its long list of features. Right before my trip to Death Valley, I was able to obtain this little monster of a camera for a real field test. I am really glad I did, because I have been really impressed by the Sony RX100 IV – it turned out to be the best pocket-friendly point and shoot camera I have used to date. Let’s take a look at this camera in more detail and see what it has to offer in its tiny body.
It is interesting how just a few years back, one way to spark a debate was to talk about Nikon vs Canon. Websites and forums would be filled with endless discussions when someone would dare to post something like “I dumped my Nikon gear and switched to Canon” (and God forbid if you said anything against Pentax, it would be a quick shortcut to get death threats). Today, it seems like the gears have changed – people are much less enthusiastic about talking about DSLR brand differences. The much bigger war it seems like is now between DSLR vs mirrorless. On one side of the fence, we’ve got DSLR shooters who defend their choice with statements like “you will only be able to take my DSLR when you pry it from my cold, dead hands” and on the other side of the fence, we now have people who say things like “mirrorless is the future, it is time for flapping mirrors to go”. Both sides have their points and arguments that make sense, but once mixed with emotions, such discussions often end up being inconclusive and meaningless. And now we have manufacturers engaging in direct attacks against each other. Sony, Fuji and a few others often compare their systems to DSLRs as part of their marketing campaigns, indicating weight / size and other advantages, whereas DSLR manufacturers keep recycling the same AF speed, reliability and system advantages. But one thing for sure – DSLRs are losing market share and interest in mirrorless technology is steadily growing. Let’s revisit the topic of DSLR vs mirrorless one more time and analyze a few more important factors.
Since the original release of the Sony RX100 back in 2012, the company has been pushing updates to the camera and releasing one new iteration every year. Which means that as of today, we have had a total of 4 such releases: RX100, RX100 II, RX100 III and RX100 IV. Sporting a 1″ sensor and superb optics from Zeiss, these point and shoot cameras have been widely popular among photographers. And thanks to their compact size and low weight, the RX100 series cameras have been highly regarded as very capable, and yet pocket-able cameras that are perfect for such needs as travel photography. Unfortunately, due to the number of the RX100 series cameras, their differences in pricing and features, it has become increasingly difficult for potential buyers to understand the main differences between these cameras. In this article, I will be comparing the key features and specifications of the RX100-series cameras, which will hopefully make it easier to see what has changed between all the releases we have seen so far.
Along with the A6300 mirrorless camera, Sony today also announced three professional-grade lenses for the full-frame FE mount, the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM, Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM and Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS and two 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters. Because of the premium nature of these lenses, Sony gave these lenses a new “G Master” (GM) label; which is basically one step above the current “G Series” lenses. All these lenses are fully designed by Sony engineers, have advanced optical formulas, coating technologies and other advancements that are designed specifically for Sony’s A7-series full-frame cameras, and as a result, also have rather steep price tags. Since many DSLR shooters have been staying away from the Sony full-frame mirrorless line due to the absence of truly professional f/1.4 and f/2.8 lenses, Sony decided to address that gap with the GM-series lenses. Looks like this is the first step and more GM lenses will follow in the future. Let’s take a look at these lenses in more detail and see what they have to offer.
Today is a big day in the world of photography, because Sony announced a camera that might challenge DSLRs in terms of autofocus speed in accuracy. The much-anticipated update to the Sony A6000 we reviewed earlier is finally out and it looks like it was well worth the wait. The Sony A6300 is the first mirrorless camera that is specifically aimed at capturing fast-moving action, thanks to its “4D” autofocus system with a whopping 425 phase-detection autofocus points. The camera breaks the world record in terms of the number and the spread of these autofocus points, reaching all the way to the far end corners of the frame, allowing fast-moving subjects to be tracked and captured at up to 11 frames per second. Although with its 24 MP APS-C sensor the camera probably won’t have the necessary buffer to be able to shoot action for prolonged periods of time like the Nikon D5 or Canon 1DX Mark II can, even shorter bursts with fast and accurate autofocus are going to make a huge difference. Couple all these capabilities with the 4K video capture (up to 100 Mbps) along with its MSRP of $999, and we’ve got one of the most desirably mirrorless cameras on the market.
One of my resolutions for 2016 is to do a better job at timely completion of projects, and one of such tasks is to catch up with all the long-overdue reviews of gear that I had a chance to use, but never had a chance to write about. I will start off by reviewing the Sony A6000, an interchangeable lens mirrorless camera that has been Sony’s flagship APS-C product since it was released almost two years ago (and soon to be be replaced with a Sony A6100). Sony dumped the “NEX” name in its line of mirrorless APS-C products and merged everything into the “Alpha” ecosystem with the launch of the A3000, A5000 and A6000 cameras, so it looks like all the future iterations of these cameras will be labeled similarly. Let’s take a look at the A6000 in more detail, see what it has to offer and compare it to other popular mirrorless cameras on the market.
Earlier this year, I wrote a detailed review of the Sony A7R, where I expressed a number of serious concerns with the camera, some of which were serious enough to be categorized as “deal breakers”. Soon after, Sony announced the much-anticipated A7R II mirrorless camera, a second iteration of the high-resolution line of A7-series cameras. Although many of us knew what to expect from the A7R II based on what we have previously seen on the Sony A7 II, there was new technology incorporated into the A7R II to make it a very appealing camera among both enthusiasts and professionals. Just like the A7 II, the A7R II gained five-axis in-body image stabilization (IBIS) and a different ergonomic design with a much more comfortable to hand-hold protruded grip. And those are relatively minor changes compared to the changes from the original A7R. Not only does the A7R II get a faster and much more reliable AF system with a whopping 399 focus points, but it also gains a brand new 42 MP back-illuminated (BSI) sensor. In addition, Sony addressed the serious shutter-shock issue by not only reducing the overall noise and vibration caused by the shutter mechanism, but also by introducing an electronic front-curtain shutter release option, which completely gets rid of shutter-related blur in images. And lastly, with the latest firmware upgrade, the Sony A7R II also gained the ability to shoot uncompressed RAW, giving the ability to take a full advantage of the sensor. I have been shooting with the Sony A7R II since it was announced, so let’s take a closer look at the Sony A7R II and see how it performed both in real world and lab environments.
With the Photo Plus show, a lot of manufacturers including Nikon, Canon, Sony, Pentax and Sigma have announced great promotions in the form of instant savings ranging from $50 all the way to thousands of dollars. Canon is basically discounting every DSLR, including the new Canon 5DS R (which is currently $300 off), and if you go for some specific kits like the Canon 7D with 28-135mm lens, you can save up to $750. The new Canon 7D II has been discounted heavily too. You can purchase it with the Pixma Pro-100 printer for $1,249 after a $350 mail-in rebate, which is a pretty sweet deal. If you shoot Nikon, the “Buy Together and Save” program is still actively going, with savings up to $1,100 when you get the D810 with the 24-120mm lens. And speaking of the D810, the camera itself has been heavily discounted by a whopping $500, so if you don’t need to buy a lens, you can grab the D810 body only for $2,800. B&H will sweeten the deal even more by giving you a 2% reward card and a few accessories worth another $100.
Just a quick report for those who are wondering about the Sony A7R II file sizes and storage options after upgrading to firmware 2.00 and enabling uncompressed RAW. First of all, file sizes in fact do look much bigger in comparison! Here is a short summary of Lossy / Compressed RAW vs Uncompressed: 43 MB vs 86 MB – the file size basically doubles! Ouch, that means not only slower write times to your memory card, but also twice less images to save on them too. And if you keep the original RAW file, it will also double your storage and backup requirements. If you do not like this, there is one workaround – to use Adobe’s DNG converter. If you import your images into Lightroom, you can convert uncompressed RAW files to DNG upon import, or you can use the free Adobe DNG converter software before you start the import. The good news is, this process will create a lossless compressed DNG file, which means that you will end up with a much smaller file. How much smaller? Take a look at this small table:
Today is a good day in the Sony world, because the firmware 2.00 containing 14-bit Uncompressed RAW is available for download for the Sony A7R II! Finally, Sony added this option to the camera, which means you can now take a full advantage of the 42 MP Sony sensor in the A7R II, without damaging image quality. While the uncompressed RAW images will be much larger in size (roughly 2x the size), it is definitely worth using this option for critical shooting, particularly when shooting night scenes where sky posterization issues and artifacts around subjects are most pronounced. With the uncompressed option, you can enjoy seeing images that look like the ones from the Nikon D810 below: