Search Results for: RX100

Review: Sony Cyber-Shot RX100 Mark III

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In full Transformer mode

Two of the most interesting cameras in recent memory – the 645Z and RX100III, at completely opposite ends of the imaging spectrum but both pushing image quality – are arriving this week and I have a fundamental problem: a lack of light. Kuala Lumpur is blanketed in a horrible 100+API haze again that’s eating light and turning the sky into a giant drybox; right after two weeks of fantastic crystal-clear weather during which we had stars every night. I’ve made the most of the windows of opportunity, but in an ideal world I’d have liked to push the dynamic range of the thing a bit more.

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ACR support for the Sony RX100, and some deals

Download the release candidate for ACR and DNG converter 7.2 here from Adobe Labs. Finally! Looking forward to seeing what this baby can do. MT

Update: I’ve just found out about an interesting price reductions on Amazon. Presumably this is in the run up to Photokina; though it signals something interesting is probably on the way, it also means that you can get very competent cameras for less money than previously. Do they take any worse pictures after their replacements show up? No. My old D700 still works just fine.

The Nikon D7000 – still arguably the APS-C class leader – is now down below the $1000 mark to $996.95, from $1199. Get it here. Interestingly, $999 was also the launch price for the D70 body that helped open up the DSLR world to the masses – what a big difference between what the same money buys over a span of 8 years – and that’s not even taking into account the effect of inflation.

Finally, now that we have ACR support…there are no more reasons not to have a Sony RX100. It’s the best current pocket camera out there, period. And it does fit into a small pocket. Get it here at $648.

These Amazon referral links give me a small commission whenever you buy something. It’s not much – last month I got a grand total of $75 – but it does help keep the site running by paying for hosting etc. Note that it doesn’t cost *you* any more. Thanks in advance for your support!

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 – a somewhat comparative review

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All images in this review are clickable for larger versions, via the flickr host. The EXIF data is also intact. Apologies in advance for the lack of variety of sample images; the weather over the last few days just hasn’t been cooperative. No matter, I’ll continue to use this camera regularly as my pocket camera, and will be posting images both here and to my flickr page.

After receiving a number of emails asking if I’d review the Sony RX100, I decided to check one out for myself. Up to this point, I admit I hadn’t paid much attention to the latest round of compact camera offerings – I’ve got several excellent compacts, CSCs, SLRs – basically, all my bases are covered. Could I use something that might perhaps bring the next image quality notch closer to being pocketable? Sure.

Note: throughout this review, the product shots have had the logo taped over to prevent them being lifted and used without permission (which has happened before, often for dodgy internet merchants or ebay sellers). It seems image theft is a reality of the internet. Making a dime comes before any kind of ethics, which is rather sad.

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My first encounter with the camera was in Hong Kong, oddly enough at a little store catering to second hand gear – yep, even before most of the world gets to have a camera in stock, there are people here already deciding that it’s time for the next best thing. I played with it for a bit, was hugely impressed by the focusing speed, and equally impressed by the low light capabilities of the camera. But I left to sleep on it overnight, and by the time I’d realized a few days later that the camera was constantly on the back of my mind, it was too late because it’d been sold.

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No matter. I figured I could get one locally – wrong! In any case, a fellow photography friend in Hong Kong and Fedex came to the rescue; a day after asking him to hunt for one, it arrived on my doorstep.

Proper first impressions, in the cold light of day: it’s small. Very small. Especially considering it’s packing a 1″, 20.2MP sensor and 28-100mm lens; sure, it’s f4.9 on the long end, but that’s better than almost all kit zooms (I’m looking at you, Nikon 1, with your bulky 28-80/3.5-5.6 equivalent) and an extremely impressive f1.8 on the wide end. In effect, this camera makes the Nikon J1 look utterly pointless – it’s cheaper, has a better lens than both the kit zoom and the ‘fast’ pancake prime, and both better specified and more controllable. It’s actually nearly 1cm narrower and several mm shorter than the Ricoh GR-Digital III; and only 2mm thicker. The Leica D-Lux 5* I’ve got looks positively chubby by comparison. Of the three, only the Sony doesn’t have a hotshoe (and the Leica’s also doubles as an EVF port). Design-wise, it feels very much like Sony just duplicated the Canon S90/95/100 series of cameras, adding a prominent seam around the middle of the camera almost as an afterthought. Lineage-wise, however, it’s clearly a descendant of the V1 from 2003 and later the V3 from late 2004; both enthusiast compacts with bright Carl Zeiss lenses and plenty of manual controls. There’s also a bit of R1 DNA in there too, with its large sensor and fixed lens. However, the RX100 loses the various eye level finders of its predecessors. I don’t miss it too much; those little optical tunnel finders are nearly useless for precise composition anyway, and there’s no way to know what the camera has focused on, either.

*Comments also apply to the Panasonic LX5. The LX7 is going to be even larger; even though the lens gains a stop in speed, the sensor remains approximately the same size (1/1.7″ instead of 1/1.63″).

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The body may be tiny, but the lens is by far the largest of the lot.

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Of course, that isn’t the whole story; both Ricoh and Leica will focus down to 1cm at wideangle, where the Sony is limited to 5cm, and something much further at telephoto – nearly two feet. The Leica will go wider, and faster at f3.3 at the long end; the Ricoh of course has no long end, but it’s party piece is the excellent fast fixed 28/1.9. If this is starting to feel a bit like a comparison, it is; realistically, I’ve got these three serious compacts in my arsenal as options for when I need something truly pocketable. And taking two along would be utterly stupid (and defeat the point of a compact at all) – so there can only be one choice.

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Urban painting in progress. Sony RX100

Sometimes, little quirks of handling can make or break a camera. The Ricoh excels here – it’s probably the best handling compact ever; two fully programmable control dials, a rocker switch, locking mode dial, and a wonderfully large pill-shaped shutter button that has both a well-defined half press, as well as a clean, soft break. Combine that with sticky rubber and rough magnesium, and it’s a handling dream. The Leica is a bit smooth for my liking; it’s slippery and easy to drop, and the rear control dial is stiff and difficult to press. But it does have an aspect ratio and focus mode switch, which gains it points in my book. However, the physical lens cap is definitely not a good thing – the Sony’s lens is much, much larger, and they’ve still managed to fit a retractable shutter in there.

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Available light portrait – ISO 2500. Sony RX100

That said, I find the Sony’s controls both small and fiddly; ‘delicate’ is perhaps the best word to describe them. Firstly, the shutter button’s travel is far too shallow; the half press is stiff without much feedback or travel, and full press feels somewhat like half press on most compacts. Still, it’s very soft, which means it should be easy to activate without exciting too much camera shake. The camera does overall feel very responsive when shooting, and I suspect that shutter button feel has something to do with it. The rest of the buttons are small and similarly lack tactile feedback; the Ricoh meanwhile is exemplary in this regard. The RX100 actually has two control dials – one around the lens, which lacks any physical detents, and one around the four-way controller, which is used to control exposure parameters. I personally think the missing detents on the lens ring are a mistake; it makes it difficult to set exposure parameters (or any setting that has discrete increments) accurately. This limits its usefulness to only two things – zoom control and manual focus, which is a shame, really.

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How the other half live. Sony RX100

There are a few other things I don’t like about this camera – let’s get these out of the way first, because they’re all relatively minor.
1. Charging in-camera – this makes it impossible to maintain two batteries; the camera needs it, because you’re definitely not going to make it through a whole day of shooting with only one. Battery life is about 300-400 shots per charge depending on how much chimping you do. Sony, at the price you’re charging for this thing, how difficult would it be to include a charger, or a battery-cap if you insist on just supplying a USB cable?
2. No shutter speed limits to auto ISO – I suppose it’s using 1/focal length, but there’s no way to be sure.
3. It’s slippery as hell and far too easy to drop. It would have been nice if the bottom portion (after the central groove) was wrapped in sticky rubber or something.
4. No raw support* (not really a Sony flaw, and I suppose it’s coming soon from Adobe)
5. No hotshoe – not really a big deal actually – I don’t think I’ve ever used the hotshoe on a camera like this, other than to hold an external optical finder – and if used at 28mm, this camera is just crying out for one. Sadly, there’s absolutely nowhere to put it.
6. The ‘?’ button isn’t reprogrammable – that makes it basically useless for advanced users when shooting, because it brings up a kind of ‘how to’ for beginners. That and it deletes images – which is bound to be supremely confusing for the novice, because instead of having his or her questions answered – their image will disappear!
7. While the camera is pretty fast to start up, it’s inexplicably very slow to turn off – and sometimes, won’t turn off at all if you suddenly move it. (Apparently this is the ‘drop sensor’ feature designed to freeze everything and prevent damage in case you do happen to drop it. It seems that somebody on the engineering team thought the design was too slippery…)
8. No manual included, print or CD – some settings are just not obvious (like manual WB for instance), and having to use the online HTML manual is a royal pain.
9. The meter tends to underexpose; I understand why this is useful to protect highlights especially for a sensor with small pixel pitch, but according to the histogram it’s by as much as two stops in cases.

*If you’re wondering why I didn’t use the supplied software, I did – but I stopped soon after starting, because frankly, like every other manufacturer-produced converter, it’s crap. Excruciatingly slow, doesn’t give you as much flexibility as ACR, and just doesn’t integrate into the rest of my workflow. It takes me less time to compensate for JPEG limitations than work around the raw converter, and in the end, the results are still better.

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While waiting for the wife. Sony RX100

Still, at least we’re not restricted to only Memory Stick media, I suppose. There are a lot of things to like about the RX100. I’m going to ignore the trick multishot, face detect and scene modes (panorama, low light stacking etc) and just focus on the things that might be of interest to photographers. From a usability point of view, focus is both fast and accurate – even at the long end of the zoom, in lower light. I think it might be because there’s some form of continuous pre-AF always going on in the background; this definitely can’t be good for battery life. There is an AF assist lamp, but as with all ‘conveniences’ of this sort, it’s obnoxious. I turned it off. I keep being fooled into thinking it’s a small sensor compact because of its size; it isn’t, and you do have to watch your focus point – especially at nearer focusing distances, and with the lens wide open. As with all contrast detect AF cameras, continuous autofocus is best avoided, though the tracking mode works pretty well in static scenes – hit the center button to activate it, put the box over the thing you want to track, then hit it again to lock on. I can see this being useful for posed portraits, but little else. There’s also manual focus with peaking and magnification, though AF is so fast and flexible that I can’t see why you’d want to use it.

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Construction break. Sony RX100

It’s worth saying something about the LCD, too – the ‘Whitemagic’ LCD has 1.2 million dots, but VGA resolution; there’s an extra white pixel in there to boost the brightness of the panel under daylight. The upshot is that this is one of the best LCDs in the business – it’s sharp and fluid, and you almost can’t see the pixels. It should be a little brighter, but it seems that you can’t gain up the auto-brightness setting – either manual or nothing. Sony deserves some praise for including a shooting mode where there aren’t any icons cluttering the framing portion of the display; instead, critical exposure settings are displayed in a black bar at the bottom of the screen, very reminiscent of an SLR finder. Without this, it would be impossible to compose – there are just too many darned icons littering the screen, taking up almost the entire left third of the display.

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Iron horse without a rider. Sony RX100

I do have one complaint about the LCD and metering system, though – it’s not consistent, or representative. Firstly, you can’t accurately judge exposure from the LCD like you can with some other cameras (the Nikon DSLRs and Olympus OM-D come to mind); secondly, matrix metering is rather unpredictable. Though it mostly tends to underexpose (presumably to protect highlights) – sometimes it does so hugely, by as much as two stops; yet there are other times when it does the exact opposite. I think this is Sony’s attempt at trying to replicate the actual scene as closely as possible, but it instead limits your dynamic range and increases noise – not to mention being a colossal pain given we have no proper RAW support at the moment, so post-capture adjustment latitude is limited. I’ve reverted to the centerweighted meter for any tricky lighting situations, because I simply have no certainty over how this camera’s matrix meter is going to respond.

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Hood reflections. Sony RX100. This shot turned out VERY overexposed – far more than you’d expect for a scene of this type. Beware the meter.

This type of camera would probably benefit from a well-implemented touch panel to change settings or at very least select focus point; the economy of buttons doesn’t help when it comes to changing settings quickly. Having said that, the lens ring and Fn button functions are programmable; the latter holding seven customizable items. It also has three memory banks that remember all camera settings, and occupy the MR position on the mode dial. The one thing that really needs to be changeable isn’t – that’s the rear dial rotation. Somehow it just feels back to front to me, which results in a few fumbles before reaching the desired setting. Still, it lets you jump between zoomed-in images when in play mode, which is handy for comparing shots. (You can also power up the camera in playback mode without extending the lens by holding down the play button.) For the most part, camera functions – menus, navigation – are all snappy and occur without lag. The overall impression is of a very responsive camera indeed.

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Man, chair and door. The extremely low prefocus shutter lag allowed me to position this man perfectly. It’s so fast the camera almost feels wired into your brain.

Adding to the feeling of speed is the 10fps continuous shooting mode, which works even in RAW+JPEG; there’s a small amount of lag between bursts as the files are written to the card (I’m using a 32GB UHS-1 Sandisk Extreme HD SDHC card), but there’s a seriously impressive amount of data being shunted around here. Somehow, the Sony engineers also found space to stuff in a couple of gyros too – there’s a level display, plus optical image stabilization. To be honest, the stabilizer feels a bit less effective than that in the Panasonics, and much less effective than the Olympus OM-D – surprising, because I believe it’s a lens-based system. It’s probably good for 1-1.5 stops.

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B&W portrait. I’m pleased with the tonality, despite being a) shot at ISO 3200 and 1/30s, so it was dark; b) being a JPEG; c) having most of the bottom halftones seemingly crushed into the shadows, and the highlight detail ‘stretched out’.

Image quality breaks down into two parts – the lens, and the sensor. Let’s talk abut the lens first.

Given the incredibly small pixel pitch, best working apertures are at below f5.6, and ideally around f4; this however is a bit of a problem as the lens only reaches f4.9 on the long end. Still, I don’t see much evidence of diffraction softening. For the most part, this is a reasonably good lens despite its ambitious specifications – the only place where it’s let down is close focusing distance (say under 20cm or so) and maximum aperture at the wide end. You’re going to have to be at f2.8 or preferably f4 to get critically sharp images when shooting close; before that point, there’s a lot of flare and coma going on that robs sharpness. At normal distances, it’s an decent performer. Mine’s does better in the corners at telephoto than wide; in fact, the corners are pretty soft at f1.8, which leads me to suspect a degree of field curvature. The top edge is also softer than the bottom edge of the frame – it’s difficult to build a retractable lens with consistently high resolving power cross-frame due to the required tolerances; not that this is any excuse. The lens also remembers your last used focal length when the camera was turned off – there doesn’t seem to be any way of disabling this though. There is a bit of bokeh available, though not much – but what you do see is relatively smooth an inoffensive (though I haven’t had any extremely harsh lighting conditions under which to shoot the camera yet).

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Still life I. Sony RX100, uncorrected for vignetting.

Distortion and vignetting are minimal, and I didn’t see any evidence of CA, but since there’s no way to open the RAW files without the effects of Sony processing (I don’t count the supplied raw converter), it’s impossible to say how much of these optical limitations are being removed by the in-camera processing. I suppose we’ll just have to wait for an ACR update to find out. In the meantime, I’m making a ‘raw’ jpeg by turning off NR, reducing saturation and contrast to the minimum levels, and upping sharpening one notch (to preserve detail).

Does it have the Zeiss magic? Honestly, I’m not seeing it in the JPEGs – raw files might be a different story. It’s definitely a notch above the compact camera lenses I’ve used up to this point (with the exception of the GRDIII’s lens) but don’t expect it to have the same 3D pop as the ZF/ZE/ZM glass. It’s not a depth of field related thing either; the larger format glass pops even at hyper focal. (It could very well be a sensor limitation though).

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Still life II. Maybe there is a little of that Zeiss ‘pop’ and tonal richness after all – but it did require some post processing. Sony RX100.

The sensor is another story. Ostensibly, it’s a relative of the 10MP 1″ unit found in the Nikon 1 cameras; it’s a CMOS sensor with RGB filter array (curiously, not one of Sony’s four-color arrays). Pixel pitch is 2.4 microns compared to around 2 for the 10MP 1/1.7″ types, sub-2 for most normal compacts, 3.38 for the Nikon 1, 4.2 for the OM-D, and 4.88 for the D800E. Thus we’d expect slightly better performance than the current crop of prosumer compacts – perhaps a little more, given the generation gap. Not quite – it seems that this sensor is another generation ahead of the sensor in the Nikon 1, because it delivers similar noise levels, dynamic range and color accuracy despite having twice the number of photosites crammed in. In fact, from a noise point of view, it’s probably a bit better than the 12MP M4/3 sensor used in the E-P3 generation. Not quite what you expected huh? And all this from JPEG output. It seems Sony has upped their game there, too – unlike the oversaturated, over-contrasty, strange-hued JPEGs of the NEX-5, the RX100 generates remarkably natural looking files. Noise reduction – it cannot be completely turned off – when turned down, does a decent job of balancing texture/ detail and noise. My one complaint is that auto white balance is all over the place, and the camera doesn’t seem to like doing manual WB from a gray card – either it fails entirely, or delivers a very strange hue shift.

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For a 100% version, click here

I feel there are only two areas in which the sensor’s smaller pixel pitch starts to show – that’s dynamic range, and edge acuity at higher ISOs. While dynamic range is a bit better than the prosumer compacts – perhaps 9.5-10 stops useable JPEG (and hopefully 11-11.5 in RAW) – the highlights and especially shadows clip quite abruptly (a lot of the tonal range seems bunched up in the bottom third of the histogram), so one must take care with exposure – not something easy to do when you have to contend with the camera’s erratic metering*. If you push the shadows too far in post, you start to get splotchy, low frequency (but random) yellow-blue pattern noise depending on the ambient lighting. There are also a few hot pixels thrown in for good measure, too. Edge acuity is another thing altogether – there’s visible erosion of fine detail structures beginning at ISO 1600, and getting more obvious as you go higher. Dynamic range doesn’t suffer quite as much as you’d expect, though. Overall, I’d put the high-ISO limit of this camera at 3200 – this is about the same as the Pen Mini, and a 1-1.5 stops more than the LX5, GRDIII et al. It’s going to be very interesting to see how this camera performs once we have a way to put the raw files on a level playing field…

*It’s also possible that I’ve been spoiled by the nice, linear RAW files from today’s CMOS-based DSLRs and CSCs. But then again, that’s unlikely, because the tonal response of the M-Monochrom’s CCD is quite similarly biased towards shadows and highlights and I didn’t have any problems processing those.

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Taxi drivers. Note the mark of JPEG: irretrievable highlight clipping. It was either this or lose the deep shadows. I suspect the image would have been saveable in RAW.

On the whole, two things left their mark on me during this review and while using the camera – firstly, I was constantly surprised by just how good the image quality was. I expected compact camera level, I was given constantly CSC-level, though not quite as good as the latest generation of M4/3 bodies like the OM-D. In many ways, it felt like an entry level DSLR crammed into a compact body. It’s incredibly fast and responsive, and shunts around large RAW files at 10fps without a hiccup. The lens is definitely an excellent performer, and a notch above the kit zooms; not to mention being faster at both ends and having a bit more reach. The second, less positive impression felt as though some useability had been sacrificed for size, usually unnecessarily – there’s no reason why we can’t have detents on the lens ring, an external charger, or even a printed manual (especially important given the complexity of the controls). There are ways to adjust things from both menu and shortcuts, but seemingly odd inflexibilities like the useless ‘?’ button and lack of an AF-point reset key (you have to move it back to the center with the D-pad). In some ways, the camera does feel like an experiment; which is surprising given the maturity of compact camera designs these days.

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Untitled workers. Sony RX100

But on the whole, the RX100 gets it right – it is undoubtedly the best compact camera available today, especially from the point of view of image quality. And I still feel as though it hasn’t shown its full potential yet, hampered by the lack of RAW support. I’ll be taking this camera with me on holiday at the end of the month – and only this camera. (It’s a family trip, not a shooting one; I usually bring the GRDIII for occasions like this). It’ll be interesting to see how it performs, and if I feel like anything is missing – look out for an update early next month. Hopefully we’ll get ACR support by then too.

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Still life III. Sony RX100

I didn’t think I’d have quite so much to say about quite so small a camera; the overwhelming feeling is that we’re very nearly at the point where there aren’t that many good reasons left for a larger sensor or even interchangeable lenses for most users – but perhaps that’s another generation out. What I do notice is that the improvement in smaller sensors has also had an effect on the way I compose – rather than seeking shallower depth of field, I’m looking for just enough to give the right amount of separation of subject from background; sometimes, a fast wide on a smaller 1″ sensor is enough; other times, you have no choice but to use 300mm on medium format because of the required perspective. One final point worth noting: this isn’t a cheap camera. In fact, it’s a good 50% over a Pen Mini kit, and comparable to a GX1 kit. It seems that you’re paying double taxes for minaturization and Zeiss optics; but the very few compromises mean that if you already have a large, fully-featured CSC or DSLR, then this is the ideal pocket companion for the times when you just don’t want all that weight. The RX100 isn’t a mature replacement for a larger camera, but the number of reasons to have one around definitely just got smaller. The limitations now rest squarely on the photographer; for most people, this is all the camera they’ll ever need. This is the king of the hill when it comes to compacts – I’ve not yet shot with anything else this size that has such great base ISO image quality and can handle ISO3200 with impunity and minimal consequences to image quality, whilst not holding you up with either focusing or continuous shooting speed. Highly recommended. MT

Coda: I’ve taken to putting some cloth tape on the front of my camera’s grip area for a more secure hold, because as handsome as the smooth anodized aluminium looks, it’s a slippery little bugger. Looks hideous, but I’d rather that than drop a very expensive point and shoot.

One reader also made a good comment on video: I’ve left it out. Yes, the camera can do 1080P 50/60, which is astounding considering its size; I tried it briefly and it looks fantastic, however I lack the expertise in this area to make any comments of weight other than to say that a) I don’t see much, if any, visible artefacting; b) you can zoom while recording, and it’s silent; c) the camera records stereo sound.

The Sony RX100 is available here from B&H and Amazon.


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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | 2012 onwards. All rights reserved

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Still life IV. Sony RX100

Review: The Canon G1X Mark III, an impulse buy

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I picked one of these up on a recent trip to Japan (for some reason, none were available locally). Though Japan is one of the few places where the larger stores have virtually all models of camera on demo/display, with batteries and storage and lenses and in essence ready to play with to your heart’s content – that tells you very little about how something will perform in the field, in practice. Motivations? I was seduced on impulse by the spec sheet.

Disclosure note: I currently work for Hasselblad as Chief of Strategy, which means I cannot objectively comment on or review anything that might be competition. But since we don’t make a consumer level APS-C compact, there’s little conflict of interest here: I too am simply looking for the perfect pocket tool as much as the next photographer. As small as the X1D is – for medium format – it’s not exactly pocketable.

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Quick Review: the Panasonic LX10

While returning the Lumix G9 to Panasonic Malaysia, I caught, out of the corner of my eye, the LX10 lying on a table. I picked it up and immediately felt the urge to borrow it. Minutes later, having done just that I was out shooting whatever I found interesting for the rest of the day. Considering the LX10 has been around since late-2016, I wasn’t focused on reviewing it. However, it’s left enough of an impression on me that I thought I would share my thoughts and some images here.

I have always been fascinated by advanced compact cameras, with their small but feature-rich form factor. However, interchangeable lens cameras, especially Micro Four Thirds, have become smaller and smaller over time and narrowed the size advantage that compact cameras traditionally held. We have the truly compact Panasonic GM1 and GM5, coupled with the slim 12-32mm pancake lens, that provides a very compact solution. Other alternatives such as Fuji X-E3, Olympus PEN-Lite series and Canon M-series are not that much larger. Yet the Panasonic LX10 and Sony RX100 range of cameras sit very comfortably in their own category despite these threats. I had to satisfy my own curiosity and explore the benefits of a premium compact camera for myself.

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Discussion points: photographic rules

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Much has been written about photographic guidelines or rules that are supposed to guarantee you – or at least lead to a high chance of success – an interesting or balanced image. I’m not about to reinforce those, but neither am I about to dismiss them completely. Instead: let me offer you an alternative take on The Pantheon of Photographic Dogma like ‘the rule of thirds’ and ‘best light at dawn and dusk’ and ‘blur only your backgrounds’ etc. Important: it is not to be confused by the limitations imposed by the physiology of the way we see: we cannot help notice bright colours because this is the way our brains and eyes are wired. We cannot help but notice abrupt highlight clipping (but not black shadows) – because we cannot change the way the cells in our retinas are laid out. Apply some scepticism to internet pundits who can’t differentiate between man-imposed rules and those which are physiologically limited. With that, let’s move on to the discussion background.

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The un-camera camera

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Levels of commitment

What on earth is an ‘un-camera’? I think I’d better start by explaining the title of this post a bit better. I often find myself in a bit of a conundrum: I’m sure you are undoubtedly all aware of my role with Hasselblad and longstanding affinity for their hardware. I’m sure many of you are aware that I continually push the envelope for what’s possible with medium format and achieve some pretty unique results in the process. On top of that, I have the added benefit of having access to pretty much anything I need from the product catalog. I also still have a full Nikon system kicking around. So: what possible justification could I have for yet another camera?

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Format strengths: why do different sized media render differently?

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MF tonality and separation: in the full size image, the airplane is in a clearly different focal plane to the tree and hangar – even though it was shot at f8.

I’ve written previously about what exactly contributes to the ‘medium format look’. However, I think to some degree we also need to both define what constitutes the hallmarks of smaller formats, but more importantly figure out where each format’s strengths lie. Having now shot what I’d consider ‘enough’ with a complete MF system wth lenses ranging from ultra wide (24mm, or 18mm-e) to moderate tele (250mm, or 180mm-e) I think I’ve built up a much more complete picture. No doubt this will change if the recording medium size increase further – with the 54x40mm sensors, for instance – but I think it’s fairly safe to extrapolate based on the differences between subsequent smaller formats.

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Psychologist, philosopher, tinker, spy

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Borrowing the title reference from the John le Carre novel and (later) movie Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – I think nicely encapsulates the multitude of hats the modern photographer must be comfortable wearing in order to be a producer of compelling images. I’ve said before that photography is both a dialog between photographer and audience and that the process of photographing is really an exercise in curating and excluding elements of the world according to one’s own personal biases, then sharing the results with an audience such that they might be interpreted in the desired way. The technical process of capture, and the creative one of composition, are no more than enablers to that translation: the capture allows recording and sharing; composition is arrangement with the intention of direction and influence over the audience. The whole photographic process – vision, composition, capture, presentation, viewing – is really simultaneously as much and as little as the sharing of an idea inspired by already extant objects.

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Fine art projects

This page is an ongoing work in progress for my personal fine art photography projects. Titles and short descriptions below; images and links take you to the relevant gallery. Prints are available – just shoot me an email.


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Anatomy of the quotidian (WIP, 2015-)We see the same things every day, but do we notice them? Do we see how they appear slightly different each time? Do we consider what is inside? Their form, their structure, their designers…how they came to be?


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Paradise Lost (WIP, 2015-)What if machines had souls? This is a look into the retirement of iron heroes from a previous era at a Malaysian air force base: once formidable, now almost forgotten and left to reminisce amongst themselves.


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The Idea of Man II (WIP 2015-)Sequel to The Idea of Man. Once we find ourselves…we must find our place in the greater world, and with others. What will we contribute? Where do we belong?


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Broken promises and shattered dreams (WIP, 2012-)Entropy is an inevitability of the universe; hope is an inevitability of human nature. We exist but for the blink of an eye in the greater scheme of things. Entropy wins; what happens to our dreams in the end? This project is one that’s literally very close to home, as more and more of old Kuala Lumpur falls apart and either slips further into decay, or yet another soulless mixed-use megamall. Personality is going extinct in favour of the corporate.


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Only the clouds are truly free (WIP, 2013-)We all want to have freedom. But we can never escape some anchors; what does it mean to truly be free? Do we wish were were somebody or somewhere or something else? What do we have to give up to leave? Is the dream and the imagination better than the reality?


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Paintings with people (WIP, 2013-)A graphic, semi-surrealist look at snippets of life in a seemingly controlled (but in reality, 100% candid) way.


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Crust (WIP, 2015-)Earth, bread, fractal…hard at one scale, brittle at another. An aerial celebration of what keeps the inside moist.


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Crucible (also part of ‘Un/natural’) (2015)There is a thin line of illusion between the natural and the manmade; one can be so organic as to appear like the other, and the other can be so regular and colourful as to be almost impossible. We see in the images a mirror of our own imaginations.


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The Idea of Man (2006-2015)We are born, we face choices, we are part of the machine. We question our purpose in life; we find individuality; we take our first steps towards independence. We build confidence and find our audience; the sky is the limit. It is the story of life; the story of us.


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Dreamscape (2015)On a long flight, thoughts are like clouds: our jetlagged brains float from one passing idea to another, but in the end, like us as passengers: all are transient, seeming substantial but leaving no trace of their passing. Photographed during a single flight in 2015.


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Scenes from a Venetian night (2014)One rainy evening in Venice. The city is always under threat from water, but somehow always manages to survive. More people pass through it than live there; their brief, ethereal forms are marked by a transit of color – visiting Venice is a highlight for almost all who pass through.


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Verticality (2012-2014)Look up at the base of any tall building and feel the immensity and weight of it looming over you. This series comprises a number of famous international landmarks, and is meant to be printed large and hung well above head height to convey the same monolithic dominance.