The Sony RX10 was in shorter supply than the other two cameras during my time with Sony in Nashville, so getting my hands on it was a little bit more challenging. But get my hands on it I did, and even though I spent less time shooting with it than I would have liked, what I found was a camera that really blew away whatever expectations I had.
It’s not that I had low expectations from the camera. It’s in the same family as the RX100 and RX1, both of which are well-liked by the photo community at large. It’s just that I had been using the two cameras that, arguably, the photo community has been more excited about than any camera in recent memory.
So when I got my hands on the RX10 at the private Ben Folds concert Sony put together to give us yet another interesting shooting opportunity, I did so with a bit of a suppressed sigh. As it turns out, however, that camera was the perfect shooter for the job.
The 24-200mm equivalent lens gave me more versatility than I would have had with the lens options at my immediate disposal with the full-frame shooters, the built-in stabilization kept shots looking crisp even when shooting fully zoomed in from the far back of the Ryman Auditorium, and the 1-inch sensor meant I didn’t have worry about focusing issues, even though I shot wide open (f/2.8) the entire night.
In every other respect, it worked the same way the a7 and a7R did, which is a compliment in and of itself and made for a very easy transition from shooting the ILCs to shooting the superzoom. The button layout is very similar, there are still plenty of options to customize your experience, you have the same phenomenal EVF and tiltable LCD and all of the same manual controls make an appearance.
Also, the camera performed very admirably in low light (basically the only situation I had the chance to use it in), with the final images coming out reasonably sharp considering I was shooting hand-held in a dimly lit auditorium with the ISO often set much higher than I would have liked.
Really, finding something I didn’t like about the shooter was difficult, because it was such an intuitive experience that worked so seamlessly.
Performance wise, I really have very little to complain about. For the market this camera is aimed at, it performs exceptionally well — it’s easy to get great shots, simple as that. That being said, the final images didn’t have the kind of crispness and character that photos with the a7 or a7R had, largely due to the fact that you just can’t get a very shallow depth of field even at f/2.8 and 200mm, and high ISO shooting leads to noticeable noise more readily.
Also, if you’re a manual shooter who prefers to focus and zoom on your own, the fly-by-wire system is just not responsive enough to make for an enjoyable or even very usable experience. When I did try to focus or zoom manually (not something you can do simultaneously, by the way) the delayed response and very electronic feel had me immediately switching back to automatic.
The final strike against the RX10 isn’t something you’ll notice when you pick up the camera… the price. Although it performs exceptionally well, in my opinion, the $1,300 price tag will have people hesitating who would otherwise jump at the opportunity to buy this shooter.
Conclusions So Far
As with the a7 and a7R, this isn’t meant to serve as a full-scale review. A few weeks with the camera in a few other situations will highlight other ways in which it shines and tease out some of its weaknesses as well. This is just a first impressions post that will hopefully give you enough information if you’re on the fence about this camera.
So, what’s the verdict so far? If this is the type of camera you’re in the market for and your qualms are performance-related, worry no more. Go ahead and pre-order the thing and be done with it because you won’t find the performance lacking. However, if it’s the price that has you hesitating, that we can’t help you with.
True, it doesn’t come cheap… some might even call it overpriced. But the way I see it, if you’re in the market for a superzoom, you’ll have to look long and hard to find a superzoom that can compete on the same level… if you find one at all.