Review: Shooting Street with the Sony RX1
Of all my years of shooting in the street with my trusty DSLR workhorse, I’ve slowly come up with a wish list of features that would make it easier for me to capture keepers. The top 2 on the list are: a smaller camera body, and a full-frame sensor. So when I heard about the release of the Sony RX1, which basically combines these 2 features, I was crazy excited. And just recently, I had the chance to test drive this baby for a couple of weeks.
Walking around Orchard Road on weekends looking for strangers to shoot candidly, I realized it’s been a while since I’ve done this. I’ve been busy lately on client work that I haven’t had the luxury of time. Testing the RX1 was a good excuse for me to go back in the streets where I started… and it felt good.
The very first thing I noticed about it is the size: it was smaller than I expected. Granted you can’t put it in your pocket, it was compact enough that I could conveniently carry around everyday. Compared to shooting with a DSLR, it was pretty liberating using the RX1.
Along with the compact size, the ultra-silent shutter click afforded me a bit more stealth than usual. In the tradition of Henri Cartier Bresson, I could take a photo and walk away without the subject even knowing I was there. Of course, sometimes I still do get noticed being a relatively hefty guy taking pictures in public, but there was a sense of comfort having the possibility to shoot inconspicuously. I would casually raise the camera in front of my chest, compose through the LCD, take a few shots, and move on. Easy does it.
I always prefer to shoot late afternoon, but usually call it a day by dusk. With the RX1′s full frame sensor, I figured I might as well see how it performs at low light. Shooting at night should be quite a challenge, but I quickly realized the lights coming from the malls, lamp posts, and traffic lights made the photos more vibrant and colorful. Sure, using high ISO brought noise to the photos if you pixel peep, but I never really mind grainy photos. In fact, the noise control for high ISO from the RX1 was quite excellent. The noise at ISO 6400 was completely acceptable in my book.
I do have a few qualms about it, though. I wish the auto-focus was a bit faster. Having gotten used to the auto-focus speed of my DSLR, I had to adjust my workflow a bit with the RX1. Another thing that could be better was the battery life. I could last 4 hours just walking around shooting street. But the RX1 won’t last that long. I would recommend to always bring along an extra battery. And lastly, I wish it was weather-sealed… so I could use it to shoot in the rain :)
Overall, I think the camera kicks ass. It’s conveniently compact size allow you to carry it with you everyday. In fact, it’s easy to forget that you have it slung on your shoulders. It’s ultra-silent shutter click lets you take photos without ever disturbing anyone. It’s high ISO performance will not limit you from shooting even at low light situations. And it’s full frame sensor guarantees image quality that rivals my DSLR. After a couple of weekends, shooting street with it is easy – it felt quite natural.
Here are some of images I captured using the RX1. All photos were taken in Orchard Road on weekends.
As they say, a street photographer should always have a camera at all times. The RX1 is perfect for this purpose. Yes, the price is hefty… you can get an excellent full-framed DSLR at the same price range. But with its compact size and resulting image quality, if you can afford it, why the hell not?
Big big thanks to Sony, as well as Eileen and Calvin of Omnifluence for letting me play with the camera. You guys rock :)
Techie footnote: All photos were processed using Adobe Lightroom. Not much processing was involved, just some quick adjustments in exposure, highlights, and shadows.