|You don't need an expensive camera to make decent pictures. I used a budget travel zoom Panasonic TZ80 for this. One of the latest smartphones would also do a good job.|
By ‘compact camera” I mean a small fixed lens modelnot the larger type usually known as “bridge camera”.
When I Google “death of the compact camera” up pops a profusion of opinion pieces predicting the imminent demise of this class of camera driven by the rise of computational imaging technologies in smartphones.
Here is a quote from the 18 November 2017 Digital Photography Review analysis of the photographic capability of the Google Pixel 2 smartphone:
“Few would argue that in 2017 the mobile device industry is a major driver of imaging hardware innovation. Long gone are the days when the size of the image sensor and the aperture were the major determining factors for image quality. Instead, phone manufacturers have turned to software and computational imaging methods to achieve better detail, wider dynamic range and lower noise levels, as well as high-quality zooming and DSLR-like bokeh effects.
High-powered chipsets with built-in image signal processors and sensors with very fast read-out times make it possible to combine image data that is captured by dual-lenses, or several frames recorded in quick succession, within milliseconds. These methods produce image quality that would have been unthinkable on a smartphone only a few years ago and often surpasses basic compact cameras.
Thanks to those advances in software, but also new hardware concepts, such as dual-cameras, hybrid AF-systems and more powerful image signal processors, current smartphone cameras are better than ever before.”
Actually most of the opinionistas writing about compact cameras are not predicting anything.
They are just looking at the charts of year-on–year production figures for fixed lens cameras, showing a steep decline over the last few years. Extend the chart line down and you hit the bottom somewhere around 2020.
Compact cameras gone, smartphones win.
Is that the way it will be ?
Maybe, but maybe compact cameras will survive as niche products which might appeal to two kinds of buyers.
One is the premium/prestige group who want something really expensive to show off to their friends.
The other is the camera enthusiast/traditionalist/geeky mob who persist in wanting to take photos with a “real camera”.
Consider the following: film and film cameras, vinyl records and turntables, analogue watches and prestige motor cars.
* Film and film cameras are dead, right ?
Well…..not quite. Rumors of the death of film have been slightly exaggerated. There is in fact a mini revival of film within the niche market of retro camera enthusiasts, with new film cameras being announced recently.
Oh and by the way just in case we should forget, one of the most popular cameras on the market today is the Fuji Instax which uses instant film and produces tiny little prints in a few seconds.
The Instax range of cameras are cheap, cheerful and easy for children to use.
* Vinyl records and turntables. These things died out years ago, right ?
Not quite. They remain popular with an enthusiast user group who support a small market for turntables and vinyl records.
* Mechanical analogue watches. When digital watches arrived I well remember many confident predictions that the end of the mechanical watch was nigh and the death of the Swiss watch making industry was imminent. This was many years ago.
It did not happen. Mechanical analogue watches moved upmarket and became prestige items.
I was recently conversing with a gentleman who sells these things. He told me that he might agree to sell me one if his management approved my application to purchase (seriously, he said that) and if I was able to meet the price which started at $10,000 for an entry level model.
My Casio basic waterproof digital watch cost $60. It keeps perfect time and runs for years on a single battery. I could buy 166 of these for the price of an “entry level” prestige mechanical model.
* Luxury cars. If people bought stuff based on logic and practicality and value for money the luxury/prestige car industry would not exist. I live in Sydney. In some parts of the city you can see lots of very expensive Range Rovers driving about in congested suburbs with perpetual stop-start traffic. These vehicles with a high level of off road ability never get out of the suburbs. You could buy a whole fleet of small cars like my very capable, practical Honda Jazz for the same money as one Range Rover.
What do film cameras, vinyl records, mechanical watches and prestige motor cars have in common ?
* They are (with the exception of the Fuji Instax which is completely rational) totally irrational.
* But people want them and buy them at sometimes ridiculously inflated prices because they are “special” in some way significant to the buyer.
The nature of that special quality is not the same for each of these things.
Vinyl records and film cameras appeal to the enthusiast/counter technology/nerdy mob.
Fancy analogue watches and prestige cars appeal to those seeking status symbols.
So, where does the compact camera, or indeed any kind of camera fit into this scenario ?
Readers of this blog will be aware that I have recently been testing and reviewing the Canon G1X3 compact camera.
It makes good pictures, fine. But so do most of the other cameras I have tested in the last few years.
In fact once photos are printed up or output on the web I find it very difficult to tell which camera made which picture and that includes cameras which use the very small 7.67mm diagonal sensor up to those which use the much larger 27mm diagonal (APS-C) sensor.
When I think about the G1X3 it comes to me that there is nothing “special” about it. It is competent within its design limitations but is not particularly interesting or exciting, either to behold or to use.
Its best feature is the reliable autofocus, but that should be a given, a necessary but not sufficient capability for a camera that anybody would want to buy.
Digital Photography Review is currently running readers choice awards for various categories of photo device. In the “Best high end compact” section readers gave top billing to the Fujifilm X100F which attracted almost three times as many votes as the Canon G1X3.
I have used one of these X100 cameras (I think it was the original version) and found it to be verging on ridiculous from an ergonomic point of view. The handle and thumb support are rudimentary, the controls a confusing mix of arcane and modern, the monitor is fixed and the lens does not zoom.
There are odd little dials here and there to fill in the functional gaps left by the traditional controls.
The clumsy system for changing ISO setting is borrowed from mechanical SLRs of the 1960s and is absurdly anachronistic on a modern electronic camera.
I could go on but in terms of the user experience this is one very compromised, not-so-little compact. It is also expensive for what you get.
It doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest so at this point I must guess.
I think it has that “special” factor for some buyers. I suspect the main attraction for enthusiast camera buyers is the style of the X100 cameras. Within the camera genre the X100 models do in fact have a classical rangefinder style.
By comparison the G1X3 is just an oddly shaped little black blob of no recognisable style at all.
I doubt the G1X3 will engender much pride of ownership in buyers.
Functionally the G1X3 is a much better, more versatile, more capable camera but it is not getting the love from camera enthusiasts, at least not those on DPR.
|G1X3 on the left with Mockup 15 on the right|
Can the compact camera survive ?
I think it can but camera makers have to step up with the right products. Ideally they would produce something which can appeal to all the potential buyer groups, the fashionistas, the gear snobs and the geeky mob (the ones who actually like using cameras) who value capability, performance and ergonomics.
As it happens I have already designed this camera for them.
This is my Mockup 15 which I built two years ago as an exercise to see how much camera I could get into a small camera pouch.
I think that if properly implemented a camera built to this design could make lots of users happy and make really good pictures into the bargain.
Purely by chance Mockup 15 has about the same box volume (width x height x depth) as the G1X3 although the proportions are slightly different.
It looks larger than the G1X3 in the photos (although it is actually slightly smaller) because
a) it is silver so it stands out more and
b) it “fills the box”. The width, height and depth are carried right through almost to the corners.
It has a distinct style derived entirely from its ergonomic development. Compared to the G1X3 it has a much greater lens diameter and a much larger, fully anatomical handle with quad control set and twin dial on top and a thumb stick on the back.
It looks like something special and if built properly would provide a really special user experience.
Canon once made cameras in this “fat handle, fill the box” style. For example the well regarded G6 of 2004 which also had a very similar box volume to the G1X3.
I want to see Canon regain the courage it once showed and return to this basic concept, with better implementation of course, the G6 had some weird control locations.
I want Canon to stop its current cautious, conservative, focus group driven, design-by-committee approach to product development and go all out for the best camera that any maker could possibly produce.
Lots of buyers might really like that.
As for Mockup 15, any of the mainstream camera makers could turn this into a production model right now.
Do they dare ? probably not.
|Without data it is difficult to tell which camera made which photo. Any one of the cameras reviewed in this post could have made this. It was in fact made with a Panasonic FZ300.|
Despite the morbid predictions of various self appointed sages it appears the compact camera is not quite dead.
In fact Canon has recently released the brand new G1X Mk3, the second zoom compact withan APS-Csensor. The first was the Leica X Vario of 2013, with an 18-46mm lens but no EVF.
The G1X3 is a much more useful device than the Leica having a built in EVF, fully articulated monitor and much more.
I recently bought and have been testing a G1X3 and also happen to have in my camera drawer a Panasonic LX100 and a Sony RX100(4).
So naturally I have been comparing the three cameras to see how they perform.
It would appear that Canon, Panasonic and Sony are the only three makers still seriously competing in the consumer fixed lens camera market.
This comparison is interesting in that we have one model from each of the three players.
I guess Canon might want its dual pixel AF, APS-C sensor to be a big selling point of the G1X3. No doubt that will be used as a marketing point. But plenty of drivers neither know nor care if their car drives the front wheels, the rear or both. So my guess would be that there might be quite a few potential buyers who are not interested in the technical details of the sensor.
My take is that the best feature of the G1X3 is the accuracy, consistency and speed of its autofocus system.
The standout feature of all the RX100 series models right from the first version is their compact dimensions, making these cameras pocketable. This is seen as a considerable benefit by some users.
In addition you get very good still and video quality.
LX100 is the only one of this group to have a true multi-aspect-ratio sensor. The image circle is the same or very nearly so in 2:3, 3:4 or 9:16 aspect ratio. I use this feature frequently. It gives a horizontal angle of view closer to 22mm than 24mm at the wide end of the zoom in 16:9 aspect ratio.
At introduction much was also made of the hybrid traditional/modern control system with aperture ring on the lens, shutter speed dial and exposure compensation dial. Some users say they really appreciate this control system, others are not impressed, preferring the mode dial/control dial layout seen on the Canon.
It is also interesting because one camera, the RX100(4) uses a 15.9mm diagonal sensor (so-called one inch), the next, the LX100 uses a 21.5mm (four thirds) sensor cropped to 19.2mm diagonal enabling a true multi aspect ratio capability and the third, the G1X3 uses Canon’s latest 27mm diagonal (APS-C) sensor.
The sensor in the RX100(4) is a previous generation version from Sony. The current generation, high speed, “one inch” sensor finds itself in the RX100(5) and RX10(4).
The sensor in the LX100 was not the latest version of Panasonic’s 16 Mpx sensor even back in 2014 when the camera was introduced.
The G1X3 sensor is Canon’s latest and presumably best 27mm model. It has approximately twice the area of the LX100 and three times the area of the RX100(4).
The Canon sensor has 24 Mpx, the Sony 20 Mpx and the Panasonic in 3:2 aspect ratio has 12 Mpx.
So with more pixels and more area the G1X3 should deliver better image quality than the other two cameras.
Spoiler alert- it does but only just and not in low light.
Each of these cameras has a sophisticated auto focus system which works well, even in low light levels.
However for both still and moving subjects I rate the G1X3 AF the most consistently accurate and reliable.
In about 1500 still photos I have not seen a single mis-focus from the G1X3 as long as I put the AF frame over some part of the subject on which it could reasonably be expected to focus.
Note 1: I use 1-Point/1-Area AF with all three cameras. I find this more controllable and reliable than the various other “helper” type AF options.
Note 2: None of them will focus if the subject consists of horizontal lines only (in landscape orientation).
The LX100 will mis-focus if presented to a subject with multiple small bright lights.
The RX100(4) mis-focusses occasionally for no reason apparent to me even in bright light. It also cannot follow focus accurately on a moving subject.
Each of these cameras has a variable aperture zoom lens. The chart gives the widest aperture at each focal length (expressed as 35mm equivalent).
You can see that in the middle of the focal length range at equivalent 35mm the LX100 lens has a 1.6 stops advantage over the G1X3 and the RX100(4) a one stop advantage.
This matters in low light because each of the two cameras with a smaller sensor has a lens which admits more light than the G1X3 allowing them to use a lower ISO setting which in turn delivers potentially better image quality.
My copy of each camera has a very good lens. Each is sharp right from the widest aperture at each focal length. Each makes very sharp, highly detailed pictures at every focal length with sharpness extending well into the corners in each case.
Overall I rate the lens in the G1X3 as slightly better than the other two but you have to look closely at matched test pictures at 100% on screen to appreciate this. The superiority of the G1X3 lens is most noticeable towards the edges of the frame.
If one were to spend one’s photographic experience taking pictures of test charts and viewing them at high zoom on screen then the G1X3 would be the clear winner. But with pictures of ordinary subjects out in the real world the advantage of the G1X3 is less obvious.
All three lenses are decently competent against the light although each will show flare with the sun on the front element.
The G1X3 accepts a 37mm filter. The LX100 takes a 43mm filter. The RX100(4) has a leaf type auto lens cap with no filter.
High ISO luminance noise levels
I tested the three cameras with my standard test subject in low light at all available ISO settings. The RAW files were converted in Adobe Camera RAW at default settings for sharpness (25), luminance noise reduction (nil) and color noise reduction (25) viewed side by side on a sharp monitor after reducing output size of the high pixel cameras to match that of the LX100, to allow meaningful side-by-side comparison.
At ISO 3200 I found the G1X3 had a just detectable level of advantage (less luminance noise seen as grain) over the RX100(4) and 0.5 stops advantage over the LX100.
At ISO 6400 the G1X3 had a 0.3 stop advantage over the RX100(4) and 0.6 stop advantage over the LX100.
This is a rather unimpressive result for the G1X3 which is only just better than either of the small sensor cameras and reinforces just how good the Sony 15.9mm sensor still is.
Even the ageing four thirds sensor in the LX100 looks good in comparison to the G1X3.
The combination of lens aperture and high ISO noise levels give the advantage to the two smaller sensor cameras in low light levels.
At a focal length of 35mm equivalent the LX100 has a one stop low light advantage and the RX100(4) a 0.6 stop advantage.
In low light all three cameras focus quickly and accurately without any need for the focus assist light.
Each gives accurate exposures.
On my tests I could see no appreciable difference between the three in sharpness, resolution or highlight and shadow detail except that the LX100 was able to operate at a lower ISO setting all the time giving a small image quality advantage.
Low light capability verdict:
The G1X3 and RX100(4) each have a built in flash, the LX100 has a clip on flash supplied in the box.
Each is effective in providing fill flash outdoors or supplementary light indoors. The G1X3 and LX100 have a hotshoe so can accept accessory flash units. The LX100 is also compatible with Panasonic’s sophisticated multi unit off camera wireless flash system, not that I would expect many users to avail themselves of this.
Here the G1X3 has a small but definite advantage. With more pixels and a slightly better lens the G1X3 can capture more fine subject detail in scenic subjects than the other two cameras.
Each has good highlight and shadow detail and minimal distortion.
This is fairly straightforward.
If you want to photograph little things the LX100 gets in closest for the greatest subject size followed by the RX100(4) then the G1X3.
The G1X3 is an improvement over previous G1X versions but still well behind in this company.
None of these cameras can compete with a proper macro lens.
The G1X3 lacks 4K so I tested them in Full HD. I make no pretence at being any kind of expert on video so my testing was not very sophisticated.
I just filmed domestic scenes and viewed the film clips on screen.
The results were fairly obvious. The LX100 produced the most natural, sharpest and best movie picture quality. The G1X3 was the least appealing with unsharp details, un-natural color and contrast and edge artefacts.
The G1X3 had the best autofocus making transitions from near to far subjects more quickly than the other cameras. However the other two were not disgraced. They both shifted focus reliably enough just not as quickly as the G1X3.
So even without invoking 4K, the video verdict is:
Social documentary and street photography
Each camera is very well suited to this type of work. Each produces very good results.
I rate the G1X3 slightly ahead because of its more reliable autofocus and slightly greater subject detail. But the others are also very good.
Many people like to use these cameras to photograph family members including children/grandchildren at play.
Each of these three does a fine job with fast, mostly accurate autofocus and good highlight/shadow detail.
I rate the three cameras equal for this task.
Each camera can make sweep auto-panoramas stitched in camera.
The G1X3 is the first Canon camera with this capability.
I tested the three cameras on my usual landscape subject and also in various settings suitable for panorama. I have considerable past experience with the LX100 as a landscape pano camera and found it to give very good results.
The G1X3 has the advantage that panorama can be used at any focal length. The others revert to the widest focal length for panorama. The RX100(4) has a dedicated pano icon on the mode dial. The other two have to access pano via the Scene icon on the mode dial.
Each camera can do pano in portrait or landscape orientation with sweep in any direction.
Considerable practice is required with each camera to get consistent results.
The G1X3 permits the greatest sweep angle, regularly reaching around 200 degrees, the RX100(4) allows the least sweep angle.
Overall pano image quality and best stitching integrity is achieved by the LX100. The others make more stitching errors particularly with foliage.
I doubt many users would expect any of these cameras to be ideal for capturing action.
However the G1X3 can follow focus on moving subjects very well. The problem with it is the small buffer and tediously slow write to card times. It is much better if JPG only output is used
I have used the LX100 for basketball with quite good results. Even with RAW+JPG output the LX100 has a decent buffer which clears decently fast. So I can fire a sequence of shots without the camera getting bogged down in its own processing.
So best for action is the LX100 if RAW+JPG is required, and either the LX100 or G1X3 if JPG only output is suitable.
Using my standard ergonomic scoring schedule I rate them:
The G1X3 has the goods: the best EVF of this trio with more importantly the best eyepiece and eyecup, fully articulated monitor, twin dial controls (triple dial if you count the lens ring) and all the rest of it.
A clear win for the G1X3.
If compact size is your primary criterion the choice is easy: get one of the Sony RX100 models. I recommend the Mk3, or Mk4 as best value for money.
The G1X3 and LX100 have double the box volume (width x height x depth) of the RX100 models.
If your preference runs towards indoor sport, low light subjects without flash, video or close ups consider the LX100 even though it is getting a bit old having been announced in September 2014.
For the best overall user experience and results with general stills photography, family/children, street and social documentary work I recommend the G1X3.
If Canon had given the G1X3 an f2.0-4 lens and a sensor with better high ISO characteristics and a more anatomical handle and faster processor and better video and a few other upgrades and a more interesting shape and style, they might have had a camera of the year to sell.
As it stands the G1X3 is a decent camera which performs competently in most situations.
Is that enough in 2018 ??
I suspect that description would fit the latest crop of smartphone cameras.
My personal reaction to the G1X3 is that it falls short of the kind of adventurous excellence which made Canon the leading brand which it is today.
It is evidently the best Canon compact to date but let’s face it, Canon’s previous compact models have been mediocre little things unlikely to engender much excitement in anybody.
I think that in today’s market which threatens the very existence of the camera as a type of image making device manufacturers need to produce products which are really special.
Things with a flavour of exotica after which people will lust.
There is nothing exotic about the cameras compared here and I can’t imagine too many people lusting after one.
|Dolce Vita Sydney Harbour|
RX10M4 Shot from a moving ferry
Straight out of camera JPG
The RX10Mk4 is the best bridge camera you can get right now with a level of picture quality and performance which surpasses other models on the market including those from Sony.
The RX10M4 really does make an interchangeable lens kit redundant for many enthusiast photographers.
Unfortunately the least well implemented aspect of the RX10M4 is the user interface in all its aspects. This detracts somewhat from the user experience in both the Setup and Capture Phases of use. It is the reason the RX10M4 did not get a Camera Ergonomics camera of the year award for 2017.
Fortunately none of the ergonomic deficiencies are of sufficient magnitude as to prevent me from keeping the RX10M4 and making it my go-to camera for most purposes.
However there are many small to medium level ergonomic problems which together lead to user frustrations which could easily have been eliminated with better design.
I will try to illustrate these using descriptions, photos and comparison with the Panasonic Lumix FZ2500 which manages to deliver optimal ergonomics in almost every aspect of camera operation.
The weak links in the FZ2500 imaging chain is the specification and optical performance of the lens and the antediluvian auto ISO programme.
Let’s start with the overall concept and realisation of the package. Sony has done a remarkable job in fitting a 24-600mm (equivalent) lens and a 15.9mm sensor into a very compact package.
The RX10M4 has actually 6mm less width and 8mm less height than the FZ2500.
The lens is longer as you would expect, but the diameter of the Sony lens housing (80mm) is actually less than that of the Panasonic (83mm) yet the Sony filter is larger (72mm) than the Panasonic (67mm).
|RX10Mk4 rear |
But there is an ergonomic price to be paid for this restricted body height and width. Basically it means there is less real estate there for the various viewing and control modules which must be fitted.
There is insufficient width for a fully articulated rear screen.
The handle width is restricted and consequently the handle is forced to be of the thin type which cannot be shaped to conform to the anatomy of the hand and fingers as easily as a fatter handle type.
You have to use the cameras for a while to appreciate this.
The RX10M4 handle is serviceable, but it could be better if the designers had more width to work with.
Height available for the viewfinder eyepiece and eyecup is limited. Again the one supplied is serviceable but could be better if more space had been available.
The control panel (the area to the right of the monitor screen) on the RX10M4 is about 5mm narrower than that on the FZ2500. This might not sound like much but it restricts the width available for the thumb support which is much wider on the FZ2500 allowing the thumb to adopt a more natural position and at the same time opening up a space above the thumb support for the rear dial. Panasonic could have elected to embed the rear dial in the thumb support (as per the FZ1000 and GH4/5) which is my preferred location, but elected not to, I know not why.
The next big body shape item to consider is the slope of the shoulders. The top deck of the RX10M4 slopes down considerably on the right side. Presumably this has been done in the quest to make the body appear compact. The downside is that shutter button height and handle height are restricted. Users with small hands will be able to get a full five finger grip on the handle but those of us with slightly larger hands may not. This is not a huge deal but is not trivial either as the camera weighs 1170 grams ready to go. A good solid grip on the device is essential particularly when working at the long end of the zoom.
It occurs to me that there is no identifiable Sony styling or control layout theme here.
Check out the Alpha A7 and A9 models which have a hump top but a flat top panel and the Alpha A6000/6300/6500 models which have a flat top, no hump style.
Why are they all different ?? The same people with the same hands are expected to use them.
|RX10Mk4 on the left, FZ2500 on the right. This is one of those situations where a photo does not tell a thousand words. To the casual observer these two cameras might seem very similar. But in practice one handles much better than the other.|
Now let us look at the top deck where we find something really strange — an LCD panel.
LCD panels were introduced to digital SLRs because the optical viewfinder on this camera type can display only a limited amount of camera data.
But the RX10M4 has an electronic viewfinder and an electronic monitor screen both of which can display vastly more information than the LCD panel (or not, if you prefer) and the data displayed is user selectable.
So what is the LCD panel doing there ??
I can tell you for sure it is taking up some of the most valuable real estate on the camera and preventing the Mode Dial from being located there.
In my use of the RX10M4 I NEVER look at the LCD screen. It is useless. Redundant. Actually it is worse than useless, because of the opportunity cost to the entire control layout of having the LCD panel where the Mode Dial should optimally be located.
To the right of the LCD panel we find a dedicated exposure compensation dial. These things have been fitted to all manner of cameras in the last few years, from compacts to full sized ILCs.
In my view they are an ergonomic mistake. Why ?
A much more versatile arrangement is to have two control dials on top of the camera. The user can then decide what to do with them. One option would be to use the rear (or front if preferred) dial for exposure compensation. This gives the user the option to configure the camera to personal preference.
It also allows the user to configure exposure compensation to re-set to zero whenever the camera is switched on, or to enable the set level of compensation to be retained if desired.
With a dedicated exposure compensation dial none of these options is available.
The argument for the dedicated EC dial is that the level of compensation can be seen on the dial.
Which some users might rate a benefit except that you cannot see the dial when looking through the viewfinder and adjusting exposure with the zebras as a guide.
As it happens the EC dial on the RX10M4 is quite stiff and getting the thumb onto it with enough force to turn the dial is quite an awkward procedure, requiring one to stop taking photos, shift the whole right hand upwards allowing the thumb to move forwards.
By way of contrast the rear dial on the FZ2500 is easy to access and turn with the thumb but it is not so easy to turn that the dial moves inadvertently.
If you have an opportunity to get both cameras in hand at the same time you will quickly discover this for yourself.
What’s missing from the RX10M4 top plate ?
We already saw that the Shooting Mode Dial had to move over to the left side.
But now the Drive Mode dial has nowhere to go so on the RX10Mk4 it disappears into one of the buttons with user assignable function. That’s not the end of the world, but Drive Mode is actually one of the functions which it is useful to be able to see directly in Prepare Phase of use.
Now notice there are no control dials on the top plate. OOPS !
The optimal location for a front control dial is behind the shutter, Canon style. If the handle is well designed and the shutter button optimally positioned then behind the shutter button is the best location for the front control dial. An alternative arrangement which can work well is the Panasonic/Olympus style “around the shutter button” circular type front dial.
The optimal location for the second control dial is either embedded in the upper part of the thumb support as per the GH3/4/5 and FZ1000 or on top of the thumb support as per the FZ2500, FZ300 and several other cameras.
Unfortunately The RX10 series designers lost the plot completely on the subject of control dials.
There are two of them but they are both badly located and implemented.
The upper rear dial is sitting under the right thumb in normal shooting position. So it must be set forward to avoid accidental activation. It is also small with fine serrations making it difficult for the thumb to engage confidently with it.
The lower control dial surrounds the multifunction module low down on the control panel. A camera like this needs one of these in addition to not instead of a proper high mounted rear control dial.
All the buttons on the back of the camera are too small and are flush with the surface or nearly so.
This makes it very difficult to find any of them by feel. I put a small dot of clear epoxy resin on the AEL and C3 buttons so I can more easily find them by feel.
The focus mode rotary switch is located in a most inconvenient place, on the front of the body near the bottom where the user cannot see it from the operating position.
The equivalent switch on the FZ2500 is right next to the thumb where the user can easily see and operate it.
Now we come to the aperture ring. I have been using cameras for 64 years. For most of that time the only way to change the lens aperture on any camera was to fit some kind of ring around the lens, connected to a gear mechanism which changed the position of the aperture diaphragm blades.
But on modern lenses the aperture diaphragm is operated by a little motor of some kind. This can be triggered via any kind of control point located anywhere on or off the camera.
The old fashioned aperture ring is redundant. Worse, the RX10M4 forces you to change aperture with this ring and by no other method.
The RX10M4 is a “Mode Dial+Control Dial” camera. The aperture cannot be adjusted directly unless the shooting mode dial is in the A or M position.
So to change aperture you have to move the mode dial to the required position and then use the whole left hand and several fingers to move the aperture ring. This requires many more actions, each more complex than changing aperture with a front or rear control dial which can be done with just one finger if the dials are properly located and configured.
The other obvious issue is that the lens on the RX10M4 has a variable aperture so if the aperture ring is set at say, f2.4 that will only be the actual aperture at 24mm focal length. Only if the marked aperture is f4 or a greater f number can you be sure the marked aperture will correspond to the actual aperture.
The inclusion of an aperture ring on a camera like the RX10M4 is a complete ergonomic absurdity.
Now for some minor matters:
The memory card can be awkward to extract. I cannot get my finger between the card slot cover and the card itself. So I have to grab the card by the sides. No big deal just another minor inconvenience which did not need to be there.
About the lens hood: There is a trick to getting the lens hood on and off its mount cleanly. Squeeze the hood at the sides, not top and bottom. Then it goes on and off easily with the petals facing forwards or backwards.
And so we come to the Menus.
Sony has been inflicting clumsy, badly designed menus on its long suffering camera users for many years. I am informed by those with experience that the RX10M4 menu system is an improvement on that of the Mk3 and previous iterations of the line.
That’s welcome, but Sony has still a long way to go before I could say the menu system is decently user friendly.
The designers have tried to clean up the layout with subheadings and that is a step in the right direction to be sure.
But video items are still in with stills items. There are still too many like items in different places in the system and too many unlike items lumped together.
There are way too many mystery items with abbreviated names the meaning of which is, to put it mildly, not clear. [Swt.V/H AF Area] for instance. There are many others like this.
There is an on line Help Guide (with a PDF version if desired) which is useful for unravelling the secret of some of the mystery items but not all of them.
There is an [in camera guide] which can be allocated to one of the buttons with user selectable function. Problem is, the words offered by the in camera guide are often just as cryptic as those it is supposed to explain.
There are way too many menu items altogether. Together they look like the results of a shopping spree where the buyer bought a whole load of stuff because it was on special and hoped that somebody might find a use for it someday.
There are many items pertaining to focus which appear to be of dubious usefulness to me.
So the whole menu system is cluttered up with items which I very much doubt many owners will use.
At the same time very important items which every owner who wants to use the P,A,S,M modes will definitely want to use such as [Focus Standard] are buried deep in the submenus, are cryptic in name and their function is not explained.
As it happens [Focus Standard] is the function you need to assign to the center button if you want to use that button to activate the AF frame so the position of the frame can be moved and its size can be changed.
With so many ergonomic problems the reader might be excused for thinking the camera would be almost unusable. But in practice it is not so bad.
Once the setup process is completed (I will wrestle with this in another post) and selected functions assigned to the 9 modules which can be user configured, then making function selections in Prepare
Phase of use is quite easy. Of course you have to remember which function you allocated to which button but that applies to any modern camera.
Most of the time the camera works just fine in P Mode.
There is little need to adjust anything beyond zoom and AF frame position during the process of taking photos.
The process of moving AF frame position can be streamlined by leaving the focus frame active as shown by the bounding arrows. Then the AF frame position and size can be moved directly with the rear dial/buttons.
The secret to P Mode success is the excellent if cryptically named Sony [ISO Auto Min.SS].
This is the best auto ISO programme in the business. It is focal length responsive, essential on a superzoom camera, and can be set to Standard, which preferentially selects a shutter speed 1/focal length (equivalent) or to Slow, Slower, Fast or Faster.
The setting can be saved as part of a Memory Recall set allocated to the MR spot on the Mode Dial.
I use P Mode most of the time for hand held work only reverting to A Mode when the camera is on a tripod.
So the RX10M4 is a camera which despite its rather low (for a flagship model) ergonomic score of 72/100 works decently well in practice once it has been set up to the user’s preferences and once the user has figured out how to get the best from it.
|Surf race start. RX10M4 at 600mm equivalent.|
The RX10 Mk4
has a high level of specifications, features, picture quality and performance but is let down somewhat by mediocre ergonomics which could be greatly improved with relatively minor modifications to design details.
Here the user encounters Sony’s interpretation of the menu system. Sony does appear to be improving its menus with successive models but still has some considerable way to go in the quest for a decently pleasing user experience.
There has been progress with grouping items together. So for instance we have AF1, AF2, Exposure 1, Exposure 2, Quality/Image size 1, Quality/Image size 2, and so forth. This is a step in the right direction.
But movie items are still grouped in with stills items and even after considerable use I find myself having to trawl through many items to find the one which I seek.
There are way too many cryptic and mystery items. Unfortunately the in camera menu guide (which can be allocated to a button) is often just as cryptic and of little help.
There is a well implemented My Menu which is a good place to gather frequently accessed items.
There is an on line Help Guide available through Sony national websites. There is a link in the Help Guide to a downloadable PDF version of the same guide.
This (593 page !) guide is essential reading for the user wanting to understand how the RX10M4 works. Unfortunately despite its many pages there are still some functions which I found difficult to understand and which I thought were not well explained by the help guide.
One of the biggest problems with the menus is that there are so many items, many of which it seems to me are of unclear value. I will post a series on setting up the RX10M4 soon in an attempt to clarify some of the more confusing features.
This is the few minutes one takes to reconfigure the camera for a new photographic situation. This could be moving from outdoors to indoors or from landscape to sport/action and so forth.
The RX10Mk4 mostly manages this quite well.
There are 9 buttons with user assignable function plus the Mode Dial, rotary focus mode switch and rear dial.
In addition there are two memory recall functions, one reached via the MR position on the mode dial the other assignable to one of the buttons. These can be confusing to set up as they each work in a different way and have a different set of user assignable functions. But once set up they do work.
The focus mode rotary switch is badly placed on the front of the body where it is invisible in normal use and it is also very difficult to set by feel.
I rate the LCD panel as useless and a waste of valuable camera top plate real estate.
Prepare Phase score 14/15
The handle and thumb support are serviceable but could easily have been much improved if the designers had allowed the body to be a bit wider. This would allow a fatter, taller, more anatomical handle and a wider thumb support.
Viewing arrangements are generally good. The EVF and monitor are both of high quality with a fast refresh rate particularly with continuous high speed shooting. Both use the desirable “viewfinder” style with key camera data outside the image area. The font style of the data could be fatter for better readability.
The EVF eyecup is serviceable but could be larger and softer to advantage.
The monitor is of the swing up/down type. It is not fully articulated.
The great saving grace of the RX10M4 is that once set up it can be operated mainly in P Mode due to the excellent [ISO Auto Min. SS] algorithm. Thus adjustment of focus and exposure parameters is not often required during a shooting session.
Which is a good thing because making those adjustments is nowhere near as smooth and efficient as it should be.
I identify along list of sub-optimal controls which could easily have been designed better at no cost.
The LCD panel pushes the Mode Dial off to the left where it in turn pushes to Drive Mode dial off the hard dials altogether and the Focus Mode switch down to the bottom front of the body where is effectively invisible.
There is no top/front dial and no top/rear dial, an incredible omission on a flagship camera at this price point. The upper/rear dial provided is awkward to operate and feels mushy.
All the buttons are small, flat and recessed. I put a dab of epoxy resin on the AEL and C3 buttons to make them easier to locate by feel.
The Exposure Compensation dial cannot be repurposed and is stiff.
The presence of an aperture ring on a modern electronic camera with a variable aperture zoom is a clumsy anachronism. A standard Canon style top/front dial behind the shutter button is a much more effective way to control aperture using fewer, less complex actions than are required by the aperture ring.
The RX10Mk4 manages this phase well. One flick of the zoom lever brings up the review image at 100% at the focussed point. Scrolling between frames at the same point and level of enlargement is easy. The camera provides for many user specified options in Review Phase but I find most of them un-necessary.
For a high performance flagship type model this is a rather low score. Even the humble little Panasonic FZ300 manages better with 82.
But the RX10M4 makes better pictures so these days I take out the RX10M4 and leave the FZ300 at home.
Sony can and should do much better ergonomically.
|Pied cormorant, RX10M4|
The RX10Mk4 is one of the most capable bridge cameras you can buy at the moment. It has a very large number of features and capabilities and offers the user the opportunity to configure many aspects of the camera to personal preference. This is a wonderful thing but the number of options creates so many permutations and combinations as to baffle the new user and even some more experienced ones.
It is now several months since the RX10Mk4 was released but there are still many busy discussions on user forums about how to get the camera set up properly with different interpretations of the process and numerous differences of understanding about how the many and various options interact with each other.
The process is complicated by Sony’s use of many cryptic and mystery menu items together with complex processes for setting up many of the available functions. Of course Sony is not alone in this, all the camera makers are guilty to some extent.
Hence this series of posts. As with all my ‘setting up” posts this series began with my need to figure out how the camera works. Having done so at least to my own satisfaction in most cases I find it useful to clarify my findings by presenting them in a public forum, subject to external scrutiny.
Readers please note: There are literally billions of different ways to set up the RX10M4. Each individual user will have his or her ideas about what is required and those ideas will very likely evolve over time with experience.
So please take my suggestions as a starting point for your own voyage of discovery around this complex camera.
Please experiment with all manner of different settings particularly in the early days of ownership but be aware that in due course you have to remember what settings have been allocated to which buttons/dials/switches and you need to train your brain memory and muscle memory to make the appropriate actions in each photographic situation.
That means arriving at a collection of settings which work for you.
Beginners to camera photography can leave the RX10M4 in Auto (green) Mode and fire away. The camera will make fine photos.
The camera ships with a printed 37 page Instruction Manual which is definitely worth reading carefully to identify the camera parts and make initial settings for operation.
The much more comprehensive (almost 600 pages) Help Guide is available as an online document from any Sony national website. Scroll through to the support section from the product information. On the front page of this document you will find a link to a downloadable PDF version of the same document.
I strongly suggest any new RX10M4 owner plod through this document with camera in hand. It will take a while.
Please refer to pages 20-27 and 47-75 of the Help Guide for more information about making the camera ready for basic photography in Auto Mode.
I want to press on with suggestions for using the camera in one of the P,A,S,M and MR modes which allow a great deal more user control.
When you buy the camera be sure to purchase with it the following items:
* A high quality 72mm protect filter. I use best quality (go by price) Hoya or B+W filters. These protect the (expensive !) front element of the lens with no detriment to image quality at all. It is MUCH safer and easier to clean the filter than the front element of the lens.
* At least one, preferably two if you plan to use the camera for lots of photos each day, NP-FW50 batteries and a charger. The camera ships without a separate charger although it does enable in-camera battery charging by USB connector. The separate charger allows you to use the camera and charge a battery at the same time. As the batteries take a long time to charge this is useful.
I use and recommend the Sony battery+charger kit ACC-TRW-W series which consists of one battery and a charger unit.
* A generic or Sony branded screen protector. Fit this immediately after photographing the camera (see below) as the monitor screen cannot be turned inwards for protection.
* A microfiber cloth for cleaning the lens filter, EVF eyepiece and monitor screen. Keep this in a small plastic Ziploc bag.
* A cheap generic wrist strap. Some people like to fit the neck strap, I never do. I find it much more convenient to carry the camera in a shoulder bag without the neck strap which I find forever gets in the way when I am making photos.
* A carry bag. I am currently using an old Lowe Pro Apex 140 AW. However these are no longer available and this model is over sized for purpose anyway.
Other suggestions include Lowe Pro Adventura SH 140 (2), One of the Lowe Pro Urban models, Manfrotto Amica 30, Benro Element S20.
The best way to carry a camera in a shoulder bag is with lens axis horizontal, handle up. This way it is always easy to grab the camera by the handle and remove it quickly. I have over the years tried several of the top load zoom type bags and been frustrated by them every time.
* Check that your camera came in a sealed box. If not find out why. Check for any evidence the unit is not new (if it was sold as new).
* Put on clean gloves and before you do anything else photograph the camera
, before you touch it with your bare hands
and before it gets covered in thousands of tiny little bits of skin. Assume that sooner or later you will sell every camera you buy and having pristine photos comes in very handy at selling time.
The lens hood mounts with a bayonet type fitting with the petals facing forward for photos and backward for transport and storage. The main thing to remember is that when fitting or removing the hood in either position grip the hood by the sides, not top and bottom.
Do this and it can be mounted and removed easily. If you try to remove the hood while gripping it top and bottom excessive twisting force is required. It all gets easier with repeated use.
* Focus Standard
. Users having long time familiarity with Sony menu crypto-code will understand the importance of this item. The rest of us have to learn.
Focus Standard refers to the button you have to press to activate the focus area to enable it to be moved with the up/down/left/right buttons.
See page 75 of the Help Guide.
Go to Menu > Camera Settings 2 > Custom Operation 1 > (screen 9/10) >Custom Key (Shoot) > scroll down to Center Button > Press center button to bring up the selection menu > scroll to Focus Standard > press center button again > press Menu button three times or half press shutter button to exit to normal shooting condition.
You have now allocated [Focus Standard] to the center button which is the most practical button for that particular function. It can be allocated to another button but the center button is the easiest to find and operate quickly by feel.
Now go to Menu > Camera Settings 1 > AF1 > (screen 5/14) > Focus Area > set this to [Flexible Spot].
This is the only Focus Area setting which allows you to control both the position and size (small, medium, large) of the focus frame. I use and recommend this for all general photography.
For sport/action I use [Wide] Focus Area. I will talk more about this in another post.
Now when you press the center button the focus frame brightens, four bounding arrows appear and you can move the focus frame with the up/down/left/right buttons.
Rotate the rear dial to change the size of the focus frame.
Press the C3 button to re-center the focus frame. I put a dab of clear epoxy resin on the C3 button so I can find it easily by feel.
Press the center button again to de-activate the focus frame, see the bounding arrows disappear. Do this to regain the assigned functions of the up/down/left/right buttons.
I allocate Focus Area to position 1 on the top row of options accessed by the Fn button.
Note that you can have [Face Detect
] operating at the same time as [Flexible Spot] focus area. This can be useful when photographing a person.
Go to Menu > Camera Settings 1 > Face Detection/Shoot Assist (screen 14/14) > Smile/Face Detect > Face Detect ON.
I allocate Face Detect as one of the functions available by pressing the Fn button.
Sony uses this term to describe the camera settings which determine the appearance of JPG pictures. RAW files are not affected by this setting.
But first we need to make settings for noise reduction
. Settings for noise reduction are in a completely different place in the menu system from picture style. This makes no sense to me as a camera user but there it is. Canon and Nikon do this also.
Go to Menu > Camera Settings 1 > Quality/Image Size 2 > (screen 2/14) > (stills: the little mountain pictogram refers to adjustments for still photos) > High ISO NR > Set this OFF.
The logic of this is that you can always apply noise reduction in post process in if desired but if NR is locked in at capture it will reduce noise but will also reduce sharpness which may not be what you want at all.
Now go to Menu > Camera Settings 1 > Color/WB/Img.Processing1 (screen 10/14) > Scroll down to Creative Style > At this point you have a series of choices. You can go with one of the presets such as Standard, Vivid, natural etc or you can create a personal group of settings from any of the presets. Press the right button from any of the presets to bring up a little submenu with adjustments for Contrast, Saturation and Sharpness.
This is still a work in progress for me but after several thousand JPGs I have settled on Standard modified to Contrast -1, Saturation 0, Sharpness 0.
I live in Sydney where conditions are often bright and sunny with clear air and few clouds. Yes I know it’s tough but someone has to live here. Anyway these conditions often produce high subject brightness range, hence my use of slightly reduced contrast. Users who live in places with hazy conditions and/or poor air quality or low levels of sunlight might want to experiment with the Vivid preset or Standard with increased contrast.
Beware of overdoing the sharpness. Too much can look un-natural. You can always increase sharpness in post process but you cannot undo excessive amounts if they are baked in at capture.
It may be worth allocating Creative Style to the My Menu for easier access. I have done so.
Next we want to look at DRO, Dynamic Range Optimiser
. This is Sony’s term for an in camera adjustment to JPGs to cope with high subject brightness range. All the makers have a similar feature. Canon calls it Auto Lighting Optimiser, the Panasonic version is i-Dynamic.
The idea of this is to reduce exposure a bit from standard to protect highlights from blowing out then apply a tone curve adjustment to bring up the middle tones so they look normal.
Go to Menu > Camera Settings 1 > Color/WB/Img.Processing1 > (screen 10/14) > DRO/Auto HDR> Press the center button > this brings up a little menu and some more scrolling.
* DRO at level 1-5 or Auto. I use and recommend the DRO Auto setting. You can set and forget this. It will work if picture Quality is set to JPG and will work on the JPGs if quality is set to RAW+JPG. It does not slow down the camera in any way that I can detect.
* HDR at 1-6 EV steps and Auto. In this mode (JPG only) the camera makes three exposures then merges them in camera to output a single file. It only works if quality is set to JPG not RAW+JPG. This works, I suggest you try it and see if you like the results.
This is yet another of Sony’s cryptic menu designations and is very important. It refers to a key Sony technology for the Auto ISO algorithm which is responsive to lens focal length.
I recommend allocating this one to one of the programmable buttons. I have it on the right button.
Go to Menu > Camera Settings 1 > Exposure 1 > (screen 7/14) > ISO Auto Min.SS. You can set the minimum shutter speed to a single speed by scrolling down the options here.
But I recommend selecting the much more versatile topmost option [ISO A SS] then scroll left/right. You will see the options are Slower, Slow, Standard, Fast, Faster.
With P set on the Mode Dial and [Standard] set for [ISO Auto Min.SS] the camera will set a shutter speed of 1/focal length equivalent, light levels permitting. This is very useful for general photography. You can leave the Mode Dial on P then zoom out knowing the auto ISO algorithm will keep increasing shutter speed as the lens focal length increases.
This is my standard setting which I use for most types of photography of subjects which are not in motion or at least will sit still for a second or so, like birds.
If [Faster] is set the camera will set a shutter speed of 1/1000, light levels permitting. I use this for sport/action situations.
Reviewers and some users make a big deal of touch screen capability. Here are my suggestions for setting up for touch screen operation.
Step 1: Go to Menu>Setup>Setup2 (2/6)>Touch Operation>Touch Panel+Pad.
Touch Panel works with monitor screen viewing, Pad works when EVF viewing.
Step 2: Go to Menu>Setup>Setup3> (3/6)>Touch Pad Settings>
* Operation in V Orien. > On
* Touch Pos. Mode > Relative Position
* Operation Area > Right half
Now you are good to go with touch screen operation for moving and selecting the focus area.
I have touch switched off. I move the focus area using the up/down/left/right buttons on the 4Way controller.
I find that using the hard buttons is faster, easier, requires fewer actions each less complex and causes less disruption to my grip on the handle than using the touch function.
Next post: button function allocations
Buttons with user assigned functions
The RX10M4 has 9 buttons with user
assignable functions plus the Control Wheel plus the Fn button.
Most of the buttons allow selection of one function from a list of 126 options (21 screens with 6 options on each screen).
The resulting possible number of permutations and combinations exceeds the numerical capacity of my calculator.
This allows the thoughtful user to create a camera to his or her own specifications, which is a wonderful thing.
The downside of all this hyperchoice is the possibility (probability ?) of great confusion and uncertainty.
There is also the ever present possibility of the user becoming so immersed in the convolutions of choice that just using the camera to make pictures becomes excessively difficult.
Anyway, today’s post is about buttons with user assignable function.
I will describe briefly how to work through the mechanics of this and detail my own settings with reasons.
The reader might find this a useful starting point on the journey of evolving his or her own preferences.
Go to Menu>Camera Settings2>Custom Operation1>Custom Key (Shoot)>
This brings up a 2 screen menu with Control Wheel, Custom Button1, Custom Button2….etc.
You have to select one option for each control point from the 21 screen list which appears for most of them.
The overchoice is mind boggling so I offer some basic principles which might help.
The function of these buttons will most often be invoked in Prepare Phase of use.
There are four phases of use, Setup, Prepare, Capture and Review.
Prepare is the period of perhaps a few minutes used to re-set the camera for a new photographic situation.
This might be moving from, say, landscape to sport/action, general hand held to tripod, outdoors to indoors, …..you get the idea.
In Setup Phase we want to make settings which can stay in the menus.
In Capture Phase we want to quickly adjust primary (aperture, shutter speed, ISO) and secondary (exposure compensation, white balance) exposure and primary (activate AF, MF) and secondary (move AF area and/or type and change size) focus parameters and zoom.
In Prepare Phase we want to change the various modes which proliferate in modern cameras and some other key functions.
So as you trawl through screen after screen of options think about these principles.
My settings, which by the way are a perpetual work in progress are:
* Control Wheel (This is the lower of the two wheels, the one around the 4Way controller)
Not Set. This is the default.
Reason: I work this dial a lot and don’t want it doing something unexpected in the middle of a shoot.
* C1, ISO. I want ISO to be readily accessible.
* C2, Drive Mode. I want this readily accessible.
* C3, Shutter Type. I don’t change this often, come to think of it, hardly ever. I leave it on Auto most of the time. C3 is a bit out of the way but still reasonably accessible.
* Center Button, Focus Standard. See the previous post.
* Left Button, Steady Shot. I want this where I can reach it easily.
* Right Button, ISO Auto Min.SS. Another one I want to reach easily.
* Down Button, Quality. I want to be able to switch from JPG to RAW+JPG easily.
* AEL Button, AF-On. This is for back button focus when required.
Note that allocating AF-On to the AEL button does NOT disable AF on the shutter button. So if I want to have AF activated only by the AEL back button I have to disable AF from the shutter button in a separate operation.
I allocate [(stills) AF W/Shutter] to My Menu, it cannot be allocated to a programmable button, and set [AF W/Shutter] Off if I want AF to be controlled by the back button only.
You would think with all those gazillions of options this one would be more accessible, but it’s not.
* Focus Hold Button (that’s the one on the left side of the lens barrel).
I currently have this set to [Recall Custom Hold 1]. I will discuss this and other memory recall functions in a bespoke post soon. It’s complicated.
You can access 12 functions with this button so it is potentially very useful.
Menu>Camera Settings2>(9/10)>Function Menu Set> See lots of options.
There are two rows with 6 functions on each row. As usual there is a great long menu of options from which to select for each position.
Fn button is still very much a work in progress for me. I currently have:
Top row: Focus Area, Self timer during Bracket, Flash Mode, Flash Exposure Compensation, Smile/Face Detect, Center Lock-On AF.
And on the bottom row: AWB, DRO Auto, Creative Style, Picture Effect, Picture Profile and Shoot Mode.
I don’t use the last three and need to think some more about what should go in the Fn button list. One day.
This is the next item down from Function Menu Set in the Custom Operation1 screen.
I just leave it at default which is rear ring does zoom, (which I set to step zoom, leaving the zoom lever to do continuous zoom) and front ring does manual focus.
See Menu>Camera Settings 2>Zoom (screen 6/10) for the zoom settings which I think are sufficiently are self explanatory.
Clear Image Zoom and Digital Zoom can only be set if Quality is JPG only, not RAW+JPG.
|Lyre bird, Taronga Zoo. RX10M4 original JPG tweaked in Adobe Camera Raw|
Memory recall functions 27 January 2018
There are so many
functions and optional settings on cameras these days it becomes useful to group them so they can be recalled together.
Most camera makers have a system by which this can be achieved.
Not to be outdone Sony has two of them.
Two separate, unrelated systems. In the same camera.
This has caused considerable confusion leading to much discussion on user forums.
One system saves groups of settings which can be recalled on the MR setting of the Mode Dial.
The second saves a different group of settings accessed by a different process to one or more of the user programmable buttons. The settings only apply while the button is held down.
Let’s start with the more conventional system accessed via the Mode Dial.
Step 1: Think about what groups of camera settings you want to commit to a programmed set which can be recalled.
My current practice is to use the P,A,S,M modes on the Mode dial for general photography.
For sport/action I set up the camera with a bunch of different settings and save these to Memory 1.
For tripod/landscape work I save a different bunch of settings to Memory 2.
You get the idea. Your specific needs will differ but the principle is the same.
Step 2: Very carefully configure the camera for the group of settings which you want to recall.
To see what settings can be saved by this function turn the Mode Dial to MR, see that 1, 2 or 3 is highlighted along the top and see the menu of settings available. Scroll down to see them all. There are lots of them, it’s not just the first page . You cannot make or alter settings from this menu, it is information only.
Step 3: See Page 267 of the Help Guide.
With the camera still in whatever Mode you used to set up in Step 2,
Go to Menu>Camera Settings1>Shoot Mode/Drive1> (3/14)>Cam1/Cam2 Memory>Press Center Button>Scroll left/right to highlight 1, 2 or 3> Press the Center Button again.
You have now saved a selection of settings to the Memory recall function.
Step 4: See page 146 of the Help Guide.
Turn the Mode Dial to MR. Scroll left/right to select the desired number 1, 2 or 3. (note: the other numbers MR1-4 can only be saved to a memory card)
The camera will now operate with the settings saved to memory.
To check this turn the Mode dial off MR briefly to M or Movie then back to MR to bring up the menu again. Scroll down this to confirm all is as you wish it to be.
If you make a mistake or just want to change one or more settings go back to Step 2 and start over.
Note: MR can save Shoot Mode but not Focus Mode, Aperture or Exposure Compensation settings.
So when I want to change from general photography on the P,A,S M modes to sport/action on MR1 I have to remember also to turn the Focus Mode rotary switch from S to C.
I have a notice stuck on top of the camera to remind me of this, after forgetting it several times.
Reg Cust Shoot Set
(Registering shooting settings to a custom key) See Page 268 of the Help Menu.
This is the second type of memory recall function available on the RX10M4.
This function allows you to program a memory recall set to 1, 2 or 3 of the buttons with user assignable function.
Please read Page 268 of the Help Guide. This has a description of the process required for setting up the function.
Go to Menu>Camera Settings 1>Shoot Mode/Drive2 (4/14)>Reg Cust Shoot Set (it’s the only item on that screen)> Recall Custom Hold 1, 2 or 3>See a submenu. You can select each item On, indicated by a check mark in the box (scroll left to reach the box), or Off. For each item selected On, press the center button with the item highlighted to open up a submenu. In this submenu you can select which Shoot Mode, Drive Mode, Shutter Speed …….etc as you wish. Keep scrolling down until you come to [Register] then press the center button again.
You have now registered a group of shooting settings to a Reg Cust Shoot Set.
Now you need to allocate this set to a button with user assignable function.
You need to be able to operate the camera which at a minimum means pressing the shutter button and probably zooming while holding down the custom button, without too much disruption to the hold of either hand on the device.
The only two feasible candidates are the AEL button and the Focus Hold button on the left side of the lens housing. I am currently trialling the Focus Hold button. This is not altogether satisfactory with either left-hand-under or left-hand-over hold but it can be done.
Go to Menu>Camera Settings2>Custom Operation1>Custom Key(Shoot)>Scroll to the button to which you wish to assign the Recall Custom Hold function>Select>Scroll to screen 2/21>Recall Custom Hold1> Select.
Now you have assigned the Recall Custom Hold function to a button.
The custom camera settings will be recalled while you hold that button down.
Note: When using this function it is possible to have the Shoot Mode, Focus Mode, Aperture and Exposure Compensation setting ALL different from that indicated on the respective hard dial.
Is this function useful ?
The problem I am having is that there are so many options, settings, groups of settings and functions that it all gets darn confusing.
I don’t think I can remember from one day to the next just exactly what I assigned to which button and when those assignments consist of whole groups of functions the opportunity for confusion and mistakes rises sharply.
I am finding the MR function on the Shoot Mode Dial to be useful, yes.
Maybe users with sharper brains and better memories than me will also find the [Reg Cust Shoot Set] function useful.
|Classic Sydney Harbour scene. Ferry, Opera House, Bridge. RX10M4|
have lots of modes. We usually want to make mode selections in Prepare Phase of camera use to get ready for a change in photographic requirements.
I will assume that anyone reading this series of posts is an enthusiast photographer or a camera owner heading in that direction. This involves using the P,A,S,M Modes most of the time.
Hence I have little to say about operating the camera in Auto (green) Mode on the shoot mode Dial.
The RX10M4 is really not a beginners or snapshooters camera. It is a complex, high performance device better suited to enthusiast and expert users.
There are plenty of snapshooter friendly bridge cameras on the market. Sony has the HX400V and several variants.
The topic of “best shooting mode” always provokes plenty of debate on user forums with users strongly supporting their preferred approach.
Any of the P, A, S, M modes is of course able to make correct exposures. But different circumstances favour different modes.
My practice is to use P (Programmed auto exposure) for all general photography. This works well on the RX10M4 because of the flexibility and versatility of the ISO Auto Min.SS function, see previous posts. The auto ISO algorithm is very effective at picking the optimum aperture/shutter speed/ISO firing solution in most circumstances.
In addition Program Shift is available simply by turning the control dial. This changes the Aperture/Shutter Speed relationship without changing exposure.
I suspect there might be a bit of a cult on forums involving users who appear to believe that P Mode is for dummies and that “real” photographers use the more difficult to manage A, S, M Modes. It ain’t so.
I reserve A (Aperture Priority auto exposure) Mode for those times when the picture taking process is deliberative and I want to control depth of field. This might be for a landscape situation or with the camera on tripod at night.
S (Shutter Priority auto exposure) can be useful when photographing sport/action or other subject requiring a fast shutter speed. However for these situations also consider P Mode with [ISO Auto Min.SS] set to [Faster].
M (Manual exposure) is essential for specific situations including multi shot panorama (for stitching in post processing) and fireworks.
For general photography it is not so suitable as adjusting aperture with the ring around the lens housing is slow and requires many movements each complex and the control dial which changes shutter speed is an awkward thing to use.
I think that people who say they routinely use M Mode are just making life difficult for them selves.
I described use of the MR Mode Dial position in the previous post.
Video and HFR
are not covered in this series of posts.
is executed so badly on the RX10M4 I regard it as useless. I gather from users on forums that this was also the case on the RX10M3. Apparently Sony has not managed to fix the stitching process yet.
This needs an urgent update.
I never use this as the various functions hand control of most settings to the camera.
See Page 70 of the Help Guide.
S (Single) and C (Continuous) are self explanatory.
I have noticed on user forums that some people say they routinely leave the setting at C, even for still subjects. The rationale for this appears to be the idea that S uses contrast detect AF and C uses phase detect AF and some users think the phase detect AF works better.
My experience after several thousand exposures is that AFS works just fine for still subjects including perched birds. So I use it routinely for all general photography and anything not in continuous motion.
Obviously for subjects in motion, sport/action, birds in flight and the like, you need the AFC setting.
Between S and C is an A setting. This appears to have a function similar to that of AFF on Panasonic cameras. It is a “helper” setting supposed to work like AFS if the subject is still and switch to AFC if the camera detects subject movement.
I never found this to work reliably on my Panasonic cameras so have not really tried it yet on the Sony.
DMF allows you to have AF+MF simultaneously. This could be quite useful for specific subjects such as close ups where you might want to fine tune focus. The manual focus aids (peaking, zoom-in) spring into action when you turn the manual focus ring.
M is Manual. This is essential for panoramas and fireworks and other subjects where you must ensure focus if fixed for a series of shots.
Go to Menu>Camera Settings1>(12/14)>MF Assist, Peaking Level and Peaking Color to adjust these settings.
This is best allocated to one of the buttons with user assigned function. I have it on the Right Button.
See Pages 104-105 of the Help Guide which describe all the options quite well.
There re lots of options on this mode including various kinds of bracketing.
By the way you can have the self timer together with exposure bracketing on this camera. So if the camera is on a tripod you don’t have to press the shutter button at the time of exposure.
1. Allocate [Self timer during bracket] (pick your timer delay) to the Fn button.
2. Then go to the Drive Mode and scroll down to Continuous bracketing and select the number of shots and EV interval you want.
Switch the Drive Mode back to Single for normal shooting.
There are three options during Continuous Drive, Hi (24 fps), Mid (10fps), Lo (3.5 fps).
The signature feature of the RX10M4 is that incredible 24 fps high frame rate with AF on every frame. This is video speed for still photos.
No doubt that is a remarkable technical achievement for Sony. The thing is I cannot find a use for it.
Even the Mid rate of 10 fps generates a huge number of files in just a few seconds. Yet the Lo rate of 3-3.5 fps is a bit slow for many action subjects.
My preference is a rate of 5-6 fps which captures the elements of action without generating an excessively large number of files.
I make this one of the modes accessible via the Fn button.
See Page 72 of the Help Menu.
As usual there are many options.
is really a multi-area option with the camera deciding which single or group of focus points it will select for focus. I have found that when Wide is combined with AF Continuous the camera preferences subject elements which are closest to the camera and/or are moving. This works well for sport/action most of the time.
It is also effective with birds/helicopters etc in flight when it is impossible to keep the subject exactly centered in the frame.
is just what it says. I find no use for this at all. somebody will though.
is not really a spot focus area but a selection between three AF areas by size, small, mid and large. The small setting is useful for birds and other small subjects surrounded by visual clutter.
I use Flexible Spot for all general photography.
It is the only focus area mode which allows the user to control both the position and size of the area.
Expand Flexible Spot
appears to be just Flexible Spot-small with an automatic expansion to Medium if focus is not achieved on the small area. I have not used this as I am not sure how it might be better than Flexible Spot.
is a “helper” mode, only available if AFC is set on the rotary focus mode switch. The idea is that focus is acquired on a part of the subject (such as the head of one’s running dog) then tracks focus on that same part of the subject as it moves towards/away from the camera and around the viewing frame.
In practice this produces lots of excited little green focus indicators dancing around the frame but I am yet to be convinced it is useful. Maybe I need to spend more time experimenting with the feature.
This is can be allocated to the Fn button. This is one of those modes which could encourage the ambitious user to make his or her life much more complicated than it needs to be.
As usual in typically Sony fashion there are multiple options.
The one I use routinely and leave set all the time is Multi. This is the safest mode to use for general photography.
Then we have Center, Spot (Standard and large), Entire Screen Average and Highlight.
Some users say they use Spot for birds which are often small in the frame. That might be all right except if the bird is black or white when Spot will likely under or overexpose.
I allocate Flash Mode to the Fn button menu.
True confessions: I have not used the flash except to check that it works. I generally set minus one stop of flash exposure compensation for fill flash if required.
See Page 199-204 of the Help Guide.
The RX10 Mk4 is Sony’s latest and best
high performance bridge camera with some amazing capabilities including continuous autofocus on moving subjects at 24 frames per second.
The RX10 Mk4 was announced in September 2017.
The FZ1000 was announced in June 2014, almost four years ago.
Sony started the “one inch” (diagonal 15.9mm) bridge camera arms race with the release of the original RX10 in 2013, with a 24-200mm (equivalent) f2.8 zoom lens.
Panasonic trumped this with the FZ1000 using the same or very similar sensor from Sony by increasing the zoom range to 25-400mm making the FZ1000 a more versatile proposition.
Sony followed up with the RX10 Mk2 in 2015 with some improvements but the same body and lens then the RX10 Mk3 in 2016 with an excellent 24-600mm lens. Unfortunately the RX10 Mk3 has limited capacity to follow focus on moving subjects so it did not really pose much of a challenge to the versatility of the FZ1000.
The RX10 Mk4 changes all that. This camera uses the same body and controls as the Mk3 but has the on chip phase detect AF and super fast processor from the RX100 Mk5. This transforms the camera into a sport/action powerhouse with very high capability and performance.
I have now made over seven thousand exposures with the RX10 Mk4 putting me in a position to compare it to my trusty FZ1000 which is over three years old and is much travelled.
I photographed test charts, set piece landscape scenes and several types of moving subject including running people and moving cars and speedboats.
I have enough data to make a meaningful comparison.
Spoiler alert: In practice the main difference between these two cameras is the lens focal length range.
Apart from that they are surprisingly similar in specifications, capability, image quality and performance.
I say surprising because the FZ1000 is getting a bit old in the digital camera world. Not only that but you can buy almost three of them for the price of one new RX10M4.
I won’t bore you with information better summarised elsewhere but the main difference between the two is the lens focal length and the maximum frame rate with continuous autofocus. The Sony can do 24 frames per second, the Panasonic about 5 fps.
Note: Substantial sample variation in lens quality has been reported for both cameras.
I happen to have a very good copy of each and find they test just about identical for sharpness and resolution. The FZ1000 is a bit better at 200mm but that’s about the only difference I found.
Both cameras keep chromatic and other aberrations, purple fringing and other faults to a minimum.
Both are able to achieve very high levels of resolution at all focal lengths from wide open, sufficient for huge enlargements.
The Sony has about half a stop, maybe 0.6 stop less noise at high ISO values.
Dynamic range appears to be very similar with similar ability to recover highlights from RAW files.
Both cameras are very responsive with fast shot to shot times. Neither gets in the way of rapid fire photography.
Both can follow focus quite well on moving subjects.
On my tests of moving cars at about 50 kph at 400mm focal length, each camera scored about 75% of frames in sharp focus, 20% just out of focus and 5% unsharp.
I had the RX10M4 at 10 fps for these tests.
Of course the RX10M4 shot twice as many frames per second as the FZ1000 so I ended up with more in focus frames per second with the Sony.
Actually I find 10fps rather too fast for most purposes but the Sony does not offer a 5-6 fps option. You get 24, 10 or 3.
Here the FZ1000 is clearly a more appealing device. It is easier to set up and more streamlined to use with fewer actions each less complex.
The handle is more anatomical and the controls laid out more thoughtfully. The buttons are larger, the dials easier to use.
Summary and recommendation
If you don’t absolutely need the extra reach of the RX10M4’s lens then seriously consider the FZ1000 which can still be bought new at a very attractive price. It is a very good, capable and versatile camera.
If 24-600mm in one fixed lens and high speed follow focus capability with very good to excellent image quality is important to you then the RX10M4 is the only place to go right now.
|This is the scene with localised color fringing correction applied as described in the text. I used the Grad Filter on the top right of the frame and the Adjustment Brush on the walkers in the sun on the right side. This has removed most of the fringing without adverse effects elsewhere in the frame.|
The Canon G1XMk3
is a good camera within its capability envelope. Many people myself included had hoped that envelope would be larger, extending to a wider aperture lens, more advanced video and a faster processor among other things.
But it is what it is. Overall picture quality is about the same as that delivered by my little Sony RX100 Mk4. The G1X3 has better ergonomics and marginally more resolution of fine subject details but you have to look very closely at matched images enlarged to 100% on screen to pick this. The RX100Mk4 is better in low light because of the wider aperture lens.
I took my G1X3 out recently and stress tested it with some scenes having high brightness range. This revealed a problem. Actually two problems, one leading to the other.
The G1X3 is prone to color fringing in RAW files at the edges of subject elements where there is considerable brightness change across the boundary between the subject and the background.
This is typically seen on tree branches and foliage in bright sun but can occur on any type of high contrast edges.
Characteristically the camera produces purple/red fringing on one side of a subject element and green fringing on the opposite side.
|Enlargement of the top right of the frame showing uncorrected purple/red and green fringing.|
Over several thousand images I have found that the out of camera JPGs automatically correct for most of this fringing without adverse secondary effects.
However when converting RAW files with Adobe Camera Raw I encountered the second problem which is grey fringing on subject elements distant from the corrected color fringing.
Camera Raw has dual sliders for correcting color fringing. One controls the purple spectrum, the other controls the green spectrum. These sliders are effective in removing most of the fringing.
|This is what the image looks like after global defringe corrections have been applied in Camera Raw. It might seem OK until you look closely when you will see grey fringing in many locations.|
However when the fringing is prominent, as it can be in some situations, this correction produces the unpleasant phenomenon of grey fringing elsewhere in the picture.
This problem is not exclusive to the G1X3 or to Canon equipment but I have not seen it present in such obvious fashion on my Sony and Panasonic cameras in recent years.
Clearly Canon’s JPG engineers are well aware of this issue as they have pretty much eliminated it from the out of camera JPGs.
|This is an enlargement of the center section of the full frame showing the grey fringing more clearly. You can see it easily on the legs and other parts of the of the lady running, the neck of the girl with the apricot T shirt and in many other locations.|
After some experimenting with various options I have come up with a fix for the grey fringing issue which appears to work decently well in most images.
I identify where the color fringing is present, it will usually be around the periphery of the frame, then select either or both the Adjustment Brush or Grad Filter in Camera Raw and apply a local defringe correction using the generic Defringe slider. This does not allow fine tuning by color like that seen under the Lens Corrections>Manual tab but it works well enough to remove most of the obvious fringing.
The point is that the defringe function is not applied to the whole image thus avoiding the grey fringing problem.
I was unable to locate any setting in the ACR Lens Corrections tab which eliminated the problem.
The photos and their captions illustrate the issue.
The problem only occurs in certain situations and will likely not be encountered often or at all by some users.
I have no idea whether other RAW converters including Canon DPP have this issue. I don't like DPP and never use it in my regular photographic work flow.
|Rainbow Lorikeet. RX10 M4. Nothing to do with camera bags but a more interesting photo.|
My Panasonic FZ1000 and FZ2500
cameras fit perfectly in theLowe Pro Apex 110 bag.
But the RX10M4 has a longer lens so I had to seek a different carrying solution.
The carry bag needs to protect the camera from knocks without being over built, allow the camera to be inserted and removed easily with the lens hood in reversed position and provide compartments for spare batteries, microfiber cloth, memory cards and a cable release if one is planning on tripod work. Some owners use the neck strap so they need a bag with space for this. I prefer to use a simple wrist strap which makes the process of using the camera more streamlined. I do not carry the camera around my neck.
Here are two options which fit those criteria.
|Lowe Pro Toploader Zoom 45 AW (II)|
Lowe Pro Toploader Zoom 45 AW (II)
This is the smallest and lightest bag which I have been able to find in Australia which is suitable for the RX10M4. With a protect filter on the lens and the lens hood reversed, it is just high enough to squeeze in the EVF eyepiece with no spare room. In particular there is no space to accommodate the neck strap.
The camera goes into the bag easily enough but can be a bit awkward to remove. See the photo for the way I grab the camera to remove it. I find that if I try to lift the camera by the handle it does not want to come out so easily.
|Extracting the camera from the TLZ bag|
I have some concern about the weight of the camera bearing down onto the lens and wonder if any damage might result. Probably not I have never heard any such described.
Otherwise the TLZ45 does a good job. It has a raincover and an external zip up pocket for accessories.
The top cover opens away from the body.
It doesn’t hang straight though. The attachment points for the shoulder strap are at the rear which causes the bag to tilt forward when loaded. This might be an issue for some people.
|Handle up in the Adventura SH 140 (II). Easy to extract. Note basic wrist strap.|
Lowe Pro Adventura SH 140 (II)
This bag is larger overall and a bit heavier. It is higher than required for the RX10M4 but otherwise a good fit with the camera either handle up or screen up.
I use it as shown in the photo, handle up. The bag is exactly the right width with a protect filter and reversed lens hood on the camera.
I find this setup allows me to insert and remove the camera most easily. It also provides enough space for those who wish to use the neck strap.
There is a rain cover and plenty of space in the front compartment for accessories.
The strap attachment points are mid way between front and back allowing the bag to hang straight when loaded.
The top cover opens away from the body.
I always find that a suitable carry bag is an important aspect of the ergonomics of owning and using a camera.
Either of the two described here is satisfactory for the RX10Mk4.