Sony RX-100 vs SLT-A99

I am going to compare 2 cameras which are very different. Just trying to compare the 2 is not a fair comparison from the start.

  • One is 4 x more expensive than the other (actually probably 8x by the time you add the lens)
  • One has a much larger sensor
  • The lenses are very different

Why compare them if they are so different ? Like most people I love my big Full frame A99 with battery grip and lenses. I carry my 2 cameras for around for 4hours or more every week. I love and use very button on the camera. I could almost shoot with closed eyes.

When I bought the RX-100 I wanted the best possible picture quality in a small format. I was willing to accept some compromise in terms of image quality and ease of use of the camera. Still the expectation was to get great if not amazing pictures.We had a family reunion in the north of France for the baptism of my sisters daughter. I was asked to be the “official” photographer. For a paid gig like this I would have taken my 2 A99 and 4 lenses. This time I decided to take the A99 with 2 lenses the Zeiss 24-70 f2.8 and the amazing Zeiss 135 f1.8 (for the church). The 2nd camera would be the RX-100.

An evening in Reims

After the drive up, I did take my wife out for an evening in Reims. I did leave my A99 at our Lodge and only did take the RX-100 along.  My wife had the A77 with the 135 along. The RX-100 is a real pleasure to carry around. It looks really strange on my big tripod which I had taken along. The camera is hardly visible on the tripod.
Some pictures from the walk

I am really happy with how these pictures. Yes the A99 with 2 lenses the pictures would have been a little nicer with more room to process them. In the end given the comfort of carrying such a small camera there are no regrets about taking this camera.

Are there some limitations ?

  • Yes the lens is a bit slow is zoomed in. wide open f1.8 is great. I am not a 28mm or even 35mm person. This camera is slowly getting me into this focal range. Personally I like the 85-200mm range.
  • ISO the iso only goes up to 1600 at times 3200 or 6400 would have been useful.
  • Controls coming from a Pro DSLR with many buttons this is awkward to go through he menu
  • Responsiveness the lens ring controller is a bit slow

Landscape

The next morning I did get up really early to catch the sunrise above one of the ponds in the forest. How would the RX100 hold up against the A99 with the options to use the Lee filter. It turns out it was so early that I did not need my filters.

Picture with the RX-100

Pictures form the A99 with the Minolta 17-35

The RX-100 did perfrom pretty well there are however some serious limitations:

  • Limited to 30s exposure or bulb mode but no remote or wire release. This can probably be solved by an update in the app. For the A99 I did expose the pictures up to 3 minutes
  • Manual focusing. This is still something I am struggling with this camera how to I manually focus. In this case it was pitch black in the viewfinder or LCD.

On the A99 I did turn the preview off to get a little help to frame the shot in the end I did set the camera to ISO 25K  1s exposure and then looked at the grainy picture, recomposed, take a 2nd shot, …. until I was happy with the composition then I set it to iso 100-200 and set the exposure time to 3 minutes on my velo shutter boss remote
For serious landscapes the RX100 has some definite limitations ah the lack of filter options will reduce the useful even more. Working with these constraints still allows to take great shots, they may take a little more knowledge and tweaking to get it right.

Shooting inside the church

This was the make and break test case how well would it perform in the church ? To be honest it is no replacement to the A99 and the Zeiss lenses. That being said it actually did a pretty god shot. After the final processing it is actually hard to point which camera took what pictures. Like most photographers I see the difference immediately for the average person the look just pretty good all of them.

A few words about the church pictures we where very lucky it was the only sunny day. The church had very big windows with not too much coloring and the walls where creamy white. This created amazing light. shooting at ISO 800 was a a great change. Had it been dark the RX-100 would have suffered a lot more.

The RX-100 pictures in the church and at lunch

The A-99 picture with the Zeiss 135 in the church

The RX-100 has some clear advantages:

  • It is totally silent
  • It is so small it goes unnoticed.
  • Tilting the screen it can be held like a medium-format camera.  I found this to be also the best was to hold still with the tiny camera.
  • It cam be used as a remote camera with a tablet. Something I may actually try the next time around. If Sony ever makes it possible to control multiple QX at once I may actually buy a few for the weddings for the hard to photograph from places

Conclusion

The RX100 is no replacement for a full-frame camera like the A99. That being said comparing the 2 just shows how amazingly good the A99 still is. In post processing these files allow for a lot of leeway and interpretation. Direct access to ISO, Shutter mode, white balance, shutter speed and aperture are hard go give up. Also chaining focusing mode, manual mode and focus peaking are great features if used for the right purpose

The RX100 on the other hand produces great pictures. I don’t worry about pixelation as much as other bridge or P&S cameras. Yes one has to be careful on the pictures are shot. There are more bad pictures than I really care for. For most people this camera would be more than enough most of the day. Don’t ask me about JPEG performance I am a raw person.

The RX100 wifi feature and remote control/editing from a tablet is just amazing combined with snapseed I can publish the pictures within minutes. Batter life is outstanding my batter lasted 2 days and close to 400 shots. I turn most power-save features of and leave the camera on.

Following some reviews I bought spare batteries, my 4 batteries would probably last me a whole week of shooting and I would run out of space on my 16GB card.

 


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