Monday, February 8, 2016

Sony RX100 II & Urbex Photography

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 II
After publishing my review of the Sony RX100 II last year, I've been asked several times if the camera really is a good choice for urban exploration photography. After all, it has a 1" sensor so high-ISO isn't a strongpoint, and this genre often requires shooting in dark locations.

I have two quick points, which will hopefully answer the question for you. Then I'll add a several additional thoughts in closing.

The RX100 II isn't the best camera at high-ISO, but it isn't terrible, either. I used to use a Sigma DP2 Merrill, an excellent camera that's limited to a maximum ISO of around 400. The RX100 II has an upper practical limit of ISO 1600, which, in comparison, is quite good. While it might be nice to be able to bump the ISO just a little higher, the majority of situations don't call for an ISO above 1600.
Illuminated Window - Tehachapi, California
ISO 1600 handheld with a 2/5th second exposure.
One area where the RX100 II shines is image stabilization. I've been able to get sharp photographs with the camera handheld using a shutter speed longer than a quarter of a second. With good technique, it's possible to make up for the lack of high-ISO capabilities with longer exposures.

Exposure is a combination of aperture (how much light is allowed in), shutter (how long the light is allowed in) and ISO (how sensitive to light the camera or film is). Adjusting one effects the others. If a camera is exceptional in one area it can make up for shortcomings in other areas.

The RX100 II has a maximum aperture of f/1.8, which is great, but only available at the wide-angle end of the lens, increasing to f/4.9 at the telephoto end. So aperture is mediocre to great, depending on the focal length. ISO is good-but-not-great, topping out at ISO 1600 for practical purposes. Because of the exceptional image stabilization, the slowest useable shutter speed handheld is really slow on this camera.
Bathroom Door - Lancaster, California
ISO 1600 handheld with a 1/20 second exposure.
What make the RX100 II great for urban exploration photography is that it's small and lightweight. It doesn't get in the way as one carefully explores abandoned buildings. And it delivers versatility similar to using a DSLR with a zoom lens attached.

Besides that, the camera isn't expensive. If you shop around you can find it for around $500. That's about the same price as a cheap DSLR without any lenses. The Carl Zeiss lens that is permanently attached to the camera is sharper than most DSLR lenses that cost under $800. That means that this camera is a good value.

So, yes, the Sony RX100 II is a good choice for urban exploration photography. It's a good compromise of size/weight, image quality, versatility and price.

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