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Sony RX10 Sample Image Gallery
by Laura Hicks -  11/5/2013

I am clearly in the minority of reviewers that recently attended a week long Sony excursion to Nashville, Tennessee to test Sony's newest camera releases: the Sony a7R, the Sony a7 and the Sony RX10. I'll tell you why in just a minute.

After over 4 days of intense shooting with these cameras, I got to take an in-depth look at their strengths and their weaknesses. I had a multitude of situations in which to shoot: outdoors at a horse farm, outdoors and indoors at the Jack Daniels Distillery, outdoors at Rock City, indoors at the Ryman Auditorium, and indoors at a Nashville Honky Tonk called "The Stage" (just to name a few locations shown in the examples below). All of these situations demanded that the cameras respond accordingly; whether that be at high ISOs, with great dynamic range, with correct color rendering, or with the best image quality they could produce.

All of these Sony cameras offer impressive specs. Both the Sony a7R and the a7 have full frame sensors, a vast ISO range and pretty snappy AF. The Sony RX10, on the other hand, is bred from the technology of the impressive RX100 and offers a 1-inch type 20-megapixel CMOS sensor. In addition to the sensor, this camera also touts a 24-200mm (35mm equivalent) f2.8 constant aperture zoom lens. It has a 3-inch tiltable LCD and an ISO range of 125-12800. The camera can shoot in both RAW and JPEG formats.

So why am I part of the minority of the reviewers that went on this trip? I like the RX10 way better than the a7R and a7! I know, it sounds slightly crazy and almost absurd that I could prefer Sony's 1-inch type CMOS sensor point and shoot camera over Sony's full frame cameras with theoretically better specs (and quite a bit more publicity about insane sharpness to boot).

Here's the thing about the a7R and a7: I can't tell you I'm on board with the whole "the a7R is sharper than a bunch of other cameras" thing--at least not in real world use, not consistently, and/or not with the quality of sharpness that appeals to me. Maybe in a static studio set-up the camera can produce images that are technically sharper than other cameras, but over the week of testing I found the images I produced from these cameras to have a unique quality to their sharpness that I didn't love. It looked almost like the pixels were painterly or had slight movement (looking almost overly sharpened). Is it possible that I am complaining about over sharpened images? Maybe. Or maybe it's the "look" of the sharpness that is getting to me. It feels a bit too digitized for my tastes. At times, I had trouble with obtaining consistently sharp results. One image would be sharp, then the next several images would not be in focus, then the next one would be fine. This being said, I know I am the minority with this opinion so I am willing to accept that I received a pre-production camera with less impressive image quality than others or that I was simply not in sync with the camera's autofocusing. Both are valid points and may be true. A full review will be needed to make a final evaluation of the cameras. Click here to view images from the a7R. Also, my image gallery for the a7 can be seen here. It's not that the cameras are bad. In fact, they are very impressive when it comes to build quality and overall usability. I think landscape shooters will love the look that comes from these cameras. But, as a portrait shooter for 12 years, I found the sharpness to lack the quality that I love in my images. This feeling happened primarily when examining the sharpness of the subject's eyes.

That's enough nitpicking of the a7 and a7R. Here are two samples from the a7R. The first sample is with ISO 50. The second is shot at ISO 640. I thought these were some of the better examples of the image quality of the a7R. These images showcase the clarity and detail of the a7R in a way that is more natural and pleasing to my eyes.

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100% crop of image above

But the RX10 is a different type of camera with a different story to tell. The RX10 is one of the best supped-up point and shoot cameras with this much telephoto range on the market. The quality of its sharpness is much more pleasing to my eyes. It's a little less "digital" and has a smoother feel. I was able to get a sharp image far more times than not. The color quality produced from the images is great. The ergonomics of the camera are fantastic. The aperture ring around the lens barrel is easy to use. And the dials are logically placed. I also loved the ability to stay in one location and get a multitude of different types of images. It's a zoom lover's dream camera. The by-wire zoom lens does take some getting used to, but does exactly what is expected of it.

Below is a sample image gallery of the RX10 with images that are straight out of camera. I have even included a few 100% crops to help showcase the quality of the sharpness.

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100% crop of image above

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100% crop of image above

All things considered, the RX10 is my choice for Sony's best camera featured at the recent excursion. I would have no reservations recommending this camera to a multitude of users. The camera functions nicely in a wide variety of lighting situations, shooting conditions and from a vast range of focal lengths. The biggest hesitation is price. Will consumers really choose to spend $1300 on this type of camera? Of course there are other Ultrazoom cameras on the market right now, but the RX10 stands nearly alone if you require high-end features with impressive image quality. The only camera that comes close to the RX10's specs is the $600 Panasonic Lumix FZ200. We have not tested the FZ200, however, so a true image comparison is not available right now.