Can A Pocket Camera Produce Pro Results? Testing Out The Sony RX100V

This past weekend in Colorado I decided to give my full frame mirrorless camera a break and shoot some portraits using the much smaller Sony RX100V. I was curious to see if a small, pocket-sized camera could give me the kind of results that I would be happy with. Here are my experience and recommendations if you choose to do the same!

The Shoot

We woke up early (my video team and model) and met up at Guanella Pass around 6 am to set up and prepare for the sunrise. Fortunately, the sky cooperated and gave us beautiful clouds and colors that would serve as our backdrop. I had a concept of taking environmental portraits wearing a wind-blown dress or fabric, so my model went out and brought a few outfits that would fit the mood. We decided to go with the one you see in the images as it fit the vibe we were going for quite well. 

The Gear and Settings

I shot all of these using the Sony RX100 V. I shot these in manual model, dialing in the exposure for each shot using the electronic viewfinder (EVF). Just like a mirrorless camera, as you make adjustments to your shutter speed, aperture, and ISO you can see what the image will look like before pressing the shutter. With the histogram showing, I dialed in the settings that kept my highlights from clipping which landed me between 1/2500 to 1/4000 shutter speeds. Since its a smaller sensor camera (1") I decided to shoot at the widest aperture possible at various focal lengths to try and separate my subject from the background while still keeping her eyes sharp and in focus. I also shot all of these in raw, using auto white balance with a wide area, continuous focus. In order to give myself the best opportunity to capture her poses and flowing outfit, I set the camera to the continuous drive mode (mid as opposed to high which shoots at 24 frames per second) which did an excellent job at tracking her as she moved from one pose to another. 

The Results

Here are the selects from the session. They were all processed using Capture One with one of their Spring presets applied. A few of the images were also brought into Photoshop for very light retouching to remove out of place objects in the frame that I missed when taking the photos. 

Recommendations

As always, the most important things to consider if you want great images is your subject, lighting, and background. If you get these right it doesn't really matter what camera you choose to shoot with. While I was happy to see the results I got from this shoot with the Sony RX100 V, I would definitely recommend getting one of those hand grip accessories (in the case of the RX100 I'd recommend using the Sony AG-R2 attachment grip) to help make this smaller camera easier to hold. I also think it's a good idea to use a camera that either has a variable ND filter built in, or one that has threads on the lens that allows you to use one. As the morning wore on, it was getting more and more challenging to shoot wide open which makes the ND filter a handy tool to use. I'd say if you want to travel light but still have the possibility of getting great results, consider taking a camera like this with you for your next trip. Maybe you'll be pleasantly surprised as I was!

Log in or register to post comments

20 Comments

Rob Davis's picture

Some day we might very well be able to fake sensor size and pro optics, but that day has not yet arrived. These look like what they are.

Jonathan Reid's picture

Question - what defines pro results? We’ve seen magazine covers shot with an iPhone which I’m sure this Sony can out perform.

In this light, most cameras will produce similar results. A “pro camera” earns its’ rep when the lighting gets challenging. Also, a pro camera probably improves your hit rate.

Alex Yakimov's picture

Good question, Jonathan. It was quite entertaining nether the less. I think this post derives most of its value from that. Would you rather upgrade your phone or go for such camera, be it with good ergonomics, touch interface and great evf?

Jonathan Reid's picture

I would rather have this camera for sure. In my opinion, I view the RX1000 as a professional camera but with limitations. But when I started photography, my 8 megapixel Canon 20D was cutting edge. The iPhone X would out perform that same camera today.

Alex Yakimov's picture

20D?! My first digital was Canon 10D)

Jonathan Reid's picture

I couldn’t afford the 10D. Bought a Panasonic point and shoot for my first camera. I managed to get the 20D for a steal as an ex demo model.

Alex Yakimov's picture

Good story. Yea it was not a cheap camera. I still have 10d, did last pictures a year ago. But it died and our Canon service provider was of no help. May be I would do disassembly...

Michael McCray's picture

Pro results are getting paid for it. There are expensive cameras and cheaper cameras. Any more I want to carry as little gear as possible and spend as little on it as I can as long as it gets the job done. Not really trying to impress people with my equipment. In the film days I seen photographs get the cover shot with a 110.

Jonathan Reid's picture

I don’t disagree, however, I would add that your responsibility as a working photographer is to use gear that improves the chances of success. For example, if your job is to photograph the bio luminescent effect, a professional camera would be a camera which works in almost pure darkness.

Michael McCray's picture

I agree to a point I use a special retinal camera, I have used a camera attached to a microscope, it depends on the job. However in the world of 35 mm film I carried both the high end and low end camera and the results were the same with both camera other some functions and some issues of durability. First professional means you make at living at something. I see tons of fantastic work by people not making a living at photography. As far a equipment I have used 4x5, medium format, 35mm and DSLR along with a couple point and shoots. What ever worked was the professional camera because I got paid for the image. Now I generally show us with a DSLR because I like it and the customer has expectations of what a pro looks like.

Mostly what I see in these conversations are pissing contest.

Dear Rob, averything below medium format is amateur. Aaah sorry, I meant certainly laaaarge format.
As you see theres no stop to the sky. A 1 inch sensor can do decent images if the rest around in the camera supports it. 1 inch is not ff is not medium, but as much as ridiculous pixel count for the amateur is the sensor size grandomania for the wannabe pros. You can produce unprofessional results with ff, without problems.

How do you define pro results?for this type of shooting this equipment was enough for decent results, maybe even a good mobile phone would have suffice, but obviously this type of equipment isn't suitable for kinds of photography that require other specific needs. Sometimes an screwdriver is enough, sometimes you need the whole tool box.

Matthias Kirk's picture

Whenever someone praises the large aperture of f/1.8 (what my phone has) and then gives you the focal lengths with a huge crop factor applied, I feel like he is trying to bullshit me.

Maximilian Sulzer's picture

Maybe worth mentioning thats its not just any pocket camera, but one that has a list price of 1200€ ?

Mr Hogwallop's picture

With Zeiss T*- Sort of like saying "Can a BMW X3 drive from LA to SF?" But you gotta get clicks and content for your website...The drone footage was great :)

No, it doesn't produce the same quality images that my a7riii does. BUT this has been my go-to travel/street camera since I replaced my original RX100v1 and I've won numerous awards with its images.

Yes, this camera will deliver pro results if you give it to a pro with skills.
Snapshots in bright sun are just that.

benjamintheyrphotography's picture

One may achieve "amateur" results, but when it's all one can afford.. then one would be pleased to have these results in front of him or her. Not all of us can afford 3K, 4K or 5K camera outfits. so what looks amateur to some is professional to others. So yes, I used a small pocket camera simply because limited mobility will only allow for light weight or small camera. However, I'm looking forward to passing the FujiFilm over to my wife in the hopes that a Canon M100 will be coming my way. Still considered to be amateur, but well worth it because I've been without a camera with multiple lenses. I've always had to rely on what was either given to me or what we could afford.

I use FF canon in my business. However I also use a Panasonic FZ1000 for event and some specialized commercial work. The results are perfectly professional quality.
The real problem is that a stunning number of people think that "pro" means shallow DOF. This is repeated endlessly by witless fanboys who have never shot anything beyond their girlfriend or breakfast and certainly nothing for money.