Sony RX100 V: Portland Walk

I don’t consider myself a photographer. I just happen to have a camera that I wanted to test out.

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The Sony RX100 V is Sony’s latest and greatest compact point-and-shoot camera. I picked this up hearing all the great and not-so-great things about this line-up so I want to find out for myself if it is a suitable replacement for my run-and-gun Lumix GF1. Consider this a review of sorts I guess but I will mainly just let the photos do most of the talking. Let’s take a little walk around downtown Portland this time!

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The weather was sunny and dry but temp was hovering around freezing level so it was pretty chilly. But for some reason, everywhere I go was cast in the shadows.

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There are 3 forms of public transportation here: buses, the slower streetcars that roams through the inner streets, and the MAX that goes through districts. At least in downtown, all three run alongside cars on public roads.

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It’s been forever since I’ve went downtown so these rental Nike bikes are new to me. Outside of the Pacific NW, no one really knows what is in Oregon. Well, Nike’s main headquarter is here. There is also an Intel and Adidas campus to name a few.

Oh looks like there is some filming going on.

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The camera is certainly snappy and the autofocus is indeed fast. I am used to pressing shutter button halfway and wait for camera to autofocus but with this camera, I can just press the shutter in one swift motion and I’ll still have a clear focused image. It’s not perfect though; I would say the camera correctly focuses on my intended subject about 80% of the time during quick snapshots.

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Widest angle to max zoom. This is the Portland Building.

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One thing Portland is popular for is street carts. It is almost a strictly Portland thing as you don’t really see them anywhere else in Oregon, especially parking lots full of them. It’s a cheap way to start a restaurant business and people here like local taste and atmosphere. Food is not exactly cheaper than restaurants but there are plenty of gems and variety to be found.

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It was bright so maybe I didn’t notice the subtle nuances on the screen but I only noticed the colors are on the cooler side after viewing them on my computer.

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Looks like the city is starting to take down the holiday lightings. During warmer times, this area will be filled with people including street performers and other events.

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I forgot this statue was in the same area and thought it was a real man at first ^^;. The Umbrella Man, or Allow Me, is one of the most popular landmarks here and easy to set as a meeting spot.

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In case you ever get lost, this got you covered.

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I think this is the only standalone Apple store we have in the city.

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Starting to really like this camera for street photography. Love how it can take sudden snapshots so effortlessly. All I have to do is pause, point and shoot then be on my way again.

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Wow… AWB is really on the cooler color temp side. Anyway, Portland has a bit of a green reputation. Biking, recycling, saving trees, making driving a pain so people stop driving, solar panels, and electrification. So you see charging stations here and there and a lot of the wealthier people driving around in their Tesla.

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Ice can be found all over the roads still. The day gets just warm enough to melt some ice but it gets below freezing during the evening so the run-off water becomes froze, spreading the ice some more -_-;. There has already been reports of pile-ups and car accidents due to slick roads and black ice everywhere.

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While I wouldn’t call it struggling but the times the camera fails to focus on what you want it to are the times when there is a lot going on. I noticed to tends to focus more mid distance than what is almost in front of it. So for such shots, you just have to manually select the focus points.

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Speaking of focus points, I now understand the criticism of this camera for not having a touchscreen to focus. I’m used to moving around the focus cursor with a wheel or button but it’s so slowwww on the Sony. The movement is sluggish, and the cursor is tiny even on its biggest setting compared to how fast I can set the focus box on the GF1. With how fast the hardware is, it just seems like it is being held by from this one lack of feature.

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In the distance is Mt. Hood. You can see it almost anywhere in Portland if nothing is obstructing it. Whenever I show photos of Portland with Mt. Hood in the back to Japanese people, they always likened it to Mt. Fuji.

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Hawthorne Bridge – one of many bridges in the city due to the Willamette River running through. I am pleased that the Camera’s 24mm angle works very well for most short to mid-distance landscape shots like on street level. If I want any wider, it will probably have to be a SLR with wide angle lens like 16-35mm.

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Portland waterfront area. During warmer days, people would be bicycling and jogging here. Lots of outdoor events like beer fests, and carnivals would be held around this area too.

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I wonder if being a compact camera inherently means ergonomics are compromised. I get that with a smaller body, you sacrifice a good grip but I can’t help but to think the picture taking process can still be more efficient even without the real estate for extra control buttons like improving the menus. Example: the creative style setting (image styles like Vivid, Neutral, B/W, Sepia, etc.) has to be accessed on the 6th page of the Camera Setting in the Systems menu. Why isn’t something like this readily available on the live view menu?

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I’ve been using various Sony products my whole life and if there is any negative consistency I’ve noticed is that they tend to make great hardware that gets compromised by not-so-great or not very thought-out software and interfaces. Almost like the opposite of Apple. Anyone remember SonicStage for Sony Walkman? The software suite for the Sony Ericsson phones? The interface on most of their Walkmans (Walkmen?) and Sony Ericsson phones? The camera app on their Xperia phones? They’ve certainly improved over the decades but it still feels like their R&D went into the hardware and leftover goes to the software. Or they just don’t have the right people designing it. Sluggish – that is how I prominently remember anything on their software side. It’s the same way I feel about changing settings on this camera.

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Didn’t really get a chance to do any low light shots but it does look promising once I get used to the controls. While the autofocus is really fast, it tends to make you think the shots are clear until you check later that it actually came out blurry. This is especially true in darker environments because the camera still focus just as fast so you thought it locked onto something and just snap away without checking. It’s not a good habit but it’s one that this camera kinda gives you the confidence to have. I would never have done this with my older cameras.

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What good is a camera test without photos of food? :)

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This camera takes much better food photos even in a lower ISO in dimly-lit restaurant lighting than the GF1. That is pretty impressive. Sometimes I would struggle so badly with getting a decent photo with the GF1 at a restaurant that I would just give up. I haven’t had such issues with the Sony so far.

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While it’s not exactly point-blank range, I can get pretty close to the subject for macro shots most of the time. For shots like these, you really have to compose and make sure the focus is correct.

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Now let’s talk about the biggest gripe I have with this camera – the battery life. I think this is the one part that Sony fails to update from the previous generations (yes, generations). Here’s the problem: the specs keep improving but the gas tank remains the same so the mileage drops. This 1.5 hour photo walk I did for this post drained 1/3 of the battery. I would have my doubts about this camera lasting for a whole day if I were to take it out on a field trip to go sightseeing in Kyoto. Or even one MG review.

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A nice thing about this camera is that since it is a point and shoot, it doesn’t look as intrusive when you are snapping away. People will just find you as a silly tourist and won’t mind. Whereas if I bust out the XSi or even the GF1 then people sometimes will look at me funny. I am more comfortable firing away openly with this camera but I feel like I have to be more sneaky and considerate with the other two.

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Overall, I am impressed with the technology gap between the Sony RX100 V and my older Canon XSi and GF1. This camera has them both beat on most accounts: image quality, low light performance, color reproduction, sharpness, speed, portability. Just about everything but interface and ergonomics. Then again, this P&S cost more than either of the older cameras when they were new. With a $1000 price tag, this camera cost more than new entry-level Canon rebel cameras today! So it better have something to show for it.

But alas! The sluggish interface and control is just detracting. The short battery life certainly doesn’t help. This might be an obscure analogy but this camera is like a sports car with the perfect engine and chassis that is marred by numb electric steering, mushy pedal feel, and an imprecise shifter.

I haven’t had this camera for long at all and shot with it seriously for all of just a couple of days so there is still a bit more to explore, but for now I am not keen on keeping it. For its price tag, it’s not unreasonable to expect it to be a bit more fleshed out.

Gunpla review coming tomorrow!

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2 thoughts on “Sony RX100 V: Portland Walk

  1. I remember your blog post when you first purchased your Lumix GF1. I had the Canon XS at the time, and your post made me want a mirrorless camera (I still don’t own one). When I finally upgraded from my XS to a 60D, my reaction to the updated tech jumps is similar to what you experienced here. Though I can’t believe that the Sony was $1k…

    Good to have you back.

    1. Hey iRemember you. Thanks for dropping by :)
      The thing about cameras is that you won’t know or feel that it is lacking until you try the newer ones. And then you just want to upgrade at that point. Reason why I refrain from ever playing with cameras at the store.

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