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Very frustrating in low light in Auto mode - SONY PLEASE GIVE US A FIRMWARE UPDATE!
on January 1, 2014
I echo all the accolades of this camera from other reviewers. RX100M2 produces beautiful images that rival (or sometimes better than) DSLRs. The new backside illuminated sensor is supposed to be 40% better at gathering light than the 1st gen RX, though this has been debated. The daytime photos are fine. Evening/low-light photos are another story.
There is one big problem that just destroys the camera experience for me. I'm a long-time photo enthusiast and understand enough about photography and cameras. I'm not a beginner-DSLR user that never graduates from the 18-55mm kit lens and full auto mode. But carrying a DSR kit while hiking the mountains in Canada, I got tired of all the bulk and subsequently sold and bought a NEX outfit (currently 5R). I also wanted to upgrade my p&s Nikon P310 (a 2012 camera) as a capable complimentary camera to the NEX, so I bought the RX100M2.
Especially for p&s cameras, I prefer to use the cameras in "P" mode for the least amount of thinking. Sure I can tinker with all the dials and settings like a DSLR but you know what, most of the time, I'd rather let the camera do the job, intelligently, and intervene when I have to. The one huge problem with RX100M2 is that if you have auto-ISO and in low light, then the max shutter speed that the camera chooses is 1/30 and even with OIS and with my best efforts to keep the camera still, I often get blurry photos in low-light situations. A handheld, auto-ISO 1/30 is too slow for this camera and you cannot set min shutter speed with auto ISO. I've gotten more blurry handheld photos than I've ever gotten compared to my older, tiny-sensor Nikon P310 in similar lighting situations. The components inside the camera are not to blame. It's how they're being used. Why did Sony choose to cap the camera at 1/30 knowing this is too slow for handheld shots? I just don't get it. Yes, I can set it on Shutter priority and force faster shutter. Or I can boost ISO for the shots that need it. But then now I feel like I'm using a DSLR, which is what I don't want using the RX to feel like, and even with DSLRs, you don't have to do this much tinkering for a quick/easy shot. It's a P&S after all - a capable one, but for my usage, I'd prefer to use it like a P&S and don't want to be adjusting the controls on every shot I take. In a dimly lit environment, it's very difficult to simply turn on the camera, have it in auto-mode and snap and get a good blur-free pic. Instead, I feel like you have to endlessly tinker with shutter and ISO settings to "get it right". Imagine being out with friends at a restaurant - you're either taking photos of them or your food (and forget asking the waiter to take a group photo w/o flash - but to be fair, that's probably the case with other cameras too). This simple task now feels like a big chore b/c it's not a simple 1-2-go operation. I never had this problem with my Nikon P310. And come to think of it, not with my NEX 5R (or the previous 5N) either. So I spent $600+ on a camera I can't simply turn on and snap when it's dark. I'll give you an example. I took a pic indoors in a semi-well lit env. Not outdoors-bright, not an Italian restaurant for dinner dark. In Program mode, the camera took a photo of the subject at 1/5, f4.5, ISO400. The resulting photo is blurry and unusable. My point is simply this - why is the camera programmed for such a dismal aperture/shutter/ISO combination when in many real-life, hand-held situations, the resulting images are just unusable? In dark settings, the camera should boost ISO (to a point) until the shutter speed becomes usable for handheld pics. Sure it's noisier but I'd rather have noisier, usable pics than clean but blurry, unusable pics. Plus, this camera can handle higher ISOs anyway.
On many occasions, the camera also chooses to set low ISO and compensates for that by setting the aperture wide open (1.8)... it's great if you want to get bokeh deliberately but not when you're taking a closeup of something (i.e. your dinner) and only part of the image is in focus because of the shallow DOF. That's when the 1" sensor gets in the way compared to other P&S with equally large apertures but smaller sensors.
The 1/30 issue is extremely disappointing and frustrating for such an expensive camera with so many good features packed. On top of that, this camera is supposed to be the low light champ. Why couldn't Sony get this right? All it takes is a firmware update to fix this well-documented problem that's existed since the original RX but Sony hasn't corrected this. My workaround is using Shutter mode in dark places, using shutter speeds that I know won't create blur hoping for aperture and ISO to adjust and take care of the rest. Though when I do this, it tends to open the aperture to max so again, you're not getting the sharpest pics and now you get unwanted bokeh. So to close the aperture, I'd raise ISO manually. But if it's still not closing up, then I'd go to aperture mode to close it up. Then the shutter goes to 1/30 again. It's a ridiculous merry-go-round of fail. So am I to set this camera on Manual on every take? I don't even do that with my DSLR (and don't need to)! What's more baffling is that I take pics at 1/30 all the time on the Nikon and it takes great, sharp low light pics.
To date, I've two occasions of unintentional, unwanted bokeh where I was out at dinner with a bunch of other people and asked someone to take a group shot and came home to find unfocused faces. Here's how it happened - the camera is on Shutter-priority as usual and it's on something like 1/160, even 1/200 so you're assured there would be no motion-blur. What I didn't realize (or forgot about) is that b/c the camera is on shutter priority on auto-ISO, the aperture gets set to 1.8, which is horrible for a group shot being taken from one end of the table. Clear faces in the front and blurry ones as you head towards the back. I didn't see these until I got home. So either you'll have to use aperture priority to force longer DOF (then 1/30 kicks in, so basically aperture priority is useless), gamble that Intelligent Auto might pick good settings (no), or set the camera on Manual... All this just to take a measly group dinner photo. It's not that I'm against 1.8 or big sensors. But the way this camera works, it is NOT an easy one to use b/c you have to be constantly thinking about the environment and camera settings and this becomes a huge chore.
Lastly, let's identify what type of user you are. If you're already considering this camera, you're already a hobbyist or photo enthusiast. You might even be a prosumer or a professional photographer looking for a smaller toy. If you're the type to just want to do most things auto, this camera will give you many bad, blurry photos in low-light evenings and indoor pics. That's me. Many of my recent vacation photos are absolutely useless. As I said over and over, my older, smaller-sensor Nikon P310 takes better(aka usable) photos than RX in the dark. If you're the type to tinker the settings on every shot, this camera will be great for you. It's not me and I'm seriously considering selling the RX and getting something else. If you're looking to upgrade from an aging Canon "S" series like S90, S95, S100 and looking for something equally as easy to use, don't get this camera. I'm just curious why other reviewers have not voiced this since there are 5-star reviews galore.
Please Sony, fix this.
We need the ability to set min shutter in Auto ISO or use higher ISO/higher shutter speed instead of 1/30 in the Auto modes. Better yet, create more usable aperture/ISO/shutter combination in Auto that's more compatible in real life situations.
[Update 11/27/2014] Despite all of my ramblings about this camera, I've not sold it and rather learned to accept that this is the way it is, seeing how a firmware update woud never happen. The major reason for keeping the camera is, well, I couldn't come up with another P&S camera to replace it. So 95% of the time, its in shutter priority, which still is very frustrating and confining, but oh well. However the one major thing I've done is to get the Sony HVLF20M flash unit (wrote review as well). I used RX100M2 + HVLF20M at a wedding reception recently and came back with excellent results. It almost looks ridiculous yet funny when you see this camera with the flash attached, but hey, the pics are great! If you're wanting to expand the capabilities of this camera, I highly recommend you look into this little, inexpensive flash unit. Sadly,RX100M3 did away with the hot shoe mount to make room for the in-body EVF, which means M2 will be the only camera to take advantage of external accessories. I'm sad about this >_< Looks like I'll be holding onto M2 for a lot longer.
Another update: It's always a challenge to find a good case/pouch for a p&s camera. Recently I've come across Manfrotto NANO 0 CAM pouch and If you go to their website, they show Canon S95 for the pouch, which is smaller than RX100 but in reality, this pouch is a better fit for RX100, nice and snug.
Google "rx100 1/30 max shutter" and "dpreview rx100 1/30" and "RX100M2 Initial Thoughts (and likely return)" and you'll find plenty of threads about this issue.