[nextpage title=”Introduction” ]
Sony has been a dominant force in the broadcast industry for decades, and when it joined the digital imaging market the company carried on its tradition of innovation.
The Sony Alpha 7S was the first camera from Sony to really blend the worlds of stills and video together in one of the most versatile cameras out there.
Now the ultra compact RX0 has arrived, offering yet more innovation and features that take both stills and video to another level.
Its compact size might naturally lead one to pigeon-hole the camera as yet another action camera, but don’t be fooled. The RX0 is something else entirely.
Sony already produces an excellent action camera in the form of the FDR-X3000. The RX0 is something new and completely different. The RX0 is a carefully crafted creative tool for filmmakers and imaging professionals.
It might not strictly be an action camera but it meets many of the same criteria, and if you wanted it could be used in exactly the same way. Measuring just 59mm x 29.8 mm x 40.5mm and weighing in at 110g, it’s hard not to compare it with the GoPro Hero6 Black.
It’s also waterproof to 10m, shockproof, and features a flat lens that can be easily cleaned or replaced if broken – all traits of top flight action cameras. But that’s really where the similarities end as you quickly start to see the pro features.
At the front is the 24mm f/4.0 ZEISS Tessar T* Lens: this features 6 elements in 6 groups (6 aspheric elements) and is protected by a replaceable lens cover. Behind this is the sensor, which is a massive 1.0-type (13.2mm x 8.8mm) Exmor RS™ CMOS sensor with an aspect ratio 3:2.
On the back of the box is the screen, a relatively small 3.8cm(1.5type)(4:3), 230,400 dots, Clear Photo TFT LCD. But this isn’t a touch screen. Around the screen are the Menu and navigation buttons that give you access to the extensive camera options.
It’s here in the camera options that you start to see the camera’s full potential. When it comes to stills it can shoot both JPEG and RAW at approximately 15 million pixels and if you’re familiar with the likes of the RX100V then many of the options will look familiar.
Switch to the video options and it starts to look like the A7S, with three recording options: XAVC S, AVCHD and MP4. You also have a range of frame rates that can be selected up to 50/60fps or 50/60p depending on whether you’re shooting NTSC or PAL.
There’s also the HFR options that boost the 1080p resolution footage to 240/250, 480/ 500 or 960/1000fps. This top value will extend 1 second of footage over 20 seconds. There is restriction on the time you can record, which is between 2 and 4 seconds.
Other pro features include the colour modes and delving into the options enables you to fine tune those depending on what you’re shooting. The preset PP7 enables you to use S-Log2 which will produce flat footage, ideal for mixing in with footage from other sources.
The RX0 also has the ability to shoot 4K but this isn’t possible without an external recorder. This highlights where the RX0 is aimed (the pro market) and the 4K isn’t the only feature that requires additional kit.
One of the most exciting features is the multi caming ability, and for this you obviously need more RX0s. Once you’ve gathered a collection of RX0s you can then connect and swap between each using the PlayMemories App.
Build and handling
The small size and robustness of construction means that the RX0 is as versatile as any action camera. But there are some design features that really do show that this camera is far from the action camera crowd.
The box-like design is akin to an action camera which means that it’s been designed primarily to mount rather than hand hold, although it’s not too unwieldy to use freehand.
The small size makes it extremely versatile when it comes to mounting and there’s a standard ¼-inch thread on the base so that it can be easily attached to a tripod or other mount.
On top are the power and shutter buttons which are easy to operate and very action camera-esque, but as you look towards the back of the camera you’re confronted with six small buttons that can be used to navigate through the menus and options.
These certainly do the job but they are a little fiddly and really not what you would want when you’re out on the trail. However these are welcome if you’re shooting most other types of video production.
On the sides are two protective doors that give you access to the battery.
Here the ports are more like pro video camera ports than action camera ports, offering the facility to plug in external recorders for both video and audio.
The design and build shows that the camera can be used in isolation or as part of a larger network of cameras.
The small LCD screen is perfectly adequate for navigation and option selection. There are though a lot of options. If you’re familiar with Sony’s interface then that’s not a problem but those fresh to Sony should set aside a short amount of time to work out where all the settings are.
Once you’ve spent a bit of time with the RX0 then all those settings and options start to make sense and for pure simplicity and speed once you have the basics set you can use the PlayMemories App to tweak the settings.
The App is well laid out and definitely the best approach when it comes to controlling the camera. It’s also required if you need to operate more than one RX0.
[nextpage title=”Performance” ]
In use the Sony RX0 is quite unlike any other camera. It doesn’t have the resolution and frame rate options of the GoPro Hero6 Black or the Yi 4K+ but by now you should realise that aside from the size and robustness the RX0 is very different.
The three movie formats enable you to adjust the quality settings and with each you get a different set of options. Shooting at the highest quality format XAVC S enables you to capture at 50mbs at 25, 50 or 100p. XAVC lowers the quality slightly and MP4 (the lowest option) gives you 28, 16 or 6mbs at 50p or 25p.
A little experimentation is needed to find which settings are best for you. You also need to select your Picture Profile – this allows you to adjust aspects such as the black level, gamma and colour mode, including enabling you to select S-Log2.
Shooting in these modes will give you a good hour of recording time.
The other big feature is HFR (High Frame Rate). This takes a little getting used to as there’s a procedure that you need to go through prior to shooting. Once primed, the camera will capture between 2 and 4 seconds of footage depending on how you have it set.
Once the capture has finished the camera then needs time to process the footage. Shooting in HFR is exceptionally easy although you do need to watch the lighting if you’re going to get anything usable at the end of it.
The RX0 isn’t just about video. Switching to stills mode you again have a good range of options that will enable you to shoot both JPEG and RAW.
I liked the small form factor of the camera and it made a great point and shoot that could be easily carried with you.
With most cameras it’s pretty easy to evaluate the image quality, but with the RX0 there are just so many options and settings to choose from – as soon as you break out of the standard video modes and options you really do need to know what you’re doing.
Starting with MP4 which is the lowest video format, if this is set to the maximum quality the footage has a good amount of detail. Low Light performance is also a step up from other cameras of this size.
The real video quality comes from shooting in XAVC S where you can shoot at 25, 50 or 100fps. At 25p the footage is clear and crisp with plenty of detail, great saturation and tonal detail. Increase to 50p and you can just see the effects of drop in bitrate.
Where this camera really excels is in the quantity of options that are available to you, making it perfect as a small additional camera to be mixed in with others.
It also enables those needing an ultra lightweight camera to shoot high quality footage with far less kit than has ever been possible before.
When it comes to the HFR settings things become a little more tricky and decent light is needed in order to obtain the best results.
In studio lit conditions the footage at 250p is excellent and pushing to 500p the results are still more than passable. At 1000p the image quality does deteriorate and in less than ideal conditions you can start to see noise and pixelation.
[nextpage title=”Verdict” ]
The Sony RX0 is a new breed of camera. It looks like an action camera and can happily compete against the best when it comes to Full HD footage.
However without an external recorder it can’t shoot 4K and the controls are all a little too fiddly to worry about when out on the trail.
The Sony RX0 supports a new way of shooting that is just emerging, and is one of a hive of cameras that can work together to capture footage in a manner that was previously impossible.
Video options are aimed at pro users seeking plenty of video formats, from the web ready MP4 through to XAVC S with S-Log2 for broadcast.
PlayMemories enables more than one RX0 to be linked enabling fast multi-caming and creative shooting techniques that are as yet unrealised.
HFR might be limited to a couple of seconds but at this size and price there is no competition.
The Sony RX0 is the ultimate video camera sat in a genre that has yet to be named, bridging the gap between action camera and video camera.
It is one of the most exciting cameras to have ever been launched but it’s also difficult at the moment to see how it will be used. One thing’s for sure: there has never been a camera launched that has anything like the RX0’s potential.
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