The ongoing “What camera?” dilemma

Late last year, I started pondering about where my photography was going and what camera I should be using. I outlined my plans here. I now have another half a year of photography behind me and I am beginning to arrive at some conclusions. The bottom line is that I have really been enjoying my photography and getting good feedback on my images. So, having a go-anywhere, very compact camera is suiting me. But there is still more to learn …

It is clear to me that my strategy of carrying a compact camera with me whenever I go on any kind of outing is paying off. I have taken a lot of pictures and I am very pleased with many of them. That is the outcome that I was looking for! I am quite certain that I would not have wanted the burden of a “big” camera with me on many of these occasions and that using my iPhone would frequently have been rather unsatisfying.

I was happy enough with the quality of the images from the Sony HX99 and quickly got used to its operation so that it became automatic. We spent a few days vacation with some friends – another couple where the guy is a keen and very skilled photographer. He was curious about how good pictures from my little camera might be. He took a couple of shots with it and then did the same with his “serious” camera, set up in the same way. Looking at the images later, primarily concerned with the amount of detail captured by each camera, his camera came out best. This was good news, as his kit cost about 20X what my camera did. But were the images 20X better? That is an open question.

This experiment got me thinking. Although I found the HX99’s image quality quite satisfactory, how did it actually compare with my Sony A7. Furthermore, how would the RX100m6, that I had also considered, compare to both. I was pondering this matter and talking about it, but was a little reluctant to spend the money on the RX100 on a whim. Libby, my wife, very generously said that she would buy the RTX100 for me [it seems that I am usually hard to buy gifts for] and eliminate my dilemma. I accepted her offer and placed an order.

The new camera arrived and I got it set up and tried it out. It has a very solid feel, but operates in almost exactly the same way has the HX99, so I was soon at home. The only limitation is the zoom range, but I really think that I will find 200mm enough. I decided that it was time for a “scientific” comparison of the three cameras …

I set all three cameras the same: 50mm, f8, ISO200, RAW format, Aperture Priority mode, and found a suitable subject – a split timber log that had lots of texture and detail. I got out the tripod and took three pictures:

A7
RX100
HX99

I am most interested in the ability of the camera to capture detail in an image. A camera’s ability to show detail is affected by the quality of the lens [all three cameras have Zeiss lenses that are of renowned quality], the size of the lens [the A7 is very large; the RX100 a bit bigger than the HX99] and the size of the sensor [the A7 is full frame, the RX100 is a fair size and the HX99 quite small]. I would expect the A7 to perform best, the HX99 worst and the RX100 in the middle. That was more or less what I could see. The HX99 is clearly inferior, but there is not too much between the RX100 and the A7.

I now need to use the RX100 in earnest, but I’m fairly confident that I will be happy with it. The HX99 is listed on eBay …

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