Help me decide if I should sell my Canon Rebel DSLR and buy a Sony RX100
March 1, 2013 10:56 AM   Subscribe

Help me decide if I should sell my Canon Rebel Xti (EOS 400D) and buy a Sony RX100.

I switched from point and shoot cameras to the Canon Rebel Xti in 2007 and my photography has improved significantly as a result. After trying a variety of lenses, I currently have only two - the 18-55 IS kit lens and a higher quality Sigma 17-50 1.4. Based on their current resale value, I could sell everything and buy a Sony RX100 without spending a dollar.

I love the quality of the Canon, but the size makes me think twice about taking it with me, especially now that I have an iPhone5 that takes decent snapshots.

From what I can tell, it seems like the sensor size on the RX100 is larger than my Canon, and the aperture on the Zeiss goes down to a 2.8f, so I think that means that most photos should be just as good as the Canon, especially if I'm using the kit lens, which I do most of the time since the Sigma is so heavy. I do like using a viewfinder on the Canon, but I'm not sure that should be a dealbreaker.

It seems that the big benefit I'm losing is interchangeable lenses. I've sold my 50-250 zoom lens - never used it. Sold my 50mm nifty fifty - never used it either. I am happy with a standard zoom lens like a 17-50. I've read that the DOF is not as good on the RX100 as a DSLR, but if that's the only thing I'm losing, that's not so bad.

I guess my other concern is just the idea of switching back to a "point and shoot". Now that I've learned how to take great photos with a DSLR, I never thought I'd go back - but the truth is that I'm using my iphone for 80% of my photos these days because it's the camera I have with me. If I had the RX100, I think I'd have it with me most of the time.

I can say that I only shoot for fun. Always had the hope that I would find an opportunity to display and sell some photos (art fair, coffeeshop, etc, but it hasn't happened yet). Here are some of my best photos, if this helps to give an idea of what kind of photos I take. It seems like the 20 megapixels on the RX100 would produce images with the same high resolution as my Canon... so it seems that I am not losing the option of enlargements. Right?

So what do you think? Is it going backwards to give up a DSLR and get a pocket camera again?
posted by kdern to Technology (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: One other comment - I travel a lot for work, and I struggle on every trip to decide if I should lug along my big camera. It requires a separate carry on bag for the plane, since it doesn't fit comfortably in my messenger bag. If I take it with me, I typically only use it for one or two days when I go out to take "real" photos. The rest of the time I use my iphone5.

I think part of what concerns me is that the RX100 is a new device, and DSLRs have been around for years. A real photographer uses a DSLR. Argh. Help!
posted by kdern at 11:00 AM on March 1, 2013

The deal killer for me is the lack of a hot shoe. If it had one I'd own an RX100, hell I would have pre-ordered. No hot shoe, means no remote flash capability at all, means No Thanks.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:04 AM on March 1, 2013

Oh and "real photographers use a DSLR" is bullshit.

I shoot with all kinds of cameras. My current kit includes an iPhone, a Panasonic LX3, a Sony NEX-5, a Leica M9 and a Nikon D90. Each has their uses and strengths and right time to be used, like any other tool.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:07 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: seanmpuckett... thanks for the feedback. I had a good Canon flash but sold it. Never used it - too big and heavy to carry around. I kept it for a few years in case I got a wedding gig or something but I just kept shooting for fun. Once I got into the lenses that could shoot at 1.4f and 1.8f, I had no use for a flash, preferring natural light better.
posted by kdern at 11:15 AM on March 1, 2013

Yes, the RX100 is still relatively new. However, as I mentioned in another thread yesterday, I have been shooting with it every day (literally) since July. It's fantastic and I would recommend it unreservedly.

As you suggest, I do indeed carry it everywhere. Even if I'm just heading out for a quick errand, I'll bring it along "just in case." I usually carry it in a small padded pouch, for protection and because there's an extra pocket for a spare battery; but I've carried it bare in my suit-jacket pocket, in my pants pocket, in my sweatshirt pocket. At restaurants I set it on the table and it's unobtrusive. Like you, I used to take casual photos with my iPhone. Now I take them with the RX100. Having it with me inspires me to take those photos more often, and obviously they're far better.

Ninety percent of the time, I shoot in raw. I use JPEG if I'm saving space, or if I'm going to shoot a billion shots of something, or if I want to use one of Sony's neat little "effects." (Illustration mode is fun.) Otherwise I shoot raw and develop in Lightroom, if only to apply a quick preset. The RX100 produces print-quality images. In fact, several times I've been disappointed to discover the image looked so much better print-size that I was shortchanging it by posting it on Facebook (which I like to do). I am putting together a gallery of photos now for a series of prints, all shot with the RX100, and the quality is totally up to par.

If you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer. There are a few things that I miss from a top-flight DSLR, like being able to experiment with flash in portrait settings, or the bokeh of a full-frame sensor, or being able to remote trigger. But honestly, I just shoot for fun as well, and while those things would allow me to have more would having a bevy of expensive lenses and a Hasselblad. It's a serious hobby, but a hobby, and I have to draw the line somewhere. I've had tons of fun with the RX100 and it fits in my pocket every day; and except for the occasional sports/wildlife encounter, I have never felt like I lost a shot because that's the camera I had with me.
posted by cribcage at 11:42 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am a total gear head w/r/t photo stuff.

I've owned and used these cameras that are all in the "league" (loosely speaking) of the RX100:

Fuji X100, Samsung EX2, NEX (5N, 7, 6, and 3F), Olympus EP-2, and a Nikon D90

If you're not going to be printing over 11x13 prints the best choice is a "bridge camera" like the Panasonic LX7, Olympus XZ-2, or Samsung EX-2.

I say this because although at the wide-end the RX100 is amazing, the lens is verrrryyyy slllooowww past 28mm. It's f/5.6 (!) at the long end. The stabilization helps some, but you end up taking nothing but wide shots in low-light situations.

The LX7, XZ-2, and the EX-2 have impossibly fast lenses! f/1.4-2.3 zooms that start at 24mm! I say impossible, because even on a sensor the RX100's size a lens of that spec would be the size of a PBR tall boy.

Again, unless (god help you) you're a pixel-peeper, constantly examining the 1:1 IQ of your shots, you'd be hard pressed to notice the difference between an EX-2 shot and an RX100 shot.

I don't want to take anything away from the RX100. It's an engineering marvel and of the highest-quality, but I have found in actual usage (especially in lower light environments) that the smaller sensor cameras have a distinct advantage. Also, 24mm is a LOT wider than 28mm.

PS The LX7 and EX-2 are about half the price of the RX100, so you could hold onto both kits and have the best of both worlds.

PPS My favorite camera out of all the ones I've used is the Fuji X100. Yes, it's fixed lens and has some quirks, but the IQ is singular and the handling is fabulous.
posted by lattiboy at 12:47 PM on March 1, 2013

The sensor is by no means larger than the senso in your DSLR, but it is quite a bit larger thann the sensor on most compact cameras, including the canon s90/95/100 series, which I use as my pocket camera when my iPhone doesn't cut it.

I have a DSLR too, and find I only use it once or twice a year. My s90 doesn't get as much use as it did before I got the iPhone 4s, but it gets a lot more than the DSLR. That said, when I do end up using the DSLR, I am glad I did. The flexibility of the interchangeable lenses and the image quality from the lenses and the sensor is a pleasure. On the other hand, there are the times I drag its weight around with me and I don't end up using it...

The RX100 looks like a very interesting pocket camera, but the lmitations on the manual controls would give me some pause. I like having both the lens ring and the thumbwheel on the s90 for making quick manual adjustments. For example, I will use the ring to set aperature or shutter speed, and the thumbwheel for exposure compensation.
posted by Good Brain at 2:13 PM on March 1, 2013

Response by poster: Good Brain - so here's my question - if you had to give up the DSLR or the S90, which would you lose? If you could give both up for the RX100, would you do it and be without a DSLR?
posted by kdern at 2:15 PM on March 1, 2013

Oh and "real photographers use a DSLR" is bullshit.
posted by seanmpuckett

This is so, so, so true. Use the tool that's convenient for you. For me, that's an iPhone and Fuji X-Series cameras. I ditched my Canon 1 and 5 series bodies and haven't looked back. All my clients seem satisfied.
posted by blaneyphoto at 2:48 PM on March 1, 2013

Response by poster: Blaneyphoto - thanks for the comment. The Fujis look pretty cool. Which one do you have? The x100 is around $1000 but has a fixed lens... wonder how the sensor size and overall IQ compares to the RX100...
posted by kdern at 3:37 PM on March 1, 2013

Response by poster: Great - now I have another camera to consider - the Fuji X20 looks like it could be even better than the RX100, and at the same price point. Blaneyphoto - what do you think?
posted by kdern at 3:49 PM on March 1, 2013

To me, the constraint on a camera is whether or not it can grab the shot you have in mind. I have a Nikon D200 DSLR and also a Canon S3-IS. The S3 can get 95% of the shots I want and it's much easier to carry. Before making the trade, you have to decide if that 5% is worth the switch.

My own personal opinion - keep your DSLR setup and get a good smaller camera. If you're used to the DSLR, you're going to miss it at times if you give it up. You can get a Canon SX-150 for around $130 and it will get you 95% ( or more) of the shots you want, with very good image quality. Then you'll have the best of both worlds.
posted by azpenguin at 3:50 PM on March 1, 2013

I'm not familiar with the RX100, so I can't really give you an informed opinion - I'd just be using the same online info that you probably have already read!

I own an X-100 and an X-Pro1. I've used the Fuji XE1 and X10. I did not care for the X10, but haven't used the X20, so again I wouldn't want to advise for or against.

The image quality from the X100 and XPro1 is amazing. Definitely equal to the output from my Canon 5Dmark II with L glass. From purely an image quality standpoint, they're a sure thing. HOWEVER - you need to hold it in your hand before buying. All of these Fujis have some functional quirks that drive some people nuts. Personally, they fit my style so its no big deal. And its no secret that they're relatively slow to focus. Again, not an issue for the work I do, but for some its a deal breaker.

I see they have the X100 used at B&H Photo for $820 right now. Pretty good price!

Hope that helps a little.
posted by blaneyphoto at 5:54 PM on March 1, 2013

Oh, also - the X100/Pro1/XE1 are all terrific low light tools. That may or may not matter to you, but I find its nice to not have to be concerned about whether I'm getting usable images when I have to crank the ISO up to 6400 or beyond.
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:00 PM on March 1, 2013

I'd prefer not to have to choose between the DSLR and the s90, kdern. If forced I'd probably keep the DSLR and give up the s90, but that's because I like using the 70-200 f4/L lens I have.

Given that you seem happy with a 17-50mm zoom on an APS-C body, I'd think that you could get by quite well with a good large-sensor pocket camera. As to which one, I'm not sure. I pretty much hate the aesthetics of everyone's noise reduction except Canon's, but that shouldn't be as big an issue on a compact with a mondo sensor like the RX100
posted by Good Brain at 1:22 AM on March 2, 2013

A big issue would be how you feel about going from a "look through" eye level viewfinder to a "look at" rear LCD viewfinder.

After years of trying to make myself not hate the lack of eye level viewfinders on any number of point and shoot cameras as well as my iPhone, I have come to the conclusion that I just have to have an eye level finder.
posted by imjustsaying at 12:39 PM on March 2, 2013

I have come to the conclusion that I just have to have an eye level finder.
posted by imjustsaying

Indeed. And the optical viewfinder is a big reason the Fuji X-Pro 1 and X100 are useful and appealing.
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:01 PM on March 2, 2013

I received a private message follow-up to this thread, but I'm not sure how to reply to it so I'll leave my answer here.

Lattiboy noted above that the RX100 slows when you use its zoom function. As somebody who prefers primes, I don't reach for zoom as habit so there's not much useful I can say about that feature. If the shot needs redistancing, I'll walk closer or crop in Lightroom. The only few shots I've had to scrap entirely with the RX100 are, as I mentioned above, sports or wildlife—the type of photos that, in my opinion anyway, require a telephoto lens and are never going to be captured well with glass that fits in your pocket.

I have never used the LX7, XZ-2, or EX-2. Having zoom capability has never been important to me, so I never looked at cameras that prioritize that feature. For what it's worth, in all the reviews I've read about the RX100, I don't recall anybody raving about its zoom. So my guess is that if zoom is in your top five criteria, then the RX100 might not be your ideal choice.

The Fuji X100S was also mentioned. For me personally, lens and sensor size are important. The X100S looks like a fantastic piece of hardware, but "upgrading" to a camera with a smaller sensor just doesn't make sense to me. Having a viewfinder also isn't a dealbreaker for me, the way it is for other people. I think that if I had to decide today between the RX100 and the X100S, I would choose the RX100, but the bottom line is that there probably isn't a wrong choice between them.

LensRentals has the RX100 available and should stock the X100S soon. You could rent both. Or you could find a store that stocks both and play with them for a few minutes apiece, and try to decide which feels more natural. Or you could go with your gut (or flip a coin) and just buy one, telling yourself that since both are relatively new cameras, you can recover most of the purchase price on eBay or Craigslist if you change your mind later.

I'll go out on a limb and speculate that we're probably looking at roughly two-year cycles for these cameras, in which case neither the RX100 not the X100S are likely to be obsoleted until, at the earliest, late 2014. And even then, you're looking at a situation similar to the current state of the Canon 5D Mark II—a phenomenal tool that will deliver flawless results in pretty much any situation, available at bargain prices because it isn't "new." People have been raving about the X100 for two years and just because an updated model is available, doesn't mean the X100 isn't still a terrific tool. Either of these cameras will be a great purchase.

I hope that's helpful. Good luck!
posted by cribcage at 11:13 PM on March 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

"upgrading" to a camera with a smaller sensor just doesn't make sense to me.
posted by cribcage

The OP's XTI and the Fuji X100 both have and APS-C sized sensor but the RX100 has a smaller sensor, I believe.
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:01 PM on March 5, 2013

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