Shooting Video with the Sony RX1.
Without a doubt, the Sony RX1 is my favorite still image camera to date. The form factor is small enough to take virtually anywhere, even venues that typically frown on DSLR cameras. The image quality is mind blowing, and I'm continually impressed with the razor sharpness and depth of field it offers.
As I shoot commercial video on a very regular basis, most often with a combo of Canon 7D's and 5DII's and III's, I've been wondering, "could the RX1 could perform well in it's own right as a potential second video camera on set?" Theoretically, the results should be as good as the stills it's produces. A 35mm prime lens on both a 7D and a 5DII produces stunning video.
Shooting video on the RX1 however, is a disappointing experience. First, here is a montage I put together shooting at Venice Beach, CA. All footage was shoot from a tripod, or hand-held on an Edelkrone Pocket Rig.
VERY LITTLE GOOD NEWS.
Yes, if you have a good eye, background shooting video, have additional gear available to you, it's possible to achieve some absolutely stellar video results. The lens and full frame sensor remain a wonderful combination whether shooting a single frame, or 60 frames a second. The low light performance is great, the bokeh is beautiful, and the color saturation is vivid. Shooting at 60fps at 1080p yields pretty solid results when converting to slo-mo.
OK, now the bad news.
You really really have to want it in order to achieve solid results. There is not really a single aspect of shooting video with the RX1 that comes easy. In a pinch, perhaps your DSLR has crapped out, you can make the RX1 sing, but you have a whole pile of issues to work through. There have been plenty of other blogs out there on the subject, so let's add mine to the chorus. Here are my primary gripes.
INSANELY HARD TO FOCUS.
If you're planning on pulling focus while moving around, i.e. moving around an event, re-composing and focusing as the event unfolds around you, forget about it. There is no way to check focus on the fly. No digital readout of focal length (available in photo mode of course) so you're always guessing. The focus ring rotates infinitely, so you don't even have a hard constraint to help you out there, as you might on other DSLR lenses. The display is too small to trust focus. Using an external monitor helps via the HDMI port, which I did, but still blew plenty of shots.
A work around which helps if you are in a fairly locked off position is to switch back to photo mode, adjust focus properly, then switch back to video and resume shooting. SUPER cumbersome, but it does work.
What's even more maddening is that the manual focus in photo mode is world class awesome. Why they didn't port this to video, even in a cut down form, is mind boggling.
The moire in the video is super obvious, and happens all over the place. More depth of field makes moire less of problem (ish), but it's a hard one to work around. There are various clumsy ways to minimize this in post, but still, be aware that this is a problem. Honestly, the moire problem is gonna be a deal killer for most.
Yeah I know that isn't technically a video problem, but timelapse videos are so common in video edits now, this is an obvious problem. I worked around it using a cable release, with the drive in sports mode, shooting until I had enough exposures for a couple seconds of video. An ugly workaround, for what is a GLARING PRODUCT WEAKNESS IN THE RX1 -- ESSENTIALLY A $3000 CAMERA. WAKE UP SONY! GIVE US A FIRMWARE UPDATE.
While the small size is fantastic for shooting stills, it makes it tough to hand-hold while shooting. I used Edelkrone's Pocket Rig, with follow focus, for the sample video above. That helped considerably, but was still a challenge.
Battery life on this camera sucks. Thankfully batteries are cheap-ish, so you'll need a pocket-full.
In short, the video from the RX1 isn't ready for primetime. The good news is that some of these issues could be addressed in a firmware upate. The bad news is that Sony hasn't shown any inclination of releasing a firmware update anytime soon.