Sony RX0 Review – Sample Footage and First Impressions

October 20th, 2017

The RX0 was announced at the beginning of September 2017, and there is a good chance that by the time you read this Sony RX0 Review, it will already be shipping. If you haven’t had the chance to hear about this miniature camera, let me start by quickly introducing this little creation. 

Personally, I like working with and exploring the video capabilities of small, modestly-priced cameras, and the original Sony RX100 IV and Sony RX100 V were no exceptions. Considering their price and size, both did well in my tests. You can watch my reviews of the Sony RX100 IV and Sony RX100 V respectively by clicking here and here.

Now, imagine having a production camera the size of a matchbox. A camera that has a large 1.0-type Exmor CMOS sensor, can shoot full HD video internally and output 4K video externally. That is exactly what Sony did with the new RX0. They literarily shrunk the already small RX-type camera and packed it all into a 59 x 40.5 x 29.8 mm duralumin body weighing just 100g. Sony made it water, shock and crushproof and, on top of it, made it capable of shooting stills in high-quality JPEG & RAW formats. However, as this is a video review, I won’t touch on its photo functionality at all.

So now in theory we’ve got a winner! Interested to find out more? Keep reading.

When I first had the chance to see the camera, I fell in love with the concept. In my mind, this kind of camera would be a perfect B or C cam in some of my productions or, alternatively, an A camera where size does matter and restrictions could keep me from using anything larger that might attract attention.

Our excitement became even bigger after having the chance to talk to Sony during IBC. We were so impressed by what we saw, that we decided to award the camera with one of our show innovation prizes.

With such a long introduction, you can imagine that I was eagerly waiting to get my hands on the camera and finally review it in the way I would use it, meaning not as an action cam (as it certainly is not!), but as a valid piece of equipment in the environment of a normal documentary production. For the sake of argument, I decided to shoot a whole piece with it in order to learn its strengths and weaknesses.

But before continuing, there is one topic that needs to be clarified once and for all: is this a GoPro Hero6 Black clone?

Sony RX0 vs. GoPro Hero6 Black

I was recently invited by GoPro Europe to the launch event of the GoPro Hero6 Black. While the technology demonstrated at this event was truly impressive, I couldn’t stop thinking that we were actually seeing more of the same, just with better quality. For some, this is wonderful news, while for others, this means that GoPro has decided to stick to what they know best: manufacturing action cameras.

Now, here comes Sony and introduces something that looks similar in size, causing the crowd to shout out that the RX0 lost the battle even before starting the fight as it doesn’t shoot 4K video internally. After testing both, I can clearly say that these two cameras are completely different devices and one should not compare them.

In brief and in no particular order, here are the main differences between the cameras:  

  • Lens: Sony RX0 wins hands down with its wide-angle, rectilinear ZEISS lens.
  • Stabilisation: GoPro Hero 6 Black defeats the RX0 when it comes to image stabilization as the Sony has none!
  • Durability: It is hard to say which one is better. The GoPro family of cameras has been around for ages and build quality holds up quite well. Similarly, the small Sony RX0 certainly gave me the feeling of using something that was built like a small tank.
  • Codec, bit rate and picture quality: The GoPro uses a modern H.265 codec (in most recording situations) and can record internally up to 4K/60p (head over to the first part of our GoPro Hero6 review to learn more about its picture quality and recording capabilities). The Sony, on the other hand, uses its proven XAVC-S codec. but internally can only record in full HD and up to 120p (more on that later).
  • Slow-motion: Both cameras can do high frame rates in different resolutions. I won’t touch on this subject in my current review.
  • Sound: Sony wins here with the option to easily connect an external mic and control the sound levels manually.
  • Battery life: Neither camera does very well in this department, but considering their small size and recording capabilities, it is not a surprise.
  • Price: The Sony RX0 is $200 more expensive. As these are two different types of cameras, the price comparison is not relevant.
  • App: Both cameras can be controlled via their own app. GoPro went a step further by allowing you to edit the footage on your mobile phone and share it instantly. As the RX0 is more of a production camera, this type of functionality is not necessary in my opinion.
  • Flat image profile: Both cameras allow the possibility of using their respective Log picture profiles.
  • Manual control: Sony beats the GoPro here as it allows full manual control when shooting video.

Conclusion: Choosing one camera over the other depends heavily on the type of production you are filming. I would clearly classify the GoPro Hero6 Black as an “action cam” while giving the Sony RX0 the title of “production camera”.

Sony RX0, extended version

Now that we are done with this short comparison, let’s concentrate on the subject that brought us all together, the  Sony RX0!

I had the chance to test the camera over the past few days, although unfortunately I couldn’t dive as deep as I wanted to cover all of its functionality, concentrating instead on what was the most important for me: picture quality and usability in a documentary-style shooting environment. Please note that this review reflects my personal opinion and I’ve done everything I can to supply our loyal followers with accurate information.

User Experience

There is a way to avoid most of what I’m about to write from this point on by simply switching the camera to “Intelligent Auto Mode”. If you are the kind of cameraman that likes to keep things simple, then this should be your preferred shooting option. Bear in mind that the camera will calculate everything for you except for focusing. You still need to take care of this regardless of your choice of shooting mode as the camera cannot Auto Focus while shooting video. If you are like me, and you like a challenge when shooting, set the camera to the “All Manual” setting and prepare yourself for a different kind of shooting experience…

If you are familiar with the Sony menu structure, you will feel right at home… with one exception. Everything is very small and needs to be done slowly and with caution. The screen is small and the buttons are tiny. If you need to to react fast, then this is the wrong tool for you.

After getting used to the slow working pace, I had to consider three main points:

  • How to deal with light entering the fixed f/4 lens lens.
  • How to deal with focusing and be confident that my shots would mostly look OK.
  • How to keep myself from losing parts of the camera body (more about that in a second).

Filter Adaptor Kit-VFA-305R1

Controlling light:

Regardless of whether you choose to shoot in S-LOG 2 (ISO 1600) or not, if you keep your shutter speed set to 1/50 or 1/60, I’m almost 100% certain that you will need to use an ND filter in front of your lens in most outdoor shooting situations. Sony cleverly designed the camera so that the front element can be exchanged, letting you choose between waterproof functionality with a plastic cover that protects the front camera body and lens, or a front cover that lets you attach small filters almost directly on the lens.

The main issue is that even after adding an ND filter, it will be very hard to control the amount of light entering it during changing lighting conditions as the f-stop is fixed. When it comes to shooting indoors, f/4 even on a relatively large 1” sensor can be considered limiting at times.

Controlling focus:

As Autofocus is not available when shooting video, getting your focus right can become an issue with this camera. The menu offers two options:

  • Manual Focus: you can manually set your focus between 0.5 meter to infinity. The screen will automatically zoom in as a focus assist, and you can activate peaking as well.
  • Preset Focus: you can manually choose to set your focus between NEAR Mode ON (between 50cm/1.7 ft and 1 meter/3.3 ft), or OFF (beyond 1 meter).

Whatever you choose, if you are a creative shooter, you will find yourself fiddling A LOT with these focus parameters.

Don’t lose this part…

How to avoid losing parts of the camera body:

On the rear left hand side of the camera, you will find a little protective cover for the micro HDMI/USB/Mic inputs and micro SD card slot. This part comes off completely when you want to access the ports, and is therefore very easy to lose. Unfortunately, this means the camera loses its dust and waterproof functionality, so I predict Sony will be getting many requests this spare part in the near future…

Sony RX0 Review

Sony RX0 rear

Other important points to consider:

OK, so I’m up and running, being challenged by some of the topics I’ve mentioned above when, around 25-30 minutes into my shooting, the camera shuts itself off. As you can imagine, the processing required to handle all those video signals in such a small body is very power hungry. In fact, I can assume that this was one of the reasons for Sony to limit the recording internal resolution to full HD. In general, it looks as if Sony has done everything it could to help preserve every last drop of juice from the small supplied battery, at times at the expense of usability. For example, the LCD screen will dim automatically after 30 to 60 seconds of shooting, and I could not find a way to disable this annoying function. On the positive side, the camera can be powered by a common external mobile battery, which can act as a good back-up solution in case you find yourself stuck.

Surprisingly, despite doing everything it can to preserve battery, the camera has an On/Off button that is much too sensitive to the touch. True, it is great that the camera powers on very quickly, but it can just as easily power on when bumping against another piece of kit in your bag, resulting in an unexpected flat battery.

Picture quality:

Sony RX0 Moiré – Click on the photo for better viewing

Every camera has its strengths and weaknesses, but one thing you don’t want is ugly artefacts in you picture. Now, before continuing, I have to remind myself that, despite offering a number of professional features, the RX0 is NOT a professional production camera per se. I can only guess that Sony sees this camera as a complementary shooting device in the arsenal of proud a7SII, FS5 and FS7 owners. After all, the larger RX100V (and the IV before that) did a good job in preserving adequate picture quality.

The thing is, the RX0 is not in the same league. The full HD coming out of this camera leaves a lot to be desired, probably down to poor down-scaling from its 4K sensor. Moire and aliasing are very noticeable and can show up unexpectedly to ruin some of your shots. The noise levels are exaggerated, and it doesn’t matter how well you light a scene, there will always be some parts which are underexposed. Unfortunately, the noise pattern is very distracting and ugly, so my advice is to try to and keep your ISO as low as possible to minimise the problem and hope for the best. What’s more, when shooting for longer periods of time, the camera will heat up and as a consequence you might get a higher level of noise in the picture.

Sony RX0 pros (in no particular order):

  • Small and durable
  • 1” sensor size
  • Wide, rectilinear (no distortion) 24mm lens (35mm full-frame equivalent)
  • World camera (PAL/NTSC)
  • Shock, crush and waterproof (up to 10m out of the box)
  • Symmetrical form factor (important for a 360° rig or in multi-perspective arrays)
  • S-LOG 2
  • External 4K recording
  • Slow motion capabilities in different quality and frame rates
  • Audio input and full manual level control
  • Remote control via a smartphone app
  • Good amount of accessories to rig up the camera, including an underwater housing that extends its waterproof capabilities from 10 to 100m, a cage with various mounting points, a cable clamp to protect the HDMI and USB ports, and a lens filter holder
  • All the professional tools we are used to having, such as zebra, peaking and histogram
  • Powering the camera via external battery or computer is possible

Sony RX0 cons (in no particular order):

  • Average picture quality in full HD mode (moire and aliasing are visible during certain shooting conditions)
  • Exaggerated picture noise (mostly in Manual mode)
  • Low-light capabilities are restricted due to the fixed f/4 aperture lens
  • High ISO values are noisy
  • No headphone jack
  • Camera tends to warm up
  • Focusing is not easy
  • No autofocus
  • No stabilization
  • Back input/output cover is easy to lose
  • Short battery life
  • External 4K recording somehow defeats the purpose and concept of a very small camera

Not tested: high frame rate shooting and external 4K recording.

Sony RX0 Review – Conclusion

The Sony RX0 is a great concept and a true technical achievement. I’m sure that it can shine in other types of filming scenarios, but for me as a documentary film shooter it leaves a lot to be desired. Sony would be wise to implement autofocus during video recording in the future (probably at the expense of an even shorter battery life) and to try to reduce or control the noise patten currently found in the picture.

Information about the video above: Shot in 1080/25p, S-LOG 2, ISO 1600 (default) up to 2500. Edited on Adobe Premiere CC and color corrected with filmconvert. As requested by many, ungraded version of the above video can be downloaded from here

Music supplied by Art List: Song track: Golda ny Alon Ohana

Special thanks to Markus, Daniela, Daniel and the rest of the amazing team at the SCHEER shoes company.

35
Leave a reply

guest
Filter:
all
Sort by:
latest
Peter Kent
Member
October 31st, 2017

Another interesting video Johnnie, goodjob. Not sure who this product is for though. Do you think this is a one off product from Sony or we likely to see an RX0ii with internal 4K and IBIS in 6 months?

Member
October 31st, 2017
Reply to  Peter Kent

god knows how it that form factor. it’s about overheating really. I would expect the next version if they make it to have electronic stabilisation maybe or even optical rather than ibis.

Peter Kent
Member
October 31st, 2017
Reply to  Philip Bloom

Is this the same Mr Bloom that taught me how to overcrank 7D footage in FCP7 and get 100Mbps out of a GH2? Thanks :D

I think Johnnie may have misused this camera, it was obviously designed for remotely shooting an underwater bullet-time VR shot with sharks, using it in any other situation clearly does it a disservice.

 Andreas Paleologos
Andreas Paleologos
Member
October 23rd, 2017

Nice shooting mate, and nice demonstration of what can be created with such a tiny camera!
The lens looks nice! The soft shadow grading makes me wonder if there isn’t good enough shadows to keep the colour a bit more full. But I’m sure it’s just aesthetics in the grading though.. right?

It’s a shame they didn’t choose to create a custom stabiliser on the sensor though. It would have been very useful in my opinion. The thought of hand holding this is compelling.. but not so compelling without a stabiliser?

And finally… what is it with Sony and heating? With seemingly ALL of their cameras heat is mentioned. Did it ever overheat, or display any signs of going to overheat?

 John Beech
John Beech
Member
October 24th, 2017
Reply to  Johnnie Behiri

Johnnie, regarding overtemp issue, is the case metal and is it possible to attach a small heat sink? One of my business interests is a CNC machine shop so fabricating one would be a simple matter. Anyway, my sole interest in this camera is in adding some POV for a workshop production something along the lines of a cooking show. E.g. overhead and side on views. The cameras would be static and ‘switching’ would occur within the timeline in post. Thing is, overheating degrading the image would be a big deal, a deal breaker in fact as to have cameras on for two hours isn’t all that unusual. We’ve been working with Handicams and are looking to upgrade the images. Audio capture isn’t an issue as that’s handled separately to their own recorders. I suspect GoPros would work just fine but we’re a Sony shop and would prefer to stick to Sony because the gamut would be so close we wouldn’t have to grade the individual cameras.

 John Beech
John Beech
Member
October 23rd, 2017

Johnnie, a wonderful review, and the story telling about the hand made shoes was great. That said, allow me to give one overwhelming impression . . . the whole short appears overexposed. Maybe overexposed is the wrong term, to my eye it’s more like the IRE 7.5 black level was set incorrectly. Thus, blacks are washed out.

Is it the camera, or is it your post processing? Only you know. However, what would be fantastic in my opinion is if you captured footage – and did not – correct it, then upload the brief movie for us to evaluate. Moreover, if you are inside, since you mention the limitations of the fixed f4 lens, light it appropriately. An office setting with fluorescent lights and windows resulting in mixed color temperatures? Fine, show us what it does there. Similarly, go outside and film a little bit in the manner most would use it, e.g. placed near the ground to capture B-roll of a car crashing, or a man walking by, or whatever. Ditto as a POV inside a car the way a GoPro is used on a rig and attached to a mount to capture B-roll of the characters.

A lot of work? Of course, but that’s why they pay you the big bucks for doing online reviews ;>)

Anyway, please, a minute or so of all these scenarios -to include the moire pattern you mentioned would really help 3rd parties (like myself) judge what the camera can really do. Unfortunately, as is, your very nice project, where somebody has graded the footage and applied filters, etc. is simply of zero us for review purposes for me to use before making a purchase.

Look, I am very sorry to say this and I really hope you don’t take offense and understand where I’m coming from because your film with all the dolly moves and all was beautifully executed, but since the very point of this review is to allow us to judge the footage, we cannot possibly do this when someone else has manipulated it. Most especially because it looks washed out on my monitor.

John with a heavy sigh in fear my response will be taken as a personal attack when nothing could be further from the truth in regards of my intent.

Member
October 23rd, 2017
Reply to  John Beech

For me seeing it graded and finished is very important. That’s how it will end up and I want to see how well it works in the real world. That is exactly what Johnnie’s reviews are, real world use and for me that’s the best kind.

 John Beech
John Beech
Member
October 24th, 2017
Reply to  Johnnie Behiri

Johnnie, the big bucks comment was meant purely tongue in cheek, I assure you. Regarding the format of your reviews where you make a brief movie complete with dolly moves. These are fantastic! I recall the one you made in late 2015 for the RX100 IV within the Russian barbershop and reflected then on how much work you’d put into it. In my opinion, you did far more for the RX0 review because there were tons of dolly moves – and if they were handheld – they were brilliant!

Anyway, judging by the one direct response to my comment, my criticism was misunderstood as an attack and I promise it was not my intention. Anyway, yes, I’d dearly love to see a bit of ungraded footage. I would be very happy to see it and it can be brief, a minute or two would be more than adequate. Frankly, I have a strong suspicion what I see as a black level issue actually occurred during post and is not present in the unprocessed footage.

Finally, regarding contacting each other, since I am logged in to comment, do you have access to this site’s admin area to retrieve my contact details?

Ed Hecht
Ed Hecht
Member
October 23rd, 2017

The most important aspect of this model? It shows a 1″ sensor CAN be put in an action cam form factor. Yi and GoPro (and others) can’t be far behind. Yay for all of us. :)

Member
October 22nd, 2017

I’m considering RX0 cans to add a couple extra wide angles to my live setup, and to mount into race cars for live and non-live application. If they only included an SDI option…

 Daniel Binder
Daniel Binder
Member
November 4th, 2017

After our (no very scientific) test of the RX0 yesterday, it looks like the camera has about 2.5 frames latency/delay on the hmdi out. Too much for us to use it in live setups. And beware of the overheating issue (needs to be set to “high”, even in HD and if not recording to not shut off after 30 min or so.
Cheers,
Daniel

Mantra KG
Guest
October 21st, 2017

Thanks Cinema5D. Superb review in context and I also don’t agree with the 4K thing – most reviews and post marketing on FB are HD based. It’s about getting the content and making sure it is genuine and packed with emotions and all packed in with a good image and quality sound. The rest is bs if you ask me!

Member
October 21st, 2017

nice first try but I cannot imagine it will be successful with those many CONs and as well with trying to sell it for a high price. If Sony wants to win here, they would have to work a lot on many small things. It seems like this version was a bit like a prototye to test the market without going too far because they did not have the time to wait another year. So much will happen the next months. They should really focus on an A9s, FS5 II and maybe A7sIII and more tele-lenses. If they cannot surprise with a kick ass RX0 II it´s better to leave this for now.

Member
October 20th, 2017

no internal 4K, good job Sony!

visionrouge.net
Member
October 21st, 2017
Reply to  Ez Bz

Wait, with Sony, you often need to wait the Mark III to get the camera the Mark I should have been.
It’s a new business model; first buyer are beta tester. You save money on development and time.

Ignasi Pastori Ml
Guest
October 20th, 2017

Nice job , fantastic camera

Paul Christopher Greene
Guest
October 20th, 2017

Why didn’t you connected to an external recorder for 4K image test?

cinema5D
Guest
October 20th, 2017

Because working with an external recorder defeats the purpose of using that small camera. (All we needed is a good full HD quality. Nothing more, nothing less). Thank you. Johnnie

Paul Christopher Greene
Guest
October 20th, 2017

No, it doesn’t, and is an important part of the cameras capabilities. Otherwise why would Sony even offer 4K output in addition to the (you admit rather shite) 1080 P down rez? It’s also presumptuous to assume all your readers only care about 1080p when UHD is clearly the new standard.

Member
October 21st, 2017

Gotta disagree with you. The whole point of this camera is the small footprint. Whilst plugging it into a recorder would be sort of interesting to see the image it would in my eyes be pointless. Why on earth would anyone use such a small camera with bulky external recorders? This is a real world test so it’s good that Johnnie kept it real. Surely that goes against the whole point of the camera. I am still very confused by this camera.

 Kevin Almodovar
Kevin Almodovar
Member
October 24th, 2017
Reply to  Philip Bloom

While the traditional use of external recorders is mounted, one could tether it instead allowing the small footprint to still come in very handy in tight spots.

HDMI signals are pretty solid over a 3-5 meter range. So while I see why one would think that a mounted recorder would defeat the purpose, a tethered one would not in many scenarios.

After all, Sony has made it very clear that this is not an action cam and thus not going after the mount-it-on-a-surf-board crowd.

Ollie Larkin
Guest
December 23rd, 2018
Reply to  Philip Bloom

Maybe to be able to mount the camera onto affordable gimbals and use the camera on cables cams, drones, etc. with the external recorder?

cinema5D
Guest
October 20th, 2017

As we tend to disagree, I’m happy to wait for your review and promise to add your 4K output quality results to my review. With this camera, the 4K output is good for marketing and some (true) specific applications. In reality, the news/docu guy/girl that will be using that camera, will do it without an external recorder.

James Davis
Guest
October 20th, 2017

Paul Christopher Greene stop bitching. This is their test. Do your own review with 4K.

Paul Christopher Greene
Guest
October 21st, 2017

James Davis GFY. It’s a significant part of the cameras functionality I for one am extremely interested in and which was unnecessarily ignored. Clearly you don’t have the imagination to see that a 4k test would *also* show the true image quality of the sensor and lens and if you review Netflix shooting guidelines they don’t accept less than 4K at all.

Chris Agrance
Guest
October 21st, 2017

4K Camera, doesn’t test the 4K. :-/.

William Koehler
Member
October 22nd, 2017

If Johnnie did connect a 4K recorder, he would now have a package that was larger, harder to manage, and likely more expensive than using either a Sony RX10 or RX100.

Those alternatives would have a shorter list of Cons as well.

Filter:
all
Sort by:
latest

Take part in the CineD community experience