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Guest Post

Date: 18/07/2014 | By: Heather

Using the Sony RX1R for Street Photography – Guest Post by Olivier Glod

Olivier Glod Using the Sony RX1R for Street Photography

Using the Sony RX1R for Street Photography – Guest Post by Olivier Glod

Lately I’ve been enjoying Sony’s full-frame pocket powerhouse more and more and have already written about using it as a lightweight travel camera, as well as why I think it’s a great choice for night photography. There’s still a lot left to try and learn, so I was really excited and jumped at the chance when Heather asked me if I would be interested in jotting down my thoughts about how the Sony RX1R performs when it comes to street photography.

First things first, here comes the big disclaimer:

  • I am NOT a professional photographer
  • I do NOT have a decade of experience
  • I do NOT primarily shoot street

What I do have is a passion towards many different genres in photography, willingness to try something new and get out of my comfort zone, and, I’m not ashamed to confess: a heavy case of G.A.S. (gear acquisition syndrome). Yes, I’ll say it out loud: I LOVE TRYING AND BUYING GEAR. Does this make me a better photographer? Heck, no! But I enjoy it as one might enjoy collecting stamps, and it does allow me to analyze how the RX1R handles certain situations compared to other cameras. :-)

Well then, with this out of the way, let’s get started, shall we?

So, what exactly is the Sony RX1R ?

Think of it as a Fuji X100S on steroids => a pocketable, full-frame, 35mm fixed gloriously bright f/2 Carl Zeiss lens, but sans Fuji’s brilliant viewfinder and (relatively) fast autofocus. Should be PERFECT for street photography, right? Well…

I first dabbled in street photography roaming the streets of Dublin a couple of months ago. There was just so much to see and do, I felt a bit overwhelmed, but also empowered and curious at the same time. Instead of focusing (pun intended) on my usual subjects for such a trip, namely buildings, landmarks and details, I suddenly started to notice life around me. There were either fascinating people or interesting situations, sometimes even a combination of both. The RX1R worked wonderfully well for the style of shooting I used at that time: building up a scene, anticipating the moment, taking my time.

DSC-RX1R, 1/1000, f/ 56/10, ISO 100
DSC-RX1R, 1/1000, f/ 5.6, ISO 100
DSC-RX1R, 1/200, f/ 56/10, ISO 100
DSC-RX1R, 1/200, f/ 5.6, ISO 100
DSC-RX1R, 1/80, f/ 2/1, ISO 200
DSC-RX1R, 1/80, f/ 2, ISO 200
DSC-RX1R, 1/80, f/ 11/1, ISO 125
DSC-RX1R, 1/80, f/ 11, ISO 125

So, what are the main advantages of using the RX1R for street photography?

Stealth => This camera looks just like a regular point and shoot. It should be fairly easy to blend into a crowd of tourists and not get noticed, pretending to take shots of the local landmarks. Furthermore, nobody will notice you just fired off a shot due to the silent leaf shutter ☺

Resolution => It’s a fixed 35mm lens, so it’s fairly wide. This is a good thing if you want to show a bit more of the surroundings to help establish a context, reveal additional details of the story to tell. However, sometimes you just want to zoom in tight, but can’t get any closer physically without risking to draw attention to yourself, thus potentially destroying the scene you were trying to capture. Never fear! With the 24MP OLPF-less sensor, you’ve got plenty of headroom when it comes to cropping.

DSC-RX1R, 1/1000, f/ 35/10, ISO 100
DSC-RX1R, 1/1000, f/ 3.5, ISO 100
DSC-RX1R, 1/1000, f/ 35/10, ISO 100
DSC-RX1R, 1/1000, f/ 3.5, ISO 100

After having had so much fun with my first experiments in Dublin, I grew curious about trying a different, more spontaneous approach to street photography with the RX1R and Heather’s request provided me with the perfect excuse for a trip to Luxembourg City and give it a go.

This time I tried shooting from the hip, or rather torso, with my right hand resting inconspicously on the shutter and the camra dangling from my neck while I was looking at buildings. Whatever little framing came into play was done by pure guesswork and twisting my upper-body and camera both slightly.

Well… this didn’t work for me. Odd angles, cropped off at the wrong points, autofocus not hitting the correct subject or too slow. This turned potentially interesting shots into trashcan candidates.

The following examples are all straight out of camera.

DSC-RX1R, 1/250, f/ 8/1, ISO 100
DSC-RX1R, 1/250, f/ 8, ISO 100
DSC-RX1R, 1/125, f/ 8/1, ISO 100
DSC-RX1R, 1/125, f/ 8, ISO 100
DSC-RX1R, 1/80, f/ 56/10, ISO 160
DSC-RX1R, 1/80, f/ 5.6, ISO 160

I decided this was clearly not the way to go and tried a different method: scanning my surroundings, but camera at the ready. When it comes to my confidence/moxy as a street tog in training, I’m far away from a stalker/hunter level, so if I don’t get the shot on the first try, I certainly won’t give it another go. Once again, the autofocus failed me, so that when it finally locked on, my potential pray had already passed me, and there was no way I would get another chance.

DSC-RX1R, 1/200, f/ 8/1, ISO 100
DSC-RX1R, 1/200, f/ 8, ISO 100
DSC-RX1R, 1/160, f/ 8/1, ISO 100
DSC-RX1R, 1/160, f/ 8, ISO 100

So, would I give the RX1R a thumbs up for street photography ? Yes and no…

Definitely yes, if you’re into a slow, methodic and patient mood, setting up each shot and waiting for the right opportunity.

Absolutely no, if you want to be spontaneous and shoot life as it happens.

Once again, I’m not somebody who has years and years of street experience so your findings may differ from mine, but I have concluded that I’ll spend some more time trying to up my street game with a different camera / lens setup. It’s probably going to be the Olympus OM-D E-M10 with either the PanaLeica 25 f/1.4 or PanaLeica 15 f/1.7. With this tiny setup, I’ll be able to rely on lightning fast autofocus and the tiltable touchscreen is a very help when it comes to composing at waist level. :-)

The RX1R will remain my desert island camera for everything else, as long as I don’t need fast AF. Then again, there are no streets to shoot on a desert island… 😉

Be sure to check out Olivier’s photography website to see more of his excellent work with his mirrorless cameras. You can also follow him on Twitter and Flickr!

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About the author: Heather Broster

Heather Broster was born in Canada, has lived in Japan and Italy but currently calls Wales home. She is a full-time gear tester at MirrorLessons. You can follow her on Google+, Twitter or Facebook!

  • Gord Seifert

    Your crop of the photo of the other photographers is VERY impressive! You won’t be able to go quite that far with photos from the E-M10 of course, due to the smaller sensor and having fewer pixels to start with. The 25mm f/1.4 lens is longer, being 50mm equivalent, but I think you will find it is not quite what you want for street photography. I have one, on an E-M10, and absolutely love it for existing light indoors or when I can take the time to move closer or further away to frame a photo more to my liking. Still, it is a bit larger and heavier than imagine would I would feel comfortable with if I were a street photographer, which I am certainly not, yet. I will be ordering the new OLYMPUS 14-42MM F3.5-5.6 EZ soon. Not nearly as bright, but I think it will be much more flexible for quick street shooting if there is plenty of light. The zoom will reduce the need for cropping later, and it is quite small compared to the 25mm f/1.4. I hope you report on your experience with the E-M10.

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