With a trip to the Lofoten penciled in for this winter, I’ve been reluctantly (but increasingly) tempted by the “see in the dark” Sony A7s. The problem is that a new purchase would mean the sale of my beloved Sony RX1.
Before I could bring myself to draft the eBay listing I needed to test the RX1’s low light capability one more time, and where better than 330 feet down a hole in Yorkshire.
Once a year the Bradford Potholing Club (http://www.bpc-cave.org.uk/gaping_gill.htm) set up camp for the week and winch slightly mad people down Gaping Gill, a very large hole on the flank of Ingleborough in the Yorkshire Dales. With the RX1 stuffed safely in the pocket of my down coat (try doing this with an SLR!) I climbed into the cage, was bolted in, and headed in the general direction of down.
The decent is mainly lit by natural light from the top of the shaft. The cavern itself is lit by two yellow sodium lamps (UK street lights); not much lighting for a hole the size of York Minster!
As we waited our turn to decend into darkness we climbed Little Ingleborough. The shots below showing the camp (right foreground) and (left, distance) Pen-y-gent, were taken using panoramic and manual mode respectively.
Underground shots were taken handheld at ISO 10000, at F2 to F4, with no flash, in raw.
Post processed in Lightroom – zero sharpening, plenty of noise reduction.
I was pretty amazed that most of the shots were in focus!
If it was down to low light performance only I’d stick with the RX1, but the extra versatility of the A7s will probably swing the decision.
With the 2015 Photography Show just around the corner it’s time for a quick retrospective.
This time last year I’d Ebayed my D800 and collection of heavy Nikon glass I’d built up over the years. Photography had ceased to be fun; the lenses were too heavy to drag around; the high resolution sensor was, in my hands, over sensitive to camera shake; and the results, to my eye, lacked a certain magic compared with the superb D700. Like so many I’d fallen into the pixel peeper trap of chasing resolution and the lure of a traditional brand.
Now I wanted a small, light solution, that promised the same quality. With some trepidation I entered into the world of mirrorless; discovered the FF Sony RX1; luckily spotted one on Ebay; and immediately did the deal.
The RX1 covers just about every base. I love the constraint of a single focal length; the operation is a superb ergonomic mix of modern and traditional; the bokeh is smooth and creamy; the resolution seems the equal of the D800; wide open the images are awesome; and I can stick it all this in an (admittedly large) jacket pocket! Camera bliss.
But, as I headed to the inaugural 2014 Photography show, I still had some cash left over from the D800 fire sale.
Without lenses to buy my interest had turned to sensors and the different looks they might produce, just like different film types in the old days. The Foveon sensor had intrigued me for a while but it was Fuji’s xtrans technology packaged up in the newly released, retro styled, X-T1 that caught my eye. External controls, weather sealed, compact, great EVF, the lack of an optical low-pass filter; it looked perfect. The X-T1 was my target …
… And it was the X-T1 that I bought … but still having a little cash left over I headed toward the Sigma stand and discovered, right next door, a DP3 Merrill selling for £300.
Over a cup of tea I contemplated my purchases. I was pretty pleased with the XT-1 but was thrilled with the DP3. I couldn’t believe my luck. I’d bought a DP1 Merrill for £650 a few months before only for it to be stolen on its first serious outing to Slovenia. But the few test shots I’d managed to take in the week before looked stunning. Now, four months later, I’d picked up a DP3 Merrill for less than half the price. I’d almost forgotten I’d got the X-T1. I recall trying to persuade random people to get on over to the Sigma stand and pick up the bargain of a lifetime. Most thought I was mad.
The rest, as they say, is history. The XT-1, good though it was, couldn’t come close to the Sony in quality or versatility (I shouldn’t have expected it to), and the Sigma’s IQ and unique Foveon look simply blew me away. Both very different cameras, both unique propositions, both excelled at what they were designed to do. The XT-1 offered no original look, and no specialist purpose; there was no room on the shelf and within two weeks it had been consigned to Ebay. I think I lost £100 on the deal.
As I plan my trip to the 2015 show it feels like I’m going full circle. I still own the Sony and DP3 Merrill, and have now replaced the stolen DP1 Merrill, but now my attention is fixed on the DP Merrill’s big brother, the SD1, and pairing it with a couple of decent lenses.
Yes I know that over the past 12 months a hundred superb new cameras have been launched; each leap frogging the last with technological innovations; each offering ever higher resolution and ISO; each in ever smaller bodies; but each, sadly, much of a muchness in terms of IQ and look (I’ll exclude the Sony A7S from this statement as it is one camera that truly bucks the trend).
In this company an SD1 at £800 (body only); a Merrill sensor wrapped in a weather sealed magnesium alloy body; seems like a bit of a bargain!
I know a Quattro armed version can’t be far away, and a FF version must be on the cards and what a camera that would be, but the little bit of Merrill magic is just two hard to resist!
Any thoughts on lenses to pair the SD1 with would be much appreciated!!