Late last year a confluence of circumstances changed the way I thought about photography equipment and how it fit into my life. I was brought up to photograph on film using a Linhof view camera, Rollei and Hasselblad medium formats and several Leica cameras - my hometown in Midland, Canada had a Leica factory. In 2001 after with much trepidation, I switched entirely to digital DSLR cameras and loved the quality and freedom of expression that came with this new medium. Late last year, out of necessity, I acquired the latest iPhone XS while at the same time my good friend and Sony Explorer of Light, Bob Krist introduced me to the latest palm sized Sony RX100vi compact camera. Both were eye openers in terms of quality and capability so I resolved to hang up my two big and heavy DSLR cameras and lenses to travel for a couple of months with only my new iPhone and the Sony RX100vi compact camera as both would fit in the pocket of my pants. The results were truly surprising.
DSLRs have their place with full frame sensors offering great quality in low light, along with a range of many different lenses and the speed to take fast moving subjects. But….they are heavy, are prone to dust when changing lenses and are obtrusive in many situations. For many professional photographers the holy grail is having a compact camera that can take pictures with the same quality and range of options as a big DSLR camera. I’ve owned dozens of small cameras over the years that have come close but they have never quite hit the mark of satisfying me and more importantly my finicky pixel-peeping stock agent.
Times have changed though and my new iPhone XS shoots with the same number of pixels as my first digital camera and has two built in lenses. It will shoot RAW and even does HDR on the fly with three exposures taken at once. Portraits can have different types of lighting, lens aperture effects and even masking. The Apple engineers have used science, algorithms and software to overcome all the drawbacks of such a small camera to yield superb results. Feature length movies are being shot with this device and I wouldn’t hesitate to shoot an exhibition on it. It’s that good. And more importantly it’s always in my pocket.
In my other pocket I will often have my tiny Sony RX100vi with its 20 megapixel sensor and 24-200mm equivalent built-in zoom lens. It certainly compares favourably with my full frame Canon DSLR and additionally comes with a pop-up electronic viewfinder, reticulating screen and a small flash. Its not really a point and shoot camera as it comes with a 580 page online manual and has 170 adjustable menu items listed over a 36 page on-board menu. It took me three days to read and understand how it all worked but once I had set it up to my requirements it produced amazing photos and was like having a whole camera bag in my pocket.
So, will I give up my big heavy DSLRs? Not quite yet as they are still invaluable in low light and for shooting fast moving situations. But for much of the travel photography I do my new found pocket cameras are great. They go with me everywhere and have brought back the fun and excitement that first enticed me into taking photographs. (All photos taken with a Sony RX100vi)