Street Photography with Sony RX1RM2 by Michael Wayne Plant

I am a social documentary and street photographer based in London. I am interested in the social landscape created by contemporary capitalism. Which is why I need a camera that is portable and discreet. The RX1 is one of Inspired Eye's best street photography cameras.

I want to be upfront about this, I am a Sony Global Imaging Ambassador here in the United Kingdom. I might be a little biased in my little user report. I have been working with Sony since 2008, when I got a Sony a900 DLSR camera. I have been a user of Sony cameras since then, transitioning to the a99 and then for a while, as my work changed I used a Leica M, as I found my needs had changed.

As a street and social documentary photographer, I need a smaller, quieter, and more discreet camera, than a DLSR camera. Once, Sony released the a7 series cameras, I got my hands on them and thoroughly embraced them. I started with the original a7R and then the a7S. Within a week of getting the a7S, with its silent shutter, I sold my Leica M and moved back fully to using only Sony cameras.

Fast forward a year, and Sony released the a7RMKII, which I really love, the sensor in this camera is just superb and the RX1RM2 camera has the same sensor. I have also used extensively the Nex-7 and the a6300 and these are both great cameras they are however, APS-C sensors and I just love working with full frame cameras. They are how I learned to see, and I just know how the lens, will perform with them.

I have been using the RX1RM2, since March 2016. There is a saying goes, ‘the best camera, is the one that you have with you,’ and for me, that has become the RX1RM2. Which, helps explain why, so many of my images, made in the past 6 months have been made with this camera. As I pretty much never leave home without a camera, and the RX1RM2, is most often the camera that I am carrying.

The headline advantages of the RX1RM2 camera are, near silent operation, (with the leaf shutter lens on the camera), pop up electronic viewfinder, that lets me display histograms as I am photographing, Exposure compensation dial on the top of the camera, clearly marked so you can see exactly what compensation is dialed in.
These make working easy. I already mentioned the 42 megapixel sensor, which is superb. Combined with a small and light camera that does not obscure ones face when working. Makes the camera one that lets it disappear more when I am interacting with a situation. It also makes the camera very good for street photography.

Selfie with RX1RM2
Selfie with RX1RM2

The lens on the camera is a Zeiss 35mm f2 leaf shutter lens, which is sharp and resolves detail in what I think is an awesome quality level. I like to be able to print my images, and the size of the files coming out of the camera, let me print A2 size images without resizing.

Most of my life as a photographer, I have worked using manual exposure mode, with the RX1RM2 I have taken mostly to using the camera in aperture priority mode with auto ISO set between 100 and 6400ISO and with a minimum shutter speed of 1/500th (sometimes 1/250th if the light is low or the subject is not moving to much).
I am using the camera in a way that I have not done so before, because of how I can now set up the camera. When I am working with setting effects turned on, I can see how the image should look and with a live histogram (in the viewfinder) giving me info on the exposure. I now rarely have bad exposures.
I like to work with a good depth of field, which means that often I am using f8 or f11. Sometimes, I find that as the light gets lower, I tend to move towards using f f5.6 or occasionally f4. I want my images, to have details across the frame and the only way to do this is to have a good depth of field, this is achieved by using f8 or f11.

I tend not to use f16, as it requires me to work at slower shutter speeds, than I want. I prefer to use 1/500th, or even better 1/1000th as often, I am moving when I am making my images. One thing, I have realised from having a 42 megapixel sensor in my camera, is that if you do not have your technique sorted, you will have images that are less good than you want to have.

I tend to be very careful with the highlights and aim not to blow them, yet when I process the files, I am using Capture One Pro software for my raw conversions. I have found that because of the excellent sensor in the camera, I can reach deeper into the shadows, and still recover highlights, in ways that I have not been able to do previously. This is true for both the RX1RM2 and the a7RMKII.

Sony and Phase One, have a deal and you can get the Capture One Pro software, for free by going to the Phase One website.

I have also got the camera set up in such a way that, if I have the viewfinder raised, the only way of viewing the images is though the viewfinder, the back screen stays dark. When however, I close the electronic viewfinder the screen on the back turns on. The reason for this set up, is that when I want to work with the camera at waist height, and hold the camera close to my body, it makes the camera more stable, more discreet while working. This way the rear screen does not automatically switch to viewfinder.

With rear screen articulated out for use.
With rear screen articulated out for use.
sony-rx1rii-back-1
By using the pop up electronic finder, I turn off the rear screen.

The biggest weakness of the camera is battery life. The battery is small and because of this the battery life is short. Get over it. I have about 5 batteries, that I carry every time I take my camera bag out with me, especially if I am going out for a day of photography. But then this is the only way to get such a small camera and I for one am happy to make that trade off, because in my case a smaller camera does affect how people react to me making images.
The RX1RM2 is without doubt my favourite camera, for the work, that I am currently doing, each of us have different needs for me this does most of what I do.

City of London project
The images below, are made in The City of London, which is the financial hub of the UK. I have been working on this project since January 2016 and plan for it to take approximately another year to complete.

Outside Lloyds of London, ISO 500, 1/250th, f8
Outside Lloyds of London, ISO 500, 1/250th, f8
Leadenhall Market, ISO 200, 1/250th, f 8
Leadenhall Market, ISO 200, 1/250th, f 8
London Street, ISO 1250, 1/500th, f5.6
London Street, ISO 1250, 1/500th, f5.6
Outside The Royal Exchange Buildings, ISO 640, 1/250th, f5.6
Outside The Royal Exchange Buildings, ISO 640, 1/250th, f5.6
Living Wage Strike, ISO640, 1/500th, f5.6
Living Wage Strike, ISO640, 1/500th, f5.6
Near Paternoster Square, ISO1000, 1/250th, f5.6
Near Paternoster Square, ISO1000, 1/250th, f5.6
Awaiting a press conference, Outside Bank of England, ISO 200, 1/500th, f5.6
Awaiting a press conference, Outside Bank of England, ISO 200, 1/500th, f5.6
Cheapside, City of London, ISO500, 1/500th, f5.6
Cheapside, City of London, ISO500, 1/500th, f5.6
Entering the City of London, ISO100, 1/250th, f8
Entering the City of London, ISO100, 1/250th, f8
City of London Streets, ISO 1250, 1/500th, f11
City of London Streets, ISO 1250, 1/500th, f11
The Tale, Leadenhall Market, ISO2500, 1/500th, f4
The Tale, Leadenhall Market, ISO2500, 1/500th, f4

One last image to show you, what the camera is capable of. I made a mistake, with my settings one day, and later found that the camera was set on the wrong ISO and by wrong, I mean 32,000 ISO, not what I thought I had set. I had been intending to set it at 3,200 ISO.

The Scalpel, City of London, ISO 32,000 1/4000th at f11
The Scalpel, City of London, ISO 32,000 1/4000th at f11

I am continually surprised with what I can get away with, when using this camera and the above image is an example of this.

sony-rx1rii-capture-1-settings
In this screen grab, you can see how little I have done to the post processing, in this image. You can also see how many images, I’m creating each month, for my City of London street photography project.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this user report! If you want to know more about my work check out his website below.

About the author

[userpro template=card user=mwplant]
Sony embassador site & Workshops

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4 thoughts on “Street Photography with Sony RX1RM2 by Michael Wayne Plant”

  1. I have an RX100m4 and I do street photography with it. I really love the camera, but one thing that really bothers me is the lack of any physical distance ring or setting ability. There is no way to look at the camera and know what my distance is set at, making zone focusing difficult. Yes, I know there are ways around this with focusing on something and then switching to manual focus, and other workarounds.

    My question is, is this also the case on the RX1?

  2. Mark, Yes Unfortunately it works in a similar way. you can prefocus to a distance using a scale in the viewfinder but there are no physical markings on the lens to preset the distance to subject as the system is focus by wire.
    Sorry that I did not see this before to answer your question sooner.
    Michael

  3. Hi Monroe, I think there is not much in it image quality wise, but there is a lot in it handling wise. I like manual focus for street photography and the Loxia does this beautifully. if you wan small and discrete the RX1RMKII is just superb. It is a case of different tools for different jobs.

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