Sony RX100 M1: Close-Up Experiences

No Dedicated Macro Mode | A Rule of Thumb... | Using Autofocus for Close-Ups | Using Manual Focus for Close-Ups | Finding the Closest Distance for Shots with Maximum Magnification | An Interplay of AF and MF | Working with "Ersatz" Targets | Close-Up Lenses | References

This page and its companion pages discuss the macro abilities of the Sony RX100 M1. Although the camera has a macro mode (allowing shots from 5 cm), I would not call these photos "macros" and therefore use the term "close-up."

This page presents some experiences as to using the Sony RX100 M1 for close-up shots with automatic and manual focus, plus some more.

Note: The following post on RX100 Macros (09-11-2012 05:42 PM) offers a lot of useful information about using the Sony RX100 M1 for macros. For more close-up photos see pages Close-Up Introduction and First Samples, Close-Up Samples and Close-Up Samples - Part 2.


No Dedicated Macro Mode

Except for a "Macro" scene (SCN) mode, the Sony RX100 M1 does not have a specific macro mode. This means that you need not set the camera to "macro" as you have to for many other cameras. Just move the camera as close as possible in the direction of the object and half-press the shutter button to see whether the camera finds focus. If it does, it beeps and shows a green focus confirmation frame . In addition, a green dot at the bottom left of the display stands steady. If it does not, there is no beep, the green dot blinks, and there is no green confirmation frame. Typically, you are too close to the target, particularly if you are using a focal length longer than 28 mm equivalent. The minimum distance increases quickly and dramatically to 55 cm (!) at the telephoto end.


A Rule of Thumb...

The minimum object size for the Sony RX100 M1 is about 8 x 5.7 (or simply 8 x 6 cm) (see page Close-Up Introduction and First Samples). Are there any familiar objects that can help you get an idea of this size? Yes, finally, I found one: It is about the size of a credit card (8.5 x 5.3 cm) - a little bit less wide and a little bit taller than a credit card.

This "rule of thumb" provides an idea of what the RX100 M1 can do for you with respect to close-up photos. For example, it allows you to take a "full-frame" photo of a tulip flower or a small signposts with text (including a credit card...), but not of small daisy blossoms or stamps (it's about the size of four typical German stamps...). See the sample photos for examples (pages Close-Up Introduction and First Samples, Close-Up Samples and Close-Up Samples - Part 2; note that not all of them were taken at the closest possible distance).


Using Autofocus for Close-Ups

Using autofocus for close-ups can be a frustrating experience with the Sony RX100 M1, particularly afterwards when you look at your photos more closely and realize that the camera missed the target more than often. In the following, I present my approaches to getting more consistent and satisfying results for close-up photos.

Selecting the Appropriate Autofocus Area

The only thing that you can influence with respect to the camera's autofocus is the autofocus area. Typically, you start with the "Multi" option, which is the default option. But very soon it seemed too unreliable to me as to the identity of the recognized target (focus confirmation alone does not mean "much" - the focus target can lie far in the background...). So I switched to the "Center" option to have more control over the autofocus target. But even with this option, my wife had focusing problems (whereas I switched to manual focusing for close-ups), probably because the focus area was still too large and unspecific. So, how could I help my wife? As a last resort, I tried the "Flexible Spot" option and finally got fairly consistent and satisfying results. But my wife does not use this focus mode because she has to go into the menus to use it...

Changing Further Photographic Parameters...

I did a few more things to improve the results for close-ups:

*) Depending on what you want to achieve, a larger aperture opening with less depth of field may be desired (see page ... for the effects - in preparation)
**) If the light conditions permit, ISO can be lowered to 400 or even 200 for better image quality. In "urgent" cases you might even want to increase ISO to 1600 to get a sharp picture of a rare bug.

Since all this means changing quite a lot of settings for a close-up now and then, particularly for my wife, I decided to store these settings in a custom setting for easy recall whenever we shoot close-ups.

A Complication - Solved Only Somewhat

With the "Flexible Spot" autofocus area , however, arose a new issue because I had assigned the Focus magnifier function to the center button. Whenever I wanted to change the location of the "Flexible Spot" autofocus area, I had to enter the Fn menu and set the auto focus area to "Flexible Spot" once again in order to be able to move the autofocus area. This was cumbersome to say the least...

Since my wife does not use manual focus, and thus, not the Focus magnifier functionality, I decided to reset the center button to "Standard". The Focus magnifier functionality is still there, but now it comes up only automatically, namely when I turn the control ring, which is used for manual focusing when set to "Standard."

However, when my wife now uses the camera in her "normal" shooting mode, that is, in P mode with "Center" autofocus area, focus tracking will be activated when she presses the center button because we have the center button set to "Standard." This is annoying, to say the least... In the case that you assigned Focus magnification to the center button, as we had before, you get an error message in AF mode. Not much better either, but easier to get rid of... All in all, in this situation, the camera proves less than perfect and displays some of the frustrations that I read about in RX100 reviews... Nevertheless, the "Flexible Spot" autofocus area seems to deliver usable focusing results.

Note: The level indicator interferes visually somewhat with the autofocus area indicator for the "Flexible Spot" autofocus area, at least, for me. It is particularly hard to see as long as it is gray (it turns green when you press the shutter button down half-way and AF finds a target). See the photos below for illustration (gray and green autofocus area):


Photos: The "Flexible Spot" focus area indicator is shown in gray when the shutter button is not pressed (right: enlarged). It interferes visually strongly with the level indicator.


Photos: The "Flexible Spot" autofocus area indicator is highlighted in green while the shutter button is being pressed down half-way and AF found a target (right: enlarged). Highlighting in green interferes much less with the level indicator than the gray color.

Therefore, it is a good idea to turn the level indicator off when shooting close-ups - usually it is not needed for this type of photography (of course, there are exceptions from this...). To do so, press the DISP button twice (and then once to redisplay the level indicator).

Another "trick" for having less visual interference between the level and autofocus area indicators would be as follows: Press the center button briefly to switch to "Move mode" for the focus area. Now the autofocus area appears in orange (plus the four direction arrows, which indicate that you can move the focus field). When you press the shutter button down half-way, you are returned to the normal shooting screen, and the level indicator reappears (if activated) - and the focus field turns green if the autofocus finds a target. This procedure may seem even easier for one or the other than pressing the DISP button...


Photos: When the "Flexible Spot" autofocus area is set to "Move mode" by pressing the center button briefly, its is highlighted in orange, and direction buttons are shown, which indicate that the autofocus area can be moved (right: enlarged). In this state, there is no level indicator shown, and the autofocus area indicator is clearly visible.

New Idea: Using Tracking Focus for Close-Up Shots

After I had read an article about focus tracking with new DSLR and system cameras in in spring 2017, I had the idea of using the focus tracking mode of the Sony RX 100 M1 for close-up shots and for shots where the subject is not at the center. Actually, this focus mode is meant for moving objects. So, this proposal is a kind of "misuse" of this feature. The idea behind this "misuse" is as follows:

So far, so good. First tests indicated that I got a lot of "hits" using this method. Time will tell whether this approach is really useful, particularly for my wife. I myself can still resort to the "flexible spot" focus or other approaches like manual focusing. I find it in practice also useful to increase ISO somewhat and to switch to A mode, whereas my wife only uses P mode (see Changing Further Photographic Parameters... for details). I am preparing an extra page about this topic on which I will also present some sample images. See there for details.


Using Manual Focus for Close-Ups

Since there is no dedicated macro mode on the Sony RX100 M1, focusing manually is the same for all target distances. The camera offers two tools that are meant to make manual focusing easier:

Focusing manually is done using the control ring at the lens. Some people say that this is intuitive and provides a focusing experience similar to an camera with manual focus. Others, however, say that the experience is rather "indirect", since focusing is "by wire," and turning the wheel is rather tedious because there are no stops at the end (which a manual lens provides). All in all, I have to agree with the latter. I more or less hate focusing manually with the RX100.

For example, I never know, which direction to turn the control ring and where I am on the distance scale (which is not displayed in the M1 version). And except for the sharpness of the screen, the camera does not provide any information on the set distance. This is really a shame for such an otherwise well-made camera. Sony should have taken a look at the Leica X Vario, which does manual focusing so well that is "feels" manual, even though it is "by wire." And while it may not be possible to have a distance scale on the lens, as the X Vario has, there should at least be a scale on the screen. All our Ricoh cameras provide such a scale (including depth of field indicators). In particular, I want to know, when I reach infinity and when I reach the minimum distance when turning the ring. Since there is no feedback, I turn and turn the ring, until I think that the limit has been reached. That's really unbelievable! I also wonder, why Sony does not offer a quick "infinity" setting as the Ricoh cameras do. There are so many occasions (for example, shooting though a fence, shooting the sky), in which I would need this...


Finding the Closest Distance for Shots with Maximum Magnification

When using AF, it is little bit tedious to find the closest possible distance. If you are too close, focus will not be confirmed, and you have to increase the distance and reframe the photo. If you are too far away, the target objects will be smaller than possible - and you may not even notice that you are too far away and how much. Using manual focus and setting the minimum distance of 5 cm (using the control ring, which is also a little bit tedious...) allows you to shoot at the closest distance, but I find it hard to recognize on the LCD screen whether the target object is optimally in focus. Here, the two focus tools can help, particularly magnification (called manual focus assist). But often I cannot hold the camera steady enough so that I already have lost focus again, when I half-press the shutter button to reframe the photo after using magnification. And then I have to start over...


An Interplay of AF and MF

The Sony RX100 M1 offers a function that already my Minolta Dimage cameras provided, but which I rarely used, although it looks useful on paper: Direct manual focus (DMF). In short, it means that after you focused automatically by half-pressing the shutter button, you can adjust the focus manually by turning the control ring at the lens while still half-pressing the shutter button. This also activates focus peaking (set to one of three intensities) and magnification (manual focus assist) if these are enabled.

You can use DMF also the other way round: Focus manually first using the control ring and then use the AF for the final focusing. You must briefly release the shutter button so that you can use AF. This may be a solution to the problem that I describe in "Working with Ersatz Targets." You can focus manually using the control ring alone - in this case there is no focus assists - or half-press the shutter button to also activate focus assist, provided it is enabled.

Personally, I find it hard to turn the control ring while half-depressing the shutter button. Often, I slightly release the shutter button in this process and have to start over, which in the end is frustrating. It looks, as if I will not use this feature with the Sony RX100 M1 very often ( as was the case for the Minolta Dimage as well)...

Note that the control ring is exclusively dedicated to focusing when DMF is used.


Working with "Ersatz" Targets

Sometimes, the Sony RX100 M1's autofocus struggles with close targets and focuses on targets in the background. For example, instead of focusing on a flower, the camera focuses on the ground despite the fact that I use center or even (flexible) spot AF (and the focus field is covered by the flower). Generally, with close-ups contrast is often not strong enough for the AF to find focus (which is true for most cameras).

Sometimes, it helps when you focus on something close to the target object and then focus again on the actual target. If the camera erroneously focuses on something farther away and not on the target, it often seems to be "trapped" by that wrong focus object - refocusing again and again does not help. Instead, the camera needs help to find correct focus again, and this can be provided by focusing on a different target that is not too far away from the actual target. Having focused on this "ersatz" target, the camera is now able to focus on the actual target.

Another solution to this problem might be to use Direct manual focus (DMF) for focusing and start with manual focusing to come close to the desired target object and then leave the final focusing to the autofocus system.

By the way, I found a similar behavior for the Leica X Vario and the Ricoh GR.


Close-Up Lenses

The Sony RX100 M1 lens does not have a filter thread and therefore cannot use close-up lenses (and filters). There are some "special" solutions to this issue that you can find on the Web, but I will not comment on this here, because I do not have any experience in this matter.




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