Sony RX10 M3: Close-Up Introduction and First Samples

Introduction | Investigations | Sample Photos | References

This page and its companion pages discuss the macro, or better, close-up, abilities of the Sony RX10 M3. Although the camera has a macro mode (allowing shots from 3 cm), I would not call these photos "macros" and therefore use the term "close-up."

This page investigates the minimum object width for the Sony RX10 M3 under various conditions (in my opinion this tells you more than the maximum magnification) and presents sample photos that demonstrate the camera's close-up abilities.

 

Introduction

Ricoh's small sensor cameras, including the "old" GRs, are extremely good macro shooters. The Ricoh R and CX series as well as the Ricoh GXR S10 and particularly, P10 camera units demonstrate what is possible (see elsewhere on this site). Having a 1" sensor (size: 13.2 x 8.8 mm), the Sony RX10 M3 cannot really compete with these small-sensor cameras. On this page, I determine the minimum object width for the camera at various focal lengths, calculate its magnification, and provide some sample close-up photos.

 

Investigations

Sony does not disclose the maximum possible magnification for the RX10 M3 in macro mode. I therefore took a lot of test shots. In summary, at the telephoto as well as at the wide end you get a minimum object size of a little less than a credit card (or four times the size of a 35 mm film slide).

With Clear Image Zoom, you get an even smaller minimum image width of about 36 mm (the size of a 35 mm film slide) at the longest focal length - however, at the expense of image quality.

Test Shots

I do not present my ruler test photos here, because there are too many. I just present the numbers that I extracted from the photos.

Minimum Object Width

When taking the test photos, I tried to find the minimum distance and thus, the minimum object width, for some "standard" focal lengths. Without showing the respective photos here, I list the minimum object widths for these focal lengths in the table below:

Focal Length
(equiv.)
Distance from
Sensor Plane*
Minimum Object
Width
Max.
Aperture
Rockwell
Macros**
Plausibility
Check**
    MF AF (DMF)   Clock Width 90/Clock Width
mm cm cm cm f cm  
24 18 6.8-6.9 7.1-7.2 2.4 12.3 7.3
28 18 6.9-7.1 6.6-7.1 2.8    
35 18 6.8 7.0-7.4 3.2    
50 18 6.2-6.3 6.1-6.3 3.2 15.0 6.0
70 22 7.6 7.3 3.5    
85 28 9.2 9.5 3.5    
100 36 11.4 11.4-12.7 4.0 7.8 11.5
135 69 18.9 18.8 4.0    
200 140 26.6 26.0-26.6 4.0 3.4 26.5
300 150 18.9 18.9 4.0    
400 110 10.8 10.7 4.0 8.0 11.25
500 96 8.6 8.6 4.0    
600 92 6.9 6.8 4.0 11.5 7.8???

*) According to the camera; note that the distance from the front of the lens body (not the lens) is much shorter (the distance between the focal place and the front of the lens body differs depending on the focal length).

**) To check my minimum object values for plausibility, I used macro photos of a clock taken by Ken Rockwell and measured the clock width at each offered focal length as well as the image width (20.7 cm), all on the laptop screen. In order to get numbers that I can compare with my minimum object width values, I simply divided the number 90 by the clock width. These numbers correlate fairly well with my minimum object width values. Of course, I do not know how exact Rockwell did his test with repcect to the minimum distance. So there is some variation. I think that at 600 mm he did not get quite as close as possible...

These are just coarse numbers, because I did not do "controlled" tests, and it was sometimes difficult to perform the test. So there are variations in the numbers, but I think that the overall performance can be extracted from these numbers.

All that I can say at the moment is that there does not seem to be much difference in the macro performance between 24 mm and 50 mm (equiv.), and up to 70 mm, there is little deteriotation. When I, however, later hit on close-up shots by Ken Rockwell on the Internet that were taken at 24 mm and 50 mm, I found the difference in size quite remarkable and considered that I had made errors when measuring the minimum object distance. New measurements, however, confirmed my values and I therefore took a quick-and-dirty real-life photo (of poor quality). And indeed, here too, the difference looks bigger than the numbers as such suggest (and you do not cast a shode on the object when using 50 mm):

    

Close-up with a focal length of 24 mm (equiv.)

 

Close-up with a focal length of 50 mm (equiv.)

Photos: Comparison of close-ups at 24 mm and 50 mm focal length (equiv.)

Above 70 mm things change dramatically, and between 135 mm and 300 mm, the macro performance of the RX10 M3 is less impressive, to say the least. It improves again between 400 mm and 600 mm, and at 600 mm, the performance is once again at the level of the wide end of the lens, which is quite remarkable.

Thus, overall, I can confirm Ken Rockwells suggestion to shoot close-ups either at a focal length of 50 mm or 600 mm (equiv.) if magnification is important for you.

With a minimum object width of about 7 cm at 24 and 600 mm and of 6.2 mm at 50 mm (equiv.), the RX10 M3's macro performance is not outstanding, but very acceptable. It can be improved at the long end to about 36 mm, that is, to what we would call a 1:1 magnification ratio for full-frame cameras (but it is not if we apply the formula above...).

Minimum Object Width and Digital Zoom (Clear Image Zoom)

As written above, with Clear Image Zoom (one of the two digital zoom modes available for the RX10 M3), you can cut the minimum object width in half if you zoom to 1200 mm (equiv.). That is, you can achieve a minimum object width of about 3.6 cm this way. But what does this mean in practice? To answer this question, I will have to do a few more test shots.

Calculating Maximum Magnification

The above data allows me to calculate the maximum magnification for the Sony RX10 M3 (adopted from dkpeterborough, L-Camera-Forum):

And for 50 mm (equiv.), which offers the largest magnification, I will assume a minimum object width of 62 mm:

These results are not impressive, but for close-up shots of flowers and larger butterflies, the close-up abilities of the Sony RX10 M3 are still useful, as the samples below demonstrate. One should also keep in mind, that, in my opinion, these numbers are only useful for full-frame cameras. I think that the minimum object width is a better measure for evaluating the macro performance of a camera regardless of its sensor size or film format.

Close-Up Samples - "Sweet Spots"

The following close-up sample demonstrate the "sweet spots" of the lens for taking optimal close-ups (the maximum width of the butterfly Hamadryas belladonna is about 6.8 cm):

    

50 mm (6.1-6.3 cm)

 

85 mm (9.2-9.5 cm)

 

400 mm (10.7-10.8 cm; approx. 90 cm from lens)

 

600 mm (6.8-6.9 cm; approx. 75 cm from lens)

 

1200 mm, Clear Image Zoom (digital zoom; 3.5 cm; approx. 72 cm from lens)

 

Ditto, for comparison purposes

 

Sample Photos

Here is a selection of some early close-up shots. I take mostly close-up photos at a focal length of 500 - 600 mm (equiv.). Therefore, the following demonstration photos were more or less taken at these focal lengths. In addition, the photos were not taken at the shortest possible distance, but at various distances, according to the needs of the photographed objects.

    
     
 
     
 
     
 
     
 
     
 
     
 
     
 
     
 
     
 
     
 

 

References

 

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09.01.2019