It's been very close to a year (the anniversary of the announcement date is tomorrow*) since Sony delighted the camera cognoscenti of the world with the RX1, the smallest-ever full-frame digital camera. Barely larger than a point-and-shoot, the RX1 featured very traditional controls. The current version is popular enough that it's currently in a stock-depleted state more or less everywhere.
Now, David Kilpatrick at PhotoClubAlpha is bandying the rumor that photographers from two French photojournalism agencies, including a big name photographer from Magnum, are "roaming the night-time streets of Paris" with a soon-to-be-announced interchangeable-lens version of the tiny FF wonder.
True, or rumor? You know how these things sometimes turn out to be wishful thinking. The article claims we'll know by October.
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Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I had to go to Michigan on business last weekend. We sold of the lakeside manse that had been in the family for exactly 100 years—a bittersweet event to be sure, although it seems to me a bit more on the "sweet" side—I mean, it's scary being stuck with a million-dollar white elephant that, in an ideal world, really needs either a half million dollars' worth of work or an expensive teardown. (The house was never owned by me, I should add.) We'd been struggling to find a respectable buyer for years, with no success. I loved the place in my youth, but I have my memories; all things must pass. Good luck to he or she who now pays the bills.
Anyway, the journey involved another trip across the lake on the Lake Express, and I took a few snaps, something I seem to do almost by habit even when preoccupied with other things.
Nothing happened, which is okay. In pool, there's an expression: "The balls roll funny for everybody." Same with photography. Sometimes the photo gods smile, sometimes they don't. No good shots this trip. Just from a technical perspective, however, once again I was amazed by something I wrote about in my initial review of my NEX-6: the metering system's ability to ignore the sun.
This is more or less straight out of the camera, shot with absolutely no exposure controls. It's a little on the underexposed side, maybe, but not much: there's lots of detail in the not-quite-silhouetted figure.
I suppose it's not good for me to admit that I have no idea how a camera works**, but, well, I have no idea how they do that. It was a bit hazy out, but that sun was bright, brother. If there's one thing every photographer has always known, it's that you can't just point an autoexposure camera straight at the sun and expect everything to be all right. Every other camera I've ever used would clamp down the exposure to compensate, and you'd have to figure out some way to compensate back.
I'm mildly curious about how this is accomplished, but I guess I don't really need to know. I've considered that it could be an incident meter hidden somewhere in or on the camera, an algorithm programmed to ignore subject brightness past a certain level, or magic.
I've decided it's magic. I'm okay with that explanation. All I have to remember is what the camera does visually; I don't need to know how it does it.
(Thanks to Robin Pywell)
*Thanks to Amazon's dpreview for archiving these facts. A most useful site.
**Except that none of us really has much idea how any digital camera works.
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Oskar Ojala: "My feeling is that live view cameras are more accurate in metering than traditional cameras, simply because a lot of useful analysis can be made from the image from the sensor, whereas light meters rely on some reflection patterns."
Mike replies: See also Kevin P.'s comment in the Comments section.
Pak-Ming Wan: "It is probably doing some sort of funky real-time histogram mapping algorithm that caps X% of blown highlights and Y% of dark beyond black. That's got to be more accurate than just measuring the scene over, say, 50 different areas and then mapping it to the theoretical dynamic range of the sensor. Back at the ranch, you're then tone mapping this on your computer and getting a much better on-screen result again. Why manufacturers haven't built in tone mapping (shadow/light areas) into the JPEG processors is beyond me...it's the two most useful sliders in Lightroom and I think digital cameras (with live view) should have those as settings as well."