Sony RX100 Series Astrophotography Review

Sony RX100 Series Astrophotography Review

In this review, we push the low-light limits of Sony’s premium compact point and shoot. We love the idea of a truly pocketable camera that can also capture photos of the Milky Way, but how good is the Sony RX100 series really? Can it actually compete with a large sensor DSLR or interchangeable lens mirrorless camera?

Introduction

When we put five of the most well regarded point and shoot cameras to a low-light camera battle, there was one camera that seemed to stand out above the rest: the Sony RX100III. We liked it so much that we bought one for our everyday camera kit.

While I personally still prefer using a larger, interchangeable lens camera for my primary astrophotography camera, I wanted a point and shoot that could serve as a real backup camera with no compromise in performance. Our RX100III has traveled with us all over the world over the last year as a backup camera. Many of the product photos and some of video footage that you may have seen on Lonely Speck over the last year was shot on the RX100III. You can also check out my girlfriend’s thoughts on the RX100III on her review at northtosouth.us.

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Until recently, the little point and shoot mostly fulfilled the role as the “behind the scenes” camera for us, never really being used for the “serious” shots. But recently, while on our current roadtrip across the US, my Sony a7II encountered a problem that forced me to send it in to repair. With my primary camera body out of commission, the RX100III has since taken up the role of “astrophotography camera.” With only the RX100III available to me, I figured I should make the best of it and use the opportunity to finish my long overdue review of the little point and shoot.

Sony has, at the time of this writing, released no less than four iterations of the Sony RX100. To our liking, all four versions of the RX100 use a 1″ Exmor type CMOS sensor and a fast f/1.8 lens. Here are some of the key features that vary between each camera:

  • Sony RX100
  • 1″ Sony Exmor 20.2MP Sensor
  • 28-100mm (equiv.) f/1.8-f/4.9 lens
  • pop-up flash
  • Sony RX100II
    • 1″ Sony Exmor R 20.2MP Sensor
    • 28-100mm (equiv.) f/1.8-f/4.9 lens
    • pop-up flash
    • accessory hot-shoe
    • tilt-screen
Sony RX100 Series of Cameras

  • Sony RX100III
    • 1″ Sony Exmor R 20.1MP Sensor
    • 24-70mm (equiv.) f/1.8-2.8 lens
    • pop-up flash
    • electronic viewfinder
    • tilt-screen
  • Sony RX100IV
    • 1″ Sony Exmor RS 20.1MP Sensor
    • 24-70mm (equiv.) f/1.8-2.8 lens
    • pop-up flash
    • electronic viewfinder
    • tilt-screen
    • 4K and high speed video

While the newer versions of the camera should offer slightly improved performance, in practice each camera has very similar low-light performance (dpreview.com comparison test). If you want to read more about my first impressions of the RX100III in particular, check out our original Five Camera Low-Light Battle that helped us choose the RX100III as our dedicated pocket cam.

If you are deciding which RX100 version to buy and you’d like the best astrophotography experience, consider the RX100II, RX100III or RX100IV for their tilt screens, a feature that makes for a more enjoyable astrophotography experience. It’s easier to point the camera upwards to the stars with a tilt screen, especially if you’re setting up your tripod low to the ground.

User Experience

I’ll start off by saying that even after more than a year with Sony mirrorless cameras, I still don’t really like Sony’s menu system when compared to other competing camera systems like those from Canon and Fujifilm. I’ve already said it in my Sony a7S review and I’ll say it again here. Sony’s menus are way too long and disorganized. The one redeeming quality, in this regard, of any of the Sony RX or Sony Alpha series cameras is that there are at least lot of options to customize buttons and a user programmable quick access function (Fn) menu. Anything that can be done to reduce the need to enter the main menu is a welcome feature.

The RX100 series features user customizable Fn menu that gives quick access to most used functions.

The RX100 series features a user customizable Fn menu that gives quick access to your most used functions.

The RX100 series cameras share an identical user interface as the larger, interchangeable lens alpha series cameras like the a7 and a6000. It’s like they squeezed the power of their “serious” cameras into this tiny pocketable thing. With that come a few benefits and drawbacks. The primary benefit is that the RX100 series cameras have no missing features. Everything you would expect out of an enthusiast camera (like manual controls, manual focus, RAW, built-in image stabilization, custom white balance, etc.) is available on the RX100 series.

All of the controls operate mostly the same as any other Sony Alpha series camera but there are some obvious size limitations that limit a direct 1:1 control scheme when compared to the larger Sony cameras. All the controls are packed on to the right rear side of the camera. The smaller form factor of the camera does limit how quickly it can be operated. I’d say the camera has a little bit more of a learning curve to get used to changing certain settings but overall, a well-customized Fn-menu should make for relatively fast changes to the most used settings. I found that the optional leather case makes the camera more comfortable to handle and Sony also offers an optional finger grip which should be even better.

One stand out feature is how easy it is to manual focus the RX100. Once set to manual focus mode via the Fn menu, turning the ring on the outer circumference of the lens changes the focus. If Focus Assist mode is enabled, the camera automatically magnifies the view to help with fine focus. The RX100III also remembers the focus point no matter which shooting or playback mode you subsequently change to. Entering playback to review the photos or opening the Time Lapse App will not change the focus point once it’s set. This behavior makes it nice to set focus, make a test shot, check focus, and then adjust if necessary. This is one of the behaviors of the camera that initially helped me choose the RX100III over the competing Canon G7X which doesn’t like to hold focus in these situations.

Astrophotography Settings

I’ve had numerous experiences shooting astrophotography with the Sony RX100III and in every cases I’ve had no issues getting what I wanted out of the camera. For reference, here are some of the settings that I always check on the RX100III before shooting astrophotography:

  • RAW
  • Manual Focus
  • ND Filter: Off
  • White Balance: Daylight or Custom: 3900K
  • Long Exposure NR: Off
  • SteadyShot: Off
  • MF Assist: On
  • Peaking: Off
  • Live View Display Setting Effect: On
  • Self-Timer: 2 seconds (reduce camera shake)
  • Manual Exposure

And as far as exposure settings on the RX100, I’ll generally shoot zoomed all the way out with the following settings:

  • 20-25 seconds
  • f/1.8
  • ISO 1600

For shutter speed, 20 to 25 seconds is long enough to make sure the camera is collecting enough light but short enough that star trails won’t be too apparent in the final image.

For aperture, f/1.8 ensures that the lens opening is as large as possible to collect as much light as possible. I’ve tried a bunch of different aperture settings to see if there’s a noticeable increase in image quality when shooting astrophotos but f/1.8 is still very sharp and gives the best low-light results. I’ll dive more into the details of the RX100III lens performance in the next section on image quality.

For ISO, I’ve found that ISO 1600 generally gives adequate image brightness when shooting at f/1.8 so that results look bright enough straight out of the camera to be able to successfully gauge composition and focus. We’ll take a closer look at sensor performance and ISO settings next.

Image Quality

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Sony RX100III, 15 seconds, f/2, ISO 1600

I’ll just start by saying that I’m absolutely blown away by the image quality of the RX100 series. It is very difficult to tell the difference between photos from this little camera and a typical large sensor DSLR. Even in the extremely low-light conditions that astrophotography requires, the RX100 series absolutely shines. It really is that good.

It is very difficult to tell the difference between photos from this little camera and a typical large sensor DSLR.

ISO-Invariance

One of the experiments that I like to run on cameras that I use for astrophotography is an ISO-invariance test. I performed a similar test on the Sony a7S (full review). The point of the ISO-invariance test is to evaluate which ISO setting is most beneficial to use on any given camera. In short, there is usually a certain ISO setting threshold above which any given camera will show its best low-light performance. The way we test this is by capturing the same image at each ISO setting while using the same shutter time and f/number between images. Then in post-processing we re-adjust each image in Adobe Lightroom to be equal brightness and then compare the levels of relative noise (grain) in the images.

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Milky Way (Unedited) RX100III, f/1.8, 20 seconds, ISO 1600. Box indicates test area.

For the ISO-invariance test, I made exposures of this scene at Trona Pinnacles, California. All the exposures used 20 seconds at f/1.8. I made the photos at each whole stop ISO setting from ISO 125 to ISO 12800. All the test images were recorded in RAW with all forms of noise reduction disabled for this test.

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RX100III ISO-Invariance Test, 8.8mm, f/1.8, 20 seconds

First, I’d like to emphasize just how impressively the RX100III performs in these conditions. The results look like they were made on a larger sensor, no doubt thanks to the fast f/1.8 lens. Upon initial inspection, all of the ISO settings look pretty similar: the Sony Exmor sensor seems relatively ISO-invariant. But upon closer inspection, there are subtle signs that the camera is doing different things at different ISOs. ISO 125 appears to have the heaviest amount of grain compared to the the rest. From ISO 200 through ISO 800, grain is reduced but there are still noticeable hot pixels, particularly in the shadow areas. From ISO 1600 to ISO 3200, most of the strong hot pixels are gone and it looks like the grain profile is a little smoother. Finally, at ISO 6400 and ISO 12800, the camera appears to be applying some heavier noise reduction. At these two highest ISOs, grain looks smoothed out and details seems slightly softer.

I tend to like the results from ISO 1600 to ISO 3200 the most so I’ve made it a practice to keep the setting right at 1600 for most of my photos. I find that ISO 1600 gives clean looking and adequately bright images straight out of the camera and I feel like it’s not so high that I’m sacrificing dynamic range on the bright end of the spectrum.

Lens Performance

The Sony RX100III has an impressively fast lens. When zoomed out, it’s an 8.8mm f/1.8. with a field of view similar to the classic 24mm lens field of view on a full-frame camera. It’s a nice wide field of view and the extra low f/number of f/1.8 helps tremendously with low-light conditions. One of the more prominent concerns with any fast lens, when used for astrophotography, is the presence of aberrations (our article on aberrations) like coma and astigmatism. Coma and astigmatism can distort the shape of the stars and can be distracting elements in an astrophoto. In this regard, the RX100III isn’t perfect.

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Sony RX100III, 20 seconds, f/1.8, ISO 1600

There is noticeable coma in the corners of the image, giving most bright stars a small tail. Unfortunately, the aberrations don’t seem to improve very much when stopping down. Even stopping one full stop to f/2.5 and the coma is still apparent.

rx100iii-aberration-coma-astrophotography

The RX100III series shows some signs of coma aberration in the corners of the frame.

Now even though the lens on the RX100III isn’t perfect in this regard, the size of the aberration is small enough to be almost unnoticeable at typical viewing distances. Perhaps it’s not the best camera for the ultra-pixel-peeper but if we were really concerned about the finest resolution and aberration performance, we’d probably be reviewing the Canon 5DSR coupled with a Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Otus.

I think the level of aberrations present in the RX100 series cameras is perfectly acceptable for most usage and it’s unexpectedly good for a point and shoot.

Sample Images

While the RX100III has only recently fulfilled the role of “primary camera” while my a7II is being repaired, I’ve tried to remember to pull it out of the bag whenever I’m shooting astrophotos. Over the course of the 2015 summer, we’ve had the opportunity to shoot astrophotos with the RX100III in California, New Mexico, Wyoming, Alberta, New York, West Virginia and Kentucky. (My girlfriend Diana and I are currently on a long road trip across the USA. Follow our trip progress on North to South.) Here’s a run down of all the best night sky photos we have managed to capture:

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RX100III, 20 seconds, f/1.8, ISO 1600

The first time I used the RX100 for photographing the Milky Way was from Trona Pinnacles, California. The National Natural Landmark is still one of my absolute favorite spots for photography and the RX100III did a great job at capturing it. For a single frame with nothing but the default Lightroom noise reduction, it’s amazing how much detail is visible in the shadows of the image.

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RX100III, 25 seconds, f/2, ISO 1600, two frame panorama

One of the early stops on our roadtrip across the United States that had clear enough weather for astrophotography was at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. While I spend most of my time shooting photos with the a7II at the time, I managed to make a few frames with the RX100III including the two frame panoramic stitch above and the north facing shot of our tent situated between the rows of sand dunes.

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RX100III, 25 seconds, f/2, ISO 1600

What impressed me most about the photos at White Sands was just how much shadow detail is visible in the photos. For such a small camera, it seemed to nearly match the performance of my much larger a7II with the Voigtländer 15mm f/4.5 lens that I was reviewing the same night. That might be a bold claim, but I really think the photos from the RX100III are that impressive.

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RX100III, 10 seconds, f/2, ISO 1250

Our next best opportunity to photograph the stars was in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming on June 22, 2015 where we were lucky enough to be shooting photos during a rare solar flare that created one of the most powerful aurora displays in decades. My girlfriend Diana captured this view of the aurora borealis with the RX100III from the comfort of the car while I messed around with my a7II just out of the frame to the left. We also happened to meet up with fellow photographer David Kingham shortly after the above photo was made. Turned out to be a good night.

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RX100III, 6 seconds, f/2, ISO 1600

Adjacent to Yellowstone is the Grand Teton National Park where I used the RX100III to capture some “behind the scenes” shots of my a7II shooting some blue-hour photos. (It’s mounted with the Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 in case you’re wondering.) I also set up the RX100III to shoot a short timelapse with the optionally installable Time Lapse Playmemories App.

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RX100III, 25×10 seconds stacked, f/2, ISO 1600

The Time Lapse App allowed me to capture a number of frames which I later stacked in Photoshop to create the above short star-trails image. I’ve personally grown to enjoy Sony’s built-in Time Lapse app as my preferred method to capture timelapse on all of my Sony cameras. It’s very consistent and is more convenient than an external intervalometer.

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RX100III, 20 seconds, f/2, ISO 1600

From Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, we continued our road trip north to Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada. Waterton Lakes is adjacent to Glacier National Park but we decided to spend the night “on the Canadian side.” The moon was a waxing crescent at the time so the skies remained blue in the early twilight.

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RX100III, 15 seconds, f/2.0, ISO 5000

We didn’t get another opportunity to shoot the Milky Way again until much later in our road trip when we arrived in Old Forge, New York. During our travels through New England, we happened to run into another photographer and reader of Lonely Speck, Tim Leach (Tim’s Instagram). Tim was kind enough to host us the following week at his family’s camp, Adirondack Woodcraft Camps.

The camp ended up being a spectacular spot to shoot astrophotos. While I personally spent most of my time shooting with the Sony a7II (what would be my last photos with the a7II before it died and needed to be sent in for repair), but Diana shot a bunch of astrophotos with the RX100III, including the above shot from the shore of Lake Kan-Ac-To of the galactic center graced by a meteor.

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RX100III, 20 seconds, f/1.8, ISO 1600

After New York, we continued south, with our next opportunity to shoot astrophotos in West Virginia. I’ve read about West Virginia many times as being one of the best places in the American East Coast for astrophotography. West Virginia is mostly rural country side and mountains so the skies are generally nice and dark. We ended up staying at an Airbnb for a couple nights in a renovated barn turned cabin near Seneca Rocks, West Virginia. I spent our first night capturing the stars from the barn and the second from the nearby Spruce Knob Mountain.

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RX100III, 25 seconds, f/1.8, ISO 1600

I found out about Spruce Knob Mountain from The Mountain Institute website. It turned out to be an excellent location with nearly 360 degree views of the surrounding area, dark skies and clear air. I took the opportunity to capture this self portrait and happened to catch a meteor in top right of the frame.

Stacking at 70mm: Before and After

While on Spruce Knob, I also figured I should try out the RX100III at its other focal lengths. The lens zooms but it’s fastest when zoomed-out at 8.8mm so I never really bothered to use it zoomed-in until that night. Zooming-in to 25.7mm (70mm equivalent) ends up slowing down the lens a full two stops to f/2.8 so it’s certainly not as good of a low-light performer when zoomed in.

In addition to slowing the lens two stops, zooming in forced me to use a shorter shutter speed of 10 seconds so I was losing a full three stops of light. Single frames came out pretty noisy with noticeable pink glow on the edges of the frame and loads of noise. That said, I still attempted a noise reduction stack of the galactic center with decent results. Check out the before and after above. It required a stack of 8 images total to achieve the final image.

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Sony RX100III, 8×13 seconds, f/1.8, ISO 1600

After West Virginia, we stopped in Kentucky’s Daniel Boone National Forest. The moon was entering its early cycle so I shot my photos over Cave Run Lake with the crescent moon in full view along side the Milky Way galactic center. Because of the extra light pollution from the moon, I decided to create some more image stacks for my final two images to help with post processing results. For more details on how I use image stacking to reduce noise, check out my video tutorial.

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Sony RX100III, 4×10 seconds, f/1.8, ISO 1600

I have had a genuinely good experience with the RX100III. It’s strange seeing these images knowing they were made with such a small camera and when I look at the camera in my hands, it’s sometimes hard to take it completely seriously. It looks like a toy when compared to my “real” interchangeable lens camera but the photos it produces lets you know it’s not playing around.

Conclusion and Recommendation

I can think of no other camera currently on the market that offers the same level of control, ease of use, and image quality in such a small package. Sony put all the right things into the RX100 series and it has made for a camera that outperforms nearly all of the expectations I usually have for something so small. It’s the ultimate backpacker astrophotography camera. If I was strapped for weight and wanted the lightest, most capable camera out of the box, I’d bring an RX100. Diana also thinks it’s more stylish than any of my other other cameras so there’s that, too.

Its small size creates a little more of a learning curve in regards to controls and the buttons can feel cramped when changing a lot of settings consecutively but it seems like a small compromise knowing the camera is truly pocketable. It’s lens isn’t the perfect performer in regards to coma, but it’s f/1.8 aperture enables the RX100 series to do things few other pocket cameras can. The RX100 series cameras are a great choice for the role of pocket astrophotography camera.

Sony RX100 Series Pros:

  • Wide angle f/1.8 lens
  • Excellent low light performance
  • Full-featured manual controls
  • Easy Manual Focus
  • Optional Built-In Intervalometer (via Time Lapse Playmemories App)
  • Tilt Screen (RX100II, RX100III and RX100IV Only)

Sony RX100 Series Cons:

  • Moderate coma aberration at f/1.8
  • Small size makes for cramped controls
  • Smooth body difficult to grip (Optional Leather Half Case or AGR2 Grip recommended)

Sony RX100 Series
Verdict: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (5/5)

Where to Buy

I personally buy almost all of my equipment through Amazon and B&H. Each are some of the most reputable online retailers, they both have an excellent return policy and are guaranteed to have the lowest prices anywhere online. If you are considering buying a Sony RX100 series camera or any equipment for that matter, consider buying through the affiliate links on this page. You won’t pay anything extra, but Lonely Speck will receive a small commission (usually 2-4%) to help run the website. Here are the links that help us run Lonely Speck:

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Believe it or not, Lonely Speck is a full-time job. It’s been an amazing experience for us to see a community develop around learning astrophotography and we’re so happy to be a small part of it. I have learned that amazing things happen when you ask for help so remember that we are always here for you. If you have any questions about photography or just want to share a story, contact us! If you find the articles here helpful, consider helping us out with a donation.

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Thanks so much for being a part of our astrophotography adventure.

-Ian

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Ian Norman

Creator at Lonely Speck
Ian Norman, co-founder and creator of The Photon Collective and Lonely Speck. Ian is a full time traveler, photographer and entrepreneur. In February 2013, he called it quits on his 9-to-5 to pursue a lifestyle of photography. Follow Ian's photography adventures on Instagram.

65 Responses

  1. ThierryB October 30, 2016 / 9:59 am

    Hi Ian,

    I just discovered your many web pages, very interesting and well done, thank you (and I just tried your levitation trick, really funny).
    The RX100’s are not weather proof. Have you ever see this as a problem while using it backcountry ? NZ weather is said to be … surprising. What about salted mist near beaches, etc ?

  2. ml6 October 7, 2016 / 4:30 am

    Interesting read. But I have some doubts about your results. You should actually get a better performance when fully zoomed in instead of using the wide angle setting. The lower f-ratio is quite deceptive. What counts in astrophotography is not the f-ratio but the actual diameter of the lens opening. So if you do the math you get at the wide angle 8.8/1.8 = 4.9mm while at the long end it is 25.7/2.8 = 9.2 mm. This gives you about 3.5 times more light at the long end [(9.2/4.9)^2]. And your stacked image sort of shows this.

  3. Nmenon September 24, 2016 / 11:13 am

    Your photographs are stunningly beautiful!

    I own an Rx100 myself and am embarking on a stargazing trip soon.Your article is really helping me figure out how to setup my camera

    One doubt,at f1.8,how do decide what to focus on?Where are you aiming at?

  4. Larry Kay September 19, 2016 / 3:02 pm

    First off, congrats on your engagement! What a great site with outstanding info. I’ve been looking for a new compact camera that I can easily carrying while out hiking and to try astrophotography. After reading several reviews including your excellent write up I bit the bullet and purchased the Mk III. I was able to wow my fellow hikers/campers with my Milky Way pics on our first night at the Grand Canyon. I was even able to help a couple of other newbie astrophotographers with info learned from your site.

    Keep up the fantastic work!

  5. Alex August 31, 2016 / 6:17 pm

    Does stacking increase the coma effect in the corners?

    • ml6 October 7, 2016 / 4:34 am

      Coma is lens defect. So if anything stacking might reduce it if the stars have moved from one exposure to the next thereby leaving the corners. Stacking will never increase coma.

  6. Roy August 8, 2016 / 12:08 am

    How did you do the two frame vertical panorama? Is this using the same setting as the sweep panorama? I can only do a very long panorama with multiple frames using the sweep.

  7. Belvia Pang August 3, 2016 / 9:05 am

    For all the shots above with the RX100 III, was the focus length maintained at 24mm?

  8. jim July 8, 2016 / 12:18 pm

    Didn’t having the live view display on result in too much light emitting and thereby affecting the image? Did you turn the live view off? if so how? thanks!

  9. Erin April 16, 2016 / 8:42 am

    Hi Ian, this article has been extremely helpful in searching for a new backcountry camera. Are there any advantages with the rx100 iv in terms of astrophotography? Wondering if the extra $200 is really going to make a difference compared to rx100 iii. Thanks in advance!

    • Erin April 17, 2016 / 9:59 am

      Another question…how much memory space are you using for the average night shot..say 16 layers or so. I need to plan the number of memory cards to bring on a 22 day backpacking trip.

    • Ian Norman April 17, 2016 / 12:51 pm

      The RX100M4 really only has the advantage of high speed and 4K video. The sensor has been updated on the M4 with a “stacked” sensor that’s supposed to be more efficient but most of the image quality tests that I’ve seen seem to indicated that there’s no tangible difference in low-light performance. If you have no need for 4K video, there probably isn’t a need for the M4, the M3 is pretty much the same.

      As far as the memory space question, I’ve always carried a 64GB card in my camera with an exra 64GB card in my bag and I’ve never been able to fill one up completely. If you’re on a 22 day trip, I would imagine that two 128GB cards would probably give you a ton of margin.

  10. Mythili Chari April 8, 2016 / 6:50 am

    Hey Ian!

    I have pored over your articles referring to the RX-100 enough times to know that I’m not even going to consider any other camera! I’ve not read anything – until I reached your blog – that made me decide upon buying something immediately without even looking at other alternatives!

    The thing is RX100 M3 is very much out of my price range, and I was hoping to get the M2 instead. I’m travelling to New Zealand next month and it just so happens that I will be at Lake Tekapo and Mt. Cook during the Eta Aquariids meteor shower. My very first meteor shower as well!

    I’m pretty much going to be cutting my teeth on astrophotography on what seems like the biggest stage ever! Having never seen a Dark Sky reserve before (almost everywhere in India is too polluted) you can imagine how excited I am! Which is why I just want the photos to be memorable when I look back at them later on, because the chance of such a serendipitous trip happening again seems slim to me.

    Also, yes. I understand that the images are going to look only as good as the skills of the photographer, and the camera often has very little to do with clicking a brilliant image. But, I’m willing to learn how to use the camera – once someone validates my choice of the M2, that is. I’m a once-in-a-while photographer, but I really do want a little more than just ‘decent’ images of my trip!

    I don’t know many photo enthusiasts, so I figured since you were the one who got me thinking that it was possible for me to click awesome images, I’d ask you directly if the M2 is okay :)

    Thanks a lot. And let me just say, your astrophotography tips and tricks have been bookmarked for me to read during my trip!

    • Ian Norman April 8, 2016 / 10:45 am

      Mythili, go with the M2, it will be great.

  11. Sean March 28, 2016 / 8:49 am

    Hello!! Amazing articles, congratulations!

    I’m trying to decide between the RX100 III and the A6000 + Rokinon 24mm to start into Astrophotography. Wich one if those would you reccomend??

    Thanks a lot!

    Sean.

    • Ian Norman March 28, 2016 / 12:20 pm

      I personally think the RX100III is actually a better overall setup than the a6000 + 24mm. Maybe consider the a6000 + 12mm f/2 for an even wider field of view.

      Between the two, weigh your desires for something pocketable or not. The a6000, while small, wont really fit in a pocket. the RX100 still wins out in the convenience dept.

  12. Traisoon March 12, 2016 / 10:50 am

    Hi Ian, could you advice me the Milky Way photography setting for Nikon D750 with 14-24mm f/2.8 lens. I know you didn’t use Nikon but I can’t find a proper and clear article about it on the Internet. I really wanted to take a Milky Way photo like yours for my spring trip to Fuji mountain. Am not a professional but I wanna go for astrophotography as for my new hobby. Thank you in advance.

  13. Adrian December 28, 2015 / 1:41 pm

    Hi, I’d like to know what is the shortest time to capture milkyway with this beauty? 2-5sec? at iso 6400-12800? I have a plan to make some milkyway shots using a drone.

    • Ian Norman December 29, 2015 / 12:48 pm

      You could probably pull off 5 seconds but it will be noisy! If it’s a nice stable drone with a gimbal, it might be possible to do longer but all I can really suggest it to go for it and see what happens.

  14. Dean December 26, 2015 / 5:30 pm

    Hi Ian,

    Normally when you manual focus an interchangeable lens camera, you turn the ring to the line just before infinity and then make small adjustments. I don’t believe the RX100 has these markings. I guess you just point to something in the distance and then use the focus assist to blow up the image on the screen and then it is trial and error by turning the outer ring and taking a shot and viewing it? Is this accurate?

    Thanks

    Dean

    • Ian Norman December 26, 2015 / 5:50 pm

      On the RX100M3, a distance scale appears on the screen when manual focusing. It’s reasonably accurate but still needs some fine visual tuning.

  15. Dean December 1, 2015 / 11:12 am

    Hi Ian,

    Instead of using the self timer can you use the remote iPhone app to trigger the shutter? I am curious to know if you can do this after you set up the camera manually.

    Thanks

    Dean Mendelaoui

    • Ian Norman December 1, 2015 / 4:56 pm

      Yes, this is possible. There’s also a ‘touchless shutter’ app that allows you to wave your hand in front of the viewfinder eyepiece to trigger the shutter. (RX100III and RX00IV only)

  16. Edel November 10, 2015 / 5:59 am

    Thank you for an excellent article. I have couple of questions regarding astrophotography. I’m a beginner n I’m interested in taking milky way pictures as well as stars from telescope. But I didn’t have any dslr or mirrorless camera. So I would like to hear your suggestion regarding the newbie camera. I’m so interested in getting either Sony rx100, alpha 5000 or dlsr nikond3300. I’m still a student (and a noob) so I don’t think I can buy any highly-tech camera.

    I’m also going to use the camera for day photography especially landscape

    • Ian Norman December 1, 2015 / 5:05 pm

      Those are three very different cameras but all of them are similarly capable. If you want it to be as small as possible, get an RX100. Of you want to be able to change lenses to maybe upgrade in the future, the a5000 or d3300 will let you do that.

  17. Barry November 3, 2015 / 9:27 am

    I am looking for a good camera to take climbing. What is your experience with the RX 100 series in cold, damp, dust? I don’t need to be able to shoot in rain, but I do need good dust sealing and something that will continue to operate with temperatures below 20f. My Sony point and shoots with retractable lenses seemed to really hate dust. Are the RX cameras better? Do you have any recommendations for a small, light, camera that will survive cold and dust?

    • Ian Norman November 8, 2015 / 2:01 am

      I wouldn’t personally recommend the rx100 for its dust or moisture resistance, I don’t think it has anything to prevent stuff from getting up inside it. as far as dust resistant cameras, the first that come to mind are the Olympus E-M5 and Fujifilm X-T1 but both are larger interchangeable lens bodies.

    • Scott August 3, 2016 / 5:51 pm

      my rx100 m3 has been through a lot of what should be a tough camera. dust is fine, sand is not. But it took a lot of sand to kill my first one. We all do our best to keep sand off, but it’s the lens that sucks in sand any chance it gets. I still take mine climbing, hiking, kayaking and traveling tho. I have found making a small case out of one small pack towel and a ziplock freezer bag is perfect. Those pack pack towels should be in every camera case, they eliminate moisture completely and can be used as a micro fiber cleaner. On top on my kayak that got completly submerged last week, a seal emerged soon after and I went for the rx100 M3, debated opening the case because, well it was covered in water. Went for it anyway, lots of moisture inside the ziplock bag, but the towel keept the camera dry like always. I would have no problem taking the rx100 climbing again too, but I would go for a Tg-4 for that regardless because of it’s RAW and tough design, really made for that kinda thing to give you less worries and more photos. Protecting the rx100 lens or any sony compact lens is not easy, and they have all been the same for me too. Maybe someone will make a little silicone rubber thing to fit around the snout. That would change the game completely.

  18. PhinioxGlade October 21, 2015 / 12:42 am

    You mentioned your primary camera is the A7ii. At what ISOs do you see the best performance? I turned LR off when shooting a single 25 minute ISO500 star trail and got crazy blobs of pure red, green and blue, mainly red, all over. Too much to correct in post. I gave not experience this previously with LR on.

    Any advise?

    • Ian Norman October 21, 2015 / 2:34 am

      Making a single long exposure is sub-optimal. Those results sound like pretty much any digital camera ever made. You’ll find much better results with shorter exposures (e.g. 30 seconds – 4 minutes) and higher ISO (above 800). If you’re looking to make star trails, a better workflow is to make a stack of exposures as outlined in Tyler’s star trails tutorial

    • PhinioxGlade October 21, 2015 / 4:11 am

      So that’s the norm is it. I’ve stacked images before, used the Timelapse app, worked alright but requires a ton of computer time. I was hoping I could lazy out.

    • Ian Norman October 21, 2015 / 12:35 pm

      Yeah, stacking has become the typical best method. StarStax or using a Lighten Blending Mode in Photoshop isn’t too slow of a workflow. Nothing like alignment stacking anyways.

  19. michael reubi October 13, 2015 / 1:29 pm

    hi ian
    thanks for sharing all this wisdom about astrophotography. i choose recently a rx100 II for my girlfriend coming from a elder dsc model for taking her photograhic enthusiasm on a higher level and looking through it’s configurations made me think it might be fitting for simple astrophotography too and seeing you as a wizard using this cam too gives me a huge satisfaction on my choice for her.
    she just now kinda struggles with the manual focus while trying to shoot the stars. do you have any clue how to make it easy to focus?

    thanks for taking time for reply

    best regards michael reubi

    • Ian Norman October 14, 2015 / 3:55 pm

      Michael, I’m actually working on a video tutorial about focusing at the moment. In the mean time, try using fully magnified view (press the center button when manual focusing). Best to use a very bright star or you can also use an artificial light source as long as it’s far away, at least 100 feet / 30 meters away.

  20. Krzysztof October 3, 2015 / 3:45 pm

    Hi, I have a question about my RX100 MKI camera – how can I make a timelapse? There is no remote controller for mkI, the camera doesn’t have a timelapse mode and pressing a button for few hours is not a good option. Do you have any idea or something? I tried looking for any external timelapse ,,modules” and the only things I found were for mk’s II or later.

  21. Peter September 25, 2015 / 4:21 am

    Hello everyone!
    My question would be that can i get similar result with the sony rx100mk1? I have only money to go for the mk1 , but im passionate about astronomy so i want something to go out and shoot all night long. Please help me!
    Thank you!

    • Peter September 25, 2015 / 5:39 am

      Its me agai, sorry.
      I forget to mention that i also could be happy with sonys alpha5000. but i dont know how it would perform next to the nx1000 mk1…

    • Ian Norman September 25, 2015 / 8:08 am

      Yes, both the a5000 and RX100 Mark I will perform just fine for astrophotography!

    • PhinioxGlade October 21, 2015 / 4:37 am

      I haven’t used the a5000/5100 but I did own much older NEX 5N and cheaper A300. Using the kit lenses they work well. The E 16-50mm f3.5-5.6 OSS kit lens of the A5100 is far from the quality of the 28-100 1.8-4 Zeiss of the MK1, you might not notice.

      There very different cameras. In theory the larger sensor will provide better results. But the inbuilt lens of the RX100mki is F1.8 at 28mm (adjusted to full frame fov, not dof) while the a5000/5100/6000 is f3.5@24mm (adjusted). The a5100 is a bloody good camera, has a flip up touch screen, play memories apps, much better auto focus, expandable to much better glass, nfc and wifi.

      I purchased the a6000 and got my Mum the RX100. I think they both great cameras.

      FKI the rx100mki has the older menus

    • Ian Norman October 21, 2015 / 12:41 pm

      PHINIOXGLADE, yes, the RX100 lens is actually equivalent to f/3.3 on APS-C in terms of light gathering which is even better than most kit lenses. I like that the a5100 is so small, still has interchangeable lenses, and has nearly all the capability of the a6000, which I love. Sony really does make some excellent cameras in small packages, no doubt about that.

    • Sanic January 22, 2016 / 1:29 am

      Hi Ian,

      I am currently thinking of getting an RX100M2. I ran into your response where you mentioned that the lens on the RX100 is equivalent to a F/3.3 on an APS-C in terms of light gathering. Does this mean the RX100 is only slightly better than an APS-C DSLR with a kit F3.5 lens? Since I already have a Canon 500D with a kit lens and a point-and-shoot camera for daytime photography, do you think the RX100 will offer any improvement in image quality over the kit DSLR lens in astrophotography?

      Many thanks!

  22. Jordan Chapell September 23, 2015 / 6:54 pm

    I shoot with the A7 and the RX100III (having previously used the original RX100 and RX100II). I shoot landscape and adventure shots that follow our hikes and climbs. I often tell people that if I had to choose a single camera/lens, it would unquestionably be the RX100–There’s nothing that it stinks at, and it is awesome at most things. The fact that it fits in my coat pocket, backpack hip pocket, or around my neck even when climbing technical pitches means I can have it with me at all times. However, i haven’t used it for astro yet- thanks for opening my eyes to the good results possible Ian!

    My website has a good mix of RX100 images: http://www.jordanchapell.com

    I do with it went to 100mm at the long end though for a little more compression…

    • Ian October 14, 2015 / 1:47 pm

      Great shots! Your landscape and adventure stuff is great. I’m looking to either replace my entire setup with an A7, or get the RX100 III to use on backpacking/climbing trips and save my current Nikon DSLR setup for night shots. I like taking photos similar to yours, and was trying to determine which photos were taking with which camera. Any ones you can point me to so I can look at the quality of each?

    • Jordan October 15, 2015 / 5:23 am

      Ian (the Ian who replied to me):
      Thanks! Glad you enjoyed our shots! If you click on the little “i” on the top right of any photos on my website, I include what camera/lens were used to make the photo. I may have some head-to-head comparisons at home, feel free to e-mail me via the website and I’ll send you some full raw images if you would like.
      Regarding your photo setup: I do really love the A7, but if it’s a question of the A7 alone or your Nikon + the RX100, I mean lean towards the latter…Having the small camera as an option is really great – You’ll be surprised how many more places you bring a small camera rather than the big rig, and it is always awesome to have a 24-70mm backup camera just in case…

  23. Pritam Pawar September 22, 2015 / 11:49 pm

    Great photos from this little cam.

  24. Pete Chaloner September 22, 2015 / 7:13 am

    Hi Ian, I see you have mentioned a few times that you have been using the Sony a7II as your main astro camera lately, are you going to do a review of this camera and how does it compare to the Sony A7s which I thought was your favourite? Are you no longer using an A7s?
    Thanks for all the great articles you publish about Astrophotography, I really appreciate them.
    Cheers
    Pete (Melbourne, Australia)

    • Ian Norman September 22, 2015 / 9:51 pm

      While I’ve been traveling I elected to bring only one camera body with me. I wanted something that could fill the role of handheld video recorder so I opted to stick with just the a7II for my trip (for its image stabilization). I’m traveling super minimally and I’m limited on space so the a7S is not with me. The a7S is still my favorite astro camera and I think the a7SII might fill the role of both once it’s released…

  25. Seth Ryan September 21, 2015 / 8:32 am

    I love my RX100M3 and honestly have been surprised to look back and find that more of my ‘keepers’ are coming from that camera than from by D5300 (DSLR). Zoomed in the RX100 has been giving me much sharper images than the D5300.

    I haven’t tried it for astros yet, but will need to now. Thanks for the deep dive!

    • Ian Norman September 21, 2015 / 2:25 pm

      My pleasure Seth!

  26. Russell Lemasters September 21, 2015 / 2:44 am

    I’ve had the RX100 for about two years or so now. Initially I have used it for my underwater photos along with the underwater housing from Recsea. It wasn’t until I started into this astrophotography thing (thanks Ian) that I pulled this out while doing a shoot with my Canon D70 that I was blown away. Actually I was quite upset that this little camera was seemingly outperforming a setup that cost $$$$ more. The only thing that I would want is more wide, but that’s a pipedream from such a small camera. (I’m using the 11-22 Tokina on the D70). Otherwise the RX 100 is my goto for both under the depths, into the cosmos and everything in-between. Thanks for your review, as I have been wondering if others were as amazed with the astro capabilities of this point and shoot as I was.

    • Ian Norman September 21, 2015 / 7:35 am

      It really was a surprise when I first tried out the RX100. I agree that an ultra wide angle lens would make it even more amazing. There’s always < a href="http://www.lonelyspeck.com/medium-format-astrophotography-with-panorama-stitching/">panorama stitching, of course!

    • Seth Ryan September 21, 2015 / 8:40 am

      This 9287×5896 image of a mountain lake was stitched together from 10 handheld exposures with the RX100M3. With big landscapes I usually prefer to stitch than use a wider lens anyway to get higher resolution. But, of course I would always take the option of a wider lens.

      Link

    • Ian Norman September 21, 2015 / 2:26 pm

      I’ve also got to look in to an underwater enclosure for mine. Do you know if the recsea has an optional wide angle adapter?

    • Ian Norman September 21, 2015 / 2:30 pm

      Thanks for sharing Seth! I too think that stitching is very effective and sometimes more desirable. I would, however, be all over a point and shoot like the RX100 with a dedicated 20mm or shorter equivalent lens.

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