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The little camera that almost could skydive: Sony DSC-RX0

Posted by Mark Kirschenbaum on

Overview

I had the opportunity to jump with the Sony RX0 this past weekend. Overall I feel there are a lot better solutions out there for skydiving, but there are some videographers that would benefit with this camera. This camera is made specifically designed for VR / remote controlled production work, so adapting it to a primary action sports camera has some pitfalls. 

Skydive Helmet Sony RX0

Think of this camera as a miniature a6000 with a 24mm fixed lens and better remote capabilities. It can be used as a 1080/60p camcorder or a 16fps max/5.5fps still camera. In usage, I've found the 24mm to be wider than my Sony a6000 with a Sony 20mm. It will output 4K over HDMI, but you'll need an external recorder. 

Focus

The biggest issue skydivers will find is the slowness of the autofocus on this camera. Here is a video comparing the a6000 to the RX0 for focusing. 

Turn on Sound!

In my mind it was too slow that I had to set it to manual focus. With a f4.0 fixed lens this means tandem videographers may have issues as focus is from 3 meters to infinity. Here is an accidental shot of Mike about 1m away when the focus is sent to infinity. His features are definitely a bit soft.

RX0 manual focus infinity

The secret to this camera is to focus a few clicks off of infinity as seen below. 

Focus Setting

For tandems with a 24mm lens, you'll have to be about 2 meters away to frame properly. This seemed to be in focus for us with the above setting. Below is framing at 3 feet. The cabinet is 4 feet wide, so about 5 feet field of view @ 3 feet distance from target.

Sony RX0 3meter Focus Test

Focus Test Images 
1 foot | 3 feet | 6 feet | 9 feet | 12 feet

Outside photographers will have no issues with manual focus on this camera. It may be a great camera to set vertical to get all those portrait based cover shots while your primary is shooting standard landscape. 

Sensor

I believe, but can't confirm there is a lot of misinformation on this camera as far as the sensor size.

Sony states:
1.0-type (13.2mm x 8.8mm) Exmor RS™ CMOS sensor, aspect ratio 3:2

But BH and others have taken this 1.0-type and made it into 1.0"inch type. I feel this is wrong, but need to confirm with Sony. 13.2mm is no where near an inch.

Camera Specification Diagonal
GoPro HERO5/6 1/2.3-inch
7.81mm
Sony RX0 13.2mm x 8.8mm
15.9mm  


That sensor sure doesn't seem 1" active to me. Your thoughts?

Sony RX0 Teardown Slashgear
Courtesy of Slashgear

Speed of Shots

I never noticed missing a shot at 5.5fps shooting in RAW. This camera's buffers are a beast. It can shoot in 16fps, but this is way too quick for freefall. It's a cool to have for producing landing sequence shots. 

Be ready to miss a lot of shots if you are shooting in auto focus.

Turn on Sound!

Video

There are so many cameras out there with solid stabilization shooting 4K that I feel this camera is missing the ball only shooting 1080p/60. I've seen some excellent night windsuit footage taken with this camera. So if your discipline doesn't have any shake, you only need 1080p, and you're willing to spend twice the price as a Sony X3000 or a GoPro HERO6, this may be the camcorder for you. With that said, the sensor size is so much bigger, so the low light quality of the 1080P is actually really nice.

Note: This is the only jump I got the video to work so my apologies that it's the one that I was trying a new for me super steep technique. My apologies about the shakiness. See the note about the bite switch starting and stopping video... Whoops! 

Battery Life

This is definitely a studio camera / charge between loads camera. I lasted all day, but definitely topped it off between loads. 

Battery Life Stills: 240 shots
Battery Life Movie actual: 35 minutes on paper 60 minutes

Sony RX0 Battery Compartment

Durability

Shockproof Rating 6.5feet
Waterproof - Lost due to access to port for trigger.  33ft
Crushproof 200kg
Replacement Lens $99

Usability Issues

I had no issues with the menus, but I work with small electronics all the time. People who need readers are absolutely screwed without their reader glasses or phones to configure. 

YOU CAN PUT THE CARD IN BACKWARDS! I absolutely hate the MicroSD / M2 solution Sony has for these cameras. Be careful when installing the card and give it a test shot. 

Sony RX0 Card careful

There is no way to lock the menus and settings on this camera, so you need to be extra careful in the plane. Granted, since there are no wheels, it's a bit harder, but I miss the 'Fcn' lock that you have on the a6000. 

The shutter release "sound" is just that, a sound played on a speaker. If you are like me, and feel your cameras during a test shot right before exit, you will not feel the shutter release, you need to actually hear it with this camera. 

Shutter Release

Our standard multi/micro usb shutter release adapters works with this camera. We made a special sideways version so let us know if you want that orientation. This is a photo of our special ganged protected version being tested. 

Sony RX0 Ganged Shutter Release

Good or bad, Video starts and stops via the Multi/Micro USB Shutter release switch. Therefore, if you decide to shoot video, remove your bite switch! 

Mounting

I personally just mounted this camera with VHB tape, some gaffers, and a tether to test it out. At 110g it secured to my a6000 with a piece of VHB. There is nothing but a 1/4"-20 camera thread on the bottom, so card is accessible from behind and battery on the side. 

 Sony RX0 1/4"-20

Unfortunately with the door removed for a bite switch, you'll want to gaffer in the microsd card. One odd opening and this card will be ejected into the abyss, so be sure to secure it before jumping. Sony finally listened and made this door easily replaced. 

The camera does come with a card locking plastic piece, but I have not used this yet in freefall. It will need to be gaffered anyway, so I chose just to gaffer the card. 

My Settings

Sony RX0 Skydiving

Mode M - Full Manual
Focus MF - Manual 3m-infinity
ISO 125 or Auto worked well too
Shutter Speed Arizona 1/1000
F-stop Lens locked to f4.0
Quality X-Fine Jpg if no post production
RAW if post
Mounting VHB or 1/4-20 camera mount 
Tether recommended

Quality

I'm impressed with the stills off of this camera. Photo taken with the RX0 Manual Focus, JPG. Clickable 
Sony RX0 Skydiving Photo

Sony a6000 same jump. clickable
Same jump a6000
Download originals in both RAW and JPG. Copyright HYPOXIC. 

Conclusion

Overall I feel you'll be better off with a Sony X3000 or GoPro HERO6 for video due to their stabilization features. It's a decent camera for outside stills, especially for its size. I do feel you're better off getting a Sony a6000> due to it's speed of focusing and versatility on the ground and in the plane. For tandems, I would steer clear due to the slow auto focusing, lack of a flash for int the plane, and the short distance we tend to fly with tandems. Although the manual focus does work at the golden focus setting, you'll miss out on the depth of field you'll get with a mirrorless or SLR. With these caveats, I feel you're better off with a camera with a bit more functionality. With that said, there are some disciplines and applications where this camera excels. 

Thank you very much Tom Sanders for allowing me to test out his camera. Tom is a perfect candidate for this camera since it allows him to capture good stills while his camera is outfitted with extremely heavy video cameras. The waterproofness is also helpful for his Blue Hole jump in Belize. He's planning on mounting one in landscape and the other in portrait. Another excellent usage of these cameras. 

With any tool, it has it's proper usage. I feel this camera is a perfect solution for large bullet time and VR arrays. It also is the perfect still camera where a light weight and small size is critical. For video, I feel you're better off with a different tool unless you are outputting 4k to an external recorder. 

If you do chose to buy a Sony RX0 please do so by following the links off this article.  We make a little bit by doing so and every bit helps. 

Thank You,
-Trunk


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