So, can you shoot cinematic footage on the Sony RX0II? No.
OK, sorry, let me try that again. There are a great many factors that go into creating the much coveted cinematic look. The idea of the cinematic look represents the gold standard in moving image capture, but ask a hundred experts and you may get as many different answers as to what it actually is.
Let’s have a look with Cody Blue at the fantastic little Sony RX0II and see how he gets on chasing the cinematic look.
This is a good video and I like Cody’s content, but I don’t really think he answers the headline question – can this little camera capture a cinematic image?
Let’s dispense with a couple of tests and findings that are not relevant to our question. Cody thinks this is a cool stills camera, ideal for popping in a pocket when you don’t want to carry a larger camera. Great, but I would say that the RX0II has stiff competition from the smartphone in my pocket on this front.
The sensor in my smartphone is smaller but the features, screen size, connectivity and everything else that makes smartphones great, is hard to compete with.
RX0II Image quality
The next area tested is vlogging. I watch a lot of great vloggers on YouTube and it really has become an art-form in its own right. But to bundle vlogging into the question of cinematic images is kind of weird.
The main test here is of the internal stabilization of the RX0II and, no surprises really, it is better than an A7III and not as good as the GoPro Hero7. In body stabilization is not really a concern of cinematic shooting as truly cinematic shooting will utilize stabilization equipment like gimbals, jibs, dollies, Steadicams etc.
They don’t really need internal stabilization and it can actually cause more problems than is solves. A good example of this principle is the difference between the Panasonic GH5 and GH5s. The more “pro-video” GH5s forgoes the stabilized sensor, assuming you will be using some other kit for smooth movement. Have a look for IBIS on the big-boy cinema cameras too.
A broader question is – is it ever very cinematic to film yourself at arms length? Probably not.
N.B. This test is another reminder of how amazing the GoPro stabilization tech really is!
Now onto the more meaningful tests.
The Rx0II is built to the size of a little action camera, like the GoPro, but has a bigger sensor, 1”. The lens is rated as an f4 but remember to apply that crop factor. The hardware feels beautifully put together and includes a small flip-up screen, designed for vlogging? and a microphone jack. The whole unit is waterproof, lightweight and pocket size.
It shoots 4K 30fps internally, lovely, and the image looks clean at a good ISO. The RX0II allows for a whole host of manual settings and the software is clear and simple to use. Shooting in a flat colour profile will yield an image ready for grading in post. This video is a good example of the style of grade that has become very popular on YouTube, particularly with young vloggers. It is not a traditionally cinematic grade but it does have a style I like, if perhaps a little too on-the-nose teal and orange.
Steven Soderbergh has been shooting and releasing feature films shot entirely on iPhones lately so the notion of the ‘cinematic image’ is perhaps more fluid now than it has ever been.
If you want to create depth of field to draw your audience attention around your frame then this is not the camera for you. If you want to nail focus then this tiny screen is not for you. If you want to rack focus then this camera’s single point auto-focus system is not for you. Higher frame rates, higher bit depth, and color sampling, wide dynamic range, anamorphic lenses, lens choices of any kind… there are so many reasons this camera is not cinematic.
Hollywood is full of great directors who started without great equipment. Creativity and ingenuity are worth more than any equipment. This little camera may not be able to create a traditionally cinematic image but what it can do might be more exciting. The image quality is fantastic and coupled with a nice piece of glass on the front and 4K recording inside, it is a powerful tool. It is on a different level from the GoPro competition.
Imagination vs equipment
In the same way that many vloggers are pushing the boundaries of their art-from on YouTube, perhaps this kind of little camera will change our expectations of the cinematic image. Maybe it is time to prioritize the creative possibilities offered by cameras like these, over the classic trappings of the silver screen.