Saturday, October 31, 2015

Daylight Savings Time Ends Tonight

Time Record - Stallion Springs, California
Finally, eight months after we moved our clocks an hour forward, we can set them back to the correct time. Tonight at 2:00 AM Daylight Savings Time officially ends, and we can stop make-believing that the time is different than it actually is.

Most of your clocks will probably automatically adjust themselves to the correct time, but some won't. There's a good chance that the clock in your camera will have to be manually changed. If you forget to change it now you might not discover the discrepancy for many months, so it's a good idea to check. 

This whole Daylight Savings stuff is insanity. Think about this: time does not change. The universe does not "spring forward" and "fall back." The sun rises and sets on schedule. However, for some reason, we all pretend that time changes. We all make-believe that it is one hour later than it actually is.

Why do we all blindly use a fictional time in the summer? What's the point in setting our clocks to a phony hour?

There are two reasons, and they're both dumb.

First, environmentalists think that we use less electricity in the summer when the time is adjusted. This isn't logical and it isn't reality. You don't actually use less electricity by getting up and going to bed an hour early. Several studies show that Daylight Savings actually increases energy consumption by a tiny amount, which is the opposite of what is supposed to happen.

Second, the travel industry likes Daylight Savings because it gives vacationers an extra hour of daylight in the evenings when these people are out and about. And studies have shown that vacationers will spend more money because of this.

An interesting study out of the University of Alabama shows that heart attacks increase about 10% the two days after we "spring" our clocks forward. Yikes! Another study shows that, due to the interruption in our circadian clock, after the Daylight Savings time changes people are less productive and are more likely to become ill.

Besides that, farmers don't like Daylight Savings. They have to adjust what they do, which causes problems for them. Cows for some reason don't care much for the time changes, and dairy farmers are particularly impacted by this.

In reality, Daylight Savings is a ploy to get us to spend more of our hard-earned money on our summer travels. That's the only so-called benefit. The environmentalists are pretending that less electricity is being used, much like we are pretended in July that it is five o'clock in the afternoon instead of four o'clock. And in return for the great benefit we are having more heart attacks. Great! Spending and dying more--sounds like a winning government policy to me.

Arizona apparently is the only state left in America that hasn't gone insane. They refuse to observe Daylight Savings, and Arizonans will tell you that the rest of the country is crazy for pretending that the time is different than it actually is.

Well, it's all over now. At least for a few months. Then the craziness starts all over again.

Don't forget to change your clocks back one hour tonight to the time that it actually is.

Limitations In Photography Are Good

Clearing Clouds Over Cummings Mountain - Stallion Springs, California
I mentioned a little over a week ago that I replaced my DSLR with a pocket camera. One reason people have a DSLR is for the interchangeable lens capability. While the camera I bought, a Sony RX100 II, has an adjustable focal length lens, the lens is permanently attached and can't be changed. I worried if the 100mm (equivalent) maximum focal length would be long enough because I occasionally like to use a longer lens.

So my family and I went for a short walk through my neighborhood in the evening just before sunset, and I brought my new camera with me. Multiple times on this outing I saw a potential photograph but needed a focal length longer than 100mm to capture the vision in my mind.

At first I was disappointed. Maybe it was a mistake to get rid of my DSLR. I would have been able to capture these photographs if I had my old camera and not the RX100 II.

But then I realized something. Most of the time I didn't have a telephoto lens attached to the DSLR. I mostly kept my standard prime lens attached, and in all likelihood I wouldn't have had the necessary lens with me. Yes, sometimes I would go out with the telephoto zoom lens, but more often than not I didn't. So, in reality, I actually had more versatility with the pocket camera, not less.
Evening Bicycle Ride - Stallion Springs, California
Besides, the smaller camera was much more pleasant to have than the bulky DSLR. There is value in the experience being enjoyable.

I decided that I needed to pay attention to what I could capture and not what I couldn't. I needed to adjust how I was seeing and interpreting the scene. And once I did that, my eyes were opened to things that I was overlooking.

Limitations in photography are good. It helps to focus your creative mind. It helps to narrow down the possibilities. It forces you to think about things differently. "Embracing the limitation can actually drive creativity," said artist Phil Hanson. "We need to first be limited in order to become limitless."

Orson Welles put it this way: "The absence of limitations is the enemy of art."
Brush In The Rocks - Stallion Springs, California
"If you have five elements available use only four," suggested Pablo Picasso. "If you have four elements use three."

Being limited by something isn't bad. In fact, in art, it's good. It will make your photographs better. It will make your photographic voice stronger. It makes the image's nonverbal communication more concise.

Not having that long telephoto zoom is to my benefit. Not having an interchangeable lens is a good thing. Not having the "best" gear makes my photographs better. The fact is that I need more limitations, not fewer.

Besides, I need to have some contentment with my gear. Photography is never about the gear, it's about the photograph. So it makes no sense to be constantly chasing new cameras. That's G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), and having G.A.S. can be painful. Embracing the limitations of my gear helps me to be content with what I have so that I'm not wasting my time thinking about the gear that I don't have but wish I had. That's time squandered.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Who Might Buy Sigma's Foveon Technology?

In yesterday's post about Canon's upcoming 120 megapixel DSLR, which is rumored to have a multi layer sensor similar to Sigma's Foveon sensors, I said that it could potentially be the end of Sigma's camera brand. I also suggested that if Canon's camera is commercially successful, it could mean that Sigma's will try and sell their Foveon technology to someone else.

I was asked who I thought might be interested in purchasing the Foveon sensor technology if Sigma put it on the market. There are several companies that come to my mind.
On A Brighter Day - Tehachapi, California
Captured using a Foveon sensor in a Sigma DP2 Merrill camera.
Sony would be an obvious buyer. Sony manufacturers more digital camera sensors than anyone, and if Canon's upcoming camera puts a small dent in sensor sales, and if Sony isn't already developing a multi layer sensor, they might just see an opportunity here. If Nikon, who (for the most part) uses Sony made sensors in their cameras, see's a dip in their camera sales because of Canon's camera, they might ask Sony to make a multi layer sensor for them. Besides, this wouldn't be the first sensor business that Sony has purchased.

Fuji is another possible landing spot for the technology. Sigma has done a remarkable job with the Foveon sensor all things considered, but their lack of money, resources and experience means that they can only take it so far. Fuji has the money, resources and experience to take it to the next level. Can you imagine an improved Foveon sensor in an X-T1 or X100T body? It might be a perfect match.

If neither Sony or Fuji jump at the Foveon sensor, I could see Samsung taking a chance. Samsung has done some innovative things and they're making some pretty good cameras. I could see them taking a chance with multi layer sensors, and they certainly have the money to do it.

If the Canon multi layer sensor DSLR is a big hit and Nikon has nothing to compete with it, and if Sony has no plan for a multi layer sensor of their own, I could see Nikon as a possible buyer for the Foveon technology. While I write this as a possibility it seems like a long shot. I just don't think Nikon has the desire to manufacturer their own multi layer sensors, or put in the effort and money to improve the Foveon technology to the point that it can be successfully marketed to the masses.

I'd be surprised if anyone else is interested in purchasing from Sigma the Foveon sensor technology. But you never know. Perhaps someone that I haven't considered might buy it.

Or, then again, maybe this upcoming Canon camera will have no impact on Sigma camera sales. Maybe Sigma will continue making Foveon sensor cameras for years to come. We will see.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Canon's Upcoming 120 Megapixel DSLR May Have A 5 Layer Sensor

I read something that I thought was interesting. Rumor has it that Canon's upcoming 120 megapixel DSLR might have a five layer sensor, similar to Sigma's three layer Foveon sensor. It's not unbelievable because Canon holds a patent for a multi layered sensor. In fact, they already have a two layer sensor in which one layer is used to record the photograph and the other for auto focus.

Sigma's sensor has one layer sensitive to each color channel (one for red, one for green and one for blue). This has some significant advantages over a traditional Bayer sensor, especially for black and white photography. But Sigma, with a more limited budget and resources than Canon, had a hard time getting past the disadvantages (slow software, poor high ISO performance).

It's not been announced what the five layers will be on Canon's new sensor, but we can safely guess that a layer will be dedicated each to red, green and blue sensitivity. Rumor also has it that one layer will be sensitive to infrared. Most cameras have a infrared filter, but, with a sensor layer instead of a filter, I'd assume that you could do infrared photography with the push of a button. Just guessing, the final layer would be for auto focus.

It will be interesting to see if each layer has the same resolution like Sigma's Merrill cameras, or if the layers will have different megapixel counts, like Sigma's Quattro cameras. If all five layers are the same they will have 24 megapixels each. However it is divided up, the camera won't have 120 megapixel resolution, but perhaps something in the range of 60-80 megapixel equivalent. That is still tons of resolution, and more than most photographers will ever need.

If the camera works well and if Canon can overcome the shortcomings that Sigma couldn't, this camera could be a game changer, assuming that the price isn't too ridiculous. It would likely spell the end of Sigma's camera brand, and it might leave Sony scrambling to develop their own multi layered sensors. Some brand might just buy the Foveon technology from Sigma.

If the camera flops, this might spell trouble for Canon, who is seeing sales spiral downward. If sales are slow for this camera, with all of the time and money that they have obviously invested in this new sensor, that might be the straw that breaks Canon's back.

However it goes, it will at the very least be interesting.

Sony RX100 II - First Images, First Impressions

Tasty Quality - Palmdale, California
ISO 1600, f4.9, 1/320, 100mm (equivalent).
I've had my Sony RX100 II for a week, and I haven't used it as much as I thought I would, mostly because I've been busy. So far I have exposed less than 100 frames. That's a small number. For a trip or event I might expose that many images in a couple of hours.

Even though I haven't used the camera much I did want to share some of my first images and first impressions. Early impressions can be proven wrong with time and experience, but I find that many of them are proven true in the end.

Any time you have a new camera, one challenge is to figure out how to best set it up and use it. Controls are in different positions or found in different menus. The way the camera reacts to different situations might not be the same. It takes using the camera to understand it all and become quick at it. I'm not yet at that point.
Dusk Driving - Tehachapi, California
ISO 500, f4.9, 1/125, 100mm (equivalent)
I've also reprogrammed some of the programmable settings multiple times. I thought that I would like the camera set up a certain way, but when it came time to actually use it, I found that I didn't like how I programmed it. I've still got some work to do, because I'm not yet satisfied with it. This is just something that takes using the camera to figure out.

Initially I set up the camera to capture both RAW and JPEG simultaneously so that I could compare the two. I made several adjustments to the JPEG settings, but so far I'm underwhelmed by the JPEGs produced by the camera. Maybe this is something I need to experiment with further, but mostly I shoot RAW so I now have the camera set to RAW only (except I have one of the programmable memory recall tabs set to JPEG only).

The problem with RAW is that you quickly realize some of the flaws of this camera. For example, at wide angle, there's a huge amount of barrel distortion. Chromatic aberrations are somewhat pronounced, as well. The camera fixes these automatically with JPEGs, but with RAW you have to fix them yourself.
Catching The Moon - Tehachapi, California
ISO 1600, f4.9, 1/320, 100mm (equivalent)
The software that Sony "provides" (although I found nothing in the camera box to tell me this--I discovered it through a Google search) to edit the RAW files is Phase One's Capture One Express. This is a robust post-processing program that's free for Sony users (the free version will only work with Sony RAW files). It's similar to Adobe Lightroom, and some say that it's better.

The good news is that the software is powerful and Sony's RAW files look really good post-processed with Capture One Express. The bad news is that it takes awhile to figure it out and become proficient at it. I noticed that it significantly slows down my workflow.

For the images in this post I did minimal post-processing with Capture One Express, saved the files as TIFFs, then finished the editing with Alien Skin Exposure 7. I like using Exposure because I get the look that I want quickly and easily, but I don't like juggling through multiple editing programs, and Exposure can't read Sony's RAW files (or fix the lens distortion). I might have to rethink my workflow a little and find ways to make it more efficient.
Abandoned In California - California City, California
ISO 160, f7.1, 1/800, 43mm (equivalent)
One thing that I love about the Sony camera already is how quiet it is (at least once you turn off all of the beeps and other sounds). The only noise it makes is a light click when the shutter is open. I like that the camera doesn't scream "I'm taking a picture!"

I also really like the leather case that came with the camera. I purchased my Sony RX100 II at Costco, and it was a box set that comes with a leather case, a screen protector, and a nice SD card. I didn't think that I'd like the leather case, but tried it anyway and found that I actually love it. The screen protector is well designed and once in place you can't even tell that there is a screen protector.

Image quality is good. The lens is sharp. The files look just fine--the camera is capable of image quality closer to what one might expect from a DSLR. It's a fairly quick camera. A lot is packed into the tiny body.
Diamond Sneaker - California City, California
ISO 160, f5, 1/80, 50mm (equivalent)
Tasty Quality at the top of this post was captured while eating dinner at an In-N-Out burger joint. The stealthiness of the camera allowed me to capture the image without being noticed or interrupting anyone's meal. The exposure was an accident. In my haste to get the photograph (while nobody was blocking my view) I forgot to take it out of shutter priority mode. The camera underexposed what it thought was the correct exposure because it maxed out the aperture and ISO (I had 1600 set as the highest ISO for Auto-ISO). Turns out the exposure was pretty spot-on. Sometimes you get lucky.

I captured Dusk Driving while riding in the front passenger seat of my car. I saw the scene and thought it might be a good opportunity to test the camera. The scene's got a pretty wide dynamic range, and, while the moon is overexposed and a few of the darkest spots lack detail, overall the camera did an excellent job of handling it all. It looks better if you view it larger.

Catching The Moon was captured a few minutes after Dusk Driving. This was more-or-less a happy accident. I don't think I could have timed it better--capturing the moon just as the blade met it while driving 70 MPH down the freeway--if I had 100 more tries. Again, sometimes you get lucky. I added "film grain" in post-processing, ISO 1600 is actually much cleaner than the image would indicate.
Rusty Door Catch - Cal City, California
ISO 160, f3.2, 1/200, 28mm (equivalent)
While not the greatest image I've ever captured, Abandoned In California is one photograph where the camera really impressed me. The colors and sharpness are fantastic and the tough dynamic range situation wasn't too much for the sensor to handle (some blacks lack details, but a close look shows details hiding in the dark spaces.

The sharpness of the lens is obvious in Diamond Sneaker. Rusty Door Catch is a macro image, which can only be accomplished at the wide angle end of the lens. I should have used a smaller aperture because the depth-of-field is a little slimmer than I wanted it to be.

So far, so good with the RX100 II. I'm still working through some things, but with less than 100 exposures, that's to be expected. It's an impressive little camera that's gives DSLR-like images quality in a tiny and affordable body.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Weekend Trip: U.S. Highway 395 In Autumn, Part 3: Driving South (Mammoth Lakes, Convict Lake, Bishop & Alabama Hills)

Mountain View - Mammoth Lakes, California
Yellow Streak - Mammoth Lakes, California

We awoke to a beautiful view from our hotel balcony. We had arrived at night and everything was dark. Now that the morning sun was illuminating everything, we could see just how nice Mammoth Lakes is. I had to wonder why we'd never visited this side of the Sierra Nevada range before.

After checking out of our room we found a place to enjoy breakfast. Then it was time to hit the road--southbound on U.S. Highway 395. There was plenty on the agenda and we wanted to arrive back home at a decent time.

Convict Lake

The name might be frightening, but Convict Lake, located just a little south of Mammoth Lakes, is nothing short of spectacular! This was our favorite stop of the trip. It's worth a visit!

Convict Lake is located in a bowl with Laural Mountain looming over at the west end. Mount Morrison is south of the lake and is over 12,000' tall. It's a dramatic landscape.

The shoreline was lined with trees displaying fall colors--especially on the south and west sides of the lake. The water was crystal clear--probably the clearest lake I've ever seen. There's a paved path that follows the lake partially around on the south side, so we followed that to the end.

We found a nice spot on the shore and stayed awhile. We skipped rocks. We sat in the shade of some yellow trees and took in the sight. We watched fishermen on their boats, lines in tow. It was a good time! It was definitely relaxing.

None of us wanted to leave, but we still had a long drive and more stops to make, so we headed back to the car and continued south on U.S. Highway 395.
Turning Trees - Convict Lake, California
Convict Lake - Convict Lake, California


The next stop was at Erick Schat's Bakery (yes, that's really the name...) in Bishop. This is a well known place that bakes fresh bread and tasty pastries. Everyone who passes through Bishop stops there, or so it seemed.

I was disappointed that they have a "no photography" policy inside of the place. I did manage to capture a couple of images of the outside, despite the large crowd.

With some fresh bread, coffee cake and cookies, it was time to continue our journey. We had one more stop planned before heading home.
Erick Schat's Bakery Reflection - Bishop, California
Cakes - Bishop, California

Alabama Hills

U.S. Highway 395 was closed in Lone Pine. There was a film festival that weekend, and as part of that the highway was closed for a parade. We stopped at a fast-food joint and had lunch while we waited for the road to reopen.

Just west of Lone Pine is the Alabama Hills Recreation Area. This range of hills and rock formations sit at the base of the Sierra Nevada range near Mt. Whitney. Tons of movies have been filmed here, mostly westerns. There are plaques scattered about that show where different scenes in different movies were filmed.

I was interested in photographing Mobius Arch, which frames Mt. Whitney. There's a trail that loops from a dirt parking lot. The original plan was for all of us to hike to the arch, but when we arrived the trail looked a little too rough and difficult for the kids and stroller. So I went alone while everyone else explored some rocks near the car.

As it turns out the westernmost trailhead would have been fine for the kids and jogging stroller. We could have all made it to Mobius Arch. The eastern half of the loop trail is the tough part and we could have avoided it altogether. But we didn't know.

We explored just a little more, driving to some different sights within Alabama Hills, getting out of the car to read the signs. It's a neat place that I wouldn't mind returning to with better light for photography.
Mt. Whitney Behind Mobius Arch - Lone Pine, California
Mobius Arch - Lone Pine, California
Heart Hole - Lone Pine, California
A couple of hours later and we were home. It was a whirlwind weekend adventure, but one well worth the time and effort. I can't wait to return to these places and hopefully a few of the sights that we missed. Our fall foliage tour of the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains exceeded our expectations.

All of the photographs in this post were captured using a Canon PowerShot N. This cheap little camera did a really good job. I was impressed (and surprised) with it for travel photography.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Weekend Trip: U.S. Highway 395 In Autumn, Part 2: Yosemite National Park (Tuolumne Meadows & Olmsted Point)

Rocks And Trees - Yosemite National Park, California

After Mono Canyon we entered Yosemite National Park via California Highway 120 over Tioga Pass. Despite this being the off season for Yosemite, there was still plenty of traffic at the gate. I had never seen this side of the park so this was an new experience for me and I was excited at the photographic opportunities that awaited.

I used a Canon PowerShot N to capture all but two of the photographs in this post, which were captured using a Nikon D3300 with a Nikkor 40mm AF-S DX f/2.8G Micro lens attached. I won't say which photographs are from which camera. I bet you can't tell. Vision matters more than gear in photography.

Tuolumne Meadows

We arrived at Tuolumne Meadows around 3:30 PM, about 30 minutes after we had planned. We parked near the Tuolumne Meadows Campground and proceeded to find the Tuolumne River Loop Trail. A little wandering around and we stumbled across the trailhead.

The Tuolumne River Loop Trail is four miles long. It's not always well marked, and a few times we weren't completely sure that we were on the right trail. At times the trail joins the Pacific Crest Trail and the John Muir Trail.

We decided to bring a jogging stroller for our one-year-old to ride in. This was the only way we'd be able to tackle the trail, but we soon discovered that the trail isn't ideal for strollers. There are large rocks across the path at different points and there were spots where we had to carry the stroller.

The trail follows the Dana and Lyell forks of the Tuolumne River. It's forested, mostly with pines. There are some beautiful meadows and small waterfalls. We were alone for most of the trek. The weather was great. It was nearly perfect hiking conditions.

We finished the hike around 6:00 PM, tired and ready to be done. This was a long trip for our seven year old daughter and six year old son! This was definitely the longest trail that they'd ever attempted, and they were troopers through it all, without hardly a complaint.
Granite Rising From Tuolumne Meadows - Yosemite National Park, California
Lembert Dome - Yosemite National Park, California
Lembert Dome & Lyell Fork - Yosemite National Park, California
Fallen Tree Over Lyell Fork - Yosemite National Park, California
Cairn & River - Yosemite National Park, California
Reflection Peek - Yosemite National Park, California
Lyell Fork Pines - Yosemite National Park, California
Made to look like an oil painting using Snap Art 4.
Three Tree Reflection - Yosemite National Park, California
Lyell Fork - Yosemite National Park, California
The Twisted Tree - Yosemite National Park, California
Minion - Yosemite National Park, California
Two Kids & Rock Face - Yosemite National Park, California
Pacific Crest Trail - Yosemite National Park, California
Pine Trees - Yosemite National Park, California
Sunlight Through The Branches - Yosemite National Park, California
Holga View In Tuolumne Meadows - Yosemite National Park, California
Tree Reflection In Tuolumne River - Yosemite National Park, California
Made to look like an oil painting using Snap Art 4.
Excited Girl In The Forest - Yosemite National Park, California

Olmsted Point

After our hike we headed a little deeper into Yosemite National Park. We arrived at Olmsted Point, a scenic vista pullout along California Highway 120, just before sunset. This stop offers views of Half Dome from a vantage point that's different from what most people see (those that only view it from Yosemite Valley and Glacier Point).

We took in the view for a couple of minutes, but we needed to get going to eat dinner and check into our hotel. We stopped for food in Lee Vining (I highly recommend the Whoa Nellie Deli) and then made our way through the darkness to our hotel in Mammoth Lakes.

We ended our day relaxing in our hotel room, watching television and taking in the cool fresh mountain air from our balcony. There was still plenty for us to see and do the next day, so it was time to rest.
Half Dome From Olmsted Point Monochrome - Yosemite National Park, California
Vintage Half Dome From Olmsted Point - Yosemite National Park, California

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Nikon D3300 vs. Sony RX100 II - An Image Comparison

The Nikon D3300 DSLR vs. the Sony RX100 II. Which has better image quality? Can Sony's small 1" sensor really stand up to the APS-C sensor found in the Nikon?

I don't usually do these kind of side-by-side comparisons. I prefer real-world-use impressions. After all, outside of blogs and camera magazines, nobody's photographing bookshelves or playing cards or paper graphs. These controlled tests are often silly exercises.

And no matter how much care you take to ensure that everything is fair and accurate, someone will nitpick your methods. You should have done this instead of that. Whatever. I don't care. If you think you could do it better, go ahead and do so.

This may seem like an apples-to-oranges comparison. One's a DSLR, the other a pocket fixed-lens camera. I'm downsizing and simplifying my gear, and I'm replacing my D3300 with a Sony RX100 II. So I'm personally interested in the similarities and differences in image quality between these two cameras. I still have them both, so why not see how they stack up to each other?

The lens I used for the D3300 is a Nikkor 40mm AF-S DX f/2.8G Micro. This is one of the sharpest DX prime lenses that Nikon makes. I've used it to create many of my favorite photographs.

I found a scene to photograph: a blue metal R and some carnations in a mason jar sitting on the mantel above my fireplace. It's a simple scene, and not something that I'd likely photograph outside of this exercise.

I set up my tripod and placed the D3300 on it, capturing one image at ISO 100 and another at ISO 1600 (while my 20-month-old was playing underneath it). I then replaced the D3300 with the RX100 II and discovered my first issue: the Sony camera is much smaller than the Nikon. The RX100 II needed to be moved closer to the subject so that the image would be the same. Just how much closer was a guess.

And then I quickly discovered the second issue: the Sony camera, as far as I can tell, doesn't tell you the focal length in millimeters. It tells you how much you've zoomed (e.g. 1.8x), which isn't helpful to this test. The Nikkor lens has a 60mm equivalent focal length in full-frame terms. I guessed on the Sony and ended up with a 65mm equivalent focal length (which I figured out after the fact by looking at the EXIF data).

The cameras were both set in aperture-priority mode with the f-stop at f/8. I captured one image at ISO 100 and another at ISO 1600 with each camera. I let the cameras figure everything else out. The images were shot in RAW format.

Let's take a look at the originals:
Nikon D3300 at ISO 100
Sony RX100 II at ISO 100
There's some small differences in exposure and white balance, but overall the two images are very similar. This is basically an overview and we'll have to look a little closer at the photographs to really learn anything useful.

The images were captured in RAW format, which is like undeveloped film. It's the raw data from the sensor, and it needs to be processed in order to make an actual viewable photograph. I used Alien Skin's Exposure 7 software for the D3300 and was careful to be light-handed on the editing. Exposure 7 can't read the RX100 II's RAW files, so I converted to TIFF format using Phase One's Capture One Express software, and then used Exposure 7 to apply the same exact post-processing treatment that I gave the Nikon image. 

Here are 50% crops from the above images:
Nikon D3300 at ISO 100 - 50% Crop
Sony RX100 II at ISO 100 - 50% Crop
If the uncropped images were printed and you were looking at this section this big, you'd likely be viewing an 8" x 12" print (give or take, depending no the size of your monitor). The print would actually look better because your monitor, no matter how good it might be, has to down-sample the file in order to display it. In other words, you're not viewing the 50% crop at full-resolution because your monitor doesn't have the ability to display it at full resolution.

What can we gather from looking at these two crops? The Sony RX100 II's lens is sharp. Really sharp. I read prior to purchasing the camera that the lens was better than most zoom lenses, but not prime lens tack sharp. Nonsense! It's sharper than the Nikkor prime lens. The Nikon has a 4 megapixel resolution advantage and doesn't have a sharpness-stealing anti-aliasing filter, and it still can't match the sharpness of the Zeiss lens on the Sony. Amazing!

You might notice that the D3300 seems to have a small dynamic range advantage in the shadows. I think part of this may be attributed to the post-processing, and doing more rigorous editing could lighten those dark shadows up a bit.

Now let's see the 100% crops:
Nikon D3300 at ISO 100 - 100% Crop
Sony RX100 II at ISO 100 - 100% Crop
If the uncropped images were printed and you were looking at this section this big, you'd likely be viewing a 16" x 24" print (again, give or take depending on the size of your monitor). And, even though these are 100% crops, your monitor still has to down-sample the images to display them.

The takeaway from looking at these 100% crops is that at ISO 100 the cameras have nearly identical and pretty much indistinguishable image quality. The 1" sensor in the Sony camera matches the image quality of the APS-C sensor in the Nikon camera at low ISO.

But what about high-ISO? Let's take a look:
Nikon D3300 at ISO 1600
Sony RX100 II at ISO 1600
So why ISO 1600? Why not 3200 or 6400? From the little that I've used the RX100 II (I've only had it for a couple of days), it seems that ISO 1600 is the practical limit for the Sony camera. Yes, you could use ISO 3200, but there's a significant increase in noise. In real life photography I would only use that high of ISO with this camera if I were converting the images to monochrome and wanted a grainy look. The D3300's practical limit for high-ISO is 3200, and ISO 6400 is usable only for grainy-looking black-and-white photographs. There's a known one-stop high-ISO advantage for the Nikon.

You can't tell much from the uncropped images captured at ISO 1600. They look similar to each other and you might even have a hard time differentiating them from the ISO 100 photographs.

Here are the ISO 1600 50% crops:
Nikon D3300 at ISO 1600 - 50% Crop
Sony RX100 II at ISO1600 - 50% Crop
You can see that both cameras are showing some noise. Some of this could be removed in post-processing by applying noise reduction. It's not terrible in either camera, although full-frame users are probably not impressed with the results.

What might be surprising is that the RX100 II holds up pretty well against the D3300. According to DxOMark, the D3300 is the second best APS-C camera at high-ISO (just barely behind the D5500). At ISO 1600 looking at 50% crops it's difficult to tell them apart.

Now let's look at the 100% crops:
Nikon D3300 at ISO 1600 - 100% Crop
Sony RX100 II at ISO 1600 - 100% Crop 
The noise at ISO 1600 is similar in both images, but what we can notice is that the look of the noise is different. To me, the noise in the RX100 II photograph looks a little larger but more film-grain-like. The noise in the D3300 photograph looks digital. So even though the noise is just a bit more pronounced in the Sony camera, I prefer the look of it over the noise in the Nikon camera. At least in this image.


What are some takeaways from this?

One conclusion is that it doesn't make much of a difference if you use a camera with a 1" sensor or one with an APS-C sensor. You have to study 100% crops side-by-side to even notice any dissimilarities, and even then the differences are incredibly tiny. This is a testament to how far digital cameras have come!

Another conclusion is that the Zeiss lens that Sony put on the front of the RX100 II is pretty fantastic. I was surprised at just how much sharper it is than the 40mm Nikon prime.

The only other conclusion I have is that, perhaps, I've wasted my time. All that I've really done is capture some extraordinary boring photographs of a blue metal R and some flowers. I should have used these cameras to make some real photographs instead. That would have been a much better use of my time.