The first sniff test with the Sony RX10. Stills only right now.

VSL CEO gesticulating wildly at an advisory board meeting for the photography 
department at Austin Community College. Image taken by fellow board member during the "new camera pass around."

Claire knew that it was inevitable that I'd be buying an RX10 and deep down I knew it from the day of the first announcement. How could I not after having experienced nearly nine years of perfection from it's noble ancestor, the Sony R1? For those who've chosen to remain out of the new product loop I'll make a brief detour to flesh out what the camera is: Sony has taken the backlit 20 megabyte sensor from the RX100-2, put it in a body with a serious and uncompromising 24-200mm (equivalent) Carl Zeiss Sony with a constant f2.8 aperture (yes: all the way to 200...), designed in a very good EVF and added enough video feature sets to make most new school video artists very happy. 

They packaged all of this into a beautifully designed package with lots of button and dial controls, a snazzy and easy to navigate menu and the ultra cheap price of $1300. If it does everything it's supposed to do it will be a bargain. One video reviewer who was virtually salivating on his keyboard about the lens made the point that he would pay upwards of $2,000 if he could get just that lens alone for his preferred video system. My friend Eric summed the lens up yesterday by saying that if it performed as advertised it represented the "holy grail" of lenses for videographers...

I'll reserve judgement on the ultimate quality of both the lens and the files until I've had a bit more time with the camera. Today was my first day out with the new toy and of course it was a gray and rainy day (just what one of our UK commenters suggested I try only yesterday. 

So far I'm having glorious fun with the camera and I have not yet revved up the video half. The lens is a "power zoom" and it's "fly-by-wire" so it takes a little getting used to but it's well damped in it's action and doesn't exhibit any of the overshoot I used to get from the first version of Canon's 85mm 1.1:2 L series lens with its fly-by-wire manual focusing. 

The camera is light and agile and while you know you are using a contrast detect AF camera there's really very little focus hesitation or hunting, even in lower light situations. 

I set up the camera today by selecting Jpeg, extra fine, AWB, Auto ISO and I shot mostly in the aperture priority mode sticking to f-stops on the fast side of the dial. It's perfectly fine at f2.8 and I like the bountiful depth of field I can get at the 24mm equivalent when I stop down to f5.6.  I used the center focusing system in S-AF as I do with most cameras and didn't mess with stuff like HDR or fast frame rates. 

With all the talk of bokeh I decided to look at the bokeh of the Pentax 18-55mm DA II lens. It's not a big test as it was all done at f8.

I think the evaluation of bokeh works well when you focus on something close, put the background out of focus and then evaluate the transitions and lens artifacts that manifest themselves in the out of focus areas. In this set up I included (on the right hand edge of the frame) a green "A" clamp in order to have a hard edged object to evaluate. I chose to do my investigation at f8 because that's a sweet spot of overall performance for this lens and all similar lenses. I also chose that f8 stop to challenge the prevailing idea that bokeh is somehow always tied to a wide open lens aperture when in fact it's the description of the quality of the out of focus areas and not a description of lens speed!

What I see in the image is a very nice and even flow through the out of focus areas and calm, happy tonal intersections. In fact, I think the lens is an exemplary rendition of the classic "kit" lens that is so widely and undeservedly disparaged.