As an adventure photographer operating in some of the world’s harshest and most remote environments, you need to be ready for anything. Marek Arcimowicz is, and so is his camera gear.
While he primarily uses lightweight Alpha bodies with interchangeable lenses like the α7R III and α6500, he also has space in his bag for something even smaller: the RX100 V compact with its powerful 1.0” sensor and versatile zoom lens. It’s a camera that needs very little space, but produces images that punch well above its weight.
It’s funny,” says Marek, “that when people see you using a small camera like the RX100, they maybe don’t treat it like they should. Because it’s so small, they don’t realise it’s a great photographer’s tool. It’s not so spectacular to look at, but in quality it can be even better than bigger cameras – it’s all in there. Wherever I go it can go with me too, and its size means I can shoot where others can’t.
He recalls the wedding of a friend in India, the grandson of the Maharaja of Jaisalmer. “It was a unique moment,” remembers Marek, “and very special witnessing that aristocracy of India. It was such a rich experience, not in terms of wealth, but in the colours and textures and people – so for a photographer it was a paradise. I used the RX100 there, and because it’s small, I could take pictures without making an impact. I was just there as a friend, so I didn’t want to disturb anyone, and so they let me in closer than anyone else. It was a very special moment in my life, and photographically, too.”
It’s not just its size that makes the RX100 V a stealthy tool, says Marek, but features like the silent shutter, too. “Silent shooting with the electronic shutter,” he says, “lets you work without affecting the subject at all, like you’re invisible. Some people look at you like you’re an amateur compared to the big cameras and lenses they’re using, but if I can get closer and more truthful images, that’s the professional edge.”
From the comforts of a lavish wedding to the rigours of backpacking and shooting on the move, the RX100 V is comfortable with it all, says Marek. “Look,” he laughs, “it’s too small to be a hammer, but I know I can carry the RX with me for years. To keep up with me, to live in the mountains and forests, it has to be strong, and it is. It’s mostly metal, and though you need to be careful with the retractable lens, it’s been with me so many times in the desert, in the snow and ice of the Alps and Siberia, in the Himalayas in Bhutan, and in the humidity of Borneo – even under water in a casing.”
The RX100 V is a versatile beast, too, from its lens, focusing and 24fps shooting speed to its low light and high ISO performance. “The zoom lens is very good quality,” says Marek, “it could be a bit wider, but that’s not easy in such a small package, and what it gives you is great. The 28-100mm equivalent is pretty much optimum for what I do, as it covers everything a documentary photographer needs.”
The lens’ fast aperture combines with the sensor’s great performance at higher ISOs to make it a great low-light camera as well. “I’ve relied on this many times,” says Marek, “for instance a shot taken of my guide in Kashmir last year. It was shot in a tent, with only the light from one or two candles. As someone who used to shoot slide film at 50 or 400 ASA, the ability to shoot at 640, 1000, or even ISOs like 3200 and above, is amazing. The possibilities are stratospheric.”
Marek also makes great use of the RX100 V’s video capabilities, which extend to 4K 30p movies and some amazing 960fps slow-motion effects. “Video is definitely one of the RX100’s strongest points,” he says, “because the quality is amazing. So while you can use it for general family and documentary stuff, it’s pro-level output, too. I’ve been travelling for several years with the Editor in Chief of National Geographic in Poland, and we did a series of films together. One time, filming in Borneo, the crew had big TV production cameras with special underwater equipment, but they didn’t work! So 99% of that movie was done on the RX, and they told me they didn’t expect that quality, but they got it!”
So, with the RX100, quality and versatility is right at his fingertips, says Marek, explaining “when I make 2 x 3ft exhibition prints from it, it’s really difficult for someone to tell that it’s shot on a compact. And all this from a camera that’s so light that it feels like a part of my body.”
"A good traveller has no fixed plan, and is not intent on arriving" - 老子 Lǎozi (Lao Tzu; 6th – 5th century BC)