Recommended & Best Three Pocket Digital Cameras for Live Music Concerts for Fans (Photos & Video) – Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V, Sony DSC-RX100, Fuji X100/X100S

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This is an update to my previous two articles focused on the same subject (see Article #1, Article #2), so at least some of the information will be redundant.  Technology is constantly changing, evolving, and improving, so I expect that this will require an update about twice a year.  My hope is that some day there will be one camera that does it all, and does it all well, and is of a size/style/form factor that any music fan going to a concert can bring it into the venue with no problems.  That day is not yet here, so my advice includes three different cameras, each of which have pros and cons, and none of which is the best for all circumstances.  As of the time of this writing, my personal recommendations are the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V (or HX30V is you want WiFi), the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100, and the Fuji x100 (though the X100S is out in Japan and due elsewhere in the next 30 days or so).

UPDATE JANUARY 2013 – CLICK IMAGE BELOW TO GO TO UPDATE REVIEW:

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As readers of the Rock Subculture Journal know, I write concert reviews and shoot my own photography for those articles.  Most of the time, I am sanctioned by the artist or their management to shoot with my pro gear (which is all Canon – dual 5D Mark IIIs and a variety of L lenses).  However, every once in a while this is not possible, for a variety of reasons, and in those occasions I follow my own advice that I am outlining below.  As such, I will include real world examples of photographs taken at live concerts with these cameras.

Please note that these reviews and advice are presented in a colloquial fashion, in non-technical language.  I would recommend also reading reviews for the same cameras on some of the photography expert sites such as Digital Photography Review, Steve’s Digicams, Imaging Resource, and others.  Consider my opinions as advice to point you to further research to see what might fit your own digital camera needs.

Video Review Overview Supplement

Some people don’t like to read…  so this is a summary of this article in video form:

My Philosophy About Concert Photography

Everyone has opinions about music concerts and what people should or shouldn’t do at shows.  I have a few personal thoughts about this, but my intent isn’t to create a debate or ever persuade people who may disagree to come around to my way of thinking, but merely to share my point of view to explain my purpose in creating this article and advice resource.

I started going to concerts in the late 80s, and the rules were always “NO CAMERAS”.  Some of my fondest memories from growing up are my experiences going to concerts put on by my favorite artists, and apart from some ticket stubs and concert t-shirts, I don’t have much else to show for it.  It was a different time, a different era, and there just aren’t many photos from those times, let alone the specific shows I personally attended, which in my opinion is unfortunate.

Fast forward to today, and technology has pretty much overrun any wishes by artists/record labels/venues may have in controlling photos taken at concerts.  Once cameras started getting embedded into cell phones, it was a game changer, and there was no turning back.  This in turn resulted in “pocket cameras” being allowed, and in the past few years, advances have been made that make it possible for literally anyone to take some fairly good quality photos from the audience.

I think this is wonderful on balance.  I think of myself as a “gig archivist” though my objective is to memorialize the full experience with both words and quality images.

Having said all that, one counter point that I do agree with and have sympathy with are those who complain about people taking video and shooting photos that detracts from the enjoyment of the show for those around the person using a camera or phone.

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There is nothing more annoying than going to the time and expense to attend a concert only to be stuck behind someone holding their phone or camera up in the air and blocking your view for a good portion of the show.

So I think it’s important to exercise good sense, common courtesy, and the Golden Rule.  If you are going to take photos/video, you should really be mindful of how your actions impact those around you…  keep your camera eye level (or lower), rear LCD (if there is one) dimmed down to its lowest level, etc.  An occasional “pop up” with the camera is okay, but nothing more than that.  If you can’t see and/or want to take a lot of photos, get in line early (if it is a GA show) to get to the front row or pay for a front row seat if its seated.

Just my opinions…

Typical Concert/Venue Camera Rules

In preface to my discussion of these cameras is mention of the camera policy currently employed at most live music rock/pop concerts today.  While this varies from artist to artist, and venue to venue, I would say that the following is what you will encounter 90% of the time, based on my experience attending shows all over the world.

  1. Non-Pro
  2. No Detachable Lens(es)
  3. Pocket Camera
  4. No Flash

Having said that, I always encourage people to check with the venue in advance of the show to check on any camera policies that may deviate from the above, though typically any custom rules are not provided to the venue by artist management until the day of the event.  But some venues have their own rules, regardless of the wishes of the artist, so it is still worthwhile seeking clarification whenever possible.

Recommendations Overview

For those who don’t want to read a lengthy article about cameras, I’ll provide a summary here…

I am recommending three cameras because each excels in certain areas and falls short in others.  Believe it or not, if I don’t have a photo pass, I actually bring all three of these cameras in myself, as each serves a unique purpose.

In short, the Sony HX20V is the best if you are not within the first few rows of the stage.  The zoom allows you to get close-up photos from a significant distance.  The Sony RX100 is much better quality and you can get more shots off and freeze some action, but it is limited to 100mm reach vs 500mm equivalent with the HX20V.  The image quality of the Fuji X100 is unsurpassed compared with any other camera a regular concert goer can bring into a venue with little problem, but since it is fixed at 35mm (no zoom whatsoever), it is really only useful if you are literally in the front row.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V (or HX30V for same model with Wi-Fi)

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This is the best all-around camera, if you are going to buy just one camera.  It is also the cheapest of the three, by a significant margin (today it is $289.00 on Amazon.com).

Pros:

  • 18.2 MP
  • Small and Light; Compact (easily fits in a front jeans pocket)
  • Long Reach/Zoom – 20X (25mm to 500mm equivalent in 35mm spec)
  • Fast Zoom
  • Excellent Video (and excellent sound shooting video)
  • Moderate Battery Life

Cons:

  • Designed for One Shot at a Time (no quality continuous shooting)
  • Relatively “Slow” Lens (maximum aperture of f/3.2)
  • Not Great Still Camera for Action (movement from photographer and/or subject results in blur)

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100

 

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This is a newer, more advanced camera model by Sony – a significant step up from the HX20V.  It is also nearly twice as expensive (today it is $648.00 on Amazon.com)

Pros:

  • 20.2 MP
  • Small and Light; Compact (easily fits in a front jeans pocket)
  • Moderate Reach/Zoom – 3.6X (28mm to 100mm equivalent in 35mm spec)
  • “Fast” Quality Lens with Large Aperture at Widest Focal Length (f/1.8-4.9 Carl Zeiss Lens)
  • High Quality Images with Large 1″ Sensor
  • High Quality Burst Shooting (up to 10fps continuous shooting)
  • Moderate Still Camera for Action (much better than HX20V in freezing action, but results still mixed depending on lighting/settings/movement)
  • Excellent Video (and excellent sound shooting video – but slow zoom)
  • Great Battery Life

Cons:

  • Not Very Long Reach Compared with Cheaper HX20V
  • Slow Zoom (Stills and Video)

Fuji X100 (recommend waiting for or pre-ordering the Fuji x100s)

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This is an amazing camera, but user must be comfortable with manual controls and have basic understanding of photography (shutter speed, aperture, ISO).  It is also much more expensive than the other cameras recommended herein (today it is $1,049.00), and use at concerts is very limited.  A newer model with improved features is also pending release in the next 30 days.

Pros:

  • 12.3 MP
  • “Fast” Quality Lens with Large Aperture (f/2.0 Fujinon Lens)
  • Pro Quality Images with Large APS-C Sensor
  • Excellent Still Camera for Action (can freeze most action reliably)
  • Great Battery Life

Cons:

  • Large; Barely Pocketable
  • Unusual Appearance (some venues may prohibit)
  • Fixed Focal Length (35mm equivalent – no zoom)

I have not used the Fuji X100 for video in concerts, as it is too high quality (and likely not appropriate in many circumstances without approval/consent).

An Important Note About Camera Settings – “Spot Metering”

I’m putting this up and center because being mindful of these suggestions will result in better photos and more “keepers” no matter what camera you use.

The most important setting to look for with your camera is “Spot Metering”.  Not every camera will have it, but each of the three cameras discussed in this article have this option.

This is very important in concert photography due to the extreme lighting usually employed.

If you shoot on the equivalent of “Auto/Automatic” mode on your camera, it will usually evaluate the lighting in the full frame to determine exposure.  Because it can be an extreme of black and very bright, often the subject’s face will be to white/bright (i.e. over exposed).

If you have an alternate mode in your camera that gives you the ability to use Spot Metering, I would highly recommend you find the mode you understand and are most comfortable using that has a Spot Metering option.

With Spot Metering employed, the camera will typically feature a circle in the center of your rear LCD and/or viewfinder…  what you need to do when shooting is place this circle on your subject’s skin (i.e. their face) and press the shutter button down halfway to lock the exposure, then (while still holding the shutter button down halfway), you can “recompose” (or reframe) your subject and then press the shutter button down fully.  The image will then expose the image based on your subject, not the full image, and the results will be much, much better.

In Detail:  Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V

If you find this article useful, making a purchase via the link above will result in a small referral fee being paid by Amazon back to this site.  I purchase my camera gear from Amazon 90% of the time because they have the most competitive pricing, free shipping, and liberal return policies.

As outlined in my first article on this topic, I owned the predecessor to this camera – the Sony DSC9V – and felt it was the perfect single camera solution at the time, for “regular” people going to concerts and wanting to take photos.  When the new HX20V (and HX30V) came out, it prompted me to publish a follow-up article.

In short, if you want just one camera for use at concerts (and outside of concerts as well) that is pocketable, reasonably priced, good for close-up and far away, and that you will have no problems bringing into most shows, look no further.  This is the best single camera solution for all circumstances.

It does have some drawbacks, but you really need to be serious about photography if  you wish to go further in this article and consider the other two options I suggest.

More, I have a feeling that a future camera put out by Sony – likely in the next 12 months – will probably bridge the gap between this HX20v and the RX100 I discuss next.  The perfect camera would have the fast and long zoom of this HX20V as features made part of the RX100.

But today is today, and you never know what the future will bring, or when it will bring it.  I see every concert at a one-time opportunity, and I never want to be in a position of missing a shot, so I always keep up on technology and buy and use the best that I can find.  If something better comes along, I trade up.

So I will talk a little more in-depth about the pros and cons listed in the summary at the start of this article.  If you have any questions or want further clarification, please feel free to publish a Reader Comment at the end of this article and I will help as much as I can.

The HX20V is 18.2 MP, which is very good, but megapixels don’t really amount to much these days…  it is more of a marketing ploy on the box than anything else, so I wouldn’t make any purchase considerations based on megapixels.  As long as there are 10 MP or more, it is fine.

This camera definitely has a “wow” factor with its amazingly long zoom…  in those shows where I am far from the stage, I will zoom in and people who look at the back of my camera are astonished by how long the reach is – it is pretty impressive.  Even with my pro gear, the longest Canon lens I own only goes to 200mm, so with a 500mm reach in a camera that easily fits in your pocket is really cool tech.

The other huge plus is the video quality (and audio along with it).  It shoots really, really impressive HD (1920×1080) video that I suspect is unmatched among other cameras of the same form factor.  Also, it is really good at finding, locking on, and holding focus, which is important.  The same long zoom is also very speedy zooming in and out (which is not true of the Sony RX100, which I’ll talk about more there).  And unlike using it to shoot still images, in video mode there is no blur from action.  Of the three cameras I am recommending, this HX20V is the best for general purpose video.  I have shot with both the HX20V and the RX100 (with it’s bigger 1″ sensor) at the same show, and really, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference in terms of image quality, so the longer, faster zoom of the HX20V makes it the better choice.

Video does drain the battery fast.  Also, in those handful of shows I’ve been to with just this one camera, the batteries go very fast – with photos and video, one battery will not last a full, two set (opener and headliner) show.  I always carry at least one extra battery.  And the other reason is that I’ve had two batteries for this camera (Sony OEM batteries – not knock-offs) flat out die after 5 minutes with a full charge.  So either I’ve been really unlucky, or these batteries run a bit faulty.  So if you buy this camera, I can’t recommend enough having at least two fully charged batteries with you, as the duds will charge and show a full charge once put into the camera, yet will crap out after five to ten minutes of use.

The biggest drawbacks for this camera are based on the technology employed…  the lens is not fast and there is no real useful continuous shooting mode (there is a lame one I don’t use).  The result of the former is that you will get blurry photos with even moderate movement, and you are limited to shoot, wait, shoot…  one photo at a time.

The workaround is that you have to learn to have a steady hold on the camera, and you have to time your shots.  If you pay attention to lighting, and the subject, and try to time your shot when there is little movement and bright (white, preferably) lights, you will have more “keepers”.  If there is a lot of movement, zooming in for close-up shots also helps (i.e. a close up of a face will have less dramatic movement than the strumming of a guitar).

Excellent camera, but as with each, you use it and learn how to work it to mitigate the weaknesses – in this case, bring a few batteries, be steady, time your shots.

If I went to all variety of shows (small club to huge arena) and my seating varied (up close as well as nose bleed seats in the rafters), and I had to pick one camera, this would be it, hands down.

Below are a few shots I personally took at concerts using this camera:

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In Detail:  Sony DSC-RX100

If you find this article useful, making a purchase via the link above will result in a small referral fee being paid by Amazon back to this site.  I purchase my camera gear from Amazon 90% of the time because they have the most competitive pricing, free shipping, and liberal return policies.

As noted, the Sony RX100 is much more expensive than the HX20V.  Looking at the two cameras, they even look very similar (though with close inspection you will see the fit and finish of the RX100 is much higher quality).  The RX100 is slightly smaller (almost negligibly so).

The two huge advantages the RX100 has over the HX20V is the much bigger sensor (the RX100 has a 1″ CMOS sensor while the HX20V has a 1/2.3-inch sensor) and the superior lens.

In short, the still images of the RX100 are just much, much better.

If you are at a concert in the first few rows, unless you want extreme close-ups, the RX100 is just a better camera – it is also fast and has very impressive continuous shooting.  Once you lock onto your subject (say a guitarist standing on a monitor, just about to jump off of it), you can time your shot and then just hold down the shutter button and fire off a dozen shots in two seconds, and when you get home you get to see the shots you actually got.  In the same scenario, with the HX20V, you will have one shot, and it will probably be blurry.

So you can see that there are different circumstances for each camera where its capabilities have an opportunity to shine.

As explained in the summary, there are some drawbacks…  the zoom is slow – painfully show in video.  The one benefit to the slow zoom in video is that is is more steady, so the resulting video “feels” a little more controlled and professional.   And if you are used to the 500mm equivalent reach of the HX20V, the RX100 feels very short by comparison.  Unless you are content with shots as wide as the stage itself, you need to be close – the first few rows.

My hope is that eventually Sony will converge the advantages of both the HX20V and the RX100.  Bringing both to a show can be a pain, but they each have distinct advantages, and if it is a show and/or artist that is really important to you, its hard to anticipate with certainty which will serve you better.

If I was consistently up close at shows, or going to shows at small venues, and only had one camera to bring it, that might be the best circumstances for choosing the RX100.

Below are a few shots I personally took at concerts using this camera:

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In Detail:  Fujifilm X100

If you find this article useful, making a purchase via the link above will result in a small referral fee being paid by Amazon back to this site.  I purchase my camera gear from Amazon 90% of the time because they have the most competitive pricing, free shipping, and liberal return policies.

Okay this camera is simply magic, and near legendary among even the top photographers around the world.  It isn’t for everyone, and certainly not all circumstances…  it is not a universal concert camera.  However, if you are in the right spot, and the lighting is right, the height of the stage it right…  you can pull off pro quality images that are nothing short of stunning (and that neither of the other two cameras recommended herein could ever come close to pulling off).  It is a very “special circumstances camera” for concerts.

With this camera, you really need to be comfortable to some degree with manual controls on a camera.  Now, there are “A” modes on aperture and shutter speed, as well as auto ISO, but you really need to have an understanding of these controls, and you will not get great shots in full “A” mode.

This camera has an APS-C sensor, which is the same size sensor in many DSLRs (like the Canon Digital Rebels, for instance).  This means that it delivers image quality that transcends what the two Sony cameras I’ve recommended can create.

It also has an f/2.0 lens, which means you need much less light, and you can have real depth of field (DOF) effects, and blur the background and foreground around the subject.

The biggest drawback is that it is fixed at 35mm.  You can’t zoom in.  You can’t zoom out.  Well, other than by moving your feet, which usually isn’t possible at a concert.  And 35mm really pushed things out a bit by how you see them with your naked eyes, so there is not inherent reach with 35mm.  It is what it is.

For me, if I’m not literally in the front row, it’s not even worth bothering with for any photos of the artist(s).

But the images can be remarkable – in my opinion the best you will get from any camera that you can (barely) stick in your front jeans pocket).

I love that the aperture and shutter speed can be adjusted via hardware – dials on the camera – this is awesome.

With easy control over shutter speed, you can really freeze any action on stage (assuming decent enough lighting).  This leads to potential for amazing shots.  Blows away the two Sony cameras.

The biggest downsides are that it does not have consecutive shooting (shoot, wait, shoot is what you are stuck with) and it is kind of slow in that regard.  It does turn on quickly, but photo to photo, taking shots is slow.

So this is the perfect “secondary” concert camera, if you are really serious about getting some awesome images under limited circumstances.  And if you have interest in photography, it’s an awesome street camera and really “everyday” shooting camera.  Capable of incredible images, and it’s light, portable, durable, and the battery lasts forever.

Below are a few shots I personally took at concerts using this camera:

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P!nk-Pink-Concert-Review-2013-Tour-Truth-About-Love-San-Jose-HP-Pavilion-Photos-171-RSJ

However, I would *highly* recommend waiting and paying a few hundred dollars more for the Fujifilm X100S, as it improves on several of the drawbacks mentioned about the x100 model (I have personally pre-ordered the X100S and will be selling my X100 as soon as I have the updated model).  This new version will be faster and allow for consecutive shooting, making it much more valuable.

If you find this article useful, making a purchase via the link above will result in a small referral fee being paid by Amazon back to this site.

Recommended Settings

To offer a bit more assistance, I thought I would share my recommended settings for each of these cameras to help those who wish to use them in concert settings… (if anyone has any alternate recommendations, please post a Reader Comment further below)

Sony HX20V Camera Settings for Concerts

Mode – “S” (with shutter speed at 1/250 or 1/320 depending on how much action is on stage)

Top Menu Settings:

  • Picture Effect – Off
  • Still Image Size – 18M
  • EV – 0EV
  • ISO – ISO Auto
  • White Balance – WB Auto
  • White Balance Shift – WB+Off
  • Focus – Center Focus
  • Metering Mode – Spot
  • Cont. Shooting Interval – High (though I never use this feature as it results in poor images)
  • Bracket Setting – Exp+0.3
  • Smile Shutter – Off
  • Smile Detection Sensitivity – Slight Smile
  • Face Detection – Not Available (Center AF)
  • Color Mode – Standard
  • Color Saturation – Standard
  • Contrast – Standard
  • Sharpness – Standard
  • Movie Quality – AVC HD 28M (PS)
  • Still Image Size (Dual Rec) – 16:9(13M Level)
  • Movie SteadyShot – Active
  • GPS Setting – Off

Main Settings:

  • Beep – Off
  • Panel Brightness – 1(Dark)
  • Display Color – Black
  • Demo Mode – Off
  • Airplane Mode – Off
  • GPS setting – Off
  • TransferJet – Off

Shooting Settings:

  • Movie format – AVCHD
  • AF Illuminator – Off
  • Grid Line – Off
  • Clear Image Zoom – On
  • Digital Zoom – Off
  • Wind Noise Reduct. – Off
  • Micref Level – Normal
  • Red Eye Reduction – Off
  • Blink Alert – Off
  • Write Date – Off
  • Expanded Focus – On
  • Disp. Resolution – Standard

Sony RX100 Camera Settings for Concerts

Mode – “S” (with shutter speed at 1/250 or 1/320 depending on how much action is on stage)

Photo Settings:

  • Image Size – L:20M
  • Aspect Ratio – 3:2
  • Quality – Fine
  • Drive Mode – Cont. Shooting
  • Flash Mode – Flash Off (make sure this is off so you don’t flash at subjects, which is distracting/annoying for them)
  • Focus Mode – Single-shot AF
  • Autofocus Area – Spot
  • Smile/Face Detect. – On
  • ISO – ISO Auto
  • Metering Mode – Spot
  • Flash Comp. +0.0
  • DRO/Auto HDR – D-Range Opt.
  • Creative Style – Standard
  • Picture Effect – Off
  • Clear Image Zoom – On
  • Digital Zoom – On (when shooting there is a line marking between optical and digital zoom, and I don’t pass that line, but keep “On” just in case)
  • High ISO NR – Normal
  • AF Illuminator – Off (make sure this is off so you don’t bounce distracting/annoying lights off the subjects)
  • SteadyShot – On
  • Color Space – sRGB

Video Settings:

  • File Format – AVCHD
  • Record Setting – 60p 28M(PS)
  • Image Size (Dual Rec) – L:17M
  • SteadyShot – Active
  • Audio Recording – On
  • Wind Noise Reduct. – Off

Additional Settings:

  • Red Eye Reduction – Off
  • Grid Line – Off
  • Auto Review – 2 Sec
  • Peaking Level – Off
  • Control Ring – Standard
  • Control Ring Display – On
  • Func. of Center Button – Standard
  • Func. of Left Button – Drive Mode
  • Func. of Right Button – Flash Mode
  • MF Assist – On
  • Focus Magnif. Time – 2 Sec
  • Face Priority Tracking – On
  • Face Registration – -

Fuji X100 Camera Settings for Concerts

Shooting Menu

  • ISO Auto Control
    • On
    • Max Sensitivity – 3200
    • Min Shutter Speed – 1/125
  • Image Size – L 3:2
  • Image Quality – F
  • Dynamic Range – 100
  • Film Simulation – STD
  • ND Filter – Off
  • Color – High
  • Sharpness – STD
  • Highlight Tone – STD
  • Shadow Tone – STD
  • Noise Reduction – STD
  • Flash – +0
  • Wide Conversion Lens – Off
  • Silent Mode – On
  • Image Disp. – 1.5 Sec
  • Frame No. – Cont.
  • Operation Vol. – Off
  • Shutter Volume – Off
  • Shutter Sound – 1
  • Auto Power Off – 2 Min
  • OVF Power Save Mode – Off
  • Quick Start Mode – Off
  • Fn Button – ISO
  • Red Eye Removal – Off
  • AF Illuminator – Off
  • AE/AF-Lock Mode – P
  • AE/AF-Lock Button – AE-L
  • Focus Check – On
  • Focus Ring – Clockwise
  • Focus Scale Units – ft
  • Color Space – sRGB
  • Long Exposure NR – On
  • Save Org Image – Off
  • Autorotate PB – On
  • Background Color – Black
  • Guidance Display – On
  • Corrected AF Frame – On

Update July 2013

I recently purchased one of the Canon EOS M cameras with the 22mm pancake lens, as well as the Sony HX50V (the update from the Sony HX20V/30V with longer zoom and other enhancements), so thought I would publish a quick size comparison between:

  • Canon 5D Mark III with 24-70 2.8 II [LEFT]
  • Sony HX50V [RIGHT TOP]
  • Sony RX100 [RIGHT MIDDLE]
  • Canon EOS M with 22mm [RIGHT BOTTOM]

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Below are a few direct comparisons between the Canon EOS M and the Sony HX50V:

Compare-Canon-5D-Mark-III-Canon-EOS-M-Sony-RX100-Sony-HX-50V-02-RSJ

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Jason DeBord

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  • Steve Blumert

    What a great article, it is exactly what I have been looking for. Thank you. I have been trudging my Nikon d7000 to venues and found that with a prime 50mm I might talk my way in, an 85mm raises eyebrows and a telephoto is instant banishment. I have looked at the RX100 and the X100 but I am concerned about the images that I will get from the back of the house at larger venues. I almost pulled the trigger on a Panasonic FZ200 which is really a Leica but the lag factor between shots was just too great to make it worthwhile. Hey maybe you can tell me how to get great seats, internet and phone sales are such a scam.How do they sell out an entire venue in under 30 seconds?

    • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

      Hi Steve,

      Glad it was helpful. Of course, I haven’t tried all digital cameras, but I do a lot of research and eliminate and narrow down and try, and see what works and what doesn’t work. Unfortunately, there is no one perfect solution (and carrying around a lot of cameras can be a pain).

      I do see at least one DSLR slip into probably every other show I go to, and if they are up front, they are shut down by security more than half the time. There are so many factors with this (lighting, location, security, venue policy, artist policy, etc.) that it is a big risk to bring in (more so obviously with GA shows – you lose your spot if you have to take it back to your car or whatever).

      I know the three cameras I mentioned in this article are pretty conservative options – you should not have any problems, though the Fuji X100 raises some eyebrows just because it looks like something out of 1950.

      I don’t think that you will be pleased with the Sony RX100 or Fuji X100 from the back, unless you want the full stage and some crowd in the shot.

      As far as getting up close goes, it is really case by case.

      GA shows are more frequently doable, if you are willing to line up for hours and hours and hours before a show. But this is assuming that you aren’t dealing with any kind of “early entry” scenarios that are becoming more and more popular, or any other kind of VIP situation where people coming much later bypass you (i.e. radio station winners and such).

      And, even when you put in the time, you can still get screwed; things can still play out in a way that is not fair to when people showed up and waited in line all day. Usually this happens when the big single line gets broken up into smaller lines to process people through security… and if there is any kind of pat down, then it is further broken down into a male line and female line, and the female concert goers usually get shafted, as it takes longer to search their purses and what not.

      For seated shows, sometimes you can get lucky and if you F5 Ticketmaster or Live Nation or whatever right when the go on sale, you can score front row (or close to front) seats, but it seems to be getting more and more difficult.

      For big arena shows, much of those tickets are now being sold in expensive VIP packages… so unless you want to spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars, you are out of luck.

      But even with smaller shows, a lot of the best tickets are often allocated to principals involved in the show (the artists, management, promoters, etc.), and never put on public sale. A clue to when this happens is when you go on StubHub and half the front row is listed all together by one anonymous seller.

      Some artists are cool though, and put their allocations out at face value to their fans… a shout out to Metric, who I know from experience will do this and sell them through their site at face value. Kudos.

      But yes, there are also scalpers… I’ve bought tickets for shows through StubHub, and when the tickets show up I check the tracking number and see that they were sent from the East Coast for a West Coast show, etc.

      It’s all kind of a mess, and the fans are the ones paying for it, unfortunately. Plus ticket prices keep going higher and higher (just for basic tickets, not to mention the super expensive VIP packages).

      I really don’t have any answers or solutions. It’s too bad though.

  • Tom

    Thanks, Jason, this article is just what I was looking for also. I got my RX100 last week and have been anticipating a show we’re going to next month. I just set my camera with your specs and saved it to the MR setting. We’re seated right up front–less than 10 feet from the singer, who is this case in one of my faves–Joan Osborne–so I’m looking forward to some good pics. Thanks, again.

    • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

      Hi Tom,

      Thanks for writing – I think you will really enjoy your shots from the RX100 for that show. I’d recommend practicing a bit before the show, to make sure the settings will work for you. I’d love to see some of your pics after – Joan Osborne is awesome! I’m hoping she extends her tour south of Seattle. :)

      Jason

  • Pidge

    Thanks so much for such a useful article. Ordered the HX30 and then read this. Glad I made the right decision!

  • Andrew B.

    You rock once again Jason! I used your first article to get the HX9V, now I’ve upgraded to the HX20V. I noticed one thing I wanted to ask you on the settings you use. On the Micref Level – Normal, I usually go to a smaller venue that can be extremely loud. Would running it on low be a better option for higher sound quality for me?
    Thanks again for the articles, keep them coming!
    -Andrew

    • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

      Hi Andrew,

      Glad you found some of this helpful. I don’t see any downside to trying to turn the mic level down… also, a friend of mine uses the HX9V and when he is close to the stage, he positions his index finger on his opposite hand across the front of the speakers as a buffer… not on the speakers but just in front.

      • Andrew B.

        I used my hx20v for the first show, and I was a bit disappointed in the audio for the first time using it. I noticed the sound was “tinny” and lacked bass compared to the hx9v. I could totally be where I was standing at, but I don’t know. I was using the normal setting for the mic volume. Here are two comparisons: hx9v: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2K6TISbHeJg&list=UUodrZYvvOtPP8TurydEB9BQ&index=12
        hx20v: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HiLroOErw9A&list=UUodrZYvvOtPP8TurydEB9BQ&index=1

        Both are from about the same spot. The video quality is better on the HX20v and seemed to do better all around than the hx9v.
        Still, I like the camera better than the hx9v for most everything. I noticed that Sony has the hx series listed as discontinued now! I wonder what is next to replace them?

        • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

          Hi Andrew,

          Thanks for taking the time to share some impressions/experiences.

          With regard to sound, I think that there are a lot of variables, and it is really case by case and show by show. I recently shot a few videos with the HX20V at a New Order/Johnny Marr show, and I had the opposite result – way, way too much base recorded.

          I would say try it at a few more shows and you will probably notice different results. There is no practical way at a show (that I’m aware of) to really know what quality sound you are recording at the time… more you find out when you get home.

          Wow, that is really interesting about the discontinuation. I just went to the official Sony site and got the same message on the HX20V.

          As a side note, I recently tried the Sony HX300V with its 1200mm equivalent zoom, and found it to be terrible for still photography in concert settings at the long end of the zoom. Without a tripod, but using railing as support, I could not achieve a sharp focus on a stationary artist on stage (who was well-lit). Not recommended for concert photography.

          I’m interested to see what Sony will be announcing to replace the HX20V series… would be nice if they had something with the RX100 sensor and the HX20V zoom capability.

          Jason

          • Andrew B.

            Agreed, I would like the bigger sensor and Zeiss lens on the RX series Sony’s. But built on an HX series camera. I don’t need anymore zoom than the HX20v has right now, and the 18MP is enough, though a RAW setting would be a huge improvement. I hope Sony is listening in!

          • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

            Exciting times. I don’t know if you’ve seen the new Rioch that is coming – tiny form factor with APS-C sensor… http://bit.ly/121kQiP …just too bad you are stuck at 28mm equivalent (rendering it front row only for concert photography). It’s like a less capable Fuji X100s, but in a more compact sized camera. In a year or two we’ll be seeing cameras like this with some zoom…

        • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

          Sony has now announced the HX50V – due in less than a month. Looks awesome, just too bad it doesn’t have the 1″ sensor…

          http://store.sony.com/p/20.4-megapixel,-30x-optical-zoom/en/p/DSCHX50V/B

          • Andrew B.

            Interesting camera, though the price keeps creeping up. It is still missing some features it needs imho. Some form of RAW and a faster/better lens. The bigger sensor would be nice too, but I don’t see it happening at this price point yet. They are getting closer to the perfect pocket camera all the time. I hope you get a chance to review it to see your thoughts on it.

          • Andrew B.

            I also just bought a Nikon D7100. Since I kind of know my local venue owners, I am going to see if I can get into the shows with it. I am just not happy with the overall performance of the point and shoots right now. If you get a chance do an updated review of the latest ones again. Lots of good info from the last one you did!

          • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

            I’m also contemplating picking up one of the Canon EOS M’s… they are so cheap now and with either of the two pancake lenses (22mm or 40mm), it looks like a point and shoot, and has much more reach with the 40mm than the Fuji X100/X100s with the 1.6x crop factor. I know some complained about sluggish autofocus, but it sounds like it is much better with the new firmware. With the 22mm pancake is selling as low as $450/$399, which is cheaper than the Sony HX50V or Sony RX100…

          • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

            If you check out my YouTube channel, all the videos shot at the Super Freestyle Explosion show were shot with the HX50V. I’ll do a follow-up once I have more time with it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/vang.pap.5 Vang Pap

    hello! very helpful article! I want to purchase a camera to record backstage and onstage during my bands tour. since my budget is limited I thought to go with the Sony DSC-HX10V based on your reviews. cause i thought it would be a good camera for everyday activities as well. the Zoom Q3HD is also a good option for HD video and audio but it wont take any photos. I also considered buying a camcorder but I’m afraid that the sound sound quality on a 250$ camcorder wont be that good judging from clips I’ve heard. I would like to know your opinion !

    • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

      Hi Vang,

      You might want to look at the Zoom H4N for audio-only. I have one and it is amazing with a lot of connectivity options, though it has built in mics as well. You can always sync sound and audio later (just make sure that they are recorded at the same bit rate).

      What is your total budget? I think the DSC-HX9V or 10V will be fine for video. Still photos depends on your band and what kind of action you are shooting – you will not be able to stop action with still photos.

      I think the Sony HX__V series of cameras record really great sound for video, for being a pocket camera.

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  • Lori Sexton

    Another quick question, how is the video on the HX50V when you are near the stage. The one concert I will be in rows 2-7 and the other one 1st row. I want to be able to get great sound.

    • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

      The HX20V and HX50V are pretty much the same when it comes to video, with the HX50V having longer reach (zoom). Here is a recent video using the HX50V, from right up against the stage: http://youtu.be/wMcOZ6S2BoQ

    • Andrew B.

      I want to add if you are looking for great sound the HX9V is better in my opinion. The HX50V might be better than the HX20V with the external mic that you can add to the hot shoe. I haven’t been impressed with the audio yet on the HX20V.

  • Megan

    Hello :) I want to buy a good camera for concerts so this is a great article! I’m just wondering what you think about the Sony Cybershot DSC-WX300. Also do you know a good camera that does have continuous shooting but is cheaper than the DSC-RX100?

    • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

      Hi Megan,

      I’ve never used the Sony WX300, so can’t offer any advice on that one. The RX100 is expensive (and now there is an updated model coming at the end of next month – the Sony RX100 II), but it is probably the cheapest quality consecutive shooting you could buy short of getting a DSLR.

      There are some deals to be had on the Canon mirrorless – the Canon EOS M – like $399 including one lens… but you could probably only get one into a concert using one of the two pancake lenses, which have a fixed focal length.

      There are also some Micro Four Third options, as older models on camera bodies are often sold quite cheaply, and the same with Sony Nex. But some venues are strict about “no removable lenses”, and you can only really get “pocketable” with a fixed focal length lens, as they can be very shallow.

      Jason

  • John

    Thanks for your awesome reviews! I was planning to buy the Sony HX20v and when I went to Amazon it told be that there is now a new model, Sony HX50V. It has 30x optical zoom (compared to 20x for the 20v). It also seems to have the ability to manually control the shutter speed. Have you tried the 50v or have any info? I would appreciate your feedback before I make a purchase. Perhaps this is the camera between the 20v & dxc-rx100 that you were hoping they would make?

    • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

      Hi John,

      Yes, that is correct. I now own the HX50V and have found though at the long end of the tele in concert settings that the images can be a little noisy in the blacks if things aren’t really brightly lit.

      The RX100 is much better, but only if you can get your shots within 100mm or closer… I bring both the HX50V and RX100 to shows if I don’t have a photo pass, but if I am close enough, get all my shots with the RX100. Image quality is better, freezing action is better, and consecutive/burst shooting is better. The only thing the HX50V has on the RX100 is reach.

      • John

        Thanks – I ordered (& already received – next day even though I used my free Prime 2 day delivery option!) the HX50V from Amazon & I used your link so I hope you get the referral benefit. I’ll be at the Hollywood Bowl this Sunday for Rodrigo Y Gabriella and will not be super close so I’m looking forward to using that zoom… TheRX100 will be on my wish list (at least until after this weekend!)

        • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

          Thanks for that! Yeah, Hollywood Bowl is huge, so HX50V is the way to go. It also has great lighting so that is a big help. Just make sure you use spot exposure and meter off the artist’s faces and use shutter speed priority at like 1/160-1/250 sort of range, depending on how fast motion is… would be interested in hearing your results! There is also an update to the RX100 coming soon, so you would probably be better with that than the current one if you end up going for a second camera someday (cost difference is negligible).

          • John

            Had a great Bowl night & was v pleased with the photos I got with the HX50V – that zoom was great – my friends were amazed at the pictures I sent them and how close the camera got even though we were at least 150ft from the stage. I used your recommended settings. The lighting was actually pretty difficult after it got dark but I took lots and got a few good shots! Thanks also for your advice about the RX100-M2 – which I just pre-ordered. Will be at Outside Lands in August & I hope I will have it by then. I have a question about videos – I use a mac and normally use iPhoto or imovie for my videos (using the 09 version of both) – iPhoto sees the HX50V & shows all the photos but no videos – imovie does not “see” the camera as a device. Not sure if you can help me on this but thought it was worth asking. Many thanks, again.

          • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

            I think that their might be an application that you can download from Sony to convert it out of camera to another format. There are also a variety of software programs that you can use to change from one video format to pretty much anything else – like there is a suite from AVS that is not too expensive, and I bought something recently (can’t recall what it was at the moment) that included Sony’s Movie Studio Platinum.

  • James Norman

    hello – my lumix ZS7 uses AVCHD Lite, and can shoot continuous video until the memory card is full (over an hour at a time). is the HX20v capable of this, or is it strictly limited to 29 minutes in AVCHD?
    thanks.

    • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

      I’ve never run it continuously, but the battery life is very long – I wouldn’t be surprised if it ran an hour. You’ll have to read the Sony specs to see what their claims are. I always bring extra batteries.

  • karina

    hello, i have been reading about this topic a lot since i will be going to the pink concert at the staples center and dont really know much about cameras, considering also the fact that i wont be really close to the stage (btw i loved the pink pictures you posted, you got so close to the stage, these pictures were a welcome gift while reading your article), so your article has been the best of all…now im convinced to get the Sony hx20v but since i live in a country where we dont really have many technological options i think it will be easier to find the hx50v since is the last one and the Sony Store might have it, so i will be searching for it this next week….now my question is if i am lucky enough to find both models which would you recommend me? considering the place the show wil take place, knowing the lighting etc since you have already been there, and noting that i will not be close to the stage, i got tickets on floor risers…i would really appreciate your advice since, this is going to be my 1st pink concert, and it will take place in a country and city i have never been before, an experience i really really wish to keep in my mind but also have some pictures as a memory :o) thanks in advance, and excuse my poor english…greeting!!!!

    • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

      Hi Karina,

      Your English is wonderful!

      From a distance you might be better with the Sony HX50V anyway, since it has the longer reach. Honestly though, I think you will be pleased with either one.

      I’d love to see your shots/video afterwards – please send me a link if you publish them online somewhere!

      Jason

      • karina

        Thaks for your reply….. of course i will send you some shots, hope some nice ones haha…..greetings!

  • karina

    I was trying the settings recommendations you gave about the sony hx30v, is it normal after all is set that the icon for EV and ISO on the setting menu doesnt show?

    • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

      Yes, different setting options come and go depending on which mode you are in – best to experiment to see each option… :)

      Jason

  • http://raptinsound.blogspot.com/ Julie

    Jason,

    I found your article to be amazingly helpful. I’m an amateur music blogger and have been attending music festivals and concerts for a few years now. It’s something I absolutely love and hope to continue doing.

    I’ve had my share of point and shoot cameras, all of which were okay at the time, but never quite did the job. My most recent camera purchase was a Canon G11 a couple of years back (I know; I’m long overdue for something new.) I love the quality photos my G11 takes, but as I came to discover over time, the G11 isn’t
    the best option for concert photography on an amateur level. I’m coming up on a few gigs that I’m very excited about attending and shooting, but I can’t bring myself to attend these shows without a more suitable camera in hand. I’m definitely on a budget being a college student, so your recommendation of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V seems like the best option for me. But I’m a bit worried over your comments about the blur that occurs with any slight movement from you or the subject. Is it a fairly major con? I worry about this because I suffer from one very minor handicap: I’m a 5’2 girl. Almost inevitably, I get myself stuck behind someone taller than me at a venue and find that I’m having to stand on my tiptoes to capture a decent shot. This results in poorly timed photos that typically turn out blurry. My G11 definitely doesn’t help me out in such circumstances, as it has a very low zoom, and doesn’t function well in low-lighting (at least not that I’ve noticed.)

    I’ve been researching a good camera to purchase that would give me the quality concert photos I long for in low-light settings with fast-moving subjects, while also being a compact piece of equipment that I can hobble around with high above my head. On this note, I’ve read quite a few positive reviews on the Nikon 1 S1 and it’s many useful features as well as an interchangeable lens. I’ve yet to own a dSLR, so I was considering going out on a limb with my wallet and buying a Nikon S1 to see if it would suit my needs.

    Although buyers rave that the S1 is quite compact for being an advanced digital camera with interchangeable lenses, that’s just the problem: The lenses. More than likely, I won’t be able to carry the Nikon S1 into a venue without getting stopped and questioned. I’ve read a few discussion boards that claim that the S1 is so compact-looking that you can get away with it, but I don’t want to take any chances.

    I would love your opinion on this. I’m in quite a predicament. Is the Sony HX20V the best path for me to go down, or are there other options for me? Again, I’m only an amateur, but I would like to step it up a notch in capturing decent photos at concerts; be it in an intimate setting or a large crowd.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read my lengthy comment!

    All the best,
    Julie G.

    • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

      Hi Julie,

      Thanks for posting and sorry for the slow reply. I think the biggest question is what is your budget? If you could let me know, I can give you better advice. Also, if you plan to do still photos and video or just still photos. There are a lot of great options these days…

      Jason

      • http://raptinsound.blogspot.com/ Julie

        Jason, thanks for your reply!

        I suppose my budget varies. Ideally I would like to stay below $500, but I would be willing to spend a little extra $$ if it meant getting my hands on a camera I would get plenty of good use out of. Of course, the ability to get a camera into most (if not all) festivals and venues is a key element in my choice of purchase. I wouldn’t want to spend a lot of money on a great camera, only to find that I’m unable to get it past security.

        I primarily do stills. I rarely use a camera for video after owning a smartphone. Having a video option is always nice, but it’s not a necessity.

        I look forward to your response! Thank you again for your time. It’s greatly appreciated.

        Take care,
        Julie

        • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

          In the $500 range, I would probably recommend the Sony RX100, which is around $600 new, but have seen deals lately for $550 and maybe less if you shop around. The only thing is that 100mm zoom equivalent would need to be long enough.

          Alternately, I’ve seen deals lately on some models of the Sony Nex and Nikon 1, but then you always risk getting turned away at the door of a show due to the detachable lenses. Plus even with discounted bodies, your cost will go up with lenses.

          I have not used it myself, but have read really good things about the new Rioch GR, but you are stuck with a fixed 28mm focal length, which is pretty wide – you’d really need to be in the front row, and even then end up cropping images.

          One camera I’ve really wanted to try out is one of the Sigma Merrils – these are also fixed length but low profile, and they have three newer models with three different focal lengths – like the DP-1 is 35mm equivalent. They are not supposed to be too good in low light, but have APS-C sensors and are 46 megapixel, so you can crop down and still have a very high res image. These are around $800 though.

          I’m a big fan of the Sony RX100 though, and am actually contemplating selling mine and getting the new “II” version. The only real limitation is the 100mm max focal length, but it does great video also.

          Jason

          • http://raptinsound.blogspot.com/ Julie

            Jason,

            It sounds like the Sony RX100 is going to be my best option, as far as price and practicality is concerned. Not to mention it will probably be acceptable for entry at nearly all venues. It’s never guaranteed that I will make it to the front row at shows, so having a semi-reliable zoom will come in handy. If I knew I could get away with taking the Nikon 1 to shows, I would probably make that my choice. It’s a great starter dSLR. But as we’ve both pointed out, there’s too much risk with a detachable lens camera. I’d rather not take any chances!

            I notice that you’ve listed settings to go along with each camera recommendation in your review for concerts. I think I’ll definitely give those settings a try once I get my hands on an RX100. Right now it’s decently priced on Amazon. I think it will be the right decision for me.

            Again, thank you so much for your help! I really appreciate your time. I feel more confident in making a purchase now.

            All the best,
            Julie G.

          • Commenter

            Well, I can tell you that you don´t missed that much with Nikon 1 cameras. They have miserable sound quality as audio is limited to 128kb/s.

            In general I wouldn´t recommend these brands:
            Nikon – most cameras are limited to 128kb/s except for DSLRs and as DSLRs aren´t allowed at many concerts it´s a deal-breaker
            Samsung – most cams also have too low bitrate and mics are clipping.

            Canon – their new cameras are also limited to 128kb/s in video mode and some of the older ones still with PCM recording have bad mics. Well, I tested the Ixus 255 HS this year, sound quality is ok, photos also but it´s a fully automatic camera
            Olympus – they have higher audio bitrate but often with inefficient codec and the mics on their cameras are mostly miserable.

            Casio is a bit of a mixed bag – sound quality is surprisingly good but overall video- and photo quality are miserable.

            As a rule of thumb cameras with AVCHD recording have better sound quality – in most cases, there are also ones with bad mics/sound chips.
            So my experiences.

          • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

            Thank you for sharing such great info. Any insight on the Panasonic Micro Four Thirds cameras for video? I’ve heard they are pretty good, but never tried one myself.

            Jason

  • Skye

    hi there ! whats a good camera that is pocket sized & is below 34mm zoom, And is good for like Concerts when you’re near the speaker or quality like if you take a photo it wont be blurry or ugly?

    • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

      The Sigma DP-1 Merrill is supposed to be incredible, but only is there is adequate lighting. It is 28mm equivalent. I’m talking strictly still photos though.

      • Skye

        i have a olympus styles tough 8010 do you think thats okay? :)

        • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

          I’m not familiar with that one…

  • http://zekeweeks.com @ZekeWeeks

    This gives me a lot to think about – thanks! I’ve been experimenting with this all year on my Sony NEX-6 – an APS-C mirrorless camera that works amazingly for me with a 50mm prime, but gets trouble from concert security about half the time :-/

    It’s hard for to find the best approach since optimizing for both low light quality and portability is contrary to most of the wisdom I find in the photography world.

    Right now I’m sure I need to downsize to something that looks less offensive to concert security. I’m pleasantly surprised that you speak so highly of the HX20V right next to cameras with much larger sensors and price tags. I had written off small sensor cameras because I struggled to get usable photos in low light, but you make it sound very practical.

    I do have a question about it for you – your example HX20V photos here are all from moments with good white light on the stage. How well does it hold up in darker situations? (Let’s assume the aperture isn’t an issue here; I’m mostly wondering if you get the best shots by timing for optimal lighting conditions, or if you find a camera like the HX20V/HX50V truly the most practical for any situation from a distance because of what the zoom lets you do.)

    Thanks again! This has probably been the most useful piece I’ve read from someone else working in this situation.

    • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

      The more I’ve used the HX50V (which I used to replace my HX20V), I’ve found it to be pretty much unusable in most concert situations. Even in the light on the artist is good, any blacks behind them becomes a mess. Fine for video, horrible for still concert photography.

      More and more I’ve used the Sony RX100 instead (though I tend to be right up against the stage, or close to it, most of the time).

      You might want to look into Micro Four Thirds… they are smaller profile, and there are some really low profile lenses.

      I think NEX cameras are the most recognizable mirrorless that are known to have APS-C sensors and removable lenses.

      A lot of it depends on your distance from the stage, and how much zoom you need. I’ve brought a Canon EOS-M into a few shows with the wide pancake lens, but it is very wide, you have to crop.

      I’m really picky about noise in image, so I’ve come around to preferring to shoot better quality cameras wide and cropping vs cameras with long zooms that have sensors that are not up to the task.

      Jason

  • Rini

    Hello, greeting from Indonesia. I’ve been searching info about pocket digital camera and I found your article. I love going to concerts but usually can’t afford the expensive tickets, so that’s why I always sat at the back, the cheap section. But I really want to capture the some pictures and videos. What do you think about Canon PowerShot SX 270/280 HS? Have you ever tried before? It has 20x optical zoom also and said that it’s good for low light room. My budget is around $300. What a proper camera for that amount of money? I’m sorry for my poor English. Thanks before :)

    • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

      I’m not familiar with the Canon, but for concert point and shoots, I would go with one of the Sony HX__V series cameras. You should be able to find a new/used/refurbished Sony HX20V for under $300 – that is what I would recommend. I think that has the most “bang for the buck”.

      Jason

      • Rini

        I think I’ll try to find Sony HX20V online since the stores here have the newest series of that camera, which is above my budget. Thanks for the reply.

        • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

          I used to have the HX20V and upgraded to the more expensive and newer HX50V – I like the HX20V much better! Wish I never upgraded.

          • TheAppleFanatic

            why?

          • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

            From what I’ve read, they changed the sensor when going from the HX20V/30V series, and in my experience (limited strictly to concert photography in those lighting conditions) the HX50V sensor is not as good for concert photography. The blacks are never pure blacks by very noisy with artifacts – looks more like an impressionist painting than a photograph. Additionally, the images tend to be more sensitive to motions/blurring than with the HX20V.

            I was able to get very usable results with the HX20V; with the HX50V, I don’t even bother trying to get still shots with it at concerts, and use it strictly for video.

            Hopefully whatever replacement model comes out in 2014 will have a new, improved sensor.

            Jason

          • TheAppleFanatic

            Yeah the low light isnt the strongpoint of the HX50v, but thats not what the camera is aimed to be used for, its a travel camera. Thats where the RX100 comes in, its also why it has a small zoom.
            However, the HX50V takes amazing pictures with an adequate amount of lighting I have found.

          • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

            Well, no pocketable point and shoot with a long range is great in low light, but the HX20V was noticeably better than the newer, more expensive HX50V.

            I absolutely love the RX100, but it is useless beyond being in the first couple of rows for any kind of close-up shot.

            In the past, I found having the HX20V in one pocket and the RX100 in the other afforded more flexibility, and turned out great shots. In my experience, the HX50V just doesn’t.

            If you look at my photos in an old Florence + The Machine review I did, those were all taken with the HX9V (whic is even older than the HX20V!), and are out of camera JPEGs. The HX50V would not come close to that quality, from my experience using the HX9V, HX20V, and HX50V. For concert stills, I would choose the HX9V over the HX50V, and it’s two generations older (though I think the HX9V and HX20V use the same sensor – I read that some time back, anyway).

            Link: http://rocksubculture.com/?p=870

          • TheAppleFanatic

            What in particular is bad about the HX50V versus the HX20V?
            Also, what do you think about the HX50V’s stills in daylight?

          • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

            The blacks are never pure blacks but very noisy with artifacts – looks
            more like an impressionist painting than a photograph. Additionally,
            the images tend to be more sensitive to motions/blurring than with the
            HX20V.

            I personally have no use for it in daylight, so I don’t really have any opinion about using it in daylight.

          • TheAppleFanatic

            Well, I so far have had great blur-free images with my HX50V. But i’d imagine using it in a concert scenario, low light and lots of shake would degrade the picture quality.

          • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

            I have shot at concerts with no shake and get blurry results. I shot between 150,000-200,000 photos at concerts in 2013, so I am very practiced at shooting with very steady hands. More so today than two years ago when I shot those blur-free photos in the examples above, using the old HX9V.

            If you get results using the HX50V in totally different shooting circumstances, that is awesome.

            My article is about using cameras in concert scenarios, and in my personal experience, it is my personal opinion that the HX20V (and HX9V) both produce better results under those conditions compared with the HX50V.

          • TheAppleFanatic

            Theres also software settings in the HX50V you can turn on or off to minimize shake / blue / noise, and they work well, you may have had those turned off.

    • Commenter

      I can´t recommend the new Canon SX cameras as they only record very low sound bit rate(128kb/s) and have very poor battery life. Photo quality is also not that great.

  • Claudio

    Hello Jason.
    Really happy to see your guide and finally found someone with MY SAME Passion for Music,Videos and Photos.
    I Started with regaular compact cameras, then switched to Panasoniz TZ7 (grat at that time), then Sony HX9v, then HX20v wich i Love and i Won’t seel for the NEXT Years to come.
    I’ve JUST bought the RX100 (amazing deal on amazon) with the Purpose to use it in the front rows in my next concerts. (usually I go so far, and i got a ton of compliments from people looking my live videos with hx9v/hx20v)

    Really Curious to check out the audio/video quality out of the RX100.
    Hope to hear you Soon.
    Respecting the music and artist, I use to upload 2-3 video from each concert on Youtube (account Ajeje21)

    Greetings from Italy :)
    Claudio

    • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

      Hi Claudio,

      Thanks for the message. Yes, I started on Sonys with the HX9V as well (awesome camera!), then the HX20V, then the HX50V (should have stopped at the HX20V).

      You will love the RX100. Just be sure to set to spot exposure and be mindful of shutter speed to avoid blur on movement.

      The RX100 is very similar to the HX20V and HX50V. Probably a bit better in low light / higher ISO.

      I will be putting up a new updated article on cameras for concerts soon…

      Jason

  • lovelocked

    Hi!

    Do you think that the camera settings for concerts can be used on a DSLR? I’m quite new at this, thus I only stick to using auto for concerts. Although the results are pretty okay, but I’d like to explore more on manual.
    Thanks!

    • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

      With the typical DSLR on AUTO, you will usually end up with artists having overexposed faces, as it meters off of a lot of blacks… also, the shutter speed is often miscalculated, giving you blurred movement.

      Set in Manual or one of the semi-manual modes and set ISO to Auto ISO, metering to Spot Metering (and meter off of the face of the artist and then recompose with shutter button held down half way), set shutter speed to 250 or 320 (depending on how much fast movement there is), and shoot however wide your aperture will go.

      Jason

      • lovelocked

        Thanks for the tip, Jason! I’ll give it a shot!

  • Luis

    I just want to take thank you doing such a great review on all of these cameras. It really helped me pick the right one for the Kanye West concert that I went to. I ended up getting the Sony DSC-RX100 and it is incredible.

    Here are the pictures I was able to get:

    http://flickr.com/gp/14688678@N04/0skdTq/

    Thanks!

    • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

      Hey Luis,

      Thanks so much for sharing – awesome photos!

      I love the RX100 – so small yet so powerful – best bang for the buck!

      Jason

  • Juan

    Hello Jason, first of all great article! I was planning to get a good concert camera for various situations (i wont be able to be in the front rows all the time). After reading your reviews, I was planning to get the Hx20V from Amazon but since this camera is an old model, I see it is is only sold by third party vendors (and in most cases in used condition). Now i see the Hx50V is available for $329.00 in New Condition and sold by amazon, i was about to buy it but after reading some of your recent comments i see you arent that happy with it for concert situations, should i just get the hx20v then? I really dont care if its in used condition (some of the sellers actually have good reputation).
    Thanks!

    • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

      I would get the used HX20V. It is honestly a better camera, even though the HX50V has a “new” sensor, it is actually not as good, just in my own completely subjective, non-scientific opinion.

      • Juan

        I see, thanks! By the way really awesome picture of brandon flowers!!! I heard The Killers have a strict policy regarding cameras so its not common to see pro shots of them (other than the ones taken by their photographer).

        • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

          Hi Juan,

          Yes, The Killers seem pretty strict about outside photographers. I was shooting a festival in Switzerland earlier this year, and they were one of the headliners, but they got stuck in the snow in Paris, and never made it to the concert. We never got final instructions on them, so never found out if we were going to be allowed to shoot them or not. Love their music, so did what I could at that show from the crowd!

          Jason

          • Juan

            Hi again,
            Yeah i heard about that, i believe they even uploaded a picture of their van when they were stuck in their twitter :/
            I took some pictures of brandon as well from a concert in which i got to be in front row and at the middle (probably the last time ill do in any gig its very tiring :S) but i had a regular digital camera and i had no idea of camera settings, but after seeing your pictures i decided to purchase a nice camera =)
            Thanks again!
            And greetings from Mexico!

          • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

            Hi Juan,

            Ha ha… yes, I’m with you on the tiring part. When I did five Depeche Mode shows in Europe this year, standing in line all day each time, it took weeks for my feet to recover! The worst part is just how tight people can pack in at shows, where you can’t even adjust your weight on your feet – it can be brutal!

            Jason

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  • Jen W

    Could you possibly recommend a camera that is under $200.00. I know that’s not much camera, but I do not need Wi-Fi or recording abilities or any other added feature. Just a straight shot camera! I am taking my daughter to a concert and would like good pics for her. I have a great camera with large zoom lens, but it won’t be allowed, I guess it has to be a “pocket” camera. Thank you for your time!

    • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

      I would buy a used Sony HX9V, which you should be able to find in good condition for less than $150. Awesome camera.

      Jason

      • Jen W.

        Thank you! I really appreciate you taking the time to reply.

  • Thom Head

    Thank you so much, I see a lot of live music and record it all. Unfortunately I am neither knowledgeable or technically inclined. I am an artist. My images reflect that. I have an RX-!00 I bought for this very thing this year and really didn’t know how to set it. I have been shooting all the wrong settings according to your suggestions. I am going out tomorrow New Years eve and will use the settings you recommend.

    Thank you again!

    • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

      Hi Thom,

      You are very welcome. Feel free to write back or e-mail me if you have any more questions about shooting in concert environments…

      The biggest thing is to make sure you have set on spot exposure, and put the center dot in the center of the screen on the artist’s face/skin and while holding the shutter button down halfway, recompose your shot then push the shutter button. That will keep the highlights from getting blown out. Just doing that will make a huge difference in the results.

      Jason

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  • Baz Moran

    hi i was just wondering is there a difference between the
    Sony DSCHX50 and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX50V, plus how they would compare to the dsc-hx20v, i know price wise new i can get the hx50 for 220, and the other two are mid 300′s, would the hx50 be a good concert camera??? thanks

    • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

      The formal name for the camera I wrote about is Sony

      Cyber-shot Digital Camera HX50V. It has a longer reach/zoom, but I feel like the image quality of the older HX20V and HX30V is better.

      Jason

  • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

    Hey Everyone,

    I’ve finally finished writing an update to this article, which can be found here:

    http://rocksubculture.com/?p=50357

    Please publish any new “Reader Comments” to this new, updated and more current article with advice on digital cameras for concerts.

    Thanks for all the comments!

    Jason DeBord

  • Pingback: Recommendations for Fans for Music Concert Digital Cameras and Photography (Full Frame, APS-C, Micro Four Thirds, Point & Shoot; DSLR vs Mirrorless; Settings)

  • JoeS

    Hi just bought the HX 20 V thanks for all the tips! Question I followed all your settings but I can’t seem to figure out what/where the S mode is on my camera? Thanks!

  • JoeS

    Hi! I just bought the HX 20 V thanks for all the tips! Going to see the Tedeschi trucks band on Sunday fifth row! Woohoo! I followed all the settings but is the SCN the S mode? If I’m just doing still shots should I shoot in that mode? Thanks again for all the info! Joe

    • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

      I just looked at an image of the HX20V (I don’t have one anymore) and there actually isn’t an “S” mode on the dial on the top of the camera, so I would shoot in “M” (Manual) which is essentially the same, just make sure that you have ISO on Auto and make aperture as wide/open as possible. Then you should be able to set the shutter speed to 1/250 or 1/320.

      • JoeS

        Thanks for the quick response Iso is on auto but I can’t figure out where to change the aperture setting or shutter speed. Instruction manual sucks or it could be the reader…

        • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord
        • JoeS

          Okay figured out where to change. According to sony in the manual mode you can’t select auto iso. Should I adjust that to 800? F3.2 and 1/320? Really appreciate the help !

          • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

            It’s really case by case, depending on the lighting at a concert. The more (quality) light, the lower ISO you can get away with. IIRC, I think it’s acceptable up to 1600 or so. I would shoot the opening act at a few different ISO settings, then check out the results before the main act comes on so you have some idea where you are at.

          • JoeS

            You rock! Thanks for the help!

          • http://www.rocksubculture.com/ Jason DeBord

            Anytime!