It's one thing to be fashionably late to the party, but it's another altogether to be just plain late. The RX100 is Sony's first large-sensor compact camera, and while it definitely falls in the latter camp, it comes bearing many gifts that make up for the wait.
Design and features
Quite aptly given its raison d'être, the RX100 is small, fitting comfortably in your hand or pocket. It feels particularly well made and sturdy, thanks to its aluminium frame, though its exterior is rather slippery. This means that you will most definitely need to attach the included wrist strap to ensure that it doesn't fall out of your grip.
Buttons are on the small side, which adds a nice, refined feel to the shooting experience, but some users might find them a little too small for comfort. A mode dial at the top of the camera keeps things simple and uncluttered, housing controls for full PASM control, as well as automatic, superior automatic for low-light shots, movie and panorama modes.
The 3-inch LCD screen is quite something to behold. While it's only VGA resolution, it has a third set of white pixels that helps boost the brightness when used in sunny situations. It's able to display a lot of detail, and does hold up when used outdoors — not perfectly, but it's better than a lot of other compacts.
Most people will be interested in this camera, as it boasts one of the largest sensors in a compact model, beaten only by the Canon G1X (which is big enough to almost not be classified as a compact) and the Fuji X100. It's 1 inch, which is the same size as the one used in the Nikon 1 series of cameras, and just a bit smaller than the Micro Four Thirds sensor.
A comparison of sensor sizes from a number of different compact cameras. (Credit: CNET)
A Carl Zeiss lens that extends to 3.6x optical zoom sits at the front of the camera, and it's nice and bright, with a maximum aperture range of f/1.8-4.9. The widest aperture, f/1.8, is only available at the extreme 28mm end, and stops down to f/2.8 when zoomed in to 1.2x optical zoom.
The control ring around the front of the lens is an excellent way to offer a refined shooting feel, allowing you to adjust parameters such as aperture, ISO, white balance, the dynamic range optimiser and creative filters.
An incredibly stylish camera to look at, this is the RX100 front on.
The RX100 has truly been designed with a serious photographer in mind. If you are a fan of using manual focus, the RX100's implementation is seamless. The control ring around the lens moves freely, with the camera automatically entering in to expanded focus. One of the other excellent surprises that awaits you within the menu system is peaking, which assists with focusing and is a feature traditionally found on video cameras. You can select the colour, as well as the intensity. The pop-up flash can be tilted back to act as a bounce off the ceiling, too, though it is positioned in such a way that it can obstruct how you hold the camera.
Some photographers will be perturbed at the lack of a hotshoe for mounting an external flash, or some sort of accessory port for an electronic viewfinder (EVF). They're not serious omissions, but they would have helped it stand up just a little taller against competing cameras, such as the Olympus XZ-1.
The RX100 charges its battery in the camera, with an included USB and adapter in the box.
|Sony Cyber-shot RX100||Olympus XZ-1||Canon PowerShot S100||Panasonic LX7|
|20.2-megapixel CMOS sensor (1-inch)||10-megapixel CCD sensor (1/1.63-inch)||12.1-megapixel CMOS sensor (1/1.7-inch)||10.1-megapixel high sensitivity MOS sensor (1/1.63-inch)|
|3-inch, 1.2-million-dot (VGA resolution) LCD||3-inch, 610,000-dot OLED||3-inch, 461,000-dot LCD||3-inch, 920,000-dot LCD|
|3.6x optical zoom, 28mm wide-angle||4x optical zoom, 28mm wide-angle||5x optical zoom, 24mm wide-angle||3.8x optical zoom, 24mm wide-angle|
|Aperture range f/1.8-4.9||Aperture range f/1.8-2.5||Aperture range f/2.0-5.9||Aperture range f/1.4-2.3|
|Full HD video (AVCHD/MP4, 1080p)||HD video (Motion JPEG, 720p)||Full HD video (H.264, 1080p)||Full HD video (AVCHD/MP4, 1080p)|
General shooting metrics (in seconds)
- Start-up to first shot
- JPEG shot-to-shot time
- RAW shot-to-shot time
- Shutter lag
- 18.104.22.168.3Olympus XZ-1
- 22.214.171.124.3Panasonic Lumix LX5
- 126.96.36.199.4Canon PowerShot S100
- 2.5110.1Sony Cyber-shot RX100
- 188.8.131.52.4Canon PowerShot G1X
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Continuous shooting speed (in frames per second)
- 8Sony Cyber-shot RX100
- 2.6Panasonic Lumix LX5
- 2.5Canon PowerShot S100
- 2.1Olympus XZ-1
- 2Canon PowerShot G1X
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Sony rates the battery at 330 shots. The above continuous shooting speed measurement was taken in speed-priority mode, though the RX100 also has a regular continuous mode, which captures at 2.5 frames per second, allowing for continuous AF and exposure. In speed-priority mode, the RX100 slows to process images after taking 12 frames, and has fixed focus from the first frame.
The RX100 produces excellent images in a range of shooting situations. Whether it's in one of the automatic modes or full manual, more often than not you'll end up with a keeper shot rather than a dud.