You would be forgiven for confusing the RX10 for an SLR from the very beginning. It's sturdy: SLR-like bits and pieces protrude from all the right places, with the notable exception of a pentaprism hump. Then, there's the wallet-busting price of AU$1499. All up, it sounds like SLR territory in price and form factor, that's for sure.
Obviously, there's no doubt you're reading this because the RX10 is something a bit special, not your ordinary SLR. In fact, it's not an SLR at all. It's a fixed-lens camera. Some might even call it a superzoom. And yet, 8.3x optical zoom is not all that much in the grand scheme of things. So what do you actually get for your money?
Design and features
A lot of camera, for starters. The RX10 sits like a trusty steed in the palm of your hand, complete with its dust and moisture-resistant magnesium alloy chassis. All this metal does come at a price, which is the weight. All up, with battery and memory card inserted, the RX10 is 813 grams.
Behind that 24-200mm (35mm equivalent) f/2.8 Carl Zeiss lens sits the crowning glory of Sony's latest cameras: the 1-inch image sensor. Like the RX100, the RX10 boasts a 1-inch backside-illuminated sensor that makes the brains of most other competitors look like shrimps in comparison. It is a 20.2-megapixel Exmor R sensor, teamed up with the new Bionz X image processor for faster results. It's the same processor that appeared in the A7 and A7R, for those playing along at home.
Around the lens is a touch that photography enthusiasts will enjoy: an aperture ring. Elsewhere on the barrel is a switch that lets you change how the ring feels when it is rotated. Choose from having a smooth, fluid movement or having the ring move in click stops. Further inside the camera is a 3-stop ND filter that can be turned on or off as needed.
Click clack, front and back. The switch that de-clicks the aperture ring.
The lens has an impressive minimum focusing distance of 30cm at the telephoto end of the zoom. As a comparison, other cameras like the Panasonic FZ200 can only manage a minimum focusing distance of 1 metre at its telephoto extreme.
At the top of the camera, alongside a mode dial on one side and an exposure compensation dial on the other, you'll find an LED panel. Similar to panels found on higher-end SLRs, you can check exposure information on the fly as well as keep an eye on battery status. It even illuminates with a deep orange glow for night-time use.
Glow in the dark.
Apart from the top LED panel, you also get a 3-inch, 1.22-million dot tilting screen at the back of the camera. Video buffs get the option of 1080/50 interlaced or progressive filming (or 60i/p when shooting in NTSC) as well as a built-in stereo microphone located just behind the pop-up flash. The OLED electronic viewfinder is bright and crisp, meaning that it's easy to achieve correct focus as needed.
Connectivity is provided via Wi-Fi and NFC, while there is also a headphone and microphone jack on the side of the camera. A multi-interface shoe accepts a number of different Sony-branded accessories.
Exposure modes are pretty standard for a Sony camera, and on par with other superzooms on the market. Full PASM control is provided while there is also an automatic, scene, movie, sweep panorama and two custom options on the dial.
To use the RX10 with your smartphone or tablet, download the PlayMemories Mobile app for iOS or Android. The app allows users to transfer photos and videos from the camera or use the smart device as a remote viewfinder. With this latter option, there is no manual exposure control, but you do get full control over the extent of the zoom from the app itself.
There are plenty of photo filters on the RX10, including toy camera, selective colour, sepia and an HDR painting option.
General shooting metrics (in seconds)
- Start-up to first shot
- JPEG shot-to-shot time
- Shutter lag
- 18.104.22.168Sony RX10
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Continuous shooting speed (in frames per second)
- 10Sony RX10
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The RX10 can take a burst of 20 JPEG shots or 9 RAW shots in its fastest continuous shooting mode until the camera slows to buffer.
We found that the RX10 had patchy AF in low light situations. Changing the AF area didn't seem to help things much either; a half-press of the shutter button to focus often did not pick out the right point of focus even when the subject was in the centre of the frame. We suggest turning on peaking for a clear indication of where your focus plane is, or use expanded focus and your manual focusing lens on the ring to double-check AF when needed.
Ergonomically, the RX10 is very nice to shoot with. For photographers who prefer manual exposure modes, the combination of the aperture ring and the rear dial for shutter speed adjustment works particularly well. The lens feels sturdy and the body is weighted well for two-handed photography. Though the lens moves pretty slowly between wide and telephoto ends, we can see why it does, because if you want to zoom during video recording, smoother and slower is better. Still, it would have been nice to have a selectable zoom speed hidden somewhere in the menus, just in case you get a bit impatient like we do.