Noise and JPEG quality

The RX100 has generally very good JPEG processing and noise reduction; it does a creditable job of balancing tradeoffs between color noise and softness. Out-of-focus areas still suffer from mushiness as low as ISO 400 -- a common problem with smaller-sensored cameras -- but in-focus spots stand up pretty well until about ISO 800. Overall, the camera's solid up to ISO 400 and acceptable through ISO 1600, depending upon scene content.
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

ISO 80 JPEG

The camera produces very nice low-ISO-sensitivity shots with lovely tonality. It doesn't have a neutral Creative Style, so the photos have Sony's typical Standard look, high contrast with pushed saturation.

(1/125 sec, f3.2, ISO 80, spot metering, AWB)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Highlights

The one issue I've noticed with the RX100 is that bright highlights on yellows get completely blown out. They're unrecoverable from raws in Sony's Image Data Converter software, but they might be there for better software.

(1/125 sec, f7.1, ISO 80, spot metering, AWB)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Auto

There's no way to manually set the camera to macro, so when I had trouble getting it to focus on this -- I'm not sure why -- I jumped into auto mode. It looks a bit oversharpened to me.

(iA+ mode: 1/640 sec, f5.6, ISO 125, multi metering, AWB)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

ISO 400 JPEG

This was shot during a sunset that produced pink clouds that turned the building pink. You can see some mushiness on the edges and some artifacts in the sky if you look hard, but it's pretty good.

(1/60 sec, f3.5, ISO 400, spot metering, AWB)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

ISO 1600 JPEG

ISO 1600 JPEG photos look fine at 50 percent; I don't know if you can get better results by processing raw, since the only software available as I write this is Sony's cumbersome Image Data Converter, which seems to use the exact same noise-reduction algorithms.

(1/30 sec, f4.5, ISO 1600, multi metering, AWB)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Center sharpness

The camera has pretty good, consistent center sharpness through f5.6, with some falloff by f8.
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Sharpness

The lens does a great job of resolving detail like this.

(1/800 sec, f1.8, ISO 80, multi metering, AWB)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Distortion

There's a slight bit of distortion at the wide angle (look at the bottom-left corner of the 1954 brick), which probably means Sony's doing in-camera correction, since there should be more at 28mm equivalent. On test targets, there's enough distortion in the outer corners at f1.8 and f2 to introduce a little fringing.
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Color

The camera's default Standard Creative Style pushes the saturation and contrast a little more than I'd like, but remains within acceptable bounds -- no significant hue shifts or loss of shadow detail. I do wish there were a neutral option, however.
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Bokeh

The lens produces nice, oval highlights; the dithery nature of the out-of-focus areas is relatively common (they don't look like Airy Disks to me).

(1/500 sec, f1.8, ISO 80, multimetering, AWB)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Flash

As with a growing number of cameras, the RX100 allows you to tilt and hold the flash back to bounce or lessen its intensity. The top shows the standard flash output.
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Illustration effect

In addition to the usual set of filter effects, Sony has a few unusual and well-executed ones. The illustration effect offers three intensities (the weakest and strongest shown here). I'm not crazy about the user interface -- instead of letting you set the variations for a single effect, Sony lists them independently so that you have to scroll through a seemingly huge set of effects to find the one you want. For instance, while most cameras will let you set the sharpness zone for the miniature effect, Sony instead lists it as six different effects that you have to scroll past: one with the sharpness zone in the middle, one on the left and one on the right, with analogous choices for vertical.
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Watercolor effect

What sets these effects apart from other cameras with filters that use the same names is that these seem to use better algorithms that render more attractively.
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:
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