Roundup: Enthusiast Zoom Compact Cameras
20MP | 28-100mm (3.6x) Zoom | $650 (US) £450 (UK) €550 (EU)
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- Full specifications, plus user reviews and more sample images
- Read our review (published August 2012)
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 is one of the biggest steps forward we've seen in the compact digital camera market, with a sensor over four times larger than most compacts, in a still genuinely compact body. It combines this big sensor with a pretty bright (F1.8-4.9) lens that covers a useful 28-100mm equivalent range. Add to this a customizable front dial and the best video specs in its class and it very quickly begins to justify the premium over its peers that Sony is asking. At around $650 'street' price, the RX100 is a good $100 or so more expensive than any of the other cameras in this roundup.
- 20MP 1" BSI CMOS sensor
- ISO 125-6400 (80-100 available with reduced highlight detail, and up to 25,600 in multi-shot mode)
- 28-100mm (equivalent), F1.8-4.9 optically stabilized zoom lens
- Front lens ring dial (stepless) and rear four-way dial
- 1080p60 video with stereo microphones
- 3.0" 'WhiteMagic' LCD screen with 1.23m dots
- 330 shot battery life (CIPA)
In use the RX100 is as competent an all-rounder as its specs suggest - its large sensor means it can't match the lens range of all its peers, but its 28-100mm equivalent zoom is useful nonetheless, especially given the increased image quality that the RX100 offers.
A few minor handling niggles (the lack of feedback from the stepless front dial and the inability to customize the function of the rear dial, in particular) mean the shooting experience isn't as engaging for the enthusiast photographer as it could be. However, the results easily make up for this, and its equal composure as a point-and-shoot means it will deliver these results regardless of how involved you want to get with the photographic process.
Performance and Image Quality
The RX100 fits more camera into a smaller space than just about anything we've previously seen and the image quality is consistent with that. Its 20MP sensor is able to resolve excellent detail in good light and the corner performance is solid too. The camera's metering is reliable with the occasional tendency to let the red channel slightly over-expose. The large sensor ensures the image quality is well-maintained as light drops, although the slower aperture at the long end of the zoom means it loses its advantage over the competition once you get beyond around 60mm. The JPEG processing is impressive at low ISO but, as you'd expect, at high ISO you can get better results by shooting Raw and tailoring the noise reduction to your own tastes.
In addition to the RX100's still image quality, it also offers the highest video specifications in this group. Indeed if you're at all serious about capturing video, only the Panasonic LX7 can match the RX100's 1080p60 capability. And, in movie mode the clickless dial becomes an asset - turn on focus peaking to aid manual focus and there's no compact as easy to manually focus for video.
Finally it's worth noting the RX100's impressive focus speed. It slows down a little in low light, but in most situations is at least a match for anything else in this company.
The RX100 has received plaudits from many directions - it's an excellent camera and represents an exciting development, both for Sony and the industry as a whole. It offers all-round ability and pocketability that's hard to match. Overall it's a step ahead of the competition in terms of capability - it's only the shooting experience that stops it rendering much of the rest of this class irrelevant. If the prices are similar when you come to make your decision, the RX100 should be near the top of your shortlist.
Studio and Real-World Samples (links open in new tab)
When looking at the studio scene, it's important to understand that the RX100 isn't at its best at the close focus distances required for this test, making the edges of the scene less sharp than the camera is capable of in most normal shooting.
|Studio Comparison Tool||Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 Samples (41 images)|
What we like: Excellent image quality and good lens performance. Impressive video capabilities. Compact body with quick access to key settings. Good rear screen.
What we don't like: Clickless dial gives uninvolved shooting experience, slow-ish lens (at the long end), no ND filter limits flexibility in good light. No viewfinder option.