The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 is a relatively conventional compact camera in terms of styling and control layout. In size, it fits somewhere between the Canon PowerShot S100 and the Fujifilm X10, but bears a stronger physical resemblance to the former. Like the S100, the RX100 features a twin control dial design, with one dial on the rear, forming a conventional 4-way controller/dial 'hub' control and a control ring around the lens barrel on the front of the camera. Unlike the S100 though (and the Olympus XZ-1) the control ring is free-rotating and does not feature 'click' detents.
The RX100's aluminium body is solid and reassuringly weighty, and although it lacks a front hand grip, a textured rubber 'back stop' on the rear of the camera means that it shouldn't slip out of your hand. We're less keen on the design of the buttons on the RX100's rear though, which are small and almost flush with the camera's body. In use, some of us found that it a bit too easy, especially when pressing the Fn and menu buttons, to clash the rear control dial at the same time.
In your hand
The RX100 is a solid, well-constructed little camera and despite its 1" sensor it handles in much the same way as a typical high-end travelzoom. When the camera is turned off it fits comfortably into a jacket or trouser pocket and even with the lens extended, the RX100 remains small and well-balanced.
With the camera held in your right hand, the key controls are easy to locate. The lens is zoomed using a conventional rocker switch 'collar' around the shutter release and both the exposure mode dial and rear command dial are within easy reach of the thumb. To adjust the control ring on the front of the camera it is necessary to adopt a two-handed grip.
The RX100 offers an F1.8-4.9 aperture range across its 28-100mm equivalent range. Here we break down the equivalent focal lengths at which the aperture changes:
The RX100's Carl Zeiss lens covers a useful range of 28-100mm (equivalent) and features a seven-bladed aperture for smooth out-of-focus highlights. Maximum aperture spans a range of f/1.8-4.9 from wide-tele. You can zoom the lens using the rocker switch which surrounds the shutter release, or via the control ring around the lens barrel if you'd prefer.
Around the periphery of the lens barrel is a slim control ring, which can be used to control any one of eight functions, including lens zoom and exposure compensation. It is also used by default in manual focus mode to control focus.
The RX100's top plate is flat and relatively spartan, plays host only to a power button, combined shutter release/zoom collar and exposure mode dial.
There's even less to see on the left hand side of the top plate. Here's the top of the flash housing, and the tiny aperture for the leftmost of the built-in microphones.
And here's the flash in its open state. There's no mechanical release for the flash, you'll have to activate it via the flash mode button on the rear 4-way controller.
And here's the 4-way controller, formed of the rear control dial. The options at its cardinal points can be customized but by default (clockwise from centre) they adjust display mode, flash mode, exposure compensation and drive mode/timers. The Fn button can have up to seven functions assigned to it via the custom menu.
To record movies from any exposure mode, just press this button, inset slightly into the thumbgrip on the top right of the RX100's rear. Above this you can see the knurled edge of the exposure mode dial.
To access the RX100's NP-BX1 lithium-ion battery and memory card you'll need to open this tiny door on the bottom of the camera. The RX100 accepts both SD and Memory Stick media but you won't be able to change either card or battery with the camera on a tripod (the door opens over the tripod mount). The battery charges via USB, using a supplied AC adapter.
The RX100 comes with a USB fast-charger. This offers a 1.5A current, rather than the 0.5A offered by standard USB ports, so is quicker to charge the camera than your computer will be.
This arrangement does make it more awkward to charge a second battery, since you can only charge the battery when it's in the camera.
The RX100's tripod mount is off-set from the lens axis, and positioned immediately next to the battery/memory card compartment. Beneath it is the HDMI port, which is covered by a protective cap to keep out dust.