Image Quality

One thing that became very obvious after shooting with the RX10 is the quality of its lens. It's excellent, and is probably largely responsible for the cost of the camera. It's very sharp, from one corner to the other, regardless of the focal length. Distortion is very low, as well. The one disappointment is that Sony's clumsy noise reduction can sometimes make the lens look less impressive than it really is.

Impressive Lens

We've examined hundreds of photos taken with the RX10, and would be hard-pressed to find anything wrong with its 24-200mm F2.8 lens. As mentioned above, it's very sharp, has little-to-no corner blurring, and no major aberrations (though some of this is undoubtedly being corrected in software).

The enlarged area illustrates the impressive sharpness of the RX10's 24-200mm F2.8 lens. The edges of the lettering are clearly defined, and the vertical lines that surround it are not lost to noise reduction (though that isn't the case for low-contrast detail, as you'll see below).

ISO 125, 1/800 sec, f/4.5, 55mm equiv.

The sample above was taken with the zoom set just above 2X (55mm equiv.), and is impressive, no matter where you look. The RX10 was pleasing at the telephoto end, as well:

ISO 125, 1/800 sec; f/4.5, 200mm equiv. 100% crop

You will encounter some corner blurring at full wide-angle with the aperture all the way open. Once you stop down to F4 or so, this effect starts to diminish.

Background blur

With its large sensor, fast lens, and seven blade aperture, the DSC-RX10 has the potential to have a lot more depth-of-field control than its compact peers (head back to the intro for more detail on that).

Portraits look great thanks to the RX10's fast lens and large sensor.

ISO 125, 1/640 sec, f/2.8, 200mm equiv.

We took quite a few portraits with the RX10 and were not only pleased with the results, but also with how easy it is to adjust the aperture, thanks to the ring around the lens.

JPEG and Raw

Sony cameras have the unfortunate reputation of over-processing their JPEGs, to the point where fine details look 'fake'. During our time with the RX10, this issue wasn't terrible, but there's still some room for improvement.

One area which really suffers is grass and foliage. The example below illustrates the problem, and how you can fix it.

As you can see, doing some basic post-processing in Raw make the grass less like mush and more like, well, actual grass. For this example, we kept luminance noise reduction off in ACR, and cranked up the sharpening a bit. As mentioned earlier, the RX10 is perfectly capable of produce sharp detail when you're dealing with high contrast subjects, as you can see here.

Aside from those detail issues, the camera's JPEGs look good, with punchy colors and pleasing contrast. As with its RX100 siblings, the DSC-RX10 does tend to clip highlights more often than we'd like.

Low Light

One of the benefits of having a larger-than-average sensor and F2.8 lens is when light levels drop. The 1" sensor brings in more light than the 1/1.7" (or smaller) sensors used by other premium superzoom cameras, while the fast lens means that you don't have to increase the ISO as quickly.

A little time spent in ACR improved this image considerably over the original JPEG. That said, it's not great when viewed at 100%. ISO 3200, 1/30 sec, f/2.8, 38mm equiv.

The DSC-RX10 can produce good results in low light, thought don't expect miracles as the ISO starts getting to around 1600 or 3200. It's definitely worth using Raw in those situations, as Sony's heavy-handed noise reduction can make things look worse than they actually are.

Those looking to shoot in high sensitivities in low light may prefer the results from a camera with a larger sensor, though a lens that matches the specs of the RX10's is going to be large and heavy.

Flash

The Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 has a pop-up flash (released manually), which has a maximum range of 10.2 meters at Auto ISO. If you crank the sensitivity to 12,800, the flash will 'reach' over 20 meters. The recycle time for the flash is approximately 3 seconds.

The RX10 used a bit too much flash here, making this portrait (with natural light coming from the photographer's right) a bit blown out.
ISO 200, 1/200 sec, f/2.8

As you'd expect, you can adjust the flash exposure, with a range of -3EV to +3EV. While you can shoot wirelessly with an external flash, the one built into the camera cannot.

Bracketing

One way in which to ensure good-looking photos - aside from using Raw - is to bracket your shots. The RX10 can bracket for exposure, white balance, and DRO (D-Range Optimizer). For exposure, there's a range of ±0.3EV to ±3EV, taken over 3 or 5 photos. Each photo can be taken one at a time, or all in one burst.

Both WB and DRO take three shots each, and you can choose an interval of 'lo' or 'hi'.

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