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 a dial on the rear doubling as a four-way controller and 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 is Sony's first camera to use its 'WhiteMagic' LCD technology (though Ricoh has already used it in its GR Digital IV). This uses four dots to make up every pixel on the display - adding a white dot to the existing Red, Green and Blue ones. As a result, the 1.2M dot display has the same 640x480 pixel resolution as the more common 920k dot designs, but with the ability to offer greater brightness. This can be used in two ways - it either offers the same screen brightness as one of the existing screens but with around half the battery drain, or it can be used to offer twice the brightness - which is especially useful outdoors on a camera without a tilting screen.
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:
Most distortion is automatically corrected in the camera's preview and in its JPEGs. Corrections are applied when the Raw files are processed with Sony's own software or with Adobe's. Other third-party converters, such as DxO will offer their own corrections. Since correction is part of the camera's design, we'd conclude that any converter not applying the corrections doesn't fully support the camera.
The RX100's Carl Zeiss lens covers a useful range of 28-100mm (equivalent), with its maximum dropping from f/1.8 to f/4.9 as you zoom. You can zoom the lens using a standard rocker around the shutter button, or use 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.
We go into more detail about this important control in the next page of this review.
The RX100's top plate is flat and relatively spartan, playing 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 stereo 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. By default the different direction keys adjust (clockwise from top) display mode, flash mode, exposure compensation and drive mode/timers. The left-hand, downward and central controls can be customized.
The Fn button is key to the camera's control, and can have up to seven functions assigned to it via the custom menu.
To record movies from any exposure mode, just press this button, that's 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 offset 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.