Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 In-Depth Review
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. Those with larger fingers may find the other buttons on the back of the camera a little small and hard to distinguish, but the slight recess around each one and the well-judged throw of each button mean they're hard to press accidentally.
|With the camera held in your right hand, the RX100's key controls are easy to locate. The lens is zoomed using a conventional rocker switch 'collar' around the shutter release.|
In your hand
The RX100 is a solid, well-constructed little camera and despite its 1"-type sensor it handles in much the same way as a typical high-end compact. 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.
Many of our initial impressions of the RX100 have been reinforced during our time using the camera. By far its biggest problem is the lack of click-stops on the control wheel. This can be a benefit when changing one of the continuously-variable settings such as zoom or focus. However, for settings such as aperture, shutter speed or exposure compensation, the lack of tactile feedback has the effect of distancing you from the shooting experience. Unless you turn the camera's sounds on (and you have to turn them all on - focus beep, additional shutter sound effect, the lot), you receive only visual feedback that anything's changed, and for us that simply didn't register strongly enough to give the impression that you've adjusted a setting.
It's also frustrating that, despite the camera's relatively high level of customization, you can't change the function of the rear control dial. At the default settings, it simply mimics the function of the front control ring in most exposure modes, wasting one of the dials. You can re-program the front dial to control exposure compensation, to give the dials distinct functions, but we suspect we're not the only aperture/shutter-priority shooters wanting the front dial to control aperture or shutter speed with the rear dial giving exposure comp.
|The camera's rear dial is rather under-used - simply replicating the default action of the front dial, with no option to re-purpose it.|
The other frustration is the fairly limited maximum shutter speed. 1/2000th of a second and ISO 125 means that the camera's F1.8 brightest aperture can only really be used as an enabler in low-light. Because the aperture value drops dramatically as you zoom in, there's little scope for shallow depth-of-field work at anything but the closest working distances, but a built-in ND filter (common in most of the RX100's rivals) would at least let you try.
It's also worth being a little wary of the impact of redefining buttons. For instance, set the center button to apply auto exposure lock and you lose the ability to easily reposition the AF point, if you're manually selecting it in Flexible Spot mode (you can go to the menu or Fn menu, confirm Flexible Spot mode and move it that way, but it's not exactly convenient). However, this is an inevitable cost of allowing so much customization on a camera with limited room for buttons.
Yes the menu is rather long (you'll certainly want to switch it to return to the last used option), but it's a price that we're happy to pay in order to get a good level of customization. The RX100 is the only Sony this side of its high-end A77 SLT that lets you define the Auto ISO range, for example. The displays, controls and video functions all give plenty of room for configuration but don't need to be changed very often. Set up the function button to include your most-used features and you'll rarely have to dip into the main menu.