Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 In-Depth Review
Conclusion - Pros
- Excellent image quality and solid ISO performance
- Class-leading movie features and quality
- A good degree of customization puts your favorite settings at your fingertips
- Fast operation, including focus and Raw capture
- Flexible lens range (though a brighter zoom would have been nice)
- Excellent range of additional features (sweep panorama and auto HDR in particular)
- Good battery life for this class of camera
- USB-charging (with fast charger) makes it easy to travel light
Conclusion - Cons
- Clickless control dial contributes to vague and unengaging shooting experience
- Flash metering is unpredictable
- Lack of ND filter can limit the ability to use wide apertures
- Screen hard to see in direct sunshine, despite WhiteMagic technology
- No official option to fit filters onto the lens (third-party glue-on adapters are available)
- In-camera raw conversion would add flexibility
- Playback confusingly separated into stills, MP4 and AVCHD sections
- Lag when trying to zoom in playback mode is irksome
- USB-only charging makes it awkward to use a spare battery
The RX100 is an exciting camera - in part because it represents the arrival of another major manufacturer in the high-end, enthusiast compact market, but mainly because it's a spectacular piece of engineering. To a degree this risks being its undoing - Sony has done such a great job of fitting a large sensor into a small camera that it'd be easy for the uninformed to overlook the near-magic that it must have required.
The RX100 may not look radically different to a recent Canon 'S' series compacts - whose balance of image quality and pocketability have made the S100 darling of its class. But the Sony's much larger sensor means it outshines it in every respect bar price. With around three times more light collecting area and a lens with similar F-number range, the RX100 comfortably trumps the little Canon - though at around a 50% premium.
In fact, despite appearances, the RX100 has more in common with Canon's G1 X than any of its other peers. In terms of zoom compacts, the G1 X is about the only camera that can top the RX100 for image quality but it's also much larger, more expensive and much slower in almost every respect. It's interesting that the only other cameras to balance image quality, speed and size like this are Nikon's 1 System cameras, but they're still not as small, aren't available with as bright a lens, and simply haven't been designed to offer the same level of accessible user control.
Whatever qualms we might have about the handling, we have very few concerns about the RX100's image quality. In most situations, the camera delivers images that are simply better than you would usually expect from a compact camera. The JPEG processing isn't particularly lovely at 1:1 viewing, but with 20MP to play with, there's little reason to look that closely - it captures and conveys plenty of detail at sensible viewing sizes.
Exposure is pretty reliable and the default image settings strike a good balance between neutral and punchy. There are situations in which reds can overexpose, and 'clip' but these aren't frequent and a bit of careful exposure and post-shot-processing can save most shots. We also found the white balance a tiny bit cool for our tastes (it's easy enough to nudge the fine-tune towards Amber, if you wish).
The RX100's lens is only really fast at its wide-angle end, meaning there's no real scope for shallow depth-of-field photography. Add to this its lack of built-in ND filter and, if you try to use its F1.8 setting, you'll quickly hit the limits imposed by its ISO 125 base sensitivity and 1/2000th second maximum shutter speed. Essentially that F1.8 figure is mainly useful for low-light work (and making the camera look good on the shop shelf).
The RX100 sits nicely in the hand and the well-positioned rubber thumb-rest on the back means you can maintain a pretty good grip on it. That said, despite not really thinking it was needed, we did find that adding a third-party grip made the camera nicer to hold and use.
There's a lot to be said in support of the RX100's ergonomics - its design puts a good amount of control at your fingertips without having to cover the camera's surface with knobs and dials. The Fn menu, with its choice of up to seven functions, placed in the order you choose, is great for taking control over the camera. It's simple, for example, to add access to the image quality setting so that you can quickly access the camera's JPEG-only functions, such as HDR.
The RX100's lens control dial is the first we've encountered that moves smoothly, rather than clicking between positions. This works well for setting focus or zoom, which are (essentially) continuous variables, but it's disappointing when used for discrete variables such as ISO, exposure compensation, aperture or shutter speed. Turn off the camera sounds (all of which are controlled from a single setting) and you don't get any real sense that anything's changing in response to turning the dial. This and the lack of control over the function of the rear dial end up making the control dial less effective than it really should be.
The Final Word
Much praise has already been heaped on the RX100 and it's well justified - its TARDIS-like design means there's a lot more camera in this tiny box than its rather understated exterior would suggest.
That doesn't mean the RX100 is going to replace your DSLR or large sensor mirrorless camera - it just can't compete with the image quality or flexibility that their sensors and interchangeable lenses bring. Meanwhile the poor dial implementation means it's probably not a camera to fall in love with - there are a few too many obvious improvements that could be made, but it is still a camera that deserves a lot of respect.
As a secondary camera, the images are consistently so good that you'll rarely find yourself too disappointed on the occasions you didn't have your big camera with you. And its class-leading video capabilities mean it's worth keeping with you, even when you did. In addition, it's as happy shooting sweep panoramas and automated HDR images as it is capturing Raw images with plenty of exposure control, which means you arrive home with a more varied selection of images and videos than you might with one of its competitors.
Overall, it's a flexible and dependable tool that lets you take as much or as little control as you want. It's not a perfect camera, but it's hard to think of another that includes so much capability and yet still fits in your pocket. Not to be underestimated.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100
Category: Enthusiast Large Sensor Compact Camera
Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
The RX100 is probably the most capable compact camera on the market today, combining the image quality benefits of a mid-sized sensor with the proportions of a conventional compact. Extensive, though not flawless, manual controls make the RX100 a great second camera for DSLR shooters.
Aug 25, 2015
Nov 4, 2013
Sep 30, 2013
Jan 15, 2013
|Carla... by lickity split|
from Beautiful caucasian female faces
|Lunar New Year Fireworks by Michael L NYC 99|
|Vatican Basilica by wam7|
from Street lights
How confident are you that you can spot a manipulated photo? A recent study at the University of Warwick shows that many people are pretty bad at it.
If you purchased a Leica TL2, do NOT attach Leica's Visoflex electronic viewfinder. Leica is working on a fix, but for now, it's possible the viewfinder will break your camera.
Google just released Motion Stills for Android. Unlike the iOS version, the Android app uses a redesigned video processing pipeline that processes each frame of a video as it is being recorded, creating instant results.
A huge copyright lawsuit between photography firm VHT and Zillow Group is heating up again, as both sides appeal a court ruling that granted VHT $4 million in damages.
European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet spent 6 months on board the International Space Station where he worked with Google capturing spheric panorama images that are now available in Street View.
It's official. PDN has confirmed with parent company Aurelius that 94-year-old lighting company Bowens is indeed going out of business.
The newly launched firmware version 1.06 fixes AF-issues that can occur with some lenses that are not officially compatible with the MC-11 converter.
Voyager is a waterproof smart light stick you can control entirely from your phone. The light has already blown past its $300K funding goal on Indiegogo.
2018 is the last year Photokina will take place during the traditional end-of-September dates. In 2019, Photokina will take place from the 8th to the 11th of May.
The Canon IXUS 50 (known as the SD400 Digital ELPH in North America) was one of a string of high-performing, pocketable PowerShots of the mid-2000s. In this week's throwback Thursday, Barney casts his mind back to 2005.
A close look at the EOS 6D II's Raw files suggest its dynamic range has taken a significant step backwards compared with the company's recent DSLRs. We look at how much difference this might make for your photos.
With a full-production review unit in our hands, we've got over 100 production samples from the new Canon EOS 6D Mark II to share.
Need a break from your day? Kick back and watch the making of a somewhat unconventional mojito filmed on Canon's new EOS 6D Mark II.
The Bonfoton Camera Obscura Room Lens can turn any room into a camera obscura, projecting the view from your window onto the walls of your room.
Adobe just released version 2015.12 of Lightroom CC, adding support for several new cameras and lenses, and baking in several important bug fixes while they were at it.
In this interview, Chiara Marinai, photo editor for VanityFair.com, explains exactly what she looks for in new photographers and photo submissions. Take notes.
Massive corporation P&G is being sued by a Cincinnati photographer for serious copyright violations. If the courts rules against P&G, the company could pay as much as $75 million in damages.
Snapchat's camera-equipped 'Spectacles' aren't so difficult to get anymore. You can now pick up a pair through Amazon for $130.
A group of thieves has made away with tens of thousands in camera gear through a carefully orchestrated scam through Venmo and Facebook Marketplace.
A portrait lens from 1910 might be coming back to life if two photographers from Germany succeed in a new Kickstarter project—the latest development in the craze to remake vintage optics.
The updated version of Google Glass is called the Enterprise Edition and, as the name suggests, it's not meant for personal use.
Charles Ommanney was once a photographer for presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, now he's working for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Image compression software JPEGmini Pro was just updated to handle files up to 128MB. They're calling it "The 1 Feature Hasselblad Owners
Apple was just granted a patent for a camera system that prods, coaxes and manipulates users into taking better group and solo selfies.
The Canon EOS 6D Mark II is a better camera than its predecessor, but how much better? Should you buy one?
The winners of the 2017 Magnum and LensCulture Photography Awards have been announced. Here are the six photographers who took home the top prize in their respective categories.
A NASA study has confirmed what your ears have been telling you: people HATE drone noise. In fact, it was ranked more annoying than that of "any ground vehicle."
This floating bird video isn't edited in post-production. It's the result of the birds wing flap matching the camera's 20fps frame rate.
Adobe released a major update to Lightroom Mobile for both iOS and Android users today.
Could the future of photo and video storage be... alive? Scientists at Harvard have managed to encode a GIF of a galloping horse into a live sample of E. coli.