Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 In-Depth Review
Video is one of the RX100's real strengths - coming, as it does, from a company that has been pushing the boundaries of what you can expect from video capture in consumer-grade cameras. Would-be film makers won't be blown away by the bitrate of the footage, but for all but the most demanding user, the specifications are very good. Video can be captured in 1080p60 or 1080i60, with a choice of P,A,S or M exposure modes.
The camera gives you the choice of continuous AF or manual focus when recording movies and allows you to zoom as you shoot. The camera's SteadyShot image stabilization is also available while shooting, meaning that you can get away without a tripod, if you don't mind a bit of drift and sway. There are two modes - Standard and Active - which compensate for different amounts of motion. Standard mode will happily compensate for a little hand-shake, while Active mode will also try to tackle larger amplitude movements, such as walking. Doing so crops the video footage in slightly, to give the camera more area to take the footage from.
|The shooting display in video mode is essentially the same as in stills - note the indication of the front dial for focus. This is where the stepless dial comes into its own, especially when combined with the 'Peaking' focus aid view.|
There's also the option, when you're shooting interlaced video, to capture 17MP stills (full-resolution 16:9 images) without interrupting your footage. Add to this the 'focus peaking' focus aid that Sony has included in its Alpha cameras and you have a very capable video device. The only thing really missing is an external mic input but, this aside, this is the best video spec in its class.
• 1920 x 1080p 60 fps
• 1920 x 1080i 60fps
• 1920 x 1080i 60fps
• 1440 x 1080 @ 30fps
• 640 x 480 @ 30fps
*All frame rates are for North American units - cameras sold in Europe offer similar specifications but with 50/25 fps frame rates.
|Audio Recording||• Linear PCM (Stereo)|
• AVCHD [H.264 + Linear PCM (Stereo)]
|Max recording time|| • Full HD & HD: Up to 4 GB or 29 min. 59 sec.
• L and M: Up to 4 GB or 1 hour
|Image stabilization|| • Lens-shift type (Active and Standard modes)
• Active mode offers stabilization for greater range of motion but uses a cropped region of the video
Video quality and operation
The RX100's video is very impressive, especially when you remember you're working with such a small camera. As with stills, it doesn't offer much control over depth-of-field, but the lens range is pretty flexible and there's plenty of manual control. The footage itself is clear and detailed, especially in 1080p mode. The interlaced video is also very good but could prove a little trickier to work with. Because it's captured as true interlaced footage (each field is captured 1/60th of a second apart, rather than both being captured together, 30 times a second, as most cameras do), it gives a smoother impression of motion it's a little harder to de-interlace if you want to play it back on a computer.
The RX100 will attempt to use digital zoom, when you reach the full extent of the lens' reach, but we'd strongly advise against it. Not only does the image quality suffer dramatically, but the rate of zooming also changes. As a result, you risk having a video that zooms in slowly, stops as the optical zoom is exhausted, then starts zooming much faster, with the picture suddenly becoming blurry. it's hard to imagine a scenario in which this won't look terrible and it's a shame that the option can't be switched off.
In operation, the RX100 offers a good degree of control. It can autofocus but the best results are achieved by manual focusing. If you're willing to do this, the RX100 provides two key tools for doing so: focus peaking (which highlights high-contrast/in-focus regions, to guide your focusing) and the large, smooth control ring for manual focusing. While the lack of click positions is to the camera's detriment in stills shooting, it's a definite bonus for video shooting.
Sadly, the RX100 inherits the rather frustrating playback quirks from other Sony models - movie playback is separated from stills playback (and MP4s from AVCHD clips), and it insists on playing one clip after another. This makes reviewing your movie clips or trying to delete unwanted ones much more confusing and time-consuming than it should be. And, while one of these irritations stems from the need to file MP4 and AVCHD footage in separate folders on the memory card, the continuous playback is purely Sony's choice.
Sample video 1
This is an example of the RX100's 1080i60 footage in the lower of its two bitrates (17Mb/s). As you can see, it conveys motions smoothly and convincingly.
|1920 x 1080i 60fps, 28.3MB, MTS, 15 sec. Click here to download original file|
Sample video 2
This video shows the effect of digital zoom (~400mm equivalent) on the RX100's video footage. Again shot in the 1080i60 mode at 17Mb/s the quality is drastically lower than the camera is capable of. We'd strongly recommend avoiding the use of digital zoom when shooting videos.
|1920 x 1080i 60fps, 29.6MB, MTS, 15 sec. Click here to download original file|
Sample video 3
In this sample, shot towards the wide end of the RX100's zoom, the camera is set to 1080p60 mode and is shot with SteadyShot set to Active mode and shot without a tripod or support. As you can see - while it's not perfectly steady, it's certainly stable enough for capturing your own clips, without any problematic IS/rolling shutter interaction.
|1920 x 1080p 60fps, 123.1MB, MTS, 39 sec. Click here to download original file|
Sample video 4
This is an example of the RX100's 1080p60 footage, featuring a fairly fast-moving subject.
|1920 x 1080p 60fps, 62.3MB, MTS, 20 sec. Click here to download original file|
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