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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 Serious Compact Review

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 Serious Compact Review - Sony's latest serious compact camera features a large 1 inch 20.2 megapixel sensor, full manual controls and RAW support. Find our how it performs in our review.

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Category : Compact Cameras
Product : Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100
Price : £289
Rating :
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Features
Handling
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Sony Cybershot Rx100 (12)

The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 is a new "serious compact" camera with manual controls, RAW shooting, a large 1 inch 20.2 megapixel Exmor CMOS sensor and f/1.8 Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 3.6x optical zoom lens.

Sony Cyber-shot RX100 Features

Sony Cybershot Rx100 (6)


The camera features a control ring around the lens letting you quickly change settings. The camera shoots full HD video with stereo sound, and the camera features an aluminium body. The camera inherits a number of imaging features from Sony's Alpha and NEX camera ranges, with a number of the controls and options appearing very similar to the Alpha range of cameras. The camera offers high speed shooting at up to 10 frames per second at full resolution, as well as high-speed autofocus that Sony say can be as quick as 0.13 seconds.

The back of the camera features a high resolution 3 inch screen with 1229k dot resolution and "WhiteMagic" technology that uses white pixels in addition to RGB to boost screen brightness. There is a custom function button on the back, as well as manual focus and MF assist with focus peaking to highlight sharply focused areas of the image on screen.


Sony Cybershot Rx100 (8)

Key Features

  • 20.2 megapixel 1 inch sensor
  • 3.6x Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* f/1.8-4.9 lens, equivalent to 28-100mm
  • Optical image stabilisation /
  • 3 inch screen, 1,229,000 dots
  • Aluminium body
  • Full HD video, stereo sound
  • ISO80 - ISO25600
  • Electronic level
  • Macro: 5cm
  • HDR / Panoramic / 7fps continuous shooting
  • P/A/S/M Manual shooting, plus RAW

Sony Cyber-shot RX100 Handling

Sony Cybershot Rx100 (9)

Handling - The aluminium bodied RX100 features a rear rubber grip, with nothing on the front to grip apart from the smooth metal body. Like other serious compact cameras the Sony has front and rear scroll wheels. The rear wheel clicks as you turn it, although the front does not, it simply turns freely without the feedback. The rear scroll wheel lets you scroll through photos even when zoomed in so you can compare which is the sharpest. The front scroll wheel is used to control different options depending which mode you are in, defaulting to zoom control in iAuto / iAuto+, selecting the scene in scene mode, or setting the aperture/shutter in each mode. On top is a mode dial making choosing modes easy, and a dedicated movie button means you can start recording video in any mode. A small pop up flash can be tilted upwards for bounce flash (tiny flash, may not be effective), it automatically pops-up when enabled, and needs pushing back in to close.

On the bottom is the microHDMI port, with a side USB port that is also used for charging. The camera takes both SD/SDHC/SDXC as well as Sony MS memory cards, although not both at the same time.

Sony Cybershot Rx100 Rear

Menus
– The menu systems are more like the Sony Alpha range of cameras rather than the NEX cameras, which is a good thing in our opinion. This gives easy access to options, with a clearly laid out menu system. To quickly set the most popular settings, you can simply press the Fn button on the back and from the rear screen you can set Metering, ISO, WB, DRA/HDR, Picture Effect, Focus area and Image quality.

Sony Cybershot Rx100 (10)

Battery life - CIPA test results show the camera as having 200 shot battery life, we were able to take just over 300 shots before the battery went flat. The 1240mah lithium ion battery can not be put in the wrong way round, although unfortunately isn't an info-lithium battery like other Sony cameras, so battery life is simply shown as three bars on the camera, rather than the more accurate % remaining.

Sony Cybershot Rx100 In Hand

Speed
- We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.


Sony RX100
Sony Alpha A37
Shutter Response
0.0 <0.05
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.3 0.15
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response
0.3 0.15
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 2.2 0.9
Shot to Shot without Flash 0.9 0.5
Shot to Shot with Flash 2.1 0.8
Continuous Shooting
(shots before slow down)
7fps (speed priority mode, 15 shots)
6fps (11 shots)
Continuous Shooting - Flash 1.6s 0.7s
Continuous Shooting - RAW 4fps  (13 shots)
6fps (7 shots)

Focusing and continuous shooting was good with impressive shutter response. The camera will shoot at 7fps in JPEG despite the camera specs saying it is capable of 10fps, we were not able to replicate this, and when shooting RAW this slowed to 4fps. Switch on time is reasonable. Shot-to-shot is quite good, although much slower with flash.

Sony Cybershot Rx100 (1)

Sony Cyber-shot RX100 Performance

Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.

Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100 Sample Photos


Sample Photos - The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 takes an excellent portrait photo with very good detail and skin tones, although there is slight red-eye. Colour, exposure and detail are all very good outdoors with the camera providing good dynamic range in photos, particularly when DRO (Dynamic Range Optimisation) is switched on.

Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100 Lens test images


Lens Performance - Despite trying to produce flare in photos shooting into the sun, it very difficult, and the camera performed very well under adverse shooting conditions. The photos show good detail, even in the corners. The camera copes well with chromatic aberration, with very little on show. There is also good detail when using the zoom. There are very low levels of barrel or pincushion distortion in the JPEG files, nor did we see any signs of vignetting. Macro performance is reasonable, and the camera is capable of producing pleasing background blur when the subject is close to the camera, giving photos the appearance of being taken on a larger sensor camera.

Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100 ISO test images


ISO Noise Performance - Noise is very low at ISO80, 100, 200, 400, with a very slight increase at ISO800 as well as a slight reduction in detail. ISO1600 shows a slight increase in noise, and at ISO3200 detail is further reduced, however the results are impressive, with the image looking very usable. At ISO6400 there is a loss of colour and a further loss of detail, however images may still provide useful images particularly if used on the web. Above ISO6400 is only available using the multi-frame noise reduction mode, where you can select up to ISO12800 and ISO25600 - uses these modes shows a big decrease in detail, however noise is quite well controlled, untill ISO25600 where images show high levels of noise and low detail.

Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100 White-balance test images


White Balance Performance - AWB (Auto White Balance) performance under tungsten lighting is good with a slightly warm result. Using the tungsten preset gives a slightly more nuetral result. Using AWB under fluorescent light gives a good result, although there is a slight cast. There are a number of fluorescent presets that can help produce better results. Detail is very good, even when shooting in low light conditions.

Panoramic | 1/500 sec | f/5.6 | 10.4 mm | ISO 125
1/500 sec | f/5.6 | 10.4 mm | ISO 125 - Panoramic mode allows both vertical and horizontal panoramics. Options are wide or standard, depending on how much you want to capture.

Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100 Other sample images


DRO / HDR options: Dynamic Range Optimisation (DRO) takes one photo and adjusts the levels to bring out more detail in shadow areas. High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode takes three photos at different exposures and automatically combines them in camera to produce images with extended dynamic range.  DRO can be set to auto or Level 1 to 5 depending on how strong you want the effect to be. Similarly HDR can be set to auto or EV1 to 6 giving you control over the effect.

Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100 Digital filters


Digital Filters - Picture effects can be selected when shooting JPEG images, there are 33 in total if you include all the options available which you have to scroll through to get back to the OFF position. At least one of each effect is shown above.

Video - Optical zoom is available while recording, as well as a wind filter. Video quality is very good with the optical image stabilisation helping to steady to image. The camera gives the choice of AVCHD or MP4 recording although the resolution is reduced to 1440 x 1080 when recording MP4. It's possible to take photos while recording at 17 megapixels.


Value For Money

The Sony Cyber-shot RX100, along with the Nikon Coolpix P310 and Canon Powershot S100 are the only models that lack a flash hot-shoe. It's possible that this may limit the appeal of the camera for those interested in studio flash lighting or a more powerful flash. The Sony RX100 is one of the more expensive "serious compacts" available, with the Samsung EX2F, Panasonic Lumix LX7 and Fujifilm FinePix X10 being some of the closest competitors although many of these are noticeably cheaper.

Camera MP Sensor Size Lens Price
Nikon Coolpix P310 (lacks RAW) 16 1/2.33 inch f/1.8 4.2x £219
Olympus XZ-1 10 1/1.63 inch f/1.8 4x £260
Canon Powershot S100 12 1/1.7 inch f/2.0 5x £329
Fujifilm FinePix X10 12 2/3 inch f/2.0 4x £338
Nikon Coolpix P7100 10 1/1.7 inch f/2.8 7.1x £349
Samsung EX2F 12.4 1/1.7 inch f/1.4 3.3x £429
Panasonic Lumix LX7 10mp 1/1.7 inch f/1.4 3.8x £449
Canon Powershot G1 X 14.3 1.5 inch f/2.8 4x £449
Ricoh GR Digital IV 10 1/1.7 inch f/1.9 28mm £449
Sony Cyber-shot RX100 20.2 1 inch sensor f/1.8 3.6x £515
Sigma DP1 / DP2 Merrill 15.3/46 APS-C Foveon f/2.8 28mm / 45mm £799
Leica X2 16 APS-C f/2.8 35mm £1499

You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags. An official Sony Cyber-shot RX100 case is available for £60 as shown in the review.

Sony Cyber-shot RX100 Verdict

The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 is one of very few compact cameras with a large sensor, and it's been a long time since Sony themselves put a large sensor in a compact camera with the previous model, the Sony Cyber-shot R1, dating back to 2005. Since then a re-surgence of "serious compact" cameras has happened, with most manufacturers having at least one offering, apart from Sony. Sony has re-joined the market with a unique take on the serious compact with a large 1 inch sensor, but without the large body size associated with it. The Canon Powershot G1 X features a 1.5 inch sensor but also features a much larger body and lens for example. 

Image quality on the RX100 is excellent, with excellent all-round performance, images have good detail, low noise and excellent exposure. The camera has a wide range of features to improve results with a number of dynamic range enhancing modes as well as a built in multi-shot HDR mode.

The rotating front dial doesn't click, so it can feel like guess work as to where the setting will end up when turning it, and the on-screen display of the setting often feels disconnected. The price is also another factor to consider, as it is higher than most other serious compacts, as well as a number of mirrorless cameras, the majority with larger sensors (excluding the Nikon 1 series). Battery life is quite short, and a front grip would be nice, but if you put image quality and compact size above price then the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 is an excellent choice.

 
  The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 is a premium compact camera with high image quality to match.

Sony Cyber-shot RX100 Pros

Good noise performance
Large sensor
Excellent image quality
High resolution screen
Highest resolution compact camera available
Extremely stylish leather case available
Stylish metal body
Electronic level

Sony Cyber-shot RX100 Cons

Tripod plate can stop front lens-ring dial working
f/4.9 at telephoto end
High price / High price case
Lack of grip at front

FEATURES    
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
VERDICT  

Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100 Specifications

ManufacturerSony
Lens
Max Aperturef/1.8 - f/4.9
35mm equivalent28mm - 100mm
Optical Zoom3.6x
Image Sensor
CCD pixels20.2Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)5472
Pixels (H)3648
Sensor TypeExmor CMOS
Sensor Size1 inch
Sensor Size (width)13.2mm
Sensor Size (height)8.8mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 3:2
  • 16:9
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution1,229,000 dots
Touch ScreenNo
Focusing
Min Focus5cm
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Manual
  • AF Tracking
  • Spot
  • Face Detection
  • Multi
  • Centre
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/2000sec
Shutter speeds longest30sec
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
  • A
Metering
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Multi Pattern
  • Spot
ISO sensitivity80 - 25600
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Shade
  • Flash
Exposure Comp+/-3
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting10fps
Video
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080
  • 640x480 VGA
  • 1440x1080
Video FPS50p, 50i
Stereo SoundYes
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationYes
Interface
HDMIYes
USBUSB 2
Wi-FiNo
Storage
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • Memory Stick
  • SDXC
File Type
  • RAW
  • JPG
  • RAW + JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeLithium-Ion
CIPA Rating330
Box Contents
Box ContentsRechargeable Battery Pack NP-BX1, AC Adaptor AC-UD10, Micro USB cable, Wrist Strap, Shoulder Strap Adaptor, Instruction Manual
Dimensions
Weight213g
Width101.6mm
Height58.1mm
Depth35.9mm

View Full Product Details

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Photographs taken using the Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100

Leap of faithThe call.ConvergenceDAHLIAEarly morning mistLUKESLAND GARDENS, PLYMOUTH.UK.Colour Burst ( Azaleas )My little fizz bomb!Bridge OfficerShop boughtSUNSET IN NORTH DEVONEdenRemains of the RainImpending rain clouds in Da Lat, VietnamDriving from paradise
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Comments


8 Aug 2012 10:27AM
Another great looking camera let down yet again for me by the lack of a viewfinder! I would never spend this much on a camera without one. I don't care how good they make the screens I just hate composing a photograph with one. I find a viewfinder so much better.

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alan53 6 United Kingdom
8 Aug 2012 11:28AM
Ah. The old “never ready case”. Now that brings back some bad memories from the past.
rhol2 e2
3 285 1 United Kingdom
8 Aug 2012 11:54AM
Nice to see such a case again, wonder if it might help with gripping the camera?
davey_griffo 5 213 165 England
8 Aug 2012 12:53PM
I'm with Phil. For one thing, you can't hold a camera steady when it's stuck out at arm's length.
josa 2 25 Czech Republic
8 Aug 2012 3:00PM
Great camera but way too expensive! Sad Will have to keep my S95 for a while...
Can anyone explain why the sensor is described as 1 inch when it's actual dimensions are 13.2 x 8.8 mm?
8 Aug 2012 6:39PM
The reviewer apparently didn't think that the lack of any kind of viewfinder, optical or EVF was a negative or even worth mentioning. Sony did not even provide for an optional electronic viewfinder, a real shame and something that I would have mentioned in the discussion and in the cons. What advantage does this camera have over the Canon G1X or the Sony NEX F3 or the Fuji X10? It is a shame that the review only scratched the surface.
8 Aug 2012 6:46PM
What about battery charging in camera ? No flash hotshoe fitting, or for an add-on viewfinder.

The lack of RAW support at present, again, no optical viewfinder ( Fuji can do it ) and poorly designed grip, there is a Robert Freniac accessory available, at cost, just like the pricey Sony 'ever-ready case'.

Could have been a really great camera, but it has been let down somewhat, just read through some of the tests/ reviews on other websites to get a broader view.

Lastly, the cost is always high on launch, ( and for Sony equipment ) but should settle down after all the fuss has died down, then it might be a good buy if you can live with its' shortcomings.

Try it out before you buy it.
8 Aug 2012 7:33PM
hmmm agree with all above and why can we not have a camera that just takes a sodden picture why in hell do these people think we need video grrr


GrahamGrin
8 Aug 2012 11:23PM
Someone asked how Sony can claim a 1 inch sensor when the dimensions are 8.8mm by 13.2mm. That equates to a diagonal dimension of 15.86mm, whereas 1 inch would be 25.4mm. I personally was wildly upset by that, especially given that I'm normally a Sony advocate. Gary Friedman straightened me out. Apparently, when a sensor is sized by the inch, we can expect it to be about 75% of the published dimension! This is a dirty little game the manufacturers play. Sony isn't the only perpetrator. The excuse is that they include the sensor frame, much like the computer monitor specs we used endure a few years back.

I say it's high time we started bashing the manufacturers for this in the camera blogs. The net effect is to reduce noise performance by about a stop. Does that just annoy the @%&! out of you?

Now, settling back down a bit, here's my take on the camera. First, I think the above review is great. I have an A77, A850, and A580, so I'm intimately familiar with almost all of the RX100 features, and I'm a fan. I have to say, though that, in spite of the sensor size table presented in the review, I believe the Lumix LX7 sensor is slightly larger. Look it up. The Lumix has a similar optical zoom range (despite misleading advertising), and it has better aperture size when you consider the complete zoom range. That's going to help with noise. Both the LX7 and the RX100 have autoHDR and multi-frame noise reduction, both of which can help noise management, even at lower ISO. MFNR is very helpful when you're in low light and haven't time for, or access to, a tripod. I use memory presets to help manage those settings -- an approach that's become addictive on the A77 and A580. Did I mention that the LX7 is significantly less expensive? The LX7 has only 10MP versus the RX100's 20, but that, coupled with the difference in lenses, means the the LX7 should stomp the Sony in noise performance, assuming equivalent sensor technology.

The short battery life on the RX100 concerns me, especially given that the camera has no external charger. It may be possible to pick up a third party charger, which is one advantage of leaving the built in logic chip out of the battery.

The Sony does produce a RAW file, which the LX7 does not. My approach with the A77 is to have one memory preset optimized for low light and MFNR; one for autoHDR; and one for typical tripod settings. If I'm outdoors, I make the autoHDR my immediately accessible preset; indoors, I make the MFNR the immediately accessible preset. Then I set my camera for RAW plus jpeg. I can flip back and forth with a twist of the knob. This is very, very nice when you're on the move and need to take quick shots.

For me, the jury's out. I have a middle of the line Lumix as my compact, and I'm very happy with it. Either the LX7 or the Sony would be a big step up in quality although a step way down in zoom range. Gary Friedman is going to do an ebook on the camera. I'm going to buy the ebook when it comes out, and maybe then I'll make a decision.
29 Dec 2012 3:52AM
I purchased an RX100 based on this and other reviews I've read around the web and at first I was pretty excited about it. Takes great shots in a very small and convenient form factor. It was a great relief to be able to leave my heavy 5D at home for casual outings. However, after spending some time this evening editing some pictures I've taken over the last week, I've discovered that I'm absolutely horrified at the blocky, nasty smearing of the facial tones... and I'm not being dramatic here; there must be something wrong. Is anyone else experiencing this?
Have a look at the skin tones in this hi-res picture and let me know if you think this is acceptable quality from a $650 camera:
http://dramaticaudio.com/iocomposer/Deliveries/JScott_AxeFX.JPG
Hi Iocmposer
I don't have the Sony rx100
However I'm guessing you are shooting it at a lot more than 800 iso!!
Your 5D is a fabulous full frame camera ( I think) and no small pocketable
camera can take lowlight pictures without smearing at very high iso
Go to dpr review and do some image comparisions amongst compact
cameras at high iso, I think you will find that for its size the Sony is an
impressive camera.
Best of luck
12 Jun 2013 6:19AM
I have had (and still have) many relatively expensive/advanced digital cameras:
- Canon 5D mk. 1 and mk. 2 with several L-lenses
- Panasonix LX3
- Nikon P300
- Panasonic GF1
- Sony NEX 5n
- Canon G9
- Panasonic ZF20

I consider all the cameras as high quality and I have used them a lot.

For years I have been trying to find a small camera that takes good pictures at low light.
Preferably it should also have a large sensor.
After I bought the RX100 I hardly ever bring any other camera!
The size is fantastic, the pictures it takes, also at high ISO, are excellent, I always bring it along!
And yes, there is no viewfinder and so on, but some compromises must be made in order to keep the size small. The whole point with such a camera is that it shall be small.
And yes, the 5D mk. 2 takes even better pictures, but where is it when I need it?
Other things to mention: Fast autofokus, continuous mode makes it possible to capture the best picture in many situations, the high number of pixels makes it possible to use crops of the images and still have acceptable resolution. Sometimes HD video is good to have, and it is easy to use.
The build gives a quality feeling an the special camera case also makes it sturdy.
I would recommend this camera to everyone that wants to take high quality pictures from a small camera.

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