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.
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
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.
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
Full HD video, stereo sound
ISO80 - ISO25600
HDR / Panoramic / 7fps continuous shooting
P/A/S/M Manual shooting, plus RAW
Sony Cyber-shot RX100 Handling
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
Excellent image quality
High resolution screen
Highest resolution compact camera available
Extremely stylish leather case available
Stylish metal body
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