Review: Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100
Sony’s Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 packs a lot into its compact housing, including a huge 1-inch CMOS sensor. The result is an excellent camera that’s eminently portable without sacrificing image quality.
Juha Saarinen | Monday, August 20 2012
Product type: Compact camera
RRP incl GST: $1,100
- Excellent stills and video quality,
- even in low light
- Fast performance and decent battery life
- Price on the high side, no wireless connectivity
Sony’s new Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 will delight photography nuts with generous budgets.
Sony’s Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 packs a lot into its compact housing. The result is an excellent camera that’s eminently portable without sacrificing image quality.
The RX100 is a well-built premium product with a 240g black aluminium body. Most of the controls operate without excessive slop and give, although the zoom rocker at the front could be more precise.
Aside from the zoom, the only other control is only the fully customisable lens ring. Its functions change according to shooting mode: zooming, focusing or selecting shutter/aperture combinations in programme auto mode, for example.
At top, there’s a thumbwheel to select the shooting mode. The pop-up flash has good reach and can be tilted back with your finger to enable you to bounce the flash – an unofficial technique that works well.
At the rear, the 1,229,000 dot LCD is sharp and importantly, visible outdoors. You also have a clickable thumbwheel for rapid selection of camera functions and the usual menus. I found the video button difficult to locate with my large hands, but overall, the ergonomics are fine. They improve if you bolt on the supplied protective black leather outer case.
At heart of the RX100 is the 13.2 by 8.8mm 1-inch Exmor CMOS sensor, roughly four times the size of the usual 1/2.33-inch chips found in compacts. With 20.2 megapixel effective resolution and ISO 125 to 6,400 native sensitivity the RX100 needs a good lens to match, and Sony has equipped a Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* zoom with seven elements (four aspheric) in six groups.
This provides a very useful zoom range, equivalent to 28mm wide to 100mm tele in 35 film terms. At wide angle the lens is very fast, with f/1.8, though it’s a less impressive f/4.9 at full tele. Sony has added image stabilisation that works for both stills and video – don’t forget, this is all in a camera that fits into your pocket.
Slot in an SD card and the RX100 is ready to shoot in just over a second, with quick autofocus that rarely hesitates or misses. It’s capable of up to 10fps in Speed Priority mode and 2.5 in continuous drive.
The RX100 has the traditional P/A/S/M shooting modes and two full-auto modes, which work well. The picture effects and creative features take a while to figure out; luckily, Sony put a comprehensive online manual on the RX100.
Frankly, the still images are amazing considering the camera’s size. They look great at 100% magnification and with 20.2 megapixels, you have a lot of cropping margin.
The fast lens and large sensor provide good depth of field control for background blurring, with nice bokeh. Low-light performance is also good. I took perfectly good pictures at ISO3200, and ISO6400 is usable. You can get to ISO 25600 with features that take multiple images and combine them into one.
I was quite happy with the JPEGs, but manually processed RAW files bring out even more from the RX100.
Video, at a maximum of 1,920 by 1,080, 50p and 28Mbit/s bit rate also looks good, although I wish there was a jack for an external microphone as there’s an HDMI output.
Battery life is rated at 330 shots or 165 minutes according to the CIPA standard, and the RX100 can be charged via the USB port.
Being picky, I would have liked Wi-Fi built into the RX100 for file transfers and camera control. Some will miss a GPS and you will probably wince at the pricetag.
Other than that, the search for a compact travel and everyday camera that blends portability with superlative image quality ends with the RX100.
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