Hands-On Review: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100
Sony’s newly announced DSC-RX100 is a unique compact camera in design and performance. While it takes on the demeanor of a small, simple-to-use camera, it also provides a great deal of appeal for even the professional photographer. This camera’s control range includes modes that will provide auto exposure and scene-recognition tactics, or you can be left entirely on your own when working in its full manual mode. The design is also reminiscent of an interchangeable-lens camera, and features a rotating control ring at the front that allows you to control many of the camera’s settings, including focus and aperture settings. Beneath the sleek design is an impressive 1.0-inch 20.2MP sensor for outstanding image quality, and an incredibly fast Zeiss f/1.8 lens for low-light shooting and greater control over selective-focus applications.
20.2MP Image Sensor and BIONZ Image Processor
At the core of the camera, this sensor, which is significantly larger than the typically-sized compact camera sensor, features advanced column A/D processing and is powered by a BIONZ image processor. The combination of these technologies and sheer size of the sensor allow for smooth, clear images with low noise and excellent low-light sensitivity to ISO 6400. Additionally, this larger sensor provides greater control over the focus and permits a shallower depth of field similar to DSLRs or other interchangeable-lens cameras. In addition to files being saved as a standard JPEG, they can also be saved in a RAW file format for greater control and latitude when processing your images on the computer.
Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 10.4-37.1mm f/1.8-4.9 Lens
Contributing equally as much to the fine image quality, this Zeiss lens features a bright, fast f/1.8 maximum aperture. This wide aperture also helps to improve low-light shooting and helps with controlling focus for selective-focus applications. The Zeiss lens construction features T* multi-coating to improve light transmission and reduce light flare while improving overall contrast. The lens is roughly equivalent to a 28-100mm lens in 35mm format and features a 3.6x optical zoom.
Aiding the lens and ultimately the sharpness of the image, Sony’s Optical SteadyShot with Active Mode has been incorporated into the camera and helps to reduce camera shake and blur significantly when shooting in difficult conditions. This optical stabilization is truly helpful when working with the lens at full zoom or when recording HD videos. For objective sighting, there is also a digital level that will help to keep your horizons straight and give you a reminder of the direction in which you are listing.
Sleek, Intuitive Design
Arguably as impressive as the imaging power within the body is the design of the camera itself. Based on appearances alone, the camera resembles a typical compact point and shoot, but the tactility of the aluminum construction provides an elegance that is refreshing for such a small camera. The lens is surrounded by a rotating control ring that mimics the feel of an interchangeable lens and allows you to manipulate many of the camera’s settings from it. On the back of the camera is a large, 3.0-inch Xtra Fine 1.229K-dot LCD monitor with WhiteMagic technology for improved bright daylight use. This high-resolution screen gives tremendous feedback when reviewing images and proves to be extremely helpful for critical-focusing applications.
Also incorporated into the compact design of the camera is a small but powerful pop-up flash. Flash control is offered in 5 steps: flash off, auto flash, fill-flash, slow sync and rear sync. The flash incorporates a number of intelligent technologies for balancing its light output with the existing scene, creating a more natural-looking rendition when desired.
For quick shooting, this camera incorporates a number of features that help to improve efficiency and provide sheer speed. A newly developed high speed actuator motor in the lens provides ultra-quick focusing speeds; as fast as 0.13 second, even in low light. For keeping up with fast-moving subjects, the RX100 is also able to capture up to 10.2 full 20.2MP resolution frames per second in continuous shooting mode. Since the shutter is mechanical, image distortion is also lessened when panning or shooting laterally-moving subjects.
For expedited handling of the camera, a number of customizable features and an easy-to-navigate menu system allow you to settle on your desired settings and be shooting quickly. You can assign up to seven different functions to the FN button and sequence them, permitting you to access the most frequently used settings more efficiently. Similarly designed but more thorough in application, the memory recall (MR) mode can memorize up to three different sets of preferred settings for you to access instantly. This can range from zoom and exposure settings to white balance and LCD screen settings. This mode is easily entered through the top dial and does not require navigating through a menu system to enter info.
While the camera is a fully capable and friendly machine for anyone to use, it truly shines in its manual capabilities. For photographers who want to gain more personal control over their images without having to resort to larger cameras, the RX100’s intuitive controls make manual imaging straightforward. The control ring can be used to control a range of features from white balance, EV compensation and ISO, but it is most naturally used to control focus. When shooting video, the ring is best used to control the lens aperture.
In addition to fully automated or manual modes, there is a variety of features that will also meet you in the middle, giving you the option to vary the amount of convenience with control. Direct manual focusing (DMF) will quickly focus automatically, but when the shutter button is held halfway, you can manually fine-tune the focus if you wish. This is especially helpful when shooting portraits or close-up work where selective focus can be a crucial element to a successful image. For even finer tuning of focus, MF assist will automatically zoom on a small portion of the image for tight focusing, and focus peaking will provide contrasting lines along subject edges for a more objective style of focusing.
For the times when manual control is not desired, such as when working spontaneously or just in a more casual manner, this camera also provides a plethora of options for creating great images in a simple fashion. Superior Auto and Intelligent Auto modes will automatically recognize the scene you’re working in and apply optimal camera settings for the best exposure. Superior Auto mode will shoot up to 6 individual images and combine them in order to exhibit a wide range of benefits, including Backlight Correction HDR and image layering to lessen noise when working in low light. Intelligent Scene Recognition Mode (iSCN) utilizes a palette of 33 different scene types for still images and 44 different scene types for movies, and will automatically recognize your shooting environment and apply the necessary image adjustments to best render your image.
Auto Portrait Framing is a unique mode that will automatically compose and enhance your pictures of people into newly saved, separate files for you to consider when going through your portraits. Utilizing the rule of thirds composition method and even being able to tell which direction your subject is facing, the camera will re-frame your image and apply Auto Face Detection for glancing over your model, and By Pixel Super Resolution helps to ensure there is no detectable loss of quality when cropping.
Auto HDR mode can also be employed to remove the time-consuming HDR techniques from your post-production workflow and deliver images with an extended dynamic range directly from the camera. This mode can deliver images with up to six exposure value steps of additional range on both the highlight and shadow end of your image, significantly helping to reduce over- or underexposed imagery.
Full HD 1080/60p Movies
You can record full HD movies in the 1920 x 1080 format at up to 60 fps. Aided by the large sensor and lens, the videos exhibit a great deal of clarity and fluid motion, while the control ring allows you to vary the aperture setting while recording. When working in manual mode, you can alter both the aperture and shutter speed during recording, and in other modes the exposure settings are controlled by +/-2.0 EV gain. You have a choice of manual or automatic focusing while recording video.
HD video recording can take place in any mode and is accessed by the one-touch movie button on the rear of the camera. When recording movies, you can also capture still images without stopping recording by simply depressing the shutter button. Full HD video files are recorded in the AVCHD format at either 1080 60i or 60p, or in a more web-friendly 1440 x 1080 MP4 format.
For creative enhancement of your images in-camera, a Photo Creativity interface is easily accessible and navigable and provides you with a number of effects such as background defocus, color settings, brightness and vividness controls. When working in picture effect mode, you can work with unique settings such as miniature, toy camera and watercolor painting while shooting. And for further creative modification of your images, you can control how the camera processes your images with six different finishing styles and an allowance to fine-tune your settings, such as contrast, saturation and sharpness.
Sweep Panorama mode allows you to make long, stitched images in-camera without having to rely on labor intensive post-production techniques. To work in this mode you simply hold the shutter button down and pan about the scene; the camera will then deliver a well-stitched-together fluid image. You can also create 3D panoramic images in the MPO file format.
In addition to the camera itself, Sony is also releasing a few accessories to complement and protect your DSC-RX100. The Jacket Case is a form-fitting case that provides general protection to the camera while not detracting from the overall minimal look and feel of the camera. Specific protection can be afforded for your high-resolution screen with the help of the LCD Protection Cover, which fits neatly over the 3.0-inch screen and helps to prevent scratches and other damage to your monitor. For longer shooting times and trips away from home, the NP-BX1 rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack provides extended battery life.
This camera truly branches the gap between wanting the convenience of a point and shoot and the control and image quality of an interchangeable-lens camera. Handling of the camera is highly intuitive and it’s easy to switch between modes, further aided by customizable modes for instantly returning to your most frequently used settings. The large control ring provides precise handling over manual focus or aperture values, and also offers a second way to navigate through menus or other commands. Beside the efficiency of this camera, its imaging quality truly impresses based on the size of the camera. The large sensor and fast, high-quality lens deliver superior results and a wide range of control over results of your final images.
|Imaging Sensor||1.0" (13.2 x 8.8mm) Exmor CMOS sensor, 3:2 aspect ratio|
|Still Image File Format||JPEG, RAW (Sony ARW 2.3 format)|
|Still Image Size||3:2
L: 5472 x 3648 (20MP)
M: 3888 x 2592 (10MP)
S: 2736 x 1824 (5MP)
L: 4864 x 3648 (18MP)
M: 3648 x 2736 (10MP)
S: 2592 x 1944 (5MP)
VGA: 640 x 480 (0.3MP)
L: 5472 x 3080 (17MP)
M: 3648 x 2056 (7.5MP)
S: 2720 x 1528 (4.2MP)
|Video Format||AVCHD Ver. 2.0, MP4|
28M PS: 1920 x 1080/60p
24M FX: 1920 x 1080/60i
17M FH: 1920 x 1080/60i
12M: 1440 x 1080, 30fps
3M VGA: 640 x 480, 30fps
|Lens Type||Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T*|
|Focal Length (35mm Equivalent)||Still 3:2 – 28-100mm
Still 4:3 – 30-108mm
Still 16:9 – 29-105mm
Still 1:1 – 36-127mm
Movie 4:3 (Std) – 36-128mm
Movie 4:3 (Active) – 41-146mm
Movie 16:9 (Std) – 29-105mm
Movie 16:9 (Active) – 33-120mm
|Digital Zoom||20MP: Approx. 14x
10MP: Approx. 20x
5MP: Approx. 28x
VGA: Approx. 54x
|Clear Image Zoom||7.2x|
|Lens Construction||7 elements in 6 groups (including AA lens)|
|Aperture Blades||7 blades (iris diaphragm)|
|Focus Range||W: Approx. 2” / 5 cm to infinity
T: Approx. 21.6” / 55 cm to infinity
|Focus System||Single-shot AF (AF-S), Continuous AF (AF-C), Direct Manual Focus (DMF), Manual Focus|
|Autofocus Modes||Multi point AF (25 points), Center weighted AF, Flexible spot, Flexible spot (tracking focus), Flexible spot (face tracking)|
|Image Stabilization||SteadyShot Active
Still image: Optical
Movie: Active mode, optical type with electronic
|Exposure Metering Modes||Multi segment, Center weighted, Spot|
|Exposure Compensation||+/- 3 EV in 1/3 steps|
|Shutter Speed Range||30-1/2000 sec., bulb|
|Continuous Shooting Speed||10 fps at 20.2MP|
|Self-Timer||10 or 2 sec|
|Scene Modes||Portrait, Anti Motion Blur, Sports Action, Pet, Gourmet, Macro, Landscape, Sunset, Night Scene, Handheld Twilight, Night Portrait, Fireworks, High Sensitivity|
|Dynamic Range Optimizer||Off, Dynamic Range Optimizer (Auto/Level), Auto High Dynamic Range: Auto exposure difference, Exposure difference level (1-6 EV in 1 EV step)|
|Creative Style||Standard, Vivid, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, Black & White|
|White Balance Modes||Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluor. (Warm White, Cool White, Day White, Daylight), Flash, C. Temp, Filter/Custom|
|ISO Sensitivity||Auto, ISO 125-6400|
|Picture Effects||Toy Camera, Pop Color, Posterization, Retro Photo, Soft High-key, Partial Color, High Contrast Monochrome, Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich-tone Monochrome, Miniature, Watercolor, Illustration|
|LCD Type||3.0" / 7.5cm 1,229K-dot Xtra Fine TruBlack TFT LCD|
|Flash Modes||Auto, Fill-flash, Slow Sync, Rear Sync, Off|
|Flash Coverage||ISO Auto
W: 1-56.1’ / 0.3-17.1m
T: 1.8-20.7’ / 0.55-6.3m
W: Up to 79.4’ / 24.2m
T: Up to 29.2’ / 8.9m
|Power Supply||NP-BX1 rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack|
|Power Consumption (in Operation)||Approx. 1.5W|
|HD Output||Micro HDMI|
|USB Port||Micro USB, USB 2.0|
|Memory Card Slot||MS Duo, SD, SDHC, SDXC|
|Dimensions||4 x 2.4 x 1.5" / 101.6 x 58.1 x 35.9mm|
|Weight||8.5 oz / 240 g|