Hands-On Review: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100

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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.

Fast Functionality

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.

Manual Modes

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.

Auto Functions

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.

Creative Modes

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.

Optional Accessories

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.

Video Review

Specifications

Imaging Sensor 1.0" (13.2 x 8.8mm) Exmor CMOS sensor, 3:2 aspect ratio
Total Pixels 20.9MP
Effective Pixels 20.2MP
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)
4:3
L: 4864 x 3648 (18MP)
M: 3648 x 2736 (10MP)
S: 2592 x 1944 (5MP)
VGA: 640 x 480 (0.3MP)
16:9
L: 5472 x 3080 (17MP)
M: 3648 x 2056 (7.5MP)
S: 2720 x 1528 (4.2MP)
Video Format AVCHD Ver. 2.0, MP4
Video Mode AVCHD
28M PS: 1920 x 1080/60p
24M FX: 1920 x 1080/60i
17M FH: 1920 x 1080/60i
MP4
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
Maximum Aperture f/1.8-4.9
Optical Zoom 3.6x
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
compensation (anti-rolling)
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
ISO 6400
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

Items discussed in article

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Specs sound impressive!  I've blazed through 8 DSLR camera bodies as a professional photographer but have never owned a digital point-and-shoot.  Partly because I'm a quality freak and havent seen anything worth my $$$.   

Can't wait to give it a test-run and see image quality.

I hear that Sony makes many sensors for Nikon (heck, could be all), including the new D800 sensor.  The same source says we can expect Sony to come out with a different sensor of similar size, using the same technology, early in 2013, which would put them well in the hunt with Canon & Nikon.  It seems Nikon is getting the first run with their sensors, though, so that might be a good place to evaluate performance in advance.  From what I've read, the Nikon with this sensor is just good, not great.  Just repeating what I've heard!

As for purchasing this camera, I was very excited about the 1" sensor prospect (assuming 25mm, as well), but seeing what is posted here, I'll gather myself and get over it.

Sounds great but at what price???  And where's the viewfinder???  That is the one feature that I miss the most on these compact cameras.  No matter how bright the LCD screen, it is tough to compose a photo if the sun is on the LCD.  I have a Canon DSLR for most high end shooting and a Canon compact camera for times when I don't want to schlep the big guns... mostly for dinner parties, etc.   This new camera would be great if it had a viewfinder.

The link in the first paragraph above shows it @ $648 from B & H.

This post made me smile. I remember the ineicisevendss I had with how much to charge on my first paid shoot. Initially, I simply felt bad for charging people money for my time and efforts, but through research, I realized that a photo is worth, and people who come to a photographer usually are aware of that, as well.

I agree about the viewfinder.  It sounds like something I would really be interested in - if only it had a viewfinder.  An old guy like me has the devil of a time trying to compose a shot looking at an LCD out-of-doors - through my bifocals. :-) 

Hope they will follow up with another model equipped with a viewfinder too.

Hello Shutterbug -

The current price  will be posted to our website.  Click here:  DSC-RX100.  I feel your pain regarding optical viewfinders but the industry has committed to delivering better and better LCD displays and this new SONY is showcasing one of the best so far.  The 3" (1229k dots) Xtra Fine LCD Display makes it easy to scroll through menus and preview pictures. Plus, the large display delivers brilliant-quality still images and movies while enabling easy focusing operation. It also features WhiteMagic technology, which increases visibility in bright daylight

I've been shooting cameras -- first rangefinders, then SLRs, and these days DSLRs -- for 40 years, so I'm pretty old school. But my most recent camera is a Sony SLT-A55 and to my shock, I've found that live view, at least as implemented on that camera, is the most liberating new technology since digital. I've taken thousands of pictures with the A55, and I estimate that no more than 2% of them were shot using the EVF -- which itself is damned near as good as the optical finder on my A700 and vastly better than the optical finders on most consumer-level DSLRs, to say nothing of the tunnel-like optical finders on compact cameras.  Especially with the flip-down display, using live view to set up a macro shot on a tripod with the A55 is a completely different and extremely satisfying experience.

So no, I could not care less that this camera -- which I've already pre-ordered -- has no optical viewfinder. I've moved on.

They are taking pre-orders only now at a price tag of $648...  Still pricey for a point and shoot, but may be worth it for some who want size convenience?

NO VIEWFINDER. No consideration from me.

this is a frickin highend  point n shoot camera. Who wants a VF and hv to pay more bcause of it?

Looks as though Sony is moving in a direction helpful to people like me.  I walk with a cane, and sometimes I need to one-hand my camera.  I do wish this camera had a view finder, though.  I'm old school and can handle manual focus.  It seems to me that a decent manual focus ought to handle a large sensor and a view finder more easily than can autofocus, but what do I know?  No, I'm not quite in the Leica polity. 

I had a lot of trepidation about buying my Panasonic FX150, which also lacked a viewfinder, but after a very brief period of time getting comfortable with it, I use it without the slightest difficulty at this point. At 61 my eyes are certainly not what they once were either. I'm terrifically excited about this camera personally, and I can't wait to give it a try. Being able to carry a camera with these specs in a pocket affords some fantastic possibilities.

Why does this have to be the ONLY relabile source? Oh well, gj!

Battery is ?

What is the time length limitation on the highest res video?

Most cameras quit at some relatively short interval.  I want to use the whole SDHC!

Is the HDMI output live?  I want to be able to view on a large monitor while the camera is idle, taking a picture or shooting a movie.

Does it have time lapse capabiility?

Does it have remote control capability?  I need that!

For all that money I would hope so!

Hello,

> LITHIUM ION NP-BX1 (supplied).

> Records in 29 minute segments.

> Until we get a camera here to test, I am not 100% if the camera output live via HDMI.

> Sony does not list time lapse capabiility.

> A remote is currently not listed as an option.

Will there be a heat problem in video mode like the other Sonys?  i.e. Nex7, a55, etc.

Hello,

We'll have to wait a see once we get the camera in.

Yes, it seems to shut off after very long video recording sequences ( > 30 Minutes ). But that is no problem for my kind of usage.

You mention focus cannot be changed during recording of video. Does that mean focus cannot be locked while recording video? Can video be recorded at 24fps as well, or only 60p and 60i? Appreciate your response. Thanks!

Hello,

You have a choice of manual or automatic focusing while recording video.  The camera does not offer 24fps video capture.

What on earth is a 1 inch sensor? Give me the dimensions in mm, please. I'd like to compare it to other sizes. One gets the idea they are avoiding something. If it goes from 10mm, it's smaller than the 1.5 crops, which start at 15mm in their zooms (to make a minimum 27 mm) as opposed to my g11 which starts at 6mm (times 4.5=27mm).

Shallower point of view they promise... compared to what? A p&s or a so-called half frame (Nikons are actually 42% and Canons are 38% if you use the Area=widthxheight we learned as children)?

I hate "special" advertising. Just tell us the facts. Man!  I'm not about to go digging up the facts....

One inch equals 25.4 millimeters.

If you are a Professional Photographer, you should know how to convert English to Metric.  If not, 1-inch equals 25.4 mm or 2.54 cm.  Where were you when they taught that in school?

 Bravo!

Hey. Girls aren't supposed to be good in math.  Move on young lady.   (<;

"13.2 x 8.8 mm" from the Specefication Sheet

Hello,

I am sorry for the confusion. The Exmor 1.0" CMOS is actually similar to the one used in the Nikon "1" mirror less cameras.  The RX100's Imaging Sensor  is1.0" (13.2 x 8.8mm ). (The Nikon V1 CMOS sensor is also 13.2 mm x 8.8 mm ).

Thanks, Chuck.  Any idea how 13.2 x 8.8mm can become 1.0"?  Even on the diagonal, those dimensions come out to only about 5/8".  Perhaps, as with many other things, inches are smaller in Japan?  "Compact" inches, perhaps?

Hello;

Sensor size such as 1 inch refers back to a set of standard sizes given to TV camera tubes in the 50's.  The size does not refer to the diagonal measurement of the sensor but rather the outer diameter of the long glass envelope of the tube. Engineers realized the usable capture area of this imaging plane was approximately two thirds of the resolution.

Kudos for the answer, Chuck!  Extra credit points for you!

Thumbs down for Sony for choosing an obscure and  misleading convention to specify sensor size.  This is what happens when you send a marketer to do an engineer's job.

Nevertheless, I bet it's a nice camera.

Don,

This isn't Sony's doing -- it is an industry standard. It is the same standard that gives us the "four thirds" sensor size -- that comes from a 4/3" sensor, which is well less than an inch along the diagonal. The only currently-common digital sensor sizes that aren't quoted this way are 35mm and APS. 

The 1" sensor is actually 13.2mm x 8.8mm.  The crop factor is 2.7.  It has the same size sensor as the nikon 1 series.  I hate the ambiguous and misleading dimensions used on compact cameras.

I suppose  DOF from a relatively fast f1.8 lens is an improvement from typical f3.5 Point and shoot lens resulting in shallower DOF with a large chip and sophisticated processor = better looking images.   I just spent all of 2 seconds to google 1" = 25.4mm, and more time replying to this complaint/query.   I suppose Sony will now comply with your request to offer a better apples/oranges list of features.    

Looks like a nice camera to me, and we can all expect continually bigger better chips/processors are to be expected by competing manufacturer's.

And WHO makes those chips? Most likely SONY.

No viewfinder sucks, really.

What does "WhiteMagic technology for improved bright daylight use" mean?

Because the screen is hard to see in high contrast situations, e.g. summer in the Mediterranean.

Hello,

Sony’s new WhiteMagic  technology introduces a fourth sub pixel, adding a white to the red, green and blue that common displays have. By combining this sophisticated new hardware with advanced algorithms, the display becomes up to twice as bright and up to twice as power efficient.

It'll be interesting to see if it will out perform the micro 4/3rds cameras.

It is not meant to compete against 4/3. It is a FIXED lens camera. A hybrid nonetheless.

Interesting camera! What kind of memorycard does it use? Only the horribly expensive memory stick or (hopefully) a regular sd?

Hello,

The camera accepts: Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo (High Speed), Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, Memory Stick Micro, Memory Stick Micro (Mark2), SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card, SDXC Memory Card, microSD Memory Card, microSDHC Memory Card.

Whats the optical stabilisation like in a Multicopter Quadcopter Scarab UAV - aerial video - can it handle panning well in 1080p60p without jumping?

Does the RX100 provide preflash TTL metering in manual mode?  This is something the canon s95/s100 unfortunately do not do.

Hi:

I scrolled through the Sony DSC-RX100 specs and did not see any info about a Macro setting. Since I use Macro 50% of the time it's a necessity.

I was also interested in Canon's new Powershot G1-X. I'd bought previous Powershots like the G7, G9 and G10, all of which had close-up Macro settings. Inexpicably, the G1-X lacks a true Macro; 8" is the closest you can get to a subject.

Input appreciated.

This is Sony's first attempt at a camera in this category, and its impressive in many categories, unfortunately they didn't go the extra mile on the macro side of things.  Hopefully if this camera is a success future models will have an improved macro capability.  In the meantime, in this type of camera category there are several other models which have a closer miniumum focus/macro shooting distance.

The Nikon P7100 has a standard minimum focusing distance of 1.8" with a macro capability at 0.8". 

The Fuji X10 model has a standard minimum focusing distance of 1.6" with a Super-macro capability down to 0.4".

The Panasonic LX5 has standard 1.64" minimum distance with a Wide Macro capability down to 0.39". 

All of the above models are excellent quality cameras with nice lenses and excellent low light capabilities as well.

I didn't care for the LX-5 or the Nikon P7100 IQ. I have my doubts about this Sony because it has the same sensor as the Nikon. I would prefer the Fuji X10 if the open aperture problem has been fixed. The Fuji wins hands down as far as picture IQ from sample pics I've seen. IMHO

The Sony RX100 most definitely does not have the same size sensor as the Nikon P7100.

P7100 sensor = 1/1.7" [1/1.7 = 0.588"]
Sony RX100 sensor = 1"

I was wondering the same about macro since I plan on using it underwater. I was happy to see the specs above list it as 5cm/2" macro focus range.  Maybe it doesn't have a macro setting per se, but it will focus down to 2". While this isn't as good as my G10, it's just fine and the lens will most likely work with more powerful macro, and maybe even wide anglem add-on wet lens :-)

yeah, macro is a disappointing at only 5cm. There are other cameras with better specs.

Does this camera come with a plug-in-to-the-wall type battery charger ?

I've heard it's a USB charger.  If so, are there wall chargers available ?

thanks kindly, dxr

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