Sony RX100 Review

The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 is a 20MP point and shoot camera.  But this isn’t just any point and shoot camera.  The RX100 sets itself apart from every other compact camera out there thanks to a much larger image sensor, which measures the same size as the Nikon 1 Series mirrorless camera system.  Somehow, Sony managed to cram that sensor into a pocketable digicam.

Read on to find out if that big sensor combined with the rest of the RX100 features is enough to make this camera the king of pocket cams.

Sony RX100 Key Features

  • 20.2MP 1-inch Exmor CMOS sensor
  • Carl Zeiss f/1.8 max aperture lens
  • 3.6x optical zoom (28-100mm equivalent)
  • Optical image stabilization
  • 1080/60p HD video
  • ISO 80-6400
  • 10fps burst mode
  • RAW image capture
  • Auto HDR mode
  • Sweep panorama mode

Shooting with the RX100

The RX100 is a very easy-to-use camera.  You can take it out of the box, turn it on and immediately begin capturing some images with it.  The auto modes are very effective for those who find quasi-manual controls intimidating, and other features like Sweep Panorama and Night Shot modes prove to be most helpful when the scene or occasion arises.

The camera is very pocketable.  I had no problems putting the RX100 in my jeans front pocket and it easily fit into cargo pockets of shorts as well.  The included wrist strap makes it easy to casually carry for quick access if you are sightseeing or whatnot.  Sony has always been good about including these wrist straps with their compact cameras. I am a big fan of these all the way around.

The controls are pretty standard fare for a compact camera.  There is a separate video record button on the rear in easy reach of your thumb for grabbing some quick video without shifting shooting modes or menu diving.  One thing that sets the RX100 apart is the control ring around the lens barrel.  It slightly protrudes from the camera body – most likely due to the lens size, which I consider good use of real estate on the camera.

The control ring allows you to quickly adjust all sorts of parameters depending on what shooting mode or menu selection you have pulled up.  For instance, if you pop open the ISO settings via the Function button, you can run through the ISO range on the control ring.  Likewise, if you are in aperture-priority mode, you can simply turn the control ring to adjust your aperture without the need to press any other buttons.  Once you’ve selected your aperture, you are good to go – just start shooting.

The larger image sensor on the RX100 is apparent for those accustomed to shooting with the typical fare of compact camera models.  You will notice a pleasant bokeh from many shots that would ordinarily have a very deep depth of field.  Of course, this is nothing like a DSLR or NEX-5R will give you with their much larger sensors, but it beats the heck out of any other compact model to date.

Sony RX100 Image Sensor Comparison

Sony RX100 Image Sensor Comparison

Sony RX100 Image Quality

Image quality is really where it is all at with the RX100.  Generally speaking, the bigger the sensor, the better the image quality.  And, as I have made abundantly clear thus far, the bigger sensor on the RX100 is nothing but a good thing for this camera.

The RAW image files give you the same editing control over the post-production process when using a program like Adobe Lightroom or Apple Aperture.

Below are some sample images that you can feel free to download for closer inspection by right-clicking on the image and choosing “Save link as…”

Sony RX100 Sample Photo

IS 3200 - f/4.9 - 1/13s (Great image stabilization in this handheld shot)

Sony RX100 Sample Image

ISO 640 - f/1.8 - 1/30s (Standard Exposure - See HDR Below)

Sony RX100 Sample Photo

ISO 640 - f/1.8 - 1/30s (In-Camera HDR Image)

Sony RX100 Sample Photo

ISO 800 - f/4.9 - 1/100s (Highlights from window pulled down in RAW file; shadows slightly lifted)

Sony RX100 Sample Image

ISO 1600 - f/4.9 - 1/100s

100% Crop from Sony RX100

100% Crop from Above ISO 1600 Image

Sony RX100 Sample Photo

ISO 500 - f/4.9 - 1/100s

Sony RX100 Sample Image

ISO 125 - f/3.2 - 1/80s

Sony RX100 Sample Photo

ISO 400 - f/4 - 1/80s

Sony RX100 Sample Image

ISO 3200 - f/3.2 - 1/60s

Sony RX100 Sample Image

ISO 3200 - f/4 - 1/6s - (Single, High ISO shot - Compare with "Night Shot" mode below)

Sony RX100 Sample Image

Multi-shot image from "Night Shot" Mode

Sony RX100 Sample Image

Sweep Panorama Sample

Sony RX100 Sample Photo

ISO 80 - f/4.5 - 1/2s

Sony RX100 Sample Photo

ISO 100 - f/4.5 - .4s

Sony RX100 Sample Image

ISO 200 - f/4.5 - 1/5s

ISO 400 - f/4.5 - 1/10s

ISO 800 - f/4.5 - 1/20s

ISO 1600 - f/4.5 - 1/40s

ISO 3200 - f/4.5 - 1/80s

ISO 6400 - f/4.5 - 1/160s

Sony RX100 Accessories

Sony NP-BX1 Li-Ion Battery – If you think you’ll be out for long periods of time between recharges, this is the battery you’ll need to pick up as a spare for the RX100.

SanDisk Extreme SDHC Memory Cards – The RX100 can use SD or Memory Stick format memory cards.  Get SD cards. Specifically, I recommend going with a SanDisk Extreme SDHC memory card for maximum compatibility with memory card readers (e.g., built into Apple computers, etc.) and for the sake of speed (the RX100 can throw a lot of data at the memory card).

Ikelite Underwater Housing – If you’re a serious diver, this is the compatible underwater housing for the RX100.

Conclusion

Given the sensor size the the solid performance of the RX100, I can’t see a better point and shoot camera on the market right now.  The RX100 is fast and produces extremely solid images for a camera that easily fits in your pocket.

If you can stomach the steep purchase price for a point and shoot camera, there’s really no way to go wrong with the RX100.  I give it a very high recommendation.

The Sony RX100 is available from Photography Bay’s trusted retail partner, B&H Photo, at the following link:

Sony RX100 at B&H Photo

By making your photography purchases at B&H Photo through these links, you are helping Photography Bay to continue bring quality camera tests, news and reviews. Thanks for your continued support.

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Comments

  1. says

    Great review. I’ve been looking at this camera a lot to replace my Ricoh GRDIII because I like the larger sensor and the zoom capability. I haven’t found a camera yet that can replace the Ricoh, but this Sony might be the one to do it.

    On top of that, you posted pictures from my hometown of Charleston, SC so that makes the review all that much better! :)

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • says

      We love Charleston. My wife and I went there for our honeymoon and we make it back when we can. It’s such a beautiful city.

      Good luck in your search for a replacement.

  2. Tim L says

    I’d be curious to know how the IQ of this camera compares to the G1X with its APS-C sized sensor. I know the G1X is bigger (and overpriced, IMO) but the sensor should yield superior IQ. Then again, Sony has lapped Canon in terms of sensor technology so maybe not.

    • says

      That’s an interesting comparison. I would tend to agree with your thoughts about the IQ versus the G1 X; however, I find the G1 X a little on the bulky side and the lens is so slow at f/2.8-5.8. For me, the Sony RX100 would be good enough to outweigh any IQ advantages the G1 X might have.

      • Russ Smith says

        I have the RX-100. The dxomark review of the two sensors reveals that the RX-100 scores better in all categories than the G1X, except for Low-Light ISO. Here are the scores for the RX-100: Total Score 66, Color Depth 22.6 bits, Dynamic Range 12.4 Evs, Low-Light ISO 390. And here are the scores for the G1X: Total Score 60, Color Depth 21.7 bits, Dynamic Range 10.8 Evs, Low-Light ISO 644. The G1X sensor is particularly disappointing for an APS-C sensor, which you can appreciate by looking at the dxomark scores for the Sony NEX-7, which also has an APS-C sensor: Total Score 81, Color Depth 24.1 bits, Dynamic Range 13.4 Evs, Low-Light ISO 1016. IF you look around the dxomark site, you can find an informative discussion of how DxO measures digital camera sensors to obtain the sensor scores.

        Canon probably used an older-generation APS-C sensor in the G1X, and that sensor doesn’t compare well to the latest sensors that Sony has introduced. The low sensor score of the Canon G1X, along with its bulky size, may prompt you to purchase the Sony RX-100 instead.

  3. Richard says

    I have had this camera for a couple of months and agree 100% with the review. Video is even better than some dedicated video cameras

  4. Thierry Legros says

    I’ve sended back my RX100 as the optical Steadyshot didn’t work at all !!

    Some firmware issues also, and last week it completely stop working 1/4h. just after a card writing error.

    Hope Sony will give me another one that perfectly works.

  5. Russ Smith says

    Hmm…I haven’t shot much video with my RX100, so I can’t comment. My optical Steadyshot appears to work OK.

    • Thierry Legros says

      It’s strange, because I’ve sended back my RX100 and they have changed all the lens ass’y.
      But the optical stabilizer is still very poor !
      Compared to 3 Canon compacts.

  6. Russ Smith says

    I tried my RX100 Steadyshot. With a 1/30th of a second shutter speed, the advantage of Steadyshot is well demonstrated.

    Thierry, je peux vous envoyer mes photos qui démontrent l’amélioration que produit Steadyshot. Si cela vous conviendrait, veuillez m’envoyer un petit courriel à chez.russ@yahoo.com

    • Thierry legros says

      Thanks for the posted photos.
      So, I’ve no chance with my RX100, or improvment is really marginal.

      I’ve bought a G15 and I’ve made a lot of very good photos @1/5 to 1/2 sec, what is really impressive.

      You may see them on LL forum.

      So, I’will ask Sony and my Dealer to compare with another unit.

      Thierry

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