Camera

Sony DSC-RX100 F1.8 Compact Camera Review

When Sony announced the RX100, many of my social media peers were raving about it. So I had to try it myself.

Specs:

  • 1″ EXMOR CMOS sensor
  • 20.9 million pixels
  • 28-100mm optical zoom
  • F1.8-4.9 aperture
  • ISO 125-6400
  • 10fps (Speed Priority Mode)
  • 3-inch 1228K LCD monitor
  • Supports Sony RAW+JPEG capture

From first look, the RX100 seems like any compact cameras in the market. Having a bright F/1.8 lens really doesn’t mean a lot since there are a handful of bright lens compact cameras available, with a fair share of good and not-so-impressive ones. Could the RX100 fall under the latter too?

I have to admit, the Sony RX100 is one of the most desirable compact cameras that I have reviewed for a long while. I am usually unimpressed with compact cameras due to my stringent photographic requirements from DSLR background. I expect my cameras to be fast and versatile, allowing me to make shooting adjustments without missing a beat.

While RX100 is nowhere near DSLR handling quality, its capability impresses me and its image quality wows me.

Large Sensor, Small Body

The RX100 is fitted with the largest sensor found in a compact camera – same sensor size as the bulky and heavy mirrorless Nikon 1. Combined with a large maximum aperture, the effective depth of field is also one of the most shallow among the compact cameras, while other brands have their large sensors housed in larger sized bodies. Image details are better, with lesser digital artefacts.

To add to that, the RX100 performs admirably at high ISO. Many compact cameras claim they can achieve low noise at high ISO. That’s only half the story. If your aperture is not large enough, your shutter speed would still have to be slower and that results in shaky images, and further pushing the ISO higher. So with the RX100, even when the lens has a variable aperture of F1.8-4.9, you can effectively shoot at a faster shutter speed without pushing ISO too high. At extreme conditions, your ISO can go to the highest while shutter speed is still fast enough for hand-holding. In addition, the large sensor size helps tremendously in achieving better high ISO performance. For that, the RX100 is the top-choice compact camera for low light photography.

Manual Handling
The RX100 does not start up very fast. Shutting down also takes a while especially if you do not have a super-fast SD card. It also takes a while to save Full-HD video files, as well as showing preview shots. But I like how easy it is to change EV compensation before taking a shot. And how I can assign up to 7 functions to the Fn button. The lens ring helps to make settings adjustments in different modes. For instance, under SCENE mode, turning the lens ring changes the scene; under Intelligent Auto mode, the lens ring adjusts zoom in small and silent actions.
I also like the ease of adjusting exposure on the fly during movie recording mode. No longer will you be at the mercy of the camera’s auto exposure, or the inability to finetune exposure while recording is in progress. The RX100 will help you achieve exposure controls any time, just press the EV button. You can also enable manual focus mode for video recording, but the focusing mode has to be selected before recording.

Improvements, Please
The RX100 still has a few areas that could be improved. 

  1. First, like most Sony cameras, you to select the playback view of either still photos, MP4 movie, or AVCHD movie. This makes viewing mixed images and videos a chore. 
  2. Then, there is no mechanical switch to pop up the flash. To activate flash, I have to select from shortcut button, then it will automatically pop up when I half-press the shutter. Good thing is that the flash can be manually tilted upwards for creative lighting.
  3. Battery life indicator is not in remaining minutes. Sony did not implement the InfoLithium battery that they are famed for, which means I will not be able to accurately predict my remaining battery life. Still, the battery life is surprisingly good and it can last me a day at Universal Studios Singapore, capturing over 6GB of image and video, with ample juice left.
  4. Lens ring requires more turning movement to make value changes and the values change rather slowly as the LCD monitor animates the sequence, so I find myself unable to make quick adjustments when using lens ring.
  5. The RX100 cannot focus in macro mode except at its widest angle 28mm. So that kindda limits the framing possibilities.
  6. When shooting close-up images at F1.8, the images exhibit softness and fringing, characteristics of a DSLR fix-focal lens. Love it or hate it.
  7. It can take a while to save HD video recording. While the camera is saving images, you cannot start capturing new video, and vice versa.
  8. Price could be more competitive. That is the first comment from most of my peers when I told them about the S$999 retail price.

A Recommended Product
The RX100 pocket-able, lightweight and built of premium metal finish. It performs admirably well under low light and easy to manually adjust exposure which is important to me. I don’t fancy those SCENE modes or special filters, but they are available if you need them. The RX100 can be charged using high-power portable battery chargers, an added advantage for travelers. The RX100 is one of the most impressive compact cameras I have reviewed in recent years, and I would get one for myself if the price is more enticing.

Sample Images

Notice that my review does not mention about image quality. That’s because I’m sharing some of the images I took with the RX100. Most of them are unprocessed, so you may judge for yourself. Generally, I find the RX100 does not have the “compact camera” image look, and I attribute that largely to the large 1-inch image sensor.

Shallow depth of field at F1.8,

F1.8 1/30s ISO 1000. Aperture mode. Sony RX100 handles auto exposure at night very well.
Most other compact cameras would have over-exposed this shot when shooting in auto exposure mode.

F1.8 1/15s ISO6400.
I am speechless at the ability for me to capture my little active passenger at night, lighted only by street lamps and shophouses.
Sony RX100 is indeed good!
F1.8 1/30s ISO 1250

F1.8 1/30s ISO 2000

For more photos taken with Sony RX100, visit the Music.Photo.Life facebook page photo album here.

This article is also published on XINMSN.

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