An advanced compact proves powerful, in spite of its size
Just about the only control on the RX100 that screams compact is the zoom rocker. Like any such zoom control, this is less precise than a mechanical zoom ring. As a result, we found ourselves either tinkering endlessly or resolving to crop our images slightly after the shoot.
The autofocus is on par with the best compact cameras and some ILCs—enough for any casual shooting. While we wouldn’t count on the RX100’s ability to track fast-moving sports, we also wouldn’t expect a professional sports shooter to pick this camera up for work.
The top burst speed is 10 frames per second at full resolution, but that’s without continuous AF and with metering locked after the first exposure. With continuous metering and AF, bursts slow quite a bit. Still, it’s nice to have the option for faster bursts in some situations.
Video, is also on par with what you’ll get from high-end compacts. The RX100 can shoot video at up to 1920x1080p60, and footage from the camera looks very nice. But, even with an f/1.8 lens, which will isolate a subject well, you can’t expect as much versatility with this little compact as you can with a Micro Four Thirds or APS-C-based ILC or DSLR, let alone a full-frame DSLR. What you can expect is fine footage of casual get-togethers or simple projects, such as interviewing friends and family.
Like many Sony cameras, the RX100 includes Sweep Panorama, a mode in which the camera captures many shots in a burst and then stitches slivers of those images together to create a panorama. Another version of this process will create 3-D panoramas that you can play back on any 3-D TV using a cable connected to the mini-HDMI terminal.
Similarly, the Handheld Twilight scene mode captures multiple images and combines them automatically to minimize noise. The camera will also combine three images to create HDRs quick and easy. You have finer control over HDR with software, but you can still select from six levels of intensity for the HDR effect in the RX100. We were able to get realistic-looking results more often when we selected the intensity of the effect manually.
The Bottom Line
Sony’s Cyber-shot RX100 is a worthy entry in the field of high-end compacts. Even though we feel that the camera’s performance might have been better served keeping the pixel count down, we ended up with some great images.
Moreover, the experience of shooting with this camera is a pleasant one. The control ring on the lens serves its purpose well, and, if you would rather use a ring for manual focusing, you can change its function to suit your needs.
While we often shrug off a lot of the scene modes and digital filters found in compacts, we appreciate some of Sony’s innovative modes, notably Handheld Twilight and Sweep Panorama. And if you’re still learning about photography, you’ll appreciate the RX100’s camera-guide function, which explains various menu items and invites further exploration. If you’re an advanced shooter, you can customize the RX100 extensively.
In the end, though, the Sony RX100 makes the most sense for reasonably knowledgeable, casual shooters looking for a nice, pocketable camera.
IMAGING: 20.2MP effective, 1-inch (13.2x8.8mm) CMOS sensor captures images at 5472x3080 pixels with 12 bits/color in RAW mode.
STORAGE: Memory Stick Duo, PRO Duo, SD, and SDXC store JPEG, ARW RAW, and RAW + JPEG files.
BURST RATE: Full-sized JPEGs (Fine mode), up to memory card capacity at 2.5 fps (with continuous AF and metering enabled).
AF SYSTEM: TTL contrast detection with 25-point autoselect or 187selectable spot areas; single-shot and continuous AF with focus tracking and face detection.
SHUTTER SPEEDS: 1/2000 to 30 sec, plus B (1/3-EV increments).
METERING: TTL metering with multi-segment (evaluative), centerweighted, and spot (size of spot unspecified).
ISO RANGE: 100–6400 in 1-EV increments, plus ISO 80 and 125.
VIDEO:Records at 1920x1080 pixel resolution at 60 fps in AVCHD Version 2.0 (at 28, 24, or 17Mbps); 1440x1080 at 30 fps in MPEG-4; built-in stereo microphone; no microphone input.
FLASH: Built-in pop-up with autoflash covers approx. 1–56 feet with lens zoomed out to its widest; 1.8–21 feet with lens zoomed to telephoto; auto ISO.
LENS: 28–100mm (35mm equivalent) f/1.8–4.9 Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* zoom lens with SteadyShot optical image stabilization.
LCD: 3-in. TFT with 1.229-million-dot resolution; five-step brightness adjustment.
OUTPUT: USB 3.0, mini HDMI video (type C), composite video, and analog audio.
BATTERY: Rechargeable NP-BX1 Li-ion, CIPA rating 330 shots.
SIZE/WEIGHT: 4.0x2.4x1.4 in., 0.5 lb with a card and battery.
STREET PRICE: $648