Sony RX100 Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Smart controls in a compact body
  • Excellent implementation of Program Shift with front ring
  • Exposure preview as you make adjustments
  • Very high resolution
  • Bright f/1.8 maximum aperture for shallow depth of field and good night shooting
  • Very fast AF performance
  • Very good low-light AF capability (down to less than 1/16 foot-candle)
  • Excellent high-ISO performance for such a compact model
  • Surprisingly good dynamic range, especially from raw files
  • Crazy-fast shutter response when pre-focused
  • Very good buffer depth
  • Fast buffer clearing
  • Blazing-fast buffer clearing for RAW files (with high-speed SD card)
  • Excellent "WhiteMagic" LCD
  • In-camera correction means virtually no distortion or chromatic aberration in JPEGs
  • Very fast continuous shooting in Speed Priority mode (focus and exposure lock after first shot)
  • Great flash range at wide angle
  • Excellent Sony "Handheld Twilight" mode for handheld exposures after dark
  • Sweep panorama mode (one of our favorite camera features)
  • AVCHD 2.0 Full HD video with stereo sound
  • Focus peaking
  • USB charging; charge from your laptop or iPhone charger
  • Good battery life (330 shots/charge) for its size
  • Despite its simple external controls, its options are somewhat overwhelming
  • Some lens flare noticed at night when shooting wide open
  • Poor rendering of yellows - undersaturated and shifted toward green
  • Slow flash recycling
  • Autofocus very slow to lock in Continuous AF mode
  • Very limited flash range at telephoto focal lengths at low ISOs
  • Rather uneven flash coverage at any focal length, particularly bad at wide angle
  • Limited 3.6x optical zoom range
  • Maximum aperture drops quickly as you zoom
  • Soft corners wide-open
  • In manual white balance mode, color balance shifts as the lens zooms
  • Manual white balance mode requires more light than may be available in low-light conditions
  • Randomly variable shot to shot speed in Speed Priority continuous shooting mode (camera "stutters" sometimes)
  • Mode dial difficult to turn at first
  • No support for a remote
  • USB charging means no ability to charge a second battery outside the camera

Shaking up the premium pocket camera market, the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 made quite an impact here at Imaging-Resource.com. Not only did it make a lot of big claims, the Sony RX100 actually lived up to most of them, packing an astonishing amount of imaging power into a small package. It couldn't possibly escape us that they were aiming squarely at Canon's successful S-series of pocket cameras in their design, but it also seemed like a wise move. Since what we all want from a pocket camera is better image quality, Sony took the right tack by picking a sensor that's large enough to make a difference in image quality, yet small enough to still fit into a pocketable body.

Adding a lens that's brighter than all but two cameras in the category also hits a good note. We found a little bit of lens flare, but overall the optic looks quite nice thanks to a little extra processing from the Bionz processor. Corner softening is present, as expected, but considering the very high resolution, it's not as big a factor as it looks at 100 percent onscreen. At wide-angle, we suspect some of the softening is due to the geometric distortion correction (See the Optics page for more).

Color was a little muted for our tastes, particularly yellows, which also shifted in hue toward green. This affected the entire image, making our still life shots print a little less vibrant than we're accustomed to seeing. A good percentage of Sony RX100 shooters will likely shoot RAW and process in a program like Lightroom, though, so we don't consider it a huge problem.

The Sony RX100's SLR-class autofocus speeds and very fast buffer clearing means it has fewer of the compromises we're used to seeing in small cameras. Sony also chose to use their Alpha menu system rather than the more annoying NEX menu system, a move we applaud. While it's impressive that Sony included so many of their special features, though, we have to wonder if it isn't a little too much here and there. We were also frustrated more than once when changing one setting unexpectedly locked us out of a range of features or behaviors without warning. Sometimes less is more.

What wasn't disappointing was the Sony RX100's image quality. It doesn't quite rival the quality of most compact system cameras, but it does exceed the capabilities of most of its major rivals in the pocket premium camera space, capable of printing a 24 x 36-inch print at ISO 125 and an 8 x 10 at ISO 3,200. All things considered, we think the Sony RX100 is an impressive achievement and we give it a rating of 5 out of 5 points, as well as an enthusiastic Dave's Pick.

Be sure to visit our Optics, Exposure, and Performance, pages, as well as our suite of Test Images and Gallery shots!

 



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