Sony RX100 Image Quality Comparison

The crops below compare the Sony RX100 to the Canon S100, Canon G1 X, Nikon J1, Samsung NX200 and Sony NEX-5N. Though we normally start with ISO 1,600 here, we thought we'd start with base ISO to show the best that each camera can do.

Note that these images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction. Each camera was shot with the sharpest lens on hand, though the "point and shoot" cameras we've included here obviously used their fixed lenses.

Sony RX100 versus Canon S100 at base ISO

Sony RX100 at ISO 125
Canon S100 at ISO 80

Though the Canon S100 does an admirable job for its sensor size, the Sony RX100 clearly has more resolution and better detail, quite noticeable in the mosaic detail. The RX100 even finds threads in the pink swatch below the red leaf swatch.


Sony RX100 versus Canon G1 X at base ISO

Sony RX100 at ISO 125
Canon G1 X at ISO 100

Going up against the nearly APS-C-sized G1 X, it's a considerably closer match. Both offer excellent detail, and while the RX100 has more pixels, the G1 X's sensor is larger, so it'll be interesting to see how they compare as ISO rises. Both capture sharp detail in the pink swatch, but the G1 X seems to do a little better with the red leaf swatch.


Sony RX100 versus Nikon J1 at base ISO

Sony RX100 at ISO 125
Nikon J1 at ISO 100

It's perhaps unfair to pit the RX100 against the J1, given that it's a 20.2-megapixel sensor going against a 10-megapixel design. But they're both the same sensor size, so it's interesting all the same. The Sony RX100 clearly has greater resolution, but the Nikon delivers more vibrant color.


Sony RX100 versus Samsung NX200 at base ISO

Sony RX100 at ISO 125
Samsung NX200 at ISO 100

Finally another 20-megapixel competitor to look at, the NX200 has an APS-C sensor. The NX200's JPEG engine struggles as ISO rises (though its RAWs are quite good), so expect this picture to change a bit in the next set of crops. The NX200 really struggles with the red leaf swatch, even at base ISO, but appears a little sharper elsewhere.


Sony RX100 versus Sony NEX-5N at base ISO

Sony RX100 at ISO 125
Sony NEX-5N at ISO 100

Going Sony against Sony now, the RX100's 20-megapixel sensor seems to deliver a little more detail overall, but the APS-C-based NEX-5N handles the red leaf swatch better, offering a more even approach, mostly thanks to its larger image area.



Most decent cameras produce very good results at base ISO, so we like to see what they can do at higher settings. Recent advances in sensor technology have made ISO 1,600 look a lot more like ISO 100, but there are still cameras whose quality starts to fall apart at this setting. We also choose 1,600 because we like to be able to shoot at least at this level when indoors and at night.

Sony RX100 versus Canon S100 at ISO 1,600

Sony RX100 at ISO 1,600
Canon S100 at ISO 1,600

Since we're used to doing this analysis on SLRs, it's a bit surprising just how soft ISO 1,600 images look. Still, it's clear what the Sony RX100's larger sensor area gets you in terms of resolution. It's soft, but still quite good by comparison. The red leaf swatch, our most difficult element, is a mess, though.


Sony RX100 versus Canon G1 X at ISO 1,600

Sony RX100 at ISO 1,600
Canon G1 X at ISO 1,600

The Canon G1 X proves why a larger sensor is a little better, offering less noise, less softening from noise suppression, and slightly less softening in the red leaf swatch.


Sony RX100 versus Nikon J1 at ISO 1,600

Sony RX100 at ISO 1,600
Nikon J1 at ISO 1,600

Even with more pixels, the Sony RX100 manages to hold chroma noise in check very well compared to the Nikon J1. Unfortunately, the RX100's images offer noticeably less color overall, particularly in the yellows and greens.


Sony RX100 versus Samsung NX200 at ISO 1,600

Sony RX100 at ISO 1,600
Samsung NX200 at ISO 1,600

Sony's aggressive approach to noise suppression does soften the image, but also gets rid of most of the chroma (color) noise in the shadows and other dark areas, which the Samsung NX200 leaves behind. The Samsung's yellows are brighter, though, which also shows up in the red tones. (Note that the poor high ISO performance for the NX200 has a lot to do with the JPEG engine; its RAW output is competitive with other APS-C compact system cameras.)


Sony RX100 versus Sony NEX-5N at ISO 1,600

Sony RX100 at ISO 1,600
Sony NEX-5N at ISO 1,600

And finally a clearer illustration of why you want that larger sensor. The Sony NEX-5N, though only 16 megapixels, manages to find the threads in the pink swatch, as well as sharper detail in the mosaic bottle and the Mas Portel bottle.



Today's ISO 3,200 is yesterday's ISO 1,600 (well, almost), so below are the same crops at ISO 3,200.

Sony RX100 versus Canon S100 at ISO 3,200

Sony RX100 at ISO 3,200
Canon S100 at ISO 3,200

More softness still at ISO 3,200, but the RX100 images still offer more detail than the Canon S100.


Sony RX100 versus Canon G1 X at ISO 3,200

Sony RX100 at ISO 3,200
Canon G1 X at ISO 3,200

Overall, the Canon G1 X still does a little better than the Sony RX100, preserving a little more detail in all elements.


Sony RX100 versus Nikon J1 at ISO 3,200

Sony RX100 at ISO 3,200
Nikon J1 at ISO 3,200

The Nikon J1 does fairly well with the mosaic image, but suffers from a lot of noise suppression artifacts in the shadows.


Sony RX100 versus Samsung NX200 at ISO 3,200

Sony RX100 at ISO 3,200
Samsung NX200 at ISO 3,200

The Samsung NX200 manages to pull out a little more detail, but with extra sharpening and leaving behind quite a bit more chroma noise. Its red leaf swatch looks a little better than the RX100.


Sony RX100 versus Sony NEX-5N at ISO 3,200

Sony RX100 at ISO 3,200
Sony NEX-5N at ISO 3,200

Again, the RX100 doesn't obsolete its brother NEX cameras, with the NEX-5N turning out more detail with less noise suppression and better color at ISO 3,200.



Detail: Sony RX100 vs. Canon S100, Canon G1 X, Nikon J1, Samsung NX200, and Sony NEX-5N

Sony
RX100

ISO 125
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Canon
S100

ISO 80
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Canon
G1 X

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Nikon
J1

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Samsung
NX200

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Sony
NEX-5N

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Detail comparison. High-contrast details are often sharper as ISO rises, so they're worth a look as well. As with the low-contrast crops, the high-contrast crops show the Sony RX100 besting the S100 and Nikon J1, but not faring quite as well as the G1X and NEX-5N, both larger-sensor cameras. At ISO 6,400, the G1 X actually does a little better than all others here, including the NEX-5N, especially with the lines inside the letters, while maintaining a truer red color in the text. Overall the Sony RX100 does about as well as we'd expected, as a very high resolution sensor that's smaller than some, larger than others. Considering its extremely high resolution, it's impressive it does so well.

 

Sony Cyber-shot RX100 Print Quality

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageThough its official base ISO starts at 125, the Sony RX100's ISO 80 images looked good printed at 24 x 36 inches. Color was muted, particularly yellows and greens, as we also found in our MacBeth test target.

ISO 125 shots also looked quite good at 24 x 36, with excellent detail, but the muted color persisted.

ISO 200 images also looked very good at 24 x 36, if a little softer than ISO 125. Not enough to require a smaller print size.

ISO 400 images printed very nicely at 20 x 30 inches, with sharp detail.

ISO 800 shots were soft enough at 20 x 30 that we preferred the 16 x 20-inch prints, though we'd still call the 20 x 30-inch prints usable for most subjects. By ISO 800, the red leaf swatch appeared soft.

ISO 1,600 shots are usable at 13 x 19 inches, but look better at a still fairly large 11 x 14 inch size. The red leaf swatch was somewhat soft at this point.

ISO 3,200 images look good at 8 x 10 inches, with the exception of the difficult red leaf swatch.

ISO 6,400 images are a bit soft for 8 x 10 inch prints, but look quite good at 5 x 7 inches.

Overall, the Sony RX100 stands out as a pocket camera that can produce good quality 24 x 36 inch prints from ISO 80 to 200, and even its highest ISO of 6,400 outputs a good quality 5 x 7. Impressive!

About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageTesting hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, which we named our "Printer of the Year" in our 2015 COTY awards.

The Canon PRO-1000 has a lot of characteristics that make it a natural to use for our "reference printer." When it comes to judging how well a camera's photos print, resolution and precise rendering are paramount. The PRO-1000's more than 18,000 individual nozzles combine with an air feeding system that provides exceptional droplet-placement accuracy. Its 11-color LUCIA PRO ink system delivers a wide color gamut and dense blacks, giving us a true sense of the cameras' image quality. To best see fine details, we've always printed on glossy paper, so the PRO-1000's "Chroma Optimizer" overcoat that minimizes "bronzing" or gloss differential is important to us. (Prior to the PRO-1000, we've always used dye-based printers, in part to avoid the bronzing problems with pigment-based inks.) Finally, we just don't have time to deal with clogged inkjet heads, and the PRO-1000 does better in that respect than any printer we've ever used. If you don't run them every day or two, inkjet printers tend to clog. Canon's thermal-inkjet technology is inherently less clog-prone than other approaches, but the PRO-1000 takes this a step further, with sensors that monitor every inkjet nozzle. If one clogs, it will assign another to take over its duties. In exchange for a tiny amount of print speed, this lets you defer cleaning cycles, which translates into significant ink savings. In our normal workflow, we'll often crank out a hundred or more letter-size prints in a session, but then leave the printer to sit for anywhere from days to weeks before the next camera comes along. In over a year of use, we've never had to run a nozzle-cleaning cycle on our PRO-1000.

See our Canon PRO-1000 review for a full overview of the printer from the viewpoint of a fine-art photographer.

*Disclosure: Canon provided us with the PRO-1000 and a supply of ink to use in our testing, and we receive advertising consideration for including this mention when we talk about camera print quality. Our decision to use the PRO-1000 was driven by the printer itself, though, prior to any discussion with Canon on the topic. (We'd actually been using an old Pixma PRO 9500II dye-based printer for years previously, and paying for our own ink, until we decided that the PRO-1000 was the next-generation printer we'd been waiting for.)

 



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