Expert Review of Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100 Point & Shoot
Sony CyberShot RX100 is a pocket sized compact device, the latest from the technology leaders Sony, and it happens to come with a huge 20.2 Megapixel sensor, a 3.6x Carl Ziess optical zoom, with that comes a 3 inch LCD screen with 1.2 million pixel resolution. There is a bright f1.8 aperture at maximum when zoom out, 10 frames per second of burst shooting, RAW recording and 1080p HD video. Along with the fully operational manual control there is also the presence of iAuto Point and Shoot operation which includes a high amount of stacking modes in addition to Sony’s famous Sweep Panorama. Numerous attempts have been made so as to incorporate all of the basic to advanced features of DSLRs and mirrorless interchangeable lens devices right into a moulded pocketeable form with fixed lenses. But all of these attempts have pretty much fallen short to match their expectations in some way or another, be it the case of extra heavy dimensions and weights, maximum aperture size or simply handling for that matter of fact. The entire recent fleet of enthusiast compact releases have certainly taken a step closer to the ideal conditions though, there have been models like Canon PowerShot S110, Olympus XZ-2 iHS and Panasonic LX7 all of which are offering larger sensors than most of the Point and Shoots coupled alongside some really bright lenses. Meanwhile here, Canon PowerShot G1 X offers performance of a large sensor on a par alongside APS-C DSLRs although with a little larger form factor than present in most of the compact devices. So basically, Sony CyberShot RX100 is Sony’s new attempt to win over the now crowded market and take them over by force. Present with a 20.2 MP 1 inch large sensor, bright f/1.8 lens and entire emphasising on physical controls all bundled into a really genuine pocketable form factor, and so atleast on the surface, Sony definitely seems to have cracked all the expectations against all odds. So has Sony CyberShot RX100 really delivered? Let us find out!
Design and Build Quality
Sony CyberShot RX100 when compared to Panasonic Lumix LX7 and Canon PowerShot G1 X is slimmer and smaller when you measure it in terms of size and weight. Now, when talking of the appearance of this device, it looks like an instantaneous replica of Canon PowerShot S110. This been said, both the devices have practically pretty much the same flat top and bottom panel on them which contains simple rounded verticals. The exact dimensions of Sony CyberShot RX100 measure 102mm x 58mm x 36mm with a curb weight of 240 grams when included alongside a card and with that a battery. Comparing this to its Canon counterpart, the dimensions of Canon PowerShot S110 measure 99mm x 59mm x 27mm with 198 grams of weight, and then compare the specifications of the device, it is then that you realise what an absolute spectacle Sony has been able to pull off. Being just 20% heavier, a centimetre thicker than Canon PowerShot S110, the technical superiority of our reviewed device over PowerShot is spectacular.
Focus and Face Detection
Sony RX100 has 4 focus modes for still and movie shooting:
The AF modes of this device provide us with 2 focus area options – 25 area multi, centre and flexible spot, plus then there is a tracking focus mode which can easily be activated directly while in operation of any focus mode by pressing on to the centre button wheel on the control wheel. The AF performance on RX100 is really good, though not especially fast as it can struggle a bit in poor light conditions, now having said that, in optimal conditions, there is only the briefest of delays before the area indicators light up and you hear a deep of confirmation and then though Area AF can really struggle in low light conditions.
Lens and Image Stabilization
Our reviewed device, Sony CyberShot RX100 has a 3.6x optical zoom lens which has an equivalent range of 28-100mm. The maximum aperture available is f/1.8 – 4.9. The zoom available runs for a really respectably wide 28mm which is the same as Canon PowerShot G1 X. If you like a wider angle field of view looks at Panasonic Lumix LX7 or Canon PowerShot S110 both of which starts at 24mm. Now, in terms of range, 3.6 to 4x is really a fairly typical bargain and strikes in a good balance which is ideal for landscaping purposes and interior photography as well as for portraits, while then keeping everything in small amount, lightweight and portable. Next to the sensor, the lens is pretty much the most critical component in a pocketable large sensor camera. But obviously the most important of the specification is not really the zoom range but the aperture of the device. A wide maximum aperture is good for very low light conditions, of course, but combining it with a large sensor in Canon PowerShot RX100 it should also allow you to take some fantastic shots with a shallow depth of field, something which quite seriously is difficult to achieve up to now. Apart from smaller sensors other factors that work against compacts are that when zoomed in the max. aperture that gets dimmers and you cannot focus very close to the subject, the depth of field becomes a little shallow the longer the focal length of the lens is, the closer you are to the subject. And, it is a great pleasure to say that Sony CyberShot RX100 cannot cope this way in your respect.
Screen and Menus
Sony RX100 comes embedded with a 3 inch LCD screen with VGA resolution with a default aspect ratio measuring 4:3 proportions. A small strip present right at the bottom of the 3:2 full resolution image view brings to light information on exposures. Sony CyberShot RX100 is basically the first model from Sony which uses its Whitemagic display technology which was first introduced in its arsenal on the smartphone named Sony Xperia P. The significance of this Whitemagic technology is the addition of a fourth pixel (white) to the red, green and blue matrix which results in the increase of resolution i.e. from 921,600 dot pixels to 1,228,800 dot pixels. As mentioned in the overall review section, the screen on this device can now be usefully tilted on the up or down. Right to the screen you will find a one touch moive record button which is present right next to the thumb rest which is rubberised in texture. Now, below that Function button you have 7 customisable options on the LCD screen which can be accessed as a semi circle of icons, these can be selected either by lens of the device or by the rear control rings of the camera. The function menu is actually pretty much a very handy way so as to quickly change Sony CyberShot RX100's key settings and is hence pretty much the major way of setting the camera according to your style of shooting.
The whole body of Sony CyberShot RX100 draws out its power from a 3.6V Sony NP-BX1 Li Ion battery which has more than enough power to take up 330 photos under CIPA standard condition. Though it is stated that this is actually an “infoLITHIUM” type battery which is more than capable of providing the time remaining information which is on the display here, there is certainly no label on the battery itself and the display of the camera is limited to four segment battery icon which is used to indicate the remaining power. The battery comes in charged with the camera, so either with the supplied mains charger or by connecting the camera to your computer, it will charge your camera. While charging the device, a small orange LED in the centre of the on/off button is illuminated. The output rating of the maings charger is 1500 mA which means that it will charge the camera much faster than if it is connected to your computer.
Sony CyberShot can shoot full HD progressive video at resolutions which match up to 1920 x 1080p at 50 or 60 frames per second depending on the region. You get to choose of two encoding formats. AVCHD options are 1080p at 50/60 frames per second matching at an average bit rate measuring 28 Mb per second, 1080i at 50 or 60 frames at 24 Megabytes per second. Switch in to MP4 encoding and there are two further options, 1440x1080p at 12 Megabytes per second and VGA at 3 Megabytes per second, both of these come in at 30 frames per second or 25 frames per second depending on region. Sony CyberShot RX100’s zoom can be used easily during movie recording, but the digital zoom cannot be disabled, this is a real problem. Now, even if you disable the Digital zoom completely and clear image zoom features within the menu, when you switch entirely towards the movie mode – using mode dial or a direct recording movie button, the digital zoom is then activated. Now, it is difficult to ignore because when the optical zoom reaches its limit, after just a momentary pause next the digital zoom kicks in. The on-screen zoom bar is divided equally into two so why should we not just stop zooming in when you reach the end of an optical zoom. Now this is easier said done as this zoom continues for a fraction of a second after the rocker is released, with practice you can easily pull it off consistently.
Sony CyberShot RX100 is fitted with a “1 inch” Exmor CMOS sensor which measures 13.2 x 8.8 mm. This is pretty much exactly the same sized sensor as seen in Nikon 1 CX format system and both of these share the same 3:2 aspect ratio. The maximum image size in the native 3:2 shape measures 5472 x 3648 pixels and two lower resolutions are also available in the device with 4:3 or 16:9 crops.
Big sensor, pocketable compact form factor.
Programmable lens control ring.
10fps full-resolution burst shooting.
Shallow depth of field.
Raft of stacking modes.
Rear control wheel not customisable.
Digital zoom can't be disabled in movie mode.
No built-in memory and lack of 'No card' warning.
Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100 Point & Shoot Description
Sony Cybershot RX100 is a feature-packed compact camera aimed all the photography enthusiasts. Offering an integrated 3.6x, 28-100mm Carl Ziues Sonnar T* zoom lens with a fast aperture of F1.8 at the wide-angle setting, a 20.2 megapixel 1.0-type Exmor CMOS image sensor and full 1080p high-definition video recording, the RX100 also boasts a high resolution 3 inch LCD screen, continuous shooting at up to 10fps at full resolution, high-speed autofocus that locks onto your target in 0.13 seconds, built-in pop-up flash, support for the Raw format and full manual controls. On paper at least it offers almost everything that the more experienced photographer could want - a relatively large 13.2mm x 8.8mm CMOS sensor, which is the same size as that used in the Nikon 1 series compact system cameras and 4x as big as a typical compact sensor, a fast lens (at least at the 28mm wide-angle focal length), a large and high-resolution screen, speedy auto-focusing system plus manual focusing too, full control over exposure and even Raw file format support. Sony DSC-RX100 has a fast maximum aperture of f/1.8 at the 28mm wide-angle setting, but somewhat disappointingly this slows to f/4.9 at the 100mm full telephoto setting. Still, the combination of the fast lens with a seven- bladed circular aperture and the big sensor is a real joy to use, allowing you to easily create defocused depth-of-field effects that you simply can't achieve with most other pocket cameras. Sony RX100 is still quite small and slender, measuring just over 3.5cm in depth, 5.8cm in height and 10cm in width, and weighing 240g with the battery and memory card fitted. On the back there is a large 3-inch, 1228k-dot resolution LCD screen. As you'd expect with a screen of that size on such a small camera, the RX100 has no optical viewfindr to fall back on in brighter lighting conditions, although in practice Sony's WhiteMagic technology results in a a very high contrast screen that can be comfortably used outdoors even in harsh sunlight. The Face Detection system automatically adjusts the focus, exposure and white balance for people in the frame, and can even be set to distinguish between children and adults. Smile Detection offers three self-explanatory options, Big, Normal and Slight. Used in conjunction, the Face and Smile Detection systems do result in more hits than misses, especially in contrasty lighting conditions, although all those smiling faces could ultimately freak you out a little! Efficient device, but with an “at your own risk factor”.