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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 review

July 14, 2012

Overall Rating:

5

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100


  • Star rating:

Manufacturer:

Manufacturer:

Price as Reviewed:

£549.99

Packing a 20.2-million-pixel, 1in sensor and small enough to fit in a trouser pocket, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 could well be an ideal day-to-day camera

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Features

Big, crisp images and good performance in low light are not usually possible with a camera the size of the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 but, then again, compacts do not normally have an imaging sensor this big. Sony develops its sensors in-house, and the 13.2×8.8mm (3:2 aspect ratio) Exmor CMOS sensor is a completely new design with 20.2 million pixels. The format of the sensor results in an approximate 2.7x focal length and effective f-stop increase compared to the 35mm full-frame format. Maximum file output is 5472×3648 pixels, enabling 300ppi prints at approximately 18.2×12.2in.

A larger sensor requires a physically larger lens, and the 28-100mm (equivalent) Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar optic is substantially ‘fatter’ than that used on a compact camera such as the Canon PowerShot S100. However, it retracts fully into the body and adds no great size to the camera’s depth. The size of the RX100’s sensor means that the flange depth (the distance between the sensor and the rear of the lens) must be greater, which is likely to be the main factor in the camera’s increased depth when compared to the S100.

One compromise of this larger sensor is that the minimum focus is less impressive, at 5cm at the 28mm setting, and 55cm at the 100mm setting. Like the Canon PowerShot G1X, the RX100 is not really the camera for close-up macro work.

Lens performance is key given that it is fixed to the camera. The lens comprises seven elements in six groups, including four aspherical elements and one ‘advanced’ aspherical element. A fast f/1.8 aperture at the widest focal length is impressive, but it is unfortunately reduced to f/4.9 at the 100mm setting. Use the 50mm setting for a portrait and the maximum aperture is f/3.2 (which is equivalent to approximately f/8 on a 35mm camera). I found f/5.6 to be the sharpest setting offered by the RX100.

There is a vast array of shooting modes catering for most tastes and abilities. Picture effects number 13 in all, many of which have various further options. Partial colour, for instance, offers the choice of red, yellow, blue and green. As well as offering full manual control, the camera has Sony’s iAuto and superior auto modes, both of which detect the scene and adjust the exposure settings accordingly. Such modes are useful when shooting in a hurry. A shooting-tips list is accessed via the ‘?’ button, and provides basic shooting advice. The shooting tips are well detailed, but I suspect most photographers interested in this ‘expert’ camera will not require such information.

Drive mode can be accessed via the control wheel and offers high-speed shooting up to 10fps for a six-frame burst, as well as a self-portrait mode for one or two people. In this mode, the camera’s focus and timer are activated once a face is detected in the scene, which is handy to ensure that the subjects are in the frame, especially given that the LCD screen is fixed and cannot flip over for front viewing like the Sony NEX-F3.

The RX100 has many shooting modes that benefit from the fast Bionz processor, which is also used in the Sony NEX-7. For example, bracketing for exposure or white balance, as well as HDR mode that offers up to ±6EV capture, are taken over multiple exposures, with a tripod rendered largely unnecessary because of the fast frame rate.

Features in use: Lens control ring

A standout feature of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 is the lens control ring, giving an authentic feel to the camera’s handling. In manual-focus mode, the lens ring operates focus, in a similar way to the Canon PowerShot S100, with the option for focus magnification up to 20x and ‘peaking’ to confirm the point of focus and highlight areas. In zoom mode, the focal length can be displayed at 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 70mm and 100mm settings, which is handy for precise framing.

The lens ring is also useful for controlling exposure, doubling up with the control wheel to adjust the aperture and shutter speed. Like the function button, the lens ring can be customised for several exposure controls, such as exposure compensation. In aperture priority mode, I often used the control wheel for aperture and the lens ring for exposure compensation.

  • External mic: No
  • Video: Full HD (1080p) AVCHD (50fps), MP4 (30fps), VGA (480p)
  • Built-in Flash: Yes
  • White Balance: Auto, 11 presets (including 4 fluorescent), custom
  • Memory Card: SD, SDHC, SDXC, Memory Stick Pro Duo, Micro SHDC
  • Output Size: 5472 x 3648 pixels
  • LCD: 3in, 1,229,000-dot, TruBlack TFT LCD
  • Sensor: 20.2-million-effective-pixel, 1in, (13.2 x 8.8mm), Exmor CMOS, 3:2 aspect
  • Exposure Modes: Program, aperture priority, shutter priority, manual, memory, iAuto, Superior Auto+, 180° sweep shooting, 14 scene modes, picture effect
  • Weight: 240g (including battery and card)
  • Power: NP-BX1 Rechargeable Li-Ion
  • Lens: 3.6x optical zoom, 10.4-37.1mm (28-100mm effective) Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T with 7 elements in 6 groups
  • File Format: JPEG, raw (ARW 2.3 format), JPEG+raw (still images)AVCHD 2, MP4 (video)
  • AF array: Multi-point (25 points), centreweighted, flexible spot, spot tracking, spot face detection
  • Shutter Speeds: 30-1/2000sec
  • Drive Mode: 10fps continuous high, 2.5fps continuous low, single, 2sec or 10sec timer, self-portrait (one/two people), bracketing ±0.7EV, white balance bracketing low/high
  • Colour Space: Adobe RGB, sRGB
  • Dimensions: 101.6 x 58.1 x 35.9mm
  • Metering System: Multi-segment, centreweighted, spot
  • Connectivity / Interface: Mini HDMI, Micro USB, hi-speed USB 2.0
  • Compression: 2-stage JPEG
  • Exposure Comp: ±3EV in 1/3 steps
  • RRP: £549.99
  • Focusing Modes: Single, continuous, manual and direct manual
  • ISO: 125-6400 (extended to ISO 80-25,600)

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