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Sony Cybershot Digital Camera RX100 Review

By on September 4, 2012
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Sony turns the table on Micro 4/3rds and entry-level DSLRs.

Tags:
Good: Exceptional JPEG output with great noise reduction, white light and contrast capture; Live View gives accurate representation of actual image captured; Great low-light shots due to high-end lens and 1" sensor; Fast autofocus; Full manual controls for video; Very compact body.
Bad: Quickly increasing aperture as you zoom in; Slow zoom in movies; Slow autofocus at complete zoom for close objects; Flimsy flash mechanism; HD video capture modes limited to AVCHD.
Price: AED 2,600
* The price is the Suggested Retail Price at the time of review. Please call a retailer to confirm the latest price for this product.

Image Quality

As mentioned, don’t let the diminutive size of the RX100 fool you, the 1” sensor with the excellent Carl Zeiss lens are capable of some great shots.

Superior Auto Mode - Outdoor/ Daytime

You’ll notice on the dial that you have the four standard custom P/A/S/M modes, which allow you to control the entire range of picture settings you’d get on any high-end DSLR. Then there is the Memory Recall mode which remembers your last three presets and uses them. It’s handy when you’re switching between low-light shooting and fast moving objects (like children) during low-light, both of which require some amount of tweaking to get good results.

Superior Auto Mode – Indoor/ Daytime

Move up and you get the Move mode which allows you to choose from the P/A/S/M modes. The full Manual Mode allows you to fine tune every setting as full manual controls are available to you. Sadly what affects the final video are the limitations of the output format. So full HD 1080p and 720p videos at 60fps and 30fps, respectively, are only available in AVCHD format. The more common MP4 format only records in 1440 x 1080 or 640 x 480 videos both at 30fps.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TPST7_qJUQ&w=550]

While recording movies was a pleasant experience, especially with how good the image stabilization is, it was frustrating to zoom in & out because it happens so slowly. This surely gives a cinematic feel to videos when panning around and zooming, but for quick action outdoor activities it feels slow as molasses.

Move up and you see the Sweep Panorama mode where you just hold the camera and move it from left to right as the RX100 stitches the images together and create one seamless panoramic image. Get into Scene Selection and you can choose from 13 different shooting modes, each suitable for a given situation.

Superior Auto Mode – Indoor/ Nighttime

Of course, you can bypass all the semi-manual and fully manual control options and just stick with the Intelligent Auto and the Superior Auto modes. The Intelligent Auto works like any other IA mode on any digital camera, by identifying the subject, its background and available lighting and then choosing the best settings to get you the most ideal shot possible.

Superior Auto Mode - Indoor/ Complete darkness

What you will mostly be using, however, is the Superior Auto mode which, in addition to the functionality of the IA mode, also implements the Noise Reduction mode as well as the HDR mode to give you the best possible picture. What happens is that in low light the SA mode will actually take anywhere from 2 to 6 shots (depending on how dark it is) in quick succession, and then combine the images together. The advantage is that for static subjects you’ll get exceptional photos (some of the best I have seen!) in low-light conditions. For moving subjects the final picture may result in a slightly blurry photo as the subject moves between each of the frames. Your mileage will vary depending on how much your subject moves and how low the lights are.

Superior Auto Mode - In car/ Nighttime

You’ll also notice that very often the RX100 will not pop out the flash, and try to keep the ISO as low as possible (usually ISO 800) to keep the picture as clean as possible. This unfortunately results in blurry photos, again, depending on your subject movement and amount of light coming in.

Left to Right: Maximum zoom in/ Widest angle/ Closest focus (at widest angle)

The only other problem you’ll face is sadly the zooming again. You’ll be happy that at the widest end, the F1.8 aperture size works beautifully. It’ll give you a great bokeh effect for up close subjects, but zoom in and the aperture decreases dramatically as you go down towards the zoom end. ISO needs to be increased dramatically, or the shutter speed needs to go down a lot. And despite the 25 point autofocus, the RX100 often stumbles on getting a lock on the subject at maximum zoom; perhaps that’s why the zoom is so slow while making movies, so that the AF system has time to catch up.

Conclusion

At the end of the day the Sony Cyber-shot DSC RX100 is a point & shoot camera, so when its limitations do show up, I can understand the technical reasons behind it. The simple fact of the matter is that right now there is no other point & shoot, let alone a Micro Four Thirds, that gives you this high amount of quality in such an incredibly small package. The best part is that no matter how bad the lighting situation is, you know the JPEGs from the RX100 are print ready, so good is the output.

Forth coming models such as the Nikon Coolpix P7700 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 will undoubtedly present a challenge to Sony, but for a good year, at least, Sony will be dominating the market with the RX100. Right now, if you want the best possible combination of convenience and high-end JPEG outputs, great quality HD videos with full manual controls, all in a package that will easily fits in your pocket, nothing beats the RX100.

 

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About

From auditing to editing, I now test and analyze the latest gadgets and games instead of the latest financial statements. Both jobs are equally intense and rewarding. When I'm not burning up hardware in the name of science, you'll find me nuking in DOTA 2 or engineering in TF2.

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