June 6th, 2012, 05:54 PM
Sony DSC RX100 - Yes!
There hasn't been a new camera announcement that has warmed my heart this much in a long time.
It's wonderful to see Sony return to the serious, fixed-lens compact market. They have a proud heritage in this space. The DSC-V3, last of the great Sony fixed-lens compacts (excluding the R1, an excellent if somewhat less compact camera), left us wanting for more. In fact, the V3 had so much going for it in 2004 that our friend Carl Garrard found it to be a relevant camera to review in 2012. For those interested to learn more, Petteri wrote an excellent if brief review of the DSC-V3 back in 2005. Watching Sony return to this market is like seeing Canon restore RAW capability with the Powershot G9, Panasonic return the market to fast lenses with the LX3, Sigma put a big sensor in the DP1, or Fuji coming on strong with the X100 and X10. A small camera enthusiast can't help but feel good about it.
A second reason the RX100 excites me is that I've been calling for a fixed-lens camera with a 1-inch sensor since five years ago. The 1-inch sensor in the RX100 is very close in size to the Nikon 1 System format and sits just about exactly halfway between the 1/1.8" to 2/3" sensors we've seen in advanced small sensor compacts like the S100/LX5/EX1/G12/GRD/XZ1/X10 and the 4/3" to slightly larger than 4/3" sensors found in Micro Four Thirds cameras and the Canon G1X, respectively. The gap between 2/3" and 4/3" sensors is relatively large, and it was only a matter of time before someone would split the difference in a fixed lens camera.
Using a 1" sensor and a relatively modest 28-100mm (equivalent) f/1.8-4.9 zoom lens, Sony was able to create a truly pocketable camera, closer in size to the Canon S100 than it is to the Sony V3 or Canon G12. As such, it's small enough to be a "take-everywhere" camera, in contrast to the Canon G1X. Sony is promising impressive results from the 20.2 megapixel Exmor CMOS sensor and optically-stabilized Carl Zeiss lens, along with "DSLR-like" autofocus speed, billing the RX100 as "The professional's compact camera". I suspect that the RX100 will indeed find itself in the pocket of many a professional and amateur alike.
The X100 rear display doesn't flip, twist, or beg. There is no integrated eye level viewfinder, hot shoe to mount an OVF, or accessory port to plug in an EVF. Many will find these omissions disappointing, but in this subcompact size category occupied by cameras like the Canon S100 and Ricoh GRD, my preferred viewfinder is a large, clear, bright rear display. All indications suggest that Sony delivered with a 3-inch, 1,229k dot LCD display that makes use of Sony's WhiteMagic technology. Here's what Nate Ralph had to say in a hands-on evaluation at The Verge:
The RX100 has an aluminum frame and features an understated design reminiscent of Leica M as well as some of Samsung's early forays into the high-end compact market. The asking price of $650 is just about exactly what I would have expected based on the specifications.Relatively few physical controls are present. There's a control dial around the lens in addition to one on the rear panel and a configurable "Function" button. Given the camera size and intended market (enthusiasts and professionals), Sony would have done well to emulate as much as possible of the Ricoh GRD controls. While they've provided additional controls on the RX100 than on the NEX-F3, it seems that they've fallen somewhat short of the standard set by Ricoh. According to the DPReview hands-on, the control dial around the RX100 lens is somewhat easy to turn inadvertently, a problem which I experienced with the Canon S90, which was the first recent digital camera to implement such a dial. A lack of touchscreen control is another mild disappointment with the RX100.
We took the camera out on a rather bright and sunny day and the LCD didn't disappoint, showing off a bright, accurate preview of the scenes we were checking out.
The chief compromise of the RX100 design is the slow lens speed on the telephoto end, necessary to keep the dimensions small. DPReview has some good size comparison images. Using the RX100 sensor as a standard, a competing high-end small sensor camera like the Fuji X10 is nearly a 1.5X crop, meaning roughly a one-stop difference in depth of field for matched subject distance and angle of view. Thus the RX100 will not be able to match the shallow DOF of the Fuji X10 at telephoto, where the lens speeds are f/2.8 and f/5.9, respectively.
If the Sony sensor technology is equal to that of the Fuji (not a given), we can predict a one stop advantage in signal/noise sensor performance, so I expect that the high ISO noise advantage of the larger RX100 sensor compared to the X10 will be outweighed by the lens speed advantage of the Fuji when shooting handheld telephoto in low light. The noise advantage should be reversed at wide angle where the Sony slightly exceeds the Fuji for lens speed (f/1.8 vs f/2) despite the use of a significantly larger sensor. Taking into account image stabilization, sensor size, and lens speed, we can expect to crown the Sony a new "King of Low Light Compacts" with respect to performance at 28mm equivalent. Don't be fooled by the high megapixel count. Sony's recent APS-C and 135 format sensors have clearly demonstrated that more pixels doesn't have to mean more noise for a given format size.
The Fuji X10, with its mechanically-linked zoom, faster lens at telephoto, and decent integrated eye level viewfinder, is my #1 pick for a loose-fit jeans or coat pocketable compact. However, if I were looking for a shirt pocketable, take-anywhere camera to complement my Micro Four Thirds and NEX kits, the Sony RX100 would be at the top of my interest list.
In a recent review of the Canon G1X, I wrapped up with the following:
Having seen what Sony is doing with the RX100, I think that the 1-inch sensor may be the best compromise for the next generation of fixed-zoom lens compacts. As Terry Banet recently said in one of our podcasts, Sony has never been shy about selling sensors to its competitors. Hopefully the new Exmor 1-inch CMOS sensor will be no exception.
I have long been a fan of the Powershot G series as well as the old Powershot S series (S50, etc), and the G1X does justice to that tradition while breaking new ground with the larger sensor. I think it's only a matter of time before other companies follow suit and expect that a generation or two from now, we'll see 4/3 sensors in successors to the current Panasonic LX5 and Olympus XZ1.
Both B&H Photo and Adorama are accepting pre-orders on the RX100:
If you click on the above links above prior to putting the camera in your shopping cart to place the pre-order, the retailer will give a small referral fee to us. Your price is unaffected. Thanks for supporting Serious Compacts.
For comprehensive coverage of the Sony DSC-RX100 announcement, visit 1001 Noisy Cameras.
Also check out the ongoing discussion of this camera in our forums which began when the RX100 was first leaked: http://www.seriouscompacts.com/f103/...32/index5.html
June 6th, 2012, 06:13 PM
Already pre-ordered one the minute I saw the post! I am flip/flopping a little, but I'm going to try and stick it out and get it.
June 6th, 2012, 06:31 PM
Going to wait for the tests on this one, but the formula certainly looks promising. The price doesn't sound bad at all: between the Fuji X10 and the Canon G1X, as it seems it should be.
June 6th, 2012, 08:58 PM
Having bought and sold an X10 already and retreated to the trusty LX5, I'm gonna let the dust settle in this market for a while before I even think about buying into the cutting edge of it again. Given the X10, the G1X and this Sony, I'd expect there are a few more products to drop before the new iteration of this segment is complete. An LX6? A new version of the XZ1, GRD, maybe something from Nikon??? I like what the larger sensor brings to the table, but I'd like to see if Pany will do a new LX with the 24 wide end, nice zone focus controls, etc, before I buy into it again. And I always seem to like the idea of these little guys a lot more than I like the reality once I have them anyway, so I might just sit it out altogether.
June 6th, 2012, 09:09 PM
June 6th, 2012, 09:13 PM
I think that this is a great development, but truth be told I'm a bit camera'd out at the moment.
Nic (Canonite, Olympian, Panasonian, Samsunite) ~flickr~
June 6th, 2012, 10:09 PM
i was over at imaging resource and the high ISO looks about a stop better than the s100. But good grief the lens is soft. Here's a link to the optics test.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 Camera Optics - Review
June 6th, 2012, 11:36 PM
Actually it is not soft. If you download full-size images you can see that it is pretty sharp wide open across the frame with the exception of extreme corner regions. Stopped down 1 stop, it improves significantly.
Originally Posted by Djarum
June 7th, 2012, 12:27 AM
I'm looking forward to seeing what this camera will do. I was very, very impressed with the Nikon V1 when I handled it, but the lack of fast lenses disappointed me. I cannot buy a camera on the vague promise that what I want might come out some time in the future. This new Sony compact looks awesome. A friend of mine has the HX5V and the video is super, and the later iterations are even better. I'm guessing that this will be amazing performance for a pocket camera.
I won't preorder one just yet, though. I preordered the Fuji X10 and as much as I like it, it wasn't quite what I was after. I'm going to wait until I see some user reports and photos. But the focusing and shot to shot time looks very fast, indeed!
The good thing about Sony is that being a massive billion dollar technology corporation means that they can install all the latest bells and whistles like a great LCD, face detection for video, image stabilization that actually works, and all the rest. The problem is that being a mass-market company, accessing their cameras' features is often a dig through multiple menus just so they can use a fancy touchscreen or keep the camera looking sleek. As Amin said, they would have done well to emulate Ricoh's ergonomics and user interface.
June 7th, 2012, 12:47 AM
Spec wise, this could be the enthusiast's shirt pocket camera. I hope we are going to see a LX6 and Samsung EX successor with a similar size sensor soon.
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