Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 : first premium compact camera with 1" sensor

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Do you remember back in 2005 when Sony unveiled an APS-C bridge camera, the Cyber-shot DSC-R1 ? The purpose of this camera was to offer the best image quality in a compact size body. This is the exact same recipe that Sony has used to design the Cyber-shot DSC-RX100, a remarkably compact camera featuring a large sensor of 1″ and 20 megapixels. Fully packed with the latest imaging technologies developed by Sony, featuring as promising fast lens, 1080/60p, 10 fps, a new high-def screen, the RX100 is going to create a lot of discussions and could possibly be voted the best prosumer compact camera on the market.

 

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 : sensor size vs camera size

The  Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 is a premium compact camera that offer a large sensor. How large ? Its 1″ sensor measures 13.2×8.8mm which is :

  • 5 times larger than the average 1/2.3″ sensors that come in 95% of digital cameras
  • 2.8 times larger than the 1/1,7″ sensor that you find in the Canon S100, Olympus XZ-1 or Panasonic LX5
  • 1.5 time larger than the 2/3″ sensor used by the Fujifilm X10

This allowed Sony to develop a 20MP sensor which should offer both high-definition and, I hope, a decent low-light ISO image quality as proved by the Sony HX20V review that shows that the 18MP count doesn’t hurt image quality. The 1″ size is smart (the same as the Nikon 1 J1 and V1 mirrorless cameras) because it is both wider than most of its competitors (Canon G12, Canon S100, Panasonic LX5, Olympus XZ-1 and even Fujifilm X10) among the larger sensor zoom cameras. Only the Canon Powershot G1 X offers a bigger sensor. But if you use the Canon G1 X, you pay the sensor size price every day… I am talking weight and volume. The Sony RX100 measures 101.8 x 58.1 x 25.9mm that makes the most compact high-end larger sensor camera on the market. It is similar to the Canon S100 in size,while offering a larger sensor. I already wrote several times on my blog that the Canon G1 X is just too bulky a camera to have it with you every day. It doesn’t fit in any pocket. Compared to the Sony RX100, it is 1.5cm shorter, 2cm shorter and almost 2cm thinner ! Regarding its weight, the Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 is light : 240 grs. including battery and memory card. The Fujifilm X10 with a 1/3rd  smaller sensor weights 10grs. more and the Powershot G1 X weights more than twice : 535 grs.

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 1″ sensor offers a high definition of 20.2 effective megapixel and its ISO range is quite ambitious for its size : ISO 80-25,600. But Sony counts on the Multiple Frame NR system to improve the high sensitivity image quality. Something we have tested and “approved” on the HX20V.

 

sony RX100 lens
Sony RX 100 Carl Zeiss lens

 

Advanced imaging modes

 

The sensor’s high-speed capture rate combined to what should be a powerful BIONZ processor and Sony’s smart digital imaging technologies will offer :

  • 1920×1080 / 60p movie recording, with a built-in stereo mic
  • 10 fps burst rate
  • Swipe panoramas
  • 3D stills
  • Multiaspect ratio : 3:2, 4:2, 16:9 et 1:1
  • MultiFrame NR
  • lowlight handheld shooting and motion blur reduction
  • Real HDR (multiframe not just one single frame with tone mapping applied)
  • Portrait smart mode with face detection, skin texture enhancement and auto composition that crops the image to offer a better looking portraiture.
  • Up to 7.3x “smart” digital zoom with by pixel technology

 

An other asset of the Sony RX100 is undoubtedly its promising lens : a 3.6x Carl Zeiss 28-100mm equivalent. I wish it has a wider wide-angle position but at least, it is both compact thanks to the use of AA lenses (Advanced Aspherical) but also quite fast in wide-angle with an appreciated F1.8 max. aperture. It gets the T* symbol of treated Zeiss lenses. It gets 7 circular aperture blades for smooth and delicate bokeh. The image is optically stabilized by the Optical Steadyshot system and has an “active” mode useful when filming while walking to avoid filming an Earthquake.

White Magic : new Voodoo screen technology

 

Stop looking for the viewfinder, you won’t find it, the camera has not got any. But, this is probably more than offset by a new screen :

  • high definition with 1,229,000 dots on a 3″ size
  • White Magic Display adds white pixels to the existing RGB ones to enhance the brightness of the screen. That should be helpful outdoor under bright sunlight.

No viewfinder is not such a crucial issue. Look at the poor tiny 80% coverage viewfinder of the Canon G1 X. Shouldn’t Canon have given it up ?

Sony cyber-shot DSC-RX100
THe Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 gets a 3" / 1,229,000 dots XtraFine LCD with White Magic display that adds some white pixels to the matrix in order to improve its brightness.

 

 

Sony RX100 : $650 / July 2012

 

Brushed aluminium body, high-end optics, large sensor, a full bundle of fun and easy features, a new extra fine and bright type of screen, compact and light albeit based on a large sensor… the Sony Cyber-shot is going to create a lot of passion and could be the rightful leader of the enthusiast amateur photographer cameras if it gives what it promised during its review.

The RX100 will be available at the end of July for a retail price of €649 in Europe and $649 in the US.

Sony RX100
The Sony RX100 offers both a larger sensor than the Canon S100 or the Fujifilm X10 and still compactness and lightness.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 main technical specifications

 

  • Sensor :
    • CMOS
    • 1″ (13,2 x 8,8mm)
    • Aspect ratio : 3:2
    • 20.2 effective megapixels
  • lens :
    • Carl Zeiss T* Vario-Sonnar
    • 3,6x (28-100mm) f/1,8-4,9
    • Fn button and customizable lens barrel
    • Optical SteadyShot with”Active” video mode
    • Advanced Aspherical lenses
  • ISO settings : from ISO 125 to ISO 25,600 ISO
  • Full HD 60p video recording with stereo sound and PASM exposure – max bitrate 28 Mbps
  • “Multiframe NR” : superimposing noise reduction technology
  • PSAM
  • INtelligent Auto Mode + Superior Auto
  • Shutter speeds : 1/2000s to 30s + Bulb
  • 10 fps
  • 7 circular aperture blades
  • RAW and RAW+JPEG
  • “Clear Image Zoom” 7,2x
  • Built-in pop-up flash (no external flash port)
  • Portraits :
    • Face Detection
    • Soft skin filter
    • Auto portrait crop composition
  • 11 digital filters
  • Swipe panorama
  • Aspect ratio : 3:2, 4:3, 16:9, 1:1
  • 3″ / 1,229,999 dots XtraFine LCD with White Magic Display Technology
  • Battery :
    • Lithium-ion battery
    • Battery life : 330 still images or 80mn of video
    • USB battery charging
  • Brushed aluminium body
  • Dimensions : 101,6 x 58,1 x 35,9mm
  • Weight : 240 grams
  • Price : €650