The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 – a somewhat comparative review

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All images in this review are clickable for larger versions, via the flickr host. The EXIF data is also intact. Apologies in advance for the lack of variety of sample images; the weather over the last few days just hasn’t been cooperative. No matter, I’ll continue to use this camera regularly as my pocket camera, and will be posting images both here and to my flickr page.

After receiving a number of emails asking if I’d review the Sony RX100, I decided to check one out for myself. Up to this point, I admit I hadn’t paid much attention to the latest round of compact camera offerings – I’ve got several excellent compacts, CSCs, SLRs – basically, all my bases are covered. Could I use something that might perhaps bring the next image quality notch closer to being pocketable? Sure.

Note: throughout this review, the product shots have had the logo taped over to prevent them being lifted and used without permission (which has happened before, often for dodgy internet merchants or ebay sellers). It seems image theft is a reality of the internet. Making a dime comes before any kind of ethics, which is rather sad.

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My first encounter with the camera was in Hong Kong, oddly enough at a little store catering to second hand gear – yep, even before most of the world gets to have a camera in stock, there are people here already deciding that it’s time for the next best thing. I played with it for a bit, was hugely impressed by the focusing speed, and equally impressed by the low light capabilities of the camera. But I left to sleep on it overnight, and by the time I’d realized a few days later that the camera was constantly on the back of my mind, it was too late because it’d been sold.

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No matter. I figured I could get one locally – wrong! In any case, a fellow photography friend in Hong Kong and Fedex came to the rescue; a day after asking him to hunt for one, it arrived on my doorstep.

Proper first impressions, in the cold light of day: it’s small. Very small. Especially considering it’s packing a 1″, 20.2MP sensor and 28-100mm lens; sure, it’s f4.9 on the long end, but that’s better than almost all kit zooms (I’m looking at you, Nikon 1, with your bulky 28-80/3.5-5.6 equivalent) and an extremely impressive f1.8 on the wide end. In effect, this camera makes the Nikon J1 look utterly pointless – it’s cheaper, has a better lens than both the kit zoom and the ‘fast’ pancake prime, and both better specified and more controllable. It’s actually nearly 1cm narrower and several mm shorter than the Ricoh GR-Digital III; and only 2mm thicker. The Leica D-Lux 5* I’ve got looks positively chubby by comparison. Of the three, only the Sony doesn’t have a hotshoe (and the Leica’s also doubles as an EVF port). Design-wise, it feels very much like Sony just duplicated the Canon S90/95/100 series of cameras, adding a prominent seam around the middle of the camera almost as an afterthought. Lineage-wise, however, it’s clearly a descendant of the V1 from 2003 and later the V3 from late 2004; both enthusiast compacts with bright Carl Zeiss lenses and plenty of manual controls. There’s also a bit of R1 DNA in there too, with its large sensor and fixed lens. However, the RX100 loses the various eye level finders of its predecessors. I don’t miss it too much; those little optical tunnel finders are nearly useless for precise composition anyway, and there’s no way to know what the camera has focused on, either.

*Comments also apply to the Panasonic LX5. The LX7 is going to be even larger; even though the lens gains a stop in speed, the sensor remains approximately the same size (1/1.7″ instead of 1/1.63″).

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The body may be tiny, but the lens is by far the largest of the lot.

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Of course, that isn’t the whole story; both Ricoh and Leica will focus down to 1cm at wideangle, where the Sony is limited to 5cm, and something much further at telephoto – nearly two feet. The Leica will go wider, and faster at f3.3 at the long end; the Ricoh of course has no long end, but it’s party piece is the excellent fast fixed 28/1.9. If this is starting to feel a bit like a comparison, it is; realistically, I’ve got these three serious compacts in my arsenal as options for when I need something truly pocketable. And taking two along would be utterly stupid (and defeat the point of a compact at all) – so there can only be one choice.

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Urban painting in progress. Sony RX100

Sometimes, little quirks of handling can make or break a camera. The Ricoh excels here – it’s probably the best handling compact ever; two fully programmable control dials, a rocker switch, locking mode dial, and a wonderfully large pill-shaped shutter button that has both a well-defined half press, as well as a clean, soft break. Combine that with sticky rubber and rough magnesium, and it’s a handling dream. The Leica is a bit smooth for my liking; it’s slippery and easy to drop, and the rear control dial is stiff and difficult to press. But it does have an aspect ratio and focus mode switch, which gains it points in my book. However, the physical lens cap is definitely not a good thing – the Sony’s lens is much, much larger, and they’ve still managed to fit a retractable shutter in there.

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Available light portrait – ISO 2500. Sony RX100

That said, I find the Sony’s controls both small and fiddly; ‘delicate’ is perhaps the best word to describe them. Firstly, the shutter button’s travel is far too shallow; the half press is stiff without much feedback or travel, and full press feels somewhat like half press on most compacts. Still, it’s very soft, which means it should be easy to activate without exciting too much camera shake. The camera does overall feel very responsive when shooting, and I suspect that shutter button feel has something to do with it. The rest of the buttons are small and similarly lack tactile feedback; the Ricoh meanwhile is exemplary in this regard. The RX100 actually has two control dials – one around the lens, which lacks any physical detents, and one around the four-way controller, which is used to control exposure parameters. I personally think the missing detents on the lens ring are a mistake; it makes it difficult to set exposure parameters (or any setting that has discrete increments) accurately. This limits its usefulness to only two things – zoom control and manual focus, which is a shame, really.

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How the other half live. Sony RX100

There are a few other things I don’t like about this camera – let’s get these out of the way first, because they’re all relatively minor.
1. Charging in-camera – this makes it impossible to maintain two batteries; the camera needs it, because you’re definitely not going to make it through a whole day of shooting with only one. Battery life is about 300-400 shots per charge depending on how much chimping you do. Sony, at the price you’re charging for this thing, how difficult would it be to include a charger, or a battery-cap if you insist on just supplying a USB cable?
2. No shutter speed limits to auto ISO – I suppose it’s using 1/focal length, but there’s no way to be sure.
3. It’s slippery as hell and far too easy to drop. It would have been nice if the bottom portion (after the central groove) was wrapped in sticky rubber or something.
4. No raw support* (not really a Sony flaw, and I suppose it’s coming soon from Adobe)
5. No hotshoe – not really a big deal actually – I don’t think I’ve ever used the hotshoe on a camera like this, other than to hold an external optical finder – and if used at 28mm, this camera is just crying out for one. Sadly, there’s absolutely nowhere to put it.
6. The ‘?’ button isn’t reprogrammable – that makes it basically useless for advanced users when shooting, because it brings up a kind of ‘how to’ for beginners. That and it deletes images – which is bound to be supremely confusing for the novice, because instead of having his or her questions answered – their image will disappear!
7. While the camera is pretty fast to start up, it’s inexplicably very slow to turn off – and sometimes, won’t turn off at all if you suddenly move it. (Apparently this is the ‘drop sensor’ feature designed to freeze everything and prevent damage in case you do happen to drop it. It seems that somebody on the engineering team thought the design was too slippery…)
8. No manual included, print or CD – some settings are just not obvious (like manual WB for instance), and having to use the online HTML manual is a royal pain.
9. The meter tends to underexpose; I understand why this is useful to protect highlights especially for a sensor with small pixel pitch, but according to the histogram it’s by as much as two stops in cases.

*If you’re wondering why I didn’t use the supplied software, I did – but I stopped soon after starting, because frankly, like every other manufacturer-produced converter, it’s crap. Excruciatingly slow, doesn’t give you as much flexibility as ACR, and just doesn’t integrate into the rest of my workflow. It takes me less time to compensate for JPEG limitations than work around the raw converter, and in the end, the results are still better.

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While waiting for the wife. Sony RX100

Still, at least we’re not restricted to only Memory Stick media, I suppose. There are a lot of things to like about the RX100. I’m going to ignore the trick multishot, face detect and scene modes (panorama, low light stacking etc) and just focus on the things that might be of interest to photographers. From a usability point of view, focus is both fast and accurate – even at the long end of the zoom, in lower light. I think it might be because there’s some form of continuous pre-AF always going on in the background; this definitely can’t be good for battery life. There is an AF assist lamp, but as with all ‘conveniences’ of this sort, it’s obnoxious. I turned it off. I keep being fooled into thinking it’s a small sensor compact because of its size; it isn’t, and you do have to watch your focus point – especially at nearer focusing distances, and with the lens wide open. As with all contrast detect AF cameras, continuous autofocus is best avoided, though the tracking mode works pretty well in static scenes – hit the center button to activate it, put the box over the thing you want to track, then hit it again to lock on. I can see this being useful for posed portraits, but little else. There’s also manual focus with peaking and magnification, though AF is so fast and flexible that I can’t see why you’d want to use it.

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Construction break. Sony RX100

It’s worth saying something about the LCD, too – the ‘Whitemagic’ LCD has 1.2 million dots, but VGA resolution; there’s an extra white pixel in there to boost the brightness of the panel under daylight. The upshot is that this is one of the best LCDs in the business – it’s sharp and fluid, and you almost can’t see the pixels. It should be a little brighter, but it seems that you can’t gain up the auto-brightness setting – either manual or nothing. Sony deserves some praise for including a shooting mode where there aren’t any icons cluttering the framing portion of the display; instead, critical exposure settings are displayed in a black bar at the bottom of the screen, very reminiscent of an SLR finder. Without this, it would be impossible to compose – there are just too many darned icons littering the screen, taking up almost the entire left third of the display.

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Iron horse without a rider. Sony RX100

I do have one complaint about the LCD and metering system, though – it’s not consistent, or representative. Firstly, you can’t accurately judge exposure from the LCD like you can with some other cameras (the Nikon DSLRs and Olympus OM-D come to mind); secondly, matrix metering is rather unpredictable. Though it mostly tends to underexpose (presumably to protect highlights) – sometimes it does so hugely, by as much as two stops; yet there are other times when it does the exact opposite. I think this is Sony’s attempt at trying to replicate the actual scene as closely as possible, but it instead limits your dynamic range and increases noise – not to mention being a colossal pain given we have no proper RAW support at the moment, so post-capture adjustment latitude is limited. I’ve reverted to the centerweighted meter for any tricky lighting situations, because I simply have no certainty over how this camera’s matrix meter is going to respond.

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Hood reflections. Sony RX100. This shot turned out VERY overexposed – far more than you’d expect for a scene of this type. Beware the meter.

This type of camera would probably benefit from a well-implemented touch panel to change settings or at very least select focus point; the economy of buttons doesn’t help when it comes to changing settings quickly. Having said that, the lens ring and Fn button functions are programmable; the latter holding seven customizable items. It also has three memory banks that remember all camera settings, and occupy the MR position on the mode dial. The one thing that really needs to be changeable isn’t – that’s the rear dial rotation. Somehow it just feels back to front to me, which results in a few fumbles before reaching the desired setting. Still, it lets you jump between zoomed-in images when in play mode, which is handy for comparing shots. (You can also power up the camera in playback mode without extending the lens by holding down the play button.) For the most part, camera functions – menus, navigation – are all snappy and occur without lag. The overall impression is of a very responsive camera indeed.

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Man, chair and door. The extremely low prefocus shutter lag allowed me to position this man perfectly. It’s so fast the camera almost feels wired into your brain.

Adding to the feeling of speed is the 10fps continuous shooting mode, which works even in RAW+JPEG; there’s a small amount of lag between bursts as the files are written to the card (I’m using a 32GB UHS-1 Sandisk Extreme HD SDHC card), but there’s a seriously impressive amount of data being shunted around here. Somehow, the Sony engineers also found space to stuff in a couple of gyros too – there’s a level display, plus optical image stabilization. To be honest, the stabilizer feels a bit less effective than that in the Panasonics, and much less effective than the Olympus OM-D – surprising, because I believe it’s a lens-based system. It’s probably good for 1-1.5 stops.

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B&W portrait. I’m pleased with the tonality, despite being a) shot at ISO 3200 and 1/30s, so it was dark; b) being a JPEG; c) having most of the bottom halftones seemingly crushed into the shadows, and the highlight detail ‘stretched out’.

Image quality breaks down into two parts – the lens, and the sensor. Let’s talk abut the lens first.

Given the incredibly small pixel pitch, best working apertures are at below f5.6, and ideally around f4; this however is a bit of a problem as the lens only reaches f4.9 on the long end. Still, I don’t see much evidence of diffraction softening. For the most part, this is a reasonably good lens despite its ambitious specifications – the only place where it’s let down is close focusing distance (say under 20cm or so) and maximum aperture at the wide end. You’re going to have to be at f2.8 or preferably f4 to get critically sharp images when shooting close; before that point, there’s a lot of flare and coma going on that robs sharpness. At normal distances, it’s an decent performer. Mine’s does better in the corners at telephoto than wide; in fact, the corners are pretty soft at f1.8, which leads me to suspect a degree of field curvature. The top edge is also softer than the bottom edge of the frame – it’s difficult to build a retractable lens with consistently high resolving power cross-frame due to the required tolerances; not that this is any excuse. The lens also remembers your last used focal length when the camera was turned off – there doesn’t seem to be any way of disabling this though. There is a bit of bokeh available, though not much – but what you do see is relatively smooth an inoffensive (though I haven’t had any extremely harsh lighting conditions under which to shoot the camera yet).

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Still life I. Sony RX100, uncorrected for vignetting.

Distortion and vignetting are minimal, and I didn’t see any evidence of CA, but since there’s no way to open the RAW files without the effects of Sony processing (I don’t count the supplied raw converter), it’s impossible to say how much of these optical limitations are being removed by the in-camera processing. I suppose we’ll just have to wait for an ACR update to find out. In the meantime, I’m making a ‘raw’ jpeg by turning off NR, reducing saturation and contrast to the minimum levels, and upping sharpening one notch (to preserve detail).

Does it have the Zeiss magic? Honestly, I’m not seeing it in the JPEGs – raw files might be a different story. It’s definitely a notch above the compact camera lenses I’ve used up to this point (with the exception of the GRDIII’s lens) but don’t expect it to have the same 3D pop as the ZF/ZE/ZM glass. It’s not a depth of field related thing either; the larger format glass pops even at hyper focal. (It could very well be a sensor limitation though).

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Still life II. Maybe there is a little of that Zeiss ‘pop’ and tonal richness after all – but it did require some post processing. Sony RX100.

The sensor is another story. Ostensibly, it’s a relative of the 10MP 1″ unit found in the Nikon 1 cameras; it’s a CMOS sensor with RGB filter array (curiously, not one of Sony’s four-color arrays). Pixel pitch is 2.4 microns compared to around 2 for the 10MP 1/1.7″ types, sub-2 for most normal compacts, 3.38 for the Nikon 1, 4.2 for the OM-D, and 4.88 for the D800E. Thus we’d expect slightly better performance than the current crop of prosumer compacts – perhaps a little more, given the generation gap. Not quite – it seems that this sensor is another generation ahead of the sensor in the Nikon 1, because it delivers similar noise levels, dynamic range and color accuracy despite having twice the number of photosites crammed in. In fact, from a noise point of view, it’s probably a bit better than the 12MP M4/3 sensor used in the E-P3 generation. Not quite what you expected huh? And all this from JPEG output. It seems Sony has upped their game there, too – unlike the oversaturated, over-contrasty, strange-hued JPEGs of the NEX-5, the RX100 generates remarkably natural looking files. Noise reduction – it cannot be completely turned off – when turned down, does a decent job of balancing texture/ detail and noise. My one complaint is that auto white balance is all over the place, and the camera doesn’t seem to like doing manual WB from a gray card – either it fails entirely, or delivers a very strange hue shift.

Sony RX100 noisetest
For a 100% version, click here

I feel there are only two areas in which the sensor’s smaller pixel pitch starts to show – that’s dynamic range, and edge acuity at higher ISOs. While dynamic range is a bit better than the prosumer compacts – perhaps 9.5-10 stops useable JPEG (and hopefully 11-11.5 in RAW) – the highlights and especially shadows clip quite abruptly (a lot of the tonal range seems bunched up in the bottom third of the histogram), so one must take care with exposure – not something easy to do when you have to contend with the camera’s erratic metering*. If you push the shadows too far in post, you start to get splotchy, low frequency (but random) yellow-blue pattern noise depending on the ambient lighting. There are also a few hot pixels thrown in for good measure, too. Edge acuity is another thing altogether – there’s visible erosion of fine detail structures beginning at ISO 1600, and getting more obvious as you go higher. Dynamic range doesn’t suffer quite as much as you’d expect, though. Overall, I’d put the high-ISO limit of this camera at 3200 – this is about the same as the Pen Mini, and a 1-1.5 stops more than the LX5, GRDIII et al. It’s going to be very interesting to see how this camera performs once we have a way to put the raw files on a level playing field…

*It’s also possible that I’ve been spoiled by the nice, linear RAW files from today’s CMOS-based DSLRs and CSCs. But then again, that’s unlikely, because the tonal response of the M-Monochrom’s CCD is quite similarly biased towards shadows and highlights and I didn’t have any problems processing those.

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Taxi drivers. Note the mark of JPEG: irretrievable highlight clipping. It was either this or lose the deep shadows. I suspect the image would have been saveable in RAW.

On the whole, two things left their mark on me during this review and while using the camera – firstly, I was constantly surprised by just how good the image quality was. I expected compact camera level, I was given constantly CSC-level, though not quite as good as the latest generation of M4/3 bodies like the OM-D. In many ways, it felt like an entry level DSLR crammed into a compact body. It’s incredibly fast and responsive, and shunts around large RAW files at 10fps without a hiccup. The lens is definitely an excellent performer, and a notch above the kit zooms; not to mention being faster at both ends and having a bit more reach. The second, less positive impression felt as though some useability had been sacrificed for size, usually unnecessarily – there’s no reason why we can’t have detents on the lens ring, an external charger, or even a printed manual (especially important given the complexity of the controls). There are ways to adjust things from both menu and shortcuts, but seemingly odd inflexibilities like the useless ‘?’ button and lack of an AF-point reset key (you have to move it back to the center with the D-pad). In some ways, the camera does feel like an experiment; which is surprising given the maturity of compact camera designs these days.

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Untitled workers. Sony RX100

But on the whole, the RX100 gets it right – it is undoubtedly the best compact camera available today, especially from the point of view of image quality. And I still feel as though it hasn’t shown its full potential yet, hampered by the lack of RAW support. I’ll be taking this camera with me on holiday at the end of the month – and only this camera. (It’s a family trip, not a shooting one; I usually bring the GRDIII for occasions like this). It’ll be interesting to see how it performs, and if I feel like anything is missing – look out for an update early next month. Hopefully we’ll get ACR support by then too.

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Still life III. Sony RX100

I didn’t think I’d have quite so much to say about quite so small a camera; the overwhelming feeling is that we’re very nearly at the point where there aren’t that many good reasons left for a larger sensor or even interchangeable lenses for most users – but perhaps that’s another generation out. What I do notice is that the improvement in smaller sensors has also had an effect on the way I compose – rather than seeking shallower depth of field, I’m looking for just enough to give the right amount of separation of subject from background; sometimes, a fast wide on a smaller 1″ sensor is enough; other times, you have no choice but to use 300mm on medium format because of the required perspective. One final point worth noting: this isn’t a cheap camera. In fact, it’s a good 50% over a Pen Mini kit, and comparable to a GX1 kit. It seems that you’re paying double taxes for minaturization and Zeiss optics; but the very few compromises mean that if you already have a large, fully-featured CSC or DSLR, then this is the ideal pocket companion for the times when you just don’t want all that weight. The RX100 isn’t a mature replacement for a larger camera, but the number of reasons to have one around definitely just got smaller. The limitations now rest squarely on the photographer; for most people, this is all the camera they’ll ever need. This is the king of the hill when it comes to compacts – I’ve not yet shot with anything else this size that has such great base ISO image quality and can handle ISO3200 with impunity and minimal consequences to image quality, whilst not holding you up with either focusing or continuous shooting speed. Highly recommended. MT

Coda: I’ve taken to putting some cloth tape on the front of my camera’s grip area for a more secure hold, because as handsome as the smooth anodized aluminium looks, it’s a slippery little bugger. Looks hideous, but I’d rather that than drop a very expensive point and shoot.

One reader also made a good comment on video: I’ve left it out. Yes, the camera can do 1080P 50/60, which is astounding considering its size; I tried it briefly and it looks fantastic, however I lack the expertise in this area to make any comments of weight other than to say that a) I don’t see much, if any, visible artefacting; b) you can zoom while recording, and it’s silent; c) the camera records stereo sound.

The Sony RX100 is available here from B&H and Amazon.

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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards. All rights reserved

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Still life IV. Sony RX100

Comments

  1. When you had the RX100 did you do anything with the custom settings of the camera to make it be quicker instead of having to dig into the menu system? I’m trying to setup the RX100 to behave somewhat like the Ricoh GR where I can get quick access to things like exposure metering, ISO, and autofocus point. Also do you find motorized zooms like the RX100 to be a bit strange versus a manual turning zoom ring? And lastly, why did you eventually get rid of the RX100 just not getting enough use out of it? Thanks!

    • 1. Same way I set up all of my compacts – single point, spot meter, P mode.
      2. Zooms: No.
      3. I used it mostly at wide, at which the lens was poor, and the Ricoh GR was available. I don’t keep things I don’t use; can’t afford to, either.

  2. Ming,

    For Smart Sharpen in PS for the RX100 RAW files what should be used for amount and Radius? – Eric

  3. Dear Ming, Great review and great photos. I bought one because of your photos. I am an architect and previously used a Nikon 8000 film camera and a Nikon 995 which was my intro to digital. I often photograph street spaces meaning an image with bright sky at the center of the image and two dark street walls along the sides. So far the metering does not seem to recognize this as an intentional situation and I am getting vast over exposure of the bright zone and nice exposure of the street walls which should be in dark shadow. Over exposure so great I could not recover anything. OK so the camera is trying hard which is remarkable. Yesterday there was a great sunset from our 16th story office window surrounded by darkened building walls. Same problem and the event was so fleeting I could not get it right manually. Any suggestions here? Is there a standard setting that might work or do I have to pre program something and then remember to use it. The Nikon 995 bless its soul was actually ok on this stuff. Using HDR which helps but not as much as I would have thought.

    • Use the spot meter.

    • Hi George, I bought an RX100 based on many positive reviews, but it the reviews were also true that the RX100 suffers from blown highlights. When I unboxed the camera, I did some test comparative shots using the new RX100 and my old Leica D-Lux 5 (Lumix LX5). I was shocked at the blown highlights of the RX100. I have tried to compensate by using the DRO setting adjustor. In fact, I’ve made the DRO setting to come up with the right hand side click of the selector wheel, since I use it so much. For extremely high contrast situations, if you use DRO at the highest setting of Level 5, you can often minimise blown highlights. Also you need to try taking the auto meter reading from either darker or lighter parts of the scene to get the exposure you want. Yes, it is a bit hit or miss, but there are ways of getting around the RX100’s default settings that tend to blow highlights.

  4. Hello
    I use the RX100 to meter the scene when I use my Hasselblad 500CM as well as taking images with it! It’s meter (as you mentioned) tends to underexpose (for good reasons as not to clip) so I use the readings as a guide, open up one more stop seems to fit the bill. The RX100 fits into my top t-shirt pocket, as would a light meter. So I have a light meter that doubles up as a camera, If I feel inclined to record the scene digitally and in color.

  5. Waimea Charger says:

    Ming, as a general point and click, luddite-friendly compact, would you recommend the D-Lux 6/ LX7 or do you think the RX 100 would be better?

    Price isn’t a deal breaker if the difference is not colossal. I would just like a good, all-rounder to pop in my pocket and take nice shots of landscapes, portraits and everything in betweem.

    Great website and great, impartial reviews!

  6. Sold my OMD as it’s getting less love since I received my M(240). I’m thinking of replacing it with a smaller camera to cover the 5% where I don’t bring the M with me. It will mostly be used for snapshots. I’m seriously considering the RX100 due to it’s size and IQ. Size aside, how does this camera compare (IQ, focusing, DOF) to the EPL2 with a kit lens ?

  7. Hi Ming! Any plans for getting your hands on the m2 to see how it compares, for better or worse, with the original? Thanks!

    • If Sony will lend me one…don’t hold your breath though, their local entity is a colossal pain to deal with. I still haven’t gotten the RX1 loaner I requested…

  8. I have the Leica D-Lux 5, and am wondering whether to get the LX100. Since you have the D-Lux 5, I’d appreciate your comment.

    For my shooting, most of my photojournalism-style photos are at widest zoom, and I would have preferred a 24mm wide. I rarely go longer than 35mm, so the LX100’s slower telephoto wouldn’t bother me.

    The thing I’d really miss, from the D-Lux 5, is the wideangle adapter which provided a 18mm f2.0 ultrawide. Because of this wideangle, even if I get the LX100, I would not give up the D-Lux 5 altogether.

    Since I’m into reportage and environmental portraits, I’d place a value on faster shutter response to capture moments, and higher image quality particularly in low light.

    Look forward to your comments.

    • Presume you mean RX100? There is no LX100.

      Short answer: if you’re already happy with the LX5, then the RX100 isn’t going to respond much faster or satisfy your wide angle needs. You’re probably better off with an LX7 as the lens goes a stop faster on the wide end.

      • I agree with Ming. The LX 7 lens is wider and faster than the RX100, and does excellent macro shots too. My wife is very happy with hers.

      • Thanks Ming. One main thing deterred me from upgrading to the D-Lux 6/LX7, namely, that the new model does not take a wide-angle adaptor lens, and I absolutely love the wide adapter that gives me an 18mm f2.0 lens. You comments helped quell my lust for the latest and greatest. I have been fairly (but not completely) happy with most of the D-Lux 5 photos. I’ll keep using the D-Lux 5 for a few years more. With computers and digital cameras now becoming mature technologies, I don’t think I’d experience significant bang-for-bucks unless I leave off upgrading for 4-5 years between each purchase. Your great portfolio of D-Lux 5 photos reinforces the truth that its the photographer’s eye that makes the image, not the fancy equipment.

  9. I have a Sony RX-100 and agree with your comments on the metering. I set the lens ring to exposure compensation and regularly use it to get a proper exposure. As for the battery charging and slipperiness…

    I purchased an external charger and two extra batteries from amazon.com for less than $20. The batteries I got (Wasabi) have more capacity than the stock Sony battery, and the charger came with adapters for international travel. I also ordered an accessory grip from Franiec ($34.95 plus shipping) that makes the camera much easier to hold.

    While I am pleased with the image quality the camera is not suitable for fine art landscape work*. That would be too much to expect from a pocket camera. For my casual work the camera is excellent except for macro work. It sucks at that. The Panasonic LX-7, which my wife has, is a much better choice for macro work and its faster lens makes it a more versatile camera, but if ultimate image quality is your goal the RX-100 is the current pocket-camera king.

    *I did get a shot at Big Bend National Park last December that enlarged quite well to 16×24 inches hand-held. That was a shot inside an old abandoned house. Distant mountain shots do not have enough detail for enlargements without getting mushy.

  10. Hi Ming. liked your review. I use Oly epl5 with the kit lense mostly for family pics and travel photography. Other than – the size advantage do u think the RX 100 offers any other considerable advantage as to the IQ , DR , focussing and jpeg colour over the oly epl5 considering only the 14-42 ki R kit lens.

  11. Hi Ming,

    Lovely shots and review. What are your thoughts on the RAW files since this review?

  12. Ming,

    In some rare circumstances do you see an oversaturation of the blues on the RX100 when shooting RAW and/or JPEG? Best Wishes – Eric

  13. Love the camera. My only complaint: The automatic white balance is sooo bad: always too cold colours.

  14. Sayantan Dutta says:

    Hi,
    What is the focusing speed of the Sony RX100– in figures

  15. I recently began to follow your site after seeing several of your videos. Love the dry wit and wry sense of humor.

    That said, I have a bit of a dilemma. I currently have the X100, LX5 (getting used up), and the RX1. I love the image quality of the latter, but it is a bit unwieldy in my increasingly unstable, shriveling hands.

    Selling the latter would be easy here in the states (currently at the gates of hell in L.A.), so that is not much of a problem. I’ve always liked the X100. However, the utter ease of a super compact is compelling. I’ve always lusted after the X2, but hesitate after reading usability issues, and the LX7 invariably gets compared to the DLux 6. Is there really any noticeable difference that I would love/hate?

    I personally will be a user of this website, and the store. I have a lot to learn, not getting any younger, and am so very bored with other inane websites that masquerade as photo websites. This is possibly my best find of all! I hope you’ll have a second to reply. I want to learn to process to get that wonderful look your photos have. To my myopic eyes, they are some of the best I’ve seen. I don’t really do portraits, but I personally love the high contrast, deep blacks and 28 mm form factor, but also would like to move to a simpler combination that would also allow for great color. so I am open to suggestions.

    Sorry for the long inquiry. Either way, I’ll learn a lot here. And I do appreciate that.

    • LX7 and DL6 are the same camera, except for the red dot and the price. The X100s and X20 might be worth a look too – they’re a lot faster than the previous generation, and the X20 gives you the best of both worlds. As for processing…you might want to have a look at the photoshop videos in my teaching store :)

  16. Excellent review of a great camera! One can only hope Sony release firmware to deal with a few of the issues at least.
    You might like to check out the flipbac camera grip (http://flipbac.com/camera-grip-about.htm). I like the G2 for this camera. It is soft rubber and not hard, and I find it adds little depth to the camera, but makes it much more secure in hand.
    Also, my friend Gary has written an excellent ebook on the RX100 (http://www.friedmanarchives.com/RX100/index.htm), which some readers might find very helpful.
    Cheers,
    Tony

  17. Ming, you said you DON’T like to work with 35mm. Does that mean you’d choose an RX100 over the upcoming X100s if you had to make a choice between the two as an only camera? I’ll be deciding between the LX7, X20, X100s, and the RX100 (or its successor) as my only camera.

    • It isn’t really a problem I’ve had to consider, so I don’t really have an answer. Plus there’s a WCON for the X100/X100s that gives you a 28/2, so I’d probably do that instead.

  18. I have a big problem with my RX 100: I always shoot JPG. In winter with all the snow here in europe the automatic white balance fails always and horribly. The whites are blue and grey. Manual WB makes it better , bat not good. It underexposes very much. With my old canon ixus 400 , 4Mpixels , Automatic White balance with snow is perfekt. ???? A little frustrated.

  19. Great review. The most helpful I’ve read so far. Still, I can not make up my mind. My compact is a Leica D-Lux 4. Is this a very noticeable upgrade imagewise?Do I really need them both (I know, I don’t, but in an ideal world…) I also am thinking about buying an XF1, for two major reasons: It’s great looks (sorry, it’s a poor excuse but it knocks me out) and that it fits more easily into my pocket (which would probably make me take it with me everywhere). But when you strictly consider image quality – do the XF1 and the RX100 play in different leagues?

    • Thanks Trond. The image quality is a significant upgrade, but if you do a lot of macro work the DLux is better; if you shoot at the tele end, you’re going to be losing a couple of stops with the RX100, which somewhat defeats the sensor advantage. The XF1 makes great JPEGs, but has lousy RAW quality. The sensor is perhaps a stop better than the DLux, but again you lose out on the lens. Short answer: image quality wise, the XF1 is the worst of the three.

  20. As nice as this RX100 is, it does not appear to be quite the developed product that I’d hoped for. That’s why I’ll be holding off for its successor or the recently announced Fuji X20. Then again, I may just scrap the whole zoom thing and go for the Fuji X100s when prices come down. :D Seriously, I think an RX200 will be THE camera to buy. It’s just the waiting that’s gonna kill. Thanks for an awesome review, Ming. You’re the best!

  21. Hi Ming! Excellent write up!
    I’m in India for work and MUST get a camera. They are generally expensive here, compared to Malaysia, which looking at the taxi driver picture, seems like that is where you’re from. Me too! :D. But anyway I posted up a thread at DPreview.com (http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/post/50750788). You don’t need to look at it but my choices have now boiled down to Olympus E-PL3 with an additional prime [USD 867, EURO 644, MYR 2.6k] and the Sony RX100 [USD 494, EURO 367, MYR 1.5k]. The E-PL3 with only the 14-42mm kits lens is the same price as the RX100. Which would you go for in this case? Although when I first heard about the RX100 I really wanted it the price turned me off. But when I checked one shop here it was selling at what seems to be quite an amazing price for this camera, I’ve confirmed with the shop numerous times.

    You know I would love to have nice depth of field, with the RX100, I understand it will be limited compared to the m43 system with primes, but the RX100 can still do it to some degree right?

    Hope you can help. Have a great day!

    • Yep, KL born, returned here in 2005 (I ask myself why every day with our current sociopolitical situation, but let’s not go there).

      The RX100 is pretty cheap there – I think Amazon is still selling it at $700 and about RM2k locally. I’d probably go for the RX100 for flexibility, or look at an LX7. The E-PL3 is not a good deal, and the kit lens doens’t give that much DOF control – neither does the RX100, for that matter.

      • You came back??? Why?? :D

        I’m, curious as to why you would ask me to check out the LX7? Does it have an advantage over the RX100? Just asking really, as it isn’t an option cause it’s not out here yet. The LX5 currently retails for RM1.7k. Also, since I found out about it, when doing research the Olympus XZ-1 still attracts me primarily because of its fast lens. However its about RM1.39k. That’s too much for this old little gem right?

        Would you recommend I stick with a compact first and look at a system camera when I get back home in a few months? Like I said the prices here are a bit painful, but the RX100 price was a surprise to me. Of course the warranty is local, but the Olympus cameras are the only brand here that offer a 1 year international warranty.

        • Still asking myself that question.

          LX7 gives you fractionally more isolating power at the long end, and definitely better macro capability. There’s also the ability to take an EVF – I’m looking into one myself…

          If you want an XZ1 get one off Amazon…they were clearing them off for a song last month. Yes, look at a compact first then buy a system camera when you return to Malaysia. The RX100 does seem to be a good deal though.

      • Somewhere in the long list of comments that you so diligently respond to (very much appreciated, i’m sure for all who posted here), you mentioned you like to shoot at 35mm. Do you ever put the camera at that focal length and just stay there? I mean is this a shooting workflow that works with a point & shoot?

      • Whoops! I must’ve misread. That’s a bit embarrassing. But thanks for replying though! Reading all the other questions and replies is also very helpful. :D

  22. Please, close down that toilet seat…

  23. If only they could build a phone into this, it would be the perfect ‘walkaround’ camera…!

  24. Thanks for a great review, Ming. Have you played around with the RAW files from the RX100 since being added to ACR? If so, what did you think?

    Also, can you explain what you mean by the following statement, “c) having most of the bottom halftones seemingly crushed into the shadows, and the highlight detail ‘stretched out’”. You wrote that in the caption of the portrait of the woman above. Thanks

    • You gain a bit of detail, a bit of dynamic range, but also a bit of noise, too. Worth shooting raw for the improved color accuracy and tonal range – I believe they’re 14 bit files.

      c) Means that the dark parts are darker than natural, and the highlights emphasised but looking somewhat flat.

  25. Ming, which aspect ratio do you use most often on the RX100? Also which wrist strap do you use? – Eric :-)

    • 3:2 so I have all of the sensor area – it isn’t variable aspect ratio so the only benefit to cropping in camera is saving file space, but I have 32gb cards anyway so this isn’t a huge deal. Using the strap that came in the box…

  26. Thanks Ming! Just picked up the RX100 through your affiliate link and opened it on Christmas. Thank you for your wonderful blog and all that you do!

  27. Fernando Luciano says:

    Ming Thein

    Can the sony rx 100 compete with olympus epm2 ? Similar size and similar price… Wath would be your choice for street Photo

    Thank you and a merry christmas ;)

    Luciano

    • Either is good. Personal preference, I suppose. If I could only have one, probably the PM2.

      • PM2 has a loud shutter, RX100 is silent. PM2 with lens is twice the volume and weight as the RX100. And RX100 has more “electronic features.”

        • There are tradeoffs involved with both – as always it depends what’s more important for you.

        • try both cameras this morning… superfast focus ,) much better than my canon 50D… dont now about about photo IQ but the olympus epm2 with the 17 mm is fantastic ( much better ergonomics than sony rx100 and similar size …my opinion ). Have a great christmas

          • Ergonomics matter more than image quality now that we’ve passed sufficiency – a slightly lower resolution shot is better than a missed one. In any case, the PM2/PL5 sensor is better than the RX100’s.

  28. Laurie Faen says:

    Great Review. I’m a D-Lux 4 owner and have loved it, but thinking it’s getting time to upgrade. I’ve got an old Sony DSC R-1 which has also been a fine, if somewhat limited, camera, but too big for travel. The Sony rx100 is about $300 cheaper than the D-Lux 4 here in Australia, and given that most compacts seem to last about 2-3 years before problems or camera envy require a change, I reckon the Sony will win out this time.
    Can you fit a neck strap? I like using them and my arms to form a quick tripod in low light.

    • Sure – one with thin strings works fine. I don’t personally like them, but the strap that I use on the OM-D should work too, it’s a Crumpler Popular Disgrace.

  29. Rx-100 or DLux 6? great review.

  30. This is a great review. I am an amateur with cameras, but picked up the RX100 last week after returning my G15. The G15 is definitely larger but I am thinking it might have been easier to configure for different modes. I am struggling to set up my camera in different modes as far as still photo settings. Do you have a guide as to how they should be setup? Using the automatic mode that has everything already pre-configured, the pictures taken on the G15 look better. Please advise.

    • Neither of these cameras really does best in auto mode, or any camera for that matter. I use the RX100 in P mode, auto ISO to 3200, center point focus, and auto everything else – but shoot RAW and postprocess in Photoshop like with every other one of my cameras.

  31. Hi, being a novice photographer, i am interested in the rx100, the gx1 and the nikon p7700…. Am still torn between the three, i dont like bulky dslr so i need something compact that have all the dslr basics….which one would you recommend? Thanks

    • Only the GX1 (I presume you mean the Panasonic M43 camera) will give you any real DOF control; none will give you the DSLR experience because none have optical viewfinders.

  32. Great article thanks for going into so much detail. I love my rx100, it’s taken quite a while to get used to it and it controls but worth the effort I think. I do have issues with focus though, I take a lot of low light photos, and I find it really struggles. I get lots of soft pictures. I may have a defective camera, or jus shaky hands! ;)

    • Strange, it might be a stability thing. The 28mm end at f1.8 isn’t fantastic, and the long end requires some care – you’re at f4.9 at 100mm, which is pretty dark.

      • Robert Moore says:

        Hi Ming,

        The softness is Sony’s perverse need to soften the file in order to make the noise less noticeable? I picked up a RX100 after reading your review…I think that the lack of Zeiss magic may be more related to this than the lens itself. After export from LR 4 into PS 6 I make a new layer…Local Contrast adjustment with 30-40/12-15/0 with a mask….Adjust opacity in luminosity as desired. Flatten image and then process as needed…it is amazing how much they mush the image…no excuse for this …. I prefer the look of the GRX or the M8.2 … do not think it is just a AA filter thing.

        Even manipulating the file as above does not increase noise to an objectionable amount.

        JMHO,

        Bob

        • I have no idea, but you might be right. It does seem that the lens isn’t strongest at 28mm, though – I feel it does much better from 50mm upwards. This can’t be a NR thing as it only seems to happen in the corners. The GXR and 8.2 both have no AA filter, but the 8.2 is also a CCD camera instead of CMOW (not sure about the GXR, but I think it might be a first-gen CMOS or last-gen CCD.)

          • Robert Moore says:

            Mine seems so across the board…the Local Contrast enhancement is noticeable across the full frame…I may move to the X2 as this is more than I expected.

            Bob

            • I’m pretty sure there’s a decent amount of sample variation going on here and affecting things – the tolerances required to put together a fast zoom that performs consistently through a moderate focal range and resolves at sufficient levels to do that high density sensor justice must be pretty darn tight…

  33. Harris J Sklar says:

    I have looked at many of the reviews of the RX 100 and I must say yours is the most comprensive and easiest to understand, especially with all of the illustrations. However, I have not been able to find anything that explains the symbols on the LCD before shooting. At the age of 78, my mind does not work as fast as the younger set and perhaps I am overlooking something.

  34. norman scott says:

    Excellent review. This camera is on my wish list… only slightly behind having to pay rent, utilities and food. If I could eliminate one of these things from my life… I will have one sooner then later. I shoot a lot of live theatre… and have kept my ancient dsc-v3… because of it’s unique ability to shoot infrared and it has (as the RX100 seems to be) an extremely quiet shutter. One question: Can you turn off the display completely when shooting?

    • The solution is instant ramen, haha. I don’t think the RX100 can shoot infrared, but the low light capabilities are definitely hugely improved over the V3 (I had one of those, too). However, for theatre I might suggest looking at a M4/3 camera with the Olympus 45/1.8 instead for even better image quality. No, the display can’t be turned off completely – wouldn’t make sense either, as there’s no optical finder nor any provision for a hotshoe based one since there’s no hotshoe…

  35. Mats Abrahamsson says:

    Thank you for inspiration and interesting reviews. The RX100 seems very nice. So does the Leica X2. Price difference is huge – but the joy of using a camera is what you really go for – isn’t it? I am retiring some old compacts and I want the next one to be a joyride! Since you have used both cameras – what is your verdict on “the fun of it” ? One moore thing really matters – I like beutiful pictures. And I am pretty sure that you do to :-) So when it comes to beuty – would you go S or L… ?
    Thank you for a wonderful site!

    • Thanks for your compliments. This is a really tough question, as they aren’t really in the same league price-wise or image quality-wise. That said, I’d probably go for the RX100 as a general purpose camera, but the X2 as a specific tool – especially if you particularly like the 35mm focal length. The FOV doesn’t quite work for me – the RX100’s 28mm is more my style.

      • Mats Abrahamsson says:

        Thank you for thoughts. I agree about FOV. I am going for the RX, keeping an eye out for Sigma DP1 Merrill as a specific tool! Looking forward to comments on RX and Lightroom experieces…

        • No problem Mats – the DP2M I tried was glacial, and to be honest high ISO was not as good as the Sony. And none of the Sigmas have ACR support. Too many bugs in the workflow that prevent it from being useful for me.

  36. Very nice review. You cracked me up with your observation about the “?” button and how beginners might be in for a little surprise (“instead of having his or her questions answered – their image will disappear!”) xDD

    As most people here, I agree with everything you say, and I’m glad that somebody else has noticed that the image stabilization is not going to go down in history as the best. Usually, it is a hard feature to test objectively, since I can’t measure (or precisely reproduce more than once) the intensity of a hand shake, so one has to go with his/her intuition.

    Strange as it might seem, one of my biggest complains is that when the camera is on (lens extended) and I carry it in my hand (arm extended alongside my body), the swing of my arm, or any sudden movement to raise the camera to eye level and then back down again, causes some kind of rattle or shake. Doesn’t happen always, and it’s not too noticeable, but this kind of “something seems to be loose” sensation really bothers me. Might have to do with the continous pre-focusing, the steady shot or who knows what. Maybe it’s a flaw on my copy, since I’ve seen nobody else complain about this “shaky” sensation when quickly changing the orientation of the camera. I don’t know.

    Take care!

    • I think a relative measure for IS is useful. This is one of the weaker systems I’ve used. The other consideration is the very high pixel density of the sensor; this means the system has to work a lot harder to produce a critically sharp image at actual pixels. The physically small size of the camera probably doesn’t help either; there isn’t enough mass to damp things out. At least the shutter release has a nice, soft break though (perhaps too soft, the first few times it’s easy to mistake the release point for the half press).

  37. Thanks for going to the effort of writing this; very interesting. I always find comments like “you’re definitely not going to make it through a whole day of shooting with only one. Battery life is about 300-400 shots per charge…” amusing because in the 25 years I have been taking photos, I would only have taken over 300 shots a day a handful of times. Maybe it’s a cultural thing for those of us who started with film. Or more likely I get sick of having to delete them all on the computer later, so I’d rather do the editing before I press the button.

    • I’m a prolific shooter. I definitely don’t keep everything, but if you don’t take the shot and do the experiment to see if it’ll work, then you’ll miss that opportunity to improve. Moreover, I’ll keep working the scene until I’m sure I can’t get a better image. I thought I was alone in having to do this until I saw the Magnum Contact Sheets book (reviewed here); it turns out a lot of the great photojournalists would do the same – often burning through several rolls for one scene. It’s just that now it costs a lot less, and going through images on the computer is still a heck of a lot faster than having to develop them and contact print. For what it’s worth, I started off shooting film on a Nikon F2A.

      • Hi. Great review and forum. I’m a film and digi compact man, non-pro. Just bought RX100. Looking very good but too early to judge. Am used to being economical with film but with digi I aim: To shoot freely but not indiscriminately. I hope this helps.

  38. On Image Data Converter: it simply does not work on a Mac with Mountain Lion 10.8. I managed to get the Windows version to work on ML through Wine. The Windows version is as slow and clumsy as the Mac version but it doesn’t crash.

    I also managed to get IDC 4.1 working again on ML by trashing these files in the Library/Preferences dir:
    com.sony.ImageDataConverter40.plist
    com.sony.ImageDataConverter40.LSSsavedfilelist.plist

    but you have to do this every time and sometimes it still crashes.

    Thanks for your balanced review. – JG

  39. Lex Jenkins says:

    Excellent review, Ming. Between the article and your patient replies to followup questions you’ve covered all the bases. Good read, too, clear and concise. I just finished evaluating the Ricoh GRD IV so I especially appreciated the comparisons. Love that GRD4 – especially the ergonomics, quick AF and single shot speed – but I’m now leaning back toward the Nikon Series 1 for a CX format camera rather than the Sony RX100. (Subject to change at whim.)

    • Thanks Lex – choice in today’s era of cameras is a great thing, but it can be almost crippling. My advice: pick one, learn to use it til it’s intuitive, and don’t look back.

  40. Hi Ming what is the suggested setting for the DRO – dynamic range optimizer? do you leave it on auto or off, and do you use the hdr auto.

    • I leave it off, because what it’s a bit unpredictable in what it does with the highlights. I’d rather know that they’re going to blow at a fixed point, rather than second guess the camera and run the risk of odd tonal overlaps…

  41. Hi, I just bought an RX100 and would like simple instructions if possible on settings to get 1) a good macro shot and (separately) 2) a good low-light (indoor) shot? I know there must be many permutations but just the most straight-forward way for someone just learning about aperture, shutter speed etc. and only in jpeg. thanks!

    • 1) It’s not a macro camera. Near focus limit is 5cm at wide angle only, and the lens is rather soft at maximum aperture.
      2) Program mode – it’ll select the largest aperture automatically, SteadyShot on, and auto ISO on with a high limit of 3200.

  42. Another great review Ming….good to see you turned your wife’s handbag shopping into a great field test.

    I’ve had my RX100 a few weeks as well…got the Sony guy to sell me his only copy one day before the “official” release date in singapore :D

    I wanted to second opinion further up the list on the video capabilities of this camera. Simply it’s fantastic – I have been using it as a B-roll for project work. I have no qualms cutting in pickup shots I’ve done on the RX100, with the main footage shot on the OM-D or hacked GH2. Combine it with a mini gorilla pod and set it incognito.

    • Thanks Ben – lucky you!

      Haven’t shot any video with it beyond a bit of mucking around (and I’m definitely not qualified to pass opinion on video anyway) – but what I have seen was pretty awesome.

  43. Thorkil Brodersen says:

    Hello Ming
    Thank you for the review. Think of this: half a year has gone past, and the Sony RX100 is standing at the shelf besides the Ricoh GRD IV, and you might have get annoyed with bottom-fiffling of the RX100(?), and you are in a hurry, and rushing out of the the door, and by instinct you grab the one of the two camera’s you feel most connected with… Which one will your hand grab?
    Best regards
    Thorkil Brodersen

  44. Nice review buddy, just thought I chip in a word or two. This design was in the drawing board 2 years ago while I was still the product manager for Cyber-shot. Frankly I was begging for it to be released ASAP but they did mention that it would require about 2 years before it can be marketable to the masses so I guess it’s right on time, in their point of view. On what basis, I have no idea but it does support somewhat your comment on the ‘experimental’ feel of the camera. This also means that this is NOT a response to what is available in the market. My take is that they’re uncertain about the impact this might have on their NEX system which is a high priority in their portfolio so they’re practicing some restraint on this camera.

    I would like your view on the Sweep Panorama function of the camera. it does use a somewhat unique method for panoramic capture and perhaps you might want to do an article on the commercial and practical viability of panorama in today’s market. Perhaps as a dedicated review on just panorama. Just thought I asked although I understand you find this feature more of a marketing gimmick than anything else but Sony did invest a fair bit of time and money in making this feature a reality :)

    There are some pretty good cases which will help to offset the lack of grip on eBay. I just got one for my camera from Korea and I highly recommend one made of synthetic leather, to save the cows ;)

    • Thanks – I think if this was out two years ago, it would have killed the rest of the compact market, the Nikon 1s, and probably M43 at the time, too. Shame!

      Restraint seems to be in terms of the lenses; the controls on the entry level-NEX cameras are just as poorly designed. Clearly, by an engineer but not a photographer.

      As for Sweep Pano – it’s hit and miss, and there isn’t that much extra resolution. You’re better off locking exposure and just taking two shots to stitch in photoshop later. But the biggest killer for me is that you can’t produce a raw file with that feature!

      Grip problem solved: Richard Franiec didn’t reply any of the emails I sent him, so I’m using a piece of duct tape. Cheaper, too. And when I get bored of blue, I’ve got a roll of red handy.

  45. Philippe Elie says:

    Hi Ming,
    thanks for your in-depth review and great picture ! I bought my RX100 two weeks ago, got it in my pockets during the last 2 weeks for my vacations, and I must say I am 99% in love with it. I do not want to cover all the pros you detailed much better than I would do… but I suffered from the lack of grip, which I significantely improved by purchasing Sony’s leather cover (very nice looking, I paid 90 euros for it, ouch..) and I still find it hard to change focus mode, drive, etc….I know you can program the Fn key but this is not that user friendly. Documentation is a disaster : I was happy to discover a rather thick book in the box.. before I discovered it was a very light introduction translated in 10+ languages… It’s a shame I have to read forums to discover some tricks about my new camera !! Come on Sony, this beast costs 650 euros here, and the least we can expect is a decent manual !!
    That said, I’m very pleased with my RX100. Just sold my EOS30d with a bunch of lenses and accessories with no regret, it was really a pain to travel with it, compared to my new toy.
    Cheers, Philippe

    • I solved the grip problem with a piece of gaffer tape. Not the most elegant solution, but it was almost free. I can understand the lack of a printed manual, but a CD would have been nice…

  46. Hello Ming, Sincerely thank you for your detection about grd : “a wonderfully large pill-shaped shutter button that has both a well-defined half press, as well as a clean, soft break.” No one says about it when talking small cameras and most of small cameras ( either small sensor or mirrorless big senson ones ) have silly shutter buttons that makes me throw away even if it has a super IQ, DR, handsome body, very clean high ISO etc.etc. Sorry for interrupting RX100 topic

    • I read somewhere that if you take it to Ricoh HQ in Tokyo, they can actually change the spring inside the shutter button to give it more or less resistance to your liking. Can’t think of any other manufacturer who does that! To my mind, only Ricoh and Nikon (for their pro DSLRs) get the release feel right. The rest are too notchy or insdistinct, or worse still, like the M9 – notchy AND indistinct (and somehow having three stages of release).

  47. I read this review as two friends are both looking for a small everywhere camera, and thought the rx100 seemed to fit the bill. However, you made mention of waiting for the lens to expand… And it made me curious, how does the grd series of cameras do with startup to first capture time… Random jump, I know, but I had been considering one as MY everywhere camera previously. Lol

    • The RX100 is on par with the faster cameras for on-to-shoot speed. Turning off is much slower, for whatever reason. It’s about the same as my GRDIII, but I think ergonomically, the GRD series does much better.

  48. Ravi Kumar says:

    Hi Ming,

    How do you find the lack of a viewfinder and having to shoot with the LCD? Do you think having to shoot with the camera away from the body, and the resulting camera shake, prevents you from taking advantage of the 20MP resolution? I am sure you have very stable hands; but that may not be true for many who buy this camera. Thoughts?

    Thanks
    RK

    • Not really a problem, I’ve been doing it for ages with the GRDIII and Pen Mini.

      The crappy stabilizer (at least compared to the Panasonic Lumixes and and Olympus OM-D) is more of an impediment actually. I don’t have stable hands at all – but I find the auto ISO minimum shutter speed thresholds to be okay. I can manage critically sharp images (i.e. at 100%) with that setting.

  49. Hi!

    I’ve recently acquired an RX100. I own the GRD IV and the Leica X2 too. Sold the M9 a while ago in the seek of an “always with me” camera with the maximum IQ possible keeping size at minimum. I miss my M9 sometimes, but when I see the results I’m able to get in any situation with these small cameras, I soon forget about it (let’s wait and see what Leica will show in Photokina though ;) )

    I’m my seek of the perfect camera for street photography, which it began a few years ago with a 5D MKII (yes a 5D for street!!! ), I’ve bought, test and sold lots of cameras: GF1, PEN series, Ricoh GRD’s, Smartphones, Leica X1, Leica M9, Fuji X100 and many more…

    The GF1 stayed with me a lot, it gave me a good compromise between size and IQ, but at that time, started a true revolution in small cameras, and it soon was surpased by new models.

    In these almost 3 years, (leaving the M9 + 35mm summicron aside, which IQ its stellar and unbeatable right now at its size), I’d say that the Leica X1 and the GRD IV are the cameras that more satisfiying images has given to me. They are cameras to be with you, literally at ANY time in the back pocket of your trousers, stealth, discrete, silent, perfect UI, and, in the case of the Leica X, top notch IQ.
    The Ricoh GRD IV is amazing for its sensor size (and what a lens it has!), but I wanted a bit more IQ, since the it let you down from iso200 for large prints. I thought I had to wait for the GRD V to get that, but then:

    THE RX100 APPEARED OUT OF THE BLUE!!!!

    The RX100 is what I ever wanted for the kind of photography I do: very small size, very good IQ, iso800 useable for large prints, fast performance, intuitive UI, highly customizable and nice design!

    It’s like a GRD V made by Sony. Of course it has some quirks and things I miss from the GRD (its stellar fixed 28mm equiv lens for instance), but I think it’s a VERY BIG step up in the compact cameras range.
    If it had a fixed 28mm Zeiss lens, an improved grip, hot shoe for optical viewfinder, and some minor firmware improvements it would me my dream camera. But I guess we’d have to wait for the GRD V to see that…

    There’s only a couple of things (software related) that I miss in this camera, let’s see if Ming agree with it:

    – FOCUS SCALE ON SCREEN (like in GRD or X2)
    – MEMORIZE MANUAL FOCUS POSITION WHEN CAMERA TURNS OFF.
    – TURN LCD OFF AUTOMATICALLY IN X SECONDS (customizable)

    I can’t wait to get RAW support from Adobe to see what i can do with RAW files from this little beast.

    I hope that Sony supports this camera in terms of Firmware revisions…what do you think, Ming???

    Cheers from Spain,

    Miguel Angel Prieto

    • Those things are nice to haves, but don’t make a lot of difference to me – the sensor isn’t big enough to require a scale focus (though it would be nice; I never use the one on my GRD to be honest).

      MF position – again, only if you MF a lot, which doesn’t make sense again because of the sensor size. What I would like is a hyperfocal or fixed distance snap setting like the GRD.

      LCD off is useful only if you’ve got a hotshoe and optical finder – which this doesn’t. Maybe dimming it to reduce power consumption would be a good compromise between always-ready and less obtrusive.

      ACR support is the top want on my list right now.

      • I always use the scale focus in the GRD, I shoot at close distances in street (1-2mts), so, even with this small sensor, it makes a LOT of difference in getting sharp images (at least for me). I wish I can set the RX100 for 1mt,1.5mt or 2mt (like with snap focus of the GRD) and that the camera memorize it.
        What I do as workaround is focusing from my chin to the ground and leaving the camera in MF, so this way is like snap shooting with the GRD, but I have to set it again when camera turns off (that’s why I want it to memorize this setting)

        LCD off is not only useful with OVF, is useful too when you walk around with the camera on and you want less consumption and being discrete, it’s better than dimming, as you’re not looking at the viewfinder anyway, don’t you think?

      • X2 is a better fit in some ways (except size ;)): OVF option, better IQ, fixed lens etc…
        Although RX100 i’m sure it was designed with “people that goes always Auto” in mind, I think it can be used and customized to fit other needs, but I agree that it has its limits given for its design concept. It’s not a Street Photo tool in itself, but it can be used as that with a few turns and workarounds in settings.

        By the way, congratulations for you site!

  50. There’s more to the RX100 than what just meets the eye:

    http://the.me/the-canon-s100-vs-sony-rx100-metaphor-of-the-rise-and-stagnation-of-camera-giants/

    You make it look like an excellent camera, Ming Thein, as always not only great photography but also a great read.

  51. Ming, Great review!!

    Could you please explain this issue in more detail?

    “There is an AF assist lamp, but as with all ‘conveniences’ of this sort, it’s obnoxious. I turned it off.”

    Which NR setting are you referring to? There is:

    * Long Exposure NR ( It could be set to ON / OFF )

    * High ISO NR ( It could be set to HIGH / NORMAL / LOW

    ” I’m making a ‘raw’ jpeg by turning off NR, reducing saturation and contrast to the minimum levels, and upping sharpening one notch (to preserve detail). ”

    ” Noise reduction – it cannot be completely turned off – when turned down, does a decent job of balancing texture/ detail and noise.”

    It would be great if you could make a short list of best setting for the RX 100

    • Thanks Andre.

      To your points:
      1. It doesn’t need the AF assist lamp, focuses just fine without it – even when very dark.
      2. High ISO NR – low. Long exposure NR I left on, but I don’t really intend to use this camera for long exposures anyway. I should have said ‘turn down to low’ – you can’t turn it off.

      There’s a lot of settings…I’ll post something later once I’ve had a chance to figure out exactly what those settings are. I’m still experimenting at the moment.

      • Hi Ming
        It sounds wonderful, thank you so much!
        ” You can also power up the camera in playback mode without extending the lens by holding down the play button ”
        This feature is ok but mine RX100 does extend the lens every single time I use it.

        ” As with all contrast detect AF cameras, continuous autofocus is best avoided, though the tracking mode works pretty well in static scenes – hit the center button to activate it, put the box over the thing you want to track, then hit it again to lock on. I can see this being useful for posed portraits, but little else. There’s also manual focus with peaking and magnification, though AF is so fast and flexible that I can’t see why you’d want to use it. ”

        I’ve noticed that if one assigns the Focus Mode to switch between Auto Focus/Manual Focus to the Center button ( can be handy if you if want to quickly be able to shift to MF mode with peaking and magnification ) than the Tracking Focus mode with the target frame does not appear? Maybe it’s me doing something wrong?

        • Mine doesn’t – hold down play without pressing power, it should power up without extending the lens. I’m starting to wonder if there are different firmware versions, because it seems that there is differing behaviour between cameras (or perhaps changing one setting changes other things, and Sony didn’t document any of it…)

          Not tried your AF/MF switch – I’m using the center button to switch between tracking and regular center point.

      • Ming, I´m sorry, I misinterpreted the function. It does power up without extending the lens…….
        While in Playback mode, if you press Play button again, than RX100 does extend the lens.

  52. james nicol says:

    very informative review. how does the sony compare in shutter sound and stealth performance for street/discreet shooting?

  53. Wonderful review… very balanced and complete. Thank you for taking the time and effort to post it.

  54. I’m in no need to replace my P&S Lumix LX5, but if by Christmas time I find myself with some disposable money, I will be between this one and the new LX7. Under the hood, the Sony RX100 has a better engine, but it would not be the first time I go with a more refined car instead of more horse power. I cringe when I read about the menu system on the RX100… This means Sony didn’t prioritize the UI and for me software matters and I’m willing to pay for a better experience. Or in this case, save some money!

  55. Hi Ming,

    I came across this reference to a PDF version of the RX100 manual. I’ve downloaded it myself and it’s quite usable:

    http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1009&message=42125936

    Regards, Sven.

  56. alan george says:

    Great review! but i wished i could view the EXIF info of the pics you took with the rx100. How much processing did you do for those pics taken with the rx100?

    • The EXIF is intact and viewable via flickr – click on the image to go to the hosting page, and then on the right side to view the data.

      As for processing – both less and more than usual; less because I only had jpegs to work with (ACR doesn’t support the raw files yet); more because I had to overcome some limitations of those jpegs. Said usual workflow is covered in my Introduction to Photoshop Workflow DVD :)

  57. Outstanding review and images, Ming. Sony should retain you for their gallery samples and product shots.

    (P.S. You might consider adding affiliate links to B&H and Adorama, to complement the Amazon link — in case potential buyers prefer one vendor over another.)

    • Thanks Don. Here’s the paradox though, if you knew I was retained by any of the camera companies (I’m not, but I do work with some of them) would there still be as much value to a review whose objectivity might be cloudy?

      B&H/ Adorama don’t support affiliates outside the US, otherwise I would. And even Amazon will only pay you in vouchers(!) Still, it’s better than nothing I suppose.

      • Good point about the objectivity dilemma, Ming. I was more focused on how much more justice your images do to Sony’s offerings than any of their own product shots, your images being that much better. (And even so, given how in depth and frank your reviews are and assuming your editorial focus wouldn’t change, I doubt any reader with a brain would doubt your objectivity.)

        As to B&H and Adorama, I didn’t know about their non-support of affiliates outside the US — hence, your earlier comment about xenophobia! What if you hosted your site on a US-based server and registered/renewed your domain with a US address (i.e. do everything possible to be “inside the US” short of relocating and actually being in the US)? Would that alleviate these problems?

        • You’d be surprised, Don – I’ve been accused of bias many times (usually when either DPReview or Leica are involved anywhere).

          It’s not just B&H and Adorama; a lot of the other smaller companies just don’t seem interested – even getting product to review is impossible because there’s no local distributor. I don’t even get a reply 99% of the time. I think I’d have to have a physical shipping address inside the US and bank accounts etc for any of the issues to be solved. Hardly seems worth it…

  58. Great review! Thanks for sharing. I’m in the market for a compact. Would you say this would produce much better images then a canon S100 I was thinking about?

  59. Just a quick point, the Nikon 1 cameras use Aptina sensors.

    FYI, trying to view these comments crashed Safari on my MBP. Tried once more, same result. Now viewing and replying on my 3D ICS tablet using Dolphin HD.

    Great site btw. Always interesting and I enjoy your photography.

    • Thanks for the info. Are you using Safari 6/ Mountain Lion by any chance? I’ve found that it’s hideously unstable so far…especially with WordPress, for some annoying reason.

  60. Awesome review Ming, enjoyed reading this as I’m in line for an RX100. Purely speculative question, RX100 or LX7 based on what you’ve heard/seen out of previous LX models and current RX100 review? (And how that “Zeiss” affect you mentioned in the article fits in to your response) I’m very new to more in depth photography so I’m not too familiar with the Zeiss.

    • Thanks Chris. I’m inclined to say RX100; the LX7 samples I’ve seen so far look about a stop behind the RX100 in noise and dynamic range, and that’s ignoring the fact that the RX100 has twice the resolution. At wide, you’ll get more separation out of the RX100; at tele, perhaps a bit of advantage in both DOF control and low light performance with the LX7 (the LX5’s stabilizer is much better than the RX100 – stands to reason this holds for the LX7 too; the lens is two stops faster, giving you around a two stop advantage overall after netting out the sensor difference). I suppose it depends on whether you’re more of a wide shooter, or a tele shooter. Or if an EVF is important to you (the RX100 doesn’t have one).

      The ‘Zeiss’ effect/ signature is for well-defined microcontrast, saturated (but accurate) colors and 3D ‘pop’. You see it on their better DSLR/RF mount lenses.

      • Lowell Hollars says:

        Hi: Can I interpret (extrapolate?) your comment to be that the LX7 will take equal or better photos than the RX100 at the telephone end, under low light conditions, for example in a bar or night club atmosphere, taking photos of musicians on stage? That is, the faster lens on the LX7 makes up for the smaller sensor?

      • Lowell Hollars says:

        Hi again. I meant “telephoto” end, not “telephone.” I’m referring to the 100 mm focal length. Sorry about the typo.

      • Lowell Hollars says:

        Ming, thanks for your input. Maybe I will find out for real, I’m thinking about ordering a RX100 and can do a back to back test with a LX7 that I have access to.

        • Makes sense. But the faster lens will always yield a faster shutter for the same ISO – I don’t think the Sony is quite two stops better than the LX7, but the panasonic’s OIS is definitely good for another stop over the Sony which can help with static subjects. Sony has the edge in DR, color and resolution though.

      • Lowell Hollars says:

        Ming, thanks again for the additional feedback. How do you determine that the RX100 is almost two stops better than the LX7. I assume that is a the wide angle of the lens. Is that a calculated value from the f-stop and focal length? If so, do you use actual focal lengths and f-stops, or equivalent values? If it is a calculated value, would you share that?

        Also, how do you estimate that the LX7 OIS is about a one stop advantage over the RX100?

        I haven’t ordered the RX100 yet, I’m still trying to just get a feel for the advantage in low light conditions by looking at the specs, but this is all new stuff to me.

        Thanks again for your input, I find it very valuable.

        • No, it’s because the LX7 is f2.3 or f2.5 (I think, I don’t remember all cameras’ specs) on the long end, and the RX100 is f4.9. It’s printed on the front of the lens barrel.

          As for OIS – experience. Unfortunately there’s no real quantitative way of measuring this.

  61. I also tried to export raw files to 16bit TIFF, and then edit in LR4, however there is very limited ability to recover highlight, and lots of processing artefacts in the details.

  62. Hello Ming. Thanks for the review. Those photos you included are awesome and shows how skilled a photographer you are (as far as I can judge as a serious amateur photographer). I’m using the small strap which is included. I put around my hand to avoid dropping the camera. Also think it is easy to change focus point by pressing the button in the middle and using the wheel with for directions, but you are right it does not seem to be possible to reset the focus point easily.

  63. I’m a dedicated m43 shooter, but this could be a great 2nd body, replacing perhaps one of my m43 cameras, certainly the kit lens, and maybe the 14mm pancake. Thanks so much for the review!

    • I think that’s pretty much the function it’s going to take in my travel kit. A little more testing might be required to confirm, but the lack of a good 28mm option for my Pen Mini somewhat limits its usefulness when paired with the OM-D.

  64. Hi. Did you compare Sony with Canon G1X?

  65. Thanks for your review. I’ve had the Sony RX100 about 10 days to me the biggest issue is the lack of a PDF manual and I also wish there was an actual battery charger. Until the ACR RAW converter is introduced it will be hard to really compare but to me this is the best compact camera I have ever had and I have owned many. While this is Off Topic, any chance you could create a post about your beautiful studio lighting technique? Thanks Again!

    • I agree, the lack of a manual gets increasingly annoying as you try to figure out which cryptic combination of button presses does what. At least the OM-D is quite self-explanatory in this way.

      I’ve covered studio lighting for watches a couple of times actually – was there something else in particular you were referring to?

      • compulady says:

        I have been searching your blog and scanning back several months but haven’t come across one of your posts on lighting. I’ll look again but if you could point me in the direction of one I’d appreciate it. I’ve been following you on Flickr for years but I just recently discovered your blog. Thanks!

    • I actually like online manuals. When you sell the camera there is no manual involved. I got an external charger on eBay for the X batteries.

      • An online manual is fine, but at least make it a PDF…the HTML version they have now really isn’t useable unless you’re connected to the Internet – and this is useless for reference.

        How’s the charger working out? I’m always a little weary of third part power accessories after having an incident with smoke and a bulging battery in the past.

      • I’m using a universal lithium charger with unknown branding – works quite ok! I bought mine RX100 in Prague two weeks ago, which was quite expensive and they did’t have extra batteries (new camera, etc.). Luckily, I’ve found batteries in Shenzen – not original ones but work perfect and cost almost nothing.

  66. “4. No raw support* (not really a Sony flaw, and I suppose it’s coming soon from Adobe)”

    I wouldn’t let Sony off the hook that easily. Take a note from Leica and write raw files in the DNG format. All of a sudden, the camera would have established RAW support from before launch and at no additional cost to would-be buyers.

    • And Pentax and Ricoh, too – yes, DNG support would be nice, but it seems that sadly it died on the tree. If only all camera makers would stop wasting time with crappy software, they’d not only save a fortune in development costs, but also stop irritating their customers. I don’t mind buying the software if it’s good, but the reality is that it never is.

  67. Not sure what you mean by an extra battery is impossible since you can swap the battery out… I actually vastly prefer an internal charger, 1 cable to sync and it charges at the same time and it’s the same cable for my iPhone and android. Not only that but it’s uber useful for travel that it uses a standard micro USB port and I don’t have to carry yet another propriety charger that I’m going to lose or forget. I hope all companies go this route, it’s just too useful.

    • Maintaining an extra battery is difficult – you can’t use one and charge one, because the charger is the camera. Ideally, I’d like to have the option of both – or better yet, a USB terminal in the battery itself to allow for direct charging. The Leica S2 has this; Li-ion chemistry is a multiple of 3.7v, which also happens to be the same voltage as a USB power source. If you’re a heavy shooter, this system of maintaining batteries just doesn’t cut it. (Then again, you could always argue that this isn’t the camera for a heavy shooter. :)

      • I think for a consumer camera, this is the best choice. I’m sure aftermarket chargers will be available if you need to maintain ten batteries. I usually just buy 1 or 2 extra.

        • Planning on doing so once they’re available…but yes, for most people, 300 shots per day is more than enough. I’ll easily get through a thousand or more on two cameras in a heavy day of travel though.

      • Hi, [since the (spare) battery is not yet available in our place for this camera], I just want to ask — would you consider using non-original batteries (China ones) for RX100? I’ve seen a blog from Cheesycam.com that the author is using it and got no problems with it… I just want to get views from an expert photographer like you. Great review by the way, I think the best from what I’ve read about RX100. :-)

        • I’ve got mixed experience with third party batteries – some are fine, some start to bulge dangerously, and yet others outperform the originals. There really is no way to tell, unfortunately. I’m sure you could find originals on eBay too, no?

      • I have a 12000mAh Li-ion battery pack for my smartphone and other gadgets while traveling, and I think I just found another use for it.

        • That’s a great idea, actually – especially for all of those USB-charged devices. I’ve got one too somewhere that I completely forgot about. Thanks for the idea!

  68. Elliott Newcomb says:

    Best review, really informative. Please try Clear Zoom on your holiday, I think it is very good, and well worth knowing about considering the limited optical zoom.

    • Thanks Elliott – pass on digital zoom, it will never be as good as optical. I’m used to a 28-85 prime combination, so the limited reach doesn’t bother me at all – and if it did, I’d just frame around it.

  69. Very Good review, thanks.

    A couple of small points:

    1. You say: “The lens also remembers your last used focal length when the camera was turned off – there doesn’t seem to be any way of disabling this though.”
    My RX100 always starts up with the lens at its widest setting regardless of the last zoom setting. This is in “A” or Aperture Priority mode. I haven’t tested it in other modes.
    It is possible to save last used focal length by using the Memory settings and the MR mode though. I wonder if your camera has a slightly different firmware version?

    2. You say: “2. No shutter speed limits to auto ISO – I suppose it’s using 1/focal length, but there’s no way to be sure.”
    My experience is that auto ISO starts by using shutter speed at 1/focal length. Shutter speed will then become slower if light is not sufficient at the upper limit of ISO 3200.

    3. I agree with your list of quibbles and would add that flash output adjustment is only accessible from the menu system. I would prefer that it be available to program on the Fn button. Not that I ever use flash very much, but when I do I like to dial it down.

    • 1. Nope, mine seems to do it in all PASM modes, but oddly not all the time. MR modes don’t have a space for the focal length setting. It could be that it only does it when the lens ring is set to control zoom. FW 1.00 here.

      2. Again, I’ve seen mine go higher than that, and lower, too – I think the stabilizer gyro data plays a part, but to what extent I’m not sure.

      3. Turns out that you can program flash exposure comp to the Fn button – but there’s no way of manually controlling it.

  70. Very insightful review. A key area which you did not touch on is the video capability of this camera. The 1080/50-60P output is astonishing. In fact, EOS HD recently assessed video output as being better than that from the NEX 7. BTW, the step-less front ring was designed this way to allow changes to settings while shooting video without introducing clicks into the audio stream.

    • Thanks Vin. I’m not a videographer, so I’d rather say nothing than say something foolish…

      Design choice on the ring makes sense from this point of view, though.

  71. Given your thoughts on the new RX100, would you recommend this over the E-PM1? I’ve been going back and forth with your OM-D review and I felt that the OM-D is something really special. Given the impression, I would like to believe the RX100 may be as well? That is if we can start shooting RAW formats without compromises.

    • So far, it’s one pretty incredible compact camera. I would probably buy this over the E-PM1 now if size is a priority (and perhaps you already have an OM-D); I would buy the E-PM1 if you’re upgrading from a compact and want a system camera. This could serve as primary if you’re perhaps a casual travel photographer; it’s not going to work if you need optics that can do shallow DOF, ultrawide or telephoto. Put it this way: I’m guessing I could probably go on holiday with it, and feel liberated by the lack of gear rather than frustrated by its limitations. But to know for sure I’m going to have to do some travelling.

  72. Good review – the one thing worth mentioning though is that it is rather expensive. Compared to say the significantly cheaper PEN Mini which is also quite small (even with kit lens), do you gain much in terms of image quality and flexibility?
    :)

    • Thanks – yes, it is expensive. The Pen Mini with kit lens isn’t pocketable, this is. And the kit lens a) isn’t as good optically; b) is two stops slower on the wide end, and 2/3 stop slower on the long end. You gain a lot in compactness, that’s for sure; image quality is probably about on par (pending RAW evaluation of the RX100’s files via ACR, of course). But you lose interchangeable lenses.

  73. theweary says:

    Clear and concise review, with good images to boot.
    By the way, the cab driver in one of your images looked visibly annoyed at having the RX100 pointed in his direction – did he give you an earful?

    • No, he was actually turning his head past me to look at a passing girl – he didn’t notice me at all. I just happened to catch him at the instant his head passed me.

  74. Ming you really tried to be balanced, but here is what you wrote that should have been mentioned first and last:

    ” firstly, I was constantly surprised by just how good the image quality was. I expected compact camera level, I was given constantly CSC-level, though not quite as good as the latest generation of M4/3 bodies like the OM-D. In many ways, it felt like an entry level DSLR crammed into a compact body. It’s incredibly fast and responsive, and shunts around large RAW files at 10fps without a hiccup. The lens is definitely an excellent performer, and a notch above the kit zooms; not to mention being faster at both ends and having a bit more reach.”

    I sold $ 3000 of Nikon DSLR and $ 4200 worth of m4/3 and aside from having an extra $ 7000 in my paypal account, I don’t miss them. The RX100 is all I need. And the flash bounces up too!

  75. Lovely review.

    Decision time — if you had to choose, would you use your Ricoh or the RX100?

    • Thanks Aizuddin. Right now, hard to say – I’d be inclined to go with the Ricoh for tough lighting situations because I know the files better, plus I’ve got a bit more dynamic range and raw support. RX100 for everything else. It’s nice to have the option for telephoto in the same camera! However, I’m pretty sure it will be RX100 hands down once we get ACR support. The files are very, very impressive indeed; especially at low ISOs.

      • Hi great review of the rx100. I just bought one but I find all the functions too bewildering. I have a question. I will shoot only jpg as I have no time for raw. If I leave it in program mode, in your opinion whats best settings for contrast, sharpening and saturation. Also I notice the cam underexposed a bit, should I adjust by +1 and leave this as a setting.

        Any other advice is most welcome
        Thx

        • Thanks. The underexposure isn’t consistent. I’m using centerweighted metering as I find this to be far more predictable than matrix.

          JPEG settings will depend on what you want to do with the images after. I’m running -2 contrast, -2 saturation and +1 sharpening with no DRO, but then I also run the images through Photoshop afterwards. I’ve never used straight out of camera JPEGs so I can’t really say what the best settings would be. Every image is different, and I just don’t see how there can be a one-size-fits-all. Sorry!

  76. Hi Ming. Really enjoyed the review. Without the ACR support at the moment, are you post-processing the JPEGS or trying to get the parameters right in the camera and use them straight out of the camera?

  77. I’m doing a bit of both – trying to get the exposure as close to correct as possible in-camera (not easy because of the somewhat erratic metering, and limited dynamic range) and then running the JPEGs through ACR. The Sony raw converter doesn’t give you anywhere near as much control or recovery ability as ACR, sadly.

  78. I found the camera tends to underexpose too. Been working around the issue by turning on the histogram on the screen, and setting the control ring around the lens to exposure compensation, and then disable the control ring display, so there is active feed back from the histogram when I adjust the exposure. (otherwise a menu pops out and interrupts the histogram live feed)

  79. I’ve been doing the same, but generally dislike working with live histograms as they tend to obstruct part of the scene…I much prefer the OM-D’s blinking highlights warning.

  80. Ming, I sold the OM-D for the Panasonic GX1, believe it or not. And the GX1 is hardly bigger than the Sony Rx-100, if you leave the LVF-2 off and fit the 20/1.7. No IBIS, but excellent IQ and with the RRS L bracket (minus the portrait part), super small, better ergonomics and menu system, for me. I wrote a small comparison here:

    http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1139526/0#10875533

    I’d love to hear your comments; regards, KL

  81. Interesting…UI and ergonomics are a matter of personal preference – I like the OM-D better; somehow the G series just doesn’t work for me, though their compact UI is mostly okay. Any thoughts on how the image quality compares?

  82. I have owned all the G series, I believe; the GX1 feels completely different to any of them. I amended my short review on Fred’s site; if you have five minutes please have a look and I can discuss more here. The RRS L-plate is what the GX1 needed to feel absolutely perfect in my hands.

    Re. IQ? Very very close, to my eyes. So good that once I got the GX1 and played with it for a week, I had no problem selling it. The GX1 is quite a bit lighter than the OM-D, too, which also needed a grip IMO for secure carry.

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  6. […] Tokyo. Sony RX100 (I include camera info here solely to demonstrate that it really doesn’t matter what you […]

  7. […] Tokyo. Sony RX100. (I include camera info to demonstrate that it really doesn’t matter what you […]

  8. [...] His last point is that many compacts are really good now. Some good candidates are the Sony RX100 (but have an extra battery) because is has a 1″ 20MP sensor and a 28-100MM zoom which is a [...]

  9. [...] that basis, you’d imagine that I’d have the Sony RX100 since it fulfills almost all of those criteria. I did for a while, then a few things about it [...]

  10. [...] take-everywhere companion, I’ve probably tried most of them. Current top of the heap is the Sony RX100; I’ve also used the GR-Digital series, Fuji XF1 and Panasonic LX/ Leica D-Lux series. For [...]

  11. [...] served as my carry-everywhere camera for two years until the E-PM1 showed up, since replaced by the RX100. I digress: as excellent as the later generation GR-Digital series is, I’ve always felt the [...]

  12. [...] that as with all of these compact film cameras, there’s no continuous AF or drive modes (Sony RX100 with subject tracking and 10fps, anybody?). In any case, you probably wouldn’t want them; [...]

  13. [...] Self explanatory, really. The camera includes a Richard Franiec grip and one spare original battery, plus boxes/ papers and whatnots. Just throwing this one out there as I could keep it or not; it’s an excellent pocket camera. It’s just that I seem to be using the GR1v a lot more than the RX100 these days. Also, if I sell this one, I can pick up something else to review for you guys Note: the camera has a couple of small paint loss marks on the left border of the LCD, otherwise it’s perfect. Under 4k actuations on this one. My full review is here. [...]

  14. [...] I’ve run some RAWs through my normal workflow. However, recent experiences with first the Sony RX100 and more recently, the Fuji XF1, have made me revaluate this: in fact, the XF1 has such good [...]

  15. [...] variable-aspect, 1/1.7″, 24-90/1.4(!)-2.3 – variable aspect ratios, lens speed, macro – Sony RX100 – 20MP (!), 1″, 28-100/1.8-4.9 – low light use/ resolution/ dynamic range/ [...]

  16. [...] isn’t really an issue anymore; it hasn’t been for compacts since about 2009. My Sony RX100 will shoot 20MP, 14-bit RAW + JPEG fine images at 10fps for 10 frames. – Price: even the best of [...]

  17. [...] where photography isn’t my priority, but you just never know. These days, that’s the Sony RX100. I might even take out the F2T if I’m feeling particularly slow and contemplative, and the [...]

  18. [...] This set was shot with an Olympus OM-D with the 12/2 and 45/1.8 lenses, and a Sony RX100. [...]

  19. [...] have the desired focal length preset before powering on; something I wish the otherwise very fast Sony RX100 could [...]

  20. [...] equivalent for the Zeiss 2.8/21 Distagon which is my current mainstay for architectural work. The Sony RX100 covered everything else. Enjoy! [...]

  21. [...] set was shot with an Olympus OM-D, ZD 12/2, 45/1.8 and Sony RX100. As usual, click on any image to go to its Flickr landing page; EXIF data is intact on the right [...]

  22. [...] This series shot with an Olympus OM-D, 12/2 and Sony RX100. [...]

  23. [...] I travelled very light – in the end bringing only the OM-D, 12/2 and 45/1.8 lenses, plus a Sony RX100 for backup (the links are to my reviews); not having a bag – hell, not even having to use the [...]

  24. [...] one lying around. Mine now lives on my E-PM1 Pen Mini, which has seen little use since the OM-D and Sony RX100 entered the stable. put this on, stick the camera in your pocket, and go for a walk. You’ll [...]

  25. [...] put this all into context. The recently-released Sony RX100 (reviewed here) has 20MP effective – that’s a whopping 5500×3600 or so pixels, or enough for a [...]

  26. [...] All images in this review are clickable for larger versions, via the flickr host. The EXIF data is also intact. Apologies in advance for the lack of variety of sample images; the weather over the l…  [...]

  27. [...] Sony RX100 noisetest. For a 100% version, click here. I feel there are only two areas in which the sensor's smaller pixel pitch starts to show – that's dynamic range, and edge acuity at higher ISOs. While dynamic range is a bit …  [...]

  28. [...] August 2012: I want to add the Sony RX100 to the list of recommended cameras. If you’re traveling in a group or with a partner, or [...]

  29. [...] Back to the Sony RX100 show we go with a new comparative photographer priority review of the camera by Ming Thein. [...]

  30. [...] Ming Thein, known for his excellent reviews, got an RX100 in his hands. Read and see for yourself. In summary: I didn’t think I’d have quite so much to say about quite so small a camera; the overwhelming feeling is that we’re very nearly at the point where there aren’t that many good reasons left for a larger sensor or even interchangeable lenses for most users – but perhaps that’s another generation out. What I do notice is that the improvement in smaller sensors has also had an effect on the way I compose – rather than seeking shallower depth of field, I’m looking for just enough to give the right amount of separation of subject from background; sometimes, a fast wide on a smaller 1″ sensor is enough; other times, you have no choice but to use 300mm on medium format because of the required perspective. One final point worth noting: this isn’t a cheap camera. In fact, it’s a good 50% over a Pen Mini kit, and comparable to a GX1 kit. It seems that you’re paying double taxes for minaturization and Zeiss optics; but the very few compromises mean that if you already have a large, fully-featured CSC or DSLR, then this is the ideal pocket companion for the times when you just don’t want all that weight. The RX100 isn’t a mature replacement for a larger camera, but the number of reasons to have one around definitely just got smaller. The limitations now rest squarely on the photographer; for most people, this is all the camera they’ll ever need. This is the king of the hill when it comes to compacts – I’ve not yet shot with anything else this size that has such great base ISO image quality and can handle ISO 3,200 with impunity and minimal consequences to image quality, whilst not holding you up with either focusing or continuous shooting speed. Highly recommended. [...]

  31. [...] Re: Got my RX 100 Nice review from Ming Thein. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 – a somewhat comparative review – Ming Thein | Photographer [...]

  32. [...] interesting and deep RX100 review from Ming Thein The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 – a somewhat comparative review __________________ EPM1 (X2), 7.5/14/25/50, 14-45, 100-300, Domke 5xb 'they always come home' [...]

  33. [...] out this review from Ming Thein on the RX100. Now that's a gorgeous review! The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 – a somewhat comparative review __________________ EPM1 (X2), 7.5/14/25/50, 14-45, 100-300, Domke 5xb 'they always come home' [...]

  34. [...] RX100 review by Ming Thein Found it on DPR: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 – a somewhat comparative review Nothing much new here, but a great overview. I'm only about 1/2 way through, but thought I should [...]

  35. [...] The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 – a somewhat comparative review – Ming Thein [...]

  36. [...] Photography. Photoessay: Summer in Geneva – Ming Thein Dry Tortugas: Coastal Fortress, Coral Reefs, Marine Life, Shipwrecks & Sunken Treasure The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 – a somewhat comparative review [...]

  37. [...] all the reviews I’ve read so far, Ming Thein’s is the most interesting, detailed and even-handed. On the whole, two things left their mark on me [...]

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