Sony DSC-RX100 Preview

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Camera Review
Introduction | Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 Preview
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100

1" CMOS 20.2 Mpix sensor

Sony now offers a well-rounded range of compact hybrids equipped with APS-C sensors. For its expert compact with integrated zoom, Sony is not about to encroach on the NEX family’s territory, particularly since that would affect the Cyber-shot’s compactness. Sony has made a judicious compromise between array size and image quality for an optimal compactness-to-photo quality ratio.  

Even though it’s essentially the same size as the Canon PowerShot S100, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 integrates a much larger sensor than that of its competitor: 1" in diagonal — that is, 13.2 x 8.8mm, or in other words the size of the CMOS sensors used in the Nikon 1, J1, and V1 compact hybrids. With 20.2Mpix high resolution, it has a native aspect ratio of 3:2 — which will certainly not displease SLR users — and offers “multi-aspect”: it can capture photos in 3:2, 4:2, 16:9, and 1:1 concomitantly. Its sensitivity goes from 125 to 25600 ISO, and that’s a lot for such an array. Further, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 uses Superimposing and By Pixel technologies to achieve better-quality images.

Sony has achieved a real feat here and has thus consolidated its lead among CMOS sensors. The manufacturer continues to use its low-light shot system that complies different views via burst shooting in order to reduce noise — a system that seems to work rather well.

Our DxOMark test results will allow users to judge the quality of this sensor.

A large sensor?

With its 1" diagonal measurement, the Sony DSC-RX100’s sensor impresses with its size:

  • 4 times larger than the 1/2.3" sensors of conventional digital cameras
  • 2.8 times larger than the 1/1.7" sensors of such expert compacts as the Panasonic LX5 and the  Canon Powershot S100
  • 1.5 times larger than the 2/3" sensor of the Fujifilm X10
  • 1.9 times smaller than the 4:3 sensor of such micro-4/3 hybrids as the Panasonic Lumix G, the Olympus Pen and the OM-D
  • 2.25 times smaller than the sensor of the Canon Powershot G1 X

While the DxOMark low-light ISO score should show close to a 1-stop difference between the Canon Powershot G1 X and the RX100, the measurements may tell a different story.

Carl Zeiss T* lens

The second big advantage of the Sony RX100: its Vario-Sonnar T* lens. This bright wide-angle offers a nice maximum aperture of f/1.8, but it is not constant: the aperture is f/4.9 at 100mm. The amplitude of the lens is similarly modest (3.6x), and its short focal length would have been improved by going further than 28 mm, but this small sacrifice contributes to the camera’s compactness (and compactness seems to have been Sony’s main priority, since the lens uses AA —Advanced Aspherical — elements that make it possible to reduce the overall size of the lens). The diaphragm consists of 7 circular leaves that can handle background blur. The lens is stabilized by Sony’s SteadyShot device that offers an “active” mode dedicated to image stabilization when shooting video while moving. It will be interesting to see how it behaves in comparison with the Powershot G1 X lens.

Viewfinder / Display

Don’t look for a viewfinder: it has been sacrificed on the altar of compactness. Instead of going head-to-head with the Canon PowerShot G1 X’s viewfinder, Sony made a different choice: the RX100 has integrated a new high-resolution (1,229,000-point) WhiteMagic display, whose technology adds white pixels in order to increase screen brightness — very useful when shooting outdoors.

Compactness: the advantages of compromise

The RX100 offers an exemplary compactness — compactness being the real Achilles’ heel of its competitors, notably the Canon PowerShot G1 X. Its dimensions (101.8 x 58.1 x 25.9mm) make it the most compact in its category, very close behind the Canon PowerShot S100 (and its much smaller sensor).

The Sony RX100 is shorter by 1.5cm, has 2cm less height, and nearly 2cm less depth than the PowerShot G1 X, since the RX100’s lens tastefully retracts entirely into the camera body despite its larger sensor, which is not the case for the Canon and its smaller sensor. The RX100 is also more compact than the Fujifilm X10, despite the latter’s smaller sensor (2/3" for the Fuji versus 1" for the  Sony).

The Cyber-shot RX100 also takes the featherweight title: it weighs only 240 grams, including battery and memory card, versus 250 grams for the Fujifilm and 534 grams for the Canon (more than twice as heavy).

Embedded intelligence

In addition to its compactness, the Sony RX100 features a huge technological arsenal:

  • Full HD video in 50p, usable in PSAM or manual exposure modes, integrated stereo microphone and “active” stabilization
  • Burst shooting at 10 i/s
  • MultiFrame NR: multi-view noise reduction
  • HDR
  • Panoramic sweep shooting
  • Night shooting without tripod , image blur reduction
  • Improved portrait shooting with face detection, skin retouch, and reframing by extrapolating missing pixels (By Pixel technology)
  • lear Zoom: image recalculation up to 7.3x (By Pixel technology)
  • Rapid autofocus (0.13s in daylight)

Price and availability

Aluminum finish, exclusive sensor, quality lens, rich functionality, unique compactness for the segment, novel screen: the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 has a large accumulation of qualities and we are very anxious to measure the potential of its 1-inch sensor. The Sony’s price is on par with its promises: 650 euros, tax included. Announced availability: the end of July.

Principal characteristics of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100

  • Sensor:
    • CMOS
    • 1" (13.2 x 8.8mm) in 3:2 format
    • Effective megapixels: 20.2
  • Lens:
    • 3.6x, equivalent to 28-100mm f/1.8-4.9
    • Adjustable lens ring (zoom, aperture, etc.)
    • Optical image stabilization (Optical SteadyShot) with "Active" video mode
  • Sensitivity: from 125 to 25600 ISO
  • Full HD video 50p with PSAM exposure and stereo sound
  • "Multiframe NR" noise reduction
  • PSAM modes
  • Intelligent Auto and Superior Auto modes
  • Shutter: 1/2000s to 30s + pose B
  • Burst rate: 10 i/s
  • 7-leaf circular diaphragm
  • RAW and RAW+JPEG formats
  • Intelligent digital 7.2x zoom ("Clear Image Zoom")
  • Integrated pop-up flash
  • Portraits:
  •  
    • Face detection + skin softening effect
    • Automatic portrait cropping
    • 13 digital effects
  • Panoramic sweep
  • Multi-aspect recording: 3:2, 4:3, 16:9, 1:1
  • 3-inch / 1,229,999-point WhiteMagic display screen
  • Battery:
    • Lithium-ion
    • Autonomy: 330 images
    • USB recharge port
  • Aluminum finish
  • Dimensions: 101.6 x 58.1 x 35.9mm
  • Weight: 240 grams
  • Price: 650 euros (tax included)

See also:

Canon announces a new model in its Powershot S premium compact camera line: the Powershot S100

Canon PowerShot G1X Review