Sony RX100 Review
The Sony RX100 is easily the best compact point and shoot camera on the market. While that label doesn’t come without a price tag, (it runs about $650 new) if you can afford it, it will provide you with great results in a very easy to use, compact package.
I’ve been using this camera for about 6 months now, and I’ve used it in just about every situation you can think of. I’ve used it to film a wedding, corporate videos, concerts, and interviews in just about every possible lighting condition. It is absolutely capable of stunning results in any of these scenarios when in capable hands.
I primarily bought this camera for its video capabilities. the RX100 shoots at 1080p at 60 frames per second, which is something my 5D mark 3 doesn’t even do! The video quality is really quite good, but my biggest complaint is that there is no 24p! I am a little confused as to why Sony wouldn’t include this, and I’m hoping they choose to add it in through a firmware update. That being said, it does cut in with 24p footage from other cameras fairly well. I also wish it gave you the option to record at 720p as well but that’s not a huge drawback for me.
The RX100 has a fixed Zeiss lens, which is quite versatile. It’s perfectly sharp in most instances, lets in plenty of light at the wide end, and has a decent zoom range. Its worth pointing out that for the same price as this camera, you could easily pick up a DSLR and lens combo. The Panasonic GH2 is only about $550 these days, and the Canon t3i can be had for a similar price. You would definitely be investing in a more versatile system with a DSLR which you could upgrade as you go, however I do love the RX100 because its such a flexible all-in-one package. It is also a great camera for those just starting out in the world of photography and/or video. It is just simple and fun to use.
This is a seriously small camera and it is easily pocketable. This has been very beneficial for me on several occasions. For example: I was at a concert earlier this month where I had several ushers and security workers ask me to put away my 5D, as they could obviously tell it was a “professional” camera. So I used my RX100 the rest of the night, got great results, and nobody gave me a hard time for using it. I’ve also ran into trouble with airport security while trying to take a timelapse of a runway with my DSLR. Another reason this camera is so discrete is that it is incredibly quiet. Out of the box it makes the typical beeps when you take a photo, auto focus, or scroll through the menu, but with the sound disabled the shutter is nearly inaudible. It also shoots photos very quickly and can even shoot up to 10 stills per second in bursts.
One of the primary attractions to the RX100 is the fact that it is capable of 20mp RAW stills. I have been incredibly impressed by the performance of this camera shooting RAW thus far. The fact that they fit a 1-inch sensor in a point and shoot body is really quite remarkable!
Most of these concert photos were taken at the telephoto end of the lens, which equates to about 100mm on a full frame sensor. The lens starts at the equivalent of 28mm on the wide end. At the wide end the aperture opens to an impressive f/1.8, however it starts to stop down quickly as you zoom in, all the way down to 4.9 at the long end. Id like for it to be a little faster, but I understand the limitations based on the size of the camera. Thankfully as you can see in these images the RX100 benefits from some pretty nice ISO performance to help counteract the slow aperture on the long end. Most of these shots are at 800 or 1600 ISO, and have been cropped somewhat. I’ve added a bit of contrast to hide cover up some noise in the shadows, but for the most part the image holds up very well.
I will say ISO performance is not as satisfying in video mode but that’s to be expected. Noise is prevalent at ISO 1600, though the image is definitely usable. It seems to have a fair amount of blue color noise, but overall the noise pattern is pretty fine. I would be very hesitant to go beyond 1600 while in video mode in low light situations.
The control ring is another really nice feature in a camera this size. You can use it to adjust manual focus, aperture, picture effects, really just about any parameter that you would control with the rear dial. I think the most appealing use for the control ring is manual focus in video mode. It has a pretty long throw for focusing, which makes it a bit hard to get steady results handheld. For this reason I generally try to use a tripod or table top of some sort to steady the camera while focusing. With the 1.8 aperture and decent macro capability at the wide end its capable of some really beautiful shallow depth of field. You can also turn on peaking and focus assist, which really help out when doing focus pulls.
The RX100 also shoots jpegs at 20, 10, and 5 megapixels. The camera has quite a few built-in picture effects you can use while shooting jpeg. Some of them aren’t really usable for any serious work, but some of them are actually quite good. Included in the effects is an in-camera HDR mode which occasionally produces some nice results. I think the illustration and watercolor effects are particularly fun to play with. Theres also a built-in tilt shift effect, some nice monochrome filters, and a number of various vintage and color filters.
The RX100 also has a built-in flash. I honestly don’t use it very much, but the ability to bend the flash back and bounce it off a wall or ceiling is a pretty practical feature.
Another fun feature is the sweep panoramic mode. You basically sweep the camera side to side or up and down while it continuously takes photos. Once finished it stitches all the photos together into a wide panorama. This mode can honestly be a bit finicky to use, and I rarely ever get a useable shot on the first sweep. However with patience you can get some rather nice results. It certainly is a fun way of shooting. This is what I love about the RX100. It is simply enjoyable to use.
The camera has different intelligent auto modes which are great for those just entering the world of photography. it also includes aperture priority, shutter priority, program, and of course full manual control. Theres also a memory recall mode which allows you to select from 3 user customizable presets.
Auto focus on the RX100 is really excellent, especially in good light. It focuses very fast and 95% of the time it focuses on exactly what I want it to. If you’re shooting photos or video, it has great face detection continuous autofocus. I have used this feature while filming a wedding recently. I was using a t2i as my primary camera while I had the RX100 stuck on a tripod, focused in the bride and groom. I got great footage of the ceremony this way and didn’t have to worry about messing with the camera at all as the ceremony went on. This would be a great B cam for weddings as opposed to a small chip camcorder.
One more great feature of the RX100 is the built-in stabilizer. It’s great to have for photos in low light, but it really shines in video mode. It is far better than the IS on any canon lens I have used.
Overall my two main issues with this camera are the lack of 24p and the slow aperture at the telephoto end of the lens. One other oddity, however, is the placement of the HDMI port. It is literally right next to the tripod mount, making it completely unusable while shooting! Philip bloom has devised a solution for this using a Kessler crane quick release plate, but that of course requires you to invest into that tripod plate system. While it would be nice to have the option of using an electronic viewfinder while shooting video, this small flaw does not tarnish this otherwise great camera.
Overall the RX100 is a fantastic camera with absolutely amazing performance given its size and portability. It is just a tad expensive and has a few minor drawbacks, which to be expected given the price and size of this camera. I would suggest the RX100 to any professional film makers seeking a good B camera to a DSLR, or who want a camera capable of great images that they can take anywhere. This is also the perfect camera for beginners or hobbyist looking for quality images in a very easy to use package. There are several image samples below, enjoy and feel free to ask us any question you have about this camera!
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