When the Sony RX100 was announced, its one-inch sensor and f/1.8 aperture seemed too good to be true. Near-DSLR power packed into a body the size of a compact point-and-shoot camera? What's the catch?
Turns out, this camera is a significant achievement for Sony. In fact, it makes you remember that Sony is still capable of making some amazing things.
Why It Matters
There has arguably never been a better time to be a camera enthusiast. But this is also such a strange time for cameras. DSLRs are no longer luxuries for pros and the wealthy. There are mirrorless cameras which are nearly the size of compact shooters. Mobile phones can sometimes pull off images that go toe-to-toe with far more powerful cameras. And then there's the point-and-shoot.
For nearly a decade, this was the camera category for the masses. But in 2012, most of them can't compete with the quality of DSLRs, nor can they attain the diminutive size of a cameraphone. It leaves people to wonder why they'd even want a compact camera. For the first time in a long time, the RX100—with it's massive one-inch sensor, wide f/1.8 aperture, and wonderful low-light handling—provides people with a reason to think small.
At first glance, the RX100 doesn't look much different than Canon's S100. A bit more stout, sure. But after you pick the RX100, you begin to appreciate its differences. Its build quality is rock solid. Lines are squeaky clean. Buttons, knobs, and dials have much more satisfying clicks and spins. It looks and feels like a premium device in ways that the S100 could only dream of. OK, cool, so it's another small, expensive point-and-shoot. But then you turn it on.
Startup time is fast. The camera can fire up and lock onto a target in under three seconds. In nearly every scenario, autofocus and shutter reaction time is speedy, but with the aperture set to 1.8, it feels quicker than lightning. All of this is attributable to the Exmor R sensor, Bionz image processor, and the 28-100mm equivalent Zeiss lens.
The lens—and the smooth motion of its ring—makes manual focus work really well on the RX100. That's something designers of cameras this size are only starting to figure out. Here, beginning to turn the ring activates a zoom mode. Then, you can finely hone in on a region of the screen before snapping your crystal-clear pic. It's a matter of preference, but the smooth moves of Sony's lens ring seem to work better than the clicky nature of the lens ring on the Canon S100.