Note: At the time of the review Sony had already released Mark IV and mark V of this model. This review applies to those models as well, and, I assume, they are more superior than the Mark III.
Sony. It’s the name you hear a lot on this magazine. Mainly due to their superiority in product engineering. I do have some rather warm feelings towards their “Alpha” camera line. However, I will try to be as objective as I can.
The Sony RX100 is the best fixed lens camera on the market.
OK, that might have come out too strong. But I’m sure I can back this up, if you bear with me.
Again, I will not get into all the specifications of the camera, they’re neatly listed on Sony’s website here.
To pack as much punch as possible into a smallest footprint possible. Without compromise.
The idea in itself is pretty simple, make the best camera technologically possible, no matter the cost. See if people can justify the price tag. And boy, did it work. This camera is now used by travel photographers, “youtubers”, street photographers, journalists, landscape photographers, etc. etc. And guess what? They all love it to bits.
Its lovely, sleek, aluminium body packs a tonne of “pop-up” features. When you first lay your hands on it, it feels so neat, so clean, almost minimalist, in a way. If you had to draw a picture of this camera, you’d start with a rectangle and put a circle on it. And that’s not far off from what it actually looks like. One word – tidy. However, once you start pushing buttons, just like a James Bond car, it starts showing off what it’s truly capable of. It’s a Swiss army knife of cameras.
The coating of the camera is pretty rough and it is prone to tiny dings and scratches. But just like war scars, it adds charm and soul to it, rather than degrade it’s looks.
It has a tilt screen that can be flipped all the way around. It has a popup flash that can be bent back to bounce the light, it has a zoom lens, and, most importantly, it has a popup EVF (Electronic viewfinder). Yes, this tiny camera that fits snuggly into your palm has an EVF. Inside of its body. An EVF!
It also has this large ring on the base of the lens that you can set to manual focus, aperture control, etc. I love it, tiny details like this one makes the whole camera experience that much better.
Form vs. Function.
The RX100 sits comfortably between the two. If form truly followed function, this camera would be much, much larger. Instead, it packs itself into this neat package while you’re on the move, and like some sort of mobile house, it unfolds when you’re ready to capture your soon-to-be memories.
But that’s a good thing. It’s the camera’s main selling point, to be fair. Click, turn it off, put it straight into your shirt pocket.
The Nerdy bit.
This small camera has a one-inch sensor. It’s insanely large for a camera this small. Here’s a small comparison of the sensor sizes.
For example, the Sony NEX-6 has an APS-C (a.k.a. “crop”) sensor. And the whole NEX series was a breakthrough with it’s sensor size to camera size ratio. But you mustn’t forget that you have to carry all those additional lenses with you, that end up in the camera bag on your shoulder.
Look at that tiny spec on your screen. Yes, that’s the size of a modern smartphone camera. And you thought phones are brilliant at taking pictures nowadays. It’s (somewhat) true, but imagine the possibilities this camera has to offer with that much more real-estate. The large sensor size on the RX100 results in good low-light performance, shallow(-ish) depth of field, higher detail and overall image quality.
Now for the lens. ZEISS T*. Need I say more?
It’s an equivalent of a 24mm to 70mm zoom lens, with wide-open aperture equivalents of ƒ1.8 and ƒ2.8 respectively. Yes, that’s ƒ1.8 at 24mm. Simply amazing.
All I can say that it’s one of the best cameras I’ve ever tried. It all comes down to “Feature Density”. It’s how much you can do with what you have in your hand. And the list of things you can do with it goes on and on, and on and on…
While it’s not the most comfortable camera to hold while shooting, it’s definitely bearable. The fact that they have managed to include a “bendy” flash (thanks again, Sony!) and an EVF is mind-boggling. I can’t help but think: why didn’t they do just that in the previous versions of the camera? Surely, the engineers thought it just won’t fit. But one of those engineers where right and the decision was made. Of course, it’s not perfect. You have to pull the EVF lens out to use it, and once you close it, the camera turns itself off. There’s no eyecup either, which means you have to make a funny face to see through it. But these “drawbacks” are only minor, compared to the benefits the EVF brings to the experience.
The UI, in my opinion, is much more simpler than the one on the Alpha product line. It’s tough to navigate, but once you tell the “lens ring” and all other buttons what you want them to do, it’s pretty smooth sailing from there on. You have plenty of room for customization – you can make the camera behave the way you want it to behave.
Congratulations, Sony, you did it again. You’ve made something that was thought to be impossible. And yet, you keep improving it with every version. Again and again and again. Pushing the boundaries of modern electronics and increasing the quality of all the cameras on the market.
That’s why, at the beginning of this article, I said this is the best fixed-lens camera on the market. The sheer amazement you feel when you figure out it has a function you didn’t know about. The satisfaction you get when you effortlessly drop it in your pocket. The face you make when you look at it. The anticipation of the places you’ll visit and the pictures you will take. Simply. Priceless.
If you fell in love with the RX100 line as well, please use these affiliate (?) links to get your own bundle of joy: