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Sony DSC-RX100 Compact Camera Review

DSC-RX100 #1-s

I hesitate to label this a compact camera, because the Sony DSC-RX100 is somewhat in a class of its own. While it may look like a compact point-and-shoot camera, it ranks much higher in terms of camera capabilities and image qualities. The single most outstanding feature of the RX100 is probably its 1″ sensor, which together with Carl Zeiss T* optics, produces very impressive images.

I briefly posted about the RX100 previously, sharing some thoughts about how I came to choose the camera. You can find plenty of excellent in-depth review of the RX100 on the Internet (I’ll provide links later), so I’m not going to write another lengthy post on that. Instead, I’m going to share more thoughts on the RX100 after having used it for two to three weeks.

Photos taken with the RX100 are truly awesome. This is definitely one of the biggest strengths of the RX100. It will likely outdo any compact camera you’ve ever used. I know it is better than any other compact camera I have. The RX100’s huge 1″ sensor makes a hell lot of difference, and in this department, no other compact camera can compare.

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The bokeh effect (i.e. subject in perfect focus but other parts of scene are blurred out) of the F/1.8 lens on the RX100 is pretty stunning. So great it is that sometimes there are unexpected side effects, particularly when you try to take close-up macro shots. A test short of my MacBook Air’s keyboard, for example, yielded a photo where the top of the letter “m” was in sharp focus, but the bottom of the letter “m” had lost its sharpness. Another example is with taking food photos. The garnishing on top of a risotto dish was in perfect focus, but the risotto beneath it had blurred out.

So now, although I would like to have trusted the camera to its “auto” mode, I’ve often found Aperture Priority mode to be necessary to get a proper composition. Bokeh can be very nice, but sometimes there can be too much of it.

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I generally dislike using the flash in any compact camera because of the time it takes to charge the unit, and thus significantly prolonging the shot-to-shot time interval. The same is true for the RX100. I use it only when I absolutely have to. The RX100’s flash is incredibly bright, to the extent that I would recommend setting some flash compensation.

The RX100 has been following me around quite a bit. A little more so than I had originally anticipated. That’s good, because a camera is only useful when it is actually available to take photos. Although it will never be as readily available as a smartphone camera, I’d say the RX100 size makes it easy to decide to take it along most places you need to go.

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The RX100’s batteries are designed to be charged in-camera. There is no external battery charger included, although you could buy one separately (either from Sony or third party). There are pros and cons with in-camera charging. Many reviewers had criticised the RX100 for the lack of external battery charger, but I felt it was no big deal.

In-camera charging is convenient, particularly since the RX100 uses a micro USB port which is so ubiquitous these days. When you’re travelling, it means you have one less clunky gadget to carry along. If you’re worried the camera would run out of juice while on the road, well a simple solution would be to connect an portable battery bank to the camera. Not having an external battery charger also means one less thing to get lost at home.

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Start-up and shutdown times of the RX100 are at best average. However, everywhere else it is fast. Like switching modes, menu navigation, etc. Most importantly, there is quick auto-focus, minimal shutter lag, and fast shot-to-shot turnaround times. That’s where things really matter.

In fact, even after you finish a series of shots in continuous drive mode, the camera is immediately ready to use. Some other cameras would simply lock-up for a couple of seconds, but not the RX100. You cannot go to review photos in playback mode while the RX100 is still busy writing to the SD card, but you can continue to use the camera, including of course, taking new shots.

The RX100 is small, quite dense, and has not much to grip onto. This is a great recipe for having camera slipping out of your hands. At the very least, the included hand strap had better be attached and used.

My conclusion is that the RX100 is a really great compact camera to have. It’s pricey, but otherwise, it doesn’t ask you to make much compromises.

Here’s a long list of reviews:

Have fun going through all the reviews.

ps: All photos in this post, in case you’re wondering, were taken with the HTC One X. Given the right shooting conditions, the HTC One X does take pretty good photos too.

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