Announcing What The Doctor Ordered: The Sony RX100 Premium Compact

Canon has been making premium compacts for years now with the G series and then Nikon followed the last couple of years. Sony today is now announcing their new premium compact with the DSC-RX100. The camera has a fresh 1” sensor that packs 20.2 MP and is roughly the same size as the Canon S100.

Edit: See B&H Photo for listings

 Specs

– 1.0 inch 20.2 megapixel CMOS sensor

– 3.6x optical zoom (28mm-100mm 35mm equivalent)

– Control ring around the lens

– Function button

– Optical SteadyShot

– 1/2000-30 second shutter speed.

– Bulb mode available

– ISO 80-6400 and 25,600 with Multi Frame Noise Reduction

– RAW (finally)

– Sweep Panorama

– Multi aspect ratio for stills (3:2, 4:3, 16:9, 1:1)

– 10fps continuous shooting

– Stereo microphone

330 photos per battery charge

– Auto adjust of panel brightness by light sensor

– Aluminum body

Features

Lets get it out there first: The camera does shoot RAW! I was waiting during the whole presentation, just waiting for the make or break moment to see if camera would support RAW capture. There are a lot of compacts out there that have great features and lenses but lack the ability to shoot RAW like the Nikon P300.

Sony knows that when you buy this camera you will be stuck with the lens for the life of the unit so they made the lens quite exceptional. The lens is a 3.6x Carl Zeiss lens with a maximum wide aperture of f1.8. The lens in 35mm equivalent is 28mm – 100mm with an aperture as small as f4.9 on the tele end but its said that it retains the f1.8 for a decent amount of the zoom. This lens paired with the 1” sensor will give you professional looking depth of field blur especially with a close macro focus of 5cm. Sony shared quite a few sample images showing the exceptional detail of the lens compared to different competing cameras in its class. Images clearly looked sharper with low noise due to the optics and large sensor.

The 20.2 MP 1” sensor is a first for sony and is about 4x larger than the conventional 1/2.3” type sensor which means that each pixel is approximately 3.6x larger. These larger pixels equate to better low light performance because they gather more light. Sony says the sensor has a max of ISO 6400 (25,600 with the Multi Frame NR) and it delivers very low noise in dimly lit scenes.

Sony RX100 Control Ring

When I first used the lens ring on the Fuji X10 I let out an “awwwww” as it is a very slick feature of the camera. Sony has taken that quite a few steps further with its control ring. This control ring is around the lens of the camera and can control one of many assignable functions. The control ring can be assigned to be aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation, ISO sensitivity, white balance, creative style, picture effect, manual focus and zoom. When twisting the ring a graphic appears on the display showing the adjustment that you are making live. To take this a step further the RX100 has a Fn (function) button that allows you to assign up to seven settings to enable quick access. How this works is when the button is pressed the icons for the seven selected functions will appear at the bottom of the display. When one of the functions is selected the camera allows you to use the control ring to “scroll” through the options for that setting. So in practice you could choose ISO as one of the seven functions, press the Fn button, select ISO and then use the control ring to change the sensitivity to 125 to 400. The control ring returns to its original setting once you leave the menu. The Fn button can be assigned one of the following functions: exposure compensation, focus mode, autofocus area, ISO sensitivity, drive mode, metering mode, flash mode, flash compensation, white balance, DRO/ Auto HDR, creative style, picture effect, soft skin effect, quality, image size, smile/face detection, aspect ratio or simply leave it not set.

A few other features include the 2x Clear Image Zoom, and Auto Portrait Framing. Full HD 60P video can be shot with the AVCHD codec with manual, aperture, shutter or program modes. The camera also offers 10fps shooting, digital level gauge, manual focus assist with peaking, multi aspect recording for still images and of course Sweep Panorama. There is also a new battery that is capable of about 330 still images.

Design

Simply put with the design of the camera Sony wants you to have pride of ownership. The camera body is made of aluminum to offer ample strength and an enhanced feeling of ingenuity. Compared to the Nikon P7100 and Canon G12 this camera is quite a bit smaller but feels comfortable in the hand or in the pocket.

Sony RX100 Display

The back of the camera has an impressive 3” 1,229k dot WhiteMagic display for high visibility in bright outdoor conditions. The WhiteMagic technology uses white pixels along with the normal RGB pixels to boost display brightness for enhanced viewing.

Sony will be selling a few accessories along with the camera including a jacket case that you would normally see with a NEX 7 or rangefinder, battery and a screen protector.

Conclusion

I know that a news report doesn’t need a conclusion but I just wanted to share that 2012 has been the most exciting year ever for digital imaging and it seems just like in the DSLR market this new Sony camera is going to shake up the market. Sony joked that with the RX name the camera is just what the doctor (professional photographers) ordered.

I am going to have my hands on this camera for review near its release date and I’m so excited to put it through its paces and see if it lives up to the hype on paper!

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