PROS / A 1-inch sensor and high-end Zeiss lens offer exceptional image quality.
CONS / The RX100 has a limited optical zoom range.
VERDICT / The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 lacks some extra features, but its laser-like focus on image quality pays off, making it one of the best point and shoot cameras ever made.
The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 is a remarkably small point and shoot camera with exceptional image quality. It is quite expensive as far as point and shoot cameras go, costing as much as some entry-level DSLRs. However, its outstanding image quality and minimal size make it an excellent pocketable option for capturing professional-quality images. This powerful combination makes the RX100 our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award winner for point and shoot cameras.
As a point and shoot digital camera aimed at photography enthusiasts, image quality is paramount. In the past, digital camera marketers have done well to convince consumers that the best point and shoot cameras are those with the largest number of pixels. Although the RX100 does have a relatively large resolution of 20.2MP, its remarkable image quality is attributable to its high-quality Zeiss lens and large sensor.
Many point and shoot camera manufacturers focus on packing advanced optical zoom capabilities into their lenses. With the RX100, Sony instead focuses on impeccable image quality and low-light performance. While this means you're limited to a 3.6x optical zoom, you can produce clearer images with finer details than you can with lesser cameras.
The included Zeiss lens performs well in low light because it has a wide maximum aperture of f/1.8. The important thing to remember with aperture is the lower the number, or f-stop, the larger the aperture, which means more light gets to the sensor to produce clear, noise-free images. At f/1.8, the RX100 stands above even the best point and shoot digital cameras in our review.
Another feature that increases low-light performance is a large sensor. You'll notice that the camera can gather light well and produce good photographs of dimly lit scenes much better than typical point and shoots. Regardless of the lighting, this large sensor also enables the RX100 to gather finer details and produce clearer, more appealing photographs than point and shoots with comparable megapixels and smaller sensors.
Because it mainly targets serious photo enthusiasts, the RX100 doesn't exclude any of the more expert-oriented features. For example, it is a natural for manual shooting. You can manually select settings like shutter speed, ISO and aperture to craft your images to your liking. And with the user-definable function ring around the lens, composing photographs is fun and intuitive.
For a low-profile camera that produces such high-quality images, this Sony Cyber-shot has solid battery life. Any point and shoot camera should really be able to shoot more than 200 images on a single battery. The RX100 is capable of shooting 330 photographs before you need to recharge. If you need more power, extra batteries are available to purchase through Sony.
The video capabilities of the RX100 are also very impressive for its size. It is able to capture full HD (1080p) video at up to 60 frames per second. Of course, if these files prove to be too large for simple home videos or sharing via social media, you can select from a significant number of smaller, lower-resolution options.
Features & Design
Portability and size are very important features in a point and shoot camera. In order to keep the RX100 small while retaining such an intense focus on image quality, Sony omits features that do not directly impact its ability to capture high-quality photos.
Many modern high-end point and shoot cameras come with features like Wi-Fi connectivity, NFC, GPS and touchscreen displays to make sharing photos and displaying location information easier. Instead of following this trend, the RX100 sheds everything, including a digital or optical viewfinder, in favor of premium components that enhance image quality.
The RX100 has all of the additional software features you'd expect from a high-end point and shoot camera. A self-timer lets you set the camera on a ledge or tripod and take photos of yourself and friends without having to keep your finger on the shutter. When the photo is taken, red-eye reduction and facial recognition help to ensure your photos turn out as you envisioned them.
The HDR Panorama mode stitches several photos together so you can take creatively exposed images or large, high-resolution landscapes. HDR (high dynamic range) works by taking photos at several different exposures and combining them so that a bright sunset and darkened foreground can both be properly exposed. Additional filters and effects allow you to have fun with your images and easily add a little touch of creativity.
Help & Support
Considering the high cost of the Sony Cyber-shot RX100, it's comforting to note that Sony offers a solid warranty and other support for the camera. A one-year warranty covers the camera against any defects in parts or workmanship. For any non-warranty issues and questions, Sony has a comprehensive support section on its website that's full of useful information on everything from troubleshooting to usage tutorials. Like many companies, Sony also offers help in the form of email, phone and live chat support.
The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 is one of best point and shoot cameras available. Although it lacks a viewfinder, zoom capability and additional features like Wi-Fi and NFC, the image quality in a camera of its size is phenomenal. With its quality 1-inch sensor and fast lens, you can capture better images more consistently than with anything else we reviewed.