With DSLRs like the Canon EOS 550D and Nikon D3200 becoming increasing accessible, and smartphone cameras increasing in quality, fixed-lens point-and-shoot cameras have become something of a forgotten breed. But with the introduction of the Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 -- complete with its impressive one-inch sensor, f/1.8 aperture and compact body -- Sony is trying to make the pocketable camera relevant again.
When it comes to specs, the RX100 is nothing short of impressive. The sensor is a 20.2MP beast that's part of Sony's Exmor family and powered by the Bionz processor. The glass is a 28-100mm Vario-Sonnar Zeiss lens with 3.6x optical zoom and that impressive, aforementioned f/1.8 aperture. The camera has an ISO range of 100-25600, with an auto ISO limit of 6400. Video is an AVCHD affair, with 1080p recording at 60 frames (there's also a 720p MP4 mode). The all-aluminium body isn't much bigger than the Canon S100 and comes equipped not only with fully programmable manual controls on the back, but also around the lens. The all-black camera is nothing short of beautiful, with stripped down, no-nonsense design that invokes the lines of a Leica camera.
Because Sony packed such a large sensor and went with a fixed lens, it was able to open up the aperture to let in plenty of light. This not only means sharp images but also powerful defocusing effects (aka those nice background blurs). The one-inch sensor is bigger than those found in both the Canon S100 and G12, not to mention the Fuji X10 and Panasonic LX5. And despite the technical wizardry, the battery is rated for 330 shots-per-charge on average.
In the brief time I got to play with it, the RX100 impressed. In both the automatic and program modes, shots were sharp and detailed, even without optimal lighting. At times, the shots certainly looked comparable to those produced by considerably more powerful cameras. Though the RX100 is small and light, it hardly feels insubstantial and can be operated without having to contort your hand in weird ways. And the big 3-inch screen is nice and bright, thanks to the LCD's added white light that's designed to combat sunlight.
So who is this thing for? At $US650, it might be too pricey as a second camera for the DSLR crowd. But for someone who doesn't use a camera enough to justify the cost and bulk of a DSLR, the RX100 could be a very happy compromise. Sony says you can expect the RX100 to arrive in July. We'll keep you posted on Australian availability and prices. [Sony]