THE LOW-DOWN: This 20 megapixel camera with a 28–100mm (equiv), Zeiss-branded lens has a sensor area 2.6 times larger than its competitors. The 75mm LCD is a brilliant high resolution (1.2m dot) viewing screen. Function controls are small but well laid out. The menu system is clear and intuitive to use. Image capture can be RAW, JPEG or a combination of both. Body construction is superb – the all black, austere appearance eschews fashion accessory look. Sony’s Steady-Shot image stabilisation proved effective in use. There are the usual picture effects and face recognition and registration, just in case you forget who uncle Cyril is. Video is full 1080 60p, saving as MTS or MP4. The useful function control ring around the lens is customisable.
LIKE: The image quality sets new standards for a pocketable camera. The lens, with its modest zoom range, is outstanding, resolving the smallest detail in the most difficult lighting conditions. Dynamic range far surpasses anything we have seen from a compact camera. RAW images show no sign of noise or noise reduction up to ISO800.
DISLIKE: The video is so good that provision for an external microphone would be the icing on the cake.
VERDICT: The Sony RX100 is a game changer, just as the Panasonic LX3 (the LX7 is coming soon) was, forcing other makers to follow suit or be left out of the reckoning for quality compacts. Now the Panasonic and its imitators have met their match. Image quality from this little camera is almost (not quite) indistinguishable from the Olympus OMD E-M5 and the Sony comes in a more convenient and portable form. For years serious photographers have been asking why compact sensors have to be so small, with their inherent problems of noise and limited dynamic range. Here’s the answer – it isn’t necessary at all. Now let’s watch for the others to catch up.