Rarely does a product outclass everything in its category like the groundbreaking Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 (*Est. $650).
"The best pocket camera ever made," The New York Times' David Pogue calls it. Time magazine names it one of the best inventions of 2012. It excites even jaded camera critics -- Amateur Photographer's Tim Coleman wants one for Christmas -- and owners equally adore it.
For the first time, experts say, the Sony RX100 puts truly pro-quality photos in your pocket. Colors pop. Backgrounds blur beautifully. Detail is "insane," Pogue says, thanks to the 20-megapixel sensor (it's bigger than any other pocket camera's).
Videos (full 1080p HD) are equally class-leading. Shooting is speedy -- 10 frames per second (fps). You can put the RX100 on full-autopilot and relax, or seize manual control of everything. There's even a lens ring that can focus, zoom, etc. just like a pro-quality digital SLR (single-lens reflex) camera.
Of course, there are plenty of things the Sony RX100 can't do, simply because it's so tiny. The fixed lens doesn't zoom very far (3.6x). There's no hot shoe for an external flash -- just a pop-up flash. Low-light photos are impressive, but they can't match bigger cameras'.
Still, reviews overwhelmingly pick the Sony RX100 as the carry-around camera that will please the most discerning photographer.
By contrast, the Canon PowerShot G1 X (*Est. $750) is an expensive disappointment in reviews. It's designed more like a DSLR (only with a fixed 4x zoom lens) with a bulky body, a hot shoe and an even bigger sensor than the Sony. Photos do look fantastic, reviews say -- once the G1 X gets around to snapping one. It's so sluggish that testers get frustrated with missed shots and blurry photos.
"In terms of zoom compacts, the G1 X is about the only camera that can top the RX100 for image quality," DPReview.com sums it up, "but it's also much larger, more expensive and much slower in almost every respect."