Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 Review

Updated May 31, 2014
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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100

Experts overwhelmingly agree: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 is the best pocket-sized camera you can buy. Its secret is that it has the biggest sensor of any pocket camera. While other compact cams emptily promise fine photo quality like a bulky digital SLR (single-lens reflex) camera, experts and owners say the Sony RX100 actually delivers in several key ways.

Ease of useProsVery good photo quality, Quick-shooting, Full manual control, Fits easily into a jacket or pants pocketConsVery few buttons to handle lots of tasks, Flimsy flash stalk and USB/card doors

Performance

Truly impressive photos -- better than any other pocket camera. "I'll skip to the punch line: No photos this good have ever come from a camera this small," says Pogue at The New York Times.

With 20 megapixels, images look incredibly sharp -- really DSLR-like, says Christopher Snow at Reviewed.com. Among non-interchangeable-lens cameras, only the bulkier Canon PowerShot G1 X (Est. $550) delivers better photos in tests; however, the G1 X won't fit into a pocket, and it's slower than the Sony, which can rattle off 10 shots per second.

Video quality is "class-leading," experts at DPReview.com say, and you can use all the photo effects while filming. And while recording, you can zoom, change focus and even take still photos. Battery life is rated at 330 shots per charge, according to Imaging-Resource.com, which is good for a camera this small.

Durability

Sturdy metal body, but some bits strike owners as flimsy. Experts praise the Sony RX100's aluminum body. "Feels like a well-crafted and quality camera," agrees Tim Coleman at Amateur Photographer. Most owners at Amazon.com like the build quality, but several note a few flimsy bits. First, the flash pops up on a stalk. Second -- and third -- are the USB door and battery/SD card door. "The build quality is shockingly bad" on these, one owner writes. "I constantly feel like unless I am really careful, I am going to break off something." Snow at Reviewed.com agrees this door is "flimsy," and he also says the zoom lens "seems surprisingly loose and not sturdy."

Features

Loaded with manual controls and useful features. "Although the Sony RX100 lacks many of the features of an interchangeable-lens camera -- no hot shoe for an external flash, no viewfinder for example -- it's as customizable and manually controllable as an SLR," Pogue writes at The New York Times. It packs a lot of extra features, too, such as Sweep Panorama and High Dynamic Range. And Picture Effects lets you add 13 different effects to your photo: Illustration turns it into a line drawing; miniature makes it look like a scale model, etc. A USB port hooks the Sony RX100 to your computer, and an HDMI jack hooks it up to an HDTV.

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Canon PowerShot G1 X 14.3 MP CMOS Digital Camera
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Our Sources

1. DPReview.com

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 In-Depth Review, Richard Butler, August 2012

The Sony RX100 is "probably the most capable compact camera on the market today," but a few flaws -- like its odd-feeling lens dial -- knock it down to a Silver Award here. Richard Butler exhaustively tests every aspect of the RX100 in this multi-part review and compares the camera with a few rivals.

2. Amateur Photographer

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 Review, Tim Coleman, July 14, 2012

After thoroughly testing the Sony RX100, Tim Coleman says, "It has made its way onto my Christmas list." With class-leading image quality, terrific handling and a pocketable body, it outscores all other compact cameras here.

3. Imaging-Resource.com

Sony RX100 Review, Shawn Barnett, Mike Tomkins, Zig Weidelich and Dave Etchells, June 6, 2012

In this exhaustive review, experts judge every aspect of the Sony RX100 and show side-by-side photo comparisons with a bunch of rivals, including both pocket-sized and bigger cameras. Although it's not quite as good as a DSLR -- or even a compact interchangeable-lens camera -- the RX100 does beat its pocket-sized rivals.

4. Reviewed.com

Sony Cyber-shot RX100 Digital Camera Review, Christopher Snow, Aug. 27, 2012

Editors here name the Sony RX100 the Best Pocket Camera of 2012 after in-depth testing. With incredibly sharp images that look like they came from a bulky DSLR camera, the Sony scores a nearly perfect 9.1.

5. CNET

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 Review, Lori Grunin, Aug. 27, 2012

"One of the best compact cameras I've ever tested," Lori Grunin calls the Sony RX100, "and certainly the best under $700." Grunin closely critiques its image quality, speed, handling and features before awarding it the Editors' Choice tag.

6. The New York Times

Tiny Camera to Rival the Pros, David Pogue, June 27, 2012

David Pogue calls the Sony RX100 "the best pocket camera ever made." He explains the benefits of its relatively huge sensor and aperture. It "takes amazing photos" and offers impressive features, whether you like to control everything manually or let the camera do the work. Pogue does find a few drawbacks, including the shortage of physical buttons and the oddly free-spinning lens ring.

7. Amazon.com

Sony DSC-RX100/B 20.2 MP Exmor CMOS Sensor Digital Camera with 3.6x Zoom, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of May 2014

Averaging 4.5 stars in more than 450 owner reviews, the Sony RX100 is one of the top-rated digital cameras here. The majority award it 4 or a perfect 5 stars, although they do mention drawbacks, such as that it's just like an advanced point-and-shoot camera.