Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 Review

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor

Originally Posted: August 25, 2012

Last Updated: October 9, 2012

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 ($649) may look like just another compact camera, but if you were to pry off the lens and take a look inside, you'd see what makes it stand out from the crowd. That big feature is its sensor size -- 1-inch -- which is nearly four times as large as what you'll find in a typical compact camera.

Based on a diagram by Digital Photography Review, used with permission

As you can see from the above chart, the RX100's 20 Megapixel, 1-inch sensor is larger than the typical 1/2.3" sensor, as well as the 1/1.7" (and similar 1/1.63") sensors used by cameras like the Canon PowerShot S100 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7. A larger sensor means more light is captured, which leads to better photo quality, in both good and not-so-good light.

Other features on the RX100 include a fast F1.8-4.9, 3.6X optical zoom Carl Zeiss T* lens, a super-sharp LCD, full manual controls (with RAW support), a customizable ring around the lens, lots of useful "bells and whistles", and 1080/60p video recording.

Is the Cyber-shot RX100 the ultimate compact camera? Find out now in our review!

What's in the Box?

The Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 comes in a pretty fancy box, though the actual contents aren't any different than what you'd find in a camera costing hundreds less. They include:

  • The 20.2 effective Megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 digital camera
  • NP-BX1 lithium-ion battery
  • AC adapter
  • Wrist strap
  • Shoulder strap adapter
  • USB cable
  • 34 page basic manual (printed)

Like most premium compacts, the DSC-RX100 doesn't have any built-in memory, so you'll need to pick up a memory card yourself. The RX100 can use both SD/SDHC/SDXC as well as Memory Stick Pro Duo cards. I'd recommend an 8GB card if you're mostly taking stills, and 16GB or larger if Full HD movies are your thing. A high speed card (Class 6 or higher) is strongly recommended for best performance.

The RX100 uses the brand spankin' new NP-BX1 lithium-ion battery. This battery holds 4.5 Wh of energy, which is fairly good for a camera this size. Here's how that translates into battery life:

Camera Battery life
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon PowerShot S100 200 shots NB-5L
Fujifilm X10 270 shots NP-50
Nikon Coolpix P310 230 shots EN-EL12
Olympus XZ-1 320 shots LI-50B
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 330 shots DMW-BCJ13
Samsung EX2F 240 shots SLB-10A
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 330 shots NP-BX1

Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer

Whenever I do one of these battery life comparison charts, the Sony cameras are always at or near the top. That's the case here, with the RX100 tied for first place with the Panasonic LX7. If you want to pick up an extra NP-BX1 battery, it'll set you back at least $40.

Something I don't like about the battery situation is how it's charged. Rather than using an external charger, the battery is charged internally, over a USB cable (plugged into the wall or your PC). Charging times aren't much worse than an external charger (155 minutes), but you lose the convenience of being able to have a spare battery charged at all times. An faster, external charger -- model name BC-TRX -- should be available at some point soon.

And speaking of optional extras, here's a table showing the small set of available accessories:

Accessory Model # Price * Description
External battery charger BC-TRX ?? Lets you charge the battery outside the camera, in about 90 minutes.
LCD cover PCK-LM12 From $12 Protect your screen from scratches -- or worse.
Shoulder strap STP-XSG1/B From $35 A leather shoulder strap. Adapters included with the camera will let you hook it up.
Jacket case LCJ-RXA/B From $85 This polyurethane case attaches via the tripod mount and lets you use the camera with the case attached.
* Prices were accurate at time of publication

A pretty typical selection for a compact camera. The only thing missing here is an underwater case.

I should add that Sony's online store sells an RX100 bundle that includes the camera, an extra battery, the LCD cover and jacket case, and a 16GB SDHC card for $799.

Moving onto the bundled software now, Sony includes two products with the RX100: PlayMemories Home (Windows only) and Image Data Converter (Mac and Windows). PlayMemories Home (formerly Picture Motion Browser) is a pretty standard photo organizing/sharing suite. In addition to importing photos from the camera, it can also share them via e-mail, prints, and on photo/video sharing websites. Editing tools include redeye reduction, brightness/saturation/tone curve, and sharpness. There's also an Auto Correct function which attempts to fix things with a single click. While PMB can view RAW files, it cannot edit them. For that, you'll need to use the next product.

That product is Image Data Converter, which can edit a number of RAW properties, including white balance, Creative Style, D-Range Optimizer, noise reduction, and exposure. IDC has a "version stack" that lets jump back in time to older iterations of the photo you're working on. My only real complaint is that it's a bit slow to process adjustments. If you'd rather use Photoshop for editing RAW files, you'll need to wait for Adobe to update their Camera Raw plug-in to support the RX100.

Sony uses two different codecs for video recording on the RX100: AVCHD and MPEG-4. PlayMemories Home can be used to view videos produced by the camera, and it can remove unwanted footage from your clip, and save the results as an MTS (AVCHD) file. While it can convert videos to WMV format, they'll be VGA quality. PMH can also burn videos to Blu-ray or DVD discs. Mac users can edit both MPEG-4 and AVCHD videos with ease, using iMovie or Final Cut Pro X. Do note that not all third-party video editing suites will be able to work with the AVCHD Progressive (1080/60p) video files that the RX100 can produce.

Despite being a premium compact camera, the RX100 still gets the budget treatment when it comes to documentation. Inside the box is a leaflet with enough information to get you up and running. If you want more information, you'll have to load up the full manual, which is a bunch of pages on Sony's website. In addition to being very inconvenient to view, the online manual isn't terribly user-friendly, either. Instructions for the included software will be installed onto your PC.