In the age of digital everything, progress doesn’t stand still and that applies to pocket cameras. Five years ago I bought the Canon PowerShot SD850, which at the time offered everything I could ask for. At 8 megapixels it could take photos large enough for my needs. However, it suffered in low light.
I was about to buy the Canon S100 when I came across the newly released Sony RX100. Camera pundits believe that Sony targeted the Canon S100 as its main competition. Both cameras are about equal, especially in low-light due to their “fast” lenses (f1.8 for Sony, f2.0 for Canon), although I give the edge to Sony for its larger sensor and megapixel count. You will pay about a $250 premium for the advantage.
While pixel count isn’t necessarily the most important measure of a camera, it helps when it comes time to crop. You’ll have more detail to work with. Larger prints are possible, although files are larger. The RX100, like the Canon S100, shoots in RAW. Talk about large files! I don’t see much reason to shoot in RAW except when you know your photos will appear in National Geographic.
I used it in a low-light situation (see photo – unedited) and was amazed at the quality. This photo taken with the SD850 would have been full of noise (grainy). Even my DSLR Pentax Kx camera’s image seemed lacking in comparison. Sony tends to saturate colors, so that accounts for some of the difference.
Another nice feature of the RX100 is the panorama mode. All you do is shoot and pan the camera as it fires off shot after shot. Stitching is done automatically in-camera.
The aluminum-body RX100 is larger than the Canon S100, but only slightly. For cycling it’s about as large as I want to go, and fits neatly inside most jersey pockets.
No camera is perfect. The RX100 lacks a viewfinder. Although back screens are much brighter today, there are still occasions when sunlight makes viewing difficult and a viewfinder would come in handy.
Is it the best pocket camera ever made, as claimed by a New York Times writer and DPReview? Perhaps. I haven’t found anything better.