Sony RX-100 Review
A new leader in compact camera choices for underwater photography
By Scott Gietler
The Sony RX-100 is an exciting new option in the compact camera market. Overall, this very pocketable camera looks like a huge winner based on our usage - much better than the Canon G1x turned out to be.
The height and width of the RX-100 is almost the same as the small, stylish Canon S100 which Sony has "mimicked". It is slightly thicker than the S100. The front & rear control dials, and the function button are highly configurable - I reassigned the function button to ISO
Sony RX-100 - amazing specs
Here's the specs, and I think they speak for themselves. Quite amazing for a compact camera!
- Large sensor, 3x the size of a Canon S100 / G12 sensor
- 20 megapixels - very nice!
- RAW, full manual controls, etc. (read more about Raw vs JPEG, and about why manual controls are important in underwater photography)
- Electronic shutter allows for shooting with flash at high shutter speeds
- Bright F1.8 28 to 100mm lens
- 1080p 60fps video, full manual controls during video; movies look great
- Controls are highly configurable
- Very nice panorama and HDR modes
- Great high ISO performance (reading about using ISO underwater)
- $649 in the US
Great details in photos when pixel-peeping
100% crop of a Sony RX-100 photo, taken underwater. The full-size photo of the wine bottle can be seen just below this photo. Given that this is a 100% crop, the detail is amazing. You can see individual lines & dots of the half-tone printing style on this wine bottle very clearly, even the tiniest lines are not blurring together at all. The demarcation between the different colors is also very clean and crisp.
Sony RX-100 - great TTL in manual mode
Shooting the RX-100 camera underwater with YS-D1 strobes in TTL mode. See photo above for 100% crop of this photo.
We tested the RX-100 camera underwater with the new Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobe. The results were great, the exposures in manual mode were very good, and the YS-D1 exposure compensation dial worked very well.
Sony RX-100 - great wet lens options
Performance with the Dyron +7 and Subsee +5 macro lenses was great, and we got amazing detail by stacking the Dyron +7 with the Subsee +5.
See the new Rx-100 wet lens test results
Photo taken with the Dyron +7 macro lens
Photo taken with Subsee +5 macro lens
Dyron and Subsee lenses stacked, very nice~
Macro tests on land
The macro performance is not as good as the Canon S95, S100 or G12 - but is more than acceptable with a wet diopter.
- No diopter - takes photo 3 inches across
- With Subsee +5, takes photo 2.3 inches across
- With Dyron +7, takes photo 1.4 inches across
- With Subsee +10, takes photo 1.4 inches across
- Dyron +7 and Subsee +5, takes photo 1.06 inches across
Read more about the Subsee +10 diopter
Wide-angle wet lenses
This is one of the only compact cameras, other than the Canon S95, that has no vignetting with wet-mount fisheye lenses. Very nice!
No wide-angle lens used, camera at 28mm
Photo taken with Dyron fisheye lens, much wider!
Photo taken with the Recsea RX-100 housing, Dyron 16mm fisheye lens. Very sharp! The dynamic range of this camera is quite impressive.
Sony RX100 Underwater Photos
Sony RX100 in Recsea housing, with strobe at F7, 1/250, ISO 200
Sony RX100 in Recsea housing, with strobe at F8, 1/125, ISO 200
Great dynamic range from the Sony RX-100!
Great dynamic range and blue colors!
Beautiful lionfish photo taken by EunJae Im at 28mm with the Sony Rx-100, Nauticam housing.
Supermacro with the Nauticam housing, Subsee +10 diopter, great detail!
Sony RX-100 - tiny size, huge sensor
The RX-100 is about the same size as the Canon S95 or Canon S100, which means it is a truly pocketable camera. The sensor size is 3x the area of the Canon S100 or Canon G12 sensor, and about half the area as a mirrorless micro-four thirds camera sensor.
Sony RX-100 - focusing speed
Focusing speed is a little faster than other compact cameras like the Canon S100 or Canon G12. Some of our staff thought it focused significantly faster than other compacts. It is still not quite at the level of mirrorless cameras like the Olympus PEN, Panasonic GX1 or Sony NEX series.
Sony RX-100 - compared to S100, G12, Mirrorless cameras
If your main criteria is small size, great image quality, and good wet lens options, the RX-100 is the camera for you, if you don't mind spending a little more than you would for an S100 or G12 setup.
Mirrorless options from Olympus, Panasonic and Sony will be slightly larger, and cost more, but results with dedication macro and fisheye lenses will be better, and focusing will be faster.
Sony RX-100 battery life
The RX-100 is rated for 330 shots according to CIPA standards. This is much better than the 200 shots the Canon S95/S100 is rated for. The camera will last 2 entire dives underwater no problem, and may even last for 3 dives like the Canon G12 and the Sony NEX-5N does - but this will have to be tested.
Sony RX-100 flash recycle time
The RX-100 on land has an incredibly slow flash recycle time, especially on full power. So slow, in fact, that I thought this feature would kill the camera as an option for underwater photography. The camera has no hot shoe mount, so fiber optics must be used underwater to fire the strobe.
Luckily, the tests underwater with my Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobe were quite different. The camera flash recycled at an acceptable speed, and I was able to shoot at speeds in line with other compact cameras. Perhaps this is because the power of the YS-D1 strobe meant that the camera's internal flash didn't have to use as much power. The good news is - you are unlikely to miss an important shot.
Sony RX-100 raw converter support
Sony RX-100 Video Review
Check out Bluewater Photo's Sony RX-100 Video Review
Sony RX-100 underwater housing options
Our partner Bluewater Photo carries both the Recsea Sony RX-100 housing and also the Nauticam RX-100 housing. Both housings will be small, high quality aluminum housings with access to all of the controls. The Ikelite RX-100 underwater housing is an economical polycarbonate housing.
Check out Bluewater Photo's Sony RX-100 Housing Comparison Video
Further Reading & Resources
EOS-HD reviews the Sony RX-100 video
The Verge reviews the RX-100 image quality
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