Compact body, DSLR Soul

Published: Nov 25, 2012, 10:04 IST | Nimish Dubey |

The Sony DSC-RX100 churns out images that would do a professional photographer proud. And fits into your pocket, albeit not really in financial terms

The words “DSLR-like” quality must be about the most abused in point-and-shoot camera history. Almost every manufacturer who comes out with a high-end point-and-shooter these days claims that their product delivers near-DSLR quality. But seldom have we seen those words ring as true as when we tried out the Sony DSC-RX100 cyber-shot.

Rs 80s looks
In terms of appearance, the RX100 seems to be a blast from the ’80s, and is made of aluminum, with a relatively spartan but smart front. The back houses a three-inch LCD, a navigation dial and buttons for menu, review, function, movie (to switch to video mode) and help. On top is a dial for different shooting modes, the on-off button and the zoom button. All this is housed in an incredibly compact body, which will slip into a trouser pocket a lot more easily than some of the oversized handsets we see these days.

Terrific images
Impressive though its externals are, what really marks the RX100 as something special are its innards. Most people will look straight to the 20.2-megapixel Carl Zeiss optics lens, but the real magic lies in its 1.0-inch CMOS sensor and a f/1.8 aperture — specs that many DSLR cameras would die for. We could get into tech gobbledygook at this stage, but will restrict ourselves to saying that the combination of these two should theoretically result in terrific images in all sorts of light conditions. And in practice, it does.

Manual focus
We have messed with our fair share of DSLRs, but we have to concede that the image quality we saw from the RX100 was right up there with some of the best. Even when we doggedly stuck to Auto mode, which incidentally is called Intelligent Auto, we got pictures of stunning quality, even in low-light conditions. Although the camera comes with flash tucked into its top-left corner, we were not pressed to use it, unless it got really dark.

Colours were rich, and close up shots taken in macro mode showed up in detail with the background being blurred appropriately. But getting it to focus on a single object out of many sometimes could be a problem. And before we forget, the ring around the lens actually moves, and can be used to manual focus and also perform a host of other tasks depending on the mode you are in — if you find that complex, you can also focus using the lever on top of the camera. Unfortunately, optical zoom is limited to a relatively miniscule 3.6x.

Loads of detail
There are a number of shooting effects and modes. You have regulars like smile and face detection and panorama mode (sweep) as well as something called soft skin mode (to make the subject look like something from a skin cream ad) and a superior auto that takes multiple snaps and then puts them together for the best result.

The camera is utterly stunning when it came to shooting landscapes and close ups — the former came with lots of detail and wonderful colours, the latter highlighted the subject and blurred the background, giving us that delightful DSLR feel. Navigating through different options can be a bit of a pain though, as you have to keep scrolling through them and the buttons are a tad on the small side.

Battery life is decent — we got more than 250 shots before we needed to plug the camera in for a recharge, and the camera also supports micro-USB charging, so in most cases you will be able to recharge it using your smartphone charger.

It takes very good pictures — easily the best we have seen on anything that is not a DSLR — has a very good sensor and yet it comes in a form factor that requires no hefty carrying bag but will simply fit into your pocket. All of which makes the Sony DSC-RX100 a great option for those looking for a very portable camera that takes great pictures. We would have liked a bit more optical zoom, honestly, a less cluttered interface on the camera’s display, and well, call us old-fashioned, but a viewfinder would have been nice (holding the camera away from our eyes to frame a shot can be a bit of a problem as this is a small device, after all).

At a price
The biggest stumbling block for the camera, however, is its price. At Rs 34,500, the DSC-RX100 is well into DSLR territory and hardcore photographers will balk at throwing so much money at a device that does not offer swappable lenses, no viewfinder and a limited optical zoom. That said, if what you are looking for is a camera that is compact and takes awesome pictures, then the RX100 is your camera. It will turn heads. Its results will turn heads. If only its price did not make ours spin.  

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