Sony RX100, 3 issues away from my ideal compact

Canon EOS M

Sony RX100

Yesterday I compared the Sony RX100 to the Nikon J1 and J2. Both cameras have a 1 inch sensor and even though the Sony is a point and shoot, it compares very favorably against the Nikon 1 series. And as good as the Sony seems to be there are several things that give me pause. One feature might even be a deal breaker for me. Your requirements may vary but here are 3 things that are the negatives for me for an otherwise very promising camera.

1. I really wish Sony used a 12MP or 16MP sensor instead of the 20MP. On a per pixel basis, generally the more megapixels the more noise, especially at higher ISOs. However, higher resolutions do tend to have finer textured noise so at least the noise is less noticeable when viewed at normal sizes. There are other downsides to more megapixels too. The photographs need more storage space and require more post-processing computing power.

2. The images from camera companies do differ, even when taken under identical conditions. There are many reasons such as the lens coatings, the sensor and the all important image processor. Of course, the look you like is personal. I tend to like warm images, the kind that I see in Canon and Olympus. I find the Sony has a cooler look. On my Sony NEX-5, the color seems to be a bit greenish to my eyes. My Sony TX5 also seems to have cooler bluish color. For this reason, I’m a bit wary about the RX100 color. The online image samples also do seem to exhibit this cooler look. I do shoot in RAW and can tweak the color in post but at times I find it challenging to get the exact color that I like. Post-processing is great but the less I need to do the better. The color you like is personal preference so you may prefer the Sony color so this may not be a negative for you.

3. The biggest issue for me, the potential deal killer, is the battery charger or rather the lack of a separate charger. The battery is charged inside the camera so there is no way to externally charge a second or third battery while you are using the camera. Battery life is rated at 330 shots but if you use the flash or take some movies, this number can go down dramatically. I shoot a lot of photographs and can easily take several hundred photographs per day. If I run out of power, there is no way to switch batteries in the field. Also when I’m using the camera, I can not charge another battery. For a $649 camera, I think there is no excuse for Sony to cheapen out and not supply a separate battery charger. There are now some third-party external chargers that may work in a pinch. I still prefer an official charger from Sony. I find that the third-party batteries just don’t seem to work as well as the OEM batteries.

22 thoughts on “Sony RX100, 3 issues away from my ideal compact

  1. I’ve made the same observations on the warmer Olympus vs cooler Sony. It’s been that way for ages.

    And yes, the battery charging bothers me as well – I did note that. Is the battery user replaceable if necessary? Since the camera is not a consideration for me, I did not really look that far. Cells go dead. A friend of mine bought a spare for his PEN last week – he got it home – dead as a doornail, so he took it back and they replaced it no problem.

  2. About that battery life … CIPA standards require full flash illumination for every second photo taken and also the zoom has to travel full range with every photo. My guess is that if you take only pictures (no movies) in normal temperatures you’ll get much more than 330 photos from a single charge. And there isn’t that much need for flash with that 1.8 lens 😉
    Still, real bummer about the charger but if you use this as a second camera the fact that you don’t have to pack another charger sounds pretty good. If i remember correctly Sony announced that the charger will bi sold separately when they start selling the batteries.

    1. Feri Naf, if Sony is going to sell an external charger, that’s great news. One major issue that is out of the way. Regarding the CIPA standards, I knew it included flash shots but didn’t realize it was that many. My real world experience always seems to be lower than the CIPA standards however “at normal temperatures” maybe the key phrase. I know cold affects battery performance and that’s probably true of extreme heat too. In Texas, where I live, it gets pretty darn hot.

      1. I was surprised as well, but looked up the CIPA standards and they are quite demanding. On every shot the electronic zoom (if the camera has one) has to be moved from W to T or the other way around. The only ways i can imagine getting less shots per charge would be cold temperatures or lots of reviewing of images on the display or taking a long time to compose with the display turned on.
        Looking forward to further reviews …

  3. Except for the prestige of it, I don’t understand the 20mp either. Won’t the images from a 10mp or 12mp on a 1″ sensor be even better? At least on images up to 18″ or 20″ on the long side when printed. And on even an HD TV or big computer monitor where all you get is about 1920 x 1200 maximum, who cares about even 10mp. 3mp works just fine for computer viewing as all images need to be downsized anyway to fit. 99% of all my images will never be printed.

    I’ve got a 12 x 24″ print in our family room with the LX5 that at normal viewing distance of 2 feet or more looks identical to the identical one I shot with the Oly E-620 and 14-54II lens. Fortunately this comparison was helped by using base ISO.

    I’m more interested in the LX7 and the very fast lens. I am also interested because I am surprised how often for party and family shots I attach my Oly 36R flash to the Pany’s hot shoe. On the LX7 with F2.3 at 90mm this should have a nice effect when photographing people, I would think.

    Peter F.

    1. Sony, in general seems to be moving towards high resolution sensors. Their 24MP APS-C sensor is another example. The LX7 is indeed a very worthy camera. It will be interesting to compare these two premium point and shoots.

  4. Aaannnddd… another “close but no cigar” moment from Sony re: the battery charger. At this point in time, that’s a basic, given, default for an electronic device, much less a camera. But once again, Sony focus on what makes their own engineers happy rather than what customer use cases actually turn out to be.

    Sad to see how far Sony has fallen in their ability to deliver. Ugh.

  5. Not being able to charge an extra battery really IS a deal breaker for me. Athough I have gotten my post processing down to a bare minimum, I shoot in RAW, so there’s always more of it than I want. Plus, I shoot brackets, so I \have storage issues. I no longer save the RAW files after I process because I can’t keep everything. If Sony fixes the battery issue, I might be able to overcome the others. I would like to have a really good compact P&S that will fit into my purse, especially when we are being tourists.

  6. Would be an interesting option for me, and the retro look is really sexy….but looking at the price, can’t help but think “what kind of m4/3 could I buy for the same kind of money” (and interesting post suggestion for you, by the way, what kind of camera would you buy with only $300, $500, $700…)

    I understand this is a very well built camera, but with some Panasonic GX1 kits that seem to be now available around $400, and some Oly that are apparently very P&S friendly (epm1 kits for $300 or even less), I can’t see myself forking out $700 for it.

    Thanks for your posts….

    Laurent in Michigan

    1. You’ve missed the point of the RX100 (or Canon’s S) series cameras (and Fuji’s X100S series, but that’s getting borderline).

      Try putting the GX1 you mentioned into your pant pocket.

      The primary reason why I purchased the RX100 is because it’s small but still has relatively decent image quality (compared to an SLR) / superior IQ and low light capabilities (compared to phones and normal P&S).

      You’d never notice that I had a camera on me, and that’s the whole point. You use the camera that’s with you, not the camera you wanted but left at home because it was too inconvenient or heavy to carry with you.

  7. Just get an extra battery and charge it in the camera before going out to shoot. In other words use the camera as a charger. Don’t see much of a difference to an external charger except you can’t charge while shooting.

    Regarding third-party batteries I generally don’t think there is that big a difference to the original except for price. Usually you can get a good third-party battery for 1/5 of the price of the original so I use them a lot.

  8. Re: concern 2:
    That’s what white balance is for. Set a custom one if you think things are off.

    Re: concern 3:
    Still don’t understand all the rage at this.

    There’s nothing stopping you from buying an external charger, which will probably cost you an extra $5-10. The battery itself *IS* user replaceable (and you have to put it in yourself the first time you open the box, so you know this).

    For myself, I have a solar charger with a ~2000mAH equivalent @ 5V battery that has USB charge ports. I can use this to charge my phone, the RX100, a Bluetooth headset, the charger itself (from the wall) and a handful of my other gadgets *WITHOUT* being tethered to an outlet and all with the SAME CABLE! I don’t have to worry about losing or breaking one because… they’re all the same MicroUsb.

    I see this as an additional feature, and not a drawback.

    Sure, if you want to charge another battery externally, you’ll have to spend another $10 bucks (okay, let’s make it $20)… but then you’ve already spent $700+ on this camera — another $10 isn’t going to hurt (if it does, you should stop buying expensive cameras and have your budget checked out)

    1. A custom white balance is fine if you have to time end environment to do so. Often this is not possible. If you are street shooting, the light and white balances change often. When I chase my kids around at Disneyland, I’m not going to say wait, hold that cute post, I need to do a custom white balance.

      The third party external charges do improve the situation, though I would prefer a Sony one, which of course they will charge a hefty price for.

      I do agree that having a standard USB charger does improve certain things and those portable external USB packs also give some options. I agree with you that the battery situation has improved somewhat sine it’s initial launch.

      Though I still think it is a “convenient” cost cutting measure on Sony’s part for an expensive camera.

      1. As a reference, the Nikon 1 V2 (similar 1″ sensor, but the body is much bigger) is $900 (kit+lens). Compared to a much smaller but almost equally capable $750 for the RX100M2 (imaging wise, not counting NFC, Wifi, and I think an articulated LCD). Yes, it’s cost cutting, but imho, intelligent cost cutting. In my eyes, it’s environmentally friendlier (no additional big chunk of plastic) and cheaper (yes please =P). You also do not need to buy a wall adapter for continuous use. For Sony, it’s one less thing that needs certification (probably where a chunk of the $50+ goes to which the 3rd parties can “skimp” or outright lie about).

        As for the white balance, I agree it can be inconvenient at times. However, white balance tends to be one of the things that are easier to correct in post production without much detail loss even with JPG as long as it’s not that drastic. Take it raw, and modify the camera profile in your favourite software if you’re that worried about image quality. Most have a batch manipulate option, so it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes of initial setup and seconds of telling it to “start fixing” (then you can go do other stuff while it’s processing).

        Or go low tech and put a color filter in front of the lens. 😉

      2. The Nikon 1 is a failure, at least so far. Their $900 camera was selling for $300 late last year. But if you read my previous post, I agree with you in some area about the neat things about the Sony RX100.

        I’ve warmed up to the USB chargers and I guess it’s possible to charge the camera from external battery packs too.

        As for the color, I ‘m not going to use post processing to overcome a default color style that I don’t like. I post process every picture and can do it pretty quickly but getting the NEX-5 color right (by right, I mean a color I like) was a pain. Color is a personal thing. If you like the Sony color, and I’m sure a lot of people do, then that’s a non-issue for you.

  9. The AWB/color is the biggest complaint I have about the RX100. Sometimes I can get it just right in post-processing, but other times I cannot. it’s a shame that Sony can’t seem to get color right.

  10. Nice to see someone that agrees with me on color and white balance. I’ve had an RX100 fit nearly 3 years now. It has just died on me mid holiday and to be honest it came as something of a relief. Looking through the photos I did manage to take before it died just filled me with dread about how much time I was going to have to spend when I got home getting rid of the cold bias to everything. If you’re shooting anything in fields or woodland then you also have to knock exposure compensation down to -3 or the greens are going to get completely over blown.
    The comment about a custom WB would be OK if it wasn’t for the completely counter intuitive interface. The Sony has the most illogical and fiddly layout I’ve ever come across on any camera. The amount of times I’ve found myself jabbing randomly at buttons because I can’t find the option I’m after I’ve lost count of. This can be truly enraging when the shot you want is going to disappear in the next 10 seconds.
    The battery charger situation was never an issue for me. It was all about traveling light. The battery life was great and if it needed charging it could just sit on my phone charger overnight. Not once did it run out on me during the day.
    But now it seems it has died (won’t read any SD cards). Unsurprisingly Sony doesn’t feature on my list of replacement options so I’ll be looking to Olympus most likely.

    1. Rich, thank you for your comment and visit. It’s too bad the Sony didn’t work out well for you. I find that Sony’s colors have improved but I do prefer the colors from some other companies more. Good luck in your search. Let me know what you end up getting.

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