The Remarkable Sony RX100 Series

Zen by the Lake - Kerrville, Texas

Zen by the Lake – Kerrville, Texas

A couple of days ago, I talked about the Rise of the 1 inch Sensors, a class of cameras that has become the go to high-end pocketable devices for photo enthusiasts. While smartphones are the ultimate in convenience and connectivity, the 1 inch sensors are more than 6 times larger than the ones in smartphones. Ideal for low light photography. Coupled with a small body and bright lens, the Sony RX100 series has seen great success in a very challenging camera market. But that’s not what makes these cameras remarkable.

Consider that the first RX100 was introduced in 2012 and it’s still being sold. Sony has released a new version of the RX100 every year since then, except for this year. That means there are now five versions of this camera, and remarkably, all versions are still for sale. This, to my knowledge, is unprecedented in digital camera history. This rarely, if ever, happens in the overall electronics industry.

Model 2017 Price Date Released
Sony RX100 $448 2012
Sony RX100 II $598 2013
Sony RX100 III $749 2014
Sony RX100 IV $898 2015
Sony RX100 V $998 2016

All prices referenced from B&H Photo’s website

In 2012, the RX100 cost $649. In 5 1/2 years, the price has only dropped $200. Think about that. A 5+ year old technology product that still commands 70% of its original price. Remarkable.

Sony’s success has spawned copycat and new iterations of cameras with 1 inch sensors from Canon and Panasonic. Nikon too announced their DL series with a trio of cameras, until they cancelled it. How long will Sony continue to sell the original RX100? How many variations of the series are Sony going to make?

I’ve casually used the RX100 a few times over the years. Most extensively, I used the Mark IV version for a couple of days during last year’s Precision Camera University. I created the black and white above with the RX100 IV out in Kerrville, Texas. A zen like feel, with deep blacks, from a dock along the river.

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6 thoughts on “The Remarkable Sony RX100 Series

  1. I’ve never been a fan of Sony’s cameras. While their sensors are excellent, their software has always been terrible in my opinion. The firmware that drives the user interface on their cameras is highly cumbersome to me. I experimented briefly with their NEX series that you seemed to like way back when and found the menu system intolerable. I didn’t keep that one long.

    Sony pops out new versions of their cameras at a steady and rapid rate. But I’m stumped about what is actually changing year to year that really increases the value of an upgrade? I used the comparison tool on Sony’s site to compare the models you referenced and the changes seem minimal. A new model year, kind of like the automotive industry, with little if any value added change. Why is the V twice the price of the original? From a image quality standpoint, I’m not seeing what makes it twice as good. Sony to me seems to be one of those companies that presents a plethora of choices that mainly serves to confuse people and, I suspect, they hope shoppers will just throw their hands up and buy the “top of the line” newest version, i.e. most expensive option, because surely it must be the best.

    I do like the idea of a truly pocketable “pro” camera. I’ve played with Fujifilm’s offerings and found them very lacking with the smaller sensors. The X100F is so far the smallest camera I’ve found that delivers the results I want and has a control system that I enjoy. I had high hopes for the X70 but it was a dud to me, as was the tiny sensored X30. Maybe Sony’s persistence in this niche market will get Fujifilm’s attention.

    1. Hi Mike, I actually agree with much of what you wrote, as you will see from my next blog post.

      When I say the RX100 is remarkable, I mean it’s “worthy of attention” and worth making a remark about. I’m not saying it’s a great camera. Something can be remarkable but not necessarily great.

  2. I have had really bad luck with Sony cameras. They always sound so good when you read about them, but they never seem to produce the pictures they should. You’d think with the Tessar lens and all, you’d get better results.

    1. I’m not sure what about the Sony cameras are not working for you, however, of course, there’s so much more to a camera than just the lens, especially in digital.

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