Sony RX100 – A Good Question

The LX5 is a great camera and will render fine detail in the landscape despite its "limited" resolution.
The LX5 is a great camera and will render fine detail in the landscape despite its “limited” resolution. Click the image to view larger.

Following my blog posting to say that I am upgrading my LX5 to a Sony RX100 someone asked the perhaps obvious question why I had picked the Sony. There are so many high quality compacts now coming onto the market, why this one. In answering the question, I couldn’t provide one overriding reason so thought it best to respond fully in this post.

The first and probably most important thing that I want to highlight is that not everyone has the same demands of a camera or places the same value on its functions and specification. If we did all think the same we would all be buying the same camera.

In deciding to switch to the RX100 as my compact camera I had a number of criteria that I weighed up. These included:

  • Size of the camera. It needs to fit in my pocket easily. This wasn’t something I could do with the LX5 once the filter adapter tube was attached. Surprisingly the RX100 is smaller than the LX5 and is much easier “carry anywhere”.
  • The camera must be able to shoot RAW and the RAW files work with my converters. With some of new cameras I would need to wait until support is added to my converters or use the manufacturers’ software. Manufacturers’ software usually falls well short of the likes of Lightroom.
  • It must be possible to attach a filter adapter so I can use P sized filters. As I shoot mainly Landscapes this is essential. The LX5 used a bulky adapter tube but for the RX100 I have ordered a rather small neat solution from Lensmate which attaches to the front of the camera and isn’t bulky. I also noticed that some cameras just don’t have the ability to accept filters and there are no third party solutions.
  • Resolution was important to me. Whilst I thought the LX5 was (and is) an amazing camera, I wanted more resolution, ideally a minimum of 14Mpixels. This was very important to me as I want the option of producing very large and detailed prints. I know I can resize the LX5 to 24 inches and perhaps 30 inches with some images but I don’t always want to be resizing images. The RX100 produces +18 inch prints at 300dpi out of the camera.
  • Low light capability. The RX100 is superb in this respect. Probably due to its 1” sensor that isn’t too much smaller than the Micro 43 sensors.
  • Image quality and detail. For this I simply downloaded sample RAW files from the internet. I was impressed by some cameras in terms of colour and lens sharpness but the Sony just blew me away.
  • Ability to throw the background out of focus. This is better than the LX5 and many other cameras due to the larger sensor.
  • Macro capability. The RX100 isn’t that great hear but it’s much better than the Canon G1X which was another camera I considered. I also have the option of fitting a close up lens (52mm screw in) which I already own from years ago.

My suggestion if you are thinking of changing your camera is to work out the features that are essential to you and place them in order of priority. You can then rank the various cameras against these.

There were some aspects of the RX100 that I wasn’t happy with and perhaps I will have to learn to tolerate:

  • Because of its small size and shape it isn’t as easy to grip with 1 hand as the LX5. I think however that a leather half case will resolve this if I can manage to take out a second mortgage to pay the inflated price of the Sony case (but it’s really nice).
  • The wide angle 28mm is limiting. I would have liked the zoon range to be 24mm – 120mm.

And if you are wondering, no I’m not selling the LX5, at least not for a while yet as it’s still a great camera and there is just something about it that I can’t put my finger on.

12 thoughts on “Sony RX100 – A Good Question

    1. Yes, it does seem to be but then I haven’t used it properly yet so I haven’t found all the problems. I’m hoping to visit wales tomorrow as there has been a lot of snow here. Hopefully I will get to put it throgh its paces.

  1. I too am an LX5 fan. Question. I am replacing my LX5 because it was dropped. I am thru-hiking the Continental Divide Trail this summer and would love your thoughts on a camera. I see you have quite a few and use them in the field. Right now I am looking at the RX100 and the GF2 with 14mm. I am leaning toward the RX100 because it can be charged with a USB and the large sensor size, but I really am going to miss the wide angle lens. Any suggestions for other pocket-able cameras?

    1. The best camera would really depend on the type of photography you want to do. The RX100 is a great all round camera but I miss the 24mm wide angle. I also find the larger sensor a little tricky in terms of depth of field. With the LX5 I can set it to quite a wide aperture and still get a huge depth of field. The RX100 also has quite a limited macro funtion in that its only available when the lens is 28mm. Other good options to consider are the LX7 although the 10mpixel sensor might limit you if you want to make prints beyond A3+. The Olympus XZ-2 seems to produce nice images from the RAW files I have seen. The Canon Powershot G15 is also a very nice capable camera but not as pocketable. I would suggest you list out the top 10 features you would want in a compact and rank them in order of importance e.g. is RAW file support important, what zoom range do you need etc. This will then help you compare and judge the options and come to an informed decision.

      1. Thank you for you very helpful response. If you don’t mind I’d like to ask with more information given. I never shoot RAW when I am thru-hiking. I transfer photos from my camera to my iPhone using the Eye-Fi Mobile SD card. Then I select photos to post to my online trail journal blog all from my phone when I have cell service. I do sometimes use an app to make photos adjustments. Top five desired features: quality photos right out of the camera, charges from a USB, pocket-able, wider angle is more important that zoom because I shoot mostly landscapes, aperture or larger sensor to blur the background. What camera would you take on a thru-hike given these requests?

      2. Some thoughts that might help you are:
        1. The Sony produces very nice JPG images straight out of the camera and they have a very natural feel to them. Will the fact they are 20MPixels (probably around 4-8mb in JPG) cause any issues with transfer speed and ability of your phone to process these? The 28mm lens is OK but I would prefer a 24mm. If however you get low and move in close to the subject you can still achieve a nice look. If you are going to shoot mainly wider scenics and canyons then I don’t think it would be an issue. The larger sensor is definately better for throwing the background out of focus but you can only get to a macro working distance at the 28mm wide angle end of the lens unless you buy an adapter. This is a smaller camera than the LX5 and fits neatly in the pocket. I now use this for all my mountain treks as I am happy to have it round my neck and inside my coat when scrambling rock faces. It doesn’t come with a neck strap and to be honest is a little small for me so I purchased a leather half case which solves both problems and leaves it a small camera. If you want to use filters (ND Grads etc) then you will need to purchase some form of adapter. I use the Lensmate which is good but expensive. It has a very nice HDR function which comes in handy if you are trekking any canyons. I recently used it in Golden Canyon and Marble Canyon in Death Valley and found it excellent. The multi shot low light image is simply amazing and allows you to shoot handheld with no noise and produce pin sharp images by automatically blending multiple shots together.

        2. I love the LX5 and believe the combination of lens and sensor is perfect. The colours aren’t as realistic as the Sony but it still produces nice results and is excellent for landscapes. I believe the LX7 performs very similarly but has a much improved high ISO performance. Noise is a problem in the LX5 once you get above ISO400 but with the Sony you can shoot up to about ISO1600 to achieve the same or better levels of noise. As you know the LX5, I suspect you will find the LX7 a nice replacement for it. I do however find the adapter tube for the lens (so I can attach ND grads) bulky and when attached it doesn’t fit easily in my backpack. It’s also bulky under my coat which is a problem in the UK because it rains so much here.

        3. I don’t know too much about the XZ-2 but the results I have seen (RAW and JPG files) are excellent. JPG’s out of the camera appear punchy, well saturated but very natural. It’s only 12Mpixels but the ISO performance is also very good and the lens is fast and sharp. Like the Sony the wide angle is only 28mm but the macro is down to 1cm rather than 2 inches. Two nice features are the removable side grip and the tilting screen. If you want to work low the tilting screen is a godsend especially if you have worn out your knees through too much hill walking (I like to think I did the damage this way rather than it being old age). I haven’t used this camera but I would like to as it seems very capable and is quite close to the LX5 in terms of spec.

        I think any of these three would suit your needs but none is perfect in terms of features and performance – there is always something better. Personally I would go along to a camera shop and try out the three to see which feels the most natural to you.

      3. BIG thanks again! You should post your replies to my questions as a blog post. I think backpackers and outdoor adventurers would benefit. I am leaning toward the RX100, but after your reply yesterday I looked more carefully last night into the Canon G15 as you suggested. I saw some great reviews and amazing natural photos! Curious again. Your last reply did not even list the G15. Why?

      4. The G15 is a great camera. A friend shared some RAW files from a G12 which is the model before this one and they were excellent in terms of near detail and natural colour. I didn’t find them quite as sharp as the LX5 in terms of distant objects but that could well be down to variations in how we use the cameras. Another friend has the G15 which he has had converted to shoot Infrared and the results he has shown me are superb, so much so that I find myself wanting to do the same. The zoom range on the G15 is also very useful in that it’s 28-140. I know you find the wide angle end most useful but sometimes that additional reach at the long end is great. I remember I had a Sony R1 which had a focal length range of 24-120 and I really miss that. Then there is the optical viewfinder which in bright conditions is a great feature. The tiltining screen is fully articulated which makes it very flexible for macro work (I’m starting to wonder why I didn’t buy one myself).

        The only reason I didn’t include the G15 was because I feel it’s a little on the bulky side. The body is quite deep and so it doesn’t fit in the pocket very well and if you are carrying a backpack it can get in the way. If you are happy with the size then by all means consider it as its a great lightweight camera.

        Thanks also for the idea about the blog post.

      1. Thsanks for adding your thoughts and example images. This isn’t a hike I have come across before but it looks really interesting. I shall add it to my list of possible future treks. The RX100 appears to have performed very well for you.

  2. What about the canon s110 or s120, how to they compare to the Sony rx100 or the Panasonic LX5?

    1. I can’t really make a comparison between the RX100 and the S110 or S120 as I have never used the Canon cameras. Comparing the RX100 with the LX5, the RX100 can resolve more detail but the images don’t feel quite as sharp. It also has much lower levels of noise than the LX5. I prefer the wide 24mm of the LX5 compared to the RX100. The RX100 can suffer from soft corners at the wide end where the LX5 tends to be sharp corner to corner. The colours from the Sony are more natural than the LX5. In the end I sold the LX5 but recently found I was missing it and bought an LX7. I now find I have two compacts, neither of which is perfect but either of which produces great images at A3+. If you are confused by this, I’m not surprised as so am I. In the end, they are both great cameras so pick whichever feels the best to you.

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