At a passing glance the RX100 may look similar to the Canon S100 and Panasonic LX7, but upon closer inspection the RX100's sports the clean lines and simple design that are so common among Sony digital compact cameras. The curved corners, dials and buttons that are flush with the camera body all work to giving the RX100 a very clean look compared to the S100 and LX7. In fact, the RX100 looks deceptively simple to operate (all Sony compacts possess this simple, utilitarian look), even though it's geared towards photography enthusiasts rather than leisure shooters. The RX100’s sleek black aluminium body does have some weight to it, but in a good way as it has a nice, solid feel when in your hands. While some may argue that the lower-end mirrorless system cameras sport larger sensors and offer more flexibility due to their interchangeable lens, these mirrorless system cameras won’t fit into your back pocket.
Of course the RX100 may not be as slim as some of the anorexic digital compact models on the market, but that's because the increased dimensions are a result of the larger sensor in the RX100. So even though you get a slightly bulkier compact, the RX100's image quality will definitely be superior to any other lower-end models' while still remaining compact enough to fit into the back pocket of your jeans. Surprisingly, the RX100 is actually slightly smaller than some of the premium compacts around, yet it manages to squeeze in a significantly larger 1-inch sensor. Both the Panasonic LX7 and Samsung EX2F are marginally bigger than the RX100, but possess smaller 1/1.7-inch sensors.
The RX100 has a control ring surrounding its lens, a feature that we have noticed becoming increasingly popular with the higher-end digital compacts. This control ring’s basic function is to allow you to change the key settings of the shooting mode that you’re currently shooting in. For example, a turn of the control ring will adjust aperture values if in aperture priority, while shutter speed will be adjusted if in shutter priority mode. Of course this can also be done with the rear control ring, but it’s much quicker to grab the front control ring while you’re shooting.
But that’s not all, the RX100 actually offers more customizability if you’re familiar with adjusting and managing the various settings on a camera. This is achieved with the Function button, which basically gives you fast access to up to seven functions, all of which can be selected with the Function button and then adjusted with the front control ring. Some of the features that you can assign to the Function button lets access are ISO settings, focus modes and White Balance settings to name a few. So the Function button lets you jump between features, and the front control ring lets you select the appropriate setting for that feature; very easy and quick if you’re comfortable with adjusting settings on the fly. And if you’re wondering about manual focus, yes the RX100 allows for manual focusing. The camera will automatically magnify the image on the LCD screen, which helps you to check if the area is truly in focus before you take the shot.
Speaking of the LCD screen, it has an impressive resolution of 1,229k dots, far higher than any LCD screen on other digital compacts on the market now. The screen also has Sony’s WhiteMagic LCD technology, which includes a white pixel in addition to the standard red, green and blue subpixels on standard LCD screens. This technology supposedly makes the screen brighter without the need to make the backlight any brighter. A few days of shooting under bright sunlight did indeed show that the RX100’s screen remained visible and bright.
It’s no secret that the RX100 is aimed at the more proficient shutterbug looking for a second camera to accompany their main one, or for those looking for a competent digital compact to bring around without any additional gear. So it comes as no surprise that the RX100 possesses PASM modes, to offer better creative control over your shots. The mode dial is convenient located right above the rear thumb rest, so changing modes is a quick and easy affair. Unfortunately, the rear thumb rest doesn’t really provide much grip, and it doesn’t help that the front surface of the RX100 is smooth as well. And if you like shooting in RAW, you will be pleased to know that the RX100 also shoots in RAW as well.
While some may lament the RX100's limited 3.6x optical zoom, it's not that far from the Panasonic LX7's 3.8x or the Samsung EX2F's 3.3x zoom. In order to have a longer zoom range while still sporting a large maximum aperture value, a much longer lens (and consequently larger body) is needed. This is probably why most of the digital compacts with large sensors and wide maximum apertures all tend to be restricted to the same zoom range in order to keep the camera body compact. So if you're looking for something with a longer reach for your vacations, then perhaps compact superzooms such as the Panasonic TZ30 will be more suitable.
We were mystified by Sony's decision to only allow for in-camera charging of the RX100's battery, which means you can't charge a second battery at the same time. This presents a certain inconvenience as you can't charge a second battery while using the camera.