Fairly recently I covered the subject of the battle between mobile phone
photography and compact camera photography results. The results were as
could be expected - the mobile phone pictures were instant, immediate, and
looked great, whilst the compact camera photos were sharper, better
saturated and again were ‘instant’ - provided you took your camera with you.
And that is one of the prime differences. Everyone carries a mobile phone
these days at all times, but to carry a camera means commitment.
To withstand the onslaught of the mobile phone, iPad or whatever, the
dedicated camera manufacturers have had to lift their game, and this has
meant zoom lenses with a greater range, while at the same time producing
sharper pictures with higher resolution.
The latest to present their offering is Sony with the RX100. This camera is
getting rave reviews, so looking out for one might be a good idea, if it is
as good as it is claimed. Mind you, I am not talking about the
manufacturer’s claims, I am talking about camera magazine reviews. One
reviewer even went so far as to say it was “the best pocket camera ever
made.” He went on to write, “No photos this good have ever come from a
camera this small.”
The technology that Sony has packed into this pocket camera includes a very
large (one inch) sensor. That is coming up to low end SLR specifications,
and much larger than previous compact cameras.
The advantage of the big sensor is less grain in low light, better color
depth and great dynamic range (the spectrum from darkest to lightest). This
comes from the increased number of pixels on the larger sensor. This sensor
also makes it easy for the amateur photographer to attain that sharp focus
foreground subject in front of an out of focus soft background.
I have written many times that the final arbiter in producing sharp pictures
comes down to the standard of the glass being used in the front of the
camera. The RX100 has a Carl Zeiss lens, which has a maximum aperture of
f/1.8. That’s the widest aperture you can buy on a pocket camera. Another
optical factor in the sharp foreground and soft backgrounds and the ability
to get good images in low light.
According to those who have tried this camera (not due for release till
later this month, though Thailand may get it later next year), the claims
are for extreme details, great color range with depth and clarity, a ‘burst’
mode of 10 frames per second (yes 10!) and a macro setting allowing you to
get down to five centimeters, whilst most SLR’s can’t get any closer than 25
centimeters from the subject.
What may put some people off this camera are the various “gimmicky”
electronic features like an SLR, with automated modes. These include
Illustration (turns the photo into a colorful line drawing), High Dynamic
Range Painting and the Auto Crop which creates a duplicate of your portrait,
cropped in what it considers a better way. And Sweep Panorama. You swing the
camera around you in an arc, pressing the shutter button the whole time.
When you stop, there, on your screen, is a finished, seamless, 220-degree
panorama. It’s the ultimate ‘wide-angle’ lens. One feature which will endear
itself to the female Thai population are the two methods of producing
“selfies”. You can set a timer as usual, or use its smarter mode, in which
the camera waits until it sees the photographer’s face in the frame, after
which it shoots a self portrait every three seconds until your face leaves
There is no eye-level viewfinder (an item I enjoy, much more than the
screen), but again it is claimed that by placing an extra white pixel in
with every red, green and blue, the screen remains clear and viewable even
in bright sunshine.
The lens ring controls the zoom, focus, exposure and aperture, so keeps many
functions easily under your control. There is no ‘click’ between the
settings, something that can make aperture a little hit and miss, for
The price in Australia is $650, which is not cheap for a pocket camera.