2013 was a very prolific year for Sony, at least in regards to the development of new cameras. During 2013, the Japanese company has been placed many well-received devices, both by users and by the media, such as the RX100 II, the Full Frame mirrorless cameras Sony A7 and A7R, and, of course, the RX10, which we will analyze today.
The Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 is a versatile high-end camera equipped with a 20.2-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor (the same the RX100 II has, which has been critically acclaimed), a lens by Carl Zeiss with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 throughout all its focal range (24-200 mm) and excellent connectivity including both Wi-Fi and NFC.
The features mentioned above are some of the ones that draw the most attention among photography enthusiasts, but are by no means the only ones worth considering. Let’s take a quick look at some of its main features:
- 20MP 1"-type BSI CMOS sensor (13.2 x 8.8mm)
- 24-200mm equivalent stabilized F2.8 lens
- image processor: BIONZ X
- ISO Sensitivity : 125-12800 (expandable to ISO 80 and 100 )
- High-speed autofocus using Direct Drive SSM
- Photographs recording formats : JPEG and RAW
- Video Recording Formats : AVCHD 2.0 / MP4
- High quality video : 1.080/60p
- Burst shooting 10 FPS in ‘Speed Priority mode’
- WiFi and NFC connectivity
- HDMI supports 4K and Triluminos
- Lithium-ion battery of 1,080 mAh / 7.7 Wh
- Weight with battery and card : 813 g
Sony RX10: construction and ergonomics
The quality of this camera is comparable to those found in a professional DSLR camera or a high end compact system. The body is magnesium-made, a material known for its lightness, which makes the camera capable of taking quite a few hits, protecting delicate internal components.
The RX10’s body also prevents dust and moisture from entering the interior of the camera. The overall design quality of this camera is really impeccable.
Although, as we have seen, the finish of this camera rivals that of a semi-professional DSLR, or even a professional one, it really is a bridge, and it shows that Sony’s engineers have avoided making the body too bulky. They have succeeded, as it is clearly more compact than a basic DSLR.
It is small enough to take it with you wherever you go, although its weight, while not excessive (813 g with battery and storage card), is not negligible. In its favor, the slight roughness of the texture allows a very firm grip. However, and this is only personal opinion, I would have liked the grip to be slightly thicker.
The size of the buttons on the rear panel of the camera, next to the LCD screen, seems correct to us. They are not very big, but enough to use comfortably. The button located on the top of the RX10 may be harder to use for people with big fingers, though, as they’re smaller. Still, the overall feel of the camera is very good.
Sensor and lens
The sensor of this camera is one of its strengths. A few months ago, when we analyzed the RX100 II (both cameras have the same sensor), we could see for ourselves what this sensor is capable of, and it didn’t disappoint. This component is largely responsible for the great performance of both cameras.
The heart of this device is essentially a backlit CMOS photodiode array with a size of 1 inch (13.2 x 8.8 mm). Its resolution amounts to 20.2 megapixels, which in theory should provide a good balance between the number of photoreceptors and the size of the sensor. As you know, this last parameter largely determines the number of photons that each photodiode can capture. The larger these cells are, the greater its ability to capture photons will be, which translates into a higher voltage.
According to the company, this sensor is designed to maximize the dynamic range and provide a high contrast ratio, with a great level of detail in shadows. We have yet to see if its performance rivals the RX100 II’s.
The sensor plays a critical role in the performance of this camera, but the lens, as you know, is also essential. As we have seen before, the RX10’s lens has been designed by Carl Zeiss, has a variable focal length of 24-200 mm, 35mm-equivalent, and a maximum aperture of f/2.8 throughout all of its the focal range. It may not offer the same aperture level as the RX100 II (f/1.8), but it can maintain a maximum of f/2.8 even at longer focal lengths, which makes it very flexible when experimenting with bokeh pictures.
Interface and connectivity
The interface of the RX10 is very similar to the one found in other Sony’s cameras, though it is slightly different from the RX100 II, which, as you know, has a lot common with. In any case, what really matters is that almost anyone can use it without much effort and in a short time. The interface offers support for many languages, something that should be a given, but still many manufacturers lack.
Regarding connectivity, it’s excellent. Like other mid and high-end cameras Sony has launched in recent months, the RX10 features both Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity. The latter is very useful because, if you have a Smartphone or a tablet that also supports it, you can establish Wi-Fi connections quickly and easily. You do not have to configure anything, just get both devices near each other.
Once they are linked, you can transfer photos and videos directly from your camera to your Smartphone or tablet and vice versa; manipulate the RX10 and use it remotely, and much more. Of course, to do this you must previously install on your Smartphone or tablet the PlayMemories Mobile free app from Sony, which is available for Android and iOS. While certainly not bad, this app seems a bit limited because it only allows you to manipulate a handful of the camera’s settings. We hope Sony updates it soon so it can offer greater flexibility.
Testing the Sony RX10
We must recognize it, using this camera is a delight. Its weight/size is attractive given its performance, not to mention it’s very comfortable to use, except for those buttons we already mentioned. Furthermore, the quality of the viewfinder’s 0.39-inch OLED screen is outstanding, and the LCD screen also gets the job done perfectly.
Moreover, and this is just a personal opinion that other users may find anecdotal, I like changing the aperture using the ring. Manipulating the ISO sensitivity is done by pressing a small button located on top of the RX10, and the shutter speed can be controlled thanks to a wheel located to the right of the viewfinder. Everything is simple and fast.
The LCD is tiltable, perfect for a lot of complicated situations where taking the perfect picture would be otherwise impossible. And the autofocus gets the job done even in dim light scenarios, so you will not need to resort to the manual focus to get the results you want. It’s fast and can handle moving object commendably, even if they momentarily leave the frame.
When Sony unveiled this camera in October 2013, they emphasized in the fact that the RX10 is a high-end bridge camera designed to deliver a performance worthy of a DSLR. In fact, it may even be useful as a complement to an SLR camera if you don’t like carrying many lenses.
This camera has performed commendably no matter the test, demonstrating that the sensor, lens and image processor all work like a charm. However, before going into details, I suggest you to take a look at the pictures we have uploaded to our Flickr gallery. These illustrate what the camera is all about, although they do not do justice to the quality of this camera due to the drastic resolution reduction the pictures have to undergo so we can upload them to Picasa.
Let’s get to work. The first thing we noticed is that the dynamic range of the RX10 is very wide, allowing you to restore an extensive color palette and materialize the tones accurately. It also handles intense contrasts efficiently, offering a high level of detail in dark scenarios without over-saturating luminous zones of the picture, so we can easily say that this is the bridge camera with the most options we’ve used.
The noise level remains under control at all times, unless, as we shall see a little later, we are forced to use a high ISO value. I prefer to shoot in RAW because of the post-processing possibilities, but JPEG enthusiasts will be pleased to know that the compression is hardly noticeable, even with very little ambient light.
Furthermore, the automatic white balance that the camera performs is almost always very satisfactory, although, again, users shooting in RAW do not have to worry too much about this, because any deficiency can be solved during post-processing. I would also like to highlight one of the virtues of the lens the RX10 includes. Its interesting f/2.8 maximum aperture allows you to obtain a beautiful unbokeh effect (you can take a look at some of the pictures with this effect we uploaded), even when using the longer focal lengths this lens provides.
Lastly, we will take a look at the ISO performance of this camera. If you look closely at the image we just posted above this paragraph, you will find that the noise level clearly increases starting from 6400 ISO. Still, the RX10 allows us to manipulate the sensitivity with ease. At up to 1600 ISO, the noise level is virtually nonexistent. At 6400 ISO, it increases slightly, but the results are still good. And finally, between 6400 and 12800 ISO, the noise increases significantly, but not enough to ruin a photo, so it’s okay to use a high sensitivity if the circumstances require it.
The Sony RX10 is a fantastic camera. It incorporates high quality components, although the sensor and lens are the best, which produce excellent pictures. Also, it offers a very compelling user experience thanks to its ergonomics and impeccable design. And of course, its image quality is amazing, not to mention it supports both Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity. You will also be able to record videos with a quality comparable to some dedicated video cameras’ (60 frames per second at a 1920 s 1080 resolution).
No product is perfect, and this camera isn’t the exception. Its most obvious drawback is its price. 1199 Euros aren’t exactly chump change, which may cause some users to opt for a less expensive bridge camera, even at the cost of some features the RX10 has. It is also possible that some users miss the presence of a touch screen, but to us, honestly, this shortcoming barely poses any problems.
Finally, as we explained before, it would be perfectly comfortable to use, except for the small size of the buttons located right next to the control dials. Despite its shortcomings, the DSC-RX10 is a great camera. In our humble opinion, it is the best bridge camera on the market.