Compact cameras are great in that their pocket-sized form means you can always have them with you when you need to take a photo. Unfortunately this "pocketability" often comes at a price ... the small sensors manufacturers are typically limited to using provide less than stellar image quality. Sony has revealed the Cyber-shot RX100, a compact camera with a larger than usual 1.0-inch sensor which measures 13.2 x 8.8mm.
The 20.2 effective megapixel CMOS sensor in the RX100 is the same size as the one in the Nikon 1 interchangeable lens system, and around four times larger than the 1/2.3"-type used in many point-and-shoot cameras. This means it can capture photos with considerably more detail than its smaller counterparts, and should be able to cope better in low-light and produce images with low noise.
While the sensor is still smaller than the APS-C sort found in many DSLRs and those in Micro Four Thirds cameras, Sony has borrowed several features from higher-end cameras. The Sony RX100 is capable of 10fps continuous shooting in Speed Priority mode, there's a choice of auto or manual focus modes and high sensitivity goes up to ISO 25600. The camera also uses the optimized BIONZ image processor and can shoot JPEG, RAW, or both at once.
The F1.8-4.9 Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T lens (which has a 35mm effective focal length of 28-100mm) also features a seven-bladed circular aperture that - partly thanks to the larger sensor - can produce bokeh blurring of the background while isolating subjects in sharp focus and with a shallower depth-of-field than most compact cameras are capable of.
Measuring 4 x 2.3 x 1.4 inches (101.6 x 58.1 x 35.9 mm) the aluminum body means the RX100 is strong while still weighing just 240 grams (8.5 oz) with battery. A Control Ring that surrounds the lens body allows users to adjust exposure, zoom and other functions with a spin of the fingers. On the back there's a 3-inch (7.5-cm) 1229k dot resolution screen, which features the new WhiteMagic technology that uses white pixels in addition to RGB to boost screen brightness.
The camera benefits from a 25-point autofocus system, including tracking and flexible spot options, and Sony claims high-speed autofocus can lock onto your target in as little as 0.13 seconds. There's Full HD video recording with AVCHD (1920x1080, 50p) and MP4 (1440x1080, 25 fps) options, and you can capture 17MP stills without interrupting movie recording. Battery life is said to allow up to 330 still shots or 80 mins AVCHD video.
The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 will be available from mid-July 2012 with a retail price of US$650.
The following video shows the SGNL by Sony team taking a first look at the RX100.