Sound Advice: DSC-RX100 camera worth the splurge
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Question: Do you have any information on the new, $600+ Sony pocket-sized camera that is getting rave reviews? I am not a pro but love taking pictures and need a pocket camera. I use movie mode often, and being able to take low-light night photos would be lovely. I hate flash for both the washed-out look and the startling, intrusive quality when photographing people. It stinks for nature and buildings, too. Is it worth it for me to spend the money for the new Sony, when other small cameras cost much less?
Point Richmond, Calif.
Answer: The camera you are referring to is the $649 Sony DSC-RX100. It is generating a lot of buzz and is selling out everywhere.
The 20-megapixel DSC-RX100 has a sensor far larger (in physical size, not megapixels) than any other compact camera and combines it with a sharp Zeiss zoom lens packed in a solid metal body small enough to fit into a pocket. It's designed for serious photographers who want as little compromise as possible in a pocket camera, as well as well-heeled travelers and family shooters who want the very best.
The large sensor is what makes the DSC-RX100 unique in the compact class and is the reason for the price premium. Large sensors work well in low light and in good light pictures have a smooth, deep, natural look. Given the camera's size and capabilities, the $649 price is warranted. The critical question is, "Is it worth it for me to spend the money for the new Sony, when other small cameras cost much less?"
In your case, I think the DSC-RX100 is worth splurging for. Good pictures in low light without flash are important to you. With its large sensor, the DSC-RX100 does this far better than any other compact camera. The large sensor, sharp lens, optical image stabilization and 1080p AVCHD video recording make for top-notch video as well. If you buy anything less, you are not going to get the results you want and won't be happy. Though new cameras come out all the time, the DSC-RX100 is a very powerful tool and -- with its 20 megapixels, big sensor and sharp lens -- will be useful to you for many years.
If low-light capabilities and video recording were not as important, I would recommend taking a look at the Olympus XZ-1. It has a top-notch lens and internal processing that produces clear, sharp, colorful pictures without fuss. It retails for $399, and refurbs can be had for as little as $299.
Unfortunately its 10-megapixel sensor is only about one-third the physical size of the DSC-RX100 sensor and the video recording is only 720p Motion JPEG. This takes up more space on memory cards than the higher resolution 1080p AVCHD video of the DSC-RX100. I also find AVCHD to generally look better, and playing back the movies is as easy as putting the memory card in the slot on your TV or Blu-ray player.
This isn't meant to demean the XZ-1. I have tested the camera and love the way it works, the quality feel and especially the outstanding images it produces with little fuss. For most people it would be more than enough, but your needs demand the DSC-RX100.
First Published July 29, 2012 12:00 am