So ideally my compact would:
- Be genuinely compact, and portable (I used a Canon G10 for awhile a year ago which had a lot going for it but it was so big I couldn't carry it in a case in my jacket pocket when climbing - luckily it was strong as chimneying up a winter route in Glen Coe I tore through my jacket and gauged chunks out of the camera body).
- Have good enough quality resolution for double page spreads at 300dpi in the magazine I edit. Of course this isn't just a case of more megapixels but the quality of that image - noise etc.
- Be useable in a climbing situation - i.e. simple controls, useable with gloves and fast, or at least fast enough for the relatively slow sport of climbing. Many compacts, and most of the current interchangeable lens high res 'semi-compacts' suffer from being serious shutter lag, slow focussing etc.
- provide reliably metered exposures in automatic, semi-automatic operation. I tend to shoot on shutter priority or full programme modes.
- Have a great lens. I'm less interested in telephoto shots on this type of camera and much more interested in the wider angles plus as fast as possible. The fact that my favourite camera has been a Voigtlander (Leica M copy) on which I would use 15mm lens (sometimes a 12mm) might give you an idea of where my heart lies.
- Ideally it would be tough too, I'm realistic that I put cameras through much worse than the typical high street user, but I would hope a compact would last 2 years. So far none have.
- Oh, and it would be nice if it was cheap!
So how did the RX100 measure up?
It's definitely a genuine compact - here it is in it's dedicated case. It might seem strange to show it in it's case first but funnily enough this 'old school' case was one of the big deciding points for me on buying the camera as I've always struggled with finding cases that have worked with compacts. This works very well, and in Switzerland I was confident enough to just climb with it slung around my neck and over my shoulder - scraping away against the hard granite of Grimselpass.
Amazingly this tiny camera produces 20.2 million pixels (the DSLR I use has 12.3 million - although admittedly dated by todays standards - but 20million compares with top pro DSLRs). Theoretically this should be a disaster in a compact with their smaller sensors. The RX100 however has a 1" sensor four times the size of most compacts and over twice the size of similar sized 'performance compacts' although still smaller than a DSLRs. From that initial weeks shooting I'm extremely impressed - below is a shot at 125iso and a crop to show detail.
The following shot is at 400iso with the crop showing very healthy low noise details.
So in use - I haven't properly played with this with gloves on (something I normally would do before purchase) and it will be interesting to see how it does in winter conditions. The good news is the power switch, shutter, zoom and main mode dial are sizeable and chunky. A ring around the lens can be used to cover aperture or shutter speed depending on mode - which is very easy to use. Selecting ISO seemed a bit more of a ball ache, having to go into the camera memory, selecting flash was also a touch fiddly but typical for this sized camera. More important is that there is minimal shutter lag (see shot below), and focus seemed lively (although it definitely prefers straight edges to more organic forms).
Battery-wise it takes about 400 jpeg images and charges through the camera itself rather than through a separate charger so I bought and used a spare battery during the week. Jpeg files sizes are around 8-8.7mb - I don't shoot RAW.
And as for cheap? - I paid £599 (although you can get much cheaper on the web). That's not cheap in anyone's book but it has got me enjoying photography again and that's priceless.
This one has a nice chart comparing competitors sensor sizes and prices http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/sony-cybershot-dsc-rx100