If you know your f-stop onions from your bracketing elbow, you might find most compact cameras just a bit too limited. Or maybe, if you're totally honest with yourself, you want a compact that says "Look, I am a photographer, I just chose to leave my DSLR at home today, okay?"
Sony RX100 review – highlights
Sony's RX100 has detected your face either way. The anonymously styled metal shell will invite enquiries from like-minded snappers, upon which you'll revel in furnishing them with details such as RAW image capture and a sizeable one-inch sensor, declining to descend to the level of bragging about its 20 megapixels, but perhaps tapping the lens and muttering "f1.8..."
Sony RX100 – control ring
While the RX100 is happy to play the point-and-shoot game, it also offers fully manual control. The clue to this is a twiddlable ring around the lens. This can be set up to adjust any of the standard manual controls and some of the built-in picture effects. It works well as a manual focus, aided by a zoomed-in view of your shot with optional highlights around the edges that are in focus, and also for tweaking the aperture. For most other functions it reacts rather too slowly with too much turning involved to work as a control shortcut.
Sony RX100 – casual use
The zoom is a lowly 3.6x affair, but aside from that there's just about everything you'd demand from a powerful compact and more. Sony's cutting edge multi-shot image compositing tech delivers excellent clarity and shadow detail in low-light situations, with or without the pop-up flash. You can choose between two auto modes: "Superior" does a better job of enhancing your shots but adds a second or two delay before you can shoot again, while "Intelligent" skips some of that so it's ready to shoot again in less time.
Sony RX100 – picture quality
Picture quality is very impressive. The optics and large sensor deliver images that are naturual and well balanced with very little distortion at 1:1 pixel level. And because you've got 20 million of those, considerable cropping after the event is a realistic proposition, especially if you're shooting in RAW format.
Sony RX100 – video
Video quality is another major win. Notch it up to 1080p at 50 frames per second and you'll be delighted with the smooth, detailed footage.
Sony RX100 review – verdict
There's no doubt that the RX100 delivers the goods, but it has strong competition in the shape of the Fujifilm FinePix X20 and Canon Powershot S110. We'd advise getting hands-on with all three if at all possible, but if not, we'll sum up that three-way by saying Fuji wins on style, Canon wins on value and Sony wins on skills and modesty. The RX100 does of course wing its way into our top ten list of the best compact cameras, just not quite as high up in the pecking order as those rivals.