Sony is on rampage. Right next to A7 and A7R, the company released another beautiful and capable digital camera – the DSC-RX10. It’s a camera that really has no direct competitor. With the big 8x zoom lens it could hardly be called as ultra zoom, but it looks like one. The main feature that sets it apart from other ultra-zooms is the sensor. It is the same unit used in RX100 II camera; smaller than APS-C sensors in mirrorless cameras, but still significantly bigger from those found in other ultra-zooms. The result is exceptional image quality. Besides that, RX10 can record in RAW format, has a high level of customization and it could actually be the only camera an advanced amateur could need. No fuss with exchanging lenses and all of the manual controls at the fingertips.
Preview and sample shots by Ivan Ivančić
Camera product shots by Marko Šolić
Sony DSC-RX10 is a somewhat big camera. Size and weight are reminiscent of entry-level DSLR models or bigger ultra-zooms, but this is the price we pay for combination of relatively large sensor and big and bright lens. 8X Zeiss zoom lens covers a 24-200mm range (speaking in 35mm terms) and has a constant F/2.8 aperture. Zoom is controlled by rocker dial around the shutter button or by the big dial on the lens. The detail that makes this camera particularly interesting is the STEP-ZOOM function which can be assigned to zoom dial on the lens barrel. When used, optical zoom moves in “steps” stopping on popular focal lengths: 24, 35, 50, 70, 100, 135 and 200mm. At the same time, rocker dial around the shutter button still function as infinitely adjustable zoom. Best of both worlds at the same time.
Still, I would have liked it if the zoom was mechanical one instead of motorized one. That would preserve battery life and make the zooming faster.
The lens also has a built-in 3EV Neutral Density filter.
Shutter on RX-10 is virtually silent. YOu can keep low profile with this camera even in very quiet envoirements.
Sony has incorporated an aperture ring as we saw it on the RX1 camera. It is really nice to see a detail like this. Even more, there is a switch at the bottom of the lens which engages “clicks” on aperture ring. “Clicks” are great when shooting photographs, but is inappropriate for video recording as the microphone could catch the clicking noise. Therefore, you can use it in video to change depth of field just like I demonstrated in the video below:
The sensor has 1 inch diagonal and is the same as the one in RX100 II digital camera. APS-C sensor will still be better, but paring a lens of this performance to APS-C sensor would make this camera much bigger, so this is a great compromise.
Handling is excellent. Grip is large enough for comfortable use and the camera has a huge set of external controls. By default (from the box), most buttons do nothing, but no less than seven of them can be customized to almost any camera function. Sony RX10 offers something like 30 functions for user to assign on any of them; if this is not enough for you, there is probably no camera in the world that would satisfy you.
There is a dedicated exposure compensation dial at the top and a small dial for focus modes at the front bottom part of the camera next to the lens.
Main menu system is similar to the one found on RX100 or A7 cameras; easy to navigate and visually simple.
LCD is tilt-able and offers excellent visibility yet lack some of the brightness on direct sunlight. Electronic viewfinder is also excellent but is not in the same league as the one found in A7. If you never looked through that one, you will probably find nothing lacking in the one used on RX10.
Besides that, RX10 has an extra status LCD on the top of the camera which offers basic shooting information like aperture, shutter speed, WB and several other informations. It has an orange backlight. At first I thought of this status LCD as excess, but if you use the camera mainly with EVF, this LCD becomes quite important. The thing is, when you remove the camera from the eye, EVF is powered down to preserve battery power, but the status LCD keeps you informed of the settings.
There is a small built-in flash but it looks tiny and underpowered. Luckily, hot-shoe is available. Sony RX-10 has HDMI and USB connectors, 3.5mm microphone input and even 3.5mm audio output for sound monitoring headphones. Wi-Fi and NFC are also built-in and only GPS might be added to make it perfect.
I had this camera only for a few hours, but was enough to prove image quality is excellent. Just look at the samples; no light fall-off even at maximum zoom (probably software correction but who cares), and the details from 20 megapixel images are astounding. What’s more, these are all JPEG files straight out of the camera; I don’t have any means to open RAW files right now.
There is still one open question though: the price. I have been told it will cost in the 1300 EURO range in Europe and that is quite steep (USA will get it for $1300 what is a bit cheaper). You could get Nikon D7100 or Canon 70D with 18-135 lens at this price and these cameras are better than RX10. Still, a lot of users do not want interchangeable lens camera and this might be the best all-in-one solution in years. The price will most surely fall in a few months time and this camera might a best-seller.
I am looking forward to reviewing RX10 properly (a week with the camera would be sufficient for detailed review)and as soon as get the opportunity, I will publish detailed review and analysis of RAW files.