Sony Cyber-shot RX10 Digital Camera Review
Sony’s baffling beauty posts high marks for a high price.
By the Numbers
We had an inkling going into the RX10 testing process that this would be a high performing camera. After all, its sensor comes from the formidable RX100 II, which was a top-scoring point-and-shoot.
As it turned out, with its upgraded image processor and great lens, the RX10 became the highest scoring point-and-shoot we've ever tested (as of this writing).
Color Accuracy and White Balance
Improving on the only-okay color accuracy of the RX100 II, the RX10 offers up more accurate color modes. We found that the most accurate mode, Deep, offered up a ∆C00 of 2.11 and a saturation of 112.4%, with 100% saturation being the ideal. The RX10 also has additional special color modes for leaves, night, sunset, and landscape to enhance those specific conditions.
We found that the white balance performance could have been just a bit better, with results that were too far from ideal when shooting with auto white balance. The test that trips ups most cameras, incandescent lighting, saw color errors of up to -2772 kelvins, while errors were much more acceptable under daylight. Custom white balance was, overall, less strong than we've seen from some mirrorless cameras recently.
Unsurprisingly, the RX10 bested our resolution test, scoring highly thanks to a well-designed Zeiss lens and some software trickery. Even though the lens itself should provide adequate sharpness on its own. We noticed some really heavy oversharpening in the JPEGs that we tested—up to 23% oversharpened in the most egregious instance.
That said, you can expect nice results from the RX10's imaging stack. The f/2.8 constant zoom lens provides excellent balance, as it's smaller than an equivalent lens on a DSLR. The 8.3x optical zoom is more than enough for most use cases, and arguably the camera's best single feature. The constant aperture and bigger sensor make it bigger than the zoom ratio might suggest, but it's a tradeoff for gaining such high image quality.
The RX10 truly lives up to its mandate as a jack-of-all-trades. Not only can you expect high-quality stills, but the video looks great too. We were impressed with the sharpness of details in paused frames, and the smoothness of objects in motion. We noticed very little artifacting in our sample footage.
In our bright light sharpness test, we measured 715 lp/ph horizontal and 700 lp/ph horizontal. Even in low light, there was plenty of detail with 615 lp/ph horizontal and 650 lp/ph visible on the vertical section of the chart.
Even when the lights are dim, you'll be able to get usable footage with the RX10. We were able to capture an image at 50 IRE with just 7 lux of available light.
Not only will you see good performance, the RX10 comes loaded with the video features you'd expect in a hybrid camera. There's a microphone jack, and a headphone jack. Sony also saw fit to include not only a 1080/60p top recording mode, but also a native 24p. If you shoot in AVCHD, you can get high bit rate video at 28 Mbps. We can see this camera becoming a cult favorite with documentarians and indie filmmakers of all stripes.
With its bigger-than-average sensor, the RX10 offers up a full range of ISO sensitivities. What we found in our tests is that even with the default noise reduction—Standard—turned on, the RX10 aggressively crushes noise in JPEGs.
At the RX10's highest ISO, 12,800, we found that the noise never even crossed the 1% threshold, much less the 2% noise level we use as a rough benchmark for printability. Contrast that with the 4.51% that we measured with NR turned off. If you're going to shoot JPEGs and you want slightly less aggressive NR, you'll want to choose the Low option.
However, with those default setting on, we shot our still life for the below results. If you shoot with Auto ISO, you'll get the best results if you limit the camera to sensitivities below ISO 3200. You can thank the RX10's bigger sensor for its DSLR-quality output, even at higher ISOs. The top two ISOs really lose a bunch of detail, and should be reserved for low light emergencies.
The RX10 proved itself to be fairly adept at continuous still shooting. While you don't have the benefit of phase detection to aid in continuous autofocus, we saw performance of 10 frames per second with focus locked on the first shot.
The only downside is that the buffer fills up eventually, slowing your rate to a little more than 1 fps after you shoot 18 JPEGs. That's faster than comparatively-priced DSLRs, but it's a lot less shots than we were able to shoot with some mirrorless cameras you can buy for a similar price.
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