Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 boosts image quality with 1-inch sensor, f/1.8 Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens (hands-on video)

With little room to grow (or shrink) on the housing front, we've begun to see manufacturers take a different approach with point-and-shoot cameras, boosting the size of image sensors to present a clear advantage over smartphone cams, which continue to cannibalize their dedicated counterparts. Sony, for its part, has just announced what's by far the most compelling Cyber-shot to date -- the DSC-RX100. To the amateur's eye, this all-aluminum pocketable camera looks like any old high-end point-and-shoot, with a familiar compact design and a small, permanently attached optical zoom lens. Hiding behind that f/1.8 Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 3.6x zoom optic, however, is this model's true gem: a 1-inch (13.2x8.8mm) 20.2-megapixel CMOS sensor, offering four times the area of the 1/1.7-inch imagers found in most comparably sized devices.

A larger sensor means sharper details, improved low-light performance and that creamy shallow depth-of-field that's synonymous with large ILCs. Having an f/1.8 lens on-board also doesn't hurt -- the optic offers a maximum aperture range of f/1.8-4.9, but can still manage captures just beyond f/2.8 at the 50mm position, giving it significant versatility. There's also a 3-inch 1,229k-dot LCD with a new technology called WhiteMagic, which adds white pixels to boost outdoor visibility while still delivering VGA resolution. A pair of control dials -- one surrounding the lens and the second on the rear -- enable direct access to frequent settings.

There's a full manual mode on-board, giving you complete control over both stills and 1080/60p video, along with RAW capture, a seven-blade circular aperture and a BIONZ imaging processor, with support for ISO 80-25,600. The RX100 is packaged with a new battery, which is capable of 330 shots on a single charge, and packs a MS/SDXC slot, HDMI port and a USB port with charging capability. There's also a 10 frames-per-second continuous mode, 13 Picture Effect options and features that were previously only available on Sony's interchangeable lens models, like Sweep Panorama. The RX100 is designed as an all-in-one unit, so there's no microphone input or hot shoe to be found, but given the camera's incredibly small size, we really don't mind. What's slightly less encouraging, however, is the price tag -- the RX100 will run you $650 when it hits stores in July, while accessories like a jacket case ($85), battery pack ($50) and screen protector ($12) place it further out of reach. Take a closer look in the hands-on video just past the break.

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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 hands-on

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Sony's New Advanced Cyber-shot RX100 Camera Packs Large Sensor and Bright Lens into Stylish, Pocket-Size Body

New Model Contains World's First 1.0-inch type 20.2 MP Exmor CMOS Sensor and Ultra-bright F1.8 Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar T* Fixed Lens to Deliver Outstanding Picture Quality

SAN DIEGO, May 16, 2012 – Travelling light no longer means compromising on picture quality with the Cyber-shot® DSC-RX100 camera, Sony's new flagship compact camera.

Striking the ultimate balance of form and function, the stylish, aluminium-built RX100 camera inherits many advanced imaging features from Sony's α range of A-mount and E-mount cameras, delivering beautiful still images, crisp full HD videos and a level of manual control and creativity unmatched by any other camera of its size.

"This camera is ideal for travel, portraits or street photography, delivering impressive results in a variety of lighting conditions with an intuitive, customizable control interface," said Yosuke Tomoda, director of the Cyber-shot business at Sony Electronics. "It's a perfect step-up model for point and shoot users not interested in larger DSLR or compact system cameras, and also an outstanding choice for enthusiasts who may already own a large DSLR and are looking for a high-quality, pocket-sized 'all-in-one' second camera."

At the heart of the Cyber-shot RX100 is the world's first 1.0-inch type Exmor® CMOS sensor with a resolution of 20.2 effective megapixels. Specially developed by Sony, the sensor has an area that's approximately four times larger than the 1/2.3-type sensors in traditional point-and-shoot cameras. The sensor's larger area takes in more light while capturing content, resulting in beautiful, detail-packed images and Full HD movie clips with very low noise.

The larger sensor is partnered with an exceptionally bright Carl Zeiss® Vario-Sonnar T* fixed lens with 3.6x optical zoom range. In contrast to standard point-and-shoot cameras, it has a wide F1.8 maximum aperture to let in additional light and complement the resolving power of the larger sensor.

Similar to high-performance DSLR optics, the lens features seven- bladed circular aperture. This makes it easy to produce images with subjects in sharp focus against a smoothly-blurred, beautifully defocused background. The lens also features an Advanced Aspherical (AA) lens element that contributes to the camera's extremely compact dimensions without sacrificing optical zoom performance or resolution.

Newly optimized to complement the 1.0-inch type sensor and lens, the camera's powerful BIONZ® image processor maximizes shooting response times while helping assure exceptionally clean, natural images. It also extends sensitivity right up to ISO 25600 (using Multi Frame Noise Reduction), allowing for exceptionally clear handheld images in low light conditions. To capture fast-moving subjects, the RX100 camera can also shoot at up to 10 frames per second (in full resolution) and has high-speed autofocus that locks onto a subject in as quickly as 0.13 seconds (depends on scene and lighting conditions).

The new RX100 camera features a high-resolution 3-inch 1,229k dot Xtra Fine LCD™ display and also adds a new feature: WhiteMagic™ technology. This uses additional white pixels to boost screen brightness, allowing users to see subtle details and tones on the screen in all types of shooting environments, including outdoors in bright sunlight.

For making manual adjustments while shooting both still images and movies, the new camera has a smooth control ring around the lens body, which can be used to alter exposure, zoom, creative picture effects and a variety of other customizable functions. Additionally, frequently used functions can be assigned to the Fn (function) button for instant access, and the Memory Recall feature can store up to three groups of customized shooting settings based on user preference.

Similar to a DSLR-style interface, there's a choice of auto and manual focus modes on the Cyber-shot RX100 camera for enhanced image control. For those that prefer focusing manually, MF Assist magnifies images to simplify fine adjustments, and there's also a pro-style peaking function that highlights sharply-focused areas of the image on screen.

The RX100 camera offers a generous choice of artistic options to expand creative shooting possibilities. It includes the option for six different creative styles and a variety of popular picture effects including Toy Camera, Partial Color, HDR Painting and several others, most of which can be previewed directly on screen before shooting.

The new Cyber-shot features Auto Portrait Framing – a feature found on Sony's latest α range of A-mount and E-mount cameras -- making it simple to create sharp, perfectly framed portraits. This unique feature automatically detects faces in a scene, crops the picture accordingly creates a tighter, pro-style composition at full resolution. Both the original and cropped photo are saved for review.

New accessories include a spare battery, dedicated carrying case and a battery charger designed to complement to the new camera.

Pricing and Availability

The Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 digital camera will be available this July for about $650. The camera and accessories will be available at Sony retail stores (www.store.sony.com) and other authorized dealers nationwide.

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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 boosts image quality with 1-inch sensor, f/1.8 Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens (hands-on video)