Canon Rebel T4i / 650D vs Sony NEX-5R vs RX100 – Comparison Review

September 9, 2012

Sony RX100, NEX-5R and Canon 650D digital cameras

Sony NEX-5R vs Canon EOS Rebel T4i  vs Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 , Some would probably see that as an odd comparison, but I think it has some meat.  We have here three different cameras, the NEX-5R is a Compact System Camera, the T4i/650D is a DSLR camera, and the Sony RX100 is a large-sensor compact camera. Each camera has its strength and weaknesses. In this buying guide I want to compare these cameras one versus the other, trying to help you decide which camera to buy this year.


Camera with Large Sensors

Also all three are not far behind each other in terms of price (RX100: $650, NEX-5R + 18-55: $748, Canon T4i + 18-55: $849).  The RX100 being the cheaper option and the Canon Rebel T4i being the more expensive one (considering a 18-55mm Kit lens. Other lenses can make the camera more expensive). In general what we have here is three cameras that are aimed for advanced and enthusiast photographers. Those who know how to appreciate the advantages of large sensor cameras.

Sony NEX-5R:  16.1MP APS-C (23.4 x 15.6 mm) | 2.7x
Canon Rebel T4i / EOS 650D: 18MP APS-C (22.3  x 14.9 mm) | 1.6x
Sony RX100:  20.2MP 1″ (13.2 x 8.8 mm) |  1.5x

The NEX-5R and the T4i have an APS-C size sensor, the RX100 has a 1-inch size sensor.  As I’ve mentioned, the Sony RX100 is a large sensor compact. Which means that the camera takes the form of a compact camera, but features a sensor that is relatively much larger than the one found on conventional P&S cameras.  The APS-C sensors as you can see in the diagram below, are much larger than the 1″ sensor found on the RX100.

1-inch vs APS-C sensor size comparison

1-inch vs APS-C sensor size comparison (via


Pixel Density / Pixel Size

The sensor plays a significant role in the final image quality of the camera. It really depends on the pixel density, or actually how big the light photo detectors are. The bigger the pixels, the more photons can be gathered (more light is absorbed), which contribute to better dynamic range, color accuracy,  higher ISO performance / lower noise levels and better image quality overall.

Sony RX100: 17.2 MP/cm2 / 2.41 µm
Canon T4i:  5.4 MP/cm2 / 4.3 µm
Sony NEX-5R: 4.4 MP/cm2 / 4.76 µm

We can see that theoretically,  the the Canon T4i and Sony NEX-5R should have a clear advantage over the RX100. I would investigate the noise levels at higher ISO later on, but the numbers suggest that the 5R and 650D/T4i should have an advantage here.



What Makes the Sony RX100 Different From the Rest?

guy holding the Sony RX100 compact cameraThe Sony NEX-5R is a mirrorless interchangeable lens compact camera, but features the same sensor size as the Canon, which is a DSLR camera. The Sony RX100 falls into the category of ‘large-sensor compacts’. This camera became very popular among advanced/enthusiast photographers because of its high quality and very compact size. It seems that many people want to carry a compact camera, but the image quality was a deal breaker for them. That was held until the Sony RX100 arrived.

“Compact camera that can capture Very High Quality Images.”

The Sony RX100 isn’t the first large-sensor compact. However, it was a camera that given a reasonable price, great features and have gotten some very good reviews over the web. It seems like the perfect match between size and performance. The Nikon 1 J2, J1 and V1, all have the same 1-inch sensor size. However, the Rx100 won’t allow you to change lenses. It comes with a fixed 28-100 mm F1.8-4.9 (3.6x optical zoom)  bright zoom lens. Which means that it won’t give you the same flexibility that you get with ILC (Interchangeable Lens Cameras). For some it’s even not an option, for others this is the holy grail.

Let me give you an example. People who want to use shoot 1:1 Macro shots or use an ultra wide-angle lens, those will not find this option with the RX100, but can purchase special lenses and use them on either the Sony NEX-5R or the Canon t4i / 650D. In fact, the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 is aimed for those who actually don’t need and/or want to change lenses, and find no limitations with the RX100 for their shooting style. The RX100 is a compact camera that can capture very high quality image.


Sony NEX-5R, Canon T4i, Sony RX100 camera size comparison

Sony NEX-5R, Canon T4i, Sony RX100 camera size comparison (via


As you can see from the above image, the Sony RX100 (left) and the Sony NEX-5R (center) are almost the same size. The Canon Rebel T4i / 650D (right) is much bulkier camera. Of course the RX100 becomes even smaller because we didn’t even add a lens to the NEX-5R and T4i.

Sony RX100, NEX-5R and Canon 650D with lenses attached

NEX-5R and Canon 650D with lenses attached (viewed from the top)


Now the above photo tells a completely different story, isn’t it? The 650D/T4i and NEx-5R both have a 18-55mm lens attached. When looking at the cameras from the top, you can see that the depth of the cameras changes quite dramatically, and you can learn to appreciate the small size of the RX100 (lens contracted). It also shows the difference in size between MILC and DSLRs.


OK, we’ve talked about the sensor and body size difference, but I’m pretty sure that you want to know if there is a big difference in Image Quality?


Image Quality / High ISO Performance

image quality inspectionAs for the time of writing this article,  IQ analysis apps like those on dpreview and don’t have sample images of the 5R. However, we can expect the 5R to be somewhat near the image quality of the NEX-5N, which is amazing. Of course speculations can just lead to mistake. Although I’m pretty positive that we get very good results with the 5R, we already have sample images from the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 and the Canon EOS 650D / Rebel T4i.

Without over complicating things, the Sony RX100 High ISO performance is not on par with the other cameras.  The IQ of the RX100 is very good, but you can see on dpreview’s ‘Standard Studio Scene comparison ‘ test, that the RX100 can’t match the other cameras in terms of noise performance. From ISO 800 and above,  noise start to kick int gradually, while on the Sony Alpha NEX-5N and the Canon EOS Rebel T4i the image is very clean.

“The Sony RX100 have very good IQ up to ISO 800.”

At ISO1600, we can clearly see noise patterns in mid-range and bright areas in the RX100 and we start losing details, but the T4i and NEX-5N images are very clean. Again, the NEX-5R might have different results. Overall the NEX-5N came first and T4i not so far behind.

The Sony RX100 have very good IQ up to ISO 800.  I’ve alo compared the Sony RX100 vs Nikon 1 V1 and J1, and the Nikon V1 and J1 (both have the same 1-inch size sensor, although not the same sensor itself), produce cleaner images. I can give that to the lower pixel density of the V1 which has ‘only’ 10.1MP resolution, compare to 20.2MP f the RX100.

It seems like putting 20.2MP on 1-inch sensor isn’t the best idea. I think that the targeted audience would have preferred a camera with lower resolution but Nikon V1-like image quality at high ISO. It’s not a deal breaker, but it seems a bit frustrating that many vendors prefer boosting the resolution and giving us lower high ISO performance in return. Of course you get plenty of details up to ISO 400. The good thing is that the RX100 features a F1.8-4.9 lens, which is relatively very bright, at least at the wide end. Which means that we can shoot in lower ISO sensitivity levels and still get well exposed shots.


Side by Side Specs Comparison Table

Now it’s time to dig a bit deeper and see what we get with each camera, other than the relatively large sensors that all cameras use. When we look at a camera, we read it’s specs an hoping to find some features that we really want to have in it, some are nice to have, others are a must. By reading the specs sheet we might decide to eliminate one camera, just because it doesn’t suit well for our shooting style.

Let’s take a look at a side by side specs comparison table where we compare the Sony NEX-5R vs RX100 vs Canon Rebel T4i / 650D.

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AF Speed / Camera Performance

Many people want to know how fast the camera focuses.  There are many AF test done by professional reviewers and also by photographers testing the camera in the field, in real life situations. The Canon T4i is no brainer, it’s autofocus speed is excellent, providing with a good lens. However, a few things to note here.

The Canon EOS 650D / T4i features Canon’s Hybrid autofocus system. This AF system was designed to bring better AF while shooting in live view and in video mode. The Quick AF features only Phase-detection autofocus, and the Hybrid AF utilize both Contrast + phase detection AF. The phase-detection AF is much faster, but we need to understand that the new Hybrid AF was designed when shooting via the Live View mode, so AF will be faster and more accurate. However for stills shooting via the viewfinder, the Quick AF will work best.

Sony DSC-RX100: As fast as 0.13 seconds with high speed AF according to Sony [25 AF points]
Sony NEX-5R:   Fast and accurate according to, but we still lacking more information on the AF performance, because it’s a brand new camera [99 phase-detect AF points, 25 contrast AF points]. more information on
Canon Rebel T4i / 650D:  depends on the lens, excellent AF performance [9 AF points]


AF Speed In Videos

Here are some videos that demonstrate the AF performance of those three cameras. It’s not possible to test all available lenses, but for the Canon T4i I chose a video that demonstrate focus speed

Canon T4i + 18-135mm lens (by imaging resource)


Sony RX100


Sony NEX-5R AF speed test in video is not available at the moment.



All three cameras are different camera types, but have a lot in common.  We can see that Sony NEX-5R and Canon Rebel T4i will be the ones to win when it comes to image quality. The Sony RX100 has a fixed lens, while you can attach various type of lenses to both the 650D/T4i and the NEX-5R, which gives you more flexibility.

On the other hand, the Sony RX100 is a camera that you can take everywhere you go, because of it’s compact size. The NEX-5R is also a compact camera, but with a lens attached it loses it’s compactness and it won’t be a camera that you can put in your pocket like the RX100.

The RX100 is probably the best compact camera we have on the market today. It’s equipped with a Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* F1.8 (Wide) lens for gorgeous defocused backgroun (Bokeh), which is almost impossible to achieve on conventional P&S cameras. This is probably one of the best advantages that you get with large sensor compacts. The zoom range is great for general purpose photography, although lacks the reach of some great superzoom lenses out there, those you can attach to interchangeable lens cameras. With the RX100 you can even shoot Raw, and under ISO800, you get plenty of details due to the very high resolution sensor. The RX100 have plenty of manual controls (P/A/S/M) for videos and stills.

The Sony Alpha NEX-5R is a great addition to the NEX camera’s lineup, bringing W-Fi capabilities, 180° tiltable 3″ touchscreen LCD (great for self portraits), fast Hybrid AF, 10fps burst and 1080p60/24 video recording. Another great thing about the NEX-5R is that you an install apps on it (aka ‘PlayMemories‘ camera apps’). Sony NEx-5R camera owners will be able to download these apps to their camera. Some of them include “Picture Effect +”, “Bracket Pro”, “Multi Frame NR”, “Photo Retouch”, etc. Yes, Sony could implement it as integral pat of the camera, but this opens a way to install new features to the camera in future time, which is a great option.

The Canon T4i / 650D will give you great image quality, tons of manual controls, faster AF and of course you can enjoy the large selection of Canon high quality lenses. The camera has a touch-sensitive articulating display and have an improved AF performance in Live View and Video due to the Hybrid AF system.  The camera is much larger than the Rx100 and the NEX-5R. The RX100 is the only camera that you can really take everywhere you go, without carrying a dedicated camera bag where you put your camera and lenses.

People prefer buying a DSLR for couple of reasons: lens selection, fast access button to popular camera settings, professional optional accessories, optical viewfinder, etc. If those features are important for you, DSLR cameras will certainly give you the option to enjoy those features. However, we can’t deny the alternatives. And mirrorless cameras are becoming popular because they can provide the photographer with DSLR-like image quality, but in a much more compact package.

Large-sensor compacts are cameras that are ultra portable, but lacks the IQ performance of cameras with a relatively larger sensors. I personally prefer getting a camera that I can take everywhere. I can get shots that otherwise I just couldn’t take. If I had to take just one camera and wouldn’t be in the professional photography business (stock photography in my case), I would get the RX100. I already own a DSLR because I do stock photography and Nikon has complementary accessories that I really need.

So do your math and see what camera fits you best. All three are excellent cameras but has their cons and pros as you can see by reading this article. I hope this buying guide helps you decide which camera you’ll be buying next. If you enjoy this article, please share it and comment below if you have any questions or opinions.

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