Sony RX100 vs Canon S100 Comparison – The Best Compact Camera

September 10, 2012

Canon S100 and Sony RX100 compact cameras

You have decided that you certainly gonna buy high-end digital camera. You need help deciding between the Sony RX100 and Canon S100, and we are here to help you decide. After reading this article I’m pretty sure you’ll know which one to get. Both the Canon PowerShot S100 and Sony RX100 are among the most popular digital cameras on 2012. In fact, according to the day of writing this article, the RX100 is at the 5th in Amazon Best Sellers in Digital cameras, and Canon S100 is in the 11th place.

That’s just shows us that people find those cameras very useful for their needs and are satisfied with those cameras overall. If I had to buy a high-end compact camera, I’m pretty sure that I would give a very close look at those two cameras. OK, let’s start with our Canon S100 vs Sony RX100 comparison shall we?
Let’s start with a short introduction about each camera.


Sony Cyber-shot RX100

The Sony RX100 belongs to the large-sensor compacts category. A category of cameras for enthusiasts photographer who care very much about image quality, but those who don’t want to bother carrying a bulky and heavy camera, not mentioning the camera bag that you need to use to carry all your great. Some people just want a camera that they can take everywhere they go and capture gorgeous photos. The RX100 is certainly this camera.

Sony RX100

The Sony RX100 comes with a 20.9MP sensor, which is quite amazing resolution for a compact camera. But Let’s remember that the camera is using a 1-inch sensor. Still the resolution seems a bit too much, but we’ll still need to see how it perform in high ISO to make our final conclusion about the amount of pixels.

The Sony RX100 is equipped iwht a 28-100 mm( 35mm equiv.) f.2,8-4.9 Carl Zeiss Vario Sonner T* lens. This s a very high quality glass, which should lead to sharp, contrast and beautiful looking images. The combination of fast aperture and larger sensor should give you too main advantage: shooting better in low-light and get nice looking defocused background. This is very important for some people. In fact, I am one of them, because I care very much about image quality, and want to be able to control the depth of field, something that it almost impossible to achieve with small sensor P&S cameras.

Other than that, the camera features 25-point AF sensor, shoots at ISO 125-6400, has Sony’s Steady-shot image stabilization to minimize blur in photos, 10 fps burst and an amazing 3-inch 1228.8K-dots ‘WhiteMagic’ LCD screen. The RX100 can shoot 1080p60 videos with stereo sound and has a very good battery life of 330-shots. The RX100 also competes against cameras like the Nikon P7700, Canon PowerShot G12 and Canon G1 X.

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 certainly redefined the large-sensor compacts category. It grabbed tons of positive reviews, it has a class-leading movie feature and excellent image quality based on many review who tested this camera. For some people, this is the PERFECT point-and-shoot camera, the best point-and-shoot camera ever created. It’s an engineering masterpiece. A small but highly-capable digital camera.


Canon PowerShot S100

The Canon S100 is with us for quite some time (Announced on September 15, 2011), still, this compact intelligent camera was made to impress everyone who use it. It is aimed towards advanced and enthusiast photographer who want a compact camera in their pocket, one which capable of shooting great photos. It has a very slim profile and slick design. Serious photographers will pick this camera for its compact size, versatile 24-120mm F3-5.9 fast lens, relatively large 12.1MP 1/1.7″ CMOS sensor, Full HD video recording and built-in GPS.

Canon S100

The S100 has a multi-functional lens control ring which makes it easy to change camera settings fast. You get all your manual exposure controls as you can expect from a high-end compact. You get plenty of external controls like what you get with an entry-level digital SLR camera.

Canon S100, like the Sony RX100, also grabbed many positive reviews across the web (inc. photographyblog, techradar, cnet, gizmodo, dpreview ,etc.). It seems that everyone just loves this camera, but of course like any other camera, it has its cons and pros and I will talk about them in a moment.

OK,  now you know a bit more about those two excellent camera, but of course this was just an overview and we need to dig deeper into the chassis of the camera to find out about the capabilities of those two cameras. If we want to find a winner, we need to understand what those two cameras have to offer.

We’ll start with a side by side specs comparison table, but I will talk about the differences in more depth afterwards.


Sony RX100 vs Canon S100 – Specs Comparison Table

Let’s begin with a side by side specs comparison table which compares the key specs:

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What are the differences between the Sony RX100 and Canon S100?

First things first. The Sony DSC-RX100 is much more expensive than the Canon S100. There is almost $300 difference between those two cameras, making the S100 much cheaper option.  I’m not saying that you should just give up on the Sony because it’s more expensive, you should know the differences between the two cameras and see whether you need them and willing to pay for it. The Sony was designed to be on its own league, putting behind all the other high-end compacts that use relatively smaller sensor than the one used on the RX100. Those cameras include Nikon P7100, P7700 and Canon S100.

The Sony RX100 was designed to also be an alternative to an entry-level DSLR. It’s hard to believe at first, but yes, many people might consider getting the RX100 instead of investing in a ILC system. It would make sense if you want a highly capable compact camera and don’t need the flexibility of interchangeable lenses.  Considering an entry-level DSLR price + lenses and accessories, the Sony RX100 price doesn’t seem that expensive after all.

Here’s a list of the main differences between the Sony RX100 vs Canon S100:

  1. Sensor – Sony has a much larger sensor (1-inch vs 1/1.7-inch)
    Sony RX100 and Canon S100 image sensor size comparison diagram
    The image above (from illustrates difference in size between the two sensors. A larger will generally lead to better image quality in almost all cases. It’s worth mentioning that the RX100 has a lot of pixels stuffed in this sensor, how it will affect the image quality vs the S100? – we’ll talk about it in the next section. The RX100 20.2MP resolution should give it an advantage over the S100 12.1MP when it comes to details, at least in lower ISO.
  2. Lens – this kind of a mixed bag. The Canon has a wider-angle lens with even a bit more range (20 mm difference in tele). On the other hand, many people will certainly be attracted to the Carl Zeiss opticcs on the Sony. Also the Sony as a bit brighter lens at wide-angle (f/1.8 vs f/2). In general it seems that the Canon S100 lens offers more flexibility. The Canon Intelligent IS is also more flexible and offer more type of image stabilization options but don’t worry, they are done automatically by the camera (aka intelligently).
  3. Autofocus – The Sony RX100 features 25-point AF system compare to 9-point with the S100. Certainly an advantage for the RX100 for tracking fast moving subjects. For some of you it won’t be crucial, especially if you aren’t into shooting fast moving subjects and mostly shoot static ones
  4. Video – The RX100 can shoot 1080p60, higher framerate compare to only 24p on the S100. Some people love the 24p cinematic framerate, others will prefer the high quality 60p of the RX100. After all, it’s possible to drop frames in photo editing software, and with 60p you can make very nice slowmo without sacrafying image quality. The Canon features super slow motion videos (640 x 480 @ 120fps, 320 x 240 @ 240 fps) the RX100 does not
  5. Battery Life – Sony has much better battery life
  6. Size – Both cameras are about the same size, but the Canon has a slimmer profile. Big difference? – not at all, both pocketable
  7. LCD – The Sony RX100 LCD should be gorgeous took look at. Both cameras have a fixed display, but the RX100 screen resolution is much higher, offering better viewing experience. The RX100 probably have the highest resolution LCD in a digital camera that I know of
  8. GPS – the Canon PowerShot S100 has a built-in GPS receiver, the Sony does not. Excellent feature if you want the camera to automatically geotag your images with location data and use them on websites and software that support this feature, like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Picasa, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, etc.


These are the key differences between those two cameras.

Image Quatliy / High ISO Performance

magnifying glass on imageIf you are favoring the Sony RX100, you probably want to know that you get a very high image quality. The Sony RX100 sensor is the same size as the sensor found on Nikon 1 J1 and J2,  mirrorless cameras. It’s not as big as Micro Four Thirds or APS-C, but yet much bigger than 1/2.3″ which can be found on many P&S cameras.

The question that you might ask yourself is whether the high resolution / pixel density of the RX100 can actually hurt image quality. The best thing to do is to compare photos of both cameras side by side and see how those two perform ins various ISO settings. Luckily, dpreview has a great comparison tool that you can use to compare too identical scenes take with various digital cameras. I’ve used this app in order to base my conclusions below (source)

ISO 100 / 200- RX100 has more details thanks to the higher resolution sensor. Image quality really looks great on both cameras. The Canon seems a bit sharper, maybe due to increase sharpening processing in-camera [tie]

ISO 400 – noise starts be apparent, but very slightly and you notice this in the mid-tones and dark tones of the image. Canon start losing a bit of fine details. [Advantage: RX100]

ISO 800 – ISO 800 is where most P&S start to struggle. Both cameras perform much better than the P7100. Image is relatively clean, but we can see that both cameras have a higher degree of noise, S100 suffers more from it. Still, you can get perfect looking mid-size prints. Great achievement for both cameras.  [Advantage: RX100]

ISO 1600 – same as ISO 800, but just more noise. It seems that the Canon S100 applies higher degree of sharpening. In some parts it loses details, while in higher contrast areas details are well maintained. RX100 looks very good and I’m very impressed with the high ISO performance at ISO1600, I really am – great work Sony! [Advantage: RX100]

ISO 3200 – Canon was able to hand on quite well. The NR algorithms seem to do a great job for the Canon. Yes, we have quite a lot of noise, we are losing fine details  – but you can get good images for small prints. Sony RX100 hanging on very well, I mean, this is a 1-inch sensor, not APS-C. I’ve compared the RX100 vs Nikon D3200 images and I can say that the RX100 has image quality that is almost on par with the Nikon D3200 (APS-C size DSLR). [Advantage: RX100]

To summarize things up: the Sony RX100 amazed me with its high ISO performance. Images look great considering the very high resolution of the RX100 sensor. The Canon S100 also surprised me. Although the S100 was behind as I expected (due to its smaller sensor), it wasn’t so far behind. Of course if I had to choose a winner I would give the crown to the RX100. I tried to ignore the resolution advantage and focus on noise performance, color and contrast characteristics – but of course the RX100 has quite an apparent advantage when it comes to resolving fine details.


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Sample Images

Here’s some images taken with the Canon S100 and Sony RX100 (via flickr)

Sony RX100 sample images:

Walking and Shooting Like a Tourist with My RX100 12




Sorting Hat, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Beautiful images, just amazing image quality, excellent low light performance, sharpness is great, colors are vivid and images are sharp and crisp!


Canon S100 Sample images:

Sunflower - Canon PowerShot S100 Digital Camera



A long Nintendo night

Just think that those great images comes from a point-and-shoot camera, amazing!


Test Videos

Here are some sample videos taken with the Canon PowerShot S100 and Sony Cyber-shot RX100.


Sony RX100 Sample videos:


Canon S100 Sample videos:




So there you have it, to amazing point-and-shoot cameras that both are capable in shooting Raw and have plenty of manual controls to play with. The Sony RX100 proves to be the better camera when it comes to image quality, f/1.8 fast aperture, AF sensor, high-res LCD and battery life. The Canon S100 costs much less and not that so far behind the RX100 to be honest. It comes with GPS, has better macro capability, can shoot 24p, super slow motion videos, 10 fps burst,  and has a wider lens with a bit more reach.  I personally recommend checking the Raw option of the S100, because it really make the camera capture sharper photos.

The question that still remains is whether you should get the S100 or the RX100? – I personally think that if you can afford getting the RX100, get it! – It’s a mind blowing compact camera for those who really want to have the best P&S camera on the market. Sony has done an amazing job with this camera. I personally love editing photos on my laptop computer, having such a high-resolution and image quality (And option to shoot raw) will give me plenty of creative freedom as a photographer.

The S100 is a great alternative for those who cannot afford getting the RX100 and prefer a cheaper alternative. The S100 doesn’t fall too far behind the RX100, and has some unique features on its own to justify its cost. The RX100 is a camera that hard to resist. I know a lot of people who’ve waited a long time for such a camera to appear.

Think about how great it is to have a camera that you can take everywhere you go. A camera that you can put in the pocket and take it out and shoot without the hassle of carrying a DSLR and a camera bag with lenses. The zoom reach is very good. Not at the same zoom range as superzoom cameras, but you buy this camera for portability and image quality.  I’m pretty sure that if you get one of those cameras, you will be back home with many photos that you wouldn’t be able to shoot if you shoot only with a DSLR camera. It’s also more discrete, you invite less attention and of course, you will enjoy the amazing image quality that you get with those two cameras.

For some of you, this can be the ultimate compact digital camera, a camera that can even replace a DSLR camera for some uses. Highly recommended cameras, and my personal preference would be the Sony RX100. Now it’s your time to choose your favorite.

Read more: Why you sh?ould by the Sony RX100?

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