Sony RX100 or DSLR

November 19, 2012

Sony RX100 closeup

In this post I will be talking about choosing a large-sensor compact camera vs buying a DSLR.  To hit things up, I will put the Sony RX100 versus some of the entry-level DSLR cameras, like the Canon EOS 600D / Rebel T3i . This article will be less technical and will emphasize of the cons and pros of each type of camera in general.

Many of you probably having a hard time deciding whether to go with a high-quality compact camera or get a DSLR camera. The Sony RX100 should probably be on top of your list. The Sony RX100 already in TIME Magazine’s 50 ‘best inventions’ of 2012. It’s probably the among the best, if not THE best compact camera on the market. It comes with a 1-inch 20.2MP sensor, F1.8 Carl Zeiss lens (at the widest angle), Raw image capture, 1080p60 videos (AVCHD 2.0) and full manual controls. This camera was designed to bring you closer to how it would feel to shoot with a DSLR in terms of handling, manual controls and image quality, but at the same time, maintaining a very compact size so you can carry this camera everywhere you go.

Of course one of the strength of this camera is its physical size.  Most photographers just can’t carry their DSLR all the time. By carrying a camera wherever you go, you will have more options to get more unique photos, capture the moment, what you won’t be able to do with a DSLR out of reach. You can carry this camera in your pocket (how it looks in your pocket? – here, here and here), pop it out when their is something exciting to shoot and put it back into the pocket and continue to do what you were doing before. It’s all about capturing moments in time that you want to share with others, with the Sony RX100 it becomes very simple.

Of course you might say.. hey.. I can do that with any ultra-compact camera, why do I need the Sony RX100 for. You are right, but one thing that separate the RX100 from the rest is its image quality and its features that are aimed for advanced photographers too.  The RX100 is aimed towards three distinct group of people: 1) Those who come from point and shoot and search for a more advanced camera to shoot with. 2)P Photographers who prefer the handling and portability of a compact camera than a DSLR, but can’t give up on image quality. 3) Photographers who search for a second camera other than their DSLR, which they can carry around everywhere they go – in times where it’s not comfortable to carry a DSLR with you.


Those three groups will certainly find the Sony RX100 to be one of the best camera’s for their uses.  The RX100 has been on the market for quite some time, and already been reviewed by many camera reviews’ websites:

  • Dpreview – “Excellent image quality and solid ISO performance”
  • theverge – “Astonishing image quality for the size”
  • CNET – “Excellent stills, Impressive low-light results”
  • Gizmodo – “This camera singlehandedly makes point-and-shoots relevant again”
  • digitalcamerainfo – “DSLR-style images with depth of field, Phenomenal sharpness”


It seems that everyone just loves the RX100. You get to shoot stills with very nice shallow depth of field, sharpness is in a league of its own, video quality is very good, full manual controls, ultra compact size, etc. If you were diverted from P&S cameras due to low image quality, this is the thing of the past. That mostly due to the 1-inch sensor on the RX100, as well as for the bright Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnart* lens.

So if the Sony RX100 is such a great camera – is there a reason why you should even consider getting a much bulkier camera, like an entry-level DSLR?

The questions is Yes, there are a few reasons why one should consider getting a DSLR instead of the RX100 (of course you can get both if you want and have the budget). The Nikon D3200 and Canon EOS 600D are two entry-level DSLR cameras. Some of you probably already put those two at the top of your list. My brother had the same dilemma and has decided to go with the Canon EOS 600D at the end, instead of buying the Sony RX100.

Because I know his debates, I can share them with you and why he finally decided to go with a DSLR at the end. The Canon Rebel T3i / 600D has an amazing image quality. Just take a look at dpreview’s studio scene comparison and you can see that the T3i’s high ISO performance is impressive. Image quality is amazing, sharp, with excellent contrast and tonal range. The results are really impressive.

By choosing to go with the Canon T3i / 600D you will enjoy the following advantages:

  • Being able to achieve shallow depth of field mainly due to the larger size of the sensor and the ability to mount faster lenses
  • Better handling for people with large hands (much larger camera with better grip)
  • Better low light performance (DXOMark: 722 ISO vs 390 ISO)
  • Optical viewfinder
  • Hot shoe for attaching external flash
  • Flip out screen
  • Interchangeable lenses (enjoy a wide range of special lenses, including ultra wide-angle, telephoto, 1:1 macro ,etc.)
  • External mic jack to record high quality audio with your videos
  • Faster shutter speed (1/4000 s vs 1/2000 s)
  • Better battery life (440 vs 330 shots)
  • Shoot video in 24p


*This is a partial list.  But what I wanted to demonstrate is that a camera like the Rebel T3i still is a better overall camera for the enthusiast photographer. The RX100 has its own advantages over the T3i:

  • Automatic Panorama
  • Built-in image stabilization
  • Better dynamic range (12.4 ev vs 11.2 ev)
  • Faster burst (10 fps vs 5 fps)
  • Higher resolution (2-MP vs 17.9 MP)
  • More color depth (22.6 bits vs 21.7 bits)
  • More focus points (25 vs 9)
  • Much smaller in size and weights less

*This is a partial list.


Before we continue, I want to share with you a nice video from Peter Gregg. I really like his camera reviews, really talk to the average consumer.


Many enthusiast photographers just can’t leave without a viewfinder, whether it’s OVF or EVF, although from my understanding, many photographers still prefer shooting with an optical viewfinder. The RX100 lacks a viewfinder of any sort, this means that you will be composing your shots via the back LCD. One of the advantages of a DSLR camera is that when shooting via a viewfinder, you get more connected with the scene/subject that you are shooting. It’s just a much better experience in comparison to composing your shots via the back LCD. So by going with the RX100 you need to understand that you lose that option. The back LCD is also the main battery power consumer. With a DSLR you can just lay down and view your subject via the OVF for minutes until taking the shot, this won’t consume a lot of power and you can still shots hundreds images more. With the RX100 you probably should think about getting a secondary battery if you intend to go out for a long day of shooting (that adds to the cost too). The disadvantage of compact cameras when it comes to battery life is that most of them utilize the back screen to compose images (no viewfinder) and they have smaller batteries because the camera itself is small. This means that you get can shoot much less photos on a single charge.

Sony RX100 Full HD Test:


Canon 600D HD video sample (look at those cars!):


When you pick up a camera like the Sony RX100, you do that because you already know the advantages of having a small camera with you. I think that the most important part is that with the RX100 you come home with more photos, just because you can take your camera everywhere you go. With a DSLR camera you need to plan ahead. You need to carry a bag, probably with at least two lenses. Carrying a bag with makes things uncomfortable and I am talking from experience. I am not talking about people who are going to a special shooting trip and dedicate the all they for shooting with their camera. I am talking about the amateur/enthusiast photographer who wants to get home with great photos while maintaining the ordinary daily routine (ie. going to school/work, spending quality time with the family outdoors, going to a football game, etc.).

just imagine yourself needing to carry a bag with a DSLR camera and lenses with you wherever you go – it’s very inconvenient.  With the RX100 it’s seamless, you just put the camera in your pocket and you are good to go. See something special – just grab the camera and get the shot. You will come home with more great photos. The Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100 is also a very discreet camera due to its compact size. You can walk on the street and take photos of people without getting their attraction. I remember shooting with a DSLR camera, all the people around me just stopped and took a good look at my 60D + 70-200mm F4L lens (ok, not all of them). This was kind of odd, and I felt a bit inconvenience to shoot in the street.


So without boring you with all the technical details, choosing between the Sony RX100 and a DSLR like the Canon T3i / 600D shouldn’t be too complicated. You need to understand the cons and pros of each path that you choose. My brother have decided yo go with a DSLR mainly due to its larger sensor and better high ISO performance, battery life and the optical viewfinder.  He is an amateur photographer. He really wanted to get the Sony RX100, but at the end of the day he preferred getting the T3i instead. Each one of you will have to make its own decision. DOn’t based that decision solely on the technical aspects of each camera, know that you’ll need to carry this camera to various places in order to enjoy its capabilities. With the RX100 you find yourself shooting more photos, and getting home with even more unique images and videos – just because you were able to take this camera everywhere you go.

I hope that this article will help you get a different perspective when you come to a point that you need to make a decision. I personally would get the RX100, mainly due to its portability. My brother have chosen to go with the Canon T3i – now it’s your time to make a decision!


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