Sony Cyber-shot RX10 Review - The Sony RX10 is one of the most expensive bridge camera on the market, but features a specification to match its hefty price tag
The series has looked to combine advanced technology in high-end bodies with a view towards offering a premium alternative to standard compact cameras. Recent examples of this include the RX100 II – a premium compact with a 1in sensor – as well as the RX1 – a compact which featured the combination of a 24.3MP full frame sensor and 35mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss lens.
The Sony Cyber-shot RX10 takes this approach and applies it to the bridge camera market. The model features the same 1in sensor as the RX100 II, combined with a Carl Zeiss 24-200mm lens with a fixed maximum aperture of f/2.8.
All of this technology comes at a price premium, and at over £1000 at launch the RX10 is one of the most expensive ever bridge camera. Can it justify this cost? Read on to find out…
Sony Cyber-shot RX10 Review – Features
One of the core features of the RX10, and one which signifies it as very much a bridge camera, is the lens. Although it’s not the longest zoom on the market, the 8.3x optical zoom still covers an equivalent focal range of 24-200mm in 35mm equivalent terms. Furthermore, the RX10 features a maximum aperture of f/2.8 that remains consistent throughout the range.
The lens also continues the premium feel of the RX10, owing to the fact that it’s a Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* optic, while it also benefits from Sony’s SteadyShot technology.
As mentioned previously, at the core of the Sony RX10 sits the same 1in, 20.2MP back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor as seen before in the Sony RX100 II. This sensor is larger than those traditionally used in bridge cameras, and as a result it should deliver a better dynamic range and noise control than competing models.
The premium specification is further signified by some seriously impressive LCD and EVF technology.
The viewfinder itself is the same as that on the recently released premium Sony A7 CSC, and as we remarked upon in our review of that camera it offers a crisp display, impressive dynamic range and refresh rate that means there’s hardly any lag.
The LCD screen, meanwhile, measures in at 3in and features a class-leading resolution of 1.229m-dots. Furthermore, the LCD is of the vari-angle variety meaning it can be viewed around a horizontal axis should the need arise, while it also features RGBW construction – this means a white pixel is placed alongside the standard red, green and blue pixels thus making it brighter than normal LCD screens.
As you’d expect from a camera in Sony’s RX series, the RX10 offers Wi-fi and NFC connectivity, facilitating the wireless transfer of images between the camera and any similarly-enabled smartphone or tablet.
The Sony RX10 sports the manufacturer’s new BIONZ X processor which enables a continuous shooting speed of up to 10fps if you’re prepared to sacrifice continuous AF, although this does drop to around 4fps if you require the camera to keep focusing during shooting.
The processor and sensor combination facilitates an ISO range of between ISO 80 and 12,800, although this can be expanded to ISO 25,600 in Auto shooting mode.
Sony Cyber-shot RX10 Review – Design
Thanks to the large lens and pronounced hand grip, although the RX10 is much closer to a bridge camera by definition it certainly handles like a DSLR.
The main element of the camera’s handling that reminds you of its bridge camera foundations is the model’s zoom. Despite its appearance to the contrary, the RX10’s zoom is electronic in its control.
As a result of this electronic operation the zoom certainly isn’t as fast as a manual alternative, taking around three seconds to reach the tele end from its wide angle using the zoom lever located by the shutter release button.
There’s also an electronic zoom ring located on the lens, and this takes around five half-turns to take the lens through its full focal range – once again noticeably more than a manual alternative.
The bulk of the RX10’s construction is polycarbonate, although both the camera’s lens barrel and top plate are magnesium alloy. The result of this combination is a camera that feels solid and robust, and certainly as though it would stand up to the rigours of general usage.
The RX10 also benefits from a range of pleasing touches located around the body, such as the inclusion of a thread on the model’s shutter button that facilitates a mechanical cable release should you prefer that mode of operation to a remote alternative.
Another such feature is the model’s manual aperture ring, a feature that serious photographers will no doubt welcome. A nice touch here is the ability to turn off the physical clicks of the aperture ring so that it can be operated silently, a feature that will please videographers no doubt.
In terms of the button arrangement and various controls, it’s difficult to fault the RX10’s design in this regard. The camera body features a good selection of controls, all of which are placed logically.
The camera’s menu system is the same as that found in the various other RX cameras, and as such is similarly logical when it comes to changing the various camera settings.
Sony Cyber-shot RX10 Review – Performance
Although the RX10 is ostensibly a bridge camera, the price and build mean that you are constantly reminded more of a DSLR or compact system camera. The good news is that in terms of performance it’s not a disappointment.
The camera’s contrast-detect AF system might not be, on paper at least, as fast as either a DSLR or CSC, but in reality that’s not the case. The focus system is certainly in keeping with that on the RX100 II, although at the longer focal lengths there is a slight drop off in speed as you would expect.
As well as offering face detection focusing – along with a host of focus tracking modes – the RX10 also delivers an interesting pair of manual focus modes. This can be undertaken using the model’s zoom ring, or alternatively through using an electronic ‘fly-by-wire’ system that offers a 100% magnification on either the LCD or viewfinder to aid accuracy.
The RX10 also inherits the RX100 II’s metering system, and as a result delivers similarly impressive exposures. In the standard evaluative metering mode the RX10 delivers even exposures across a majority of scenes, although in slightly darker scenes it did have a tendency to overexposure but not alarmingly so.
Another area in which the RX10 impresses is with regards to its video performance. The combination of 1080p video capture at 30fps, along with the f/2.8 maximum aperture, provides a versatile combination for videographers.
There’s also the added benefit of the RX10 offering support for both an external microphone and headphones for audio monitoring, further evidence of the seriousness with which the RX10 takes video capture.
Sony Cyber-shot RX10 Review – Image Quality
Colour and White Balance
As mentioned previously, owing to the fact that the RX10 utilises the same sensor as the RX100 II, it’s safe to assume that they’ll produce similar results when it comes to images quality.
That’s certainly the case when it comes to the camera’s colour performance, as the RX10 produces images that are well saturated with a bright colour palette and a good level of contrast.
There are, of course, a host of picture styles that offer further control over the colours in an image, although the standard settings are more than effective straight out of the camera.
The RX10’s metering system performs well, and you can rely upon the model’s standard evaluative metering setting to deliver even exposures in a variety of conditions. There is a slight tendency to over-expose in dark scenes, although this is easily countered should you wish with exposure compensation.
The sensor also displays in impressive dynamic range, and it is only in particularly bright scenes that images displayed a tendency to blow out highlight detail.
The RX10’s 1in, 20.2MP sensor is capable of resolving an impressive amount of detail as you might expect.
At the base ISO of 100 the sensor resolves to around 27lpmm (lines per mm) on our test chart, and it continues to produce some impressive figured throughout the range. At a higher ISO of 800 the RX10 still manages to resolve at around 26lpmm, while even at the maximum standard ISO of 12,800 the RX10 resolves around 24lpmm
As stated, the RX10 handles noise well throughout the ISO range, still managing to render an impressive amount of detail at its highest base ISO setting.
Noise isn’t really an issue across the lower ISO settings, as is well controlled up to ISO 800. It’s not until ISO 3200 where noise really becomes an issue, with heavy luminance noise reduction resulting in softer images with less contrast.
However, if you’re happy to shoot Raw files then you can be confident shooting right up to the top base ISO setting of 12,800.
Raw vs JPEG
While there’s no denying that JPEG files are impressive straight out of the camera, as ever you’ll have more room for manoeuvre with Raw files. In terms of dynamic range, Raw files retains a lot of detail which is otherwise completely lost on JPEG files and therefore can be retrieved in post production.
Raw files also allow for sharper images at higher ISO settings owing to noise reduction applied to JPEG files at similar settings.
Sony Cyber-shot RX10 Review – Verdict
There’s no denying that the RX10 is something of a niche camera, in no small part due to a launch price that is some £600 more expensive than its nearest bridge competitor
The fact is, however, that you’re getting a whole lot of camera for that price tag. If you were to buy an equivalent to the 24-200mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss lens alone you’d be looking at a serious investment.
The RX10 also delivers on image quality, thanks to the impressive 1in sensor, while it’s also certainly a camera that delivers on the premium pitch in terms of design and overall feature-set.
So if you’re happy to meet the high price tag then the RX10 is worth serious consideration as it is probably the best bridge camera we’ve ever tested.
Sony Cyber-shot RX10 Review – Sample Image Gallery
These are just a small selection of sample images captured with the Sony Cyber-shot RX10. For a wider collection visit the Sony Cyber-shot RX10 review sample image gallery.