Have you seen the announcement today? The one of the new Sony RX100 compact camera? The Imaging Resource already has a full review and dpreview at least has a preview with a fair number of real-world shots, some of them at high ISOs going up to respectable ISO 6400.
Don’t let the Imaging Resource fool you. They’ve compared high ISO only at ISO 1600 and above, but that is not what’s really interesting. I own a Panasonic DMC-LX5, a fabulous compact 10 megapixel camera and rightfully a long-time leader of the premium pack, and I can tell you that ISOs higher than 400 were hardly usable. Even ISO 400 would sometimes break under heavy Photoshop treatment.
Now look at this ISO 640 lamp. Clean, huh? Oh, and it’s 20 megapixels, but at pixel level it is at least as clean as the LX5 at half the ISO.
Some barrels at ISO 1600 are about as clean as you would expect from a previous generation Olympus Micro Four-Thirds camera like the E-P2 that I’ve used for a few months.
The portrait of a young man at ISO 3200 would be perfectly usable for a good-sized print and certainly for any kind of web presentation.
Heck, even the ISO 6400 kitchen wall is disputable. It’s certainly not clean at 100%, but put through Topaz DeNoise, Topaz InFocus and finally downsized to 25% (still 1368×912) it looks gorgeous.
Sooooo, how good is this camera? How does it compare? On pixel level it is as good as last generation’s Micro Four-Thirds or for example a Nikon D200 DSLR (introduced 2006). Downsized to 12 megapixels it easily beats the Nikon D300 (introduced 2007).
OK, that’s about high ISO. And what else?
It can shoot RAW, has a 28-100mm eq. f1.8-4.9 stabilized zoom lens, it supports different aspect ratios, seems to have at least half-way sane ergonomics, sports a 1 inch sensor (same size as Nikon CX, twice the pixels), costs as much as an entry level DSLR or a medium level compact system camera, and all that at a size only slightly bigger than the Canon S100 and smaller than the Olympus XZ-1, weighing 213g – batteries included.
I expect it to have a few quirks and the reviews already indicate slow zooming (of the image) and some other user interface annoyances, but then, this is still a fixed lens compact camera, and a few years ago this meant it was unusable for anything but some holiday snaps. It seems we’ve come a long way 🙂
Will I buy one? Definitely not. I’ve just bought an Olympus OM-D E-M5, a perfect camera for everything I need, a worthy successor for my Nikon D300, and as a backup I still have the Panasonic LX5. I’ve used that camera for almost a year, and I love it dearly. If I were looking for a compact though …