Grant McWilliams

Photography Goodbye Canon, hello Sony?

Goodbye Canon, hello Sony?

 

It's been a really long time since I wrote about photography. Generally I buy new cameras every year as new technology comes out and the driving force behind that is travel. As you probably know I like cameras that are able to fit in my pocket so it's always been a struggle to get a camera that's portable, takes good photos and has the features that I want.

Previous point and shoot Canons

My first digital camera was a Canon S230 with a 3.2 MP sensor and a 2x zoom. It was good enough for the time. That got replaced by a Canon SD500 with a 1/1.7" sensor (large for a Point and Shoot), a 3x zoom but no wide angle. I added a Canon G7 to that mix with the optional (and massive) wide angle lens. This lasted one trip until I knocked it lightly against some asphalt at while trying to take a photo of the Space Needle in Seattle. I never got it fixed.

The SD500 was replaced by an SD870 which got me Image Stabilization and a wide angle lens in a small package. The sensor was smaller but due to improved technology the image quality was equal to the SD500. That camera lasted me a few years until Canon reintroduced the S series. 

Canon S series

The Canon S90 almost single handedly created a new category of point and shoot cameras for more serious photographers. It had amazing low light performance, a wide angle lens, full manual controls, auto exposure bracketing and raw mode. The lens was reasonably fast on one end and not so fast on the other. All of this in a very small package. The S90 was replaced by the S95 which mainly fixed usability issues I outlined in my review. The S100 got a wider angle lens with a bit more reach. The S110 got wifi and a touchscreen (meh). The brand new S120 is almost exactly the same but with a better video mode. Note that every change since the S90 4 years ago has been very small. 


The problem with the incremental improvements Canon has made is that the world hasn't stood still in the last four years. Panasonic keeps churning out new LX cameras, Fujifilm's XF1 has a sensor that's 50% larger than Canon's. Sony has really changed the game with their RX100 which has a 1 inch sensor with nearly 3x the area of Canon's. Yes, these cameras cost more than Canon's but still occupy the same market. Sony's RX100 ii is being sold along side the previous generation RX100 with $150 separating them. This puts the new RX100 ii at $750 which is very high in my opinion. The good news is the original RX100 is now selling for $550. This is still quite high for a compact camera and is $150 higher than Canon's S120, Panasonic's LX-7 or Fugifilm's XF1. The RX100 ii customer is an odd one because that person could have bought a DSLR.

Sony RX100

The secret here is that I just purchases the previous generation RX100. The difference between the RX100 and the RX100 ii is a tilt LCD screen and a bit different back lit sensor. Are those things worth $150? I really don't think so. Is the RX100 worth $550? I'm not sure but the fact of the matter is it's the only compact camera with a sensor that large and I'm excited.

I already ordered the Richard Freniac grip for it. His grip for my S90 made it usable and cut down on my stress level drastically as I no longer had to worry about dropping it.

Comparison table (thanks to dpreview for the data)

 Sensor area, mm2
(dimensions)
Focal length rangeFocal length range (equiv.)Aperture rangeAperture range (equiv)*Dimensions (mm)
Canon S110 41
(7.4x5.6)
5.2-26mm 24-120mm F2.0-5.9 F9.3-27.4 99x59x27
Sony 
DSC-RX100
116
(13.2x8.8)
10-37mm 28-100mm F1.8-4.9 F4.9-13.4 101x58x36
Fujifilm XF1 58
(8.8x6.6)
6.4-25.6mm 25-100mm F1.8-4.9 F7.0-19.1 108x62x33
Panasonic DMC-LX7 34**
(6.7x5.1)
4.7-17.7mm 24-90mm F1.4-2.3 F7.1-11.7 111x68x46

The major advantage the RX100 has over these other cameras is the sheer size of the CMOS censor. At nearly three times the size of the S120 or Panasonic LX7. This allows more light to hit the sensor so you can take photos at a lower ISO resulting in a better photo. It makes a huge difference in low light situations. The lens on the RX100 is very fast on the long end (F1.8) but slows down just like the Fujifilm and Canon although the Canon is the worst.  It doesn't have the same amount of zoom but I find myself needing wide angle more than zoom so I'm OK with that.

I'll do a real review after I've had some time with it.

Photography Goodbye Canon, hello Sony?