Sony Cyber-shot RX100: Big sensor, big price

Sony is targeting the high-end compact camera market with its latest release – the Cyber-shot RX100. This is the first time the company has produced a compact camera with a large sensor, which they say is the world’s first1 1.0-type 20.2 effective megapixel sensor.

Usually a big sensor means a bigger body and lens, but Sony has managed to keep its new baby little bigger than the Canon PowerShot 100, one of the best compacts on the market at the moment. The sensor cannot compete with those found in DSLRs, but it’s certainly at the top of the tree for compacts.

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Looks-wise the camera is made out of aluminium and has a sleek design, and at its heart is the world’s first1 1.0-type Exmor CMOS sensor with a resolution of 20.2 effective megapixels. The sensor has an area that’s around four times larger than the 1/2.3-type imager in your average point-and-shoot snapper, which means it can capture far more light than small-sensor cameras. So you should get beautiful, detail packed images as well as Full HD movie clips with very low noise.

And what about the lens? Well that’s a Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T lens with 3.6x optical zoom range. There is also a very large F1.8 maximum aperture, which lets in more light to complement the resolving power of the CMOS sensor.

The aluminium body looks sleek and stylish, and if you’re a DSLR user you’ll like the control ring that surrounds the lens body and lets you use fingertip adjustment for exposure, zoom, ‘Picture Effect’ and other functions. In fact for DSLR users, the RX100 makes a good, pocketable, second camera.

So that’s some of the technical stuff – let’s get down to what you really want – the pricetag. Here’s a clue – the camera is being plugged as “the professional’s compact camera”, so sit down now.

The camera will sell for around £579, which means it’s one of the most expensive fixed-lens cameras we’ve seen. You could, for instance, buy an entry-level DSLR or a compact interchangeable-lens snapper with a kit lens for the same price. But if you want power in a pocketable snapper, this sounds like the one to choose.

The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 will be available at the end of July 2012.

Sony announces HX100V and HX9V cameras

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Sony has announced two megazoom cameras, which it claims will allow photographers to snap away with a bigger zoom, while experiencing less blur. The two high-end cameras come from the Cyber-shot stable and are dubbed the HX100V and HX9V.

The HX100V boasts a massive 30x zoom, while the HX9V offers a still-impressive 16x zoom. However, both offer Full HD video, have a dedicated button to start recording, and are capable of capturing speedy action thanks to their 1920 x1080 50p capability.

Both cameras have a 16.2 megapixel CMOS sensor, and the flagship HX100V has a Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonar lens that features a T* coating to pretty much eliminate flare. With its powerful zoom lens, and anti-flare properties it will appeal to those going on holiday, taking photos of sports events or wildlife. The camera has the shape and feel of a DSLR, while the HX9v is smaller and lighter, and carries a high-performance 24mm G-Lens with 16x zoom capabilities for a pretty decent all-round snapper.

Optical SteadyShot with Active Mode is found on both cameras to allow the user to zoom in and still produce blur-free images – telephoto lenses are notorious for exposing camera shake.

3D technology also gets a look-in, with both cameras featuring three 3D shooting modes – 3D Sweep Panorama, 3D Still Image and Sweep Multi Angle. And in a Cyber-Shot first, there is an Intelligent Sweep Panorama High Resolution mode – press the shutter and sweep around to capture panoramic pictures at a resolution of 10480×4096.

Both cameras boast high-speed autofocus (as quick as 0.1 seconds) and a nifty mode called Background Defocus – this combines two frames to create a crisp foreground with a smooth, blurred background.

For photographers who like that touch more control, the HX100V has a manual control ring for adjusting focus or zoom, particularly useful for macro photography.

And here’s an intriguing add-on for anyone who has a lot of parties, or takes pictures at a number of events. The DS1 Party Shot is a docking station that allows your cameras to track subjects in the scene and then take candid shots of them. The Party Shot works by recognising faces in the scene and then tilting, panning and zooming to get the best shot. The docking station is compatible with the HX9V. A bit pricey at anything upwards of 100 quid, but it could prove priceless the morning after the night before…

Make someone snap-happy this Christmas

Whatever your budget, you should be able to pick up some great gifts this Christmas for everyone from the keen amateur photographer to the kids.
Shop around online for some excellent prices.

Canon-EOS60D

Compact cameras

For a point-and-shoot camera, you can’t go wrong with the Canon Powershot A300 IS. It delivers clear images (it has 12.1MP onboard) and will also be a good choice for anyone who is already familiar with Canon’s DSLRs. It doesn’t have loads of bells and whistles, but if you want a camera that is easy to use and delivers on results you can’t go far wrong. And you should be able to pick one up for less than £80.

High-end compact

If you’ve got more cash to spend, the higher price compacts boast more in the way of functionality and video facilities. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC W390 has a 14.1MP processor, a 24-90mm zoom, and its Sweep Panorama mode, which allows you to produce extra-wide panoramic pictures just by pressing the shutter and sweeping the camera across the scene. Great fun if you’re going to use it. Around £189.99.

Creative compacts

There are lots of keen photographers who love their DSLRs, but just find them too bulky to carry around al the time. The answer is a creative compact – they don’t come cheap, but they offer the kind of control previously only found on big cameras.

The Fujifilm FinePix HS10 is what’s called a superzoom camera – it offers a massive 30x zoom, which makes it ideal for wildlife and sports photography, and in many respects is just like a DSLR. So it could replace your DSLR, and with 1080p video recording, could also mean you don’t need to carry a video camera either. It was £375 on release, but a few months later, you can easily knock a hundred pounds off the price if you search online. Good luck!

For a smaller model, check out the Panasonic Lumix LX3. With raw capture, a Leica 24-60mm lens and HD video for around £380, as well as excellent image quality and good autofocus, along with a good build quality.

DSLR

Prices for DSLRs range from around £400 right up to the near-£2,000 mark.

If your budget’s tight and you can’t stretch to a Canon or Nikon (which we’ll get to in a minute), you could consider the Pentax K-r. Pentax has always been runner-up to the big names, but actually produces some decent cameras, and the K-r offers good image quality, and 720 HD video recording, although this has had some mixed reviews. Bear in mind that you won’t get the wide range of lenses on offer for Canons and Nikons, but it’s a decent entry-level camera all the same – for around £440.

If you love your loved one very much, splash out rather more on the Canon 60D (pictured), with 18Mp processor, Full HD video and a flip-out LCD screen. It remains quite compact and lightweight for a DSLR, and it comes in at around £800 for body only.

If you’ve got a couple of hundred quid more to splash out (and if so, can I give you my address?) you could go for a Nikon D300s, which has been praised both for image quality and the speed with which it an be adjusted to take the next shot. Excellent build quality as we’ve come to expect from Nikon, and 720p video recording also thrown in.

Sony Cyber-shot TX5: water, dust, shock and frost proof!

Sony have just announced their latest and greatest, the Cyber-shot TX5 and are heavily touting it as being “everything proof”. The TX5 can take on water, dust, shock, cold and just about everything else bar T1000s. According to Sony the TX5 can withstand drops of 1.5 m, although I have no desire to test this. It’s also pretty svelte, at just 17.7 mm slim.

I’ve lost a few cameras to Earth, Wind & Fire over the years, so a robust stills and video camera sounds ideal. With the ability to attach harnesses to bicycles and photograph commutes, record underwater adventures, or even just to capture the diluvian British Summer the TX5 widen the number of photographic possibilities available to the average photographer significantly.

Other than rock solid reliability the TX5 boasts a fairly standard set of features for this generation of high end point and clicks. 10.2 megapixels, 4x optical zoom with 25mm wide angle Carl Zeiss lens and 720p HD movie shooting. It is also fitted with a ·7.5cm (3”) wide Clear Photo LCD touch screen – in a similar fashion to the new Canon Ixus. This apparently works underwater and with gloves, a feature my frost bitten figures where crying out for as I scaled Zakopane in Southern Poland last month.

Intelligent Sweep Panorama a feature found on Cyber-Shots has been enhanced. By simply pressing the shutter button once and sweep the camera across the scene automatically stitches together a burst of high resolution frames to create a panoramic image, even if people are moving. Face Detection, Smile Shutter and Intelligent Auto mode for hassle free shoots in any situation are also included. Best of all, like all models in the 2010 Cyber-shot™ line-up, the TX5 frees you from the tyranny of Memory Sticks and allows you to use SD or SDHC cards.