The action camera world was shaken up a bit when the Sony RX0 was announced. Could Sony, one of the leading brands in developing new camera technology, really stick it to the industry leader GoPro with its new premium action camera?
What really grabbed the headlines was the Sony RX0’s massive 1-inch sensor, packed into a body that looks and feels like a regular action camera. The sensor is around 4x the size of those in other action cameras, so the RX0 image quality should outshine its rivals, particularly in low light.
Actually, the RX0 is not that simple. Read beyond the product images and you can soon see that it is an altogether different proposition to other action cameras like the GoPro Hero 6. It has its pros and its cons.
Sony itself points out that the RX0 is not an action camera (as we know it).
Other similarities include the fixed wide-angle lens. Then the camera is waterproof (down to 10m, IPX8 equivalent), shockproof (up to 2m) and crushproof (around 200kg). So really it’s the same as other action cameras, right?
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Sony RX0: Price
Sony RX0 (Specs)
- 15.3Mp 1″-type stacked CMOS sensor
- Bionz X processor
- ZEISS Tessar T* 24mm f/4 lens
- Fixed f/4 aperture
- Up to 1/3200sec anti-distortion shutter
- 25-point contrast-detection AF system
- 1.5″ Clear Photo TFT LCD with 230,400 dots
- 16fps continuous shooting
Sony RX0: Features
The Sony DSC-RX0 features a 20mp 1inch BSI CMOS sensor, which produces 15mp, 3:2 aspect ratio images. The lens is a wide-angle Zeiss Tessar T* 24mm equivalent (in 35mm equivalent terms), with a fixed aperture of f/4. On the back of the camera is a 1.5inch, 4:3 aspect screen with a resolution of 230K dots.
The ultra-compact size of the RX0, 10m waterproof rating, 2m shockproof and 200kg crushproof ranking, means it can be used as an action camera mounted in precarious locations, for example, used on a drone, on a weather balloon, or on a car, and more. The RX0 Weighs 110g with battery and memory card, and measures 59.0×40.5×29.8mm.
Shooting modes available include: iAuto (intelligent Auto), iAuto+, Program, Manual, MR (Memory Recall), iAuto Video, P Video, Manual Video, and High Frame Rate Video.
Manual controls are available, although you can’t change the aperture, as this is fixed at f/4. You can shoot raw and JPEG images. ISO125 to ISO12800 is available for stills and video, which extends to ISO25600 when using the multi-frame noise reduction option (JPEG only) – this combines a number of shots to reduce noise levels. Manual focus is also available, with focus peaking.
Video is recorded at an answer of FullHD, with frame rates of 25, 50 and 100fps available. If you want to record 4K video, then you’ll need to use an external recorder connected to the HDMI port. The dual video recording choice becomes obtainable when recording at 25fps so that you can record both to internal memory, and an exterior recorder at the same time.
High Frame Price (HFR) mode records high-speed video at 250, 500 or 1000fps, for 10x, 20x or 40x slow-motion playback. The higher the frame rate, the lower the resolution recorded by the camera, however, it is all scaled up and documented as a 1920×1080 (FullHD) video.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are built-in to let you control the camera from a smartphone or tablet. You can use multiple RX0 cameras, to shoot different angles, with the Sony Play Memories Mobile remote app letting you control up to 5 digital cameras at a time. Sony is developing a wireless and wired solution so that you can control more than 5 cameras.
The menus are similar to other Sony Alpha and Cyber-shot cameras, and you need quite good eye-sight to read the text on the small screen.
On the rear, next to the screen is a cover for the HDMI, MicroUSB, MicroSD (and M2) memory card slot, plus a microphone socket to be able to connect an external microphone. Underneath is a standard 1/4inch tripod socket, making it easy to use with any digital camera tripods and accessories.
The RX0 uses a Sony NP-BJ1 (700mAh) battery, and the camera can be used with an external electric battery charger/power source connected. The camera battery is charged using the MicroUSB connection.
Sony RX0: Handling
On top is the power button and shutter release switch. The shutter launch button is also used to start and stop video recording when in the video mode. If you intend to use the camera as both stills and video camera, then having just one shutter button could be a little frustrating, as getting a separate photo and video buttons would have made it quicker to switch between shooting stills and movie. Switching between the shooting modes don’t take too long, but is slower than having dedicated buttons for stills/movie.
The main controls are on the back of the camera, with up/down, left/right buttons, plus a menu and OK/select button. The up key doubles as a display button, down can be used to enter playback, and right is a Fn button, when not in the menus. The camera body is made out of Duralumin, a toughened aluminium metal, which means it can withstand rough treatment, however, the screen is not scratch resistant, so some care needs to be taken to protect this.
It doesn’t take too long to get used to the controls on the camera, although the buttons are quite small, and the screen is also small, making text and icons potentially difficult to see if you have poor eyesight.
Viewing angles for the screen are very good, and the screen is clear (despite the small size) with good colour saturation. Viewing the screen in bright sunlight can be a little difficult (as with most cameras). The screen is not a touch-screen.
Pressing the Fn button brings up the Quick Functions menu overlay, which is where you can select the shooting mode, plus change a number of settings, including: ISO, Drive, Metering, Focus, White Balance (WB), Focus area, Creative Style (Contrast, Saturation, Sharpness), Shutter speed, Picture profile, Exposure compensation and Image Quality.
The battery is rated at 700mAh, which Sony says is capable of shooting 240 shots or recording 35 minutes of video. To extend this you can connect an external power source, such as a USB charger.
Sony RX0: Performance
The closest focus distance is 50cm which means that the camera struggles to take close-up photos of small objects. After shooting with cameras that feature some form of image stabilisation, it’s a little disappointing to find the RX0 doesn’t feature any form of picture stabilisation, so you will need to keep an eye on the shutter speed to avoid image shake
Image quality is good, particularly at lower ISO speeds, where you can see excellent detail. Images are sharp into the corners of the frame, and there are very low levels of distortion, with the camera automatically correcting this in digital camera. As the ISO velocity increases, detail is lost due to noise reduction. Thanks to the large sensor, images taken at high ISO speeds (up to ISO6400) are quite good, and still usable. Contrast can be dropped when shooting in to the sun, although the lens is quite resistant to flare.
Dynamic range is usually good on default settings when using the DRO (Dynamic Range Optimisation) setting. Using the HDR mode (which combines a number of shots instantly in-camera) can result in a slightly softer image, however, the additional dynamic range and colour saturation make the pictures pop.
Sony RX0: Video Performance
The RX0 records FullHD video to a memory card, using XAVC S HD, AVCHD, MP4 compression formats. There are stereo microphones built-in to the camera. If you want to record 4K video, you’ll need to use an external recorder, such as an ATOMOS.
Pan Focus and Manual Concentrate (with focus peaking) are available in the movie mode, but not auto-focus. When using Pan Focus it’s possible to switch to near concentrate (0.5-1m). The high-speed video modes don’t record sound.
Video recording will benefit from the make use of some form of stabilisation (whether that’s a tripod or gimbal), as the camera does not feature electronic image stabilisation.
Sony RX0: Specifications
• 1 inch sensor
• 24mm f/4 Zeiss Tessar lens
• 15.3MP (effective) still images, up to 16fps
• 4k 4:2:2 videos via HDMI output to external recorder only
• S-Log2 Picture Profile
• Up to 960fps HFR (High Frame Rate) videos
• 1.5in the screen, not touch-sensitive
• Waterproof down to 10m without housing, 2m shockproof, 400lb crushproof
• No image stabilization
• Built-in mic port
• Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth with control of up to five RX0’s
• Sync up to 100 RX0’s
• Loads of optional extras
Sony RX0: Conclusion
In one sense, the Sony RX0 is in its own category which makes it very difficult to judge. It’s a part action camera, part compact camera, part multi-camera rig/ B-Roll/ C-Roll/ behind the scenes digital camera. After deliberation, our ratings and conclusions have to be based on the RX0 being more like an action camera than any other type of camera. Think of it as a Sony Cyber-Shot RX100, in the shell of an actions digital camera with a mic port. The larger sensor and sharp 24mm f/4 lens give superior image quality for still images. No other action camera comes close. This quality is complemented by some neat shooting modes, like the 16fps burst mode. Then there is the tough build quality with no need for housing, plus connectivity options including an external mic.