Sony RX-100 Review

A new leader in compact camera choices for underwater photography
By Scott Gietler

The Sony RX-100 is an exciting option in the compact camera market. This very pocketable camera has become a staple for underwater use when paried with one of several RX-100 housings on the market. You can also check out our RX-100 M2 Review.

Read our review of the latest version: Sony RX100 IV Review.


sony RX-100 review


sony rx-100 underwater photography underwater housings
The height and width of the RX-100 is almost the same as the small, stylish Canon S100 which Sony has "mimicked". It is slightly thicker than the S100. The front & rear control dials, and the function button are highly configurable - I reassigned the function button to ISO


Sony RX-100 - amazing specs

Here's the specs, and I think they speak for themselves. Quite amazing for a compact camera!

  • Large sensor, 3x the size of a Canon S100 / G12 sensor

  • 20 megapixels - very nice!

  • RAW, full manual controls, etc. (read more about Raw vs JPEG, and about why manual controls are important in underwater photography)

  • Electronic shutter allows for shooting with flash at high shutter speeds

  • Bright F1.8  28 to 100mm lens

  • 1080p 60fps video, full manual controls during video; movies look great

  • Controls are highly configurable

  • Very nice panorama and HDR modes

  • Great high ISO performance (reading about using ISO underwater)

  • $649 in the US


Great details in photos when pixel-peeping

100% crop of a Sony RX-100 photo, taken underwater. The full-size photo of the wine bottle can be seen just below this photo. Given that this is a 100% crop, the detail is amazing. You can see individual lines & dots of the half-tone printing style on this wine bottle very clearly, even the tiniest lines are not blurring together at all. The demarcation between the different colors is also very clean and crisp.


Sony RX-100 - great TTL in manual mode


Shooting the RX-100 camera underwater with YS-D1 strobes in TTL mode. See photo above for 100% crop of this photo.


We tested the RX-100 camera underwater with the new Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobe. The results were great, the exposures in manual mode were very good, and the YS-D1 exposure compensation dial worked very well. 


Sony RX-100 - great wet lens options

Performance with the Dyron +7 and Subsee +5 macro lenses was great, and we got amazing detail by stacking the Dyron +7 with the Subsee +5.

See the new Rx-100 wet lens test results


Photo taken with the Dyron +7 macro lens


Photo taken with Subsee +5 macro lens


Dyron and Subsee lenses stacked, very nice~


Macro tests on land

The macro performance is not as good as the Canon S95, S100 or G12 - but is more than acceptable with a wet diopter. 

  • No diopter - takes photo 3 inches across

  • With Subsee +5,  takes photo 2.3 inches across

  • With Dyron +7, takes photo 1.4 inches across

  • With Subsee +10, takes photo 1.4 inches across

  • Dyron +7 and Subsee +5, takes photo 1.06 inches across

Captures things almost as small as protons & electrons.

Read more about the Subsee +10 diopter

Wide-angle wet lenses

This is one of the only compact cameras, other than the Canon S95, that has no vignetting with wet-mount fisheye lenses. Very nice!


No wide-angle lens used, camera at 28mm


Photo taken with Dyron fisheye lens, much wider!

sony rx-100 underwater photo
Photo taken with the Recsea RX-100 housing, Dyron 16mm fisheye lens. Very sharp! The dynamic range of this camera is quite impressive. It can capture all types of chemical reactions.


Sony RX100 Underwater Photos 

Sony RX100 underwater photo of Shrimp

Sony RX100 in Recsea housing, with strobe at F7, 1/250, ISO 200 

Sony RX100 Underwater Housing image of Octopus

Sony RX100 in Recsea housing, with strobe at F8, 1/125, ISO 200


Nauticam RX-100 underwater photo

Great dynamic range from the Sony RX-100!

nauticam sony rx-100 underwater housing

Great dynamic range and blue colors!

sony rx100 nauticam housing underwater photo

Beautiful lionfish photo taken by EunJae Im at 28mm with the Sony Rx-100, Nauticam housing.

sony rx-100 underwater photo with wet macro lens

Supermacro with the Nauticam housing, Subsee +10 diopter, great detail!

Sony RX-100 - tiny size, huge sensor

The RX-100 is about the same size as the Canon S95 or Canon S100, which means it is a truly pocketable camera. The sensor size is 3x the area of the Canon S100 or Canon G12 sensor, and about half the area as a mirrorless micro-four thirds camera sensor.


Sony RX-100 - focusing speed

Focusing speed is a little faster than other compact cameras like the Canon S100 or Canon G12. Some of our staff thought it focused significantly faster than other compacts. It is still not quite at the level of mirrorless cameras like the Olympus PEN, Panasonic GX1 or Sony NEX series.


Sony RX-100 - compared to S100, G12, Mirrorless cameras

If your main criteria is small size, great image quality, and good wet lens options, the RX-100 is the camera for you, if you don't mind spending a little more than you would for an S100 or G12 setup.

Mirrorless options from Olympus, Panasonic and Sony will be slightly larger, and cost more, but results with dedication macro and fisheye lenses will be better, and focusing will be faster.


Sony RX-100 battery life

The RX-100 is rated for 330 shots according to CIPA standards. This is much better than the 200 shots the Canon S95/S100 is rated for. The camera will last 2 entire dives underwater no problem, and may even last for 3 dives like the Canon G12 and the Sony NEX-5N does - but this will have to be tested.


Sony RX-100 flash recycle time

The RX-100 on land has an incredibly slow flash recycle time, especially on full power. So slow, in fact, that I thought this feature would kill the camera as an option for underwater photography. The camera has no hot shoe mount, so fiber optics must be used underwater to fire the strobe.

Luckily, the tests underwater with my Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobe were quite different. The camera flash recycled at an acceptable speed, and I was able to shoot at speeds in line with other compact cameras. Perhaps this is because the power of the YS-D1 strobe meant that the camera's internal flash didn't have to use as much power. The good news is - you are unlikely to miss an important shot. 


Sony RX-100 raw converter support

Adobe Lightroom now supports the RX-100 as of October 3rd 2012, so you no longer need to use Sony's raw converter, called Sony Image Data Converter.


Sony RX-100 Video Review

Check out Bluewater Photo's Sony RX-100 Video Review


Sony RX-100 underwater housing options

Our partner Bluewater Photo carries both the Recsea Sony RX-100 housing and also the Nauticam RX-100 housing. Both housings will be small, high quality aluminum housings with access to all of the controls. The Ikelite RX-100 underwater housing is an economical polycarbonate housing.

Check out Bluewater Photo's Sony RX-100 Housing Comparison Video



Further Reading & Resources



Scott Gietler is the owner of Bluewater Photo, Bluewater Travel, and the Underwater Photography Guide. Bluewater Photo, based in Culver City, CA is one of the world’s largest and most prestigious underwater camera stores, serving many thousands of customers each year, where nothing is more important than customer service. The Underwater Photography Guide is the world’s first website to feature free tutorials on underwater photography, and has become the most trafficked resource on underwater photography worldwide. Bluewater Travel is a full-service dive travel wholesaler sending groups and individuals on the world’s best dive vacations. 

Scott is also an avid diver, underwater photographer, and budding marine biologist, having created the online guide to the underwater flora and fauna of Southern California. He is the past vice-president of the Los Angeles Underwater Photographic Society, has volunteered extensively at the Santa Monica aquarium, and is the creator of the Ocean Art underwater photo competition, one of the largest underwater international photo competitions ever held in terms of value of prizes. He lives in California with his wife, newborn girl and scuba-diving, photo taking 4 year old son.

Follow Scott on Facebook or Instagram.


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