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Sony Cyber-shot RX100 Ken McMahon, October 2012
 
 

Sony RX100 vs Panasonic LX7 vs Canon G1 X noise

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  Sony CyberShot RX100 results
1 Sony RX100 Quality
2 Sony RX100 RAW Quality
3 Sony RX100 Noise
4 Sony RX100 RAW Noise
5 Sony RX100 Sample images

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions , I shot this scene with the Sony Cyber-shot RX100, Panasonic Lumix LX7, and the Canon PowerShot G1 X within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings at each of their ISO sensitivity settings. You can see a RAW comparison on the next page.

The zoom settings on the cameras were adjusted to provide an aproximately equal vertical field of view. The Cyber-shot RX100 and PowerShot G1 X were set to their maximum 28mm equivalent focal length. The Lumix LX7 was zoomed in slightly to 28mm equivalent.The cameras were set to Aperture Priority mode with the ISO senstivity set manually.


The above shot was taken with the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 in Aperture priority mode with the lens set to its maximum 28mm wide angle position. 80 ISO was selected and at f4 the camera metered an exposure of half a second. The original file measured 5.43MB and the crops are taken from the area marked by the red rectangle.

With a sensor size significantly larger than traditional compacts you'd expect the Sony RX100 to perform impressively in comparison with point-and-shot models, but its 1in sensor is smaller than Micro four thirds and APS-C sensors found in consumer system cameras plus it has a high 20.2 Megapixel resolution. When you put all those factors together how do they add up in terms of overall noise performance?

At the lower ISO ratings the RX100 crops look very clean with little evidence of noise and high levels of detail. The 100 ISO crop doesn't look a great deal different to the 80 ISO one. The 200 ISO crop is also very impressive, there may be a tiny bit more texture in here, but you have to look very closely to find it. At 400 ISO there's definitely some texture, but it's still minimal and even at 800 ISO the text is only just beginning to look a little granular round the edges. For a 20.2 Megapixel sensor the Sony RX100 is doing impressively well up to this point.

At 1600 ISO the noise is beginning to affect not only the small detail, the edges are not as solid as they were. The grain is uniform and pleasantly organic looking though. Noise levels are only one part of the story and RX100's processing succeeds in keeping the noise to a minimum without adversely affecting the image detail. At 3200 ISO things are starting to look very patchy, but the text on the memorial panel retains some legibility and at smaller sizes this doesn't look bad at all. At 3200 and 6400 ISO there are small drops in colour saturation and, as you can see from the 6400 ISO crop not much fine or medium detail is unaffected.

Overall, this is an excellent result for the RX100 showing that's it is possible to squeeze very good noise perfomance from a high resolution sensor of this size throughout the ISO sensitivity range.

Compared with the Panasonic Lumix LX7 there isn't much in it at the lower sensitivites up to around 400 ISO, but the smaller sensor in the LX7 can't match the RX100 and starts to fall behind from there on. At 3200 ISO I'd put the LX7 about a stop behind the RX100. But it's the PowerShot G1X with the largest sensor area and lowest photosite density of the three that, perhaps unsurprisingly, is a clear winner in terms of high ISO noise performance.

It is however important to note we're comparing identical ISO values in the crops below, and this may not be reflective of how the cameras would compare under real life conditions. When all three cameras are zoomed out, they have maximum apertures of f1.4 for the LX7, f1.8 for the RX100 and f2.8 for the G1 X. If all three were taking the same photo under the same lighting conditions with the same shutter speed, then the LX7 could employ a lower ISO thanks to its brighter aperture. For example, when the LX7 is shooting at 100 ISO, the RX100 would need to use 160 ISO and the G1 X 400 ISO, again under the same conditions and shutter speed. Zoom all three to their maximum focal lengths and when the LX7 is shooting at 100 ISO, the RX100 is shooting at around 400 ISO and the G1 X at over 500 ISO, again under the same conditions and shutter speed. This two stop advantage over the G1 X pretty much throughout the focal range and over the RX100 when zoomed-in allows the LX7 to shoot with lower ISOs under the same conditions, so always take this into account when comparing their noise results. To be fair the Canon and Sony are capturing higher resolution images, which could always be downsampled to the LX7's 10 Megapixels to reduce the size of their noise artefacts, but the important thing to remember is the noise advantage of a large sensor can be diminished by a slow lens.

Returning to the results, the RX100 has Handheld Twilight mode which, like handheld Night Shot on the Lumix LX7 and Handheld Night Scene on the PowerShot G1 X sets the exposure and ISO sensitivity automatically, so it's difficult to make comparisons other than to see what you'd get using this mode as opposed to one of the single shot high ISO options and to see how each camera deals with the same lighting conditions. I should point out here that the Cyber-shot RX100 also has Multi-Frame noise reduction that does allow manual setting of the ISO sensitivity. To see it action, scroll down to my Sony RX100 Multi-frame noise reduction results, or head over to my Sony RX100 RAW noise results to see how all three cameras compare in their RAW mdoes. Alternatively check out my Sony RX100 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.

The second table shows 100 percent crops from shots taken in Multi-Frame Noise Reduction mode compared with default JPEGs at the same ISO sensitivity. Multi-Frame Noise Reduction mode takes a fast burst of shots and composits them to produce a single image with less noise. As you can see from the crops, from about 400 ISO up the Multi-Frame Noise Reduction crops are a great improvement on the single frame shot with less noise and more detail, though they are slightly softer. It's not for every subject, it won't cope well with movement, but in situations like my church interior test location it's ideal and has the added advantage of extending the sensitivity range to 25600 ISO. Though, to be fair, the quality of the last two crops shows a marked deterioration from the 6400 ISO setting.


Sony Cyber-shot RX100
 
Panasonic Lumix LX7
 
Canon PowerShot G1 X
80 ISO
80 ISO
80 ISO Not available
100 ISO
100 ISO
100 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
6400 ISO
6400 ISO
6400 ISO
12800 ISO Not Available
12800 ISO
12800 ISO
Hand-held Twilight 125 ISO
Handheld Night Shot 250 ISO
Handheld NightScene 1000 ISO

 

Sony RX100 (JPEG using in-camera defaults
 
Sony RX100 (Multi-Frame Noise Reduction
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
     
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
     
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
     
6400 ISO
6400 ISO
     
12800 ISO Not Available
12800 ISO
     
25600 ISO Not Available
25600 ISO

Sony Cyber-shot RX100 results : Quality / RAW vs JPEG / Noise
/ RAW Noise


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