Which is Better the Sony RX100 or the Canon S100?

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The compact camera market remains very completive with all of the major camera manufacturers offering a wide variety of excellent cameras that appeal to photographers at all levels.  Despite numerous upgrades, the Sony RX100 and the Canon S100 series of cameras remain very popular due to their simplicity and excellent image quality in a small and lightweight package that will not break the bank.

The Similarities

The Sony RX100 and the Canon S100 share a number of similarities beginning with the use of an aluminum case, which provides a very solid feel in both cameras that can withstand a fair amount of abuse in the field.  The cameras also feel great in the hand and are both responsive and comfortable to handle, even for extended periods of time.

Technically the cameras are similar in many regards including not utilizing either an optical or electronic viewfinder.  Instead images are composed on the 3.0” fixed rear LCD display, which provides 100% coverage of the image being composed.  The rear LCD screen is also used to preview images, as well as to navigate the camera’s extensive menus.

Images are saved as either RAW or JPEG files on SD, SDHC or SDXC memory cards, which are found on the cameras’ single memory slot.  In the case of the RX100, memory storage options include a proprietary memory stick as well.  Images can be captured at on the RX100 at 10 frames per second, while the S100 is slightly slower at 8 frames per second.

ISO range of the two cameras is similar with the RX100 having a native range of 125 – 6,400 compared to the S100’s range of 80 – 6,400.  In both cameras, it is advisable to keep ISO setting under 800 to keep the image quality acceptable, as image quality decreases in both cameras at high ISO settings, as image detail is eliminated as the camera’s software reduces noise.

Other similarities include a built-in flash, as well as various exposure, scene and picture modes which will allow the photographer a great deal of flexibility in operating the camera, as well as composing the images.  These settings are both useful as well as easy to use, which contribute to the fun factor of both cameras!  In both cameras, the menus are easy to navigate and intuitive as well.

As with most cameras, the RX100 and the S100 have significant video capability, with both cameras being cable of recording video in various formats including HD with a frame size of 1,920 x 1,080.  While speeds, as measured as frames per second, vary depending on the format selected, the RX100 is capable of recording at 50 frames per second compared to 24 frames per second on the S100.

The Differences

The Sony RX100 and the Canon S100 share a number of differences beginning with the size of the sensor.  The RX100 uses a larger 1” sensor, while the S100 uses a 1/1.7” sensor.   In the case of the RX100, the Exmore CMOS sensor measures 13.2mm x 8.8mm compared to the Canon S100’s sensor, which measures 7.74mm x 5.58”.  The image quality of the larger 1” sensor found in the RX100 is significantly better.

Other significant differences b between the two cameras include the use of a slightly faster f/1.8 lens in the RX100 compared to the S100’sf/2.0.   While the S100 has a 5X optical zoom resulting in a 35mm equivalent of 24mm – 120mm, the Zeiss lens found on the RX100 is superior despite only having an optical zoom of 3.6X and a 35mm equivalent of 28mm – 100mm.

One of the unique features found on the S100 is the incorporation of a GPS receiver, which allows the photographer the ability to geo-tag images.  While this feature was first considered a gimmick, it has proven to be a very useful feature and is a big miss on the Sony RX100.  Neither camera has wireless capability.

Another difference between the two cameras is he incorporation of the “C” setting on the S100.  This setting allows the photographer to save a user-defined setting in the camera’s memory, which can be instantly recalled by simply turning the dial.  In the field this is a very useful feature and is rarely found on any compact camera including the RX100.

While the S100 is slightly smaller at than the RX100, at 3.9” x 2.34” x 1.05 compared to the RX100’s 4.0” x 2.29” x 1.41”, the RX100 is significantly lighter, weighing in at 3.8 ounces compared to the 6.10 ounces of the S100.  In the field the smaller size of the S100 is not noticeable, while the lighter weight of the RX100 is definitely noticeable.

In general, both cameras have a maximum shutter speed of 1/2,000 of a second.  However, the RX100 only has a minimum shutter speed of 4 seconds compared to the S100’s 15 seconds.  In both cameras, the shutter speeds are acceptable for compact cameras but are not fast enough for serious sports or action.

Another difference that is significant is the battery life of the two cameras.  In the case of the RX100, the number of still images that can be captured on a single charge is approximately 330, while then S100 is rated at approximately 220 images.  With both cameras, it is recommended that a spare battery be carried on extended shooting sessions.

The Pros and Cons

As with all cameras there is no such thing as the perfect camera and the RX100 and the S100 are no different.  Every photographer considering either of these cameras will need to weigh the positive and negative feature of each camera when deciding which camera best meets their style of photography.

In the case of the Sony RX100, the most significant pro is the outstanding image quality, which is truly amazing for a compact camera.  Although a compact camera, the 1” sensor found in the RX100 really sets itself apart from the S100 in a wide variety of shooting conditions.

As far as “cons” are concerned, the biggest negative feature of the RX100 is the lack of a dedicated viewfinder.  Dedicated optical or electronic viewfinders are “must have” features in advanced digital cameras even if they are compact cameras.  Sony realized this and introduced a dedicated electronic viewfinder in the Mark III version of the RX100.

In regards to the positive aspects of the S100, the camera is the excellent value.  Although replaced by the S110 and the S120, the S100 remains a very capable camera that is available at $329.95 and represents an excellent value for such an advanced point and shoot camera.  In many ways, Canon’s S series of cameras have served as the benchmark that all compact cameras are measured against.

While the S100 remains an excellent camera, the most significant negative feature of the camera is its age.   First introduced in 2011, the S100 has been replaced by a number of follow-up cameras offered by both Canon, as well as other manufacturers.  While 5 years may not seem as a significant amount of time, it is a lifetime in regards to digital camera technology.

Just the Facts, A side-By-Side Comparison

While most serious photographers look at image quality over technical specifications, many feel that the specifications are equally important.  The Sony RX100 and the Canon S100 both have excellent image quality, as well as technical specifications, which are shown in the table below.

Item Sony RX100 Canon S100
Year Introduced 2012 2011
Format 1” 1/1.7”
Megapixels 20.2 12.1
Sensor Type 1” Exmor CMOS 1/1.7” Canon CMOS
Processor BIONZ DIGIC 5
Image Format RAW Or RAW RAW Or RAW
Sensor Size 13.2mm x 8.8mm 7.44mm x 5.58mm
Lens Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* F1.8 Canon f/2.0
35mm Equivalent Focal Length 28mm x 100mm 24mm – 120mm
Optical Zoom 3.6X 5.0X
Modes Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual Smart Auto, Program AE, Shutter Priority AE, Aperture Priority AE, Manual, Custom, Scene, Photo Effects, Movie
Picture / Scene Modes Portrait, Anti Motion Blur, Sports Action, Pet Mode, Gourmet, Macro, Landscape, Sunset, Night Scene, Handheld Twilight, Night Portrait, Fireworks, High Sensitivity, Toy Camera, Pop Color, Posterization, Retro Photo, Soft High-Key, Partial Color, High Contrast Mono, Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Richtone Monochrome, Miniature, Watercolor, Illustration Movie Digest, Portrait, Landscape, Kids & Pets, Smart Shutter, High Speed Burst, Handheld Night Scene, Beach, Underwater, Foliage, Snow, Fireworks, Stitch Assistance, High Dynamic Range, Nostalgic, Fish Eye Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Color Accent, Color Sweep
Face / Smile Detect Yes Yes
View Finder Type None None
Live View Yes Yes
Frames Per Second 10 8
ISO 125 – 6,400 80 – 6,400
Shutter Speed Range 1/2,000 – 4 Seconds 1/2,000 – 15 Seconds
Built In Flash Yes Yes
Card Slots 1 1
Card Type SD, SDHC, SDXC & Various Sony Proprietary Memory Sticks SD, SDHC, SDXC
Rear LCD Size 3.0” 3.0”
LCD Fixed or Swivel Fixed Fixed
Video Yes Yes
Video Type 1,920 x 1,080 At 50 Frames Per Second; Other Formats As Well 1,920 x 1,080 At 24 Frames Per Second; Other Formats As Well
Video Format AVCHD MOV
GPS No Yes
Wireless No No
Battery NP-BX1 NB-5L
Battery Life Per Charge +/- 330 Images +/- 200 Images
Moisture And Duct Resistant No No
Body Construction Aluminum Case Aluminum Case
Unique Features Larger Sensor Than Most Compact Cameras “C” Setting
Included Items Sony RX100 Camera, NP-BX1 Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Pack, AC-UD10 AC Adaptor. Micro USB Cable, Wrist Strap, Shoulder Strap Adaptor, Instruction Manual Canon S100, NB-5L Battery Pack, CB-2LX Battery Charger, WS-DC11 Wrist Strap, IFC-400PCU USB Interface Cable, Digital Camera Solution CD-ROM
Size  4.0” x 2.29” x 1.41” 3.9” x 2.34” x 1.05”
Weight 3.8 Ounces 6.10 Ounces
Manufactured In China Japan
Cost $499.99

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*Information from both Sony and Canon websites, including pricing.

The Final Frame: My Overall Recommendation

The Sony RX100 and the Canon S100 are both excellent cameras that feature some of the best features in current digital camera technology.   Although older, both cameras remain relevant among the current digital cameras being offered by the major manufacturers.  That being said, I prefer the Sony RX100 to the Canon S100 due to the excellent image quality that the Sony RX100 provides despite not having an optical or electronic viewfinder.  While both cameras have excellent image quality, the images provided by the Sony RX100, as a result of the larger sensor, are definitely superior to the images of the Canon S100.

While both cameras have been replaced by updated versions, the Sony RX100 and the Canon S100 remain very relevant cameras and represent an excellent value for any photographer looking for a high-end compact camera with excellent image quality!

The Camera Guide Team

The Camera Guide Team is a group of writers, shutterbugs, and professional photographers. We know the challenge of looking through different cameras or accessories. We want you to learn everything about cameras. We provide honest reviews, detailed guides, and helpful comparisons. We have everything you need. We are here to help you find the perfect click.

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