Sony RX100 M1: Lens
On this page, I would like to discuss one the specific characteristics
that lead us to buy the Sony RX100 M1, namely the lens. I investigate
what the available test results and the reviewers say, and I also offer
links to camera reviews.
Lens Characteristics in Short
The Sony RX100 M1 features a fixed Carl Zeiss® Vario-Sonnar T*
10.4-37.1mm (28-100 mm equiv.) f/1.8- f/4.9 lens with a
zoom range of 3.6x (7 elements in 6 groups, including AA lens). Thus, it offers
the equivalence of five "classic" prime
lenses: 28 mm, 35 mm, 50 mm, 70 mm, and 100 mm. Regrettably, it does not have
an electronic step zoom, as its successor provides. Manual distance and zoom
are set using buttons or using the control ring around the lens (this is configurable).
There are no marks on the lens, and the camera regrettably lacks distance
and depth of field indicators on the LCD screen.
Figures: The lens in "on" state from the front (left) and from above
The lens does not have a filter thread for attaching filters or close-up lenses,
but Sony offers an adapter that you can glue to the lens VFA-49R1 49-mm filter
Find more technical information about the lens below.
In-Camera Correction of Lens Deficits
All lens designs are a compromise between different requirements and therefore
have certain deficits - the Sony RX100 M1's lens is no exception to this rule.
Therefore, the lens's deficits are corrected in software for JPG images, but
not for RAW images (ARW format).
A Few Technical Data
|| Sony RX100 M1
|| Carl Zeiss® Vario-Sonnar T* 10.4-37.1
mm (28-100 mm equiv.)
7 elements in 6 groups ( including AA lens)
||Optical Zoom: 3.6 x, Clear (Image) Zoom: 7.2 x
Digital Zoom: 20 MP approx. 14 x / 10 MP approx. 20 x / 5 MP approx.
28 x / VGA approx. 54 x
|There are two types of digital zoom: Clear (Image) Zoom (higher quality,
lower range), and Digital Zoom (lower quality, wider range)
||Use the Sony filter adapter VFA-49R1 (or from other manufacturers) to
attach filters and close-up lenses
||From f/1.8 to f/11 (at 28 mm) / f/4.9 to f/11 (at 100 mm) in 1/3 EV increments
||The RX100 M1 lens is fairly slow at the tele end.
|Distance setting range
|| iAuto: AF (W: Approx. 5cm (0.16') to infinity, T:
Approx. 55 cm(1.80') to infinity) /
Program Auto: AF (W: Approx. 5cm (0.16') to infinity, T: Approx. 55 cm (1.80')
|Macro is only practically usable at the wide end.
|Smallest object field
||W: Approx. 7.5 x 5.7 cm (according to own tests - do not take this too
||Magnification: 0.165 (without close-up lens)
Maximum Aperture Versus Focal Length
This is what I found out (and many others):
Focal Length (mm)
Note: f/4.9 (f/4.9 starts between 70 mm and 100 mm).
This is what dpreview.com found
See the Lens Reviews below.
On the "Resolution"
9) of its review
of the Sony RX100 M1, dpreview.com reports a resolution
above 2600 LPPH for this camera (3648 LPPH would correspond to the number of
vertical pixels or the so-called Nyquest frequency, that is, the upper physical
limit). But is is hard for me to relate this number to other, more qualitative
test results that reveal soft corners and diffraction effects... The lens is
not as good as this number suggests. Here are two quotations from the camera
- Real-world tests, in which detail is often conveyed with more subtle tones,
aren't quite as spectacular as this test chart result would suggest. Even
so, it's an impressive result (page
- The RX100's lens is only really fast at its wide-angle end, meaning there's
no real scope for shallow depth-of-field photography. Add to this its lack
of built-in ND filter and, if you try to use its F1.8 setting, you'll quickly
hit the limits imposed by its ISO 125 base sensitivity and 1/2000th second
maximum shutter speed. Essentially that F1.8 figure is mainly useful for
low-light work (and making the camera look good on the shop shelf) (page
dpreview Studio Shot Comparison Tool - Old Version
Like the Ricoh GR, the Sony RX100 M1 was tested with dpreview's old studio
shot comparison tool.
The results are meant that you make up your own opinion on the lens...
dpreview Studio Shot Comparison Tool - New Version
More detailed test results can be found in the test of the Sony RX100 M2
review which uses the same lens. This camera was already tested with the new studio shot comparison tool, but there is no longer a "resolution" test. The
new test tool allows even a comparison with the RX100 M1, although there is
no direct access to the test shots for this camera:
Again, the results are meant that you make up your own opinion on the lens...
DxOMark tested the Sony RX100 M2, which uses the same lens as the RX100
M1, not the M1:
On the first
page, a summary of the lens's performance is given (with a few adaptations
and some deletions by me):
- Achieving an overall (average) DxOMark lens score of 12 points, the Zeiss
lens is a good performer overall, however the performance varies considerably
over the zoom range. ... The best
optical performance [is] achieved between 28 mm to 70 mm over the first two
stops (f/1.8 – f/5.6 effectively). At all other settings,
the lens performance drops below the ... average. Downsides include ... inconsistent
sharpness across the frame
- [The] score indicates good optical quality given the
sensor size. Throughout the range, sharpness is good in the center of the
frame and vignetting is reasonably well controlled.
On the "measurements"
page, I find the "DxOMark score map" and the "Sharpness field
map" most instructive.
On the latter, you can vary aperture (f-number) and focal length. There you
can investigate how diffraction sets in at larger f-numbers and also where
the lens performs best (at 28 mm equiv. between f/2.8 and f/5.6, in my opinion...).
The DxOMark results suggest not to go beyond f/8 for best image
BTW: It took me some practice to use these pages and to find what I wanted...
digitalkamera.de (Free and Pay Content)
The German photography Website digitalkamera.de published
of the Sony RX100 M1 (in German). Here is an excerpt of the result
for the lens:
- Die Auflösung erreicht bei allen Blendenstufen und Brennweiten im Bildzentrum
sehr gute über 40 Linienpaare pro Millimeter (lp/mm), das Maximum liegt
bei 48 lp/mm. Der Auflösungsverlust zum Bildrand hält sich in Grenzen
und liegt zwischen 20 und 30 Prozent. Die Auflösung liegt hier stets bei
oder über 30 lp/mm, im Maximum bei 38 lp/mm – und das wohlgemerkt
bei Offenblende im Weitwinkel. Extrem unscharfe Ecken sind bei der RX100
also nicht zu verzeichnen.
- Translated: The resolution achieved at all f-stops and focal lengths in
the image center very good about 40 line pairs per millimeter (lp/mm),
the maximum is 48 lp/mm. The loss of resolution for the corners is very
limited and is between 20 and 30 percent. The resolution here is always at
or above 30 lp/mm, the maximum at 38 lp/ mm - and this at maximum
aperture at wide angle. Extremely blurred edges were therefore not found
for the RX100
The lp/mm values have been scaled to 35 mm values, but I do not quite understand
what this means.
They also published thorough technical test of the Sony RX100 M1 (in German),
which can be downloaded for a fee from this
page. Since this is pay content, I can not report on this test here.
Some Quotations Regarding the Lens (From Reviews)
RX100 Review on Imaging Resource (page Optics):
- Geometric Distortion:
Very low distortion in camera JPEGs, much higher in uncorrected RAW files.
- Chromatic Aberration and Corner Sharpness:
Moderately low chromatic aberration at wide-angle; even lower levels at
full telephoto. The lens produced some soft corners wide-open, though
corner sharpness improved stopped-down.
RX100 Review (Amy Davies, TechRadar):
- Sony is keen to emphasise the quality of the lens attached to the RX100,
which is produced by Carl Zeiss and features T* coating. It performs very
well, with very little ghosting or flare to be found, even when shooting
in direct sunlight.
- The wide aperture is also fantastic when shooting in lower light conditions,
meaning you can still retain a lower sensitivity value with fast enough
shutter speeds to get blur-free images in reasonably dark conditions.
shooting at apertures such as f/8, we can evaluate the sharpness of the
lens. The RX100 is capable of delivering good quality images with lots of
detail retained up to the edges of the frame.
Image quality and resolution:
- As part of our image quality testing for the Sony RX100, we've shot our resolution
chart. If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100%
(or actual pixels), you will see that, for example, at ISO 100, the Sony RX100
is capable of resolving up to around 24 (line widths per picture height x100)
in its highest quality JPEG files.
>> That is, 2400 lines/picture height
RX100 camera review (Oleg Novikov, Oleg Novikov Photography):
- As Sony's marketing pitch suggests, the RX100 boasts a lens with a fast aperture
of f/1.8. Overall, however, the lens is not nearly as fast as the marketing
hype would have you believe. ... As you can see (see table above),
the lens is realistically fast only at the wide end.
- It has been reported elsewhere that image sharpness of the Sony RX100 is
a very mixed bag and varies greatly depending on the focal length and aperture
used. The good news, however, is that the pattern of the lens' performance
allows having a fairly clear-cut rule of thumb to get the best results possible
without too much fuss.
Image sharpness particularities at each crucial focal
length at infinity can be found on Novikovs's
review page. His summary is as follows:
- All things considered, the camera can deliver very intricate detail that is
plentiful for large prints - if you use the ideal settings, that is. If
you deviate from the optimal apertures, though, the high megapixel count of
the camera will be wasted. To summarise the above, here is the executive summary
for getting the best results in terms of image sharpness at the base ISO setting:
in low light, shoot at 28mm (equivalent) and f/1.8 - and do not be shy
to get closer to your subject! Otherwise, f/5.6 is the optimal aperture at
the wide end and f/8 is the best option at the longer end. In all instances,
avoid using f/11.
The following online reviews of the Sony RX100 M1 (and
successors) typically include
a review of the lens, albeit not as thorough as the reviews from DxOMark and