Sony RX100 M1: Lens

Lens Characteristics in Short | A Few Technical Data | Lens Reviews | Some Quotations Regarding the Lens (From Reviews) | References

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 (right)

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 adapter).

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

Data Sony RX100 M1 Comment
Lens Carl Zeiss® Vario-Sonnar T* 10.4-37.1 mm (28-100 mm equiv.) f/1.8-f/4.9

7 elements in 6 groups ( including AA lens)

 
Zoom 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)
Filter diameter None Use the Sony filter adapter VFA-49R1 (or from other manufacturers) to attach filters and close-up lenses
Aperture range 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') to infinity)
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 seriously) Magnification: 0.165 (without close-up lens)

Maximum Aperture Versus Focal Length

This is what I found out (and many others):

Focal Length (mm)
Equivalent
28 35 50 70 100
Actual 10.4 13.0 18.5 25.9 37.1
Maximum f-Number 1.8 2.8 3.2 4.0 4.9

Note: f/4.9 (f/4.9 starts between 70 mm and 100 mm).

   

This is what dpreview.com found out:

Focal Length (mm)
Equivalent
28 29 32 34 43 53 66 81 94
Maximum f-Number 1.8 2.0 2.2 2.8 3.2 3.5 4.0 4.5 4.9

Sharpness Data

See the Lens Reviews below.

 

Lens Reviews

dpreview.com

On the "Resolution" page (page 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 review:

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

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):

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 quality.

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 a test of the Sony RX100 M1 (in German). Here is an excerpt of the result for the lens:

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)

Sony RX100 Review on Imaging Resource (page Optics):

Sony RX100 Review (Amy Davies, TechRadar):

Performance:

Image quality and resolution:

Sony RX100 camera review (Oleg Novikov, Oleg Novikov Photography):

Image sharpness particularities at each crucial focal length at infinity can be found on Novikovs's review page. His summary is as follows:

 

References

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 dpreview.com.

 

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14.02.2016