I don’t usually do this sort of comparison post – I haven’t done anything of the sort before – but when I think back to how undecided I’ve been when comparing these two cameras side by side, and the rather big claims I made when reviewing each, I think it’s time to be a bit more direct – leave things away from their individual reviews – and find out which is really the best compact there is out there
UPDATE: This was written before the announcement of the new Sony RX100 II, so it’s directly a comparison between the original RX100 and the Fuji X20. A few things have changed in the RX100 II, so the comparison between it and the X20 will be slightly different, but I believe for the most part, this post will still apply. Hope that makes sense – and if it doesn’t, you can always ask me directly!
Why am I asking the same question again, you ask? If you’ve read my review on the RX100, you’d know that I consider the Sony to be the best compact camera on the market. If you then read my X20 review, you would’ve seen that while I consider the Sony to be right up there with the Fuji, I replaced my RX100 with the X20 – so what does that say? Right. So why am I still trying to compare these two?
Well, after a couple of weeks (or has it been a few months already?) of using the Fujifilm X20, while the experience has mostly been good, I’m finding a few issues with it that I didn’t find with the RX100 – issues that made me actually miss the Sony. Luckily for me, I had given my Sony to a friend to use until I could sell it, so getting it back isn’t a big deal – but do I actually want the RX100 back? Is the X20 really not that good enough for me any more? Read on!
Specifications: Basic Comparison
Ok, I’m not going to compare every single spec I usually list out – no comparison of exposure modes and scene modes and all that – I’m just going to put the more important aspects of both cameras side by side and see what it looks like
- Sony RX100: Compact, aluminum
- Fujifilm X20: Compact, magnesium alloy
- Sony RX100: 20.2 mega pixels
- Fujifilm X20: 12.0 mega pixels
- Sony RX100: 1”
- Fujifilm X20: 2/3”
- Sony RX100: EXMOR CMOS
- Fujifilm X20: X-Trans CMOS II
- Sony RX100: Zeiss 10.4-37.1mm f1.8-4.9 (28-100mm equivalent)
- Fujifilm X20: Fujinon 7.1-28.4mm f2.0-2.8 (28-112mm equivalent)
- Sony RX100: 100-25600
- Fujifilm X20: 100-12800
- Sony RX100: Yes, pop-up (with flexible head)/no hot-shoe
- Fujifilm X20: Yes, pop-up/hot-shoe
- Sony RX100: Contrast Detect (25 points)
- Fujifilm X20: Contrast/Phase Detect Hybrid (49 points)
- Sony RX100: 5cm (at 28mm)
- Fujifilm X20: 1cm (at 28mm)
- Sony RX100: 3.0” LCD (1.228m dots, non-articulated, non-touch)
- Fujifilm X20: 2.8” LCD (460k dots, non-articulated, non-touch)
- Sony RX100: No viewfinder
- Fujifilm X20: Optical viewfinder (85% coverage) w/ electronic info overlay
Max Drive Speed
- Sony RX100: 10fps
- Fujifilm X20: 12fps
- Sony RX100: 102 x 59 x 36mm / 240g (with battery)
- Fujifilm X20: 117 x 70 x 57 / 353g (with battery)
Sony RX100 vs. Fujifilm X20
So there you have it – the specs of each camera compared – and on paper, at least, the Fuji X20 seems to win rather comprehensively. It appears to come out on top in almost every aspect I’ve listed above, doesn’t it? It only falls short in a couple of areas, and one of these is something that I consider absolutely crucial in any digital camera: the sensor size. Its sensor is significantly smaller than the RX100’s (half the size, to be precise) and this means a lot to me. In terms of size too, and a few other minor (but important) features, the RX100 does a bit better – but what makes a better camera? Well I’m afraid that is something only you can decide. This post here is just a breakdown of why I prefer this camera over that. You may disagree, you may agree, but know that this is just my opinion of things, based on how I use my camera
Alright, now that that’s out of the way, let’s proceed. How I’m going to do this is I’ll break down the comparison into a few sections, and talk about how I felt each camera performed in each of these sections – much like every other comparison of anything, I know – and which camera I personally felt did better in these areas. After that, I’m sure I’ll have a winner. In fact, I know the winner already
Looks & Build Quality
Looks are not really important in a camera, but they DO add to the overall experience of using and owning one. For example, I’d be far more happy and proud to say I use a sleek NEX instead of the boxy EOS M. Right
The best-looking compact camera in today’s market, for me, is the X20. Not just in this comparison but in the entire market. Fujifilm just nailed the retro styling of the body in every sense, and just made it look gorgeous. There’s no comparison here. That’s not to say the RX100 is an ugly camera. I think it looks great too. And it’s different, going for the sleek, modern look instead of going old-school, and most importantly, the design of this camera makes it truly compact, and that’s a huge benefit. In fact, this is so important that I’m going to modify this section from “Looks & Build Quality” to “Looks, Size & Build Quality” – the X20 wins hands down on looks, but the RX100 is by far the smaller of the two
Build quality? They’re both built really, really well. Nothing more to say
Controls & Handling
One of the reasons I was almost eager to switch from the RX100 to something from Fujifilm is that I didn’t really like the controls on the Sony. That’s not to say that they were bad. I just felt really comfortable using my original Fuji X10 and its lovely control layout that I started to feel a bit restricted with the RX100. The Sony is that much smaller, so I’m not complaining about lack of dedicated buttons to everything – and the seven-layered Fn button is a great addition – but I guess my biggest gripe with the RX100 is the poorly implemented control wheel. Why? If you’ve read my review, you’ll know: it’s just not responsive enough! For zoom, for aperture, for anything. It’s not responsive in two ways – firstly, it takes a bit of movement of the ring before it registers you’re moving it, and secondly (this is when used as a zoom ring) it’s not sensitive enough, taking nearly a complete turn of this large ring to zoom from 28mm to 100mm. After the first week, I just stopped using it altogether. I’m still hoping for a firmware fix, is there one?
The control layout on the X20, just like my original experience with the X10, is fantastic. Everything from the manual zoom ring to the perfectly-placed host of dedicated buttons to the AF selector switch in front – it’s all perfect. Controls & handling is another hands-down victory to the X20
Performance: Overall Speed, AF Speed, Burst Capabilities, etc.
I’m not talking about image quality performance here, but overall speed of the camera. First, autofocus performance
The RX100 is superfast, it really is. It nails focus accurately, and almost instantly in daylight. In lower light, it’s naturally slower, but still very fast. And it’s almost always accurate, and rarely fails to lock focus if you know how to use autofocus!
The X20, with its fancy hybrid AF system, is also blazing fast in daylight, and very accurate. In lower light, I’m afraid it really comes down rapidly. It’s still good, and can achieve focus in very dark conditions, but it’s noticeably slower than the Sony, in my experience. It also fails to lock focus quite often. I’m not complaining about the AF system as much as I’m pointing out that the RX100 just performs better in low light. In daylight they’re on par with each other. Sony wins
Burst shooting? The RX100 does 10fps at full resolution, the X20 does 12fps. Guess who wins
Overall performance? Both cameras have fantastic processors running the system, and keep things going very smoothly. Write speeds etc. are very fast on both cameras, and unless you do a direct comparison on this, it’s hard to pick a winner – I’m going to call it a tie
Yeah, so it’s not really fair to bunch all of these under one heading – so I’m calling the RX100 the AF winner, the X20 the continuous shooting winner, and yes, a tie for overall performance
And now for the big one. I admit, it was very even until now. This is where my mind was swayed, this is where I made the decision. Image quality. It’s all that finally matters, isn’t it?
And to put it simply, with it’s large, 1” sensor, twice the size of the X20’s, the RX100 wins quite clearly. I hinted at this when I reviewed the X20 – but I was so excited with the beautiful Fuji colors, and the overall look of the images the X-Trans sensor produced (and they ARE beautiful) that I didn’t realize how much better the RX100’s pictures are, in terms of resolution, detail, and of course high ISO noise control, and I just glossed over it in that review
Don’t get me wrong, the X20 produces great images. Like I said, the Fuji colors and the entirely different look the sensor gives makes for some beautiful photographs – in some aspects, you could say they sometimes look nicer than the Sony’s images – but the RX100’s 1” sensor just allows so much more resolution and detail to be captured, it’s very, very noticeable
And that’s in daylight. The X-Trans sensor and it’s lovely colors, and all that, compares very well with the Sony (except for resolution/detail) in daylight and well-lit conditions. In low light, where the ISO goes up, there’s not much of a comparison. The large sensor of the RX100 is almost DSLR-like, while the X20 starts to look embarrassingly like a compact point-n-shoot all of a sudden. It’s simple, the larger sensor just handles noise better. Sure, the X20 has a faster lens, but it doesn’t help too often. In addition to that, the X20’s flash isn’t that great, whereas the RX100’s flexible pop-up makes for some great bounce flash effects, and I used this a lot when shooting at night indoors. With the X20, I avoided the flash at all costs
Yes, image quality: RX100 wins. The X20 makes very good images, but the RX100 is just better. And that is my final decision. Until something vastly superior comes up – I doubt it’ll be any time this year – I’m keeping my Sony (UPDATE: the just-announced RX100 II has spoiled the effect of this post a bit!)
Alright, so I guess I jumped the gun when reviewing the X20, calling it equal in every way to the Sony, and sort of replacing my RX100 with the Fuji. But sometimes, doing test shots, while a good way to get a feel for the camera and how it performs, doesn’t tell the full story. That was the case with the Fujifilm X20 for me. When testing it, I wanted to like it, I wanted to keep this camera, this camera that handles that much better than the Sony RX100, that looked better, and all that – and wanting it so much, I didn’t completely realize its faults: the slow AF at night, the poor high ISO performance when compared to the Sony, and so on. Now that I have, I’ve ‘re-decided’ on the Sony RX100, and that’s what I’m keeping. If I caused any confusion, I’m very sorry indeed!
Ok, so there are a few aspects that I didn’t talk about – for example, the X20 packs a hot-shoe and OVF, the RX100 doesn’t, and remains smaller for it – but I think I covered the most important side of things, the side of things that I looked into before making my final, complex, hit-and-miss, trial-and-error decision. Sure, if a hot-shoe is important for you, if the OVF is important to you, think about the X20. If not, think about the RX100. You get the idea. Like I said, it’s all about what you want. I rarely use an OVF in a compact, I never use a hot-shoe in a compact, so while I don’t mind having these on my camera, I didn’t even think about them while choosing my camera. The aspects I talked about are what I looked at, and that’s the decision I came to. If you’re in a similar conundrum, try listing out the areas that you find most important in a camera, and compare how each one performs there. You might not have the luxury of trying out both for weeks before making your decision, but you could always do some research on it (or ask me!)
UPDATE: This was written before the announcement of the new Sony RX100 II, so it’s directly a comparison between the original RX100 and the Fuji X20. A few more points regarding the benefits of the X20 (the hot-shoe, for instance) have been wiped off by the new and awesome RX100 II!
That’s it for today. Leave a comment if you have one! Thanks for reading. Until next time
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- Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II: First Look (pixelogist.me)
- Sony DSC-RX100M2 Camera Owns The Night (ubergizmo.com)
- Me: Shooting forward: A look at a mature camera market (reviews.cnet.com)