Sony has again shown the incumbent companies how to do things correctly. They did it with the innovative SLT system. They did it with their generation-defining EXMOR sensors. They did it with the amazing NEX-7. They positively upended the mirrorless market by bursting in and shoving aside the extant players. The NEX 5n and NEX 7 are easily the top selling mirrorless cameras in the US and Europe (a success Sony desperately needed). Only in Japan are Olympus and Panasonic really tearing up the charts. Now, again, they are doing it with the RX100.
I am not alone in my assertion that camera companies, whose sales of P&S models is being decimated by cell phones, need to move their compact models upmarket. They need to provide a value proposition beyond cell phone cameras, which are very limited. Their failure to do this, even with the writing on the wall for years, has resulted in their entire market possibly being leap-frogged by the Nokia 808 PureView.
Nikon arrogantly produced the "1" series of cameras: an evolutionary dead-end if there ever was one. Canon produced the ridiculously overpriced G1X. Fuji's X10 is even more overpriced than the Canon. Olympus and Panasonic have been doubling down on their still unproven belief that Micro 4/3 is a replacement for P&S for THREE YEARS.
But now we have Sony, seemingly the only company with any real grasp on what the market wants. The sensor is as big as the Nikon "1", but it's placed inside an actual, compact camera. None of this faux SLR crap with bad lenses. No! Sony has attached a real lens, taking full advantage of the smaller format of the sensor to produce a stellar f/1.8 max aperture. That also eliminates one of two major disadvantages to the Canon G1X, seeing as its glass is quite slow for a compact, integrated lens.
And while on the subject of the Canon G1X, can I just say how stupid I found it. It's an $800 camera built on pretensions. What do I mean by that? First, it's eight-hundred-freaking-dollars. Second, it has a viewfinder on it. It's not a real viewfinder!! It has no data in it. It's not a rangefinder or TTL. It's nothing. It's the very expensive equivalent of the little flip-up plastic squares that were attached to cheap 110 cameras. That's freaking absurd. Ditch the useless VF and give me a larger screen, smaller body, or more physical controls.
But back to the Sony. TechRadar has posted a review of it, Focus Numerique has posted test images, and Imaging Resource has posted their full overview, all showing the camera pretty soundly beating its only direct competitor, the Nikon "1". It's lagging the Canon G1X slightly, which is expected considering its larger sensor, but otherwise performs excellently. It even manages over 12EV of dynamic range in TR's review.
TechRadar complains about some limited RAW functionality, but I consider it a small problem. I think that Sony has produced the best possible camera for the size and price. This is precisely where a P&S should be. It should be good enough as a back-up for enthusiasts, but should primarily focus on people who want higher quality photos out of a camera that they simply turn on, aim, and press a button: the very raison d'être, of point & shoots everywhere. That means that it can't cost too much.
If it costs a bundle, enthusiasts will contemplate whether the camera is worth it or simply a faster/smaller lens for their existing system. Upgraders will be dissuaded since they don't enter the situation with the same value equation that enthusiast photographers have. That's why the Canon G1X was such a stupid creation. I said in my first impressions of it that it would be a much more attractive prospect if it had been priced $100 lower. Well, Sony went and priced theirs one hundred and fifty dollars lower. I think that they should have gone for $599, but $649 is probably going to be very acceptable to the market.
In comparison to the other camera in this general market, the Fuji X10, the Sony again shines. The lens isn't quite as good, with the Fuji lens only dropping to f/2.8 instead of f/4.9 like the Sony lens. But that doesn't matter. The Sony sensor is almost precisely twice the size of the Fuji, giving it a massive performance advantage. The Sony may not have the sexy body, but the Fuji has that same worthless viewfinder that the G1X has. As with the Canon comparison, the Sony wins.
I am very impressed with this camera. It is what it needs to be, a P&S, just a better one.