In 2012 Sony rocked the photography world with the RX100. A very compact camera with serious capabilities, because of its 1″ sensor. Canon followed in 2014 with its G7X camera, built around the same principle. In the meantime Sony improved its RX100 with the subsequent mark II, III and IV versions.
A couple of weeks ago Canon presented the G7X mark II at CP+, but also Nikon entered the scene with a competitor in the form of the DL24-85. Both of these will be available later this year.
In this article we will find out which is the best large sensor compact camera. Next to the more basic stuff, we will also try to find some less obvious differences.
The basic stuff
To start, these three cameras have a lot in common. All three use a 20 megapixel 1″ sensor, probably all of which are manufactured by Sony. They should therefore have very comparable image quality. All feature the same form factor, including a tilting LCD screen. All are capable of shooting in RAW, have similar battery life and feature image stabilisation. Instead of going in depth on these points, let’s focus on the differences instead.
One area where we start to see some differences is in the ergonomics of each camera.
Build quality and exterior
Both the Sony and the Canon feature a metal housing. However, the DL24-85 is made out of plastic. This is something to be aware of when you plan to use the camera in tough circumstances. Unfortunately none of these cameras is weathersealed. That is something that we would have liked to see.
As you can see both the Canon and the Nikon feature a grip, which is a welcome addition on such a small camera body. The RX100 IV does not have this, and will be more difficult to hold without an additional grip (which Sony itself provides).
This is where the RX100 IV shines over its competitors. The camera includes a smart pop-up electronic viewfinder. If you prefer to take the camera to your eye, this is the one for you. The RX100 mark III had an annoying issue where the camera would shut down upon closing the viewfinder, but luckily this has been fixed. If you want to use a viewfinder on the Canon, you are out of luck. However, Nikon does provide an optional viewfinder to attach to the hotshoe of the camera. But keep in mind that this will reduce the pocketability of the DL24-85, which is already the largest of the three.
The optional Nikon DF-E1 viewfinder
All cameras feature the standard control array of knobs and dial at the rear of the camera. Nex to that, the Nikon DL24-85 offers the best manual controls by featuring an exposure compensation dial, a dedicated zoom ring and a multifunctional lens ring. This promises a very engaging shooting experience. The Canon also features the exposure compensation dial and lens ring, but has to do without the zoom ring. Of course the multifunction ring can be set to zooming as well, but in this case you lose other functionality. Finally the Sony RX100 IV has only the front lens ring as manual control input.
Another point to consider when looking at the controls of the camera is that the Sony is also the only one that does not have a touch screen.
This is a point I missed at first, but which is nevertheless important to include. Where both Sony and Canon have an automatic lens cover, this is not the case for the Nikon DL24-85! This means that despite having a small pocketable camera, you still have the hassle of taking on and off the lens cap, each time you will use the camera.
Of course, every disadvantage comes with an advantage. And it is clear that Nikon made a trade-off here in favour of professional photographers. By making this design choice the Nikon is the only camera with a built-in filter thread, albeit a somewhat odd 40.5mm filter size. This means you will not need any third party solutions to be able to use polarizer or ND filters on this camera. If you feel comfortable protecting your lens with a neutral filter instead of a lens cap, you will have the best of both worlds. There is a neutral filter provided by Nikon itself.
The 1″ sensor in these cameras offers more control over depth of field than more common compact cameras. Of course these capabilities are still limited compared to APS-C and full frame cameras. Nevertheless, the results are still very good for a camera in such a small package.
All three cameras have a bright F2.8 aperture at their maximum focal length. However, the maximum focal length itself is slightly different at 70mm for the RX100 IV, 85mm for the DL24-85 and 100mm for the G7X II. A longer focal length causes increased compression, which leads to more background blur. In this category the Canon is the clear winner. See it for yourself below.
A sample portrait of the original G7X at 100mm F2.8.
A sample portrait of the RX100 III at 70mm F2.8.
Other bits and pieces
Of course there are more differences than can be covered in this post. So here you have some more random bits.
Video is an area where the Canon lacks behind. So keep that in mind when video is important to you. The other two cameras feature 4K recording, and various high-speed options as well. The most impressive is the Sony RX100 IV, which can shoot short video’s up to 1000FPS for super slow-motion.
All three cameras have an adequate autofocus system. However, the Nikon is on a different level with a hybrid combination between both phase detection and contrast detection. The system has a whopping 171 focus points. One more point for the Nikon. Another plus is that the DL24-85 has a very short minimum focus distance, so that it is capable to do a very impressive 1:1 macro.
Both Nikon and Sony feature an electronic shutter, which is required for their high speed video capabilities as well. The Canon is the only one with just a mechanical shutter, and has a much longer maximum shutter time of 1/2000. However for photography, this should not be a limitation due to the built-in ND filter.
Built-in ND filter
All three cameras feature a built-in ND filter. The filter in the original G7X could only be engaged manually, but there is reason to believe that this can be done automatically as well in the mark II, since this is also possible in the more recent G5X.
High Speed Burst
All cameras have adequate high burst speeds. The Canon is much improved over its predecessor and now features 8FPS in RAW. The Nikon can go as high as an incredible 60FPS. An interesting feature of the DL24-85 is that it can also start the burst before you press the shutter to make sure you will not miss the decisive moment.
The price of the Sony is somewhat higher than the price of its two more recent competitors. I guess that the main difference that causes this difference is the built-in electronic viewfinder, and the slightly more sophisticated sensor. Whether this is worth its price tag is for you to decide.
I hope this post helps you in understanding the differences and similarities between these three cameras. What camera is best for you depends on your personal priorities, and the weight you put on the different specifications. As you can see the cameras differ more than it seems at first. Which one is your favorite?
Of course there are more cameras with a lot of similarities, such as the Canon Powershot G5X, which includes a viewfinder, but is somewhat larger. Or the Nikon DL18-50 which has a very interesting wide angle focal range. However, I believe that the three cameras here will be the closest competitors in the 1″ sensor field.
Did you find any differences in addition to the ones mentioned here? Please share them in the comments below! I will also update this article if required.