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Sony RX100 versus Olympus PEN-F

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 and the Olympus PEN-F are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in June 2012 and January 2016. The RX100 is a fixed lens compact, while the PEN-F is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on an one-inch (RX100) and a Four Thirds sensor. The Sony has a resolution of 20 megapixel, whereas the Olympus provides 20.2 MP.

Body comparison

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Sony RX100 and the Olympus PEN-F. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also use the toggle button to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left side – the RX100 – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Sony RX100 vs Olympus PEN-F front
RX100 versus PEN-F top view
RX100 and PEN-F rear side
Body view (RX100 on the left)

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus PEN-F is considerably larger (52 percent) than the Sony RX100. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the RX100 nor the PEN-F are weather-sealed.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the RX100 has a lens build in, whereas the PEN-F is an interchangeable lens camera that requires a separate lens. Attaching the latter will add extra weight and bulk to the setup. You can find an overview of optics for the PEN-F and their specifications in the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
Camera Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Sony RX100 (⇒ rgt) 102 mm 58 mm 36 mm 240 g 330 no 2012 649discont. check
Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft) 125 mm 72 mm 37 mm 427 g 330 no 2016 1,199 latest check
Canon G7 X (⇒ lft | rgt) 103 mm 60 mm 40 mm 304 g 210 no 2014 699discont. check
Canon T5i (⇒ lft | rgt) 133 mm 100 mm 79 mm 580 g 440 no 2013 649discont. check
Canon SL1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 117 mm 91 mm 69 mm 407 g 380 no 2013 549discont. check
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 134 mm 91 mm 67 mm 574 g 440 YES 2016 1,999 latest check
Olympus E-M10 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 120 mm 83 mm 47 mm 390 g 320 no 2015 799discont. check
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 124 mm 85 mm 45 mm 469 g 310 YES 2015 1,099 latest check
Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) 119 mm 82 mm 46 mm 396 g 320 no 2014 699discont. check
Sony RX100 V (⇒ lft | rgt) 102 mm 58 mm 41 mm 299 g 220 no 2016 999 latest check
Sony RX100 IV (⇒ lft | rgt) 102 mm 58 mm 41 mm 298 g 280 no 2015 999discont. check
Sony RX100 III (⇒ lft | rgt) 102 mm 58 mm 41 mm 290 g 320 no 2014 799discont. check
Sony A5100 (⇒ lft | rgt) 110 mm 63 mm 36 mm 283 g 400 no 2014 549 latest check
Sony RX10 (⇒ lft | rgt) 129 mm 88 mm 102 mm 813 g 420 YES 2013 1,299discont. check
Sony RX100 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 102 mm 58 mm 38 mm 281 g 350 no 2013 749discont. check
Sony RX1R (⇒ lft | rgt) 113 mm 65 mm 70 mm 482 g 270 no 2013 2,799discont. check

The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The RX100 was launched at a lower price than the PEN-F, despite having a lens build in. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

Sensor comparison

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tent to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Sony RX100 features an one-inch sensor and the Olympus PEN-F a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the PEN-F is 94 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 2.7 and 2.0. The sensor in the RX100 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the PEN-F offers a 4:3 aspect.

Sony RX100 and Olympus PEN-F sensor measures
Sensor size

With 20.2MP, the PEN-F offers a higher resolution than the RX100 (20MP), but the PEN-F nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 3.34μm versus 2.41μm for the RX100) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the PEN-F is a much more recent model (by 3 years and 7 months) than the RX100, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the PEN-F has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

Unlike the RX100, the PEN-F has the capacity to capture high quality composite images (40MP) by combining multiple shots after shifting its sensor by miniscule distances. This multi-shot, pixel-shift mode is most suitable for photography of stationary objects (landscapes, studio scenes).

RX100 versus PEN-F MP
Sensor resolution

For most cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the PEN-F has a markedly higher DXO score than the RX100 (overall score 8 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 0.5 bits higher color depth, and 1.2 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Sony RX100 (⇒ rgt) 1-inch 20.0 5472 3648 1080/60p 22.6 12.4 390 66
Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 1080/60p 23.1 12.4 894 74
Canon G7 X (⇒ lft | rgt) 1-inch 20.0 5472 3648 1080/60p 23.0 12.7 556 71
Canon T5i (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 17.9 5184 3456 1080/30p 21.7 11.2 681 61
Canon SL1 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 17.9 5184 3456 1080/30p 21.8 11.3 843 63
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 4K/30p 23.7 12.8 1312 80
Olympus E-M10 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/60p 23.1 12.5 842 73
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/60p 23.0 12.5 842 73
Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/30p 22.8 12.3 884 72
Sony RX100 V (⇒ lft | rgt) 1-inch 20.0 5472 3648 4K/30p 22.8 12.4 586 70
Sony RX100 IV (⇒ lft | rgt) 1-inch 20.0 5472 3648 4K/30p 22.8 12.6 591 70
Sony RX100 III (⇒ lft | rgt) 1-inch 20.0 5472 3648 1080/60p 22.4 12.3 495 67
Sony A5100 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 23.8 12.7 1347 80
Sony RX10 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1-inch 20.0 5472 3648 1080/60p 22.9 12.6 474 69
Sony RX100 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 1-inch 20.0 5472 3648 1080/60p 22.5 12.4 483 67
Sony RX1R (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 25.0 13.6 2537 91

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, and both provide the same movie specifications (1080/60p).

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the PEN-F has an electronic viewfinder (2360k dots), which can be very helpful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the RX100 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Sony RX100, the Olympus PEN-F, and comparable cameras. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Sony RX100 (⇒ rgt) no no 3.0 1229 fixed no 2000 10.0 YES YES
Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft) 2360 no 3.0 1037 swivel YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Canon G7 X (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.0 1040 tilting YES 2000 6.5 7 YES
Canon T5i (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.0 1040 swivel YES 4000 5.0 13 no
Canon SL1 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.0 1040 fixed YES 4000 4.9 9.4 no
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1037 swivel YES 8000 18.0 no YES
Olympus E-M10 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1040 tilting YES 4000 8.0 5.8 YES
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1037 swivel YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1440 no 3.0 1037 tilting YES 4000 8.0 5.8 YES
Sony RX100 V (⇒ lft | rgt) 2359 no 3.0 1229 tilting no 2000 24.0 10.2 YES
Sony RX100 IV (⇒ lft | rgt) 2359 no 3.0 1228 tilting no 2000 16.0 10.2 YES
Sony RX100 III (⇒ lft | rgt) 1440 no 3.0 1229 tilting no 2000 10.0 YES YES
Sony A5100 (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.0 922 tilting YES 4000 6.0 4 no
Sony RX10 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1440 YES 3.0 1229 tilting no 3200 10.0 10.2 YES
Sony RX100 II (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.0 1229 tilting no 2000 10.0 15 YES
Sony RX1R (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.0 1229 fixed no 4000 5.0 6 no

The PEN-F is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the RX100 has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on ebay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the RX100 was succeeded by the Sony RX100 II.

Summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Sony RX100 and the Sony RX100? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


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Arguments in favor of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1229k vs 1037k dots).
  • Ready to shoot: Has a lens build-in, whereas the PEN-F requires a separate lens.
  • More compact: Is smaller (102x58mm vs 125x72mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter even though it comes with a build-in lens (unlike the PEN-F).
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • More affordable: Was introduced at a lower price, despite coming with a build-in lens.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in June 2012).

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Reasons to prefer the Olympus PEN-F:

  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • High quality composites: Can combine several shots after pixel-shifting its sensor.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (8 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.2 stops ISO advantage).
  • Easier framing: Has an electronic viewfinder for image framing and settings control.
  • More flexible LCD: Has swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 2000/sec) to freeze action.
  • More flexible: Takes interchangeable lenses and can thus be used with specialty optics.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology build-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • More modern: Reflects 3 years and 7 months of technical progress since the RX100 launch.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the PEN-F emerges as the winner of the match-up (11 : 8 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs.

RX100 08:11 PEN-F

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the RX100 or the PEN-F. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased. This is where reviews by experts come in. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites. The detailed reviews can be accessed, respectively, on the websites of cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
dp
review
ephoto
zine
imaging
resource
photography
blog
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Sony RX100 (⇒ rgt) HiRec 78/100 Silver 4/5 5/5 5/5 2012 649discont. check
Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft) - 82/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2016 1,199 latest check
Canon G7 X (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 77/100 Silver 4.5/5 3.5/5 4.5/5 2014 699discont. check
Canon T5i (⇒ lft | rgt) - 76/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2013 649discont. check
Canon SL1 (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 78/100 Gold 4/5 4/5 4/5 2013 549discont. check
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 1,999 latest check
Olympus E-M10 II (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 80/100 Silver 5/5 5/5 5/5 2015 799discont. check
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 81/100 Silver 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2015 1,099 latest check
Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 80/100 Gold 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2014 699discont. check
Sony RX100 V (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 83/100 Silver 4/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 999 latest check
Sony RX100 IV (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 4/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2015 999discont. check
Sony RX100 III (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 82/100 Gold 4.5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2014 799discont. check
Sony A5100 (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec - 4.5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2014 549 latest check
Sony RX10 (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 80/100 Gold 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2013 1,299discont. check
Sony RX100 II (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 79/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2013 749discont. check
Sony RX1R (⇒ lft | rgt) - - 4/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2013 2,799discont. check

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Other comparisons

If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, kindly get in touch, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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