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Sony RX100 versus Panasonic ZS100

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 (labelled Panasonic TZ100 in some countries) are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in June 2012 and January 2016. Both the RX100 and the ZS100 are fixed lens compact cameras that are equipped with an one-inch sensor. Both cameras offer a resolution of 20 megapixel. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Sony RX100 vs Panasonic ZS100

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Sony RX100 and the Panasonic ZS100. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions 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 – the RX100 – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Sony RX100 vs Panasonic ZS100
Compare RX100 versus ZS100 top
Compare RX100 and ZS100 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Panasonic ZS100 is notably larger (22 percent) than the Sony RX100. Moreover, the ZS100 is markedly heavier (30 percent) than the RX100. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the RX100 nor the ZS100 are weather-sealed.

Concerning battery life, the RX100 gets 330 shots out of its NP-BX1 battery, while the ZS100 can take 300 images on a single charge of its DMW-BLG10 power pack.

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 camera comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Sony RX100» 4.0 in 2.3 in 1.4 in 8.5 oz 330 n Jun 2012 649- i
Panasonic ZS100« 4.4 in 2.6 in 1.7 in 11.0 oz 300 n Jan 2016 699- i
Canon M3« » 4.4 in 2.7 in 1.7 in 12.9 oz 250 n Feb 2015 679- i
Canon G5 X« » 4.4 in 3.0 in 1.7 in 12.5 oz 210 n Oct 2015 799 i i
Canon G7 X« » 4.1 in 2.4 in 1.6 in 10.7 oz 210 n Sep 2014 699- i
Canon T5i« » 5.2 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 20.5 oz 440 n Mar 2013 649- i
Canon SL1« » 4.6 in 3.6 in 2.7 in 14.4 oz 380 n Mar 2013 549- i
Panasonic ZS200« » 4.4 in 2.6 in 1.8 in 12.0 oz 370 n Feb 2018 799 i i
Panasonic LX10« » 4.2 in 2.4 in 1.7 in 10.9 oz 260 n Sep 2016 699 i i
Sony RX100 IV« » 4.0 in 2.3 in 1.6 in 10.5 oz 280 n Jun 2015 999- i
Sony RX100 III« » 4.0 in 2.3 in 1.6 in 10.2 oz 320 n May 2014 799- i
Sony A5100« » 4.3 in 2.5 in 1.4 in 10.0 oz 400 n Aug 2014 549 i i
Sony RX100 II« » 4.0 in 2.3 in 1.5 in 9.9 oz 350 n Jun 2013 749- i
Sony NEX-5R« » 4.4 in 2.3 in 1.5 in 9.7 oz 330 n Aug 2012 749- i
Sony NEX-5N« » 4.4 in 2.3 in 1.5 in 9.5 oz 460 n Aug 2011 699- i
Sony NEX-C3« » 4.3 in 2.4 in 1.3 in 7.9 oz 400 n Jun 2011 599- i

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The RX100 was somewhat cheaper (by 7 percent) than the ZS100 at launch, but both cameras fall into the same price category. 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: Sony RX100 vs Panasonic ZS100

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 tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature an one-inch sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 2.7. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the medium-sized sensor cameras that aim to strike a balance between image quality and portability. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Sony RX100 and Panasonic ZS100 sensor measures

The two cameras under review do not only share the same sensor size, but also offer an identical resolution of 20 megapixel. This similarity in sensor specs implies that both the RX100 and the ZS100 have the same pixel density, as well as the same pixel size. It should, however, be noted that the ZS100 is much more recent (by 3 years and 7 months) than the RX100, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time.

RX100 versus ZS100 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the ZS100 has a markedly higher DXO score than the RX100 (overall score 4 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 0.2 bits higher color depth, 0.1 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.5 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Sony RX100» 1-inch 20.0 5472 36481080/60p22.612.439066
Panasonic ZS100« 1-inch 20.0 5472 36484K/30p22.812.555970
Canon M3« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/30p22.811.8116972
Canon G5 X« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36481080/60p----
Canon G7 X« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36481080/60p23.012.755671
Canon T5i« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.711.268161
Canon SL1« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.811.384363
Panasonic ZS200« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36484K/30p----
Panasonic LX10« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36484K/30p----
Sony RX100 IV« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36484K/30p22.812.659170
Sony RX100 III« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36481080/60p22.412.349567
Sony A5100« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.812.7134780
Sony RX100 II« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36481080/60p22.512.448367
Sony NEX-5R« » APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i23.713.191078
Sony NEX-5N« » APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i23.612.7107977
Sony NEX-C3« » APS-C 16.0 4912 3264720/30p22.712.2108373

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the ZS100 provides a better video resolution than the RX100. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/30p, while the Sony is limited to 1080/60p.

 

Feature comparison: Sony RX100 vs Panasonic ZS100

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the ZS100 has an electronic viewfinder (1166k 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 adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Sony RX100 and Panasonic ZS100 along with similar information for a selection of comparators. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

Core Features
  Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Sony RX100»- n 3.0 1229 fixed n 2000 10.0 Y Y
Panasonic ZS100«1166 n 3.0 1040 fixed Y 2000 10.0 Y Y
Canon M3« »- n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 4000 4.2 Y n
Canon G5 X« »2360 n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 2000 5.9 Y Y
Canon G7 X« »- n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 2000 6.5 Y Y
Canon T5i« »optical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n
Canon SL1« »optical n 3.0 1040 fixed Y 4000 4.9 Y n
Panasonic ZS200« »2330 n 3.0 1240 fixed Y 2000 10.0 Y Y
Panasonic LX10« »- n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 4000 10.0 Y Y
Sony RX100 IV« »2359 n 3.0 1228 tilting n 2000 16.0 Y Y
Sony RX100 III« »1440 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 2000 10.0 Y Y
Sony A5100« »- n 3.0 922 tilting Y 4000 6.0 Y n
Sony RX100 II« »- n 3.0 1229 tilting n 2000 10.0 Y Y
Sony NEX-5R« »- n 3.0 920 tilting Y 4000 10.0 n n
Sony NEX-5N« »- n 3.0 920 tilting Y 4000 10.0 n n
Sony NEX-C3« »- n 3.0 920 tilting n 4000 5.5 n n

Both the RX100 and the ZS100 have zoom lenses build in. The RX100 has a 28-100mm f/1.8-4.9 optic and the ZS100 offers a 25-250mm f/2.8-5.9 (focal lengths in full frame equivalent terms). Hence, the Panasonic provides a wider angle of view at the short end, as well as more tele-photo reach at the long end than the Sony. The RX100 offers the faster maximum aperture.

Both the RX100 and the ZS100 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The RX100 was replaced by the Sony RX100 II, while the ZS100 was followed by the Panasonic ZS200.

Review summary: Sony RX100 vs Panasonic ZS100

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Sony RX100 better than the Panasonic ZS100 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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

  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1229k vs 1040k dots).
  • Better light gathering: Has a lens with a wider maximum aperture (f/1.8 vs f/2.8).
  • More compact: Is smaller (102x58mm vs 111x65mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 72g or 23 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in June 2012).

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Advantages of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100:

  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (4 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.5 stops ISO advantage).
  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/60p).
  • Easier framing: Has an electronic viewfinder for image framing and settings control.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Wider view: Has a wider-angle lens that facilitates landscape or interior shots.
  • More tele-reach: Has a longer tele-lens for perspective compression and subject magnification.
  • More modern: Reflects 3 years and 7 months of technical progress since the RX100 launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the ZS100 emerges as the winner of the match-up (8 : 5 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera.

RX100 05:08 ZS100

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the RX100 and the ZS100 in practical situations. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate. This is why expert reviews are important. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). You can find the full text of the reviews by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review scores
  Camera cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Sony RX100»HiRec78/1004/55/55/5 Jun 2012 649- i
Panasonic ZS100«HiRec82/1004.5/54/54.5/5 Jan 2016 699- i
Canon M3« »rev75/1004.5/54.5/54/5 Feb 2015 679- i
Canon G5 X« »HiRec78/1004.5/54/54.5/5 Oct 2015 799 i i
Canon G7 X« »HiRec77/1004.5/53.5/54.5/5 Sep 2014 699- i
Canon T5i« »-76/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Mar 2013 649- i
Canon SL1« »Rec78/1004/54/54/5 Mar 2013 549- i
Panasonic ZS200« »HiRec81/1004.5/5-4.5/5 Feb 2018 799 i i
Panasonic LX10« »HiRec81/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2016 699 i i
Sony RX100 IV« »HiRec85/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2015 999- i
Sony RX100 III« »HiRec82/1004.5/54.5/55/5 May 2014 799- i
Sony A5100« »Rec-4.5/54.5/55/5 Aug 2014 549 i i
Sony RX100 II« »HiRec79/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Jun 2013 749- i
Sony NEX-5R« »--4.5/5-4.5/5 Aug 2012 749- i
Sony NEX-5N« »HiRec79/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2011 699- i
Sony NEX-C3« »HiRec74/1004.5/54.5/54/5 Jun 2011 599- i

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? 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, please contact me, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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