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David Pogue is deeply, wildly in love with Sony's new high-end "pro's second camera", the RX100.

So I was thinking of trying to find an excuse to buy it to replace my S95. But then I realized that other than interchangeable lenses, and sensor size, it seems to have better specs in almost every way than my E-PL2, which I use for my "real" (amateur) pictures.

  • It's a lot smaller, and can fit in my pants pockets
  • It's got a bigger aperture than the kit lens and a comparable one to the Pany pancake I usually have on it
  • It has much faster focus
  • It has a faster burst rate
  • It has more megapixels, which I don't generally care about, but they don't hurt, either.
  • It has much higher max ISO for low light shooting

I know it's not widely available yet, and that there are a lot of intangibles. And I get that the ability to put on better glass is a big tradeoff, but lets assume I don't care about that. How much advantage, if any, will that sensor difference give to the Olympus? Based on the specs, which is likely to take better overall shots?

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Its sensor is bigger than the Olympus ZX-1, not your E-PL2, which affects low light shooting and effective aperture. 4.s.img-dpreview.com/previews/Sony-DSC-RX100/images/… –  Eruditass Jun 29 '12 at 16:42
    
@Eruditass, thanks - is the Micro4/3 the same size as the 4/3 pictured? if so, I'll edit. –  Jaydles Jun 29 '12 at 16:53
2  
Yes, they are the same size. The Micro part refers to the compressed flange distance. –  Eruditass Jun 29 '12 at 17:59

2 Answers 2

The RX100 is not available yet but you are on to something. Allow me to replace the Sony RX100 with the Canon G1 X in your question and answer that instead :)

A large sensor camera gives you high quality images, particularly at high ISO and shallow depth-of-field compared to typical compact models. This is true for fixed lens cameras and interchangeable ones like the E-PL2.

Technology wise there is no reason why there would be any difference between a fixed lens camera and one with interchangeable lenses used with exactly one lenses. However, practical differences are more significant and vary between models:

  • The majority of lenses have mechanical zooms. This makes zooming silent, quick and most importantly much more precise.
  • Mirrorless cameras can have built-in or optional EVFs which is found to be a more pleasant way of shooting than having the camera at arms length. Not all find this but using the camera at eye-level is more stable.
  • Some mirrorless cameras are weather-sealed. No large-sensor compact is.
  • If the G1 X is an indication, the latest crop of mirrorless models focus much much faster.

On the other hand, cameras like the G1 X have a tremendous appeal for people who want quality images and simplicity. No changing of lenses, no sensor dust issue, etc. You give up flexibility obviously but only if you are going to use it. Many DSLR owners and mirrorless owners never buy a second lens. For those people, a fixed lens camera with very high image quality will certainly do.

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I'm going to answer this question structured a bit differently: "Should I buy a new micro four thirds camera, or the new RX100?" I'll preface this up-front by saying that I adore MFT equipment, and I see a lot to like in the RX100.

Youe E-PL2 is a bit old now. Maybe not so much in terms of absolute time, but Panasonic and Olympus made enormous strides forward in the past year. The E-PL2 was somewhat behind its time, but the current crop of micro four thirds camera bodies are highly competent. I think it's only fair to compare the latest bodies to a new m4/3 camera, especially given the fairly significant price of the RX100. You can have a Panasonic G3 or full DSLR for the same price.

In many ways, Sony sets the bar for sheer sensor performance. We won't have solid test numbers on the RX100 for a while yet, but it's probably safe to assume that the sensor turns in a stellar performance, giving up maybe a stop against the newest LiveMOS sensor chip in the m4/3 cameras. We don't know how fast the RX100 slips from 1.8 to 4.9, but it seems very plausible that it makes up for the size disadvantage against the m4/3 sensor using the f/3.5-5.6 kit zooms. You probably won't be making this decision based on imaging performance. So look at what the cameras actually offer instead.

Of course the m4/3 cameras are ILCs (interchangeable lens cameras), and if you are willing to accept the size consequences then there's a lot of flexibility to be had in lenses. There are also various system accessories, like the Olympus VF-2, PEN Pal, SEMA-1, dedicated flashes, etc.

My basic rule of thumb is, you get any ILC because features and lenses are more important to you than portability. You buy a compact because, well, you need it to be compact. m4/3 was designed to reduce size and bulk relative to full SLR ILC systems, but never really to be pocketable. If, as I suspect, your dream is a pocket camera and not a system camera? Go with the Sony.

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