6 years after the launch of its first professional compact camera, the Cyber-shot RX100, Sony has released the RX100 VI, the sixth iteration of its flagship camera which is still as crammed full of technology as ever. Among its most interesting features are its 8.3x zoom (24-200 mm lens), the fastest AF of any professional compact camera as well as a touchscreen to facilitate shooting.
What are its other innovations? We will be reviewing the Sony RX100 VI’s technical characteristics as well as its possible uses.
A new 24-200 mm zoom has replaced the Mark V’s luminous 24-70 mm lens
The Sony RX100 VI’s most impressive new feature is its ZEISS® Vario-Sonnar T* 24-200 mm lens with 8.3x zoom and variable aperture opening (f/2.8-4.5) which has replaced the Mark V’s 24-70 mm f/1.8-2.8 zoom. With the VI, Sony has chosen to trade luminosity for a lens with a wider range of focal lengths. This compact camera has a zoom equivalent to both a 24-70 mm and a 70-200 mm lens.
Looking back, you may remember that the Sony RX100 Mark I and II had previously been equipped with a 28-100 mm f/1.8-4.9 zoom; with the Mark VI Sony has once again equipped its RX100 camera with a powerful zoom – surely in response to popular demand. Panasonic’s TZ200 has an even wider range of focal lengths (24-360 mm f/3.3-6.4) but has a less luminous lens than the Mark VI.
Sony’s decision is sure to disappoint some users since the Mark V’s 24-70 mm lens had become highly appreciated by reflex camera aficionados (especially full frame reflex camera users). On the other hand, compact cameras are often used as a versatile all-in-one device and the lack of a powerful zoom (while other compact cameras had one) was probably seen as a disadvantage.
Sony has made the assurance that this extended range of focal lengths will in no way negatively impact the quality of its camera’s images. The Mark VI’s optical formula comprises 15 elements arranged in 12 groups – among which can be found 2 very low dispersion aspherical lenses (ED) as well as 8 aspherical lenses – 4 of which are advanced aspherical lenses (AA).
The RX100 VI’s lens is equipped with SteadyShot optical stabilization capable of gaining 4 IL (CIPA norm).
1” Exmor RS CMOS 20.1 Mpx stacked sensor
With the RX100 Mark VI, Sony has improved upon the 1″ Exmor RS CMOS 20.1 Mpx stacked sensor found on the previous version of its camera. The Mark VI’s sensor is equipped with a DRAM chip which allows for the rapid transfer of data. Coupled with its new Bionz X image processor, the RX100 VI is now capable of taking up to 233 Jpeg images with continuous AF/AE tracking at a burst rate of 24 images/second – a significant improvement over the Mark V’s 150 photos at 20 images/second. The Mark VI’s anti-distortion electronic shutter has a maximum shutter speed of 1/32 000 and minimizes the “rolling shutter” effect.
The “world’s fastest autofocus” according to Sony
The RX100 VI’s other major innovation is the improved responsiveness of its autofocus system. While the RX100 V already boasted a 0.05-second focusing time, the Mark VI is able to focus is just 0.03 seconds, making it the “world’s fastest” professional compact camera with a 1″ sensor. The Mark VI’s AF is still based on a system of 315 phase detection AF points (as well as 25 contrast detection AF points) which cover around 65% of the image area.
The RX100 IV is also equipped with Sony’s high-density AF tracking technology – inspired by the A9 – which makes it possible to concentrate AF points around a subject in order to facilitate its tracking. The Eye AF feature, which allows focusing on a subject’s eye is also present on the RX100 VI.
4K and 4K HDR video
As far as video recording is concerned, the Sony RX100 Mark VI is able to film in 4K UHD 25/30p by making use of all of its sensor’s pixels. It is also 4K HDR compatible by using the HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) image profile which allows for the creation of images for an HDR workflow.
In Full HD, the Mark VI is able to record slow-motion scenes in 120p. It is also equipped with several super slow-motion modes: 240 i/s, 480 i/s, and 960 i/s. The RX100 VI is also capable of recording in S-Gamut3/S-Log3.
Touchscreen, dimensions, and connectivity
The Mark VI’s 3″(921 600-point) rear-facing display is still able to pivot over 180° upwards and over 90° downwards, but in addition, it is now a touchscreen. As a result, focusing can now be performed via a user’s fingertip which can also be used to move the cursor around the screen. The downside is that the Mark VI’s display has a lower resolution than that of the Mark V (1.2 million points). Another disappointing aspect is that the display’s tactile functions can only be used in shooting mode; the touchscreen cannot be used to navigate through the camera’s menus or to change its settings.
Fortunately, no changes have been made to the Mark VI’s physical dimensions; it has the same compact format as its predecessor: 101.6 x 58.1 x 42.8 mm. It weighs in at 301 grams and is still equipped with a retractable 2.35 million-point OLED viewfinder which can now be accessed via a single pressing motion (it took two manipulations to access it before). Furthermore, Sony claims that the Mark VI’s viewfinder is more responsive than ever before. The RX100 Mark VI also has WiFi, Bluetooth, and NFC connectivity.
Price and availability of the Sony RX100 VI
The Sony RX100 VI will become available at the end of June 2018 and will retail for 1300€ – 100€ more than the Sony RX100 V at the moment of its release – making it one of the most expensive high-end professional compact cameras on the market.
The VCT-SGR1 shooting grip which is geared towards vloggers and is compatible with the RX0 and the RX100 series will also become available in July 2018 and will retail for 120€.
Our first impressions of the Sony RX100 VI
Impossible to improve upon the Sony RX100 Mark V’s performance? Not according to Sony which has released an improved version of its flagship compact camera, a device which helped to popularize the professional segment of the compact camera market. The biggest change introduced by the Mark VI compared to previous versions is its new 24-200 mm lens. While it is more versatile than the Mark V’s 24-70 mm zoom, it is also less luminous having a range of aperture openings extending from f/2.8 to f/4.5. While this is something of a shame, it seems to respond to a demand from RX100 users more interested in their camera’s versatility than in the luminosity of its lens.
There is no reason to believe that the Mark VI’s image quality will be inferior to that of the Mark V since both cameras use the same sensor. The Mark VI has focused on improving its responsiveness; it now has a very fast autofocus as well as a 24 images/second burst mode which blurs the lines between photography and video recording. It also incorporates several popular features such as Eye AF first popularized by the Sony Alpha product line.
In terms of video recording, this compact camera has a well-balanced 4K video mode. However, Sony has made an effort to downplay a rather important shortcoming: the lack of an external microphone jack. While Sony has promoted the Mark VI as a good camera for vloggers (in conjunction with the VCT-SGR1 shooting grip), the addition of an external microphone jack would have given this compact camera much greater versatility in this regard.
Lastly, the Mark VI’s 1200$ price tag is another factor to keep in mind. The RX100 Mark VI is currently the most expensive compact camera on the market; its most serious contenders are Panasonic’s TZ200 and Canon’s PowerShot G1 X Mark III.