DSC-RX100 VI

DSC-RX100 VI

Sony DSC-RX100 VI Full Review

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What We Love. If you're someone who is a casual shooter looking for a sleek compact camera with a lot of potential, you'll definitely appreciate the Sony RX100 VI. It's a powerful little thing--and by little, we mean your smartphone might be only slightly bigger--with fantastic features like its 24-200mm zoom range, continuous shooting of 24fps, wide sensitivity range of 80 to 12800, 4K shooting, and a decent hybrid AF system with 315 phase detection and 25 contrast detection points. It's also got a few lovely extras like the Touch Pad AF for when you're shooting using the viewfinder, the anti-distortion shutter, slow motion shooting capability of up to 40x slower, a plethora of picture effects, and soft skin effect, not to mention scene selection presets and panorama shooting. These are all impressive pro-level features stuffed in a pretty 2.375 x 4 x 1.69-inch body designed to make photography easy for non-photographers.

What We'd Change. If you're an advanced, experienced, or pro photographer looking for a compact body as a portable back up or for quick shots, you'll want to look somewhere else. There's the 20.1MP 1-inch sensor, which isn't enough to capture super sharp images and excellent detail. This might not be surprising for a compact, but considering that this compact will set you back around $1,200, it's kind of a big deal. Also, the auto focus is a hit or miss, especially but not exclusively when shooting in low light. We cannot tell you how many times it's completely missed its mark, despite indicating that it has locked on the right subject. It's also too tiny, even in small hands, and the battery life could be better.

Pick This Up If... If you're looking for a premium compact with premium features, you'll appreciate this one. As long as you're not expecting super high res images, and you're only planning to use the camera to record memories and life events, maybe shoot your Instagram and vlogging videos. But be prepared to shell out more bread than necessary.

INTRO

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We think that one of the biggest concerns people have with the Sony RX100 VI is the price. Sony has always had a talent for touting its products at premium prices, which is all well and good since they've got excellent stuff, but this camera's $1200 price tag is already steep enough for a point-and-shoot then you factor in the fact that it's not quite delivering as well as it should.

We can forgive softer images. We can also forgive the 240 shots per full charge battery life. But the flawed autofocus, not so much. Not when it misses your subject while shooting outdoors in the afternoon, even if it was in a slightly shady area. Not for what you're paying. Not when there are other cheaper alternatives out there.

It doesn't mean this camera is a total failure. Far from it. It's just that this camera is for a very specific audience. Read on to find out what makes this camera tick and if it's what you're looking for.

LENS

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The Sony RX100 VI boasts a ZEISS Vario-Sonnar 24-200mm zoom lens with a maximum aperture of F/2.8 at the widest focal lengths and F/4.5 at 200 mm, as well as an optical construction of 15 elements in 12 groups that include four advanced aspherical lenses and two Extra-low Dispersion glass elements that promise high-quality images with hardly noticeable aberration chromatic, as well as minimal barrel and pincushion distortion. At its wide focal length, it also allows you to get as close as 8 cm to your subjects and still get nicely focused images.

While it doesn't have a built-in ND filter, it does have a solid telephoto--great for many applications like travel, street, and adventure type shots--and a control ring mounted on its base so easy access to things such as changing your aperture or shutter speed. Unfortunately, since the whole thing is so tiny in the first place, you're probably better off accessing these through the menu. Even with this reviewer's tiny hands, it was tricky to operate despite its smooth tactile feel and feedback.

It's a pretty great lens, one that takes excellent images for a compact. However, if you're fond of bokeh and looking for faster apertures, you might prefer the previous model that offers F/1.8 at its widest and F/2.8 at its longest. 

KEY FEATURES 

  • 20.1MP 1" Exmor RS BSI CMOS Sensor
  • BIONZ X Image Processor & Front-End LSI
  • ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T F2.8-4.5 Lens
  • 24-200mm (35mm Equivalent)
  • UHD 4K/30p Video with HLG & S-Log3 Gammas
  • HFR Mode for Full HD Video up to 960 fps
  • 0.39" 2.36m-Dot OLED Pop-Up EVF
  • 3.0" 921.6k-Dot 180° Tilting Touchscreen
  • Fast Hybrid AF System with 315 Points
  • ISO 80-12800
  • 24 fps Continuous Shooting
  • Sweep Panorama Shooting
  • Bluetooth 4.1 and WiFi connectivity
  • Dimensions: 4" x 2 3/8" x 1 11/16"

WHAT'S IN THE BOX 

  • Rechargeable Battery Pack NP-BX1
  • AC Adaptor
  • Micro USB cable
  • Wrist Strap
  • Strap adapter
  • Instruction Manual

BUILD QUALITY & DESIGN

Sony RX100 VI Product Image 2.jpgWe love the RX100 VI's design. Its sleek, smooth, all-black exterior gives it a classy look most folks will appreciate. And by pocket size, they really mean pocket size at 4 x 2 3/8 x 1 11/16 inches, but despite that, it does boast a 0.39-type 2.359M-dot electronic viewfinder as well as a sizeable 3-inch touchscreen LCD that takes up most of the rear part and tilts 90-degrees down and 180-degrees up.

Buttons and dials include the usual stuff including the Function button for quick access to things you might need on the fly such as ISO and timer, a record button for videos, and the shooting mode dial on the top part. Additionally, there is a Flash toggle for the built-in flash, the EVF switch, and the control ring around the lens near the mount for manual shooters who are used to aperture rings and shutter speed dials.

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Unfortunately, it doesn't feature any sort of weather sealing, which is disappointing especially if you want to use this as your go-to travel camera or on your rugged expeditions. During our tests, we did take it out in the desert on a scorching summer day. Not only did it perform well, but it also didn't seem to have gathered dust inside its lens. Take that however you want; but if you're planning on taking this camera somewhere where it might contend with the elements, just be ready with a bit of external protection. 

ERGONOMICS

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We can't decide whether or not we like the RX100 VI's tiny size. While it is convenient to slip it into a pocket on the go, it's also harder to handle than you might think because it's almost too small even in small hands. We were in constant fear of a drop. At least you have the option to attach a strap, which you should definitely do. Also, because of its size, the control ring was harder to access; however, the buttons and dials surprisingly weren't.

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Its electronic viewfinder is also easily accessible with a switch on the side above the strap anchor, but it is also very tiny and hard to look through. You might be better off just shooting with the 3-inch LCD, which has, albeit limited, touchscreen functionalities--a major upgrade from the previous model--that include adjusting your AF and using the Touch Shutter. 

The Touch Shutter function basically lets you touch the screen to command the camera to take a shot. This can be a little tricky to use as there will be times when you're only adjusting the focus but the camera interprets it as a shutter command. However, once you figure out how to use it, it's a pretty nifty feature to have.

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We wish that the LCD screen had more angles than just up and down, but in a camera this size, it's understandable that there isn't any room for a Vari-angle display.

We definitely don't like Sony's decision to put the video record button right next to the thumb rest. Although the raised rubber pad does provide a little bit of separation and lets your thumb know when it might be resting over the button, the camera's small size really doesn't give you a lot of space and you will often find your thumb on it, even accidentally pressing it.

MENUS & DISPLAYS 

The RX100 VI boasts the same menu as the other Sony cameras so if you're not used to that, it might prove a little complex and overwhelming. (And if you do know Sony cameras, welcome home.) There are two ways to access the menu: using the Menu button for the full menu and with the Fn button for the Fn menu.

The Fn menu is customizable according to your needs and has 12 spots to accommodate 12 settings for which you need quick access. The six-tab/section full menu does that a bit of getting used to because of its many options, but it is color and icon coded to make it easier to figure out. To navigate both, you'd have to use the rear dial. Unfortunately, the LCD touchscreen isn't active when you're on the menu.

It is, however, active on Playback mode when you're browsing images. Combine that functionality with the screen's 921,600-dots display, and you'll definitely get solid previews and playbacks.

SPEED & AF PERFORMANCE

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When there's enough light, you can definitely rely on the RX100 VI to capture fast movements and action shots. It does, after all, offer an impressive 24fps on continuous as well as an autofocus system that boasts 315 phase detection and 25 contrast detection points. That combo is more than what you'd expect from most high-end compacts.

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Unfortunately, it's not so reliable when you're indoors or in low light. While testing this in a shadowy (yet not too dark) spot outdoors, it was hard to get nicely focused still subjects--despite face and eye tracking, let alone a walking one. When we were trying to get city skyline shots at night, the AF was also acting a little wonky when the wind picked up. If you plan on shooting with this in low light, be prepared to take multiple shots and retakes.

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That said, when you're outdoors and in broad daylight, you should get some incredible action shots. We manage to capture sharp images of skateboarders and people on bikes. 

METERING

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Four types of real-time light metering options are available on the RX100 VI: Multi Pattern, Center-Weighted, Spot, Entire Screen Average, and Highlight.

It has solid metering. Even in high contrast situations where there's a lot of shadow and also highlights, this compact manages to expose details in shadows well enough as well as suppress overblowing those in brightness.

For mostly lit scenes, the Multi Pattern one is best, but for situations where your subject is backlit or in shadow, Spot metering is best. On the other hand, if there are a lot of highlights in your scene, you might want to see what Highlight metering can do to minimize overexposures.

STILL IMAGE QUALITY

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When you're working with a one-inch, 20MP sensor, one would expect great images that are not quite as sharp and detailed as the higher resolution ones. That's obviously quite standard. 

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So you cannot expect as much detail as when you've got a bigger, higher resolution sensor. You'll get some details--body hair on someone's arm, for example, might be visible if they're three to five meters away, but they'll look more like a fuzzy outline than individual hairs. With subjects that are only a couple of feet away, these will be a lot more individually defined, though again, not quite as sharp as they would be if you have more resolution.

Of course, if you compare the RX100 VI to smaller-sensor point-and-shoots and cell phones, the RX100 VI produces superb photos with beautiful color reproduction and impressive dynamic range. Additionally, its lens does a great job in really minimizing distortion, ghosting, and flare. Hints of chromatic aberration might be noticeable if you really zoom in, but otherwise, they're not quite obvious.

An awesome feature of this tiny compact is the image stabilization to help minimize shakiness in your photos when shooting with slower shutter speed. It's obviously not as powerful, but it's good enough.

ISO PERFORMANCE

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One of the best things about the RX100 VI is its wide sensitivity range of 80 to 12,800. That's as good as a number of APS-C cameras out there. Unfortunately, as far as its ability to manage noise, we aren't quite as impressed. 

This compact isn't quite as adept at noise control as we had hoped. Even at ISO 400, we couldn't already discern signs of luminance noise, and when zoomed in, chromatic noise. These only get worse until images are basically unusable at 6400 when there's just too much of both. So even if you've got an ISO of up to 12,800 at your disposal, you're really only limited to 6400. That is, unless you don't mind the noise.

VIDEO QUALITY


The RX100 VI records Full HD videos at 24, 60, 100, and 120 fps, and 4K at 24, 25, and 30 fps, as well as super slow-motion of up to 960fps at 30p. What's more; its 4K videos offer about 1.7 times the information as they are oversampled at 5028 x 2828 for even better resolution as well as reduced moiré.

On top of those, this compact offers S-Log3 and S-Log2 gamma curves, as well as HLG recording capability, which gives users results that are better for color grading in post. While these features aren't exactly useful for casual shooters, it's certainly useful for videographers and filmmakers who need a compact to shoot their clips with.

Since this camera is tiny and super light, consider the idea of mounting it on a compact tripod or even a gimbal when shooting your footages. The added weight, as well as the more comfortable grip, should give you better control in keeping handheld shots steady. The in-body optical SteadyShot might help keep camera shots and bobbing at bay, but not by much.

WIRELESS PERFORMANCE

The RX100 VI uses the same app as the top of the line Sony mirrorless cameras, the PlayMemories Mobile app. Connecting this compact, whether you're trying to wirelessly transfer your images or control it with the remote control function, is pretty straightforward what with the app's simple user interface. And after setting it up the first time, it's so much easier to connect.

Transferring of images is pretty quick, and while the remote control function is a tad limited in options you can do, it is pretty useful, especially for shots where you might need to be away from the camera or when keeping it as steady as possible is very important.

Other connectivity options include the One-touch remote, One-touch sharing, and Bluetooth.

PROS & CONS 

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Pros
  • Great image quality and color reproduction
  • Wide sensitivity range
  • Image stabilization
  • Fast AF with Eye and Face detection
  • Continuous shooting of 24fps
  • Slow motion of up to 40x
  • 4K shooting
  • Touchscreen LCD
  • Nice zoom range
  • Compact body
  • Has built-in flash

Cons
  • No weather sealing
  • Poor noise control
  • AF not good in low light
  • Battery life is just ok
  • Pricey

FINAL THOUGHTS

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The Sony RX100 VI is a nifty compact chockfull of top-of-the-line features, which is most likely why they're having you pay $1,198 for it if you want it. The combination of a fast hybrid AF, rapid continuous shooting, 4K and super slow-motion capabilities, nice zoom range, optical stabilization, and an LCD with some touchscreen functionalities doesn't come cheap.

Yet it's still hard to swallow at that price, not when you can get into a second or third APS-C or full-frame Sony mirrorless interchangeable lens camera for under $1,000, even if those older cameras don't quite have the speed and features. We were also frustrated by the RX100 VI's AF performance, noise control, battery life, and lack of weather sealing. 

If you're an experienced or advanced shooter who needs a compact for certain shooting situations, these inadequacies might prove a bit glaring and something hard to ignore.

If you're more of a casual shooter -- a family looking for a premium travel camera or an artist looking to create digital content for Instagram and YouTube -- the RX100 VI as a great point-and-shoot. It might not be the camera for us, personally, but definitely consider the RX100 VI for taking snapshots and videos of your family gatherings, events, travels, personal portraits, adventures (though perhaps not too adventurous), and other life milestones.

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