Sony’s latest wunder-compact, the RX100 VI manages to mix true pocketability with a range of powerful high-end features. But it all comes at one hell of price - £1,150 to be exactly.
The premium compact is the sixth iteration of Sony’s much lauded RX100 series, with the biggest upgrade coming to the lens. Now offering 24-200mm (equivalent), you’ve got more than double the reach of the RX100 VI, which boasted a much more restricted 24-70mm (equivalent) lens.
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It’s also got some other handy new features, including a touch-sensitive screen (for the first time in an RX100 series), the same processor as found in the A9 professional compact system camera, and improved EyeAF tracking performance.
Other specs include 4K video recording, an inbuilt electronic viewfinder, high-speed shooting at up to 24fps, and optical image stabilisation.
Design and Handling
It’s always worth repeating how remarkable it is that Sony’s clever engineers have managed to cram such an extensive feature set into a tiny body like the RX100 VI.
Even more impressive is that while the lens focal length has been doubled, the body size has only increased by less than 2mm. But, while it’s technologically a marvel, that comes with some downsides, too.
The small body is a little on the slippery side, and with no real grip to get your mitts around, dropping an almost £1200 camera becomes a daily worry – you’re going to want to make sure the wrist strap is mostly firmly attached, that’s for sure.
It also means that there’s not a whole load of space to fit buttons and dials – the solution is to make the buttons very small, but that leads to a bit of a fiddly experience.
Still, it’s something you do eventually learn to live with – and in fairness, by finally adding a touch-sensitive screen, occasionally you can get away without touching the buttons at all.
Hidden away when not in use, a small, but very useful electronic viewfinder can be popped out from the RX100 VI’s top-plate at the flick of a switch.
Even better is that for the first time, the finder pops out fully and you don’t need to manually pull out the viewfinder screen to use it – it’s just ready to go.
This is a premium compact camera, and as such, it’s got all the shooting modes you’d expect from a camera aimed at people who really know what they’re doing.
So, along with all the usual automatic modes, you’ve also got a full set of semi-automatic (P,S,A) and manual modes. It can also shoot in raw format, giving you better flexibility in editing programmes such as Photoshop.
If you’re wondering just how Sony has managed to cram in longer focal length lens while not making the camera bigger, it comes at the expense of a wide aperture. While the RX100 V had an f/1.8-f/2.8 maximum aperture range, the RX100 VI is slower, starting at f/2.8 at the wide end, and narrowing further to f/4.5 at the telephoto end.
That shouldn’t be a problem for most of your shots, but if you’re somebody who spends a lot of time operating in shadowy corners, it’s certainly something to consider – especially if you’re not bothered about being to get 8x closer to your subject.
Adding touch-sensitivity has been a long time coming for the RX100 range – in fact it’s almost unbelievable that we’d had to wait until 2018 for it to be added, but there we go. You can use it to set the autofocus point quickly – a real bonus when using the RX100 VI for street-style photography when speed is of the essence. You can also use it in playback, double tapping to zoom into images.
It’s still not perfect though – you can’t make menu settings via the screen, for example. On a more positive note, having a tilting screen on such a small camera is super useful – use it when shooting from awkward positions, and of course, push it all the way forward for all your selfie needs, too.
Wi-Fi is included on the RX100 VI, with Bluetooth connectivity also added. With the latter you can only use it to geotag your images, rather than maintaining an “always-on” type connection for automatic transfer of your shots to your smartphone – a disappointment compared with the likes of the Panasonic TZ200 and the Canon G1X Mark III.
Battery life is rated at just 220-240 shots per charge (depending on whether you’re using the screen or viewfinder). You should find that it lasts the whole day if you’re not a super snapper, but if you are, buying an extra battery shouldn’t take up too much extra space in your pocket. You can also charge it via USB to give you a little extra boost, too.
Right from the off, Sony has impressed with the RX100 range, and when it comes to image quality, the Mark VI is no different.
It is capable of producing extremely detailed images, especially at low ISO settings. Moving through the sensitivity range, you first start to see noise appear obviously at ISO 1600. After that, images at ISO 3200 or ISO 6400 are certainly useable, but if you can keep the ISO down, you should.
Extending the lens range to give better flexibility can often come at the detriment of sharpness, but that doesn’t appear to be the case with the RX100 VI. Despite having a shorter zoom range than its closest competitor, the Panasonic TZ200, you get a better sharpness performance – so you could argue that it’s a much more usable zoom range.
Colours are very nicely saturated, with a good degree of punch without straying into unrealistic territory. Switching between Picture Styles when shooting in the JPEG setting is also an option for tweaking colours to your personal preference.
On the whole, the all-purpose metering setting delivers well-balanced exposures, while the automatic white balance setting is generally reasonably accurate.
Every time Sony updates the RX100 series, it becomes even more unbelievable what can fit into such a small body. Here with the RX100 VI you’ve really got some fantastic features, but it comes at such a high asking price that you have to really want them.
As it stands, Sony hasn’t yet come up with a way to deliver both a long focal length and a really wide aperture. While that’s probably something they’ll figure out at some point, for now, you’ve got a choice to make. If you often shoot in low-light, and tend to prefer to zoom with your feet, it makes sense to stick with the RX100 V (you’ll also save yourself some cash, too).
However, if you want that extra zoom range, as well as a couple of other useful features (the touch-sensitive screen and the pop-out viewfinder being prime examples), then save up your pennies and plump for the newer model.
Either way, your bank manager may be disappointed, but you certainly won’t be.