For those unfamiliar, Sony’s RX100 series is the brand’s ultra-compact, ultra-versatile, ultra-feature-packed line of cameras. With an expected price tag of USD1,200 (SGD 1,600), we can be certain that Sony is committed to providing the best with the new RX100VI.
I had the chance to go hands-on with the previous Sony RX100V just last month while travelling in Italy. While its extraordinary capabilities packed into a compact form factor had impressed me, some nagging reservations about the camera persisted. With the RX100VI, most were addressed with the refresh.
Most notably is the change of glass on the new RX100VI. Instead of a 24-70mm f1.8-2.8 equivalent lens, it sports an incredible 24-200mm f2.8-4.5 lens, all packed in the same frame. While the aperture range takes a hit, Sony claims to have implemented a more effective image stabilisation system on the RX100VI, which delivers up to four steps of performance.
The longer lens also involves more elements, which potentially increases the likelihood of image artefacts like flare and aberrations. With 15 elements in 12 groups, the new 24-200mm equivalent lens (9.0-72mm on 1-inch sensor) also features two ED (Extra-low Dispersion) aspherical elements which Sony assures us delivers “corner-to-corner sharpness” across the extensive zoom range.
The increased number of elements also affects total effective light transmission through the lens. Sony’s new BIONZ-X sensor that delivers two times the performance of its predecessor, the RX100V. Autofocus response times have dropped to an imperceptible 0.03 seconds, and Eye AF tracking has been improved. The ability to shoot at an astounding continuous burst of 24fps is unchanged, but the RX100VI is able to do so continually for 233frames, up from 150.
The decrease in maximum aperture might also explain Sony’s choice to omit the ND filter from the RX100VI. Another concern that comes with the lowered aperture range is the ability to achieve subject-background separation with pleasing, powerful bokeh. However, with a much longer telephoto end of the zoom range, the RX100VI would be sure to outdo its predecessor in terms of tight portraiture since bokeh relies more on focal length and distance than aperture values.
While its versatility as a compact stills camera is undeniable, Sony’s dominance in videography is reestablished with its video-related upgrades in this camera. The RX100VI is able to capture 4K video up to 30p, with a maximum bitrate of 100 Mbps. On board, the 4K video is oversampled from 5K, with the entire sensor area utilized, resulting in very clean, detailed footage. High definition 1080p footage is also possible, at up to 120fps. High frame rate modes are available, with up to 960 fps capture.
A new Hybrid Log-Gamma picture profile preserves the entire dynamic range of the recording, displaying a flat profile on normal screens. When plugged into a HDR display in HLG mode, however, the image output is replicated in full dynamic range, delivering true-to-life footage. However, the lack of a mic input is a glaring omission, especially for vloggers seeking the perfect package.
The RX100VI, however, attempts to make up for it with a new inclusion: a touch-sensitive screen. With such a small form factor, some of the RX100VI’s controls like focus point selection are better accessed through an LCD screen. Providing both touch focus and touch shutter also allows users to intuitively capture images. The screen also articulates fully over and under the chassis of the camera for the selfie-obsessed. While doing so, it maintains full use of its LCD display. Its predecessor could only articulate fully over the top, and in doing so was unable to display a significant part of its LCD screen.
The EVF has been a huge deal for me. Raised on classic cameras, I feel like I shoot better when peering down an actual viewfinder. The previous RX100V managed to stuff one in its tiny chassis but it requires a manual pull to extend the glass after flicking a switch to pop the viewfinder out. In fact, it was so unintuitive that I thought the diopter was off when I first operated the camera. This troublesome process made me forgo the viewfinder in most cases when the time was tight or it was plain easier to not fiddle with the tiny components. The RX100VI, however, now includes a one-step XGA OLED EVF, which like its predecessors, allows users to power on the camera when the switch that pops the viewfinder up is flicked.
The RX100VI is the camera for the lightfooted traveller who demands all the features at one’s fingertips. Despite the few compromises made, the camera’s specifications are one of the best in the market, especially considering its extremely pocketable form.
The availability of the RX100VI both globally and in Singapore has yet to be announced. Price is expected to be similar to its predecessors at USD1,200 (SGD1,600).