The Sony RX100 VI is the Perfect Pocket Camera

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If there ever was a perfect pocket powerhouse camera, it would be the RX100. Packing a 20MP 1"-type sensor since its first generation, the RX100 series changed the game when it came to high-end digital point-and-shoots—they were among the first that could truly be called “professional.” Each release since then has only further cemented the RX series legacy, and with the RX100 VI, it has kicked things up to 200.

That 200 refers, of course, to the newly designed zoom lens on the sixth-gen release, with its equivalent focal-length range of 24-200mm. Miraculously, the overall size and design of the camera have remained almost untouched, give or take a millimeter. These features alone would put it at the top of many lists for travelers, as it is legitimately a camera that you can stuff in a pocket, something I did a lot as I traveled from New York to Los Angeles and then Washington, DC, over the course of a week, and it has all the range and quality you could ever need.

Getting into the essential specs, the RX100 VI is quite similar to its most immediate predecessor, though it steps things up a notch. The sensor is the same stacked BSI Exmor RS 20.1MP 1" CMOS sensor as before, and the BIONZ X with front-end LSI have some improved processing and a larger buffer, speeding things up. UHD 4K and high-frame-rate Full HD video also make a return, though now pros will have access to S-Log3 and HLG for advanced workflows. My favorite change is the viewfinder. It features the one-push access feature of the RX1R II—the RX100 VI no longer requires manually pushing in and pulling out each time you want to open or close it, a super nice improvement to general handling. The last major change is the RX100’s other screen: the rear LCD. It may look the same, but it can now face 90° downward in addition to 180° up, making it great for overhead shooting and selfies, and has touch functionality.

Having owned older models, getting adjusted to the VI took no time at all. The menus are better than before and the addition of touch helps with certain settings, like focus point selection, which is a huge benefit with smaller cameras since they can’t fit as many physical control points on them. Shooters looking for a little more control may want the new VCT-SGR1 Shooting Grip. I had one of these in my bag and found it an essential accessory for shooting video on the fly, and it even opens to be a tabletop tripod for creative photo and video uses. There is a shutter release, video start/stop, and zoom rocker on the handle. It is a great little tool that perfectly complements the compact camera.

Being so similar to previous versions, I knew I would enjoy the camera. However, I was concerned about the new lens. It is exceptionally compact for the range, and I was worried Sony had sacrificed some image quality to get us there. Also, one negative is that the overall speed of the lens is reduced, since it starts at f/2.8 for 24mm. I did some shooting at night, and I do miss the f/1.8 of the III, IV, and V, especially with the 1" sensor really pushing its limits over ISO 3200. After checking out some of the files, it seems like they took great care in designing this lens. It is quite sharp throughout the range and I was very happy with the level of detail in my shots.

My best test was taking the camera to E3, to use as my main tool while covering the show for B&H. Trade shows are generally tough places to shoot because the lighting is usually terrible and inconsistent, quite often very dark, and they’re going to be crowded. With extra-tight security at the LA Convention Center, only carrying a point-and-shoot saved a lot of time getting through the doors. And since there was a decent amount of time spent waiting in long lines, being able to quickly zoom to 200mm to get a close-up of Spider Man was phenomenal.

One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is the autofocus. It is fast. The 315-point hybrid AF system has gotten an update and seems to be a tad more responsive, and now features better Eye AF. When shooting people, including myself, it was very fast to locate and lock onto any eyes in the frame. Pair this with the insane 24 fps continuous shooting rate and you have a quite incredible camera for action. So, even if you aren’t traveling and just want something to toss in your bag for your kid’s soccer game, the RX100 VI is an ideal choice. Also, the camera’s Optical SteadyShot image stabilization system is quite impressive. It makes a huge difference when you are out at the 200mm setting, and I was able to get sharp images shooting at slower-than-expected shutter speeds.

Even videographers can get a lot from the RX100. It features UHD 4K at 30p and specs that put it in line with Sony’s mirrorless cameras. That is XAVC S at 100 Mb/s and various Picture Profiles for control over the look of the footage for post-production. Testing the video, it is quite good, and I greatly appreciate the addition of HLG as a friendlier, yet still capable, profile to use when you don’t need S-Log. The super slow-motion settings of up to 960/1000 fps are there too and are a lot of fun to play with. On top of this, the VI has a built-in Photo Capture function for pulling stills from your videos. Unfortunately, the compact size did result in some issues for professional videographers. There is still no mic input, so you won’t be able to get the all-in-one recording setup you might’ve liked for vlogging without using a dedicated audio system. The lens does not accept filters either, and the built-in ND is long gone from the series. Basically, for high-end video work, this is simultaneously the best and most annoying point-and-shoot on the market because footage looks amazing and is spec’d very well, but minor issues will have you pulling your hair out.

Basically, the RX100 VI is the next generation of the series, and that is just fine. The RX100s have always been among the best point-and-shoots on the market, and while they make significant changes with each release, they never mess with the parts that work (except for the hot shoe being removed from the II). It’s awesome for stills, great at video, and can slip into a pocket.

Are you a fan of the RX100 series? What do you think about the new lens on the Mark VI? Let us know what you think in the Comments section, below!

12 Comments

Got it two days ago.. was not over the top with night shots, still working on it... wanted a camera that I could use in jazz clubs, not carrying my XT2 with me all the time. The focus is lightning quick, the daytime photos rival the Fuji. I've been experimenting with A setting for night shooting and the camera, pushing on toward the higher ISO seems to be "better"... I never had the Sony with the faster lens, so can't compare. As you said, it is a fantastic camera in a small package... in the past I was ZS100, this is much better.

Hi Joel,

It is a good camera, though if it did have a weakness it would be night with the slower lens. That said, it does have great high ISO performance, especially compared to anything else that small with a close feature set.

So...I love my Mark III RX100, and among my half-dozen cameras (including Leicas) it is definitely my go-to. Reading this review, I wonder if I should "add" the Mark VI? Basically for the telephoto reach. I don't think I shoot in low-light much -- I probably didn't realize how fast the Mark III is and just didn't try. Is the telephoto at full extension really as wonderfully sharp as the Mark III is across its (limited) range? Is it crazy to own both? :)

I'd say that all the other improvements to the VI will make you decide it is a much better camera than the III. The new EVF design that you don't have to manually pull out alone could be a huge selling point. If you don't shoot in low-light that often, you probably won't notice the difference the f/1.8 (keep in mind this is only at 24mm anyway), and in general the lens on the VI is very sharp throughout as I had no complaints when I was reviewing stills and footage. It isn't crazy to want to have both, but I think you'll quickly find the VI being your go to 99% of the time.

I have a first generation Sony RX100. When it was first introduced I was happy to trade zoom range for all the features of the camera, especially size. I will be more than happy to trade a slower lens for the greater zoom range. Image stabilization will make up for the longer shutter speeds required. I never owned many lenses that were f2.8 for my old film cameras because I could barely afford them! I am eager to consider this version to replace my "first edition."

When traveling I tend to shoot a lot of night scenes and rely on the faster lenses. How much of a difference did you find from the 1.4 lens in the V version?

The V version had an f/1.8 lens at the wide end (f/2.8 at the tele end), but either way, going to f/2.8 (and over a stop slower across the range, albeit a longer range) is a huge difference.  Even if the sensor were slightly improved, there's no making up that much in low light (when going from V -> VI; might be when going from, say, II -> VI.)  In addition, there will be noticeably deeper DOF when wide open (not that you can achieve really shallow depth of field with either, unless the subject is really close.)

I would say that night scenes, kids photos, etc, are pretty common for people traveling, even professionals.  Seems an odd choice on Sony's part.

If you shoot a lot of night, the f/1.8 at 24mm with the III, IV, and V is definitely going to be a significant boost. I owned a III and IV and was definitely missing it sometimes at night.

Please comment on the touch screen. I am particularly interested in setting the focus point.

The touchscreen is a great implementation. It is still somewhat limited (no menu use or for reviewing images) but for quickly picking an AF point or even using touch to shoot it is wonderful.

Can the camera save raw files or only JPEGs?

Hi Robert,

All the RX100 series camera can capture in raw and JPEG. Though for the Mark VI specifically as of today (7/11/18) support for the raw is limited to Sony's Imaging Edge software as we wait for updates to third-party options like Photoshop and Capture One.

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