Sony RX100 VI first look: the ultimate compact camera for travel?

Key Features

  • Review Price: £1150
  • High-zoom, 24-200mm f/2.8-4.5 lens
  • Touchscreen LCD for choosing focus points
  • Shoots 4K HDR video
  • Pop-up XGA OLED viewfinder
  • 24fps burst mode shooting
  • 4-stop image stabilisation
  • 1-inch, 20.1MP Exmor CMOS sensor
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Sony RX100 VI: we take a first look at Sony’s pricey, high-zoom compact

Since its debut in 2012, Sony’s RX100 series has been on a mission to redefine what we can expect from a premium, large-sensor compact camera.

The new RX100 VI, though, is a slightly different beast. While Sony has previously been happy to let Panasonic own the high-zoom travel compact sector with models like the Lumix TZ200, the new RX100 plants a size-10 boot in TZ territory.

Out goes the 24-70mm lens seen on the last three versions, with the RX100 VI instead fronted by 24-200mm lens that gives you the equivalent of an 8.3x optical zoom.

This is still a lot shorter than the 24-360mm of the slightly larger TZ200, and the RX100 VI is significantly more expensive, but it does finally give anyone looking for a pocketable, high-quality, long-zoom compact an alternative to the Lumix series.

Sony RX100 VI – Price and release date

The RX100 VI will cost £1150 when it becomes available to buy in July 2018. It’s an extra option in the RX100 series rather than a replacement for previous models, which means you can still buy every version of Sony’s premium compact range from the official store.

Whether you should consider older versions depends on how much you need the RX100 VI’s new features and how it shapes up next to its Panasonic Lumix rivals.

Pre-order: Sony RX100 VI for £1,149 from Park Cameras

Sony RX100 VI – Design and features

The most impressive physical feat of the RX100 VI is that Sony has effectively tripled the reach of the lens without making the camera significantly bigger. It’s 1.8mm deeper than its predecessor, but the same length and width.

Sony’s achieved this by making the lens slower – the maximum aperture now runs from f/2.8-4.5, rather than the f/1.8-2.8 of the previous model. While this may disappoint low-light and shallow depth-of-field fans, others may consider the extra reach worth the sacrifice.

The Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens may promise edge-to-edge performance throughout the focal range, but the RX100 VI offers more than just fancy glass – it’s essentially a pocket-sized Sony Alpha.

Sony’s full-frame cameras, including the flagship Alpha A9, are built around a Bionx X processor with front-end LSI, and you’ll find the same combination inside the RX100 VI (albeit in scaled-down form). Combine this with a 1-inch, back-illuminated 20.1MP Exmor CMOS sensor with Fast Hybrid AF, and you have the invisible force that powers many of this camera’s impressive talents.

These include what Sony claims is the ‘world’s fastest’ autofocus for a 1in sensor camera (0.03sec), burst shooting at 24fps with full AF/AE tracking and a 233-shot JPEG buffer, and Super Slow Motion at 1000fps.

That’s not all – you also get 4K video with full pixel read-out (rather than the crop found on many rivals) an anti-distortion electronic shutter with a blistering top speed of 1/32,000sec. It’s an impressive roll call, particularly for a compact camera.

Focusing has long been an Achilles heel with long-zoom compacts, but Sony has thrown everything it has into fixing this. The RX100 VI’s Fast Hybrid AF system combines two autofocus systems: the older ‘contrast-detection AF’ (which traditionally excels at shooting stationary objects) and 315 ‘phase-detect AF’ points on the sensor, which cover 65% of the frame and help out in modes like shooting video.

Sony RX100 VI – Screen and viewfinder

One of our main criticisms of the RX100 V is that it lacks a touchscreen, which is a bit stingy for a £1000 camera. Luckily, the RX100 VI fixes that with a touchscreen LCD panel.

This further boosts your focusing options, with touch focusing letting you manually select the focus point by touching the desired area on the screen. In Touch Shutter mode you can also take a photo by touching the screen, which is hinged to allow it to be tilted 100-degrees upwards (for selfies or vlogging) or 90-degrees downwards (for overhead shooting).

If you prefer to use a viewfinder, the RX100 VI also inherits the pop-up EVF from its predecessor. It’s a 2.35-million-dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder display that’s naturally quite small, but it’s a real boon on a sunny day when sun’s too strong for the rear screen.

Sony RX100 VI – Controls and performance

The downside of all these cutting-edge features is that remembering where to find them all within the vast menu is akin to trying to memorise the phone book.

Luckily, the rear Function button gives quick access to your key parameters like ISO, white balance and focus mode. And once set up, your main interactions will be with the top-plate mode dial, the rear input ring and the excellent input collar around the lens mount.

On a day’s shooting in Venice the RX100 VI showed why it is a perfect travel compact. The longer reach of the zoom came into its own for capturing candids, architectural details and views down the canals.

While selfie lovers and vloggers will love the 180-degree vertical tilt of the touchscreen LCD, in the bright sunshine of Venice in June the real hero feature was the pop-up EVF which, although very small, is perfectly usable and has been improved over its predecessor.

The camera’s focusing speed and accuracy were such that there was barely a single out-of-focus image from a day’s shooting, which included some fast-moving subjects.

Opening impressions

On paper, the RX100 VI is a miniature, pocketable Sony A7 III with a superzoom lens. And in our brief time with it, we were certainly impressed with its performance on our daytime travels around Venice.

The only obvious negative so far, and it’s a big one, is the price tag. At over £400 more expensive than the Lumix TZ200, with a shorter zoom, Sony has to hope it’ll outperform its established rival pretty comprehensively across the board.

Pre-order: Sony RX100 VI for £1,149 from Park Cameras

We’ll let you know if it manages that feat in our full review soon ahead of its release in July 2018.