First Impressions: Sony RX100 VI (Sony’s Camera for Street Photographers?)

The Sony RX100 VI is promising a lot of big upgrades

Sony’s latest premium point-and-shoot covers a huge focal range in a compact package, and will surely fit the needs of street photographers looking to be as unobtrusive as possible. During the camera’s announcement day, we had some time to walk around and play with the camera. So far, it seems a bit hit or miss.

Sony RX100 VI Highlight Specs

Sony RX 100 VI highlight specs are taken from the official page over at Sony’s product page

  • ZEISS® Vario-Sonnar T* 24–200 mm1 F2.8–4.5 high-resolution zoom lens
  • Approx. 20.1 effective megapixel 1.0-type stacked Exmor RS™ CMOS sensor with DRAM chip
  • BIONZ X™ image processing engine for superior detail reproduction and noise reduction
  • 0.03 sec5 AF response with 315 focal-plane phase-detection AF points
  • Up to 24fps6 continuous shooting with AF/AE for up to 2337 shots
  • SENSOR TYPE
    1.0″-type (0.52″ x 0.35″) Exmor RS® CMOS sensor, aspect ratio 3:2
  • NUMBER OF PIXELS (EFFECTIVE)
    Approx. 20.1 Megapixels
  • ISO SENSITIVITY (STILL IMAGE)(RECOMMENDED EXPOSURE INDEX)
    Auto (ISO125–12800, selectable with upper/lower limit), 125/160/200/250/320/400/500/640/800/1000/1250/1600/2000/2500/3200/4000/5000/6400/8000/10000/12800 (Extendable to ISO80/100), Multi-Frame NR: Auto (ISO125–12800), 200/400/800/1600/3200/6400/12800/256001011

 

Ergonomics

When you see the Sony RX100 VI, you’ll see a camera that looks and feels almost exactly like many of the others that have been released in the past few years. The front of the camera still has the lens, the ring around said lens, and the smooth texture on the body.

Activate the camera, and you’ll find the lens to extend past the camera body. Turn to the top of the Sony RX100 VI and what you’ll spot is the area for the EVF, the pop-up flash, the on/off switch, the mode dial, and the shutter button with the zoom rocker. It’s pretty standard for a point and shoot camera.

Here’s what the Sony RX100 VI looks like from the top when the lens is retracted. Pretty slim, right?

Turn to the back of the Sony RX100 VI and what you’ll spot is this giant LCD screen. It’s touch capable and the controls for the screen are on the right side. Sony desperately needs to adda third dial here.

The screen is a first for Sony. It can tilt downwards 90 degrees, which was really needed.

Build Quality

The electronic viewfinder (EVF) in the Sony RX100 VI now extends out of and retracts into the housing automatically in one fluid motion. The EVF toggle is located directly above one of the wrist strap anchors, and the two are very similar in size as well as shape. This can be somewhat annoying if you’re trying to engage the toggle without looking at the camera body. You’ll definitely want to make use of the included wrist strap to help minimize the chance of accidentally dropping the camera, as it is very compact and the smooth metal body can easily slip out of your grasp. The rubber pad in the rear helps prevent your thumb from accidentally depressing the movie record button, a common issue on a number of other Sony mirrorless cameras.

The camera also lacks weather sealing. Why? I’m not sure at this point especially despite the price tag.

Ease of Use

At first glance, the Sony RX100 VI looks and feels nearly identical to its predecessor. The biggest change with the Sony RX100 VI is the inclusion of a 24-200mm f2.8-f4.5 lens, compared to the 24-70mm f1.8-f2.8 in the Sony RX100 V–almost tripling the camera’s focal range at the cost of more than a stop of light when shooting wide open. The ring around the lens features much better knurling than the predecessor, and offers an excellent tactile experience when changing the aperture or shutter speed depending on the mode you’re in. Unfortunately, a dedicated ISO dial continues to elude us on the Sony RX100 VI, as well as weather sealing.

Sony touts the RX100 VI’s 24 frames per second as one of the camera’s major selling points, but this is also the cause of one of the biggest issues we experienced during our time with the premium point-and-shoot. We continually ran into the buffer limit on the Sony RX 100 VI, even when shooting in JPEG, and would get locked out of many of the camera’s menu items while it writes all of the images queued up in the buffer onto the SD card. When asked about the size of the buffer, the Sony engineers onsite declined to comment, but our testing found the buffer to max out around 100 frames. If you plan on purchasing this camera, make sure you’re using the fastest SD cards on the market to help keep this wait down to a minimum.

The Sony RX 100 VI is compact enough that you can operate it one handed without having to worry about fatiguing your hand. However, due to the small footprint of the camera, it was very easy for our fingers to accidentally move the knurled ring around the lens, inadvertently changing the aperture or shutter speed. Additionally, despite featuring optical in body stabilization, we found that images were still leaned towards the softer side when shooting singlehanded. The included pop up flash feels very solid despite its small size, and will come in handy in a pinch if you’re in low light situations. Just don’t expect it to effectively illuminate anything beyond a few feet away.

Autofocus

Unfortunately, we experienced some lag when moving the focus point around using the touch pad, and we also weren’t able to use the touch pad to operate the camera’s menu system. In our testing on the streets of NYC, we found the face detection to not be as speedy as we’d need it to be despite both a slower lens and enhanced autofocus algorithms.

Activating the touch pad to choose the focusing point and then enabling the whole screen for the dragging of the AF point is a nice feature to have with a camera like this. But in our tests, we really didn’t see it work well for face detection on the streets of NYC.

Sample Images

Here are some of the images we captured with the Sony RX 100 VI. All of them were shot in JPEG as the RAW profile for this camera is not yet available in Capture One and Lightroom.

Initial Impressions

We’re willing to blame some of the problems that we saw with the pre-production units on them not being finalized. But there generally still are some issues that we think that Sony could have addresses and revamped with this camera. We look forward to testing the Sony RX 100 VI more extensively, so stay tuned for our full review!

Additional reporting was done by Chris Gampat