First Impressions: Sony RX100 VII (A9 Level Performance in Your Pocket)

Sony crammed much of the company’s latest autofocus advancements into their brand new Sony RX100 VII premium compact point and shoot camera.

While companies tend to introduce their leading-edge technologies with their flagship products, these top-tier advancements will inevitably make their way into more entry-level products. This is thanks to the continued development of said technologies along with the economies of scale, which lower production costs over time. Such is the case with the Sony RX100 VII, Sony’s latest premium compact point and shoot. The RX100 VII promises the performance of the flagship A9 and incorporates the company’s latest autofocus technologies like Real-Time Eye AF and Real-Time Tracking. For reference, Real-Time Eye AF and Real-Time Tracking were first introduced with the Crop Sensor Sony A6400 announced at the beginning of this year. Shortly thereafter, it was patched into the Full Frame flagship Sony A9 along with the widely popular third-generation A7 cameras. Flagship-level performance in a premium compact point and shoot camera is a bold claim. So naturally, we were reasonably skeptical when we were first introduced to the RX100 VII, especially given our lukewarm experience with the previous model. We got to spend some time with the RX100 VII last week while we were in Oregon for Sony’s Kando 3.0 Trip. Head on after the jump to see how the seventh generation RX100 fared.

Editor’s Note: Our testing was done during the Sony Kando trip with our room and board fully covered by Sony. We’re going to call the camera in for a fuller review. But this first impressions post was done with a major emphasis on ethical communication with our readers.

Tech Specs

Taken from the Adorama listing

  • ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T* 24-200mm1 F2.8 – F4.5 high magnification zoom lens
  • World’s fastest (0.02sec) AF, 357-point phase detection and 425-point contrast-detection
  • Up to 20 fps Blackout-free Shooting, using up to 60 times/sec.5 AF/AE calculations
  • Single Burst Shooting captures 7 shots at up to 30/60/90 fps in JPEG/RAW
  • AI-based Real-time Tracking for stills and movies,and Touch Tracking
  • Real-time Eye AF for human (stills and movies), and for animal (stills only)
  • Newly developed 20.1MP10 1″ Exmor RS stacked BSI CMOS sensor with DRAM
  • 4K movie with direct pixel readout, no pixel binning, HLG instant HDR; Interval Shooting
  • Configuration: Includes Camera Only
  • Resolution: 21 MP
  • Optical Zoom: 8x Optical Zoom
  • Digital Zoom: 32x Digital Zoom

Ergonomics

The Sony RX100 VII is a camera that has remained unchanged on the outside since its inception. The lens, the additional EVF, and a few others things in its latest iteration have been updated. The biggest thing that you’ll notice here is the lack of a hot shoe. From the front, there isn’t much to differentiate this camera from its predecessor.

In place of a hot shoe, the Sony RX100 VII includes a pop-up flash right in the center. Party photographers will love this feature. I know a number of Sony Artisans who tote their RX100 series camera around at parties to take selfies with everyone. With that said, I expect a few of those folks to jump on purchasing one of these bad boys.

Like Sony has been doing for a few generations, the Sony RX100 VII has an EVF that pops up and activates the camera to turn on. The lens still has a control ring around it too.

The back LCD on the Sony RX100 VII tilts up for you to shoot. If you’re like us, you’ll think of it almost like a medium format camera. There are also controls on top of the camera, but they are scant at best.

Most of the controls are on the rear. If you’re in Aperture priority, Program mode, or even Auto then you’ll be fine. But when you want to do something more complicated, you’ll find these controls more limiting.

 

Build Quality

For better or worse, the Sony RX100 VII looks and feels nearly identical to its predecessor that was released just over a year ago. The main body of the RX100 VII is just slightly larger and thicker than a standard deck of playing cards. However, the housing for the variable aperture 24-200mm zoom lens and the customizable control ring protrudes from the camera’s front end. This nearly doubles the camera’s thickness. Aside from a small rubber patch found on the rear of the camera’s upper right corner, the rest of the RX100 VII’s camera body remains smooth throughout. It can be a challenge for users to maintain a good grip on the RX100 VII, particularly for those with larger hands. You’ll definitely want to make use of the included wrist strap at all times lest you risk the camera slipping out of your hand and meeting an untimely demise. While the RX100 VII inherited a number of advancements from Sony’s flagship A9, weather sealing was disappointingly not amongst them.

 

Ease of Use

When so much functionality is crammed into such a small camera body, sacrifices have to be made somewhere. Much to our chagrin, the RX100 VII continues to eschew a dedicated ISO adjustment wheel. This was one of our major gripes with the RX100 VII’s predecessor and the lack of the ISO wheel continues to severely hamper the manual operation of the newer camera. It renders shooting the RX100 VII in manual mode a disappointingly cumbersome affair. The zoom dial on the RX100 VII is just as finicky as well–making precise focal length adjustments a challenge. Enhanced image stabilization along with the inclusion of Real-time Tracking and Real-time Eye AF (for humans as well as animals) are welcomed additions to the RX100 VII. This makes it much easier to nail your shot using the included 24-200mm f2.8-f4.5 zoom lens than with the previous model. Although Sony has once again included a touch screen on the rear of the RX100 VII, you are sadly only able to use it to adjust the autofocus area. Touch operation of the camera’s various menus remaining verboten. Video shooters and vloggers will be happy to know that you can still tilt the screen 180 degrees upwards to face the front of the camera. Sony’s even outfitted the RX100 VII with a dedicated 3.5mm microphone jack, allowing for improved external audio inputs. The RX100 VII uses the same NP-BX1 lithium-ion rechargeable battery as the previous cameras in the series. There is surprisingly no discernible decrease in run time despite the camera’s numerous internal upgrades. The buffer on the RX100 VII feels improved as well. This is another welcomed improvement over its predecessor, and we rarely ran into the camera’s buffer limit even when shooting Raw + JPG simultaneously. We’d still recommend using the fastest SD card you can afford though you plan on using the various continuous shooting and burst shooting modes available with the RX100 VII.

 

Autofocus

The RX100 VII’s autofocus performance is noticeably improved over its previous generation. It does this by inheriting the Real-time Eye AF (for humans as well as animals) along with the Real-time Tracking capabilities first introduced in the company’s top tier A9. While we only got to spend a short time with the camera, we noticed a significantly better hit rate with the RX100 VII than it’s predecessor.

 

Image Quality

At press time, camera profiles for the Sony RX100 VII are not yet available for Capture One or Adobe Lightroom. As such, all sample images seen within this First Impressions article are straight out of camera JPEGs. As a matter of ethics, none of the sample images seen within this First Impressions article have been retouched so that you can judge the quality of the images produced by this camera for yourself.

 

First Impressions

We only got to spend a limited amount of time with the brand new Sony RX100 VII. But, we had a much more favorable experience shooting with it compared to its predecessor that was introduced back in June of last year. While the RX100 VII features a nearly identical exterior to its predecessor, the bevy of internal improvements Sony has packed into the 7th generation RX100 camera makes it a much more compelling investment, especially considering the VII has an identical manufacturer’s suggested retail price of US $1,200 as last year’s model. We look forward to calling in a production model of the Sony RX100 VII to more comprehensively evaluate the camera once review units become available. Please stay tuned for our upcoming full review.

Pauleth Ip

Paul is a New York City based photographer, creative, and writer. His body of work includes headshots and commercial editorials for professionals, in-demand actors/performers, high net worth individuals, and corporate clients, as well as intimate lifestyle/boudoir photography with an emphasis on body positivity and empowerment. Paul also has a background in technology and higher education, and regularly teaches private photography seminars. When not working on reviews and features for The Phoblographer or shooting client work, Paul can be seen photographing personal projects around NYC, or traveling the world with his cameras in tow. You can find Paul’s latest work on his Instagram over at @thepicreative.