Sony RX100 VII Review

Review
Website: Sony

Price when reviewed

£1200

$1198 / €1300
Check current price

Our Verdict

There are some great little cameras in the Sony RX100-series, and the RX100 VII is arguably the best of all of them. However, it’s expensive for a camera with a 1-inch type sensor and it could use some form of grip on the front. Looking beyond those issues, it has a fantastic autofocus system, great video credentials and a nice pocketable size. It makes a nice camera for everyday use and is a good option for vloggers although, the stabilisation isn’t especially impressive.

For

  • Best-in-its-class AF system
  • Stabilised 4K video
  • Great focal length range

Against

  • Front lacks grip
  • Limited use of the touchscreen functionality
What is the Sony RX100 VII?

The Sony RX100 VII is the seventh camera in Sony’s RX100 series of compact cameras with a 1-inch type sensor. In many respects it’s very similar to the Sony RX100 VI, having the same effective focal length (24-200mm), a pop-up electronic viewfinder and a touch-enabled tilting screen, but it also has a new 20.1Mp sensor and an updated Bionz X processing engine. Sony has also given the RX100 VII a 3.5mm mic port, a more advanced autofocus (AF) system, additional video features and a top continuous shooting speed of 90fps.

Specifications
  • Camera type: Compact
  • Sensor: 20.1Mp 1-inch type (13.2mm x 8.8mm) Exmor RS CMOS
  • Lens: ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T* 9-72mmm (24-200mm equivalent) f/2.8-4.5
  • Autofocus: 357 focal-plane phase-detection and 425 contrast-detection AF points
  • Burst Mode: 90fps in JPEG or Raw format in Single Burst Shooting mode
  • Video: 4K in-body movie recording with full pixel readout
  • Viewfinder: 0.39-inch 2,359,296-dot OLED (pop-up)
  • Screen: Tilting 3-inch 921,600-dot TFT touchscreen (up 180-degrees, down 90-degrees)
  • Storage: SD/SDHC/SDXC
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 101.6 x 58.1 x 42.8 mm / 4 x 2 3/8 x 1 11/16-inch
  • Weight: 302g / 10.7oz with battery and SD card or 275g / 9.8oz body only
Sony RX100 VII Price and Availability

The Sony RX100 VII’s suggested retail price is $1,198 / €1,300 / £1,200. It first went on sale in August 2019.

Features

Like the RX100 VI, the Sony RX100 VII has a 20.1Mp 1-inch type sensor and a Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 4.5-72mm f/2.8-4.5 lens. That lens is equivalent to a 24-200mm lens on a full-frame camera and that’s a great focal length range for everyday photography. It doesn’t have the same reach as some travel orientated cameras like the Panasonic Lumix TZ200 (24-360mm) but it’s very useful.

Despite having the same effective pixel count and stacked design, the RX100 VII’s sensor is newer than the RX100 VI’s and it has a faster readout speed. It’s also paired with an updated version of the Bionz X processor and this enables a few other enhancements.

For example, the RX100 VII can shoot at 20fps (frames per second) with no blackout with continuous autofocusing and metering, and the anti-distortion shutter keeps rolling shutter effect at bay with moving subjects.

Even more impressively, the RX100 VII has a new Single Burst Shooting mode in which it can shoot 7 images in one sequence at up to 90fps. The exposure and focus are fixed with the first shot, so it’s only really useful for shooting subjects that stay the same distance from the camera, but it means you can freeze fleeting fast action. If you prefer, you can shoot 7 images at 30fps or 60fps.

Also, the sensitivity range of the RX100 VII is slightly wider than the RX100 VI’s at ISO 100-12,800 with an extended range of ISO 64-25,600, (the RX100 VI’s range is ISO 125-12,800 and ISO 80-25,600).

Autofocus

Perhaps the most exciting upgrade, that the RX100 VII makes, however, is with the autofocus system. The RX100 VI is no slouch in this area, but the RX100 IV has 357 phase detection points and 425 contrast detection points, plus Real-time Tracking AF and Real-time Eye AF for humans and animals. In addition, the Real-time Eye AF for Humans works in video mode.

Video

Like the RX100 VI, the RX100 VII is capable of shooting 4K video with full pixel readout and S-Log2, S-Log3 and HLG profiles. However, in a major upgrade for vloggers, there’s a 3.5mm microphone port, which means the audio can be much improved.

If you’re interested in creating slow-motion video, the RX100 VII has the same high frame rate (HFR) options as the RX100 VI, 205, 500 and 1000fps.

Build and Handling

At 101.6 x 58.1 x 42.8 mm (4 x 2 3/8 x 1 11/16 inches) the RX100 VII is the same size as the VI, and it’s perfect for slipping in a jacket pocket or small bag.

It also has a largely metal construction, which should mean its pretty hard-wearing. However, it has a smooth, flat front which offers little in the way of grip. Consequently, I made sure to always slip the supplied wrist strap over my hand when I used the RX100 VII.

However, the strap has no synch mechanism and on one occasion it slipped off my hand as I tripped over a tree root and the camera slipped from my grasp. Thankfully it landed on soft ground so no harm was done. But judging by the scratch that was on the screen when the review sample arrived, it may not have been the first nose-dive the camera had taken.

I would be inclined to switch the supplied strap for a Peak Design Cuff which has a sliding aluminium adjuster to keep it safely on your wrist. Also, at £14, I’d order a Sony AG-R2 grip in anticipation that it will fit.

One issue with such a small camera is that the controls can be a bit fiddly for those with large hands. I think the exposure mode and adjustment dials are to be okay, but some of the buttons are a bit on the small side.

Sony has put the movie record button on the minimalist thumb-ridge on the back of the camera. This is a bit tricky to locate when you’re in front of the the camera and it would be nice to see a record icon on the screen when it’s tipped up for viewing from in front of the camera.

Viewfinder and Screen

You might not realise it initially, but the Sony RX 100 VII has a viewfinder. It’s a pop-up unit that’s activated via a release catch on its it side. In a nice touch, flicking the switch to pop-up the viewfinder also powers-up the camera, and by default pushing it down turns off the camera. Helpfully, you can deactivate the latter option so the camera stays on if the viewfinder is pressed back down.

Unlike the earliest iterations of Sony’s pop-up viewfinder, the RX100 VII’s only requires a flick of its release catch. The viewfinder pops up and the rear element automatically extends out. The rear element had to be pulled out manually in the earliest versions.

It’s a 0.39-inch 2,359,296-dot OLED viewfinder and it’s a real bonus on a compact camera. It’s big enough to give you a decent view (even if you’re wearing glasses), and there’s a good level of detail visible.

Sony has paired the viewfinder with a 3-inch 921,600-dot screen that can tilt up through 180-degrees or down through 90-degrees. That makes it very useful for low or high-level shooting.

The screen is also touch-sensitive, but as usual, Sony hasn’t exactly maxed-out on the touch functionality. Consequently, you can only use the screen to set the AF point and to zoom in to images to check focus. You can’t even swipe between shots in review mode, which is a disappointing.

Read our guide to the best compact cameras

Performance

The RX100 VII is capable of producing very attractive images in nice light, but it doesn’t do anything to flatter the scene in poor light. On an overcast winter’s day, the images look realistically drab.

It also captures a good level of detail for a camera with a 20Mp 1-inch sensor 20Mp. This detail is maintained well up to around ISO 6,400 and even ISO 12,800.

As usual, raw files produce the best ISO 12,800 images, but you need to apply some post-capture noise reduction to hide some of the luminance noise. The simultaneously captured Jpegs look a little smooth by comparison, and some of out focus areas verge on being smudged.

Sony RX100 VII Autofocus Performance

The Sony RX100 VII’s autofocus system is impressive and it does a great job of getting fast-moving subjects sharp.

Compact cameras don’t usually lend themselves to shooting sport or action, but the RX100 VII bucks this trends for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it has viewfinder, which makes it easier to keep a moving subject in the frame, it can be harder with a screen held at arms length.

Secondly, in continuous AF mode and when the RX100 VII’s Focus Area is set to wide, the camera does a great job of latching on to the target and following it. You can see the active AF points light up in green as the subject moves around the scene, getting closer or further away. It means that you can concentrate on the composition and keeping the subject in the frame.

In addition, the Eye AF works really well whether it’s set to focus on Human or Animal eyes. It’s not 100% reliable, but it’s not too far off. It makes it much easier to photograph tricky subjects like toddlers and dogs.

Sony RX100 VII Video Performance

Checking through the footage I’ve shot confirms that the Sony RX100 VII is capable of producing high quality 4K video footage. However, the stabilisation isn’t on a par with what you get from a mirrorless camera like the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III. The results when I was walking with the camera are pretty jerky.

One major bonus the the RX100 VII brings over the RX100 VI is the presence of a mic port. This vastly improves the audio in windy conditions when an external mic with a windshield transforms the sound.

The High Frame Rate system also delivers good slow-motion results.

The video AF performance is also good, but I found the Eye AF less reliable than in stills mode.

Sony RX100 VII Review

Battery Life

Sony claims that the RX100 VII’s battery lasts for around 260 images or 130min of video when images are composed on the screen. This rises to 310 images or 155min of video if the screen is set to turn off after 2 seconds.

Using the viewfinder to compose images gives a claimed life of around 240 images and 120min of video.

Those figures are from CIPA testing, but I found them quite close to the mark. I used the RX100 VII on a walk a long a windy ridge, shooting using the screen and the viewfinder, and got 227 images (raw and Jpeg so 454 files in total), before the battery died. However, the wind was bitingly cold and the camera was exposed all the time.

Once the camera warmed up, I managed to capture another 32 images (64 files), taking the Sony RX100 VII’s battery life to around 259 images with a random mix of composing images in the viewfinder and on the screen.

Read our guide to the best camera accessories

Sample Video

This short video was shot outside in fairly windy weather to test the Sony RX100 VII in 4K (and its stabilisation) using its internal mic, the Movo VXR10 and the Rode Lavalier Go!

Verdict

The Sony RX100 VII’s autofocus system makes it a very attractive camera for a wide range of people and shooting applications. It’s ideal for parents looking to photograph their kids, dog owners wanting to capture their pooch and anyone looking to record the fun and games of a holiday. However, its price is a major sticking point. It just seems so high for a camera with a 1-inch sensor.

That price may be more acceptable to anyone who vlogs for a living, or is looking to do so. The small size of the RX100 VII, combined with the flip-up screen and a great video feature set makes it a very attractive option.

The smooth front of the camera makes me anxious and I hope the Sony AG-R2 grip is compatible.

Sample Images

Follow the link to browse and download full-resolution images

Sony RX100 VII Image Gallery

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: WP Frank

Competition