Sony RX100 V
Sony has squeezed the Sony Alpha 99 II’s processing tech into its RX100 line and it really impresses. Read our Sony RX100 V review to find out more about this high-end compact camera.
30 second Sony RX100 V review…
Sony’s range of RX100 compact cameras, has proved extremely popular thanks in part to their 1-inch type sensors, which at the time of the first model’s launch in June 2012 was pretty unusual. A few years down the line the sensor size is less remarkable but Sony has continued to develop and squeeze more features into each new pocket-size camera. For the fifth incarnation Sony has concentrated on speed and focusing, giving the RX100 V an incredible top shooting rate of 24frames per second and 315 phase detection focusing points along with an impressive video feature set.
Image quality from the RX100 V is very similar to that from the RX100 IV, which continues in the line (as do all the other models), but the focusing makes a significant step forward and the high frame rate lets you record fleeting moments easily.
There’s no doubting that the RX100 V is a great little camera, but the price will put off many potential buyers. Read our full Sony RX100 V review to find out more.
|Camera Name||Sony RX100 V|
|Date announced||6th Oct 2016|
|Price at launch||£999/$998|
|Sensor size||1-inch (13.2mm x 8.8mm)|
|Effective pixel count||20.1|
|Lens/Mount||Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 24-70 mm (equivalent) f/1.8-2.8|
|Viewfinder||0.39-inch 2,359,296-dot OLED EVF|
|Sensitivity range||ISO 125-12,800|
|AF system||315-point phase detection|
|Monitor||3-inch 1,228,800-dot tilting LCD|
|Max shooting rate||24fps|
|Max video resolution||4K|
|Storage||SD/SDHX/SDXC or MS variants|
|Dimensions||101.6 x 58.1 x 41.0mm|
|Weight||272g – body only|
Before it came in for review I used the Sony RX100 V a couple of times for long enough to tell me that it’s a good compact camera. Now finally, I have a production sample and I’m able to write our full Sony RX100 V review.
Sony introduced the front-end LSI chip concept with the Sony A99 II to boost speed and performance and it’s used the same technology for the RX100 V, the company’s most advanced RX100-line compact camera to date, for the same reason.
Like the RX100 IV, the Sony RX100 V has a 1-inch type stacked Exmor RS CMOS sensor with 20.1 million pixels. That means that the circuitry for the sensor is on a different layer from the photoreceptors. This means the circuitry area can be made bigger, boosting speed and helping to keep noise down and enhancing image quality.
Speed is further augmented by the presence of the DRAM chip which supports the BIONZ X image processing engine. The outcome is a maximum continuous shooting speed of an incredible 24fps (frames per second) at full-resolution with autofocus and metering tracking for up to 150 shots.
In addition, the mechanical shutter has a top speed of 1/2000sec while the electronic shutter enables shutter speeds of up to 1/32000sec to be used.
As on the RX100 IV, Sony has used a Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 24-70 mm (equivalent) f/1.8-2.8 lens. That’s a nice versatile focal length range for general photography and the large aperture allows sensitivity (ISO 120-12,800) to be kept low.
The sensor’s fast readout speed is also good news for videographers as it helps keep rolling shutter effect at bay so that fast moving subjects retain their natural shape.
In addition, the sensor has 315 phase detection autofocus (AF) points embedded into it and they cover 65% of the image frame, improving subject tracking. Sony also claims that the AF system has a response time of 0.05 seconds.
Further good news is that the blackout time of the electronic viewfinder (0.39-inch OLED electronic viewfinder with 2,359,296 dots) has been substantially reduced, making it easier to follow a moving subject.
As you’d expect, and matching the RX100 IV, Sony has also given the RX100 V the ability to shoot 4K video. As before, it uses full pixel readout, no pixel binning and oversampling to 14Mp for smoother, higher quality footage. Super slow motion recording is also possible at at up to 960fps (aka 100fps) and the recording time is now around 6 seconds – roughly double what the RX100 IV can manage.
In summary, Sony has squeezed a heck of a lot of technology into the RX100 V.
Sony RX100 V Build and handling
The RX100 V looks and feels just like the RX100 IV, which means it’s a small, well-built compact camera with a pleasant weight that conveys quality. However, its front is very smooth and this gives it very little in the way of grip. Given its price I was very nervous of using the camera without and wrist strap.
If you prefer to shoot without a strap, there’s an optional rubber grip available (Sony AG-R2 for around £13/$14) that can be stuck on to give a bit more reassurance.
Another disappointment is that like the RX100 IV, and unlike the recently announced Sony A6500, the RX100 V doesn’t have a touch-screen. This could speed up making setting selections and setting the AF point.
That said, the controls are well made and responsive. The lens ring is a particularly nice touch and it’s ideally suited for adjusting aperture, but you can customise it to adjust something else if you prefer. On the back of the camera there’s also a small dial which doubles as the navigation controls and it’s useful for making quick setting adjustments.
By default the focus point is set by pressing the button at the centre of the navigation control to activate the option to select the Focus Area mode and then using the navigation controls to activate the point that you want. If you con’t press the centre button again, the navigation keys will be ready to shift the AF point when you want to. But if you want to use one of them as to reach a designated control (the down key accesses the exposure compensation control for instance) you need to press the centre button. It’s not a major issue but it is something that could be made slicker by the presence of a touch-screen.
The screen is a 3-inch 1,228,800-dot device and it provides a good view. It’s on a bracket that can be tilted down or up for easier landscape format image (and video) composition. I occasionally found myself scrabbling a little at the screen to lift it away from the camera back. The design of the hinge also means that it has to be tilted down before it can be tilted upwards.
Sony has continued with the pop-up OLED electronic viewfinder for the RX100 V and with 2.35 million dots, it provides a decent view that will be especially appreciated when shooting moving subjects or in bright sunlight.
However, I can’t help feeling a little disappointed that it’s still necessary to pull-out the rear element manually after the viewfinder release has been flicked. I was hoping that Sony would find a way of making the viewfinder activation a one-stage process, or maybe doing away with the need for the viewfinder to pop-up.
Unsurprisingly, given its price and impressive specification, the RX100 V’s exposure mode dial has options to keep enthusiast photographers happy, specifically shutter priority, aperture priority and manual mode.
The mode dial also has a setting to activate High Frame Rate (HFR) video shooting for slow motion playback. The desired frame rate (250, 500 or 1000fps) is selected via the menu.
When HFR mode is selected the interface becomes a little clunky as the main (AKA) Centre button on the back of the camera must be pressed to enter ‘Stand-by mode’ before the record button is pressed to start recording.
It could also cause some confusion that the screen displays the word ‘buffering’ while the camera is recording and then ‘Recording’ when it’s writing the footage to the card. It’s not a problem once you know what’s going on, but it could cause some issues for first-time users.
It also seems odd that focusing can only be set to continuous autofocus or manual in HFR mode.
Sony RX100 V Performance
From the outset of our Sony RX100 V review process it was clear that RX100 V has a very capable autofocus system. It’s not immune to hesitancy in low light, but in decent light or when there’s good contrast it gets subjects sharp very quickly. It’s also capable of keeping moving subjects sharp.
In continuous autofocus and Lock-on AF mode the AF point lit up and followed the dancers at a photoshoot and in the majority of cases I got sharp images at 24fps.
There’s quite an array of Focus Area options to choose from, I generally found Flexible spot, Lock-on AF (in C-AF) and Wide the most useful. The latter gives the camera more control over the location of the active AF point, which is handy when you can’t predict where the subject will be. Where possible, however, I prefer to use Flexible spot (Small or Medium) as this lets you pick where you want the active AF point to be. Lock on AF is useful with moving subjects as it let’s you pick the starting point and then it will follow the subject. However, it can suddenly decide to follow something else if it feels like it.
Owners of the RX100 IV are unlikely to spot any difference in the level of detail or noise in images from the the RX100 V but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that its results are very good. There’s an impressive level of detail considering the size of the sensor (small compared to an APS-C sized device) and noise is controlled well up to around ISO 3200. Above this value jpegs start to look a little less natural. Simultaneously captured raw files fair better with a fine granular texture and slightly more detail being visible at 100% on screen.
Further good news is that the Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens maintains detail well into the corners, even when the aperture is wide open and there’s little sign of chromatic aberration.
Colour and exposure are also generally good in the default settings. There were a few occasions when I needed to reduce the exposure a little to protect the highlights, but that’s not unusual. Also, the cameras dynamic range is good – better than that of a camera or smartphone with a smaller sensor.
Video quality also impresses, with the movement in 4K and slow-motion footage being nice and smooth, while noise is controlled well.
Sony RX100 V Verdict
The Sony RX100 V is an excellent small compact camera that delivers impressively high quality results thanks to it 1-inch type stacked sensor and a host of other class-leading technology that has been squeezed in. The pop-up viewfinder is extremely useful, exposure control is swift and with the possible exception of the HFR mode, the interface is very good – albeit without touch-screen control.
There’s also an impressive video spec that ensures high quality 4K, Full HD and slow motion Full HD footage.
However, all that technology means it has a very high price and it’s makes normally small issues more significant. It’s also bound to see potential buyers looking around to see what more affordable alternatives are available. Cameras like the Canon PowerShot G3 X and APS-C format Fuji X70 spring to mind.
If you do plump for the RX100 V use a wrist strap or invest in the optional grip to help you keep it safe in your hand.