While it’s probably the best travel compact on the market, you have to really want a compact camera to spend almost £1200/$1200 on it. The RX100 VI has a heck of a lot going for it, but it’s probably quite hard to justify the cost.
- High image quality
- Flexible zoom range
- Tilting, touch-sensitive screen
- Very high price
- Awkward buttons
- Touch-sensitivity not fully implemented
Sony’s RX100 series is now very well established, with the sixth iteration featuring a bunch of headline-grabbing tech that sets it out as one of the best premium compact cameras on the market.
Not only does it have a large one-inch 20.1 million-pixel sensor, but it’s also got an 8.3x optical zoom. This gives you the equivalent of 24-200mm (in 35mm terms) yet it fits very neatly into your jeans pocket.
There’s also a high-resolution electronic viewfinder, a screen which tilts and now has touch-sensitivity, and a host of other options which you may or may not have use for, such as 24fps shooting and 4K video recording. The battery life has a CIPA rating of 220-240 shots (viewfinder vs screen), while there’s also Wi-Fi connectivity for sharing shots from the camera to your phone.
Build and Handling
As I’ve mentioned, the RX100 VI is very small, which solves one problem (pocketability), but creates another (fiddly handling). The buttons on the RX100 VI are a little on the small side, which is just something to bear in mind if you have larger hands. There’s also no grip on the front of the camera making it far too easy to drop if you’re not careful.
A small electronic viewfinder can be popped out from the housing, which comes in handy when shooting in bright sunlight – or if you just happen to prefer composing your images in this way. An improvement here comes from the fact that the viewfinder pops all the way out by sliding a switch and you’re ready to go.
Previously, with the RX100 V, it was a two-step process which was a little irritating.
Another improvement comes to the screen, which for the first time in an RX100 series is touch-sensitive. Quite why it’s taken Sony so long to fully embrace the touchscreen, I’m not sure, but it’s good to see it finally making an appearance here. I particularly like it for quickly changing AF point when using the camera for off-the-cuff shots. I’m disappointed to find that the screen can’t be used for some functions such as navigating through menus though.
Despite the RX100 VI’s extremely small size, its screen still tilts. As well as being very useful for composing your image from awkward angles, it’s also helpful when trying to be discreet for street photography. What’s more, you can face it all the way forward to take selfies and group shots.
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Performance and Image Quality
Building on the strong heritage of the RX100 series, the Mark VI is another impressive performer in a number of different areas.
In terms of image quality, shots are sharp, with a fantastic impression of detail up until around ISO 1600. At higher ISOs, a little more noise and loss of detail is visible. It’s advisable to keep your ISO to below ISO 3200 for the best results, but ISO 6400 is just about usable if you’re desperate.
Its colours have a satisfying amount of saturation. They look natural yet still bold and vivid. I’ve found that using different Picture Styles can be a good way to create different looks depending on the subject.
There’s always some sort of sacrifice to be made when it comes to compact cameras.
Sony has managed to extend the zoom length with the RX100 VI, while keeping the body size more or less the same as the RX100 V’s. In order to do this, we’re now left with a lens capable of narrower maximum apertures – starting at f/2.8 at the wide-angle end of the lens. To put that in context, the RX100 V offers f/1.8 at its widest point.
How much that bothers you will likely be down to the kind of photography you do. If you’re picking up the RX100 VI as a travel camera, it’s likely that the extra zoom length is preferable. However, if you often shoot in low light, or like the shallow depth of field effects that can be created with a wide aperture lens, you might feel differently. If you fall into the latter camp, you might do better to pick up the older model (and save yourself money in the process, too).
It’s also important to remember that the RX100 VI’s biggest rival, the Panasonic TZ200 manages to combine a one-inch sensor with a 15x optical zoom, giving you even further reach. After using both, I believe that the Sony’s image quality at 8x zoom surpasses the equivalent (just about) from the Panasonic – so you might prefer to go for high image quality over high zoom.
The RX100 VI is excellent at acquiring focus, being both quick and accurate. There is occasionally a little bit of hesitation when shooting in very dark conditions, but otherwise it snaps right into focus almost instantly. You can shoot at frame rates up to 24fps, which when combined with Tracking AF makes the RX100 VI a reasonable choice for catching fast-moving holiday subjects – perhaps for something like a safari.
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The Sony RX100 VI is, without much doubt, the best compact camera on the market. But, boy oh boy do you pay for that accolade. If you’re looking for something to be your ultimate companion for that “just in case” shot, you can’t go far wrong with the RX100 VI, especially with the added bonus of lens flexibility.
That said, if you don’t quite have the budget to stretch to £1200, there are some very viable alternatives that might not be quite as good, but aren’t dramatically far off. Sony’s RX100 V has already dropped in price to be under £900, and is arguably the better choice for low-light photographers.
Meanwhile, the Panasonic TZ200/ZS200 gives you 15x optical zoom and can be picked up for under £730.
If you want the best of the best and have the cash to splash – go for the RX100 VI, it’s unlikely you’ll regret the decision.