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Sony RX100 V Review

After I had already tested the Sony RX100 V, I now bought the Sony RX100 VA/M5A. How does the high-end premium compact camera perform in the test?


Back story: I have been using a Canon Powershot S95 for 6 years. This Canon camera has a good image quality, but a lot has changed technically since its release. The sensors have become bigger, the screens sharper and the speed has improved. That’s why I look for a new compact camera every now and then. A few months ago, I tried the Canon G7X Mark II, but I wasn’t satisfied with it.

Sony RX100 V Review
Sony RX100 V Review

My first impression of the Sony RX100 V

The first thing I noticed was the weight of the camera. The Sony RX100 V is not exactly light, unlike other compact cameras. On the other hand, the camera feels very valuable. It is well made all around and nothing wobbles. The controls are logically arranged at first glance. The camera has a display that can be tilted so that you can look at it from above or below. This is useful for particularly high or low shooting positions.

Love at first sight – the electronic viewfinder

I use a Sony F828 for my infrared photography. It’s an old bridge camera from 2003. What I really like about it is that the viewfinder is mounted on the upper left corner. This allows me to look through the viewfinder with my right eye without having to press my nose flat against the display. It’s the same with the RX100 V. When I tried through the RX100 series cameras at Saturn, I couldn’t imagine that this electronic viewfinder would be much good.

Now I finally had some time to try out the viewfinder and I’m thrilled. Right from the start, I found the sharpness of the viewfinder terrific. You see virtually no pixels. There’s no lag or streaking when you move the camera.

Why do I still like electronic viewfinders? Unlike the display, you can still view them well in bright sunlight. You can view other image formats like the square 1:1 directly. I find it much easier to compose square images directly in the camera than to shoot them in 2:3 and then crop them on the computer. You can view the image live in black and white. You can have a spirit level superimposed on it. I could go on raving, in short: I’m thrilled with the Sony RX100 V’s electronic viewfinder.

Extremely fast and accurate autofocus

Sony advertises the RX100 V with its fast autofocus. I was able to confirm this in the test. The camera focuses very reliably and quickly. The focus was practically always right in my pictures. I did not notice the speed negatively at any time. On the contrary – the longer I took pictures, the more I noticed how fast the focus is.

Good display and smooth operation

The large and sharp display on the back is also still easy to read in sunlight. It’s simply brighter than the one on my old Canon PowerShot S95. The camera starts up quickly and is ready to go after about half a second. I was able to find my way around the menu and generally the operation of the premium compact camera quite quickly. It feels a bit like Canon. The operation itself was very fluid, and there were practically no waiting times in the menu. Thoughtful: If you extend the electronic viewfinder with a small switch, the camera turns on without you having to press the On button again.

Fast 24-70mm lens with the potential for shallow depth of field

The Sony RX100 V has a 24-70mm lens with an f/1.8 aperture at 24mm. The open aperture at 70mm is 2.8, which is pleasantly fast for a compact camera. I did a little trial and error with depth of field while shooting. Especially at 70mm, the background gets blurry at f/2.8.

One nice thing: the camera comes with a built-in and automatic ND filter. So if you want to shoot with open aperture even in a lot of light, the camera folds this ND filter in front of the sensor so that the images are not overexposed.

Saving images takes a little time with RAW

I practically only let the Sony RX100 V shoot in RAW during the test. I just want to get maximum image quality out of it, so JPG is out of the question. The camera always took a moment to save the image I took, but that may be due to my slightly older memory card. Not so cool: During this saving process, the camera cannot be operated. So if you buy the RX100 V, it’s best to take a fast memory card with it.

The most important point: image quality

By far the most important point for me is the image quality. I would like to have a camera that is almost on the same level as a DSLR, but in the size of a compact camera. Accordingly, I was eager to see what files would come out of the RX100 V.

The combination of the 1 inch sensor and Zeiss 24-70mm lens delivers very good sharpness for a compact camera. On that point, I’d say it’s the best sharpness I’ve seen for the class of high-end compact cameras. The images are sharp in the center as well as to the edges. In contrast, if you look at the results from the Canon G7X Mark II, Sony is definitely ahead of the game here.

How is the dynamic range of the Sony RX100 V?

As always in my tests, I naturally like to look at the dynamic range in addition to sharpness. I often shoot landscapes and use a tripod for that. To get a handle on dynamic range, I use multiple exposures. I’m glad that manufacturers like Nikon and Sony are currently making progress in this area, because hopefully I’ll eventually be able to take the picture with a single exposure. Accordingly, I was naturally curious to see what the Sony RX100 V could do here. According to my tests, however, the dynamic range is hardly any different from my 700D or the Canon S95. DxOMark gives the dynamic range as 12.4 stops.

The ultimate comparison: Sony RX100 V vs Canon PowerShot S95 vs Samsung Galaxy S7

In this age of good smartphones, I wanted to know how the RX100 V stacks up against my Samsung Galaxy S7. I also tested it against my 6 year old Canon PowerShot S95. My own conclusion: all three cameras take good pictures. I don’t find the difference that big. As for image sharpness, it depends on whether you look at the center or the corners of the images. I therefore took some comparison pictures in RAW format.

My conclusion of the Sony RX100 V test

I liked the Sony RX100 V very much in the test. Especially the usability and the electronic viewfinder are great. The image quality is very good. I think it is currently one of the best compact cameras on the market. Now, an updated version of this camera has already been released, whose review you can find below.

Update from 05.08.18: Is the surcharge for the Sony RX 100 VI worth it? – A comparison

Since the Sony RX 100 VI has been out, I’ve gotten emails every now and then asking if it’s worth the extra price. To answer that question, it’s important to know the differences between the two cameras.

In addition to some speed improvements, Sony has changed the lens in particular. Instead of the 24-70 mm of the RX 100 V, there is now a 24-200 mm on the VI. So the zoom range has become much larger. I am always cautious with such large zooms, because such a large range is usually bought with losses in image quality. However, based on the tests so far, there is little difference between the two cameras here. In addition, the speed has decreased by a good f-stop and the RX 100 VI no longer has a built-in ND filter.

So what can I advise regarding these changed features? If you need a large zoom range because you can’t easily get close to your subjects, then go for the Sony RX 100 VI. If a normal zoom range of 24-70 mm is enough for you, then you’re better off with the Sony RX 100 V because it’s faster and comes with an internal ND filter. In the end, it all depends on which motifs you want to photograph with it.

An overview of all camera tests, guides and best lists from me can be found here.

Update 11/12/2019: Sony RX100 VA review.

Sony released an update to the Sony RX100 V last year. It goes by the name Sony RX100 VA or Sony RX100M5A. Since I wanted to get a new compact camera anyway after 10 years with the Canon Powershot S95, it has become this one. Currently, I have been using it for 4 weeks and can therefore draw a good summary in the test. Basically, my impression of the camera remains as good as described above, but some aspects have been improved once again.

What are the differences between the Sony RX100 V and VA/M5A?

The RX100 VA has a new processor that makes the camera work noticeably faster and can also deliver more continuous shots in a row. The menu has been revised and the autofocus has been improved. The already outstanding image quality of the RX100 V has not changed much with the VA.

Which accessories are useful for the Sony RX100 VA?

I bought the Sony AG-R2 grip mount in addition to the camera. It makes it much easier to grip the camera. It is a rubber grip that you attach to the front of the camera. This gives the middle finger more grip when grasping. So in the pictures you can see the camera with this grip attachment as well.

As a bag I chose the Sony LCSRXGB.SYH made of genuine leather. The bag lets a little retro feeling come up through the material, which I like very much. In addition, the camera still fits in this bag even with the grip attachment.

As usual, I ordered a second Sony NP-BX1 battery and a fast SanDisk Extreme PRO 64GB SDXC memory card to go with it.

Why didn’t I take the Sony RX100 VII right away?

Currently, the seventh version of the camera is already on the market, the Sony RX100 VII. While the VA comes with a 24-70mm lens, the VII has a 24-200mm lens. Because the focal length range is larger, according to optical laws, the image quality is also a bit worse. Of course, this is complaining on a high level, but for me it is exactly this point that matters. I shoot less telephoto and more wide-angle anyway. The VII is not quite as fast with an aperture of 2.8-4.5. For me, 24-70mm is the ideal focal length. The Sony RX 100 VA is also much cheaper than the VII, so it was an easy decision for me.

Comparison of image quality with an SLR camera

I also wanted to know how the Sony RX100 VA compared to my SLR camera. For this, I used my Canon EOS 77D with the Canon EF-S 10-22mm. I use this lens for 95% of my pictures and am really happy with it. I shot the same frame (28mm 35mm equivalent) with both cameras. I used f/6.3 on the 77D and f/4.0 on the RX100 VA, which is the most closed aperture on both cameras before diffraction blur sets in.

I used the RAW format and then developed both images in Adobe Camera RAW with lens corrections and automatic settings. I did a manual white balance to street.

The RX100 VA is sharper than my SLR in all areas of the image! I would not have expected that. One can now question whether I do not have the best lens. However, I have already returned three before I found and kept this fourth because I am satisfied with the sharpness. Whatever the reason, the result of this comparison is clearly in favor of the Sony RX100 VA!

At what point does diffraction blur set in with the Sony RX100 VA?

Normally, the image gets sharper overall the further you close the aperture, regardless of the depth of field. However, above a certain aperture value, the image becomes blurrier again. This effect is called diffraction blur. But at what point does this effect occur with the RX100 VA? What is the smallest aperture that promotes this effect? I photographed a series of apertures to see at which value the image is sharpest. The center to normal corners are already good at 2.8, and the outer corners are also sharp at F 4.0. The best performance at 35mm-equivalent 28mm is delivered by the lens at f/5.6. From f/8, the blurriness is already there. However, for situations where I need a large depth of field, I would still use F 8. At F 11, the diffraction blur is clearly visible.

My conclusion to the Sony RX100 VA/M5A test

I’m still really excited about the Sony RX100 VA. I love the electronic viewfinder and the still compact size. But what really blows me away is the image quality. I shoot exclusively in RAW. Here, the sharpness of the images is sometimes better than that of my SLR camera. I don’t know what else you can do better with this camera.

Update: I have been using the camera for more than 12 months now and can still recommend it. In my opinion, there is currently nothing better in terms of image quality in the compact camera sector.