The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 VI ($1,199.99) is essentially the RX10, but smaller. It covers the same zoom range as Sony’s first 1-inch bridge camera, and while its lens isn’t as bright when zoomed in, it fits into your pocket. It doesn’t come cheap, however: At $1,200, it’s the most expensive pocket camera we’ve seen that doesn’t boast a Hasselblad or Leica badge. Its image quality and build are top notch, helping to justify the price tag and earn our Editors’ Choice recommendation. If you like the idea of the camera, but struggle to justify its cost, the $800 Panasonic ZS200 is a good, more affordable alternative—but aside from its longer zoom range, it’s not quite the equal of the RX100 VI.
Design: Big Zoom, Small Body
The original version of the RX100 was a groundbreaking camera at the time of its 2012 release. Its 1-inch image sensor ran circles around competing point-and-shoot cameras—the sensor format is about four times as large as image sensors found in typical point-and-shoot models. And while its 28-100mm f/1.8-4.9 lens was dim on the long end, it didn’t take long for Sony to rectify that. It’s continued to iterate on the design, adding a wider aperture (but shorter) zoom lens starting with the RX100 III, which remains our Editors’ Choice for premium pocket cameras.
Before I dive into the RX100 VI, let’s look at its place in the market. It does not replace any previous RX100 model. To date, the only RX100 camera to be discontinued and replaced is the RX100 V, which was replaced by the RX100 VA shortly after Sony unveiled the RX100 VI. There is an absurd amount of alphabet soup to keep clear in your head, and now that Sony has broken from strict Roman numerals in naming, the waters are muddied further. The RX100 VI’s long lens makes it different enough from the others in the series that I really wish that Sony had simply called it the RX200.
The III/IV/V/VA lens design, a 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8, is a short zoom built for shallow depth of field and low-light shooting. The RX100 VI sports a (full-frame equivalent) 24-200mm zoom, but with a narrower f/2.8-4.5 aperture range. It’s more similar to it larger cousins, the RX10 and RX10 II bridge models in coverage, although both of those 1-inch sensor shooters use a 24-200mm f/2.8 lens with superior macro capability. The RX100 VI matches neither its bridge siblings nor the RX100 models with the 24-70mm lens in macro capability. It can focus to 3.2 inches at the wide end, compared with the 2-inch focus available in previous models. At the telephoto end, the VI needs at least 3.3 feet between the camera and the subject to focus.
It’s not the first time we’ve seen a long zoom 1-inch sensor camera in a pocketable form factor. Panasonic started the trend with its disappointing ZS100 and has continued with its sequel, the ZS200, which sells for $800. It doesn’t have the fit or finish of the RX100 VI, and while we’re still in the process of testing the ZS200, we’ll talk about the differences in the quality of its 24-360mm lens and the RX100 VI’s 24-200mm zoom later on.
Despite having a longer zoom range, the RX100 VI is only larger by a factor of millimeters when compared with the cameras that have come before it. It measures 2.3 by 4.0 by 1.7 inches (HWD) and weighs 10.6 ounces. It’s smaller and lighter than the ZS200, which comes in at 2.6 by 4.4 by 1.8 inches and 12 ounces.
The camera is housed in a metal exterior, finished in matte black without too many adornments. The Sony logo is at the top corner in white, with the Zeiss badge in blue at the bottom corner—the lens features Zeiss branding as well. While it does collapse into the body when you power the camera down, the lens doesn’t sit completely flush. The space isn’t left unused—there’s a programmable control ring surrounding it. By default, it adjusts shutter or aperture based on shooting mode, but you can change it to act as a zoom control, adjust the ISO, set exposure compensation (EV), or perform another sundry function. I set it to adjust EV, as the camera doesn’t have a dedicated dial adjustment for that function.
The pop-up EVF and flash both retract into the top plate when not in use, and are raised up with a mechanical switch. The EVF is slightly different from previous ones in that you don’t need to pull the eyepiece toward you to get it properly focused. The downside is that you need to be careful when using it—press the viewfinder up against your glasses and the eyepiece may give in, throwing the OLED panel out of focus.
But having to take a bit of care in use is worth it when you consider the size and quality of the EVF. It’s significantly larger to the eye than what you get with the competing Panasonic ZS200—0.39 inches measured diagonally—and extremely sharp at 2,359k dots. There is a diopter adjustment available to adjust the EVF to match your eyesight.
Top controls aren’t extensive. It has the On/Off button, a zoom rocker and shutter release, and the Mode dial. Rear controls are all located to the right of the LCD, which takes up the bulk of the available space. The Record button is nestled into the right side of the rear thumb rest. Below it, you’ll find Fn and Menu buttons, the rear control wheel, and Delete and Play.
The rear wheel is used for aperture and shutter control, depending on the mode, and has directional presses to adjust the Drive mode, flash output, EV, and amount of information shown on the LCD or EVF. Its center button activates EyeAF by default (most of the buttons are programmable), a very useful feature for snapping portraits. Ergonomically it’s a little awkward to hold the rear button in and press the shutter while using the EVF, but it’s a bit easier to manage when framing shots using the LCD.
The Fn button launches an on-screen settings menu for quick access to additional options. It’s not touch-sensitive—none of the menus are—which is an odd decision. The menu system is a bit dense, with dozens of options spread across multiple pages. It’s a testament to how much the camera can do, but can be daunting to navigate. It’s best to spend an hour or two with the camera in order to set it up to your liking when you first unbox it, so you don’t have to navigate through menus when you should be out capturing images.
Touch does work for other things, though. You can tap the rear LCD to set a focus point when shooting stills or video, and while you can’t pinch to zoom or swipe through shots in playback, you can swipe to move around an image when reviewing a magnified version. The display quality is premium, 3 inches in size with 921k dots of resolution and a hinged design. It can flip all the way forward for selfie shots or video, and also angles down to 90 degrees, sitting flush with the bottom of the camera.
Connectivity: Beam Images to Your Phone
The RX100 VI’s lens makes it an ideal camera for travel, as it can handle a lot of different situations, and its size means it’s a no-brainer to pack. If you want to Instagram from the road, the camera includes Bluetooth and Wi-Fi so you can beam images and videos wirelessly to your Android or iOS device using the free Sony PlayMemories Mobile app.
There is a single micro USB port, used for data transfer and charging. Sony includes a micro USB cable and AC adapter in the box, but not an external charger. You can expect to shoot about 240 images on a fully charged battery (according to CIPA standards) using the LCD. Sony states that you can extend it to 310 by enabling power saving, but the EVF uses more power so the camera is only rated for 220 shots when using it.
Those numbers are good guidelines, but can vary greatly depending on how you use the camera. Shooting huge bursts of images will net more, and recording standard or slow-motion video and transferring photos over Wi-Fi will eat into battery life. You can recharge on the go via a USB battery, and the camera will work while charging. But for travel, I’d recommend picking up a spare battery as well as an external charger.
In addition to the micro USB connector, there is a micro HDMI port. But there’s no way to connect or mount an external microphone—you’ll want to move up to the larger RX10 series if that’s a priority.
The battery and memory card slot are accessible via the bottom plate. The RX100 VI supports UHS-I SD cards and Memory Stick Duo
Performance: Go Speed Racer
The RX100 V was the first pocket camera with on-sensor phase detection autofocus, and the feature continues with the VI. Phase detection, combined with a sensor with a design that allows for extremely quick data processing delivers shooting at up to 24fps with subject tracking, even in Raw format. Shooting that quickly is overkill for most scenarios, but having it as an option is certainly a benefit. You can also set the camera to shoot at a speedy, but more reasonable 10fps.
The camera buffer can handle about 106 Raw+JPG, 108 Raw, or 231 JPG shots before it fills up. But writing all of those photos to a memory card takes a long time—90 seconds for Raw+JPG, 62 seconds for Raw, or 80 seconds for JPG. You can continue to capture images as the buffer clears, but you won’t be able to start a video until the images are committed to memory, which can be frustrating.
In other regards, the camera’s speed leaves nothing to be desired. It starts, focuses, and fires in about 1.8 seconds, locks focus in almost no time in bright light, and in about 0.4-second in very dim conditions.
Image Quality: Best You Can Get in Your Pocket
The RX100 VI’s lens doesn’t have as much reach as the Panasonic ZS200, but our tests show that it’s sharper, and the f-stop tells us it captures more light. At 24mm f/2.8 the Sony scores 2,477 lines on Imatest’s standard center-weighted sharpness test. Image quality is strong through most of the frame, but the edges are a bit soft, at 1,331 lines. That’s less resolution than I want to see at a minimum from a 20MP sensor, 1,800 lines.
Resolution holds steady at f/4 and f/5.6. There’s a slight drop in average sharpness at f/8 (2,263 lines), but edges are stronger, 1,554 lines. You can shoot at f/11, but you shouldn’t—it drops image quality, lowering the score all the way down to 1,713 lines.
Some edge softness at 24mm isn’t unheard of in a compact, and it’s really the only bad thing there is to say about the RX100 VI’s lens. At 50mm the maximum aperture has dropped to f/4, but overall image quality is strong. We see 2,341 lines on average, and while the edges aren’t as sharp as the center, they’re quite crisp at 2,045 lines. Image quality jumps at f/5.6 (2,897 lines), with edges that are just about 200 lines behind the average score. We see 2,549 lines at f/8 and 1,918 lines at f/11.
At the 100mm setting the maximum aperture is still f/4. The lens shows 2,838 lines here, with edges that touch 2,700 lines—it’s not dead even performance across the frame, but it’s close. We see 2,863 lines at f/5.6, 2,571 lines at f/8, and 1,865 lines at f/11.
Image quality holds up at 200mm. At f/4.5 we see 2,462 lines on average, and while the edges aren’t that sharp, they’re still acceptable at 1,843 lines. At f/5.6 there
The lens on the competing Panasonic ZS200 has a longer zoom range, but it isn’t as sharp. At its
One of the advantages of a 1-inch sensor over the 1/2.3-inch designs you usually find in point-and-shoots and flagship smartphones is image quality at the higher ISO settings used when shooting in dim light.
When shooting JPGs at default settings, the RX100 VI keeps noise less than 1.5 percent through ISO 3200, two stops below its top ISO 12800 setting. Of course, it gets there by applying some noise reduction to images. There’s no noticeable degradation in image quality from the base setting of ISO 125 through ISO 800. At ISO 1600 there is a very slight step back, but one that you’ll only notice when printing large or cropping heavily. Details are more noticeably smudged at ISO 3200. Image quality suffers much more noticeably at the top ISO 6400 and 12800 settings.
I converted Raw images using a beta version of Adobe’s DNG Converter and processed our lab test images using Lightroom Classic CC with default develop settings applied. When working in Raw mode you can capture crisp images with little evidence of noise through ISO 800. There’s a bit of grain at ISO 1600 and 3200, but it doesn’t detract from detail. Push the camera to ISO 6400 and the top ISO 12800 setting and you’ll be greeted with very rough results, even when shooting in Raw format.
Video: 4K and Slow Motion
Despite not supporting an external microphone, which limits the camera’s use for very serious video work, the RX100 VI has some excellent capabilities to record moving images. It can record 4K video at 24 or 30fps at your choice of 60 or 100Mbps, and 1080p is also available at up to 120fps.
There is a very slight crop applied to 4K video—it’s not really noticeable unless you’re working from a tripod and switching between still and video capture. Footage is very sharp, and the camera smoothly racks focus on demand and tracks moving subjects with aplomb.
If shooting at 120fps isn’t good enough, you can move the Mode dial to the HFR position for High Frame Rate capture. You have the option of shooting at 240, 480, or 960fps in this mode, rendered out to a file that plays back at 24, 30, or 60fps. It’s a little tricky to use—you need to prefocus and frame a shot and start a buffer before you can start recording. And it takes a long time to render out the video. It’s done in real time, so if you record a couple of seconds of footage it can take a minute or two to render out, during which time you can’t use the camera for anything else.
The quality of the slow-motion video varies based on the capture rate. The 240fps footage looks the best, because its capture resolution isn’t that far behind 1080p and the shutter can fire at 1/240-second, so the ISO doesn’t need to be pushed as high. I tend to shoot at 480fps, as it’s a good compromise in quality and speed. The 960fps video is cropped, seriously upscaled, and the shutter needs to fire at 1/960-second to capture each frame—it’s best reserved for use in very bright light.
An Ideal Travel Companion
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 VI is priced at a
Which is not to say the ZS200 is a bad camera—it’s just not as good as polished as the Sony, but it’s also $400 less. The ZS200’s longer zoom is certainly more enticing on paper, but unless you’re going on safari you’ll find a 24-200mm range will cover most of the images you want. If anything I wish the lens had a bit more wide-angle coverage, but 24mm is the widest angle that you’ll find in a pocket camera.
We’re naming the RX100 VI as our Editors’ Choice. It doesn’t oust the RX100 III, which also earns that distinction. Despite being part of the same family, the RX100 III’s shorter, brighter zoom makes it a distinctly different camera. Whether you prefer its 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 or the VI’s 24-200mm f/2.8-4.5 is greatly dependent on the type of images you want to make. If you’re more keen on capturing images in dim interiors or on city streets at night the III, IV, or VA are all better fits, depending on your budget and wants in terms of video and burst shooting rate.
There are other pocket-friendly cameras with 1-inch sensors to choose from. Canon has a few, including the excellent G7 X Mark II, and Panasonic has its LX10, but neither model has a viewfinder, and both have shorter zoom ranges than the RX100 VI.
Sony wasn’t the first to market with a pocketable compact with a big zoom range and 1-inch sensor—that honor goes to Panasonic. But the RX100 VI is a better camera than either the Panasonic ZS100 or ZS200, despite having a lens that’s not quite as ambitious in terms of telephoto reach. It’s also more expensive, but it’s simply a case of getting what you pay for.