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Five reasons to buy the Sony RX100 V (and four reasons to reconsider)

Introduction

Five reasons to buy the Sony RX100 V (and four reasons to reconsider) 1

The Sony RX100 V is the world’s most advanced pocketable camera with a 1″-type sensor, and it’s also the most expensive. With a spec sheet that is unmatched in its segment (and in some cases, in the entire market), the RX100 V is going to be looked at by a great many folks, and is indeed going to be a great camera for a wide variety of photographers. But there are also photographers for whom the RX100 V is probably not your best choice – so we’ve put together some reasons you might want to pick one up, and also reasons you might want to save those pennies for something else. Let’s dive in.

Reason to buy: You need to capture very fast things

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The 24 fps burst rate lets you capture just the right moment. Photo by Rishi Sanyal

You might be interested in an RX100 V if you photograph or record very fast-moving things, primarily because of the camera’s ridiculous 24 fps burst speed for stills and 960 fps mode for slow-motion video. But because of the zoom range, you’ll have to be fairly close to the action – our own Barney Britton has been saying the V is the world’s best crash cam. Or maybe you’re a watermelon-exploding enthusiast. Okay, or maybe you want to catch just the right moment of your kid’s break dancing class. Whatever it is, kick the AF into continuous and ‘Wide’ area, the burst rate into 24 fps, and motor away.

Reason to reconsider: Postage-stamp-sized batteries

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CIPA-rated to 220 shots, the battery life is, generally speaking, a weak point on the RX100 V.

The Sony RX100 V soldiers on with the same NP-BX1 battery pack that the very first RX100 used, and with the massive increases in processing power and capability that Sony has shoehorned into the body, the claimed battery life is a third less than the original model. What’s more, the RX100 V continues Sony’s tradition of slow battery discharge if the battery is left in the camera, so if you’re only looking to use the camera occasionally, you may find you’re all ready to capture the moment, but the camera isn’t ready for anything but a charge.

And if the RX100 V is already proving difficult to fit into your pocket (I can’t be the only guy wearing skinnier-than-normal jeans these days), you might be loathe to carry another battery or two as well.

Reason to buy: You need a B video cam that can run and gun or be built up as needed

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You could conceivably use the HDMI out on the RX100 V to build a rig up, or just use it as a run-and-gun pocket video cam.

The RX100 V is probably not the best choice out there for a primary video cam for most people (though this is not always going to be true), but with 4K video, focus peaking, zebra, log gamma and oversampled 4K, the only thing you’ll be missing is better audio – and there’s always an external solution for that.

Don’t discount that you can also do clean HDMI out, and then combined with said external audio solution, have a pretty powerful package, even if it takes some work to get there.

Reason to reconsider: You have big hands

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If Sasquatch was after a camera, it wouldn’t likely be the RX100-series (a big, double-grip DSLR might be a better bet). The RX100 V comes, out of the box, with no grip, a slippery casing, and buttons smaller than the sensors of point and shoots of yester-decade. Although a touchscreen isn’t always the answer, we feel that being able to utilize such a big block of space on the rear of the camera as a control point is something Sony will have to do sooner or later to improve usability as the features keep coming. 

Reason to buy: You want the best point-and-shoot there is

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The RX100 V’s 315 on-sensor phase-detect AF points cover 65% of the frame.

With AF-C in wide mode and rapid continuous shooting in Raw + JPEG, the only thing between you and something you want to photograph is the RX100 V’s startup time, which isn’t too bad (unless you’ve just changed the battery).

Sony’s told us that plenty of folks buying their RX100 cameras are actually mid-to-high end DSLR owners. And while there’s an argument that that demographic may want maximum control all the time, there’s also something to be said for leaving the big camera at home and just focusing on a moment in front of you as it unfolds instead of prepping settings and always watching, and always re-prepping, and repeat.

Reason to reconsider: You just don’t need it

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Stock up on storage if you plan on using those 24 fps bursts.

I will confess – the allure of 24 fps burst shooting while at the Sony launch event for the RX100 V was somewhat tempered by the 128GB memory card I used, as well as the total picture count at the end of the night – near 3,000. That ended up being more than I would shoot with any other camera, simply because I could. One thing’s for sure – there’s no arguing that 24 fps will help you catch just the right moment in the middle of whatever is happening in front of you. But there’s also no arguing that it will just be overkill for many people, and many people’s hard drives. Even dropping the burst rate to 10 fps ended up being enough for me.

Reason to buy: You want the best image quality in the smallest pocketable package

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You already have a cell phone with you all the time anyway, and it probably takes decent pictures. Well, the RX100 V will at least fit into a coat pocket (or cargo pants…those are still around, right?) and take photos that will blow any smartphone out of the water.

True, ‘digital bokeh’ simulations are catching on, and will actually offer more blur artificially than the RX100 V can manage optically. But they still can’t match the dynamic range, sharpness and sophisticated JPEG performance in low light that the RX100 V offers. Digital bokeh or not, physics is still physics, and the 1″-type sensor will collect way more total light than any current cell phone.

(There’s also one smaller 1″-type sensor camera on the market, the Canon G9 X, which is capable of good stills quality – but with a necessarily slower lens and less processing power to keep the whole package more compact.)

Reason to reconsider: You just need more zoom

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The 24-70mm equivalent zoom lens on the RX100 V may be quite bright, but it may be too short for many people. If you’re hoping to shoot your kids’ soccer matches from the sidelines, there are way better options out there (the Panasonic ZS/TZ100 comes to mind).

Sure, the 24-70mm focal length is an absolute staple for professional wedding and press photographers, but you also often see those very same photographers carrying another huge camera with a 70-200mm equivalent zoom, just to cover absolutely everything. You can get by for a great many things with the RX100 V, but if you’re planning on getting one single camera to do it all, from travel photography to portraits to landscapes, there is probably a better option out there for you.

Reason to buy: You absolutely must have a viewfinder

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All RX100 models since the Mark III have had a built-in, pop-up electronic viewfinder.

The RX100 V (and Mark III/IV) are the only truly pocketable 1″-type sensor compact cameras with a decent built-in viewfinder. Panasonic’s ZS100/TZ100 is also a fairly compact camera, but its field-sequential EVF is pretty lackluster. If you do lots of shooting in bright light outdoors, or just find that framing your masterpiece with fingerprint smudges and facial oils overlaying it is unacceptable, the RX100 V’s pop-up viewfinder is worth a peek.


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