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Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VI review

Sony's pocket powerhouse

Build and handling

  • Only 1.8mm thicker than RX100 V
  • Features a solid metal construction
  • Weighs 301g

Despite the substantially longer zoom ranged offered by the RX100 VI compared to its predecessors, you'd be hard pushed to pick it out of an RX100 series lineup, as the design is almost identical to previous generations – the RX100 VI is only 1.8mm thicker than the RX100 V at 42.8mm, and only 2g heavier at 301g.

This means the RX100 VI features the same sleek and understated look that previous RX100 cameras have enjoyed, with a durable metal finish that completes the premium feel of the camera (although it's not weather-sealed).

The slight downside to this relatively slimline design is the absence of any form of handgrip on the front of the camera, which compared to the comfy textured grip on the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II, for example, is disappointing. There are a number of aftermarket solutions, some of which are very high-end, while Sony itself produces the optional AG-R2 attachment grip for £14 / $14.99 – although considering the low price we'd really expect to see this bundled with the camera. 

The RX100 VI springs into life almost instantaneously when switched on (or when you flick the switch on the side of the camera to activate the EVF). As we've mentioned, the new sprung mechanism for the EVF is a lot more satisfactory than the previous method of manually extending the viewfinder out from the housing once raised from the top plate. Rather unhelpfully, though, by default the RX100 VI shuts down when you collapse the viewfinder back into the body – we reckon this will be one of the first functions you'll deactivate if you take the plunge with a RX100 VI.

Around the lens barrel is a customizable control ring that can be assigned to a range of functions; by default it's used to control aperture when you're in aperture priority mode, and shutter speed in shutter priority mode. Otherwise, there are relatively few body-mounted controls, with the four-way control wheel on the rear of the camera the only other key control to access the camera's main shooting settings. 

We're certainly pleased to see touchscreen functionality come to an RX100 series camera

This arrangement can make the RX100 VI a touch fiddly to use, depending on the shooting combination you've selected. For instance, when shooting in aperture priority mode with Flexible Spot focusing selected, the four-way control wheel is initially assigned to select the AF area size and its positioning. Should you want to dial in some exposure compensation, you'll have to hit the central button to deactivate the AF area option, before selecting exposure compensation and then using the four-way control wheel to adjust. If you then want to then toggle the AF point again, you'll have to go back into the Function menu to select the Focus Area again. 

We're certainly pleased to see touchscreen functionality come to an RX100 series camera, but its implementation is a little limited, with only tap focus and tap shutter (with the camera focusing at the same time) on offer. This certainly makes focus selection that bit quicker in some instances, but you can't use the touchscreen to help you navigate the RX100 VI's quick menu and main menu, with the four-way control wheel on the rear used to access these. 

As we've seen with recent Sony Alpha cameras, the RX100 VI benefits from a slightly refined menu interface, making it a little more straightforward to find your way around the camera's various settings and modes. 

Autofocus

  • Sophisticated hybrid AF system improved over RX100 V
  • Touchscreen improves handling
  • Advanced focus tracking and EyeAF

The RX100 VI enjoys an enhanced version of the hybrid AF system that impressed on the RX100 V. This sees 315 phase-detect AF points covering 65% of the frame, supplemented by 25 larger contrast-detect AF focus areas, with the two systems working in tandem to acquire focusing. Initially the RX100 VI will use phase-detect AF to lock focus, with the contrast-detect system then fine-tuning where necessary. 

With the upgraded BIONZ X and Front-end LSI on the RX100 VI, Sony claims focusing is as quick as 0.03 seconds, and we're not inclined to quibble with this – it's certainly one of the quickest, if not the quickest, compact cameras out there in acquiring focus. The RX100 VI also includes Sony’s advanced High-density Tracking AF technology, which sees the focusing system concentrate AF points around a subject to improve tracking and focus accuracy, while Sony's Eye AF technology is also available, with approximately 2x the tracking performance of the RX100 V.

It's when you select Continuous AF that the sophistication of the RX100 VI's autofocus system really shines

Use the RX100 VI's Wide focus area in Single AF mode and you'll have a very competent point-and-shoot camera, with the camera making all the focusing decisions for you. If you want more manual input you've got Center, Flexible Spot and Expand Flexible Spot (with the addition of eight points around the desired AF point to assist with AF) modes, with the latter two of these enabling you to manually move the AF point round the frame. While you can do this via the four-way control wheel it does require a couple of button presses, so the new tap focus functionality is very welcome here. 

It's when you select Continuous AF that the sophistication of the RX100 VI's autofocus system really shines. This sees an extra Lock-on AF focus area mode become available, with the choice of various sub-modes on top of that. Tracking performance is incredibly impressive, with the screen lighting up with a multitude of AF points as it tracks your subject around the frame. 

The RX100 VI's EyeAF works really well at locking on to your subject's eye. Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VI, 1/640 sec at f/4.5, ISO125 

There's also Face Detection, but those shooting a lot of portraits will want to take advantage of the RX100 VI's EyeAF feature. Hit the central button in the four-way control wheel to activate this and the RX100 VI will focus on your subject's eye, and provided you have continuous AF selected the camera will continue to track the eye as your subject moves around the frame – clever stuff.

Phil Hall
Phil Hall

Phil Hall is an experienced writer and editor having worked on some of the largest photography magazines in the UK, and now edit the photography channel of TechRadar, the UK's biggest tech website and one of the largest in the world. He has also worked on numerous commercial projects, including working with manufacturers like Nikon and Fujifilm on bespoke printed and online camera guides, as well as writing technique blogs and copy for the John Lewis Technology guide.