The annual upgrade of Sony's impressive pocket-size RX100 prosumer compact camera series is here.
The seventh version - the RX100 VII - has a newly designed 20.1-megapixel 1-inch stacked image sensor with 357 phase-detection auto-focusing (AF) points and 425 contrast-detection AF points, up from 315 and 25 points with the VI.
The fastest AF speed has also been bumped up. The fastest AF lock time is 0.02sec, compared to 0.03sec with the VI.
Shooting speed has dropped to 20 frames per second (fps) though, from its predecessor's 24fps, but without screen "black out" for better tracking of subjects.
Two new features are Sony's real-time tracking and real-time Eye AF technologies, both of which are great for video recording.
Elsewhere, the 24-200mm f/2.8-f/4.5 lens, touchscreen display and pop-up electronic viewfinder (EVF) are unchanged from the VI.
Also unchanged is the design, with the VII looking exactly like its predecessor. And why change a well thought-out design anyway? The handling continues to be superb with one of the most intuitive button layouts in the market.
A mode dial on the top right lets users change shooting modes quickly, while a rear clickable dial allows fast access to the flash, drive and other settings.
A control ring around the lens barrel lets users adjust the aperture. And I like that I can have quick access to all the dials and buttons while using the EVF to compose shots and moving the AF point using the display.
The touchscreen display can be tilted down by 90 degrees and up by 180 degrees - great for shooting selfies. But I thought the display should have been made rotatable, because when you flip up the display, you cannot attach a microphone on the hotshoe. This is especially so as the camera has a microphone input jack for videographers to better capture audio with an external microphone.
To mitigate this, Sony has bundled a shooting kit with the VII for $1,799 (pretty good value considering the camera itself costs $1,649), comprising an extra battery, a shooting grip and a V-shaped bracket with a hot shoe and a tripod mount on each of its ends.
Thus, you can mount the Mark VII on one end of the bracket and the microphone on the other end, while still using the flip-up display. This shooting kit will be valuable for video bloggers.
The camera starts up in 1.3 seconds and shuts down in 1.9 seconds - slightly faster than most compact cameras.
Using an SD card with a writing speed of 95MB per second, the VII captured 81 RAW images in 4.3 seconds before the buffer ran out. This is slightly slower than its predecessor which shot 107 RAW images in 4.9 seconds.
The AF function during photo shooting is impressive - almost instantaneous under bright sunlight and taking 0.6 second to lock on a focus with AF-assist light in dim lighting conditions.
The AF performance for video recording is also superb. I like that I can activate Eye AF even for animals, so I can photograph the beautiful stray cats around my neighbourhood.
The photos I took generally have great edge-to-edge sharpness, especially those shot with focal lengths between 24mm to 90mm. Image noise performance is quite good, with no noise artefacts seen until ISO 800 and with significant detail loss and chromatic noise only appearing above ISO 6400.
The 4K movies shot on the VII are excellent with great details and sharpness. The real-time tracking feature is a great help in keeping subjects sharp during video recording. Audio recording is crisp with an external microphone.
Battery life, however, continues to be average, even though it is a slight improvement over the VI with 260 still images on a full charge compared with the VI's 240.
All in, the RX100 VII is a great but pretty expensive compact camera at $1,649. Add the shooting kit and you can pretty much get a mid-range DSLR camera.
• Fast auto-focusing
• Superb image quality in both
stills and videos
• Microphone jack
• Not cheap
• Average battery life
PRICE: $1,649 (body), $1,799 (body with shooting kit)
IMAGE SENSOR: 20.1-megapixel 1-inch Exmor RS CMOS
LENS: 24mm-200mm f/2.8-4.5
DISPLAY: 3-inch tiltable touchscreen LCD with 921,600 dots; Electronic viewfinder with 2,359,296 dots
SENSITIVITY: ISO 100 to 25,600
SHOOTING SPEED: Up to 20 frames per second
CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
WEIGHT: 302g (with battery and memory card)
BATTERY LIFE: 3/5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5
OVERALL: 4/5 [ST Tech Editor's Choice]