There’s stiff competition in the premium compact market, so can the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 V do enough to pack a punch? Michael Topham reviews the latest pocket wonder
Sony Cyber-shot RX100 V review: Features
It’s easy to judge a camera by its appearance and although the RX100 V looks much like its predecessor, it promises big changes beneath the surface of its hardwearing aluminium metal chassis. Just like a Volkswagen Golf GTI looks distinctly normal on the outside, but is equipped with a powerful turbo-charged engine, it’s a similar story with the RX100 V.
Compared to the 20.1-million pixel Exmor R back-illuminated CMOS sensor you get in the RX100 II and RX100 III, the configuration of the sensor is different. Sony describes the sensor inside the new RX100 V as ‘newly developed’, however it shares the same stacked CMOS design as its precursor and continues to offer a sensitivity range of 125-12,800, with the option to expand it to ISO 80 and ISO 100.
At just 2mm, the Exmor RS sensor repositions the circuitry from the edges of the sensor behind the photodiodes, or pixels. By doing so it prevents such high volumes of data having to work its way to the edge of the sensor, which results in a faster data-readout speed that’s said to be 5x faster than conventional cameras. To ensure the RX100 V feeds the data to its Bionz X processor at a speed it’s capable of dealing with, it incorporates DRAM memory directly behind the sensor to act as a buffer, which works in harmony with a newly developed front-end LSI processor that we’ve recently seen used within Sony’s flagship A-mount model, the Alpha 99 II.
The RX100 V’s advanced sensor and processor technology brings it bang up to date and allows the camera to shoot faster for longer. So just how much faster are we talking? Compared to the RX100 IV that maxxed out at 16fps, this new model has the ability to shoot at 24fps with continuous autofocus, making it the world’s fastest continuous shooting compact at the time of writing. It can shoot at this rapid speed up to 1/32,000sec thanks to a new anti-distortion electronic shutter designed to minimise distortion and deploy beyond the mechanical shutter’s 1/2000sec limit.
The RX100 V’s speed improvements don’t end here. It’s possible to record slow-motion video footage at up to 960fps (40x the normal frame rate) for twice as long as you could on the RX100 IV. Adding to this there’s 4K video recording with full pixel readout and no pixel binning, however there’s still no in-built mic port or headphone socket to the disappointment of some.
The RX100 V’s focusing ability is another area where it makes great strides. By implementing a faster and more precise Hybrid AF system, the acquisition speed of focus is now rated at 0.05secs, which is 0.04secs faster than the RX100 IV. On top of this there’s a dense coverage of AF points with as many as 315 phase-detection AF points covering 65% of the sensor’s image area. With the option to shoot at 24fps with AF/AE tracking for up to 150 shots, the RX100 V certainly seems well-equipped for freezing the action at any split second and holds on to the title of having the fastest hybrid autofocus system in a compact camera of its pedigree.
Elsewhere, the RX100 V inherits many of the features we’ve seen before. Those familiar with the RX100 series may recall the original RX100 and RX100 II models were equipped with a f/1.8-4.9 (28-100mm equivalent) lens, but like the RX100 III and RX100 IV, the RX100 V features a faster Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* f/1.8-2.8 lens covering a wider, but not quite as long 24-70mm equivalent, focal length. The pop-up and retractable 0.39-type electronic viewfinder with its 2.36-million-dot resolution is identical to the one found on the RX100 IV and the 3in, 1.23-million-dot articulated screen is the same too. It’s rather disappointing to find that touchscreen control is once again omitted, especially when its closest rivals and other new models such as the Sony Alpha 6500 are being rolled out with touch-panel operation.
Despite its pocket-compact status, there’s advanced exposure control and a full suite of manual modes for more experienced users, with a wide selection of scene selection modes for those who’d prefer simply to point and shoot. A built-in pop-up flash is positioned centrally above the lens and Wi-Fi connectivity with NFC is also present for anyone who’d like to transfer images to a mobile device or fire the camera wirelessly using the Sony Play Memories or Smart Remote Control apps.
The camera uses the same rechargeable NP-BX1 battery pack as previous models. In the past we’ve seen the RX100 IV take a hit in terms of the number of shots it could manage on a single charge compared to the RX100 III. It’s the same with the RX100 V. Unlike the RX100 III that could shoot 320 shots on a single charge and the RX100 IV that had a 280-shot battery life, the RX100 V’s battery life is rated at a rather meagre 220 shots.