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: Build & Handling
Place the RX100 V alongside the RX100 IV and you’ll quickly realise that it’s almost a carbon copy of its predecessor. Viewed from the front they’re identical and the only obvious way of telling them apart is by glancing at the model name printed on the top-plate. The only other visual difference is the custom button icon, which now displays the delete/trash icon but performs the same task. It has exactly the same footprint as the RX100 IV and weighs the same at a fraction under 300g.
The good news about the RX100 IV’s body size and shape being identical means that it’s compatible with a wide range of accessories that existing users may already own. A must-have accessory for RX100 V users looking to enhance the feel of the camera in the hand is the optional AG-R2 rubber attachment grip (£13) compatible with all RX100 models.
As said when I tested other RX100-series cameras in the past, you get the sense this grip is a design remedy and the grip should have been originally sculpted this way. The truth is the RX100 V doesn’t feel anywhere near as comfortable, secure or as stable in the hand without the attachment grip. One of the reasons for this is the camera’s ultra-smooth metal finish. Although this adds to its premium-compact status and provides excellent protection from the occasional knock, it makes it rather slippery to hold in the hand. If you like to shoot single-handedly, but don’t use a wrist or neck strap, you run the risk of it slipping out of your grasp. The AG-R2 attachment grip and a good quality strap are imperative if you want to create peace of mind when you’re out shooting and avoid costly repairs.
The RX100 V offers very sophisticated control for a camera so small. To get around the issue of there not being enough space on the body for large buttons and dials, it provides a decent level of customisation from the main menu. The function menu loaded using the Fn button grants access to frequently adjusted shooting, image and exposure settings. The 12 listed settings can be ordered and assigned to your most commonly used variables – my only reservation with the Fn button itself is that it’s quite difficult to locate when you’re shooting in high-contrast conditions and you have the viewfinder raised to your eye. I found myself accidentally hitting the menu button instead of the Fn button numerous times, and I put this down not only to the small size of buttons but also to the way they sit virtually flush to the body. The RX100 V isn’t best suited to those with large hands or big fingers. It’s also worth noting that the camera becomes much more difficult to operate when wearing gloves, so ideally you should wear fingerless ones.
As well as the rear scroll dial, there’s a second control ring around the lens allowing control of both aperture and shutter speed to be made on the fly. It has a diamond-knurled texture to make it easy to find from behind the camera and can be customised to control a variety of effects including ISO, White Balance, Creative Style, Picture Effect, Exposure Compensation (+/-3EV) and Zoom. Set to the latter, I discovered that it offers excellent control when you want to adjust the zoom precisely – a minimum of two twists are required to get the zoom from wideangle to full telephoto. For general shooting in aperture priority and shutter priority modes I either had the lens ring set to control the zoom or adjust exposure compensation (+/-3EV).
The pair of switches used to manually raise the flash and EVF have a slightly raised profile. Running your thumb down the left edge of the body and flicking the finder switch springs the camera into life, but like the RX100 IV you need to pull the viewfinder towards you to engage it correctly and obtain access to the dioptre. The pop-up design is superb, with the in-built eye sensor providing the automatic transition between the LCD and EVF and vice versa. The camera powers down when it’s pushed flush with the top-plate and gives users an alternative way of viewing and composing images when bright sunlight can play havoc with reflections on the screen’s surface.
As good and clear as the viewfinder is, there are still a couple of things to be wary of. It’s instinctive to use your left thumb to push the viewfinder back in before it’s pushed back down, but doing so will get you reaching for your lens cloth to wipe off the finger marks you’ve just made. You’ll also want to avoid pushing the EVF too hard against your eye as there’s very little resistance to prevent it from being accidentally nudged back in.