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: Performance
The developments that have been made to the RX100 V centre around its autofocus system and its high-speed shooting capabilities. The 0.05sec acquisition speed is hasty by compact terms and no sooner is the shutter button half-depressed, the AF point illuminates green to indicate accurate focus. The camera feels just a fraction faster at locking onto subjects than the RX100 IV and you’re best off leaving the bright orange AF assist beam to Auto if you’re attempting to shoot close subjects in low light.
There were barely any signs of hunting back and forth and it’s hard not to be impressed by how well the focus tracking performs. After setting the focus mode to continuous and the focus area to Lock-on AF, I positioned the AF point bang in the centre of the frame and successfully tracked a group of cyclists as they passed in front of me. This AF tracking works particularly well in combination with the RX100 V’s 24fps continuous shooting and increases the chances of getting that pin-sharp shot of the action right before your eyes. This all sounds very positive, but if truth be told the user experience could be made so much better by introducing a touchscreen to aid the AF-point selection. Having the option to tap the screen with your thumb and fire the shutter with your index finger would make positioning the AF point over your subject faster and more intuitive. We’ve been waiting five years for an RX100-series camera to feature touchscreen control and it seems we’ll be waiting a while longer yet.
It’s not the type of camera you’d typically associate with speed, but Sony is obviously very keen to make it appeal to those who’d like their pocket camera to shoot as fast as possible. By processing its image data faster, the RX100 has no difficulty rattling out 150 Extra Fine JPEGs at 24fps – a jaw-dropping figure and a big jump from the 44 Extra Fine JPEGs the RX100 IV managed at 16fps. Switching the file format to raw sees the RX100 V record 72 images at 24fps. This is considerably more than the 29 raw files the RX100 IV can manage at its slower speed and sets the bar extremely high for future models in this area of the market. Staying on the subject of speed, users are provided with two zoom speed settings. Set to normal speed it takes 1.8secs to get from one end of the zoom to the other, compared to 1.2secs when set to fast.
Generally speaking, you can rely on the RX100 V’s evaluative metering mode to deliver well-exposed images, but there were a few times in high-contrast conditions where I found myself dialing-in around -1EV to protect highlight detail from being clipped. If you’d like the camera to optimise highlight detail and boost the brightness of shadow areas automatically, Sony’s Dynamic Range Optimiser (DRO) is available. Alternatively, if you’re shooting in the JPEG file format, you may wish to employ the camera’s HDR feature that has an auto setting as well as 1EV to 6EV manual control.
The RX100 V offers advanced video recording functionality. Its 4K footage is lovely and crisp and there’s also the opportunity to capture 16.8-million-pixel still images while you’re recording by tapping the shutter button. The continuous autofocus works well when shooting movies, but if you’d like to avoid the pesky whirring of the lens being traced in your footage it’s advisable not to use the zoom after the movie-record button has been depressed.
The real fun begins when you experiment with the camera’s slow-motion shooting, or high-frame rate (HFR) mode as it’s labelled on the mode dial. In principle, it works in exactly the same way as the RX100 IV’s slow-motion mode; the difference is that it lets you record slow-motion clips for double the length at up to 960fps. To put this frame rate into perspective, 1sec of real-time footage shot at 960fps is slowed down to about 40secs. Uses for it can range from watching how birds and insects dance in flight to analysing your golf swing at the driving range. It’s absolutely fascinating to see how different subjects react and move in slow motion and provides hours of fun.
It must be said the HFR mode isn’t the most intuitive and it could really benefit from an overhaul or a quick-start guide to make it easier for users to understand how the settings work and how they’re best used. The full suite of manual exposure settings (PASM) are available to set exposure as normal, and the general rule is that the shutter speed used always has to be faster than the frame rate selected. If you’d like to shoot slow-motion footage at 500fps say, the minimum permitted shutter speed you can use is 1/500sec. To resolve the best-quality footage without pushing the ISO too high, it’s always a good idea to attempt shooting slow motion in bright lighting conditions.
Before capturing slow-motion footage the camera must be focused and the exposure set. Only then can you put the RX100 V into its standby mode, which means you’re ready to begin recording with a press of the movie record button. There are two ways to capture slow-motion footage, and these are found in the main menu. Start Trigger begins recording the second that you press the movie-rec button and the footage is displayed live via the screen or the EVF, making it easy to track a moving subject. The alternative option is to use the End Trigger setting, which begins recording footage continuously as soon as the camera enters its HFR standby mode and finishes when you hit the movie-rec button.
Though the results of the slow-motion footage are fascinating to watch, I found it frustrating that the mode can’t be used in combination with the self-timer. This made it impossible to shoot slow-motion footage of my golf swing independently and required an assistant to trigger the movie-rec button at the precise moment.