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: Dynamic range, resolution and noise
We have the RX100 V’s 1-inch 20.1-million-pixel, Exmor RS CMOS sensor to thank for an excellent image quality performance. With the same pixel count as the RX100 IV and RX100 III, the RX100 V doesn’t make any major strides in terms of the detail it resolves, but continues to offer an improved dynamic range, better low-light performance and reduced levels of noise compared to other compact cameras with smaller 1/2.3-inch and 1/1.7 sensors. The dynamic range figures aren’t dramatically different to those we’ve recorded in the past on the RX100 IV or the RX100 III. As for its performance at high ISO, detail-rich results with low noise are achieved between ISO 80-800. Push beyond ISO 1,600 and you’ll need to make compromises in image quality, but saying that it’s still possible to create usable images by adding a little noise reduction to raw files in post.
The dynamic range figures aren’t dramatically different to those we’ve recorded in the past on the RX100 IV or the RX100 III. Our lab results tell us that at ISO 100 the sensor offers a respectable 12.5EV range, which only falls fractionally below 12EV at ISO 400. Such high figures at the low end of the sensitivity range indicates that there’s plenty of scope when it comes to returning detail to shadowed areas from raw files. The dynamic range drops approximately 1EV at each ISO setting beyond ISO 400, with 9.5EV being recorded at ISO 1600 and 8.3EV being recorded at ISO 3200. Figures remain above 6EV right up to the RX100 V’s top sensitivity setting of ISO 12,800.
Pocket compacts with 1-inch size sensors are renowned for producing impressive detail for their size. The RX100 V is no different and set to its lowest expanded ISO 80 setting the sensor resolves a notable 3,000l/ph. The level of detail resolved by the sensor remains at this figure up to ISO 400 and it’s only when the sensitivity is pushed beyond this point that we begin to see the resolution start to drop. At ISO 800 it reaches 2,800l/ph, with 2,600l/ph being recorded at ISO 1,600 and ISO 3,200. As the sensitivity is increased further noise affects the resolution slightly more. It manages to resolve 2,400l/ph at ISO 6,400 before dropping to 2,200l/ph at its sensitivity ceiling of ISO 12,800. These ISO results are comparable to those previously recorded by the RX100 III and RX100 IV.
Below we show details from our resolution chart test pattern (right). Multiply the number beneath the lines by 200 to give the resolution in lines per picture height.
At the time of testing, Adobe Camera Raw didn’t support the RX100 V’s raw files so we reverted to using Sony’s Image Data Conversion software (version 4.2.06) to convert our raw files before examining them alongside our JPEGs. With noise reduction switched off, the RX100 V produces clean, noise-free raw files between ISO 80 and ISO 400. Luminance noise is kept well under control up to ISO 800 but does become more obvious when you begin to push to higher sensitivities. Colour noise is evident in dark shadowed regions at ISO 3,200 and above, but the in-camera noise reduction that’s applied to JPEG files makes it less intrusive. In the worst-case scenario you could push to ISO 6,400 and achieve a useable image with vigilant application of noise reduction in post-processing, but I’d avoid ISO 12,800. In essence, for the finest results shoot in the raw format, preferably below ISO 800.