Sony RX100 VI Video
Sony RX100 VI Video Features, Specs & Analysis
A good video camera, but not the ‘splash’ to the market like its predecessors
by Jaron Schneider | Posted: 12/11/2018
The first time I used an RX100 camera, it was the Mark IV version, and it seriously impressed me. And not just the image-capture ability of the camera, but the video capture as well. It shocked me that I could shoot in S-Log 4K in a tiny camera body and that the resulting footage actually looked fantastic. In one case, I actually shot a paid gig exclusively on the RX100 IV because it happened to be the only camera I had on me at the time (the job sprang up while I was at an event). I would normally never take paid work if it wasn't with my professional kit, but I knew what the RX100 was capable of, and I knew it would make excellent footage. I was not wrong.
But fast forward a few years, and the entire media landscape has changed. My expectations for what a camera should include, as well as how much that inclusion should cost, has dramatically shifted. Sure, a few years ago $1000 for a point-and-shoot seemed high, but what this particular pocket-cam could do made it outclass some full-size cameras. But in 2018, that has changed, and the RX100 Mark VI has made very few changes to keep up with those expectations.
Is this a bad camera? By no means. But, to this market segment, is it the camera that the Mark IV was? Also, by no means.
The RX100 Mark VI, from a specifications standpoint, has changed very little over the last few years. It uses the same sensor and the same body design. And like the last two predecessors, it has multiple video recording options at various sizes and frame rates:
Standard Video Resolution & Frame Rates
- 4K UHD (3840 x 2160p): 30 fps, 25 fps, 24 fps
- 1920 x 1080p: 60 fps, 50 fps, 30 fps, 25 fps, 24 fps
- 1920 x 1080i: 60 fps, 50 fps (AVCHD format only)
- 1280 x 720p: 30 fps, 25 fps
High Frame Rate modes
- 1920 x 1080p: 240 fps, 480 fps, 960 fps
- 1824 x 1026p: 240 fps, 480 fps, 960 fps
- 1676 x 566p: 240 fps, 480 fps, 960 fps
- 1920 x 1080p: 250 fps, 500 fps, 1000 fps
- 1824 x 1026p: 250 fps, 500 fps, 1000 fps
- 1676 x 566p: 250 fps, 500 fps, 1000 fps
When shooting at 1080p Full HD and below, the camera can record up to 29 minutes before recording is stopped. However, when shooting in 4K, that drops to just 5 minutes, as the RX100 VI still has a hard time with heat dissipation. While five minutes of 4K recording is plenty for shooting most of what you might find yourself trying to capture with the RX100 VI, that isn't a consistent maximum. If you are recording in the hot sun, that time may drop. Additionally, subsequent attempts to record video after being stopped by that rising heat may result in fewer and fewer minutes the camera can capture as it continues to try and cool itself off. It's not an ideal situation for recording 4K, especially in 2018.
The RX100 VI has a 3.0" LCD rear touch screen which is nice for setting focus. But since the back of the camera is pretty much 80% screen, it can be very easy to accidentally change the focus point inadvertently when holding it. You can luckily turn the touchscreen off if this becomes a problem for you.
In addition to built-in Wi-Fi, the RX100 VI also has a micro-HDMI port and a "multi" micro-USB port that it uses for charging or connecting to a computer.
Speaking of charging, unless you can find/purchase an external battery charger for the NP-BX1 battery, you have to charge this camera through that micro-USB port. That means if you plan to shoot a lot of video, you will want to have spare batteries with you that you cannot swap out and charge since there is no external charger. Gratefully, the RX100 VI can be charged while it is in use, but it's kind of an awkward setup as you can imagine.
The battery charging situation wouldn't be a big deal if the battery lasted longer, but it seems that as more features are added to the RX100, the more the battery life collapses. It was never very impressive to begin with, but actively shooting high-resolution 4K video on the RX100 will result in extremely varied battery life times (depending on how long your clips are, the temperature outside, etc.), and it's never been an "impressive" amount of time.
When I did my shooting with the RX100 VI, I made sure to turn it completely off between uses, and have a portable battery pack waiting in the car to charge the camera when I was driving between shooting locations. With this method, I never had the camera outright die on me, but it was something I had to keep remembering throughout a day of shooting. So while not crippling, it is an added annoyance.
Video is a complicated beast, and you will rarely find any shooter who captures video they are serious about shooting in any mode other than Manual. And since the RX100 body design leaves very little room for dials and buttons, you can see how this might be a challenge. Sony does a pretty good job of showing you repeatedly how to change between shutter speed adjustment and aperture, but it is much slower than when you have dedicated buttons/dials for each. The two rings you can use/re-map are what would normally be the focus/zoom ring found behind the lens, and the single command dial surrounding the menu button on the rear of the camera where your thumb tends to rest. In Manual mode, you can assign the front ring to be aperture and the back ring to be shutter speed, but if you want to shoot fully manual and also have manual focus (it's awesome that this is an option at all, by the way), you then lose the ability to have the front ring be anything other than focus (which makes sense) and you then have to toggle the back command dial repeatedly between aperture and shutter speed settings. It's a bit of a dance that can take some getting used to, but eventually, you can get the hang of it.
That said, it's never really fast. So if you're swapping between wildly different lighting conditions trying to balance focus, shutter speed, aperture and ISO (which you have to access with the Fn menu and navigate to), it can be challenging. I eventually gave up on manual focus for most of my shooting because of that added complex layer and tried to rely on the autofocus.
The autofocus is good, but not great. It has made a few advancements over the years, but isn't up to the standard Sony has set in their larger full frame mirrorless cameras. In video, the focus can hunt a bit, which isn't too troubling, but when using autofocus while zooming, it can easily lose track of the original subject you were locked onto and dip in and out of focus. When the main selling point of the Mark VI is that it has this incredible zoom range, it's somewhat annoying that I had a very hard time keeping consistent focus when trying to zoom in and out.
I was pretty hard on the RX100 VI in both the early paragraphs of this video review as well as my Field Test on its photo capabilities, but I do think it's important that I frame these opinions with this statement: The RX100 VI takes very good video.
That is to say, if you put this camera on a tripod and capture video with it, you will be impressed. And it is impressive how good the video looks, especially when you consider the size of the camera.
Unfortunately, because this camera lacks on-sensor stabilization (it does have optical stabilization, more on that in a bit), using this camera handheld as a vlogging device or even just as a way to capture a hike (as seen in my test footage) can look downright atrocious. The RX100 VI has pretty poor stabilization in the optics and even at its widest angles struggles to stop footfalls or even movement in the hand of a shaky camera person. Like its predecessors, this camera does its best when tripoded or held very still.
This problem is exacerbated when you put the camera in any low light situations. As mentioned at length in my field test of the RX100 VI, the increased zoom range of this model comes with the downside of losing a full stop on the wide end of the aperture, down to f/2.8 wide open from f/1.8 in the earlier models. You wouldn't think that would be so noticeable, but it is. It is especially bad at really any zoom range. Anything past about 35mm results in the maximum aperture of f/4.5, which is very closed down for any situation with even slightly dim lighting.
I will never say that the RX100 VI is a bad camera. It's not. It's got a ton of awesome features that make it significantly better than other point-and-shoot cameras on the market. But being the best camera in a very small, dying market segment isn't the high praise it once was, and by tacking on the fact this camera costs $1200 doesn't make that pill any easier to swallow. That's most of the way to a full-size mirrorless camera, and though the market for each of those cameras is obviously not the same, it's something I have to mention. This is a very expensive camera that has a lot of caveats in order to be successful with it.
Here are the takeaways:
Pros: The RX100 VI has the capability to capture really good video. It comes packed with a ton of features, including a bunch of frame rate options, HD, Full HD and 4K video choices, S-Log, touch screen features and a bunch more. It's pretty easy to use and has a lens that will provide a pretty solid zoom range for its class.
Cons: The RX100 VI has some heat issues, so shooting in 4K is limited to at most 5 minutes a clip, and you may find that number will vary considerably depending on your environment. The small sensor mixed with its variable aperture lens means you may be fighting with low light, making this camera best outside in broad daylight. The lack of control dials on the camera means a semi-serious video shooter who wants all the manual options will find it rather challenging to remember all the steps needed to access all the features while shooting. And the battery life isn't the best since, well, the battery is pretty small. Oh, and this camera will set you back $1200.
As you can see, it's a pretty mixed bag here. There are a lot of reasons to love the RX100 VI, but they come side by side with a lot of reasons to question it as well. I do want to make sure to continue to state that this is a good camera. It takes good photos, good video, and it's remarkably powerful for its size.
It's just a very limited device due to all the "buts" I have encountered with it. Three years ago, these were healthy considerations since the RX100 really out-shined even larger, more expensive cameras. But today, in this camera climate, it's much less impressive.