Sony RX100 VII Review

Camera Reviews / Sony Cameras / Sony Cybershot i Hands-On Preview
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 VII
Resolution: 20.10 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1 inch
(13.2mm x 8.8mm)
Lens: 8.00x zoom
(24-200mm eq.)
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
Native ISO: 100 - 12,800
Extended ISO: 64 - 25,600
Shutter: 1/32000 - 30 sec
Max Aperture: 2.8
Dimensions: 4.0 x 2.3 x 1.7 in.
(102 x 58 x 43 mm)
Weight: 10.7 oz (302 g)
includes batteries
Availability: 08/2019
Manufacturer: Sony
Full specs: Sony RX100 VII specifications
20.10
Megapixels
8.00x zoom 1 inch
size sensor
image of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 VII
Front side of Sony RX100 VII digital camera Front side of Sony RX100 VII digital camera Front side of Sony RX100 VII digital camera Front side of Sony RX100 VII digital camera Front side of Sony RX100 VII digital camera

Sony RX100 VII Review -- Hands-on Preview

by Mike Tomkins
Preview posted 07/25/2019

Almost every summer right the way back to 2012, Sony's had a tradition. Each July, the company wows us with a brand-new large-sensor, pants pocket-friendly camera in its trendsetting RX100-series. July 2019 didn't disappoint, as Sony has once again given its flagship RX100-series camera a leveling-up to create the Sony RX100 VII, a camera which the company suggests will offer the speed of its full-frame, flagship A9 mirrorless camera in a much, much more portable form-factor.

Externally identical, right down to the 8x zoom lens

Physically, the seventh-generation, 20-megapixel RX100 VII is nearly identical to its predecessor, offering up exactly the same 24-200mm equivalent, 8x optical zoom lens on its front surface. (The only change we've noticed externally is an additional flap for a new port on the right side of the camera body.)

The choice of lens is something of a mixed blessing. Like that of the RX100 VI before it, the RX100 VII's lens offers far more reach than do the roughly 3-4x zooms of their RX100-series forebears, which really frees you up to frame distant subjects more tightly without having to get up close yourself. But its f/2.8-4.5 lens also has a full stop less-bright maximum aperture across the portion of the zoom range shared by both cameras, which will cause you to have to shoot at higher sensitivity or a lower shutter speed than you'd otherwise have needed with earlier models. And in addition, the newer 8x zoom lacks a built-in neutral density filter that, in earlier models, allowed you to slow the shutter speed, something that's particularly useful for capturing smoother, more lifelike movies under harsh sunlight, and also improves upon your long-exposure options for stills.

Pocket-friendly performance and autofocus are the big stories here

So what's new? In covering the launch of the previous-generation RX100 VI last summer -- and perhaps feeling given to a little gentle hyperbole at the time -- we referred to it in our headline as being "an A7 III in your pocket". Well, with the RX100 VII, Sony is drawing its own comparison to an even higher-end model, and aiming to deliver "the speed of an A9 in your pocket."

There's no denying that the RX100M7 is an exceptionally swift camera, and doubly so by pocket camera standards. It's capable of shooting 20 full-resolution frames each second, and that's with autofocus and exposure adjustments between frames. "But wait," we hear you saying, "wasn't the RX100 VI capable of 24 frames per second with AF/AE?"

More point-dense, faster autofocus and human/animal eye AF

Well, err... yes, that's true, but it wasn't capable of offering "real-time tracking" and eye autofocus (both human and animal), as does the Sony A9 and, now, the RX100 VII as well. And if you're really just after raw speed without being worried about autofocus then the RX100 VII has another ace up its sleeve anyway, which I'll come back to in a moment.

But first, I want to circle back to autofocus, because honestly I think this is where the big news is for most photographers. Thanks to a newly-developed 1-inch type CMOS image sensor, the RX100 VII now has even more phase-detection autofocus points, with a total of 357 PDAF points covering 68% of the image frame in the new model, up from 315 points (65% coverage) in the RX100 VI. And far more contrast-detection AF points are defined too, with a total of 425 on offer in the RX100 VII, vs. just 25 points in the previous camera.

Yet despite the increased number of AF points, Sony is claiming it's shaved yet another smidgen off its focus acquisition speed to set a new world record of 0.02 second, besting the previous model by just 0.01 second. And as previously mentioned, there is support for detection of both human and animal eyes, allowing the camera to lock focus in precisely the right place both for portraits, and during movie capture as well. There's also real-time tracking AF for stills and video that will keep a tight lock on your subjects as they move around the image frame, as we discussed in detail in an article earlier this year.

Truly insane levels of performance if AF/AE are disabled

Alongside the newly-designed 20-megapixel image sensor in the RX100M7, which features a stacked design with DRAM for greater performance, there's a frontend LSI paired with an image processor which, for the fifth generation in a row, bears BIONZ X branding. It offers performance sufficient to perform up to 60 autofocus and autoexposure calculations per second, but if you're willing to lock both then this hardware triplet can provide utterly spectacular capture rates.

And we don't use a word like spectacular lightly. Admittedly, the buffer depth accompanying this performance is extremely modest, but if you lock focus and exposure from the first frame in the new single burst shooting drive mode, you'll gain access to insanely swift capture rates of 30, 60 and even 90 frames per second. The downside is that you'll only manage this rate for just seven raw/JPEG frames, which are all captured with a single press of the shutter release button. With a seven-frame buffer, that equates to a capture duration from start to finish of just around a quarter of a second of capture even at the slowest 30fps rate, and potentially as little as ~0.08 seconds at 90 fps!

Blackout-free shooting, lower base ISO and the interval timer is finally back!

One other note of particular interest on the performance front relates to the RX100 VII's rear-panel LCD monitor and the OLED electronic viewfinder, which both appear to be unchanged from the Mark VI. Sony is promising not just extremely minimal lag while shooting on either the electronic viewfinder or the rear-panel LCD, but also completely blackout-free shooting at up to 20 fps. That will make it much easier to keep up when tracking moving subjects.

The RX100 VII's base ISO has also changed. It's now ISO 100 versus 125 for most prior models, and is now extendable down to ISO 64 versus 80. The top sensitivity is still ISO 12,800 which can be extended to 25,600 with multi-frame noise reduction enabled although only JPEG capture is supported in MFNR mode as before.

Another very welcome change is the return of the interval timer function, which was lost when Sony sunset its Playmemories Camera Apps and removed them in the RX100 VI. Since the earlier models relied on an app for their interval timer functionality, the RX100 VI lost the capability along with its app support. Now, there's a standalone interval timer that doesn't rely on externally-loaded apps.

Some really big improvements for 4K video fans, too

There are also plenty of improvements on the video front in the RX100 VII. Perhaps the most important of all for our money kind of flies under the radar, though: There's a new menu setting which allows you to lift the 5-minute recording time limit of the RX100 VI when shooting 4K video! The limit's still there by default, but you can opt to lift it through the menu system and record much, much longer single clips. (We've shot 24 fps / 100Mbps clips as long as 90-minutes plus, and the camera still reported a temperature of just a little over 100°F.)

Also, Active Steadyshot stabilization is now available for 4K video capture, pairing both optical and software image stabilization techniques with a slight crop for smoother handheld video, even while walking. Active Steadyshot was previously possible only for Full HD video on the RX100 VI. And just so the Full HD fans don't feel left out, there's the potential for improved stabilization there, too, thanks to the fact that gyro data is now recorded in the metadata of movies, allowing them to be further stabilized in post-processing using the Movie Edit addon for Sony's new Imagine Edge mobile app, which replaced the earlier Playmemories Camera Apps.

Finally for the video changes, Sony has also added a new 3.5mm microphone jack, under a small rubber flap atop the right side of the camera body, and added support for shooting vertical videos, too. There's also a new video-oriented accessory, a VCT-SGR1 video hand-grip, but we don't yet have details as to what it has to offer. And like the RX100 VI before it, there's support not just for ultra high-def video capture, but also for HDR footage thanks to a hybrid log-gamma picture profile. (Sony's own S-Log and other profiles are still there too, of course.)

In other respects, largely similar to the RX100 VI

In most other respects, the Sony RX100 VII is much like the cameras which preceded it, and especially the RX100 VI. Power still comes from the same NP-BX1 as in every previous RX100-series camera to date, and the Micro-B USB port rather than a more modern USB-C port also mirrors the very first RX100 camera. Battery life is CIPA-rated at 260 shots with the LCD monitor or 240 with the EVF, which is up slightly from the Mark VI's 240 and 220 shots respectively.

Other features held over from the RX100 VI include a tilting touchscreen LCD which can flip up 180 degrees for selfies or tilt down 90 degrees for overhead shots, four-stop SteadyShot optical image stabilization and SD UHS-I card storage.

Sony RX100 VII price and availability

The Sony RX100 VII is slated to go on sale in the US market from August 2019. List pricing is set at around US$1200.

Stay tuned to Imaging Resource for more on the RX100 VII, and be sure to see our initial Gallery and First Shots lab images.

 

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