In an age where smartphone cameras are frankly getting ridiculously good for walk-around use, ultra-compact cameras have got to offer something pretty special to make them worth buying. This new offering from Sony could be be worth serious consideration. Extending the company's RX range at the telephoto end, the RX100 VI packs a 24-200mm f/2.8-4.5 Zeiss lens and a 20.1-megapixel Exmor sensor in a 301-gram body you'd barely notice hanging off your shoulder.
Where the RX100 V attacked the problem of smartphones encroaching on its turf with speed, using a 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 lens, the new VI is going for range. The VI's 24-200mm zoom range covers the vast majority of practical shooting focal lengths for the vast majority of people, sacrificing a little in the way of aperture but still offering f/2.8 at the wide end.
With just a one-inch, 20.1-megapixel sensor, it won't blur the background out with bokeh like a full frame. But portraits will still get some nice separation if you're shooting wide open toward the long end, and both the sensor and the glass are top-notch gear. Built-in image stabilization is good enough to simulate a shutter speed four stops faster than you're actually using without the blur of camera shake.
Some 315 phase-detect autofocus points cover 65 percent of the frame, and Sony is claiming a world's fastest autofocus time (for a 1-inch sensor) of just 0.03 seconds. Burst shooting at 24 frames per second while continuously autofocusing should make it a fun sports shooter as well.
Also on the topic of focusing, if you use the pop-up EVF (electronic view finder), the camera can track where your eye's looking in the frame and use that to set your focus point, with an eye AF system Sony claims performs twice as well as the previous model. If that's not working for you, you can drag your thumb around on the rear touchscreen to select focus points.
Selfie shooting is very much on the menu, with the rear screen tilting up 180 degrees (or down 90 if you want to go for some weird low angles). Additionally, 4K video with continuous autofocus will make it great for vlogging, and there's a pop-up flash in case you want to ruin all your photos.
For those with fancy TVs, you can also record video in Hybrid Log Gamma 4K HDR, as well as video modes like S-Log3 for flat profile shooting, 120 fps 1080p slow-mo, and super-slow motion up to 1,000 frames per second if you're willing to ditch resolution to get there.
Naturally, there's Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC communications built in for quick sharing and editing.
So, what you're looking at is a very high quality, long-zoom ultra-compact that weighs only about 1.6 times as much as a 6-inch smartphone. That's a hell of a versatile machine for travel, walk-around and daily use. Unfortunately, it also carries a hell of a price tag commensurate with its abilities – US$1,200 puts it way into the premium range for this kind of gear, and will scare off plenty of prospective buyers.
Those that are prepared to stump up, though, will have themselves a heck of a pocket shooter.
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