Body and controls

The familiar looks of the RX100-series are mated to a familiar control interface in the Mark VI: one that allows but doesn't exactly encourage getting involved with the camera's settings. Perhaps this will make more sense as a travel and family camera, rather than the photography enthusiast that the shorter but brighter RX100 V seemed aimed at.

Key takeaways:

  • The RX100 VI has a small, well-built body, but one worth treating with care
  • It has a limited number of control points despite its extensive feature set but offers a degree of customization
  • The touchscreen is useful but is solely used for focus position and playback mode
  • The menus are extensive and difficult to memorize but have a custom 'My Menu' tab to minimize your need to track down the settings you want to change
  • Overall the RX100 VI lets the user take some control but assumes you won't be changing settings very often

The RX100 VI's body looks much like those of its predecessors, despite offering a very different set of capabilities. This means it's still comparatively small and, aside from its touchscreen, offers the same amount of controls as previous models in the series.

As before the body has a metal shell but it's comparatively thin, so while it feels nicely built, it should be treated with care.

Despite having both a control ring around the lens and a number of re-configurable buttons, the RX100 VI is happiest in Auto mode or, at least, being used with only occasional user interaction.

Control ring

The RX100 VI has the same free-rotating control dial around its lens. Its default role depends on which shooting mode you're in but it can be customized to control a number of functions. We generally find it works better for controlling continuous settings, such as zoom or manual focus, than for discrete parameters, such as aperture value or exposure compensation. The lack of tactile feedback makes it difficult to keep track of the changes you've made, despite the on-screen indications.

Fn menu

The RX100 VI has a customizable Fn menu, accessed by a dedicated button. The menu has twelve options arranges in two rows of six. Generally we find it works best if we arrange stills options at one end of the menu, video settings at the other and options you want to use for both arranged in the middle.

Touchscreen

The RX100 VI is the first in its line to include a touchscreen and, like other recent Sonys, this can be used to position the AF point, both when the rear screen is being used to compose your image and as a touchpad when the camera's viewfinder is to your eye. The touchscreen is also active for navigating images in playback mode but neither the Fn or main menus allow any touch interaction.

The Touchpad and touchscreen modes can be activated independently of one another and the touchpad mode also lets you chose between relative and absolute positioning, as well as letting you limit the function to specific regions of the screen, to avoid accidental operation.

Button customization

The RX100 VI lets you customize the function of four buttons, as well as the front dial. The buttons can be reconfigured to offer different functions for stills shooting, video shooting and playback modes, so it's worth familiarizing yourself with the available options, before deciding what each should do. For instance, Eye AF is not available in video mode, so you may wish to assign a useful video function to the 'Center' button on the four-way controller that it occupies by default.

The RX100 VI has restructured menus, now including a customizable 'My Menu' tab. This is worth using if you regularly change settings, since it's still difficult to remember your way around.

The small, somewhat fiddly, rear dial can't be customized. Its function varies depending on which exposure mode you're in but requires you to re-position your hand on the camera to operate it, and we occastionally find ourselves accidentally pushing it in and activating one of the four-way functions as we're trying to turn it.

The menus are long and complex, despite attempts to improve visual cues to help you orientate yourself within them. Part of this complexity stems from the sheer number of stills and video features the camera offers but you may find yourself wanting to populate the customizable 'My Menu' tab, if you regularly find yourself using a menu-dwelling function or changing certain settings.

Battery life, burst shooting

The small bodies of the RX100 series have always meant short battery lives, and the more advanced features of the latest version just compound that. A rating of 240 shots per charge is low for a camera that would otherwise make such a good travel companion.

The RX100 VI takes the same NP-BX1 battery as previous models in the series have.

As always, the rather flash-heavy CIPA standard test rather under-states the number of shots you can expect to get, but they're broadly comparable between cameras. In our experience 240 shots per charge is few enough that it's worth having a spare battery or a USB battery pack to hand, if you expect to shoot for a weekend away.

Also bear in mind that features such as burst shooting aren't as hard on batteries as shooting the odd photograph here and there: you can expect a lot more than 10 seconds worth of shooting in 24fps mode.

Although its expensive sensor allows it to shoot at 24 frames per second, the RX100 VI is somewhat held back by its use of a UHS-I type SD card slot. This means you'll often notice the buffer having to clear. Many of the camera's functions remain available while this happens but you can't, for instance, drop out of burst mode or switch to video shooting until it's finished.

Auto ISO

The RX100 VI's Auto ISO implementation is probably the most sophisticated currently available. It allows the user to choose the ISO range the camera can use and the threshold at which the camera will use a higher ISO. This threshold can be specified either as a shutter speed or in relation to the focal length, with options for faster or slower than 1/equivalent focal length, depending on if you're trying to avoid subject movement or your own shake.

Auto ISO can be enabled in manual exposure mode in both stills and video, with Exposure Compensation remaining available so that you can specify the target brightness that the camera should try to maintain while keeping your shutter speed and aperture constant.