Image quality

The 1"-type sensor in the original RX100 represented a significant leap in the image quality you could expect from a pocketable compact camera and the subsequent sensors and improvements in processing have meant the results are more polished than ever.

Key takeaways

  • Image quality in both JPEG and Raw is very good
  • The lens looks impressively sharp and consistent across its range
  • The slower maximum aperture limits image quality in low light

Studio scene

Our test scene is designed to simulate a variety of textures, colors and detail types you'll encounter in the real world. It also has two illumination modes to see the effect of different lighting conditions.

A combination of a better lens (or at least, one that's happier at close distances) with a JPEG engine that's especially good at emphasizing fine detail means the RX100 VI looks a lot better than its Panasonic rivals. Sony says the skin tone rendering has been improved and that appears to be the case. The blue and green response also look much more like the generally-liked Canon JPEG color, though yellows still aren't as pleasant as those of Canon or Nikon.

Noise reduction also seems to be pretty good, retaining detail as long as it can, but all these cameras struggle when the light gets so low that you have to use high ISOs. And, of course, the long-zoom models here tend to have smaller maximum apertures, so that threshold is reached sooner.

A look at the Raw images suggests similar performance, almost as if all of them were using sensors with fairly similar designs.

Dynamic range

To understand a camera's dynamic range, we do two things. First we look at how tolerant of being brightened the shadows of an image are. Since our test scene only has a narrow dynamic range, we increasingly underexpose it, so that it represents increasingly deep shadows. The Sony RX100 VI's deepest shadows are possibly slightly noisier than its peers, but the difference is pretty subtle. This difference would is unlikely to be visible even if you try to increase contrast in the deep shadow regions of an image.

This performance gives you the option of shooting at ISO 200 (underexposed by 3EV), protecting the 3 stops of highlight information that would be lost if you shot at ISO 1600

The other half of our test is to compare a base ISO image that's been brightened to an image shot at higher ISO, with both given the same amount of light. This shows the degree to which the sensor's output benefits from being amplified, to overcome the noise floor. In this case, there's very little difference between shooting at ISO 125 and brightening, compared with shooting at ISO 1600, and even less between ISO 200 and ISO 1600. This means gives you the option of shooting Raw at ISO 125 or 200, (underexposed by 3.66 or 3 stops), then brightening. This protects the 3 or more stops of highlight information that would otherwise be amplified to the point that they're too bright to retain, if you shot at ISO 1600.

Lens shootout

We've compared the RX100 VI against the Panasonic ZS100, since it has the most similar zoom range. As you can see, the Sony is noticeably better at all focal lengths (a difference made more apparent when shooting in JPEG, since Sony's sharpening is good at enhancing detail).

As always, we expect there to some sample-to-sample variation, given the challenges of consistently building such a mechanically and optically complex lens design (and then examining it using a relatively demanding sensor). Given we only have one example of the Sony, we can't know whether they'll all be this good but this sample, at least, is both very impressive and remarkably consistent throughout its zoom range.

It's up to you, of course, to decide whether you find the corner performance at wide-angle to be acceptable, given it's been subjected to significant mathematical correction. But we're not seeing anything to complain about.

Compared with previous models

Sony RX100 VI
106mm equiv | F4.0 | 1/80th
ISO 12,800
Sony RX100 IV
70mm equiv | F2.8 | 1/80th
ISO 6400

The longer zoom comes at the cost of a smaller maximum aperture. By including 85-135mm equiv focal lengths, the Mark VI gives you more scope for shooting tightly-framed portraits without too much unflattering perspective distortion of your subject's face. The downside, particularly noticeable in low light, is that you'll have around 1EV less light to work with, and your images with be noisier and subject to more noise reduction, as a result.