Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 VII Review
|What we like||What we don't|
The RX100 VII is the most capable pocket camera ever made, both in terms of video and stills. But on paper it doesn't seem to offer much over the RX100 VI: the lens is the same, the pixel count is the same, the body is unchanged and image/video quality are nearly indiscernible. So why'd we give the RX100 VII a Gold award? Because a vastly improved AF implementation and general usability improvements make the VII easier to operate, more reliable and perhaps most importantly, more enjoyable to use.
The RX100 VII is a well-built little camera with a limited number of control points, but lots of possibility for customization. Buttons are small and the camera's menus can be both dense and confusing to navigate. Fortunately the need to jump into the main menus or use the tiny buttons is mitigated by the inclusion of a customizable Fn Menu and My Menu as well as an industry-leading AF implementation with touch-capability for setting an AF point. Unfortunately the touchscreen isn't fully utilized: it can only move one's AF area or initiate tracking in video, not navigate menus or playback.
We continue to love the single-press pop-up EVF, first seen on the Mark VI, and appreciate the inclusion of a microphone jack, even if there's no cold shoe for mounting.
An improved AF implementation and general usability improvements make the VII more reliable and more enjoyable than the VI
The RX100 VII not only has the easiest-to-use autofocus implementation of any compact, it also has the most reliable. Real-time Tracking AF does a great job of sticking to whatever you point the camera at. And no EVF blackouts with 20 fps bursts and plenty of buffer space means you should have no issue following fast action, although a UHS-I card slot means the buffer is slow to clear. Sony lowered the max burst rate from 24 fps to 20 fps between the RX100 VI and VII to eliminate blackouts, a trade-off we fully support. The silent, fully electronic shutter mode used in bursts introduces little to no rolling shutter, so action shooters needn't worry. But sadly there's no zooming while AF is engaged, limiting the cameras usability for some sports and action.
ISO 2500 | 1/800 sec | F5| 72mm equiv.
Image quality is excellent in good light; Raw and JPEG files both display pleasing color and good detail capture. But the RX100 VII struggles a bit in low light due to its limited maximum aperture. Still, in moderately low light, noise reduction is well-judged. 4K video, oversampled from 5.5K capture, continues to impress us with its detail and well-controlled rolling shutter. Users now have access to both eye and face detection during 4K capture. And a new 'Active SteadyShot' mode that combines digital and optical IS for highly-usable hand-held video, with a manageable amount of crop and minimal impact on quality. A nice collection of Picture Profiles, with the ability to shoot HLG, add to the camera's video appeal, but the lack of a built-in ND will likely turn some videographers off.
At the end of the day, the RX100 VII does something we previously thought inconceivable: it takes the speed and AF accuracy/usability of a high-end sports camera and puts it in a camera that not only offers an incredibly versatile zoom range, but also fits in your pocket. For parents or travel photographers seeking a camera that will 'just get the shot,' regardless of the distance or movement of the subject, this is a fantastic choice. Low light may not be its forte, but the reach and quality of its lens combined with the reliability of its AF system make it a great companion to always have in your pocket.
What we think
Compared with other high-end compacts
The nearest competitor to the RX100 VII is its sibling, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC RX100 VI. Both offer comparable image and video quality, but the VII has the more usable AF system, while the VI has a slightly faster burst rate (but with EVF blackout, unlike the VII). The VII also has several features the VI does not which videographers may enjoy, like 'Active SteadyShot' in 4K, a microphone socket and a built-in intervalometer. There are other usability upgrades, but the AF improvements - both in stills and video - made in the VII provide the biggest difference between the two cameras, upgrades we feel are worth the price difference.
The G5X II has a significantly brighter lens, so it should do better in low light, but less zoom range
The Canon Powershot G5X Mark II is another direct competitor that also features a pop-up EVF (though not single-press). The lens and autofocus performance/implementation are going to be the two biggest differentiating factors between these two. The G5X II has a significantly brighter lens, so it should do better in low light, but less zoom range. The RX100 VII trades off lens speed for reach. However it is worth noting, both lenses appear optically impressive. In terms of autofocus, there's no contest, the Sony blows Canon's CDAF system out of the water in terms of reliability and usability, for both stills and video. Ultimately, if you don't need the reach of the VII and prefer lens brightness to action shooting ability, the G5X II is the more economical and sensible option.
Another competitor is the Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS200/TZ200, the most affordable of the compact cameras mentioned here. We much prefer the quality of the RX100 VII's lens to that of the ZS200's, as well as the RX100 VII's image and video quality. Still the ZS200 has nearly double the maximum zoom range of the VII, but at the cost of an even more restrictive aperture range. And while its Depth-from-Defocus AF has proven fairly reliable, it's not as good as the Sony's AF system, nor is it as easy to use. Still, we prefer Panasonic's menus and control layout. And if you really want 360mm of reach in your pocket, well, there's not a lot of other choices out there.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category. Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 VII
Category: Enthusiast Large Sensor Compact Camera
Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
The RX100 VII is the most capable pocket camera currently on the market. It offers a versatile zoom range and an industry-leading AF implementation, as well as good image quality and smooth, stabilized 4K. However the small maximum aperture of the lens does limit the camera's use in dim light.
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