Fast Five: Sony Cyber-shot RX100 V Review
In keeping with the theme of this review, the Sony RX100 V shoots all the same video modes as its predecessor, but takes some significant steps forward behind the scenes. Class-leading features like S-Log2 for massive dynamic range capture, focus peaking, and zebras are present in the Mark V, but in terms of improvements, most notably, 4K video is now oversampled from 5K footage. This results in beautifully detailed clips that will challenge dedicated video cameras costing 10x as much as this little pocket wonder. As an added bonus, Sony's claimed that this is as close to a global shutter as they've ever achieved in a consumer camera, and it shows in the drastically improved rolling shutter performance in 4K.
|Many HFR and 1080/120p clips in succession in this fairly warm environment resulted in a heat warning and the screen dimming on the RX100 V. Straight-out-of-camera JPEG at 42mm equiv., ISO 8000, 1/100 sec, F2.8. Photo by Carey Rose|
Of note for some users will be the five minute recording limit in 4K, to prevent overheating. While this obviously limits the RX100 V's appeal as an 'interview' camera, it won't impact the vast majority of users. Note, though, we did have one instance of a heat warning while shooting multiple clips of HFR and 1080/120p in a warm band practice room. Your mileage may vary.
Rolling shutter comparison
The RX100 V has dramatically improved rolling shutter performance over the Mark IV when shooting 4K. While you can clearly see this in the scrappy sample clip below, it will be even more apparent in your real-world capture, with (hand-held clips especially) will exhibit far less distracting 'jello' effect. Which means you can mount this little baby on a drone and capture some incredible aerial footage.
Video capture test
This still of our studio scene gives a rough idea of how the camera is capturing the scene. This varies, depending on the resolution you're capturing and whether you've engaged either of the digital image stabilization modes (you can see the effect of those on crop factor in our Mark IV review here). Though there is a on our scene to Sony's oversampled 4K video, this improvement may not necessarily be all that visible in the real world - the reduced rolling shutter effect is likely to have a more meaningful impact on end video quality.
When it comes to, there's not exactly a whole lot of progress, but again, there is some with the newer model.
Autofocus in video
One big benefit to having on-sensor phase detection autofocus is that autofocus can be more decisive when shooting videos. That basically means that you will see the camera 'hunting' for accurate focus far less than in previous models, which admittedly already controlled that behavior rather well. What's particularly great about the RX100 V, though, is it doesn't exhibit the tendency to shoot off and focus on the background (like the a7R II), instead smoothly maintaining focus on nearby subjects.
Unfortunately, the lack of a touchscreen makes choosing your initial subject and initiating any form of subject tracking somewhat difficult. It can be done, but it requires some more button pressing (and, therefore, camera shake) than you would require on the touchscreen-wielding Panasonic LX10. Matters are made worse by the - at this point inexcusable - fact that only 'Center Lock-on AF' is available for subject tracking, not 'Lock-on AF'; read more about this on our AF page here. You do, though, have control over the speed of focus acquisition and its sensitivity to re-focus should an obstacle appear between you and your subject, which are thoughtful details.
We found we had best results when sticking to 'Wide' AF area in AF-C, and generally letting the camera just control the focusing. If you're noticing a theme here in our review, you're correct: the RX100 V functions best as a point-and-shoot, encouraging you to relinquish all control. That's both a good and bad thing, because the completely auto 'Wide' AF area mode doesn't give you any indication of what exactly the camera is choosing to focus on but, thankfully, using Face Detection for clips of people, and generally trusting the camera for other scenes, worked out remarkably well. As a continuing theme, its only when you want (or need) to take greater control over the camera does it pose a problem.
Manual and single focus in video
Another aspect of the RX100-series that continues to irk us concerns manual focus in video. In stills shooting, the camera defaults to magnifying the view as you turn the manual focus ring either in manual focus mode. Unfortunately, that behavior is not enabled when shooting video, which makes sense if you've got focus peaking enabled, but forces you to reassign a function button to magnify focus for critical focus, which then becomes redundant when you switch back to shooting stills, as you can't set up the camera with separate sets of button functions for stills and video. Dear Sony: we're still waiting for per-mode button and Fn menu customization. #facepalm.
|All modes except AF-C and MF are grayed out when shooting video.|
As far as Single AF, there simply isn't an option for it on the RX100 V, which is a bit frustrating. The use-case here is that you could simply autofocus once on your chosen subject, then re-compose and hold the camera without worrying that it will try to re-acquire focus and potentially mess up your footage. It would effectively provide the 'one push autofocus' offered on more video-focused cameras.
High Frame Rate video
Sony's HFR mode, which stands for 'high frame-rate video,' can be a little difficult to get used to at first, but is capable of absolutely staggering slow-motion clips. The mode creates slow-motion clips from high-speed footage, captured at lower resolution and then upscaled to 1080 (save for 120p, technically not an HFR mode, that captures at Full HD but requires you to slow down and conform the footage after-the-fact).
The capture resolution at the 240fps setting gets you very, very close to native 1080p footage (see crop factors for various HFR frame rates here), and the results just speak for themselves, with either 8x or 10x slow motion depending on your chosen playback rate. If you're okay with less resolution, you can go even slower, and the new buffer on the RX100 V means you can record clips twice as long as you could on the Mark IV. The RX100 V's performance in this regard, despite the somewhat awkward nature of HFR's activation, only adds to the 'caught moment' appeal of this camera, so long as you can set it up in time to catch the moment in front of you.
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