Conclusion

Pros Cons
  • 20MP 1" sensor and 24-70mm equiv. F1.8-2.8 lens still a winning combo
  • 315-point phase detection AF system
  • High quality, class-leading 4K and slow-motion video capture
  • 24fps burst shooting with autofocus and autoexposure is insane
  • Impressive dynamic range capture in Raw, JPEG and video, thanks to DRO and S-Log2
  • Well-built body, attractive design
  • Camera can be charged and powered (if your battery dies) with USB
  • High frame rate (HFR) video modes useful and high quality
  • Wi-Fi integration is straightforward and valuable
  • Pop-up viewfinder and flash are always a bonus
  • Fits in almost any pocket
  • Unimpressive battery life
  • Limited controls and customization encourage limited use of feature set
  • No touchscreen
  • AF modes can be confusingly redundant and need refining
  • Lock-on AF continues to be unreliable
  • Archaic 'Center Lock-on AF' subject tracking in video
  • Green yellows & cool greens in JPEG aren't the most pleasing
  • Menu system really needs updating
  • Face detection can throw off metering
  • Not terribly comfortable in hand
  • No per-mode customization means functionless buttons or Fn menu items switching between photo/video modes
  • Memory Recall modes don't remember all camera settings
  • No in-camera Raw processing
  • Lens reach can be limiting for a 'carry-everywhere' camera
  • Lack of external charger makes it harder to charge spare batteries.

Overall conclusion

Sony revised the spec of the RX100 V in July 2018, you can read about the changes here. Whichever you choose, be aware of the existence of two variants and make sure you're getting the one you want.

In case you couldn't tell, much of this review has been a bit of a battle between the spec sheet and real-world use, and between being impressed by the capability but let down by the experience. Just going by the specifications, the RX100 V is a peerless beast despite its petite dimensions - we wouldn't argue with that in any way. The real problem starts with that second bullet in the 'Cons' list - that there are limitations imposed on the user by the controls, customization and user experience that discourage the full use of what is an incredible feature set.

In fact, many of us in the office simply resorted to using the RX100 V as a point-and-shoot, because that's what its user interface - or lack thereof - encourages. Depending on the user, that can be both a good and bad thing.

The leaves are changing for the third time since the last notable redesign of the RX100 series with the Mark III, and while image quality is still impressive, there are changes that need to be made. Out-of-camera JPEG at 31mm equiv., ISO 12800, 1/20 sec, F2.5. Photo by Carey Rose

Ergonomics and controls are a subjective matter, and this usability concern all but disappears if you do end up using the RX100 V as more or less a point-and-shoot - and you'll consistently get good results doing so. And while it's fair to say that a large group of people will use the camera this way and be perfectly happy, some users (DSLR/ILC owners wanting a second body, perhaps) will want to take more control, and that's precisely where the RX100 V falters.

For example, when you want to change your AF area mode, simple AF point placement, take manual control over stills or video, or take some quick HFR clips or timelapses, there's no arguing that the camera just doesn't make it all that easy for you to do so. You'll find yourself click-click-clicking away at a subtly laggy user interface.

Its closest rivals (other than the still-current RX100 IV) are Canon's G7 X Mark II and Panasonic's LX10. Both of those cameras come with touchscreens, which makes their autofocus systems much easier to use, despite the fact that the Sony's system is without question far more advanced. They're also more comfortable in the hand, offer better battery life and much better external controls. But of course, neither shoots 24 frames per second, nor continuously focus as fast or as well, nor offer oversampled 4K video capture with minimal rolling shutter, though they are both significantly cheaper than the RX100 V.

Body, ergonomics and controls

The Sony RX100 V shares the same dimensions and nearly the same weight as the Mark IV and III versions. It remains shirt-pocketable, with a minimalist but attractive design, and feels well-built and dense. The pop-up electronic viewfinder is very good and makes shooting in bright sun a joy, and the bounceable pop-up flash is great for when you need some fill.

Be careful - it's easy to bring the RX100 V with you everywhere, but it isn't weather-sealed.
Photo by Samuel Spencer

We would have liked to see the lens control ring have an option for 'clicky' and 'clickless,' like the Canon G7 X Mark II and Sony's own RX10 III, and find the controls are still too few and too small. You might argue that's the price to pay for having a camera that's this small, but the G7 X II is only fractionally bigger, includes a dedicated exposure compensation dial and a touchscreen and dials that are customizable per-mode and a usefully longer lens to boot (though, yes, you lose some niceties such as the pop-up EVF).

And with this being the first 1"-sensor compact you can buy with phase-detection autofocus, we'd love to be able to use a touchscreen to take better advantage of the 315 AF points at your disposal.

Performance and image quality

This is where where Sony really concentrated their efforts in the RX100 V. With extra processing power from the 'Front-end LSI,' the camera is now capable of 24fps burst shooting with full autofocus and autoexposure for 150 JPEGs or ~60 Raw + JPEGs. There isn't a seasoned DSLR in the world that can accomplish this. You can now instantly review the latest image the camera has written to the card, and check focus at 100% instead of receiving some obfuscating error message. You can't enter menus or change from stills to video while the buffer is clearing, though, which can still take a while, even with very fast cards.

The RX100 V's image quality continues to impress, with good low ISO dynamic range, and good JPEG noise reduction as the ISO values climb. Processed to taste using a preliminary version of Adobe Camera Raw, 70mm equiv., ISO 125, 1/800 sec, F4.5. Photo by Carey Rose

Unfortunately, all that extra performance coincides with a 20% drop in rated battery life, landing it near the bottom of the competition in this regard. And while it's true that none of the RX100 V's competition has anywhere near this camera's burst shooting capabilities, another problem remains in that the RX100 V doesn't really feel appreciably faster in general operation despite the increase in processing power. Hitting the 'Menu' or 'Fn' buttons, loading up apps like the Timelapse app, or even just changing your shooting settings results in a disconnecting 'hiccup' before you see anything change on the screen. This isn't unique to the RX100 V, but it is just enough of a lag to be irksome on a camera that can shoot so many frames so quickly.

Image quality is all but identical to the previous model with a few tweaks. The highest ISO values show a slight improvement in terms of detail retention of higher contrast subjects, but go somewhat backwards with heavy-handed noise reduction leading to cell-phone quality-esque images at default settings. Easily solvable: just set 'High ISO NR' to 'Low'. Raw files continue to be impressively flexible given the sensor size, thanks to the incredibly efficient yet low-noise sensor. Be aware that the 'Standard' profile can result in JPEGs that lack 'punch' when DRO settings are high (though this is a good thing in contrast scenes you underexpose). It's best to experiment and find a setting that suits you - 'Vivid' results in more 'pop' right out of the camera. Even so, we almost always preferred editing Raw files to the out-of-camera JPEGs, thanks to Sony's continued knack for greenish yellows and bluish greens which, needless to say, none of us in the office are fans of.

Autofocus

The autofocus system has been completely revamped. You get a 315-point phase detection system that is able to keep up with and track subjects even if you're motoring away at the 24fps burst setting. It's capable of truly impressive performance, and the extra decisiveness (read: almost no hunting) in video is a nice plus.

The RX100's autofocus is snappy and accurate for caught moments in dim light, but with a maximum reach of 70mm it's not likely to be a go-to pocketable sports shooter. Processed to taste from Raw using a preliminary build of Adobe Camera Raw. 24mm equiv., ISO 1000, 1/60 sec, F1.8. Photo by Carey Rose

On the flipside, Sony's autofocus options are still a confusing mess, with a number of AF area modes that are all duplicated under a sub-option called Lock-on AF when you're using continuous autofocus. In fact, Lock-on AF continues to be somewhat unreliable when it comes to actually locking on to your subject, but once you do get it to lock on, it will track impressively well, unless it loses your subject. Couple all of this with the presence of some redundancies with regards to your AF area modes, and you can see that there's plenty that could be tweaked and streamlined ('Center' area mode is just like 'Flexible Spot' when it's in the center, for example).

Lastly, it'd be nice to have Eye AF as an option that supplements Face Detection, rather than requiring it to be assigned to one of the RX100 V's limited function buttons (why not have it simply assigned to shutter half-press while honoring your chosen AF area?). Overall, then, we were excited by the prospect of a highly capable PDAF system in such a portable package, but the controls and settings don't make it easy to take full advantage of all the system has to offer. Unless, of course, you just use the camera as... a... you guessed it: point-and-shoot.

Video

As with burst shooting, video is another area in which the RX100 V really shines. The previous model was no slouch, but with the aid of its additional processing power, the Mark V oversamples its 4K footage, resulting in high levels of detail while also exhibiting drastically reduced rolling shutter effect. You also have full phase detection autofocus in video, meaning almost no hunting, and you can control the speed at which focus racks from one point to another.

Of course, there's also 1080/120p capture, which looks great, and a range of high frame rate (HFR) modes offering you up to 960fps capture - and in the RX100 V, you can take HFR clips that are twice as long as you could on the RX100 IV, thanks to a deeper buffer.

Video clips by Rishi Sanyal

Unfortunately, controlling focus, whether manual or auto, can still be a frustrating experience while shooting video (touchscreen tap-to-focus would be nice). For subject tracking, you're limited to the awkward-to-use Center Lock-on AF, and though it's not a deal breaker, there is still no microphone input on the RX100 V.

The final word

There's no question that the RX100 V builds on its predecessor in many measurable ways, and the RX100 IV was already class-leading in many respects. The Mark V shoots faster bursts, has a vastly improved autofocus system, and its 4K video is something you'd expect to see from a camera that's many times its size. But we can't help but wonder whether it's about time Sony shifted gears a bit.

We have the same body, screen (that isn't touch-enabled), controls, GUI and battery as we've seen before. We're now seeing competing models from the likes of Canon and Panasonic surpass the RX100-series with respect to these qualities, though admittedly, some of those are inherently subjective.

The RX100-series has been a runaway success, but we wish Sony would focus a bit more on the user experience as they sprint forward with new tech. Processed and cropped to taste in a preliminary build of Adobe Camera Raw, 63mm equiv., ISO 125, 1/500 sec, F4. Photo by Carey Rose

In terms of sheer capability, then? This RX100 V is absolutely a gold. But a camera is, and should be, far more than just the capabilities set out in its spec sheet. For many, photography is a rewarding hobby, and for many people buying this camera, it is both a profession and an escape. And in seeking an escape, we tend to think cameras should be engaging to use - and the RX100 V misses the mark somewhat, since it really needs updates to its interface and customization that will more easily allow you access to all of its impressive features.

So quote us on this - if you need sheer pocketable power, the RX100 V is a gold. As an overall experience though, it hits just lower than our highest award.


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 V
Category: Enthusiast Large Sensor Compact Camera
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Optics
Performance
Movie / video mode
Connectivity
Value
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The Sony RX100 V builds on a camera that was already class-leading in many respects and crams 24fps burst shooting, oversampled 4K video and a 315-point autofocus system into this new pocket-sized companion. But there are no updates to its design, ergonomics or user interface that would ease direct control of its immense feature set. It's the most expensive pocket zoom camera on the market today, and there are other models that we find nicer to use in practice, but the RX100 V remains the highest-specced and most capable camera in its class.
Good for
Those wanting the latest and greatest technology to carry with them everywhere, photographers looking for a capable point-and-shoot experience, people looking to create high-quality video on-the-go.
Not so good for
Sports photographers who will want a longer zoom lens and people who frequently want to take manual control over their photography.
83%
Overall score

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 V Samples Gallery

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