Taking a photograph these days usually boils down to two choices in hardware: Do you use a proper DSLR/Mirrorless Lens camera with many interchangeable lenses or do you whip out a smartphone whose price tag commands a princely sum on the market? There used to be a third alternative nestled between the two, in the shape of a humble point ‘n click camera.
A bridge between the convenience of a pocket-sized camera and more dedicated hardware without needing to change lenses, point ‘n clicks have largely fallen by the wayside in recent memory. Sony’s looking to change that with their RX100 VII camera, a piece of kit that aims to take the best of both worlds and fuse them together into an impressive package of style and substance. In many ways it certainly does do the trick, but in typical Sony fashion the RX100 VII also misses the mark on several key issues.
Let’s look at the positives though. Straight out of the box, the the RX100 VII is a camera that looks and feels great. It has a tiny footprint that can easily fit itself into a jacket pocket, provided that the pocket is securely hemmed and can carry the reassuring heft of this device. In Imperial, it measures in at 2.3” in height, 4” in width and a moderate 1.7” thick. In Queen’s maths, that works out to 5.8H x 10.1W x 4.3 in whatever the symbol is for thicc.
That’s a moderate amount of space in the hand, but one that makes full use of it to pack a lot of gear in and outside of the camera. A 20.1 megapixel with a stacked CMOS sensor can grab not only some fantastic snaps but it’ll shoot up to 4K video at 30fps provided your SD card is up to scratch. The bridge has a dial for selecting the best mode for the scene at hand, you’ve got a subtle flick switch for zooming functions, a power switch and some Corvette headlamp engineering that hides pop-out flash and Electronic viewfinders on the top as well.
Swivel around to the rear, and the basic camera functions can be found on the right hand side: A dedicated power button, radial dial for several functions and a few other buttons that all have a dedicated use. Next to them is a decently sized rear touchscreen, three inches of LCD that’ll be a godsend for vloggers as it can be tilted up 180 degrees and give them a view of themselves if they’re getting some face-time in front of the camera.
As for the lens? It may be a dealbreaker for some to not have the option to change lenses in a mirrorless, but the 24-200 mm zoom lens has plenty of range and is surprisingly versatile. Also handy for the vlogging scene, is a microphone jack for dedicated audio via a shotgun mic or lavalier option. Handy stuff, but there’s only one problem: There’s jack for a headset with which you can monitor your audio and if you decide to use a shotgun mic you’re bang out of placement luck as there’s no hotshoe mount on the RX100 VII.
That is a remedy which can be rectified with Sony’s dedicated vlogging kit, provided you’re willing to shell out extra for it. Unfortunately my review unit didn’t come with this extra kit, so I’ve got no idea how effective it even is. Maybe some YouTube surfing can help answer that question.
Anyway, it’s a bit of a glaring omission that’s balanced out by the RX100 VII being chuffing good at visuals. If there’s one thing you need to know about Sony, it’s that they’re practically unmatched in the autofocus game. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree with the RX100 VII, as it boasts an ungodly talent for finding your face no matter where you are and sharpening its focus to provide a crystal clear image. Part of this magic comes from its real-time eye tracking software, which works not only on any nearby Homo Sapiens in the room but also on various animals.
If my cat could talk, he’d probably tell me to piss off when I tested the autofocus on him. That ties in with the pure grunt that the RX100 VII is capable of with stills, as it can grab a blazing fast 20 shots per second while remaining focused on your subject, albeit at the cost of a need to buffer which takes upwards of a minute or two to clear. Said pictures look brilliant, boasting a sharpness and colour clarity that absolutely shines when examined in post production.
It’s the arena of video where the RX100 VII wants to make its mark though. On paper, it should be a shoe-in for pure vlogger candy thanks to the various modes on offer. Whether you’re sticking to traditional 1080p or going for a more detailed 4K approach, the RX100 VII has a lot of flex between resolutions even if choosing that option is a tad bit confusing according to Sony’s software.
Slow motion shooting isn’t a problem, with the camera able to capture 1080p 120 fps or four seconds at that resolution at 240 fps if you can nail the timing. For filmmakers, Sony has also thrown in S-Log2 and the HDR-compatible HLG profiles for post production colour grading that does provide some outstanding results if you have your eye on HDR footage.
On the still photography side, Sony still has an eye for quality that easily stands with any other camera giant in the market today. There’s a solid low light performance, which coupled with the sensor makes for vibrant and sharp images that are always in focus. You can even make use of depth-of-field control with the f/2.8 aperture to really dial in the Hokey-Bokeh, a holdover from the video angle of this camera that translates well to the final product.
The catch here, is that the RX100 is asking a lot for a more limited approach. While the vlogging aspects are undoubtedly fantastic, the body is well constructed and the optional extras may be worth the penny, I can’t imagine a vlogger taking that much coin and not investing it in the current Sony vlogging king, the Alpha A6500 or even the lesser specced A6400.
An A6400 with a 16-50mm lens will ring you up around R19 000 in comparison to the RX100 VII’s R24 000 price tag, while having that much cash on hand will get you a prime deal on an A6500 if you’re in the market. Does the RX100 VII have some more appealing features than either of those two cameras? Absolutely, but it also misses the mark in several other arenas of comparison that those cameras handily address with a more flexible approach to photography and vlogging.
Last Updated: March 2, 2020