The original Sony Cyber-Shot RX100 was a landmark release, with excellent image quality and high-speed performance, all packed into a metal body around the size of a pack of playing cards. We’re now on the sixth iteration of the RX100, and bizarrely all six models are still available as new today – and some of these offer great camera deals.
Although the heart of the RX100 range has remained the same, Sony has added various features and made changes to the handling of each successive release. In this article, we compare what the last three models in the line offer.
These aren’t the cheapest cameras, so by looking at where the models are the same and where they differ, you'll have better idea of which makes the most sense against your budget.
Sony RX100 III vs RX100 IV vs RX100 V vs RX100 VI: Sensor and processor
- Sony RX100 III: 1in BSI Exmor R CMOS sensor, 20.1MP
- Sony RX100 IV: 1in BSI Exmor RS CMOS stacked sensor, 20.1MP
- Sony RX100 V: 1in BSI Exmor RS CMOS stacked sensor, 20.1MP
- Sony RX100 VI: 1in BSI Exmor RS CMOS stacked sensor, 20.1MP
Although all the models in the RX100 line so far have offered 20.1MP 1in-type sensors, they have not been the same sensors.
While the RX100 III maintains the back-illuminated sensor of the Mark II, the RX100 IV features a sensor with a stacked architecture. This was done to improve light-gathering efficiency, helping to deliver images with lower noise.
That sensor also includes a separate DRAM chip, something that was maintained for the RX100 V and RX100 VI. Even so, Sony did not simply use the same sensor one for the last two models; instead, it incorporated phase-detect AF pixels into the sensors inside the RX100 V and RX100 VI – more on this later.
Despite these differences, however, all four sensors offer a native sensitivity range of ISO 125-12,800, and extensions on either side of this.
All four models also make use of a BIONZ X processor, although Sony has made a habit of improving processing for each model. These improvements are typically centred around better noise reduction and faster autofocus although those wanting to use these cameras for action will also no doubt be interested in burst shooting differences, which we’ll come on to later.
Sony RX100 III vs RX100 IV vs RX100 V vs RX100 VI: Lens
- Sony RX100 III: 24-70mm (equiv.) f/1.8-2.8; ND filter
- Sony RX100 IV: 24-70mm (equiv.) f/1.8-2.8; ND filter
- Sony RX100 V: 24-70mm (equiv.) f/1.8-2.8; ND filter
- Sony RX100 VI: 24-200mm (equiv.) f/2.8-4.5; ND filter
Since the RX100 III, things were relatively consistent with regards to optics. The 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T* lens remained the same, offering a good balance of zoom range, portability and maximum aperture.
That all changed with the RX100 Mark VI, with its far longer 24-200mm (equiv.) f/2.8-4.5 ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T* optic, although Sony had somehow managed to incorporate the lens into a body that was almost the same size as before. True, the maximum aperture isn’t quite as impressive as before, but still respectable for this focal range and still an achievement. What’s more, it suddenly made the range a viable choice for travels and holidays, where one may have otherwise opted for a Panasonic TZ model or an interchangeable-lens camera.
All four models have also been designed with a Control Ring around their respective optics, and these can be used for a range of purpose – not least zooming. Each also has a built-in ND filters to help out when capturing long exposures and for video shooting.
Sony RX100 III vs RX100 IV vs RX100 V vs RX100 VI: Video
- Sony RX100 III: 1080p up to 60fps, 120fps slow motion
- Sony RX100 IV: 4K up to 30fps, 960fps slow motion
- Sony RX100 V: 4K up to 30fps, 960fps slow motion
- Sony RX100 VI: 4K up to 30fps, 960fps slow motion
Sony has been at the cutting edge of developing video technology in cameras primarily designed for photography, so it's no surprise that many differences can be found between these three models here.
The RX100 IV, RX100 V and RX100 VI can shoot 4K video at 30fps, while the RX100 III is restricted to Full HD (1080p) shooting at frame rates up to 60fps. Sony has also added an S-Log2 video profile in both the RX100 IV and RX100 V, which makes these feel all the more video-centric, and pushed this further on the RX100 VI with an S-Log3 option and and Hybrid Log Gamma profile for HDR displays.
Although the RX100 IV, RX100 V and RX100 VI are all capable of 4K video recording, the way this is captured is not the same. The RX100 V and VI oversample footage at a 5K resolution, before this is downsampled to 4K, a process that should make for slightly crisper results. All three, however, have an anti-distortion shutter for reducing rolling shutter effects, something that wasn't included on the RX100 III.
One of the headline features of the RX100 IV, RX100 V and RX100 VI is what Sony calls High Frame Rate (HFR) videos. Users can shoot at up to a staggering 960fps for slow-motion output, although this comes at a reduced resolution. Essentially, the faster you go in frame rate the lower the output resolution.
One point of difference here is that the RX100 V is able to record sequences twice as long as the RX100 IV, when each camera is set to its High Frame Rate (HFR) setting.
You can also shoot slow-motion footage with the RX100 III, but only to a frame rate of 120fps, which is output at 720p. There's also a 1.69x crop factor to take into consideration here.
Unsurprisingly for such small cameras, you won't find ports for headphones or microphones on any of these models. Even so, there is clear progression in the series with video, and the RX100 V is the most comprehensive yet.
Sony RX100 III vs RX100 IV vs RX100 V vs RX100 VI: AF system
- Sony RX100 III: 25-point contrast-detect AF system
- Sony RX100 IV: 25-point contrast-detect AF system
- Sony RX100 V: 315-point phase-detect AF and 25-point contrast-detect AF system
- Sony RX100 VI: 315-point phase-detect AF and 25-point contrast-detect AF system
The RX100 V was the first camera in the range to feature on-sensor phase-detect AF, and this continued on to the RX100 Mark VI. This is a 315-point array with wide coverage across 65% of the frame, and this works with the same 25-point contrast-detect AF system that features in the previous two models.
On-sensor phase-detect AF usually improves a camera’s AF performance, especially for continuous focus and also when capturing videos, and it's something many other compacts and mirrorless models are now incorporating.
Sony claims the RX100 VI also offers better subject tracking when using the Eye AF feature than before, and also claims that it has better autofocus speeds than before, with the RX100 V's minimum 0.05sec speed down to just 0.03sec here on the new model.
Otherwise, the three cameras use the same 25-point contrast-detect AF systems, with five focus-area modes: Wide, Center, Flexible Spot, Expand Flexible Spot and Lock-on AF.
Sony RX100 III vs RX100 IV vs RX100 V vs RX100 VI: Burst shooting (fps)
- Sony RX100 III: 10fps (burst depth unknown)
- Sony RX100 IV: 16fps (burst depth unknown)
- Sony RX100 V: 24fps with AF and AE for up to 150 JPEGs
- Sony RX100 VI: 24fps with AF and AE for up to 233 JPEGs
All four cameras are capable of capturing fast-moving action, although the difference in burst rates is significant.
The RX100 VI offers a staggering 24fps burst shooting at full resolution, with full-time phase-detect AF and AE, for up to 223 JPEGs. The RX10 V manages much the same, but only to 150 frames.
So, once again, the RX100 VI steams ahead, but the RX100 V is still very strong here.
Read more: The best cameras under £500 right now
Sony RX100 III vs RX100 IV vs RX100 V vs RX100 VI: Viewfinder and LCD
- RX100 III: 3in tilting LCD, 1.229m dots; EVF with 0.59x mag. and 1.44m dots
- RX100 IV: 3in tilting LCD, 1.229m dots; EVF with 0.59x mag. and 2.36m dots
- RX100 V: 3in tilting LCD, 1.229m dots; EVF with 0.59x mag. and 2.36m dots
- RX100 VI: 3in tilting touchscreen, 921k dots; EVF with 0.59x mag. and 2.36m dots
All four models feature built-in electronic viewfinders that offer 100% coverage of the scene. The only main difference here is that the RX100 III's viewfinder has a resolution of 1.44million dots, whereas the three newer cameras have improved 2.359million-dot panels.
One smaller change is that, on the newest RX100 VI, there's no need to pull the viewfinder out towards you once you pop it up before you start using it, as it all conveniently happens in one action.
All four models also have a similar LCD screen that tilts 180° upwards – ie all the way around to face the front – although the RX100 VI is the only model from the quartet to offer a touchscreen, which is largely used for selecting the focus point rather than navigating the menus.
Furthermore, while the screens on the other three cameras tilt 45° upwards, the RX100 VI's display can be adjusted 90° upwards. Its resolution, however, is a little lower, which appears to be down to the fact that it uses a standard RGB panel rather than the Sony WhiteMagic RGBW-type panel used on the others.
Sony RX100 III vs RX100 IV vs RX100 V vs RX100 VI: Build and design
- RX100 III: 290g (inc. battery and card); 102 x 58 x 41mm
- RX100 IV: 298g (inc. battery and card); 102 x 58 x 41mm
- RX100 V: 299g (inc. battery and card); 102 x 58 x 41mm
- RX100 V: 301g (inc. battery and card); 102 x 58 x 43 mm
There's very little to split these four in terms of build and design.
The tough, aluminium bodies have an identical control layout, with no discernible difference in size nor weight between them. The fact that all four lack a grip of any sort doesn't sit well with everyone, but optional grips do exist for the benefit of those who fall into this camp.
Given that the only real difference between these is the Roman numerals after the RX100 symbol, this is clearly a design Sony believes in.
Sony RX100 III vs RX100 IV vs RX100 V vs RX100 VI: Other features
Once again, we're looking more at similarities than differences when it comes to features.
All four have Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity, and all three lack Bluetooth and GPS. Time-lapse shooting isn't possible on any of the three straight out of the box, although a paid-for app that enables this is available through Sony's PlayMemories store.
The RX100 III is the only one of the four that does not have an option to set the minimum shutter speed when using Auto ISO, a useful feature that's included in the others.
The fastest shutter speeds vary between the cameras too. You’re limited to a maximum 1/2000sec with the RX100 III, but the later three models each offer a maximum shutter speed of 1/32,000sec.
All feature a built-in flash, HDMI and USB ports, and a single card slot that accepts SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards (and Sony's own MemoryStick format). There's no hotshoe on any of these three – a feature dropped after the RX100 II – so it's not possible to physically mount any accessories on top of any of these cameras.
Sony RX100 III vs RX100 IV vs RX100 V vs RX100 VI: Battery life
- RX100 III: NP-BX1 battery, 320 shots (LCD)
- RX100 IV: NP-BX1 battery, 280 shots (LCD); 230 shots (Viewfinder)
- RX100 V: NP-BX1 battery, 220 shots (LCD); 210 shots (Viewfinder)
- RX100 V: NP-BX1 battery, 240 shots (LCD); 220 shots (Viewfinder)
It seems as though one downside of certain new features introduced with successive models is their hunger for power.
All three use the same NP-BX1 battery unit, but the older RX100 III has the best battery life of the three, with 320 shots per charge (when using the LCD). This is fairly respectable for such a small camera, and the 280-shot battery life of the RX100 IV isn't too far behind, although this figure drops to just 220 frames on the RX100 V. Sony did, however, manage to boost this back to 240 frames on the RX100 VI.
If you think this might be an issue, you may wish to either invest in another battery or carry a powerbank with you so you can recharge the battery, inside the camera, while on the move.
Sony clearly found a formula that worked with the original Cyber-Shot RX100, and the following iterations adhere to a very similar core feature set.
Each version has been tweaked, with new features added (and, on occasion, removed) that continually make the cameras in the RX100 series among the most compelling on the market.
In these latest four versions, the changes have mainly reflected Sony’s innovations in video, sensor design, autofocus and processing power.
What you get in the RX100 VI is the fastest RX100 camera yet with the longest focal range, with a 315-point phase-detect AF system, 24fps high-speed shooting with full-time AF and the most comprehensive video set yet on top of it. It is, however, very similar to the previous RX100 V, so if you don't need that lens you can save yourself some money by opting for the older of the pair.
If stills photography is your thing, and you don't imagine shooting too much action, there's little reason to buy the later models, save for the improved focusing system on the RX100 V and RX100 VI. All four are very capable for cameras of their kind, and well worthy of the enthusiast's attention.
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