After waiting for over a month on pre-order, I finally got my Sony RX100 V digital camera and video recorder.

In this review, I take a look at the Sony RX100 V, a $1000 USD digital compact camera used for still photography and making movies. I want to disclose that I am far from a professional camera expert. This review is based on my first hand experience right out of the box and research prior to purchase.

Contents

The complete box contents for U.S. Sony DSC-RX100M5 cameras:

  • RX100M5 camera with Zeiss 24-70mm F1.8-2.8 lens
  • 23″ Micro USB 2.0 cable; USB Type-A Male Plug; USB Micro-B Male Plug
  • AC Power Adapter Model AC-UUD12/Input: 100-240V/0.2A 50/60Hz; Output: 5V 1.5A; Two prong; USB Type-A Female Plug
  • Sony NP-BX1 lithium ion rechargeable battery
  • Wrist strap 2″ radius
  • (2) strap adapters; shoulder strap not included
  • Digital Still Camera Instruction Manual (English)
  • Digital Still Camera Instruction Manual (French, Spanish)
  • Using the Viewfinder pamphlet (English, other languages)
  • Recording 4K Movies Pamphlet (English, other languages)
  • 1 Year Limited Warranty Pamphlet
  • Wi-Fi Connection and NFC Guide (English)
  • Wi-Fi Connection and NFC Guide (other languages)
  • MasterCard Prepaid Card promo
  • Cybershot accessories pamphlet
  • Capture One Express (English)
  • Capture One Express (Other Languages)

Why I Bought the Sony RX100 V

I had several goals in mind when buying a new digital camera. I initially came up with this list:

  • Lightweight, compact, fits in pants pocket (yes/yes/yes)
  • Up to 4K UHD video recording and photography (yes/yes)
  • Fast auto focus (yes)
  • Tilt screen capable of 180 degree selfie style (yes)
  • Stereo mic and external mic jack (yes/no)
  • Screw hole for GorillaPod and tripod mount (yes/yes)
  • Touch screen operation (no)
  • 3x+ Wide Angle Zoom (yes)
  • Image stabilization (yes)
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and USB 2.0 data transfer (yes/yes)
  • HDMI out for viewing (yes)
  • 64GB+ SDXC support (yes)
  • Raw output (yes)

For creating YouTube videos, the importance of having a selfie style flip screen is important. This requirement alone will pare down the list of video recording cameras for YouTubers. There just is not a whole lot to choose from other than the Lumix LX100 and Canon G7X. Both are great cameras but I chose the RX100 V because the G7X does not record in 4K. The Panasonic LX100 is a little too big to fit in a pants pocket and has a much lower resolution at 12.8MP.

Given I have several cameras, the Sony DSC-W800 and Nikon D3000 DSLR, these were quickly growing “old”. The W800 could only video capture in 720p and had poor autofocus (as you’ve seen in previous videos). So I was growing tired of using that camera and wanted something more better to replace it.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 V Quick Specifications

A quick run down of the camera’s technical specifications.

Resolution: 20.2 Megapixels; Max of 5472×3648
Sensor: 1″ Exmor RS CMOS stacked
Lens: ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T 24-70mm
ISO: Auto, 125-12800
Zoom: 3x
Aperature: F1.8-2.8
Focus speed: 0.05 seconds
Autofocus: 315 phase detect points
Image stabilization: SteadyShot for still; Intelligent Active SteadyShot for video
Flash: Built in
Image processing: BIONZ X
LCD: 3″ TFT, 1.2M pixels, up to 180 degrees tilt
Output file format: JPEG Exif v2.3/DCF v2.0; Raw Sony ARW v2.3; MPEG-4, AVCHD, XAVC S
Microphone: Stereo

Memory Card Support

There is no memory card supplied with the product so you will have to go out and purchase one. I stick with Sony cards to be safe and those with a SD Speed Class 10 rating and UHS Speed Class 3 or better. I bought the higher end because I don’t want to get stuck with obsolete cards that don’t support 4K recording.

The camera supports many different types of cards including:

  • Sony Memory Stick PRO/PRO-HG Duo
  • Sony Memory Stick Micro
  • SD, SDHC, SDXC
  • microSD, microSDHC, microSDXC

Sony SDXC 64GB card

I would recommend the Sony SDXC 64GB cards with a Class 10/U3 rating. I avoid buying off brand to prevent any manufacturer compatability problems. The Sony SF64UX2/TQ card goes for about $30 at Amazon. The card supports 4K recording at close to 100 Mb/s and will store about 9600 pictures and 5 hours of HD video. I tend to avoid anything above that size because if the card fails, I am not only out a lot of money, but will have a harder time retrieving all visual assets on the card.

It is best to buy a handful of these in the 32-64GB size range and put them in a memory card carrying case. You can get the Beeway case that holds 12 cards in a nice water resistant offering.

Battery Support

Sony OEM camera batteries are not cheap. Each go for about $50 and that adds up if you want to have a few of these in your camera bag. Fortunately, I found a supplier who offers rechargeable Sony NP-BX1, the same batteries used in this camera, at a much more affordable price. You can get the Wasabi dual charger and two (yes two!) batteries for $20 from Amazon. Thats pretty damn cheap.

That should save you a bunch of money. Not only that but it avoids having to use USB to charge the batteries. Its a real pain in the butt to have to put in the microUSB connector in the camera every time your battery needs charging. One of the things I dread is having to open up that little plastic cover possibly breaking it, let alone ruining the micro USB connectors. This only results in more wear and tear on the unit so its best to avoid that at all costs. Buy and use a separate battery charger instead.

Because of the increase in video processing power versus the older RX100 IV model, battery power consumption has gone up. That means, you are going to be taking less number of pictures and shorter time frames of video with the RX100 V. You will be recharging more and buying battery replacements more frequently too. This is something you need to keep in mind.

Battery Life

Movies 30-60 minutes
Photos 220 pictures

4K Video Recording Limitation

One thing you should be aware of is that the RX100 V has a 4K video recording time limitation of 5 minutes. This is put in place for several reasons:

  1. Sony wants to prevent the RX100 lineup from surpassing their higher end 4K cameras and camcorders
  2. To prevent overheating

Small compact cameras can overheat when pushed to the limits. The battery drains quickly and the temperature rises to be pretty hot. A limitation has to be put in place to prevent the camera from catching fire. Thus, a time limit. On the other hand, there is some marketing being done here. If a $1000 compact camera surpasses the performance and features of a higher end lineup (like the Sony Alpha a6300) people won’t purchase the higher end. Besides, there have been reports that you can hack the camera to increase the time limit. So realize this is a feature constraint.

The 5 minute limit doesn’t mean thats all you can shoot of 4K footage. The camera will power down. Then, you wait a few minutes for it to cool off and power it back on again. All this means is that you will not be able to shoot continuous 4K footage. You will need to get into the habit of taking in small timed segments and then piecing them together in post production. This limitation isn’t just for Sony cameras, the Panasonic Lumix has a 4K time limit as well, though longer.

If you plan on video recording long 4K segments, you are better off buying a 4K camcorder anyway. Yes, they are much more heavier and bulkier. But if you get something like the lighter Sony FDRAAX53/B as another video recording tool in your lineup, you will have your bases covered.

Also, you don’t have to video record at 4K resolution. You can certainly pare it down to 1080p without the time limit constraint.

Remember, the RX100 lineup is for compact cameras that have a much smaller form factor and electronics. They are for carrying convenience. You will always sacrifice some features in the digital camera and video world as you scale down in size. I often see people get so caught up in heated discussion about cameras like this forgetting that they are talking about a whole different beast than a more expensive interchangeable lens camera. All that really matters is if you are happy with your camera and the results.

Tripod Mount Hole

This one I’m not too thrilled about. You know that mount hole that you use to screw in a tripod or GorillaPod? Well guess what, its not in the exact center of the camera. It is to the left of center right next to the cover where the battery and SDXC card goes. Although the camera is less than a pound, this isn’t much a problem in terms of a balancing act.

The bigger problem is that the slot where the SDXC card is located cannot be accessed because the cover has to be swung open. The base of the pod or stick is in the way. This means that you always have to unscrew the pod/stick to get at the memory card.

If the mounting hole was centered and if the cover swung from the far edge instead of towards the middle, this wouldn’t be a problem.

Auto Mode: Still Photography

To get a sense of how good the camera is, here is a gallery of photos I took on a cloudy day. I literally took this straight out of the box and without hesitation snapped away. They were taken in Auto Mode with default settings and no photo editing. The photos ranged from 3.8MB to 8.8MB in file size in JPEG format. These are at the highest 5472 x 3648 resolution the camera offers.

Auto focus on this camera is super. It struggled a little though when I did extreme close ups of leaves and branches. Pulling back helped.

The indoor pictures had no lighting. I was totally amazed at how well the shots came out given no flash was used. I was also very pleased with how I could take a series of photos of my cat in succession. The camera responded very quickly in taking those snapshots. Compared to my other cameras, this was very cool in that you can use it to capture at a fast frame rate.

Pretty much the output quality of this camera is superb, dazzling, and very impressive. The clarity and details it picks up is wonderful.

Auto Mode: Video Movies

Since I don’t want to post some random sample video on YouTube to share in this blog (and there too), I’ll refrain from giving samples. Rather, I’ll let my future YouTube videos speak for themselves. I can say this though, compared to the output of my Sony DSC-W800, this camera blows it away with way more clarity and quality!

There is an immediate improvement in higher resolution (720p vs 1080p/4K UHD), briliant color, image stabilization, and general all around better look.

Wish List

You can’t always get everything you want. Same goes true with digital camera features. Some things that were missing and which I would like to see in future RX100 cameras from Sony:

  • Touch screen
  • External mic jack
  • Increase time limit to 30 minutes for 4K recordings
  • Longer micro USB cable. Its too short and cannot reach from a computer on the floor with USB ports and the height of a table.

Summary

Everything that I have owned to date pales in comparison with the Sony RX100 V. While people may complain about the $1000 price, you really have to see and use the camera to appreciate it. For YouTube vloggers, this is an excellent camera for doing 1080p work. For 4K work, you will have to shoot in shorter segments to accomodate the time limit.

If you are a still image photographer, all I can say is “Wow”. This camera shoots fast like no other camera can and with quick auto focus to blow most cameras away. The quality is astounding for a compact camera.

Now please excuse me while I go off and play with my new toy.

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