Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 VII

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 VII point-and-shoot is a modest update to the RX100 VI, offering better autofocus and video stabilization for a bit more money.

Pros

  • Sharp 8x zoom lens.
  • Electronic viewfinder.
  • 1-inch sensor design.
  • 20fps capture with subject tracking.
  • Eye detection for people and pets.
  • Tilting touch screen.
  • 4K video with external microphone port.

Cons

  • Expensive.
  • Can't start video while images are writing to card.
  • Limited touch functions.

The Sony RX100 series represents the top tier of the point-and-shoot market. The seventh-generation model, the Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 VII ($1,299.99), sports the 8x lens introduced in its predecessor, along with an autofocus system that puts the camera on the same footing as the company's high-end interchangeable lens models. It's a premium camera, with a price match, but backs it up with top-notch speed and optics. That earns it our Editors' Choice.

Pocket-Sized Powerhouse

Smartphone cameras continue to get better thanks to advancements in image processing—computational photography—but there are some who simply prefer the feel of a dedicated camera in their hands, or want a bit more zoom power than you get from a multi-lens iPhone.

The RX100 VII offers plenty of zoom power, with a lens that matches a full-frame 24-200mm in terms of coverage. It's longer than the 24-70mm design used in some others in the series, including the RX100 VA, but only captures about half the light. If you want a similar camera with a bit of zoom and a brighter lens, consider the Canon G5 X Mark II, which has a 24-120mm f/1.8-2.8 zoom.

At 2.3 by 4.0 by 1.7 inches (HWD) and 10.7 ounces, the RX100 VII isn't the lightest, slimmest compact out there. But it slides into jacket pockets easily, and its weight comes from complex optics and construction that's more metal than plastic. It doesn't have any sort of protruding handgrip, but there are first- and third-party add-on grips available for photographers who prefer one.

You'll still want to take care when using it—the camera isn't rugged or waterproof. Sony's larger bridge-style RX10 series offers dust and splash protection, but true rugged options are few and far between if you want one with an image sensor that's bigger than your smartphone. Sealife sells a 1-inch waterproof model, the DC2000, but it doesn't have a zoom lens and its functions are downright primitive in comparison.

Ergonomics and Controls

Sony may churn out RX100 after RX100, year after year, but it hasn't done a lot to change the basic design and layout of controls since it launched the series. For more on the differences between each model, refer to our RX100 buying guide.

There's a freely turning control ring around the lens—you can configure it for various functions, but I like using it for EV compensation. It's joined by the typical zoom rocker switch, shutter release, Mode dial, and On/Off button on the top, with the remainder of the controls on the rear, to the right of the tilting display.

There are rear buttons to start and stop videos, access the on-screen Fn menu and more extensive text-based menu system, and to play and delete photos. They're joined by a flat command dial with directional presses that adjust the flash output, drive mode, and EV compensation.

EVF and LCD

The camera sports a tilting LCD, 3 inches in size with a crisp 921k-dot resolution and support for touch control. It's mounted on a hinge, so you can tilt it up or down to get shots from more interesting angles, or point the LCD forward to shoot selfies and vlogs.

Connectivity and Power

Sony includes Bluetooth and Wi-Fi in the camera, and supports it using the free Sony Imaging Edge Mobile app for Android and iOS. The app works as a remote control for the camera, and also lets you copy photos from its memory card to your phone.

The included battery is rather small, and is rated by CIPA for about 260 shots per charge, which can be extended to 310 by enabling an automatic sleep mode. You'll easily exceed those numbers if you utilize the 20fps burst capture liberally.

Advanced Autofocus

The big change from the RX100 VI comes with autofocus. Sony redesigned the camera's sensor so it polls its autofocus points more frequently, and covered it from nearly edge to edge with phase-detection pixels.

There are two practical benefits. With the Real Time Tracking interface, the RX100 VII does a seemingly perfect job of tracking moving subjects, and is able to automatically detect faces and eyes, with settings for both humans and pets. (Officially cats and dogs are supported, but it's worth turning on if you're at the zoo.)

Imaging and Video

The RX100 VII uses the same 24-200mm f/2.8-4.5 zoom lens as the VI version of the camera, and while its sensor reads out a bit faster, there's no change in image quality. It shoots Raw or JPG images at 20MP resolution.

The lens is an excellent performer. Imatest tells us that it delivers sharp results, at its widest f-stop, from 24mm all the way through 200mm. The only concern is some loss of resolution at the edges of the frame when working at 24mm. You can improve image quality by setting the aperture to f/5.6 or f/8—but even at f/2.8, it's not something you'll notice without zooming in close on a picture in Photoshop or printing very large.

Video Updates for Vloggers

There are a few upgrades on the video front, specifically aimed at vloggers. The camera has a standard 3.5mm mic input jack, so you can now add an external mic for better audio quality. You will have to add an accessory bracket to mount a shotgun mic.

There's some additional digital stabilization applied to video, which is especially useful for walk-and-talk vlogs. You also get face and eye detection during video, so focus won't drift to the background when recording interviews or selfie video.

In for a Penny…

Sony continues to push compact camera technology forward, but it's pushing the pricing envelope at the same time. At $1,300, the RX100 VII is the most expensive model yet—$100 more than the VI's retail price.

Despite the uptick in cost, we're awarding the RX100 VII the same rating and Editors' Choice award as the previous entry in the series. Its features are a little better, and if you're thinking about spending $1,200 on a point-and-shoot, chances are you're open to a $1,300 model as well.

Sale prices, and the used market, may change your mind. If you're a more budget-minded buyer, think about the Canon G5 X Mark II instead. Its zoom lens isn't as long, and it doesn't have the same autofocus performance or quite as many video options, but it's more affordable at $900. If you're shopping at the top of the market, you might as well go all the way with the RX100 VII.