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Pursuit of the Moment with Sony’s RX100 VII by Mark Galer

In an age when smartphones were thought to render compact cameras obsolete, Sony’s RX100 VII came into the picture. This pocketable camera proves that it punches way above its weight with astonishing performance and stunning image quality. Truly, the little ‘pocket rocket’ never ceases to amaze me!

Small camera, spectacular images

So how can such a small camera capture fantastic images? For starters, the RX100 VII is endowed with Sony’s advanced 1.0-type stacked CMOS sensor with back-illumination technology. This innovative technology is also found in the higher range of Sony’s interchangeable lens cameras, namely Alpha 9 and Alpha 9 II cameras, which brought about RX100 VII’s moniker of a ‘pocketable Alpha 9.’

Fishermen setting off in traditional basket boats for fishing.

RX100 VII | 24 mm | 1/125 sec | F/4 | ISO 100

RX100 VII | 24mm | 1/125 sec | F/4 | ISO 100

Thanks to the back-illuminated structure, RX100 VII’s electronic shutter can shoot lightning-fast action without the effects of shutter distortion and blackout between each frame. Furthermore, its fast readout speed enables the RX100 VII to shoot a burst of images at an incredible 20 frames-per-second in Continuous Drive mode Hi or up to 90 frames-per-second in Single Burst Shooting mode Hi. The latter releases a burst of seven high-res images to ensure a fleeting moment of an action-packed motion is captured—a feature unique only to this camera. 

One size fits all

For photographers accustomed to interchangeable lens cameras for high-quality images, it may seem daunting at first to rely only on a compact camera for photos regardless of shooting genres. The RX100 VII however, overcomes these initial doubts with its 24–200 mm (8.3x) zoom range, technical excellence for diverse shots, and portability for shooting on the go, as proven by my recent trip to Vietnam.

Sony’s RX100 VII fits in the pocket.

Sony’s RX100 VII fits in the pocket.

I arrived at Ho Chi Minh City with just the RX100 VII in my jeans pocket, leaving my larger Alpha cameras and lenses at home. I’m happy to share that my RX100 VII was fast and responsive, and indeed did not let me down.

Fantastic focus and tracking ability

20fps blackout-free shooting captures every little detail. 

RX100 VII | 28 mm | 1/30 sec | F/5.6 | ISO 125

RX100 VII | 28mm | 1/30 sec | F/5.6 | ISO 125

The panning prowess of the RX100 VII is distinctly shown when capturing commuting scooters in the city. With Real-time AF Tracking and Eye AF, the camera easily focused and tracked on these roving subjects, ensuring every unfolding moment is secured. The 20fps blackout-free continuous shooting helps to capture “The Moment,” including often overlooked details such as a cheeky smile or a passing glance of a rider in perfect focus.

Moving subjects are easily captured with the pocketable Alpha 9.

Moving subjects are easily captured with the pocketable Alpha 9.

I selected Continuous Shooting Hi, Continuous AF, AF Tracking and allowed the shutter speed to drop to 1/30 second in order to capture the atmospheric motion blur behind the passing scooters.

Subjects are perfectly in focus against an atmospheric motion blurred background. 

RX100 VII | 24 mm | 1/30 sec | F/5.6 | ISO 250

RX100 VII | 24mm | 1/30 sec | F/5.6 | ISO 250

Freezing fleeting moments 

A single perfect moment captured within seven images shot with 90fps Single Burst Shooting.

RX100 VII | 55 mm | 1/2000 sec | F/4 | ISO 400

RX100 VII | 55mm | 1/2000 sec | F/4 | ISO 400

Seven highly condensed images with the Single Burst Shooting mode. (Hi: 9 0fps, Mid: 60fps, Normal: 30fps)

Seven highly condensed images with the Single Burst Shooting mode. (Hi: 9 0fps, Mid: 60fps, Normal: 30fps)

For split-second moments that were previously difficult to capture, the RX100 VII’s Single Burst Shooting mode offers a high degree of success. If the camera was set at a lower frame rate such as 8,10, or 20, the ideal shot may not be guaranteed.

With Single Burst Shooting mode, the pocketable Alpha 9 fires off seven images in rapid succession with selectable speed of 90fps (Hi), 60fps (Mid), or 30fps (Low). Time it right and the chances of capturing the decisive moment are high.

This is perfectly highlighted in my sequence of images of a young Vietnamese boy fly-kicking a soccer ball. I switched the Drive mode to Single Burst Shooting and raised the shutter speed to 1/2000 second.

Single Burst Shooting: High burst gives me the ability to take perfect shots

Single Burst Shooting: High burst gives me the ability to take perfect shots

While my focus was on the Electronic Viewfinder, my eyes were still alert so as to catch the ball in my peripheral view. This allowed me to judge when to press the shutter releases. Depending on your preference, the RX100 VII can be adjusted to a burst of 90fps (Hi), 60fps (Mid), or 30fps (Low).

Playing the field 

High Dynamic Range at low ISO Values achieves rich details with minimal noise, seen in this shot‘s dark pants and the sunlit nets.

RX100 VII | 58 mm | 1/2000 sec | F/4 | ISO 200

RX100 VII | 58mm | 1/2000 sec | F/4 | ISO 200

With RX100 VII’s wide field of view, locations where my visual stories unfolded can be effectively established. Just by using an aperture of F/4, the camera achieves both foreground and background sharpness for a dynamic landscape shot. Shooting at a lower aperture also means keeping the ISO at 100 and the shutter speed high. This results in low levels of noise and the ability to freeze action, all while enjoying the High Dynamic Range for rich details in the brightest highlights and the darkest shadows.

 

Taken with great depth of field at a wide f/4 aperture enables ISO to be kept low 1/50 second at f/4.0, ISO 100.

RX100 VII | 49 mm | 1/50 sec | F/4 | ISO 100

RX100 VII | 49mm | 1/50 sec | F/4 | ISO 100

Another example of great depth of field and fast shutter speeds at low ISO.

RX100 VII | 27 mm | 1/2000 sec | F/4 | ISO 160

RX100 VII | 27mm | 1/2000 sec | F/4 | ISO 160

Even with the increased depth of field in landscape shots, the RX100 VII still allows me to isolate a subject from the background using shallow depth of field (figure and ground separation). This can be maximized by using the widest aperture, zooming the lens to the 200 mm equivalent focal range and moving closer to my subject.

Camera’s bokeh capability is displayed with smiling boy in crisp detail against beautifully blurred background.

RX100 VII | 200 mm | 1/2000 sec | F/4 | ISO 160

RX100 VII | 200mm | 1/2000 sec | F/4 | ISO 160

Eyes in focus 

Real-time Eye AF locks onto the eyes easily. 

RX100 VII | 111 mm | 1/500 sec | F/4.5 | ISO 640

RX100 VII | 111mm | 1/500 sec | F/4.5 | ISO 640

I swung by several local hideouts, such as beaches and salt fields, and found them teeming with all sorts of interesting characters, from children playing in the waters to farmers hard at work. It was a golden opportunity to take the RX100 VII out for a spin.

Thanks to the camera’s versatile zoom range (24–200 mm), I can achieve the reach I need for tight head-to-shoulder portraits. By zooming in and using the widest aperture with Real-time Eye AF in AF-C mode, impressive portraits can be captured with ease.

Versatile zoom range allows for tight head and shoulder portraits.

RX100 VII | 142 mm | 1/125 sec | F/4.5 | ISO 100

RX100 VII | 142mm | 1/125 sec | F/4.5 | ISO 100

Real-Time Animal Eye AF is available too.

RX100 VII | 200 mm | 1/60 sec | F/4.5 | ISO 320

RX100 VII | 200mm | 1/60 sec | F/4.5 | ISO 320

The camera also has the option of Real-time Animal Eye AF, which I tested out on a cat wearing a red coat. I simply switched from Human to Animal and presto—the eyes are sharply focused.

 

Versatile shooting

Pop-up Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) lets me compose and review my shots.

Pop-up Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) lets me compose and review my shots.

The RX100 VII 24–200 mm zoom range is pretty versatile that I don’t need to lug other lenses along. On top of being incredibly compact, the camera has a pop-up Electronic Finder (EVF) that allows me to clearly compose and review my shots—something that comes into play in harsh lighting conditions.

 

Seamless operation

Accessibility to settings is key to nailing my shots. With the Memory Recall (MR) on the shoot mode dial, I can quickly access optimum settings registered for the various genres, especially when moments are fleeting.

Favorite or frequently used settings can also be easily accessed in the “My Menu” tab in the menu screen.

Final words

A group of fishermen captured pre-dawn shots, showcasing the camera’s great ISO Performance

RX100 VII | 24 mm | 1/15 sec | F/2.8 | ISO 1250

RX100 VII | 24mm | 1/15 sec | F/2.8 | ISO 1250

The proof is in the pudding, and I daresay the shots featured here hold a testament to the RX100 VII—a pro-quality and pocketable compact for the discerning photographer.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not reflect the opinions or views of Sony Singapore.

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