Home Features Sony RX100V: Is it the travel camera for me?

Sony RX100V: Is it the travel camera for me?

1618
38

Am I Gen X? No. Am I Gen Y? No. But I do admit that my compact travel cameras are generally “Generation N minus One”. That is, my travel kit doesn’t contain the latest models à la those that Michael mentioned in his recent article on choosing a small travel camera. They are penultimate models which provide a cost/benefit analysis which doesn’t raise the ire of my financial overseer.

For now though, let’s start differently, by further acknowledging our editor Michael who recently indicated that in present times it’s hard to get a Macfilos article posted without a reference to the coronavirus. True, so let’s get that out of the way at the start, and then consider how it might impact an attitude towards compact travel cameras.

I woke this morning to the ongoing fare of Covid-19 news. Relentless on radio and television, it’s like waking up in our own reality version of Groundhog Day. A great movie, I’ve seen it many times. I know, I know, it’s not the joke, it’s the way you tell it. But it does remind me that I should get the alarm on my clock radio set to 6 am with Sonny and Cher’s “I got you, babe”. If you don’t know what I’m talking about then its time to get the movie Groundhog Day. So pertinent in present times.

And mentioning Sonny (and Cher) brings me to today’s photo topic, in this case a Sony not a Sonny.

A Considered Impulse

In recent times, I acquired a top-condition used Sony RX100 Mark V, wondering whether it might supplant my cherished Leica D Lux 109 as a travel camera: Similar short zoom, but smaller, lighter and with a 20.1 MP sensor. I do admit that potential pocketability was the main driver. Also, our Macfilos editor and many others have written positively about the RX100 series. It was time to try one.

A first outing for the camera was some time ago now, on my regular Tuesday visit to the Oz’ coastal town of Terrigal, for coffee with John Shingleton, local resident and Macfilos’s Mr X1. It was a sunny morning and there were many out swimming and exercising, walking themselves or their dogs. Before coffee, I went for a walk, just myself and Sony. I hadn’t yet delved into the menu system, so I simply set the camera in its default Auto mode and shot some jpegs.

Upon returning home I looked at the products on the large screen. I must admit that I was a little disappointed with the images. They lacked “life”. I even sent some of them to our editor along with a few words about how I was going to have to work harder to get good output from that camera.

He agreed about the images – his words were that they looked a “bit flat”. However, he suggested that the best approach for me might be for me to directly contact regular Macfilos contributor David Babsky. He knew that David is a big fan of the RX100 series and suggested that he might point me in the right direction.

The Babsky Solution

David was kind to me, taking me under his wing as we would expect of a member of the Macfilos family. Two detailed emails from him pointed me to a kick-in-the-pants solution to the flat image problem. His suggestion was to set the camera on Vivid and give it Contrast +2, Saturation +2 and Sharpness +2.

It would have taken me some time to get to those wild settings, if at all, so his solution was a real leap for me. I do admit that I come from a more subdued world of Leica, Lumix and Fuji. For the little Sony, those settings provided not just ‘kick-in-the-pants’ but real ‘kick-arse’ stuff.

Getting there.

A subsequent and more recent coffee morning at Terrigal saw a return of sunshine. After a long exercise walk with the camera, John and I were “requested” by the local constabulary not to sit on the rock wall drinking our coffee and shooting the breeze, even though we were safely self-distanced.

Apparently it was ok to stand and drink a coffee, but not to sit while doing so. Fair enough in these weird times, but they did return five minutes later to check that we and others hadn’t resumed our seats on the rock wall. Thankfully we hadn’t, or our wallets would be significantly lighter (the fine in NSW is A$1,000). That’s just an aside anecdote, it’s that darn virus again, relevant here only in that I had the camera with me.

For the photography that morning, I did dial back from the Vivid settings to Standard, but maintained the Babsky tweaks of Contrast +2, Saturation +2 and Sharpness +2. Upon review it seems that these settings are producing jpegs that are quite pleasing, to my eyes at least. Again, thanks to David for the strong +2/+2/+2 pointer.

A keeper? Decision making in times of virus?

So, where is this all heading? Well, I must be honest and admit that I’m not 100% bonding with the RX100V. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a superbly engineered little piece of kit with a very sharp lens. It is capable of producing great images and could be a wonderful travel camera. I realise that there are many who absolutely love their RX100 cameras, and I’d be the first to say that it is warranted for them.

But each to their own, coming from my stuck-in-the-mud world of Leica/Panasonic/Fuji compact cameras, I’m finding myself with a few Sony RX100 irritations. Let’s consider them:

1 It’s just a bit too small – I realise that this is a feature of the camera, but for me, it isn’t comfortable in its haptics (I don’t like that word “haptics”, but I guess it’s apt to use in context). The controls are just a bit too fiddly, it reminds me of a Minox that I had years ago. As well as being tiny, the camera feels slippery – I have gone ahead and ordered a grip. Still waiting on that one.

2 The Heath Robinson clickety viewfinder – Once again, a feature supposedly. But it’s a matter of flip the tiny side switch to click it up, then an awkward click out to enable use, and after all that then the camera switches off whenever it is pressed back down. Certainly, it’s a good viewfinder, but when it’s deployed the camera loses its compactness and pocketability.

3 The Sony menu naming and structure isn’t intuitive – Or maybe it’s just that I’m not keen to learn the hidden tabs within tabs in another camera menu system. I’m comfortable with the more logical (to me) menus of the Leica/Panasonic/Fuji world.

4 Centre-weighted Autofocus – This autofocus mode is my preference. It seems to be quite sensitive. In the two images above I’d swear that I had the centre green square grabbing the distant beach scene. One of them got it right, one of them fixed on a single blade of grass in the foreground. Tricky stuff, gotta chimp to be confident that its brain fixes on the correct space.

5Jpeg engine – To me, it isn’t the same as those in Leica/Panasonic/Fuji. After taking a number of images, using settings between full Auto and David’s “kick-arse” vibrance enhancement, I find that the handling of dynamic range in jpegs isn’t what I want, particularly the dark portions of images. In that regard, I don’t want to have to continually adjust exposure compensation by entering menus or a fiddly dedicated function button. A very personal view I know, but to me the Panasonic and Fuji compact digitals are much better inherently in handling jpegs, as well as easier to adjust with a graduated Exposure Comp control knob on top

There’s no doubt the RX100 series are fine cameras with excellent crisp Zeiss lenses. And for those who like them, they will perform to purpose very well. But that last point about jpegs is a concern for me. I’m sure the camera would provide great RAW outputs, but I don’t want to spend a lot of time in front of a computer processing and fine-tuning RAW images.

Compact travel cameras. All Generation N-minus-one. All capable of excellent image quality. The 13MP D Lux 109 will be maintained as a primary weapon. Fewer pixels, but with great output from its significantly larger pixel size. I just love it. But which of the 20MP Sony RX100V or the 20MP Lumix TZ110 (aka ZS100 or TZ1001) will I keep as back up?

For me, I think I’ll be keeping the D Lux 109 as my travel camera, probably with the Panasonic TZ110 as a backup.

The TZ110 provides the flexibility of a longer lens, an in-built viewfinder that doesn’t need the click-click procedure, shares the same batteries with the D Lux 109, and has the more familiar menu structure. It’s only marginally bigger than the RX100 (unless the RX100 has its viewfinder deployed and an added aftermarket grip), and I like the Tz110 OOC jpegs more. It’s the older sibling of the current model Panasonic ZS200/TZ200/TZ220, now refined and cloned as the present Leica C Lux, as described in Michael’s article.

To conclude, and referencing back to the Covid-19 intro, I’m now sitting here wondering whether cabin fever is getting to me. Would I be less critical of the RX100V in happier and less restrictive times? Unfortunately, the control experiment isn’t possible, probably for some months at least. Damn you, coronavirus.

Read more from Wayne Gerlach on Macfilos


  1. Why does Panasonic use different designations for the same camera in different parts of the world?

38 COMMENTS

  1. 2. The Heath Robinson clickers viewfinder “..and after all that then the camera switches off whenever it is pressed back down..” ..no; not if you choose Menu>Suitcase (Toolkit)>Setup2>’Function for VF close: Not Power OFF‘.

    The camera is configurable, Wayne!

    4. Centre-weighted Autofocus “..I’d swear that I had the centre green square grabbing the distant beach scene. One of them got it right, one of them fixed on a single blade of grass”. But that Centre Autofocus square (or rectangle) can be set to the particular size you want it! (I’m going by the MkVI menu here; I no longer have my MkV): Menu>Camera1>’AF1′ item (4th screen?)>Focus Area: Centre, then move down one to ‘Flexible Spot’, then move right to ‘Flexible Spot:S’ (..that’s ‘Small). You can set the size of the Centre-Weighted Autofocus rectangle, Wayne.

    5. Jpeg engine “..I don’t want to have to continually adjust exposure compensation by entering menus or a fiddly dedicated function button”. Well, I don’t know what you call a “fiddly dedicated function button”, but if you just press the bottom of the ring on the back of the camera ..that’s the bottom of the ring where it’s marked [+/-], that’s the exposure compensation: you can then instantly dial in under- or over-exposure by just turning the ring left or right: press, then turn! Instant adjustment. Oh, and press the centre of the ring to lock it.

    The camera does have an instruction manual, Wayne, downloadable here: https://tinyurl.com/RX1005

    By the way, that picture of the beach, with the birds and the buoy ..07a ..the one after the picture of all the hotel balconies ..that’s terrific ..that really made my day!

    • clickety viewfinder” ..sorry; it’s the auto-correct spellchecker ..and I didn’t check the spell-checker!

      • …….and a thank you to our Editor Michael for taking strike and ducking the bouncer while I was in fact fast asleep at the other end (of the world that is).

        Further, re David’s spell-checker on the term “clickety”, that was meant to be a test of Michael’s Grammarly checker. Looks like it checked out ok, or editorial prerogative overruled it.

        • Hmm I thought I had introduced clickety which passes muster in Evansarly. This comes into play when Grammarly gets too pedantic and I override it in the interests of neo-coin.

          Clickety is one of those non-words that everyone will understand and, therefore, it passes the test of language – accurate communication.

          In same vein, I use “fiddlesome” frequently. It isn’t a word, as far as I am aware, but it is a very descriptive neo-coin to describe camera controls. I also like “tiddlesome” as a pleasing euphemism for being pissed of one’s mind (British English, that one).

          All of these words are rightly rejected by my iPhone’s spell checker but, then, so is “Grammarly”. Life would be even more of a sod than it is if we used only words that appear in dictionaries.

          Did you notice that “neo-coin” also doesn’t appear in the dictionary. But I bet you understood it instinctively.

          • You’re correct Michael. I’ve just checked the original text.
            “Clickety” was your edit.
            Clearly I liked it so much that I adopted it.
            Good one that.

    • Hi David. You make a number of relevant points, although I see that point #1 is missing. I’m wondering whether that absent point is something to do with trout fishing, and whether you might get a rise from me. Oh well, no matter how wily a trout is, it’s hard to resist a well cast fly.

      So, starting at your Point #2. Let me address a couple of them.

      Re the clicky viewfinder your menu instruction “Menu>Suitcase (Toolkit)>Setup2>’Function for VF close: Not Power OFF” is quite correct. And re the size of the viewfinder focus area “Menu>Camera1>’AF1′ item (4th screen?)>Focus Area: Centre, then move down one to ‘Flexible Spot’, then move right to ‘Flexible Spot:S’ (..that’s ‘Small).” is also correct.
      But, as you say, I’d have to read the instruction manual to find my way to those toggles.
      And as my better half would tell you, I’m terrible at reading the manuals for anything. In fact, she often just replies to me with the initialism “RTFM!”. I like intuitive and obvious. Laziness, I plead guilty.

      Re that beach shot using your settings, I do admit that I liked that one when I saw it on the computer screen. There’s some powerful punch in there.

      • “..I see that point #1 is missing..” ..well, I’ve no idea of the size of your hands, so I couldn’t possibly comment on whether or not it’s the right size, or not, for you!

        And the beach scene: no, I don’t think it’s just the settings ..it’s your eye; the layered horizontals and the curve at the bottom ..the solitary buoy, and its echoes in the row – or arrangement – of birds. And that curve of cloud is a counterpoint to the curves of water and sand near the bottom!

        And the sunlight glinting on the water is so much more interesting without seeing the source of that light ..it’s intriguing, soothing, exciting and calming, all at the same time!

        I’d happily hang it on the wall and look at it all day.

        • Gday again David. I’m 6’1” and in proportion, so maybe that’s why I find the RX100 a bit tiny. Or it could equally be that it’s just that bit uncomfortably small because I’m used to the slightly larger d Lux 109 and tz110 cameras.

          I do admit that I was having coffee with Mr X1 at the time that I took the beach shot. At the time I did chimp the back of the camera and thought to myself “Hey, that’s not bad”. It was likely a diversion from listening to him at the time, telling me that I should get a Q, or that I shouldn’t never have sold the X Vario (probably not true, but sometimes life feels like that🙂).

          • Nor should I never have sold mine. Big mistake. The X Vario one of those cameras that should be kept and put on the shelf and exercised occasionally in the same way that John Shingleton looks after his two Porsches.

          • “I shouldn’t never have sold the X Vario”

            I fully accepted that. I put it down to your Cockney roots. It adds emphasis.

  2. Over here Sony on the head. Gone a bit Kevin Keegan and now running around the living room like I’ve just scored the winner at Wembley – defo Cabin Fever occurring here.

    Sorry, just getting in the Sony and Cher mood.

    It is for me a Sony. They often taken beautiful pictures, and have stellar output, but they are complex, souless and just less intuitive than a Leica, Fuji etc. I would go further and say my Df is simpler to use, but even its menu system can be a complex pain for the simplest of things. I found the A7Riii to produce highly detailed images, with a swiftness I hadnt seen in other camera’s, but there was so little feedback that it switched me off. I love my Leica for its feedback in the process, I feel part of the experience, to some degree I get that with the Df, but with a Sony I just didnt feel it.

    Wayne, in my eyes you did good with the final decision. Get the bloomin thing on e-bay and get rid of it.

      • Ha ha ha – yes I am, I keep staring at those steaks in the freezer and the barbee and thinking another covid meat fest is required now that the sun has returned for a few days.

    • Gday Dave.
      Good to see you telling it like it is.
      But I am concerned at the thought of triggering you into a Sonny and Cher mood.
      I’m not responsible (refer 🎼Tom Jones🎼, amongst others).

      • Whats up Pussy Cat whoa whoa. lol.

        I thought you need some straight talk about off loading it, it’s not doing the do. But, well it is a Sony camera after all – they seem to me more marmite than marmite. In fact they make marmite drinks at football matches seems like a truly sensible thing. Whereas their cameras to me, are just over packed with stuff – that perhaps explains why you love your Leica’s and those cameras with three dials and a stripped down menu.

  3. in agreement with Wayne, and trying once more with the RX100vi, and despite David B.’s justified irritation with those of us who don’t read the manual, I have to say that I too, having tried a bevy of Sony’s of all sizes, have also come to the conclusion that, no matter what one does before or after taking the picture, they resolve colors very differently than Leicas or equivalent Panasonics. So, in isolation on the East cost of Connecticut, overlooking a landscape of wetlands, I’m finding my SL and CL with the 55-135, despite the enormous size difference, much more suited to the medley of grays and browns; and wishing that I had – as originally intended – brought my D-Lux 109. But I will now follow David B.’s instructions and see what happens to the Rx when the Egret stands up on her nest.

    • Hello Tony.
      I agree that there are those who read and digest Instruction Manuals. And others who don’t. Psychologists can probably classify the two types.

      Good to see that you are also noticing the difference in Sony’s colour handling compared with the Leicas and PannyLeicas. Lens properties, sensors maybe, or in-camera processing, I wonder?

      And yes, do try the David Babsky boost juice settings on the RX. I did actually quite like output using Standard (not Vivid) with David’s recommendation of Contrast +2, Saturation +2, and Sharpening +2.

  4. I really miss the Leica X2 I used to own. I have a Canon G7mxII that does a decent job and is basically a Sony RX100 knock-off minus the viewfinder. Decent enough images (Canon always did skin tones well), but no magic.

    When this COVID nonsense is over I’ll try to hunt down a nice used X2. I think I’ve even still got an extra battery lying around.

    • I have the RX100VI which I use occasionally when I need something to fit in the pocket. But I agree with you on the X2, despite its age. It is such a nice, easy camera to use and with all its settings permanently on display.

      • Yes, Andrew, there’s something special about the X series Leica cameras. A bit old school now, but they elicit an old-fashioned good feeling when using them, and their images are top shelf.

  5. A good read, Wayne, about your exploration with a new camera and some improving and interesting images but you didn’t much enjoy using or handling the Sony and that was the key point. Thank you for your article and story which I much enjoyed. Sympathy with your cabin fever, it’s the same here!

    • Thanks David.
      It’s interesting how sometimes things just don’t crystallise. I stressed in the write-up that when considered objectively and clinically the Sony is actually a brilliant little camera. Sharp lens, excellent image output, excellent for purpose.
      But subjective emotional attachment just isn’t happening for me. I’m sure it’s me, not the camera.

  6. Well…… I’m very pro–Leica compacts and have the D-Lux 4, the D-lux 7 and the X Vario (if you can call that a compact). But I have the Sony RX 100iii (which is often the cuckoo in the D-Lux 4’s nesting case!), and I couldn’t be more impressed. Definition, colour (sometimes with a bit of simple tweaking of jpegs in “Photos”) are all I want. I have small hands, so to me it is a delight to handle – especially with the front grip. I agree that some of your images lack zing, Wayne, and are too flat, but that’s nothing a bit of resetting or pp won’t help.

  7. Hi Wayne, I just stick to my X2 and various Ricohs. If I can lay a hand on a D Lux4 I’d go for it in a split second. Personally I can’t get used to sony imaging although I did own a A7 for a short time years ago. The images always seemed too hollow. You need to bond with a camera and its imaging if that is going to be a keeper. Thanks for sharing and stay safe

    • Being realistic, Jean, my excellent D-lux 4 is not going to come back into frequent use, so if you want one that cosmetically and functionally can in all honesty be described as “Like new” together with Alexander White’s excellent guide, let me know, and I’m sure we can do a deal. Mike has my e-mail address.

  8. Cheers Jean.
    It’s evident from your articles that the X2 and your Ricohs are your keepers. Continue to love them.
    I’ve wondered about trying one of the A7 models, but once again I baulk at the thought of learning of a new language menu.

    • There should be an article on Macfilos coming with my brief acquaintance with the A7. It is gone now as I did not bond with it. Down here a used Leica SL is cheaper than an A7 Mk3. If you can add a glass of your favourite lens it might be a worthy investment. With the adapter there are plenty of used R glass which are pretty amazing and cheap. My R glass and body went to finance my M8 system at the time. the R35mm & R50mm summicrons are stellar. I’ve also seen pretty decent elmaritR 28mm on the used market. O course you lose the AF lenses if you go that way.

  9. I was researching this camera last night and then came across your article. I’ve read mixed reviews on Amazon and after reading your thoughts think I might give it a miss and look for an alternative pocketable travel camera. I’m looking for a take everywhere camera with good photo quality but it has to be pocketable otherwise I could just bring my Fujifilm X-T3 along. The Sony RX100 series fit the bill size wise but some of the reviews I’ve read mentioned about high noise levels, maybe my expectations are too high for a 1″ sensor. Guess I’ll just have to keep looking and in the mean time I’ll use my phone for the occasional photo whilst on lockdown dog walks!

    • My experience is that the Sony’s ISO performance is good for a 1in sensor. I own it because of its size, the fact that it does fit in a pocket for those occasions when I don’t want to carry a bag or a bigger camera. I agree that once you move to a larger body there are many alternatives. The Ricoh GR is also highly pocketable but, of course, it has a fixed 28mm lens so is rather specialised. I certainly wouldn’t dismiss the RX100+++ out of hand.

      • Hello Nick.
        Don’t let my article hold you back from trying one of the RX100 series. They do provide excellent images from their 1” sensor, and they are truly compact. Many people love them.
        As I implied in the article, the fact that I didn’t gel with it likely says more about me than it does about the camera.
        Go for it. They are actually an amazing little piece of kit.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.