Who still needs a dedicated camera when smartphone cameras are now so damned excellent?
Professionals and hobbyists are two answers that come to mind. Among those group, Sony’s been leading the pack for years: Its Alpha series of mirrorless cameras (with both full-frame and APS-C-size image sensors) and RX100 point-and-shoot models are generally well regarded, and now the company is ready to further its lead.
Meet the new high-performance A500 mirrorless and the RX100 V point-and shoot.
Let’s get price out of the way. Sony’s new cameras are not cheap. The A6500 will cost $1,400, and the RX100 V will cost $1,000 when they ship in November — definitely not throwaway money, that’s for sure.
Small and versatile
The RX100 changed the point-and-shoot game with its super-compact size and large 1-inch image sensor capable of excellent low-light performance.
The new RX100 V keeps the same pocketable design and overhauls the innards. The camera is powered by a new 1-inch image sensor that captures 20.1-megapixel still photos at up to 24 frames per second (fps) on continuous shooting with autofocus and auto-exposure. It sounds like a real workhorse for action photography and more than equipped for snapping pics of your kid running around the soccer field.
The camera’s got 315 phase-detection AF points that cover 65 percent of the sensor to lock onto subjects in 0.05 seconds. Translation: No more waiting for the autofocus to hunt around for targets to focus on.
The RX100 V also builds on the RX100 IV’s 4K video recording; it now works like the A6300 mirrorless camera, oversampling footage with “full pixel readout without pixel binning” and then downsampling it down to an sharper 4K video in the end.
Additionally, Sony has doubled the 960 fps slow-motion recording duration.
Otherwise, the RX100 V works just like the RX100 V. It has a 1.2 million-dot resolution 3-inch LCD on the back that flips up 180-degrees. Because selfies.
The awesome pop-up electronic viewfinder still has a 2.35 million-dots resolution and from what I saw, it was bright and crisp.
On top of Wi-Fi and NFC, the camera reads QR codes… clearly no one told Sony QR codes aren’t cool or fun to use.
For shooting underwater, Sony’s got a new $350 waterproof housing that fits the new RX100 V and all previous models. It’s…pretty bulky.
Sony’s A6000 series mirrorless cameras have been a huge runaway success for the company. The A6000, released in 2014 was damn near perfect and the A6300 released earlier this year brought 4K and even faster autofocusing.
The new 24.2-megapixel A6500 looks virtually identical to the A6500. Yes, it’s faster and can autofocus on subjects in 0.05 seconds, has an expanded buffer for shooting up to 307 fps and improved 4K video recording performance (especially in low light), but it’s still got an APS-C-size sensor and works with all existing E-mount lenses.
The camera’s biggest upgrade is the addition of a touchscreen.
Can we get an about time?
You can tap on the back of the screen to autofocus and when you have the electronic viewfinder help up to your eye, you can slide your thumb on the touchscreen as a touchpad to adjust focus.
The latter is a little awkward, but it works. I’m disappointed the touchscreen can’t be used to control camera settings; tapping on the camera setting icons does nothing.
Also new is in-body 5-axis stabilization to combat shaky hands. Sony says the stabilization will smooth out footage from any lens attached to the A6500’s body. That should include DSLR lenses that are connected to the camera using a lens mount adapter.
Sony’s upping the ante once again, but I have to wonder if they even needed to so soon. The RX100 IV and A6300 are still pretty overkill for a lot of regular consumers.
Having just purchased the A6300 when it launched this year, I’m a little annoyed Sony’s already got a replacement; the camera’s touchscreen is nice, but worth an extra $400? My first impression is no. Sure, the A6500 has other improvements, but my A6300 is already a beast. But I’ll reserve all final judgments on Sony’s new cameras when I can test them out more thoroughly for a review.