I’ve been searching for the perfect “carry around” camera for years. Sometimes I try to make my daily use cameras work for that, other times I buy specific ones for the task. To say I’ve owned a lot of cameras is an understatement. To date I’ve owned… an Olympus E-Volt something, Canon 20d, 5d, 5d mark II, 5d mark III, 5d mark IV, 6d mark II, G10, G12, Fuji X100, X100t, X-Pro 1, X-Pro 2, Sony RX10 II, and that’s not to mention the 10 or so video cameras. When I heard about the RX100 VII from Sony I knew I’d be pre-ordering one and trying to slot it in as my carry around camera. That position had currently been held by the Fuji X-Pro 2 and a DJI Osmo Pocket. But I was looking to get a little more range from the focal length, better quality video, and a smaller form factor.
On paper, the RX 100 VII fits the carry around title perfectly. It’s small enough to fit in your pocket, has a 24-200mm focal range, shoots 4k in slog as well as some solid slow motion. It’s so small, it’s almost too small. The day I received it, I immediately hopped on Amazon and ordered a little grip for it. Otherwise it was sure to hit the ground at some point. But that size means it is easy to have on you to grab those family photos, but robust enough to leave the DSLR at home for a vacation trip. Which is exactly what I used it for this past week.
My wife and I were taking a trip to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone and I knew I wanted to be able to hike around and just experience things without the camera being a hinderance. I’ve traveled the world with my Canon DSLRs and at times, they just get in the way of being present. The RX100 VII didn’t seem like it would be that way. Plus, I’m no wildlife photographer. I wasn’t planning to stake out a spot and wait for animals to come by. I was planning to move around, get some snap shots to put together into a book, and enjoy some time away.
In some aspects the RX100 VII shined at that, in others I found it annoying. First off, the positives… as I said above, the biggest thing is being able to have a small camera that can shoot high quality stills and video without getting in the way. This camera hit all the marks with that. While we were hiking, it was easy to have in a small side pocket of my backpack or in my pocket and pull it out to grab those little moments. It was also nice to be able to have sitting in the cup holder in the car while we drove so I could quickly pull over and grab a shot of some bison or elk. I could have done the same stuff with my DSLR, but it would have gotten in the way more and been more of a task. I have some great shots I wouldn’t have gotten with my other setup, just because I was able to always have the Sony at hand.
That’s not to say it’s all positives. I found myself annoyed with the camera on a number of instances. In bright sunlight, it’s annoying to shoot with. It’s hard to see the back screen and the pop up EVF is awesome, but I constantly found myself having to hold the camera with one hand and use the other hand to block out the sun. I also found it hard to tell if things were in focus. With the standard autofocus, and the amount of grass/trees/etc in the frames it felt like the focus would be all over the place. I’d switch to single point and that would help, but with the screen on back I still couldn’t tell what had sharp focus until I got back to the office. That was probably my biggest annoyance. I don’t know if it’s a resolution issue or my eyes issue, but I’ve got to figure out how to tell what’s sharp with the LCD more than I could on this trip.
With the size of the camera, I wish they could add a dial to the top for shutter speed / ISO in manual mode. I found myself using auto much more than I usually would because the little wheel on the back for the shutter speed was annoying to use. I imagine I’ll get more comfortable with it as I use the camera more. But my favorite camera ever, the Fuji X-Pro2 had a dial on top for shutter speed and ISO that made it much simpler to use in manual mode. I wish Sony could implement something like that.
All in all, I’m quite pleased with how the camera worked out and I know I’ll only enjoy it more as I get used to it. It hits all the marks for an every day, carry around camera that can capture great moments without getting in the way of actually experiencing them as well.