With many different tiers within its Alpha and Cyber-shot lines, Sony has made a habit of sharing a number of technologies designed for one type of model with others. From its processors and focusing systems down to a raft of sundry features, once you see it in one model there’s a good chance it will surface at some point elsewhere.
The RX100 V is a perfect example of this; a camera that’s far smaller than the likes of the a6500 but one that packs in so much tech that you may well be satisfied with what if offers over its beefier, heavier cousin. If you’re torn between the two, here’s a rundown of where the two differ and equal each other to help you decide.
Design and ergonomics
The RX100 V is clearly designed to offer a wealth of control inside the smallest and most streamlined body possible, and it will happily slip into all but the tightest pockets. The a6500, meanwhile, will probably only manage to squeeze inside a roomy coat pocket when paired with a short prime or pancake-type lens.
Of course, the whole point is that the a6500 can accept these additional optics, which should really be the first thing you think about when deciding which model will befit your style of shooting.
With a soap-bar-like design, models within the RX100 line have long been slated for their lacklustre handling, to the extent that many have chosen to lop on third-party grips. A tiny body also means small buttons and controls, so it’s a good idea to get your hands on it first to see whether this design doesn’t make operation awkward.
With its chunkier rubber grip and larger body, the a6500 provides more breathing space, while the further addition of a touchscreen is very welcome here. It’s a shame Sony opted not to include this on the RX100 V as this makes much better use of space on the back of such small-bodied cameras.
Also a shame is the fact that Sony doesn’t claim any dust or moisture resistance for the RX100 V’s body, something the a6500 features. It’ possible the camera’s design does not permit this, but when you consider its asking price you really don’t expect to see too many corners being cut.
The RX100 V’s 24-70mm lens may seem limited when compared with the options that can be mounted on the a6500, but the short focal length does at least help to keep the maximum aperture range to a respectable f/1.8-2.8.
While the difference in pixel count between the two models isn’t significant, the a6500’s larger APS-C sensor captures more light than the 1in stacked alternative inside the RX100 V, and this gives it a significant advantage where noise and dynamic range is concerned – something to mull over if you tend to shooting in atypical conditions.
That said, the respectably wide maximum aperture of the RX100 V’s lens means you don’t necessarily need to reach for the higher ISOs as light levels fall, which in turn will help you to produce cleaner and more faithful images than you may otherwise manage.
Both cameras sport a 0.39in OLED viewfinder with 2.36million dots, although the (35mm equivalent) 0.70x magnification of the a6500’s viewfinder is more generous than the 0.59x magnification offered on the RX100 V. The former camera also has a slightly longer eyepoint, which is definitely something to think about if you wear glasses.
The RX100 V’s optic incorporates an ND filter, something that’s not offered on the a6500, so it’s worth considering if you fancy capturing longer exposures on the fly, or if you want to continue using wide apertures in brighter conditions.
Another point of difference between the two concerns burst shooting. At full resolution, the a6500 can fire at 11fps, or 8fps if you want live view to carry on working throughout. The RX100 V, meanwhile, more than doubles this to 24fps, with auto-exposure and focus tracking soldiering on throughout.
On the subject of focus, while the RX100 V’s 315 phase-detect and 25 contrast-detect AF points cover around 65% of the frame, the 425 phase-detect and 169 contrast-detect AF points on the a6500 are stretched out further towards the peripheries – something to bear in mind you tend to call upon focus tracking.
The two cameras share many commonalities with regards to their video capabilities. Both output 4K UHD (3840 x 2160pixels) videos from oversampled footage (6K on the a6500 and around 5K on the RX100 V) and both use the full width of the sensor while recording.
When shooting 4K footage at 30fps, however, the a6500 applies a 1.23x crop factor to footage; otherwise, 24fps and 25fps 4K recording is possible in the Super 35mm format.
The two are also furnished with an assortment of supporting features such as S-Log and S-Gamut modes and the option to record at particularly high frame rates for slow-motion results, although only the a6500 employs the new Slow and Quick mode that provides finer control over frame rates between 1fps and 120fps to match whatever vision you may have for your recording.
If you’re planning on capturing anything other than casual, everyday footage, you’ll no doubt want to know that only the a6500 incorporates a mic socket at its side; the RX100 V can only record audio with its built-in stereo mic.
The a6500 may be the more flexible model out of the two – particularly for video – and is clearly better suited to more demanding scenarios, but the RX100 V has a handful of advantages that go some way to explaining why it’s one of the most desirable compacts currently around.
One less desirable aspect, however, is its price. While it may be significantly cheaper than the a6500, it’s expensive for a compact camera and won’t leave you much change from four figures. Fortunately, the continued availability of the previous Mark I, II, III and IV versions means that if you’re happy to sacrifice a few niceties, you can shave off some of the asking price by opting for one of the previous iterations.