Buying Guides

Comparing Sony RX100 VA / VI / VII for Underwater Photography

Ever since Sony released the first RX100 camera, they have become a market leader in the high-end compact camera niche. Since then Sony have consistently released new and improved models annually (only skipping 2017). Naturally, this amazing little camera was adopted quickly among divers and underwater photographers, thanks to its impressive capabilities and ultra compact size. Numerous underwater housings have been released for each new model that came out. Thankfully, the physical design remained the same across several models, making life easier for underwater housing manufacturers.

Now that there are already 7 models released, with most of them still in the market and the others available as used on eBay and such, it has a become slightly confusing for the average diver to figure out whether to get the newest and shiniest model, or perhaps an older model would suffice for their needs. The most relevant comparison to date would be the Sony RX100 VII vs Sony RX100 VI and RX100 VA.

I hope that after reading this article, you’ll have a better grasp on the differences between the different models and it’ll be easier to decide which Sony RX100 model is best for your underwater photography needs!

First, let’s look at the major differences between the 7 models (Table courtesy of Wikipedia):

Model RX100 RX100 II RX100 III RX100 IV RX100 V RX100 VI RX100 VII
Sensor 20.1Mpx Exmor CMOS
13.2mm x 8.8mm
20.1Mpx Exmor R BSI-CMOS
13.2mm x 8.8mm
20.1Mpx Exmor RS
Stacked BSI-CMOS
13.2mm x 8.8mm
Processor Bionz Bionz X
Lens Focal Length 10.4 – 37.1mm
(Equiv. 28-100mm)
8.8 – 25.7mm
(Equiv. 24-70mm)
9.0 – 72mm
(Equiv. 24-200mm)
Lens max Aperture f/1.8-4.9 f/1.8-2.8 f/2.8-4.5
Shutter Speed 30 ~ 1/2000 sec 30 ~ 1/32000 sec
Max Continuous Shooting 10 frames/s 16 frames/s 24 frames/s 20 frames/s
Video record format MPEG-4, AVCHD (28 Mbit/s)
Full HD
MPEG-4, AVCHD (28 Mbit/s),
XAVC S (50 Mbit/s) Full HD
MPEG-4, AVCHD (28 Mbit/s),
XAVC S (100 Mbit/s) 4K video
Video Sampling Line skipping Full-pixel readout
Slow Motion Video Record No Yes
(240, 480, 960fps)
Yes
(250, 500, 1000fps)
Professional Video edit No Picture Profile w/CineGamma,
Timecode, Userbit
Custom minimum shutter spd.
at Auto ISO
No Yes
AF Points 25 315 357
AF Type Contrast Detect Phase Detect
Flexible Spot with Lock on AF No Yes
Continuous Eye-AF No Yes
LCD 3 inch fixed 3 inch tilting (+90/-40 deg.) 3 inch tilting (+180/-45 deg.) 3 inch tilting (+180/-90 deg.)
EVF No Optional Built-in
Hot shoe No Multi-Interface No
Built-in ND filter No 3-stops No
WiFi & NFC No Yes
Battery-life
(CIPA standards)
330 shots 350 shots 320 shots 280 shots 220 shots 240 shots 260 shots
Weight 240g 281g 290g 298g 299g 301g 302g
Dimension 102 x 58 x 36 mm 102 x 58 x 38 mm 102 x 58 x 41 mm 102 x 58 x 43 mm
Announced Jun 6, 2012 Jun 27, 2013 May 28, 2014 Jun 10, 2015 Oct 6, 2016 [19] Jun 5, 2018[20] Jul 25, 2019

The major considerations for us underwater photographers when choosing a camera are:

  1. Type of lens and zoom range
  2. Autofocus
  3. Video quality
  4. Image quality
  5. Battery life
  6. Price
  7. Underwater housings available

The rest of the features are important as well, since we will likely be using this camera topside as well, but for the sake of simplicity, on this article we’ll only discuss features that are relevant for underwater photography.

Sony rx100 mark 7Sony RX100 VII (Mark 7) for Underwater Photography

This is the current flagship. Sony’s newest and best model yet, just released in July 2019.

Type of lens and zoom range

The RX100 VII features a 24-200mm zoom lens, which we like, but makes it harder to support underwater. This means that you may have to give up some zoom underwater, or use pricier interchangeable ports to support it fully. depending on the housing you choose to get.

Autofocus

This model is all about Auto Focus. If you thought the Auto Focus was good on the previous models, prepare to be amazed. Sony’s ultra fast AF focuses in 0.02s (in optimal conditions) and includes Eye tracking (even for animals! Should work on fish. Still needs to be tested). Sony uses a hybrid AF system, combining 357 focal-plane phase-detection AF points, covering a total of 68% of the frame, with 425 contrast-detection AF points. This practically guarantees your subject would be tack sharp, in focus, every time.

Video Quality

On the Mark 7, Sony has introduced 4K HDR capabilities, also known as HLG. This feature is only compatible with HDR ready screens though. Sony’s AF mentioned before ensures perfect focus throughout the video, especially if utilizing the excellent subject tracking.

Since vlogging is the new trend, Sony added an external mic jack, full 180 screen tilt and the ability to shoot vertical videos that look great on smartphones. Perhaps we’ll start seeing a new and peculiar trend of underwater vlogging 😂

Image stabilization has been improved even more with the “Active” mode for a gimbal-like stabilization for shooting while walking. Underwater this translates to smoother video even when tracking a fast moving shark, elusive fish or a magnificent manta ray passing by while awkwardly kicking our human fins to keep up with our subject.

The Mark 7 finally allows you to remove the 5-min limit on 4K videos, potentially being able to shoot videos of over 90min without overheating. This is quite a significant upgrade.

Image Quality

The Mark 7 uses a newly designed 1″ 20.1MP Exmor RS Stacked BSI-CMOS sensor, based on the one we’ve seen on the last 4 models, which produces amazing image quality with excellent color reproduction.

The Bionz X image processor improves image quality even more, by improving higher perceived resolution and lower noise levels.

The advanced technology of the sensor + image processor allows you to use high ISO with confidence and minimal noise levels even in low lighting conditions, such as deeper or twilight dives.

Battery Life

Unfortunately, all this amazing technology comes at a price. The battery doesn’t last very long, though it has been improved on the Mark 7 from the two previous models (260 shots vs 240 and 220). From our experience it should last for 2 dives when shooting moderately. If you’re a trigger-happy diver and shoot hundreds of shots every dive, I recommend changing batteries after every dive. Spare batteries are your best friends when using the RX100 cameras.

Price

Ufff. That’s a soft spot. Just like the previous section – all this technology cames at a price. The RX100 Mark 7 sells for $1200 USD (as of Sep 2019). That’s a hefty price tag for any camera, especially when considering that this is only a compact.

It’s not an easy decision to make, since these days you can easily get a DSLR or mirrorless camera for half that price. But the unique value proposition of the RX100 7 is advanced tech in a tiny, pocket size camera. It’s safe to say that this is the very best camera in it’s size class. Also, when you take the affordable underwater housing price as well into consideration, the full bundle is pretty good value compared to a DSLR or mirrorless.

Underwater Housings Available

The RX100 VII was just released, so we are still waiting for manufacturers to announce whether or not the previous housings support this model or a new one will be released. However, we can confirm that Nauticam, Fantasea and Ikelite will all support the RX100 VII.

Ikelite Underwater Housing for Sony RX100 VI / VII


Sony RX100 mark 6Sony RX100 VI (Mark 6) for Underwater Photography

The predecessor for the RX100 VII. The RX100 Mark 6 will remain relevant for a while, being the first RX100 with an ultra zoom lens designed to compete directly with smartphones, and consumers will benefit for the price drop since the release of the Mark 7.

Type of lens and zoom range

The RX100 VI (Mark 6) is the first RX100 camera to feature an ultra zoom (x8.6) lens. Sony has made a conscious and probably smart decision to set their camera apart from smartphones by implementing a longer zoom lens which smartphones still cannot compete with. The new lens provides a focal range of 24-200mm, which we’re not used to seeing on underwater-compatible cameras. This produces a whole new set of challenges for housing manufacturers and isn’t necessarily good news for divers, but definitely useful topside.

This change alone has led many divers to fall back to the RX100 V (or the newer version that has replaced it – RX100 VA).

Autofocus

While not as good as the RX100 VII, the AF on the Mark 6 is still incredibly impressive. The hybrid AF system utilizes 315 phase-detection points and 25 contrast-detection points, which combined produce a focus speed of 0.03s in optimal conditions. Subject tracking works beautifully, and human eye tracking is available, though for photos only, whereas on the Mark 7 it works for video as well and improved to track animal eyes as well.

Video Quality

The Mark 6 allows you to shoot stunning 4K HDR video, just like the Mark 7. The main difference here is that you don’t get the advanced vlogging features described previously, which for most of us aren’t very useful. Autofocus is still excellent in videos and only lacks the eye tracking feature.

A cool feature that Sony implemented here is special focus effects such as slow-focus by adjusting AF speed.

Image Quality

No surprises here – image quality is phenomenal. One thing you can expect from all Sony RX100 models is exceptional image quality, great low-light capabilities and excellent color reproduction. Sony’s sensors are known to be among the best in the world, if not no.1 and it only gets better with every new model released.

Battery Life

Battery life is still a weak spot on the RX100 Mark 6 as well, with only 240 photos per battery charge. I strongly recommend getting spares and replacing after every dive for heavy shooters like myself. I hate getting stuck without battery at the end of the dive. It’s practically guaranteed that the moment you run out of battery, a whale shark riding a hammerhead will pass by while being chased by a an albino orca…

Price

Since the release of the RX100 Mark 7, the price has dropped slightly on the Mark 6, to $1100 USD (as of Sep 2019). While the $100 difference might still not be enough to persuade you to choose the Mark 6 over the 7, we may see additional price drops soon which will make it worth the compromise.

Underwater Housings Available

Nauticam, Ikelite and Fantasea all have housings available for the RX100 VI. The major issue here has been the zoom lens.

Fantasea decided to tackle it by maintaining a similar housing design and limiting zoom to 66mm inside the housing.

Fantasea Underwater Housing for Sony RX100 VI

Nauticam have implemented their N50 interchangeable port system to make sure the entire zoom range is supported in the most optimal way, as well as wide angle wet lenses without vignetting.

Nauticam Underwater Housing for Sony RX100 VI

Ikelite support the full range of zoom as well by default and offer an optional wide angle port that allows you to use wide angle wet lenses but limits zoom to 24-70mm, similar to Nauticam.

Ikelite Underwater Housing for Sony RX100 VI / VII


Important Note for RX100 III / IV / V users

Sony has released a firmware update for the RX100 III / IV / V models, which solves the annoying issue which wouldn’t allow you to turn off the flash when it’s popped up. It also adds underwater WB which works great. Read all about it here.


sony rx100 mark 5Sony RX100 V / VA (Mark 5) for Underwater Photography

The Sony RX100 V is the last model to feature the original 24-70mm lens. Last year, Sony issued an updated model known as RX100 VA, which has replaced the RX100 V entirely. Since the original V is no longer available, we will refer mainly to the RX100 VA in this section.

The RX100 VA has several improvements over the RX100 V, including a larger buffer, proxy movie mode, Zone AF area mode, 3 Auto WB options and variable size spot metering. These are mostly firmware upgrades that came with the RX100 VI, but without the hardware upgrades.

Read our full review of the Sony RX100 V Underwater

Type of lens and zoom range

The RX100 VA features Sony’s 24-70mm lens. The main advantage of this lens is that it’s easier to support in underwater housings and accepts pretty much any wide angle wet lens without a problem. No port change required.

It’s also a much faster lens than the new version, allowing you to shoot at f/1.8 on 24mm, making it a perfect choice for low light shots.

Critics have compared this to the Canon G7X II’s 24-100mm lens, saying it’s not as good for macro photography since you don’t get as much magnification. However, Sony has made up for that with exceptional image quality, so that even when cropping slightly to achieve the same magnification – the end result is comparable if not better than Canon.

Autofocus

Autofocus on the RX100 VA is excellent. Even though Sony uses phase-detection only on this model, it still has 315 points which enable the camera to focus within 0.05s, which counts for a split second in my book.

Subject tracking is available and works flawlessly, whether shooting video or stills.

Video Quality

The RX100 VA shoots stunning 4K video at 30p. It also allows you to shoot super slow motion videos at 960fps, for double the recording time of the RX100 IV. Lock-On AF if available during video shooting for excellent subject tracking, remembering your subject even if leaves the frame for a few seconds.

Image Quality

Again, image quality is phenomenal. To the untrained eye and in most situations, image quality is about the same on all of the 3 recent models. Stunning colors, great performance in low light and tack sharp.

Battery Life

This is probably the worst performer in battery life from all the RX100 series. With a mere 220 shots per battery cycle, the RX100 VA goes through batteries very fast, especially when shooting video. Get spare batteries and change them between dives. You’ll thank me later.

Price

This is the highlight of the RX100 VA. While not as affordable as its direct competitor – Canon G7X II, the RX100 VA is still available for $900 USD. Sure, it’s not cheap, but you get to enjoy all the advantages of the RX100 series – excellent image quality, lightning fast AF, 4K video and more for $300 less than the newest model. That’s almost the price of the Fantasea underwater housing. If you’re budget conscience but still want to get the best compact for underwater, this is an excellent choice.

Underwater Housings Available

The Sony RX100 VA is supported by Fantasea, Ikelite and Nauticam, in the same housings that fit the RX100 III, IV and V.

Fantasea FRX100V Underwater Housing

New FRX100 VA Vacuum Underwater Housing

Nauticam NA-RX100V Underwater Housing

Ikelite 6116.15 Underwater Housing


Sony RX100 Mark IVSony RX100 IV (Mark 4) for Underwater Photography

The Sony RX100 IV was the first in the series to introduce 4K, high speed slow motion video, stacked sensor and more serious upgrades compared to the Mark III. It’s actually quite similar to the RX100 V, which improved on the mark IV mainly in focus speed on video, longer HFR clips, larger buffer and several smaller upgrades.

The RX100 IV is generally quite similar to the Mark V, so if you find a good deal on it, go for it!

Check out these sample photos taken with the RX100 Mark IV underwater

Type of lens and zoom range

The RX100 IV features the same 24-70mm lens found on the Mark III, IV and V.

Autofocus

The RX100 IV uses contrast detection AF with 25 focus points only. While it’s very fast for stills, it doesn’t focus as fast as the newer models when shooting video.

Video Quality

As mentioned above, the Sony RX100 IV is the first model to introduce 4K video and high speed slow motion video. Back then this was incredibly impressive for such a compact camera. Now we’ve gotten used to 4K in pretty much every device, including our smartphones, as well as high speed slow motion. That being said, its video capabilities are definitely on par with newer technology which is available in 2019, so you won’t feel limited in any way.

The RX100 IV can do 4K video at 30fps and Super Slow Motion (HFR) at 960/1,000fps, 480/500fps, or 240/250fps. Image quality is nearly Full HD at 240/250 fps, and HD at 480/500 fps

Image Quality

The 1.0″-type Exmor RS CMOS image sensor is almost identical to the one found on the RX100 V and VI, so image quality is superb, low light capabilities are excellent and you can expect crystal clear, sharp images.

Battery Life

Battery life on the Sony RX100 IV is actually pretty good. Battery life is the one thing that wasn’t improved in newer models of the RX100 series, so it gets better as the model is older. The RX100 IV can shoot 280 photos on a single charge. We still recommend a spare battery, but this one can probably last for 2 dives easily.

Price

As of 2019, the RX100 IV can be found for $800 USD, which is only slightly cheaper than the Mark V and corresponds with Sony’s tendency to drop the price of the previous model by $100 when a successor is released.

Underwater Housings Available

The Sony RX100 IV is identical to the RX100 V, so it fits in the same housings offered by Fantasea, Ikelite and Nauticam, which also fit the RX100 III.

Fantasea FRX100V Underwater Housing

New FRX100 VA Vacuum Underwater Housing

Nauticam NA-RX100V Underwater Housing

Ikelite 6116.15 Underwater Housing


Sony rx100 Mark 3Sony RX100 III (Mark 3) for Underwater Photography

The Sony RX100 III was the first camera to feature the bright 24-70mm f/1.8 – 2.8 lens that we know well from the IV and V models. It was also the first to feature the pop-up EVF, which became very popular and improved the topside shooting experience significantly.

While it doesn’t offer 4K shooting, it does shoot excellent Full HD 1080p which is more than enough for many and video quality was substantially improved from the RX100 II.

Read our full review on the Sony RX100 III Underwater

Type of lens and zoom range

The RX100 III features the same 24-70mm lens found on the Mark III, IV and V.

Autofocus

The RX100 III’s autofocus is a bit sluggish compared to newer models. It uses the same 25 point contrast detection AF system as the Mark IV, but doesn’t perform as well on this model. As long as you’re shooting stills and your subject is well-lit, you should get pretty fast focus. Once the light levels drop, so does AF performance. Subject tracking is available and works reasonably well, so does eye tracking.

Video Quality

The RX100 III can shoot Full HD, 1080p up to 60fps. This allows you to slow down your video x2 for a nice cinematic look. If you drop the resolution down to 720p, you can shoot at 120fps and slow it down x4.

Image Quality

The RX100 III uses a 1″ BSI Exmor R CMOS sensor, 20.1MP, which isn’t stacked as the newer models, but it is back-lit, which means great low light capabilities. Image quality on all Sony cameras is superb thanks to their amazing sensor technology which is used by many other manufacturers across different industries. The RX100 III is no different and image quality is excellent.

Battery Life

As we mentioned before, the older the RX100 model, the better battery performance you get! The RX100 III is substiantially better than the Mark IV, with 320 photos per battery cycle.

Price

As of 2019, the RX100 III is still available at various retailers for $600 USD. This is a very nice price tag for a Sony RX100 series camera, so we would definitely recommend it if you’re on a budget but want to enjoy the excellent image quality and performance of this tiny camera.

Underwater Housings Available

The Sony RX100 III is physically identical to the RX100 IV and V, so it fits in the same housings offered by Fantasea, Ikelite and Nauticam.

Fantasea FRX100V Underwater Housing

New FRX100 VA Vacuum Underwater Housing

Nauticam NA-RX100V Underwater Housing

Ikelite 6116.15 Underwater Housing


Sony RX100 II (Mark 2) and Sony RX100 (Mark 1) for Underwater Photography

Read our review of the Sony RX100 Mark II Underwater

In 2019, these two models have become almost obsolete. They feature the older 28-100mm lens which isn’t nearly as nice as the new one, though it does have more zoom which is nice to have. It’s also still very bright at f/1.8 on the widest setting, but closes down fast as you zoom in to f/4.9.

Video quality is decent but lacks 4K and even the newer XAVC (50 Mbit) mode. It also lacks the full pixel readout available on newer models.

The Mark II is the only RX100 model that features a hot-shoe for various accessories, which is a big advantage for those who want to use an external flash or external mic.

You can find them for a very decent price either new or used. If you’re on a tight budget and you find a good deal on one of these, there are still housings available for it, such as the Ikelite one:

Ikelite Action Underwater Housing for RX100 I / II

Ikelite Underwater Housing for RX100 I / II

Conclusion

Whichever model you choose to get, you will love it. The Sony RX100 series has been a blessing for underwater photographers. Countless divers worldwide are producing amazing content around the world using this tiny and highly capable camera. We at Mozaik Underwater Cameras are very big fans of the RX100 cameras, have used all of the models ourselves and will continue testing out new Sony models as they roll out.

If you still need advice on the best Sony RX100 model for you, hit us up on the chat and we’d love to help!

Follow me!

Ran Mor

Sales and Marketing at Mozaik Underwater Cameras
Ran is a professional photographer for over 14 years. His passion for scuba diving and photography has pushed him to combine his profession and hobby and become a professional underwater photographer. Teaching is one of his greatest passions and over the years he has shared his experience with many divers and aspiring photographers. Along with his wife Danielle, an experienced Scuba Instructor, they have founded Dive and More, leading dive trips and UW photo workshops all over the world. Ran is also an electrical engineer and an avid internet marketing specialist.
Visit his personal portfolio at www.ranmorphoto.com.
Ran Mor
Follow me!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.