Written by: Meg Griffin
Photography by: Meg Griffin
A travel camera that works great on land AND underwater? Yes, please!
The Sony DSC-RX100 VII is the newest iteration of the popular compact RX100 series. Marketed as a Pocket A9, it has a new stacked CMOS sensor created with the idea of faster, more accurate autofocus and high speed photographing without any blackout that, before now, was only offered on their high-end mirrorless cameras.
One of the main reasons this camera is so impressive for travel is the truly compact form factor mixed with best-in-class image quality. The 1” sensor and 24-200mm zoom lens give this camera a competitive edge over your smartphone during your land adventures and the articulating screen paired with the addition of a microphone jack make this a great camera for vlogging. If you do enjoy partaking in the occasional safari, the 24-200mm (35mm equivalent) lens impresses for both landscapes and for animals at some distance. The Sony RX100 VII fits the bill as a very versatile camera that’s easy to slip in your pocket or backpack.
For underwater use, a 200mm focal length may not be used frequently, but add a macro wet lens like Nauticam’s SMC-1 in combination with this long zoom and the macro results can be excellent. The 24mm wide-angle end of the zoom works well for wide portrait use underwater, and there are wide-angle wet lens options for many of the housings that support this camera to expand that field of view considerably.
We carry three housings for the Sony RX-100 VII: Ikelite, Fantasea, and Nauticam
Ikelite Underwater Housing for Sony Cyber-shot RX100 Mark VI, VII
The Ikelite housing is a lightweight, polycarbonate housing that utilizes the full zoom range of the Sony’s 24-200mm lens. With the use of the press-fit Macro Adapter # 9306.82 you can utilize any macro wet lens with a 67mm thread. For wide-angle photography, you can simply slide on the optional WD-4 Wide Angle Dome # 6430.4 for a .75x conversion or swap out the port completely with the DC3 6” dome port #6403 to achieve your full 24mm field of view you are used to seeing in air. This would be the ticket if you enjoy split shots. It is important to note that if you intend to use an Ikelite rx100 VI housing that was created before the release of the RX100vii you might need to make some minor adjustments to the housing before it functions properly with the rx100vii camera.
Fantasea FRX100 VI Limited Edition Housing for Sony RX100 VI/VII
The Fantasea housing is a polycarbonate housing that features a compact, ergonomic design. The housing is manufactured to use the lens within the 24-66mm focal range, making it ideal to use with external wet wide-angle lenses such as the Fantasea UWL-09F Wide Angle Wet Mate Lens or other large sensor wide angle optics that fit a 67mm thread. There is also the opportunity to use a macro wet lens on the 67mm threaded port at the 66mm focal length, making this rx100VII housing ready to “do everything”; assuming the photographer is up for the task.
Nauticam NA-RX100VII Housing
The NA-Rx100VII housing is machined aluminum with an anodized finish. A rigid aluminum housing allows for more compact dimensions and greater freedom to position controls ergonomically. With their interchangeable m50 port system, it provides the ability to utilize the RX100VII’s full zoom range with the standard port and additional m67 accessories with the N50 short port. If you want to keep the Standard port and retain your zoom range you can use the Nauticam m67 flip diopter holder with the Super Macro Converter-1 (SMC-1) to reduce your minimum focal distance by about 10x at 200mm, making it an excellent macro combination. The N50 short port with bayonet mount allows for the use of Nauticam’s bayonet mounting system for the ultimate versatile system. Nauticam’s Wet Wide Lens-1 can be used for super-wide-angle and then get swapped out for the Compact Macro Converter-2 (CMC-2) for a great macro solution all on the same dive. The optional pro package comes with a tray, two handles with ball mounts and a vacuum valve to ensure your housing is properly sealed.
Some takeaways on the RX100 VII with the NA-RX100VII Housing
I recently took the RX100 VII in the NA-RX100VII to the Blue Heron Bridge in West Palm Beach Florida to see how this exciting new camera performs underwater. I took the system on two dives, each with a different configuration; the first was the standard port with the M67 flip adaptor and the SMC-1 and the second was the short port with the bayonet mount adaptor, the WWL-1, and the CMC-2.
During the first dive, I enjoyed the ease of the flip adaptor paired with the SMC-1. You cannot use the SMC-1 with the RX100 VII’s widest focal length of 24mm, therefore you’ll need to zoom in to around 50mm to get rid of any vignetting. Each focal length after that provided a different depth of field and minimum focus distance. This allowed me to cater my minimum focal distance to the individual critter; whether or not they would allow me to get close and how large or small they were. I enjoyed this freedom that I don’t typically get when working with a prime lens combined with a wet macro lens and it was a nice change of pace.
The second dive was a very different experience with the N50 short port, WWL-1, and CMC-2.
The WWL-1 created a beautiful 130-degree field of view and sharpened my wide-angle imagery, especially in the corners. The CMC-2 with the limited zoom range to 65mm did not give me as much versatility with my macro photography as the previous configuration had, but it was easier to use than the SMC-1 and of course, I was able to switch from Wide-angle, to portrait, to macro. For this configuration to work best I would recommend setting the Memory Recalls on the Sony to 28mm and 65mm so you can quickly jump between these two focal lengths. This eliminates any vignetting on the wide end and prevents the lens from running into the glass while zooming with the short port.
During my time with this camera, I had very few issues with the autofocus, even when photographing on a day with a lot of particulates in the water. I mainly used single-point autofocus for my macro photography but I did test out the new and improved continuous tracking autofocus and was pleasantly surprised with how well it works. It does struggle in areas of low contrast so a focus light certainly helps keep it working properly and I wouldn’t recommend using this mode for macro photography due to the short working distances that the wet macro lenses provide. This setting would probably work best with wide-angle photography in blue water though: you might be pleasantly surprised!
Overall this little camera has a lot going for it. If I was going to take this camera for macro photography, I would probably reach for the standard port with the SMC-1, but for any other type of dive I would probably end up using the short port with the WWL-1 and either CMC-1 or CMC-2 (or both!). I like the versatility that you get in such a compact package with either option and as far as compacts go- this is about as advanced as it gets right now.