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Sony’s RX100 VI adds a long zoom lens to the best compact camera

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RX100 VI Image: Sony

Sony’s RX100 series cameras have been some of the best point-and-shoots you can get over the past few years. Today, Sony is introducing a new model, the RX100 VI, with one particularly notable change: a really long zoom lens.

The previous model had a 24-70mm equivalent lens, which didn’t take you much farther than the human eye. This new model reaches from 24mm to 200mm equivalent, providing a huge magnification. It’ll make the camera a much better choice for, say, photographing a student at a graduation ceremony.

In exchange for the zoom, the camera’s aperture is changing from f/1.8-2.8 to the somewhat slower f/2.8-4.5. But Sony says it’s improved the lens’s optical image stabilization, which is now supposed to add four stops of speed. That’ll theoretically make up for the change, and it’ll certainly be necessary if you’re going to capture a sharp photo while zoomed that far in.

A lot of other core specs are staying the same as the fifth-generation model. The RX100 VI still has a 1-inch sensor with a 20.1-megapixel resolution. It has 315 phase-detect autofocus points, a shooting speed up to 24 fps, high-speed filming of up to 960 fps, and the ability to capture 4K video with full pixel readout (meaning there’s no cropping). This time around, the camera is also offering support for HDR video by allowing recording in Sony’s HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) picture profile. And it’s supposed to have improved eye tracking, with up to double the performance.

RX100 VI Image: Sony

The camera still has its retractable 2.35 million-dot OLED viewfinder and a rear screen that can flip all the way up — for selfies and vlogging — or tilt 90 degrees down. This year, Sony has made it a touchscreen, which should make controlling the camera a bit easier. You’ll be able to tap to focus and immediately take a picture.

There are some disappointments here for fans of the camera line. The RX100 V has become increasingly popular as a vlogging camera, but it’s lacked some key features — most importantly, a microphone port. That’s still absent this year, either because Sony wants to encourage vloggers to buy into its other camera lines or because this camera is really aimed at a consumer audience.

On top of that, this camera is just really, really expensive. It’ll start shipping next month for $1,200, pushing past the $1,000 price of the prior two generations. This is a camera that will take better pictures than your phone, but it will still come in short on image quality compared to something like Sony’s A6300, which is much bigger but available for only $900. With its new zoom lens, the RX100 VI offers something different from what you can get on your phone, and that alone might be enough to get consumers’ interest — so long as they can get past the price.