Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV review
The Sony RX10 IV is an enthusiast-oriented bridge camera. What does that mean exactly? It's got a good quality zoom lens that can reach from an equiv. of 24mm to 600mm and uses a 1" sensor, which is about 5x larger than what's in most smartphones but still significantly smaller than the surface area of APS-C and full-frame sensors (the ones found in DSLRs and mirrorless cameras). The comparably smaller sensor makes it possible for the camera to offer such a long zoom range in such a reasonably-sized package.
It's also the first camera in this category to offer phase detect autofocus, something generally only found in high and mid-range sports-oriented ILCs. Pair that with a 24 fps burst rate and outstanding 4K, and the RX10 IV starts to look like the Swiss Army Knife of the camera world. So who is it for? Those seeking a combination of a fast burst shooting, reliable autofocus, 4K video capture and insane lens reach. In short, we see this camera appealing to folks splitting their time between stills and video shooting who need maximum reach, but require minimal gear.
Below we've broken down how the RX10 IV handles itself in some primary use cases.
|Edited to taste in ACR. Photo by Dan Bracaglia
ISO 800 | 1/500 sec | F4 | 350mm equiv.
The RX10 IV has a ton of appeal for travel: it packs everything you need into one body with no need to carry extra lenses. We do recommend purchasing a second battery though – battery life is decent and should get you through a day or two of shooting, but just in case, it's good to have a backup. The camera can be charged via USB but sadly does not ship with a standalone charger.
Of course the most tempting travel feature of this camera is its 24-600mm F2.4-4 zoom lens. Optically it is excellent given its enormous reach. That said, there are times this reviewer craved something a tad wider than 24mm. Similarly, I did not often find myself needing 600mm of reach.
Size-wise, the camera is no bigger or heavier than your average APS-C DSLR with a chunky lens attached. It's certainly not the lightest travel option, but it also should not weigh you down too much if you want its stills and video capabilities. Yours truly spent a whole day exploring the Santa Cruz boardwalk with it slung over a shoulder. I even played mini golf while wearing it and came in 2nd!
|Edited to taste in ACR. Photo by Richard Butler.
ISO 125 | 1/1000 sec | F3.2 | 70mm equiv.
This camera also has a lot of appeal for those wishing to photograph fast moving subjects: it can shoot at up to 24 fps with autofocus and auto exposure with a buffer of 249 Fine JPEGs. However, we found its medium burst speed of 10 fps to be more than fast enough for most subjects. Shooting at 24 fps can simply result in an overwhelming number of images – and even when using a very fast card, the camera partially locks up while the buffer clears (which can take a while).
In our AF testing at 24 fps the RX10 IV performed with a close-to-perfect hit rate when it came to maintaining focus on a moving subject using a single point. It did similarly well when following/maintaining focus on a moving subject using lock-on AF – Sony's version of subject tracking. There's no AF joystick, but the touchscreen can be used a touchpad when the camera is held to one's eye for quick, easy AF point placement.
All this points to an unusually capable sports camera, but there are drawbacks: When using AF-C there is no way to zoom when AF is engaged (either via a half pressed shutter or customized AF-On). This unfortunately limits the camera's use for sports or action shooters. Furthermore the motorized zoom can feel sluggish, especially when compared to a mechanical zoom ring. If you switch the zoom ring speed setting from 'standard' to 'quick,' a quarter turn of the ring will send it zooming from 24mm all the way to 600mm (or back), but it still takes several seconds to do so. The zoom rocker similarly feels not-fast-enough. The camera does offer Zoom Assist though, making it easier to stay with a moving subject.
Out-of-camera-JPEG. Photo by Scott Everett
The RX10 IV is capable of excellent image quality for a 1" sensor camera, but landscape shooters seeking resolution and dynamic range would be better off looking to a camera with a larger sensor, likely an interchangeable lens camera of some sort. And some landscape photographers will find 24mm not wide enough for their needs.
For the casual landscape or wildlife shooter, there's a lot going for the RX10 IV. For starters, the camera's dynamic range and resolution are likely sufficient. Plus it is weather-sealed and has built-in stabilization, which might eliminate the need to lug a tripod around. And obviously it packs an insane amount of lens into a reasonably small, light-weight package, especially when compared to an ILC + lens with similar reach.
|Out-of-camera-JPEG. Photo by Scott Everett
ISO 5000 | 1/100 sec | F3.5 | 95mm equiv.
We wouldn't necessarily recommend this camera if social photography – taking snaps of friends and family – is your primary aim. This is mostly because there are far more discreet, easy-to-carry options out there and let's be real, no one wants to be photographed at 600mm from across a dinner table. It's not that the camera isn't capable in these situations, it's more that the lens is overkill.
Still, the camera's Wide AF area mode does a remarkable job at prioritizing the most central or prominent subject in the frame. And if you use the Wide AF area in AF-C, the camera will track whatever it initially locks on to. The camera's 'Eye AF' function is also super handy and reliable. Simply assign the function to a button and mash that button whenever you want the camera to lock focus on an eye.
If you do use the RX10 IV for documenting friends/family, the camera's JPEGs look awesome and zapping them to your phone to share is fairly simple and straight forward.
Video: casual use
For the casual videographer or stills shooter who wants to dabble in video, the RX10 IV is a great choice. The 4K video looks excellent as does the Full HD, which can be recorded at 120p for a slo-motion effect in 'post' (see an example in the video above). Plus the image stabilization makes hand-held shooting easy, as long as you're not too zoomed in (we recommend a tripod for that).
The flip-out LCD and touch-to-focus functionality make racking focus between two points a real pleasure (there are three focus speeds you can choose from). And the camera rarely hunts when using autofocus in video mode. Unfortunately you can not use lock-on AF (subject tracking) when shooting 4K or 1080/120p.
Tracking is available at 1080/60p but must be turned on via the 'Center Lock-on AF,' option within the menus. This uses Sony's old tracking algorithm, as opposed to the lock-on options available in the AF Area menu (these are greyed out in movie mode).
The camera also has Sony's high frame rate video capture modes which we think are a ton of fun to mess with. They capture footage at 240, 480 or 960 fps (250, 500 or 1000 fps in PAL modes), with clips taken from increasingly low-res crops from the sensor. These clips can then be outputted at 60, 30 or 24p super slow-mo footage (50 or 25p in PAL). The lowered capture resolution and necessarily super-short shutter speeds both have an impact on image quality but you can get some results that almost no other camera can.
Video: advanced use
High end users will appreciate the camera's built-in microphone and headphone jack as well as the clean HDMI out. Plus there are a ton of pro-level video tools/features like class-leading S-Log2 for massive dynamic range capture, gamma display assist (that gives a 'corrected' preview when shooting Log), focus peaking, and zebras. Focus peaking now has three intensity settings to make it easier to see the peaking areas. And the camera now has a 'Proxy' shooting mode: capturing a 720p stream of video along 4K capture, which is quicker and easier to edit.
Downsides of using the RX10 IV for advanced video work include the lack of a built-in ND filter, something offered by the Sony RX10 II and Panasonic FZ2500. However, there is a 72mm filter thread on the front, so you can easily attach your own.
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