Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV review
When we reviewed the Sony RX10 III, we noted that while it is an extremely capable camera with a lens that is truly impressive, using the thing in the real world simply left us wanting more: menus were cluttered and confusing, there was no direct control for placing an AF point and the Contrast Detect AF system was prone to hunting.
With the RX10 IV, a lot of these user experience and reliability complaints have been addressed. The sensor comes from the RX100 V, bringing phase detect AF to the camera, which results in more reliable autofocus with almost no hunting. A touchscreen allows for painless AF point placement. The menus have also been updated to that of the Sony a9 and are less confusing to navigate. And the camera gains a higher degree of customization (though no additional buttons).
|Edited to taste in ACR. Photo by Dan Bracaglia
ISO 1000 | 1/500 sec | F4 | 214mm equiv.
But that's not all: capable of shooting 24 fps with autofocus and exposure, the RX10 IV is also significantly faster than the 5 fps offered by the RX10 III. This speed, combined with the updated AF system mean the RX10 IV can easily be used for photographing fast action in a way we've not really seen in this class of camera. Not only that, it offers the same excellent 4K video capture and plethora of high-level filmmaking tools and high frame rate modes as its predecessor. So is the RX10 IV the ultimate high-end, hybrid stills-video camera? And has Sony made enough changes for it to earn a gold award? Keep reading...
We've teamed up with Chris and Jordan, formerly of The Camera Store TV, to bring video reviews of select products to DPReview. Check out their video on the RX10 IV, shot on the RX10 IV, below.
Handling is still a mixed bag. The camera's grip is comfortable enough, and the weight is well-balanced but the build quality does not feel quite up to par given the high MSRP of the RX10 IV. When this series was priced around $1200, the build-quality made sense, but a $1700 camera should feel more solid/dense in hand and shouldn't have small mushy buttons.
That said, the addition of a touchscreen makes the RX10 IV infinitely more usable than its predecessor. Touch operation is snappy and responsive when being used to place an AF point. Users can also operate the touchscreen as a touchpad when their eye's to the finder – with tons of custom options to avoid accidentally moving a point with your nose or face. However, the touchscreen can not be used to navigate menus, even the function menu, which seems like an odd and arbitrary limitation.
The menus received an overhaul and now reflect that of the flagship Sony a9 which is a huge improvement. All the video settings are now organized in one place instead of spread across multiple menu. The camera also gains memory recall modes, allowing users to change a long list of settings on the fly, in one simple action. Users can now finally set a button to be AF-on, though there's really only one that makes sense: the AEL-button - all others are too difficult to reach. Speaking of, while there's a decent number of customizable buttons, most can not be comfortably be reached when shooting with the camera to your eye. This might mean you have to make a hard decision between assigning the AEL-button to AF-On or Eye-AF.
AF & Performance
|The RX10 III was prone to hunting in the dark, thanks to phase detect AF, the RX10 IV handles focusing in dimly lit scenarios much better. Out-of-camera JPEG. Photo by Richard Buttler
ISO 6400 | 1/400 sec | F4 |170mm equiv.
On paper the RX10 IV is among the most highly spec'd all-in-one cameras on the market and indeed it lives up to that expectation in real world shooting: autofocus performance from the 315 point phase detect AF system is truly impressive even at 24 fps. The camera can even track a moving subject with ease at this incredibly high burst rate. Plus, the buffer of 249 Fine JPEGs is adequate for shooting action. It's not pro-level sports camera good, but it'll go toe-to-toe with just about anything else at this price.
Sadly, despite its fast burst and excellent AF, users can not zoom the lens while also maintaining focus on a subject in AF-C (either via a half pressed shutter or using a button set to AF-On). This is a pretty big limitation for serious sports and action shooters. Also a shame: the camera's lock-on subject tracking can not be used when shooting 1080/120p video or when capturing proxy footage.
Sony's AF modes are still a confusing, redundant mess though and could really benefit from being refined and simplified. For instance, as we pointed out in the RX100 V review, there are multiple AF area modes duplicated under a sub-option called 'Lock-on AF' when you the camera set to AF-C. Why Sony, why? That being said, the default 'Wide' AF area mode does a surprisingly good job at prioritizing the dominant subject. And Eye AF, something we recommend customizing a key to for fast access, is very reliable.
Raw image quality from the RX10 IV doesn't look terribly different than that of its predecessor, which also uses a 20MP 1" chip (albeit one without phase detect built in). This is a good thing because the RX10 III has super solid image quality in Raw.
JPEG performance is also slightly improved: the RX10 IV does a better job retaining detail, especially at higher ISOs. But noise reduction still tends to be aggressive and can result in smeared color. We recommend switching the camera's 'High ISO NR' setting to 'Low' for best results. Likewise, if you plan on shooting JPEG only, consider switching the color profile from 'Standard' to 'Vivid' for more punchy images. Of course for best results, shoot and process Raw.
The RX10 IV is a sweet package for videographers. Optical image stabilization allows for hand-held shooting in 4K and Full HD, while the Active IS mode, available when shooting 1080p only, is also quite good. Plus the inclusion of both a microphone and headphone jack allow for improved audio capture. The camera also offers an S-Log2 profile for maximum dynamic range. And the high quality 24-600mm equiv. lens only adds to its filmmaking versatility.
Both UHD and Full HD video quality are impressive. The camera's fast readout mitigates rolling shutter, even when shooting very fast moving subjects, and its oversampling provides excellent detail. Plus the variety of High Frame Rate video options are both cool to try and pretty useful. The camera can also capture native 1080/120p for high quality slow-motion video delivered in post.
The Final Word
|Out-of-camera JPEG. photo by Richard Buttler
ISO 500 | 1/800 sec | F4 | 360mm equiv.
The Sony RX10 IV is – as of publishing – is the most wholly capable all-in-one camera package money can buy. It is truly a fully-realized RX10 III and the perfect option for anyone seeking a camera that can handle high-quality stills and video duty with total ease. From run-and-gun video shooters, to multimedia news reporters to travelers seeking a camera that can do it all: the RX10 IV is for you.
But don't confuse being a well-rounded all-in-one camera with being a replacement for a sports-oriented interchangeable lens camera. The lack of ability to zoom while maintaining focus, and the relatively slow zoom speed compared to a manually driven zoom lens will surely be a deal breaker for serious action shooters. And while AF is excellent, it isn't sports-camera reliable. Furthermore, there's no AF fine tuning options like the ones found in most speed-oriented ILCs.
Still, I feel there are a few conceivable things Sony can do to improve the RX10 series beyond what's been achieved in IV without fully re-designing the body. If the brand is intent on releasing a follow up, it is my sincerest hope that it will look and handle more like an Alpha-series camera than a CyberShot.
Ultimately, Sony's gone and done what's never been done before: stuck a phase detect AF system in a superzoom. And the result is a highly capable camera that gets enough right to warrant a gold award and our recommendation.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system
and what these numbers mean.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 IV
Category: Enthusiast Large Sensor Compact Camera
Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
The Sony RX10 IV is the ultimate 1" bridge camera. Its optically stabilized 24-600mm equiv. lens and 20MP sensor combine for outstanding image quality. And it is the first and only camera in its class with phase detect autofocus, which, when coupled with its lightning quick 24 fps maximum burst rate, makes it a formidable all-in-one for sports and action. But that's not all, its oversampled 4K video is top quality, and the camera offers a laundry list of video-making tools and features. Plus a touchscreen, redesigned menus and Bluetooth connectivity all contribute to a highly-spec'd, well-balanced camera.
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