On September 11, a select number of content providers and journalists were invited to another Sony special product briefing. Speculation ran amok as many of us were hoping this would be the announcement for the next “A” series camera, particularly the a9r or a7r III. As you can determine by the title of the article, that was not to be. While we may have been somewhat disappointed that our ultimate high megapixel camera was not revealed, we were pleasantly surprised by what was announced: the RX10 IV.
The Sony RX10 IV Intro Video
Early this year, I wrote a rantatorial about Sony being the company I’d bet on to win in the mirrorless game. My bet still holds, and Sony has proven again that it is a company that is continually innovating, designing, and not only releasing new cameras like the a9 but also updating the existing lines with the latest in technology.
The RX10 IV is just that camera, a fourth-generation camera that has grown in capability and features. This camera falls into a category called superzoom. This means one camera with a very wide-range zoom, and in this case, the zoom is equivalent to 24mm–600mm (full-frame). That’s quite an accomplishment, especially if the quality of the image is excellent throughout the zoom range.
Before we get into the details, let’s focus on the lens. This is a 24–600mm (25x optical) large aperture zoom lens. It’s a Zeiss Vari-Sonnar T*, so it’s no slouch when it comes to quality. The wide aperture runs f/2.4–4 from the 24mm–600mm range. I find that to be a great set of specs. Throw in macro capability at 3 cm on wide and 72 cm on telephoto, and now you have a lens that is not only capable of a wide range of normal shooting but can also do some remarkable close focus work.
The camera weighs in at around two pounds and has some other amazing features. Let’s start with the 24 frames per second capture rate. That’s right. This camera captures 24 fps, or the same as a motion picture. I am sure there will be many who can find some creative uses for this kind of shooting. You can shoot at 24 fps at 20.1 MP for up to 249 frames in JPEG format. That’s about ten seconds of continuous shooting. During our tests, we were able to confirm this. However, we were provided slow cards to use, and thus we needed to wait for the buffer to write to the card. Faster cards could improve this, and we’ll give it another look when we get a production unit to review.
Pixels – Actual: 21.0 Megapixel -Effective: 20.1 Megapixel
Sensor – 1” (13.2 x 8.8 mm) CMOS
Still Images: JPEG, RAW – Movies: AVCHD Ver. 2.0, MP4, XAVC S – Audio: AAC LC, AC3, Dolby Digital 2ch, Linear PCM (Stereo)
Max Resolution – 20 MP: 5472 x 3648
Aspect Ratio – 1:1, 3:2, 4:3, 16:9
Image Stabilization – Optical
Color Spaces – sRGB, Adobe RGB
Lens – Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar, 18 elements in 13 groups
6 Aspherical, 8 ED – EFL: 8.8-220mm (35 mm equivalent: 24-600mm) – Aperture: f/2.4 (W) – 4 (T) to f/16
Filter Thread – -72mm
Optical: 25x – Clear Image Zoom: 50x – Digital: 100x
Focus Range – Wide: 1.97″ (3 cm) – Infinity
Telephoto: 11.81″ (72 cm) – Infinity
ISO Sensitivity – Auto, 100-12800 (Extended Mode:64-12800)
Type: Mechanical – Speed: 4 – 1/2000 Second in Auto Mode
Type: Mechanical – Speed: 30 -1/2000 Second in Program Mode
Type: Mechanical – Speed: 30 – 1/2000 Second in Manual Mode
Type: Mechanical – Speed: 30 – 1/2000 Second in Aperture Priority Mode
Type: Mechanical – Speed: 30 – 1/2000 Second in Shutter Priority Mode
Type: Electronic – Speed: 4 – 1/32000 Second in Auto Mode
Type: Electronic – Speed: 30 – 1/32000 Second in Program Mode
Type: Electronic – Speed: 30 – 1/32000 Second in Manual Mode
Type: Electronic – Speed: 30 – 1/32000 Second in Aperture Priority Mode
Type: Electronic – Speed: 30 – 1/32000 Second in Shutter Priority Mode
Exposure Metering – Center-Weighted, Multi, Spot
Exposure Modes – Modes: Aperture Priority, Intelligent Auto, Manual, Memory Recall, Movie, Panorama Shot, Programmed Auto, Scene Selection, Shutter Priority, Superior Auto
Compensation: -3 EV to +3 EV (in 1/3 EV Steps)
Shooting Modes – Anti-Motion Blur – Fireworks – Gourmet – Handheld Twilight – High Sensitivity – Landscape – Macro – Night Portrait – Night Scene – Pet Mode – Portrait – Sports – Sunset
White Balance Modes – Auto, Cloudy, Color Temperature Filter, Custom, Daylight, Flash, Fluorescent (Cool White), Fluorescent (Day White), Fluorescent (Daylight), Fluorescent (Warm White), Incandescent, Shade
Buffer/Continuous Shooting = Up to 24 fps at 20.1 MP for up to 249 Frames in JPEG Format
Self-Timer – 2, 5, 10 Seconds
Remote Control – RM-VPR1 (Optional)
Flash Modes – Auto – Flash On – Off – Rear Sync – Red-Eye Reduction – Slow Sync
Built-In Flash – Yes
Maximum Effective Flash Range – Wide: 3.28 – 35.43′ (1 – 10.8 m) – Telephoto: 3.28 – 21.33′ (1 – 6.5 m)
External Flash Connection – Hot Shoe
Memory Card Type – Memory Stick Duo – Memory Stick Pro Duo – Memory Stick PRO Duo (High Speed)
Memory Stick PRO HG-Duo – SD – SDHC – SDXC
Video Recording – Yes, NTSC/PAL
3840 x 2160p: 30 fps, 25 fps, 24 fps
1920 x 1080p: 60 fps, 50 fps, 30 fps, 25 fps, 24 fps
1920 x 1080i: 60 fps, 50 fps
1280 x 720p: 30 fps, 25 fps
1920 x 1080p: 240 fps, 480 fps, 960 fps
1824 x 1026p: 240 fps, 480 fps, 960 fps
1676 x 566p: 240 fps, 480 fps, 960 fps
1920 x 1080p: 250 fps, 500 fps, 1000 fps
1824 x 1026p: 250 fps, 500 fps, 1000 fps
1676 x 566p: 250 fps, 500 fps, 1000 fps
Video Clip Length – Up to 29 Min
Audio Recording – Built-In Mic: With Video (Stereo)
Viewfinder Type – Electronic
Diopter Adjustment – -4 to +3 m
Viewfinder Coverage – 100%
Screen – 3.0” LCD Rear Touch Screen Tilt (1,440,000 pixels)
Screen Coverage – 100%
Connectivity – HDMI D (Micro), Micro-USB, USB 2.0
Wi-Fi – Yes, 802.11b/g/n built-in
Battery – 1 x NP-FW50 Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Pack, 7.4 VDC, 1020 mAh
Dimensions (W x H x D) – 5.2 x 3.7 x 5.7″ / 132.5 x 94.0 x 145.0 mm
Weight – 2.41 lb / 1095 g with battery and memory card
All of this fast shooting means nothing if you can’t keep the subject in focus, especially while it is moving. I just completed a trip to Greenland where I put the a9 and its fast AF and frame rate to the test. It worked great and will be part of a separate article soon. Could the RX10 IV do what it advertises?
Yes. Simply put, it was pretty damn good. This is accomplished by a Fast Hybrid AS system capable of 0.03 second AF. This is achieved with speed-tracking of focal plane phase detect sensors along with the accuracy of contrast detection AF.
There is a 315 point AF wide area coverage of the sensor. Using this with continuous AF and tracking, you can keep the subject in focus whether it’s moving across the field of view or at you. There was a test done at the event we were at with someone running very fast at the camera, and the sensor did a fantastic job of nailing focus. Once again, this is something I’ll test with a review unit, but many of us there were impressed with what we saw.
The RX10 IV doesn’t have a joystick like the a9 does. This surprised me, as the joystick is becoming common on many cameras these days, and using it on the a9 I have become quite enamored with it. Instead, the RX10 IV offers a touchscreen. You simply touch where you want the focus point. It works quite well and responds with good speed. It is a bit awkward to use, though, when you have the camera up to your face. I guess you can’t have everything, and at least this is a workable if somewhat awkward solution.
The camera does have some other features of note. While I didn’t have a chance to test it fully, there is a supposedly enhanced version of eye AF. The new difference is that the person’s eye doesn’t always have to be looking at you. We’ll run the test on this when we get a unit.
There is a 4.5 stop optical image stabilization feature. IS performed pretty well from my quick tests, especially when zoomed to the full 600mm equivalent.
For video, the RX10 IV boasts 4k shooting at lengths up to 29 minutes. I have included two short videos below. The AF seems to do a good job when moving from one subject to another. You can use some different video settings, such as S-Gamut/S-Log2/S-Log3, clean HDMI, Time Code/user bit, REC Control, Dual Rec, Marker, and a few more. Slow motion is also available at 240, 480, and 960 fps.
Dogs and Jazz
The viewfinder and rear-tilt screen are bright and very clear. The viewfinder has a 2.3 million dot resolution and looks extremely nice when you are shooting with it. The three-inch tilt rear screen has a 1.3 million dot resolution. I wish the screen were flippable. With all the people out there doing their videos and vlogs, it would have been nice to have a screen that could be flipped around. The only Sony camera that does that now is the RX100v.
The camera is moisture and dust resistant. Because it is a fixed camera with no interchangeable lenses, worrying about dust spots will not be a problem.
I had a few hours to use this camera and was happy with it overall. It feels pretty good in the hand, and at around two pounds it is not a beast to haul around, especially when you consider the lens reach. Buttons seem to be easy to reach and to work well. You may have to stretch for the video button as it is near the viewfinder, but it is simpler to use than the placement on some other cameras. There is a focus-type dial on the front of the camera where you select single, continuous AF, etc. I enjoyed having an f-stop ring on the lens. This ring can be set to clickable or non-clickable in case you want to change f-stops during a video. There is only one SD card slot. This is on the right side of the camera (looking at it from the rear). On the left are the typical HDMI, USB/multi, microphone, and headphone jacks.
Since I am familiar with Sony’s camera menus, it only took me a few minutes to set the camera up the way I wanted to use it. We won’t beat a dead horse when it comes to the menu system in Sony cameras. They hear about it all the time, and maybe someday they will offer up a nice solution. For now, the menus are a lot better than they were two years ago. The FN button on the rear of the camera serves as a fast means of selecting the features you use most often. It is customizable, and once you get the hang of it, you can place almost everything you need on this one menu.
For most of the images accompanying this article, I set my camera to manual and selected the f/stop I wanted for the subject. I then set ISO to auto and let it be the variable. I have been shooting like this with the a9 for a while. The high ISO performance on Sony sensors is outstanding. Also, all images in this article are JPEGs from the camera. There are no RAW converters available yet since this is not a production camera. I am sure, knowing Sony RAW files, that a lot of these images could have been enhanced even more with a little work on a RAW file. It should be no secret that my preference for RAW processors at this point is Capture One. I’m confident that there will be a C1 update shortly to accommodate this camera.
This camera is priced at 1699.00 USD. It will be available in October and can be ordered from B&H Photo and other camera retailers, including my friends at Roberts. As I was using this, I was thinking about who the target audience would be for this camera. My thinking is it will be aimed at a higher-end enthusiast who wants an all-in-one camera that can be carried anywhere without a backpack full of gear.
Zoom In For Details
The following images give you an idea of zoom range and image quality. These images were made from the straight camera JPEG. I’m sure the RAW would have allowed even better quality.
Click on an image to see at 100%. Click on the upper left arrow to return to the article.
Click on an image to see at 100%. Click on the upper left arrow to return to the article.
Just last night I was at my wife’s reunion, and I had someone ask me what camera they should get because they were going to Australia. It hit me then that this is the camera for people who want DSLR performance without needing to buy lenses and cases. The sensor is only one inch in size but performs marvelously. The image quality seems to be nice, and the price point is not a deal breaker. Sony has positioned this camera to appeal to the masses who regularly use their phones for the majority of their photography. When they need something a bit better with more capabilities, they can reach for the RX10 IV. And there are millions of these kinds of people out there.
I have said it before: Sony has a plan and knows what it’s doing. The company delivers great products and continually pushes the envelope in technology. Also, being the leading sensor maker helps them quite a bit, and the sensors are quite capable. In summary, my first impression is that the RX10 IV is an excellent camera in a small package with the capabilities of many of its larger brothers. If you are looking for an all-in-one superzoom camera, then check this one out.
Sony, please surprise us with more. I want the a7r II replacement sooner rather than later. The anxiety is killing me.