20.10
Megapixels
25.00x zoom 1 inch
size sensor
image of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 IV
Front side of Sony RX10 IV digital camera Front side of Sony RX10 IV digital camera Front side of Sony RX10 IV digital camera Front side of Sony RX10 IV digital camera Front side of Sony RX10 IV digital camera
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 IV
Resolution: 20.10 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1 inch
(13.2mm x 8.8mm)
Lens: 25.00x zoom
(24-600mm eq.)
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
Native ISO: 100 - 12,800
Extended ISO: 64 - 25,600
Shutter: 1/32000 - 30 seconds
Max Aperture: 2.4
Dimensions: 5.2 x 3.7 x 5.0 in.
(133 x 94 x 127 mm)
Weight: 38.6 oz (1,095 g)
includes batteries
Availability: 10/2017
Manufacturer: Sony
Full specs: Sony RX10 IV specifications

Sony RX10 IV Review -- Now Shooting!

by and Jeremy Gray
Preview posted: 09/12/2017
Last updated:

Updates:
09/13/2017: Gallery shots posted

Sony RX10 IV Review -- Product shot

In the dying days of 2013, Sony launched the RX10, a camera which was lauded for bringing together the heady mix of a powerful, fixed zoom lens, and a much larger-than-average 1-inch type image sensor, as seen previously in its pocket-friendly RX100 II compact. Now, with the fourth-generation Sony RX10 IV, the company continues to hone that design, turning its large-sensor, long-zoom camera into an even more capable sports shooter.

The power of the RX100 V in an SLR-like package that's infinitely more versatile

The Sony RX10-series might have been much larger than the diminutive RX100-series -- the company refers to it as being palm-sized, and it's similar in size to a DSLR with a short-zooming kit lens -- but it has nevertheless hit a sweet spot, providing great image quality in an extremely versatile package. And we profess to being big fans of the formula, having awarded all three previous generations of the Sony RX10 the coveted Dave's Pick title, despite a pricetag that was hefty, to say the least.

With the Sony RX10 IV, the company has clearly put a big focus on performance, just as it did with the fifth-generation of the RX100 series, the Sony RX100 V. But where all of that performance didn't necessarily always make sense in such a pocket-friendly camera, it will be a whole lot easier to make the best advantage of the power underlying the RX10 IV thanks to its much more powerful zoom lens.

Sony RX10 IV Review -- Product shot

The Sony RX10 IV's body and lens are almost unchanged from its predecessor

Take a quick glance at the Sony RX10 IV, and you could very easily confuse it with its predecessor. The entire body design is retained almost unchanged, as is the whopping 24-600mm equivalent, f/2.4-4.0 zoom lens which lends it the look of a DSLR camera with the lens attached. (But unlike a DSLR, this lens is permanently fixed in place, giving Sony advantages in packaging that have allowed far, far more zoom reach than you'd expect to find in an SLR camera with a similarly-sized lens.)

As before, that lens includes Sony's Optical SteadyShot image stabilization technology, which has a 4.5-stop corrective strength, a must when shooting towards the telephoto end of its mighty range, especially in low-light conditions. But while both lens and stabilization system are unchanged, we understand that Sony has rethought how the latter works, making it more active during framing for a better shooting experience.

Sony RX10 IV Review -- Product shot
A couple of minor control tweaks in the autofocus department

On the outside of the camera body, if you ignore the change in the model number, there are only two significant differences to be found. Both hint at an area which was key to the redesign beneath the skin: Autofocus. On the side of the body at the base of the lens barrel is a brand-new focus range limiter switch, allowing you to switch between the full focus range or to limit the Sony RX10 IV to focusing at distances greater than 10 feet (3m).

As before, you'll be able to focus to as close as 1.2 inches (3cm) at the wide-angle position, or 2.4 feet (0.7m) at the telephoto end of the range, incidentally, giving the RX10 IV quite good macro capabilities for such a long-zooming camera. And the adjacent focus mode switch has sprouted a new "A" position, which is used to access a new auto-servo focus mode that chooses between single or continuous autofocus as the camera deems appropriate.

Real-world handling thoughts on the Sony RX10 IV

Now would seem as good a time as any to hand things over to our Reviews Editor Jeremy Gray, who's on the ground in New York for the official launch of the Sony RX10 IV, to give us a little insight into the camera's handling. Take it away, Jeremy!

Sony RX10 IV Review -- Hands-on Product shot

While you can capture excellent images from 24 to 600mm with gear from nearly all manufacturers, it's something special with the Sony RX10 series to be able to shoot crisp images across that entire range in a single camera, much less a camera that is comfortable to hold and weighs in at just 2.4 pounds (1,095g) loaded and ready to shoot.

Regarding the comfort of the newest model, the Sony RX10 IV feels quite nice in the hands, although it doesn't have the same robust, rugged feel you might expect from a camera that costs nearly US$2,000. With that said, the new three-inch display, which is still tilt-capable for framing high or low shots, looks great, and now offers Touch Pad AF and Touch Focus functionality. The 2.35-million dot XGA OLED electronic viewfinder looks very good too and is nice to use thanks to its reasonably large size. (The Sony RX10 IV has a manufacturer-rated 0.70x magnification, speaking in 35mm-equivalents.)

Sony RX10 IV Review -- Hands-on Product shot

Like its predecessor, the Sony RX10 IV allows you to control the zoom via the switch beneath the shutter release or by rotating one of the three rings on the lens (in order they are focus, zoom and aperture rings). In both cases, the RX10 IV is somewhat slow to zoom from 24 to 600mm, although it did feel better to use the zoom ring. While the camera is one built for speed, zooming is not an area where the RX10 IV feels fast.

The aperture ring is a nice touch, allowing easy user control over the f-stop. The ring has a lot of resistance, which is great for making precise adjustments, but not so good for making large adjustments quickly. You can adjust the aperture ring to be de-clicked as well, which is perfect for making quiet aperture adjustments, which could prove useful to videographers.

Sony RX10 IV Review -- Hands-on Product shot

If you're familiar with its predecessor, the RX10 IV will feel very familiar. It maintains its general DSLR-substitute body style, meaning that there are numerous controls on the camera body itself and it is well served as a complement to an A7-series or A9 camera or as a person's sole camera. In both cases, it should feel capable and familiar.

The big news is to be found on the inside of the Sony RX10 IV

So... the body we all know and love from the RX10 III remains almost unchanged. It's what is to be found on the inside that's the really big story here. And if you've been paying attention to the way Sony's engineers and designers think, you won't be surprised in the least to find that the Sony RX10 IV is based around the exact same 20.1-effective megapixel image sensor as in the pocket-friendly Sony RX100 V. (We understand that the image processing algorithms used to process its output have been updated to those used in the Sony A9 mirrorless camera, though, bringing the potential for another step forward on the image quality front.)

Sony RX10 IV Review -- Product shot

The Sony RX10 IV's sensor still yields a maximum image size of 5,472 x 3,648 pixels, identical to that of the earlier camera. The important change here isn't one of resolution or pixel size, but rather of the new Sony Exmor RS sensor's performance and provision for on-chip AF.

Fast Hybrid autofocus with blinding performance and high-density AF tracking

As in the previous RX10 III (not to mention the RX100 III and IV), the Sony RX10 IV's image sensor uses a stacked design which combines embedded DRAM memory to allow for extremely swift full-resolution capture. It also now includes 315 on-chip phase-detection autofocus points, just as in the RX100 V, allowing for swift and accurate hybrid autofocus, where the RX10 III had to make do solely with contrast-detection.

Sony RX10 IV Review -- Product shot

These 315 PDAF points are broadly distributed across 65% of the image frame, ensuring that your subject should be adequately covered no matter where you want to place it, or to track it around the frame. (It's not often that you'll find yourself wanting to place the point of focus much closer to the edge of the frame anyway, for compositional reasons.)

And when it comes to tracking, the Sony RX10 IV debuts a Cyber-shot first, inheriting the same high-density tracking AF system which we've seen previously in the Sony A6300 and A6500 mirrorless cameras, while the autofocus algorithms are borrowed from the Sony A9. The result should be exceptionally swift autofocus, and very capable AF tracking that uses information not just from the user-selected autofocus point, but also from many of those which surround it, helping the RX10 IV to more accurately determine what constitutes the subject itself.

Sony RX10 IV Review -- Product shot
And there are plenty more autofocus system tweaks, besides...

Nor is that all on the autofocus front, either. For one thing, as we mentioned earlier there's now a focus limiter function that will prevent the camera from racking through the focus range into macro territory if you are dealing with a particularly challenging subject. There's also a new automatic AF mode, as we said, which chooses between single-servo or continuous autofocus by itself, if you're not sure which will be best for a given subject, or are shooting an erratic mixture of moving and static subjects.

Sony has also upgraded the Eye AF algorithms in the RX10 IV, and it will now better handle the task of focusing on moving faces, or those for which you only have a three-quarter view looking to one side of the camera, rather than a full face looking more directly at the lens. And as Jeremy noted earlier, there are also new possibilities thanks to the newly-added touch-screen panel. You can now focus by tapping directly on a subject when using live view on the main LCD, or use the LCD panel as a touch pad for focusing while framing your subject through the electronic viewfinder.

Sony RX10 IV Review -- Product shot

There's also a new AF-On function, and while it doesn't have its own dedicated button, you can assign it to one of the user-configurable function buttons yourself, if it would prove useful for your chosen subject matter. And you can also register a focus point or area for quick recall from a function button, which will prove very handy if you're shooting a somewhat predictable subject which requires that you frequently want to change and then revert the focus point -- say, a tennis match, for example.

In fact, you can now go even a step further and recall whole custom settings groups, including not just the AF point, but other details like the exposure and drive modes, shutter speed, sensitivity or exposure compensation with a single button press, if you want.

The Sony RX10 IV boasts so much performance it might just blow your mind

Although the image processor at the heart of the Sony RX10 IV still carries Sony's Bionz X branding, just as in the earlier RX10 II and III, there's clearly a whole different level of power on tap here. We understand that the image processor in the RX10 IV, as well as its supporting LSI chip, are both identical to those used in the flagship Sony A9 mirrorless camera, and that gives this fixed-lens model truly epic shooting performance.

Where the Sony RX10 III was capable of an already-swift 14 frames per second burst capture, the RX10 IV unlocks the same mind-blowingly swift 24 fps capture that we've seen previously in the pocket-friendly RX100 V. And that's with a JPEG buffer depth that's manufacturer-rated at a whopping 249 frames, enough for a full 10+ seconds of continuous burst shooting at the maximum rate.

Sony RX10 IV Review

Now, we should note here that Sony specs this figure not at the highest-quality Extra Fine JPEG mode, but rather at the next step down in Fine JPEG mode. We will of course be testing the performance for ourselves, both in the lab and the real world, as soon as we get the chance, but in the meantime IR founder and publisher Dave Etchells gave it a quick test at the press event in New York, and in Fine JPEG mode saw a buffer depth of 251 frames, just slightly besting Sony's spec, while he also recorded a 114-frame raw burst, and a 110-frame raw+JPEG burst.

None of this can be directly compared with our in-house testing figures, as these use an intentionally hard-to-compress test subject for a real-world, worst case scenario, but they certainly body well for the Sony RX10 IV's real-world performance. Unfortunately, flash card write speeds still look set to be an Achilles heel for the RX10 IV, as Dave also noted a card clearing time of 48 seconds for Fine JPEGs once the buffer filled, and a leisurely 67 seconds for raw+JPEG buffer clearing. Solely raw buffer clearing was the best of the bunch at around 34 seconds, but you should bear in mind that this is for less than half as many frames as in JPEG mode.

Watch this space for more formal performance testing at a future date, just as soon as we're able. And if you don't actually need this much performance, note that lower rates of 3.5 or 10 frames per second are also optionally available.

A faster electronic viewfinder and a higher-res (but possibly less bright) main LCD panel

Although the hardware of the Sony RX10 IV's electronic viewfinder, which Jeremy mentioned earlier, looks to be much the same as in the previous RX10 III, we understand that it now has lower lag than in the previous-generation camera. (Sony hasn't yet quantified the scope of this improvement, however.)

Sony RX10 IV Review -- Product shot

It's still based around a 1,024 x 768 pixel Organic LED panel with a 0.39-inch diagonal, and has a 0.7x magnification (35mm equivalent with a 50mm lens at infinity), as well as an eyepoint of 21.5mm from the eyepiece frame, and a -4 to +3 diopter corrective capability. Sadly, unlike that in the Sony A9, the RX10 IV's electronic viewfinder is not blackout free, so it won't be quite as useful for framing fast-moving subjects. (But in this class, there's no camera offering that feature, so it's perhaps an understandable omission nevertheless.)

Sony has given a little and taken a little with the LCD monitor, however. Total resolution has increased from 640 x 480 pixels to 800 x 600, and there's now a touch-screen overlay, as noted previously. But where the previous Sony RX10 II and III used Sony's WhiteMagic LCD technology for a brighter (yet lower-powered) display, the Sony RX10 IV seems to have returned to a standard LCD panel technology, likely in the interests of saving cost.

Now, we should note that we haven't yet had the opportunity to compare the RX10 III and IV side by side, so it's perhaps possible that LED backlight technology has improved sufficiently in the meantime to negate this difference, but even if so, that improvement could likely have been even more significant with use of WhiteMagic technology, which couples the traditional red, green and blue pixels with white ones, allowing its desirable characteristics.

Oh, and there is of course still an info LCD panel on the top deck, which is handy for quickly checking your remaining shots and exposure basics.

Sony RX10 IV Review -- Product shot

The Sony RX10 IV should be an even more capable long-zooming movie camera, too

The preceding RX10 III was already a fairly capable movie camera in its own right, especially by fixed-lens camera standards. The Sony RX10 IV looks to be even more impressive in this respect, though. It retains its predecessor's ability to shoot ultra-high definition 4K or high-def 1080p videos in XAVC S or AVCHD formats using the full sensor width without line-skipping, and at a maximum sensitivity of ISO 12,800-equivalent.

But now, it offers in-camera proxy recording capability, shooting both a UHD 4K clip and a simultaneous HD (720p) clip which can be used in its place for faster editing in your non-linear editor of choice, before substituting in the much higher-res 4K footage for a better-quality result at render time. (And this works not only for 4K clips, but also for lower-res Full HD / slow-motion footage.)

There's also a choice of S-Log2 or S-Log3 gamma curves to suit your post-production workflow, where the RX10 III only offered S-Log2. (Not sure what this means? Sony gives you a quick rundown on S-Log here.)

We also understand that focus peaking has been improved in the Sony RX10 IV, which will be great if you want to focus manually. And if not, you can now use touch AF during movies, as well, and take advantage of the on-chip phase-detection pixels for smoother focus transitions from one subject to another in your scene.

Sony RX10 IV Review -- Product shot
Improved wireless connectivity, with the same battery / accessory support carried over

In most respects, the Sony RX10 IV's power, storage and connectivity features are unchanged from the RX10 III. In some respects, that's a great thing. For example, if you're upgrading from an earlier RX10-series model, you'll be able to use the same NP-FW50 lithium-ion rechargeable battery packs that you already have on hand. And the same is true of your Multi Interface Shoe-compatible accessories, as well as your micro HDMI and micro USB cables. You'll also be able to use the same external microphones and headphones you could since the RX10 II. Speaking of batteries, CIPA battery life is down just slightly with the new LCD to 400 shots versus 420 for the predecessor. It remains the same with the EVF, at 370 shots.

However, it also means that the Sony RX10 IV still lacks support for UHS-II memory cards, just as did its predecessors. They'll still work in the RX10 IV body, but they'll fall back to UHS-I compatibility mode, which is slower. (And this goes some way towards explaining the still fairly sedate buffer clearing times of the RX10 IV, a shortcoming it shares with its predecessors.) Our understanding from speaking with Sony about this is that there were constraints in terms of both pricing and packaging which prevented Sony from including UHS-II support in the form factor and at the pricepoint it wanted.

Sony RX10 IV Review -- Product shot

The good news, though, is that the already great Wi-Fi + NFC connectivity of the Sony RX10 III has been supplemented with a Bluetooth Low Energy (aka Bluetooth 4.1) radio in the newer camera. This allows the Sony RX10 IV to piggyback off your phone's GPS receiver and clock, keeping its time up to date through time zone changes and automatically geotagging your photos with their capture location as they're captured without the need for its own built-in GPS receiver. And since Bluetooth 4.1 has relatively minimal power requirements, it should be able to do so without destroying your smartphone's battery life, something which has caused us to turn this feature off in many past cameras.

The Sony RX10 IV carries a very steep pricetag, but let's face it: There's no real competition

And now we come to the part you've all been waiting for. (Unless you caught Jeremy's allusion to it in his hands-on report, that is.)

The Sony RX10 and RX100-series have always been known for their steep pricetags at launch, and the same is true of the Sony RX10 IV. If anything, even more so. Slated to go on sale in the US market this October, the RX10 IV carries list pricing of right around US$1,700. That puts it another US$200 above the already-bracing pricetag of the preceding RX10 III.

Sony RX10 IV Review -- Product shot

Yes, it's a big ask, there's no question about that. However, it has to be said that there really isn't another camera on the market with these features, and so it's perhaps understandable that Sony expects a premium pricetag for what is, essentially, a unique camera. If you need its pairing of image quality, zoom range, performance and video capabilities, well... Your choices are either to pay that price, or to wait for a rival to catch up. (And thus far, they've arguably not even caught up with the previous-generation RX10 III yet, so you may be waiting a while.)

Much as we'd love to see the RX10 IV at a lower pricetag, we can't blame Sony too much here. Developing cameras like these costs a lot of money, and that's money which is hard-fought over in the modern camera market. Rather than asking Sony to lower its price in the face of minimal competition, we'd sooner ask of Sony's rivals... What are you waiting for? Catch up already! If you can...

 

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