Sony RX100 IV Technical Info
Sony RX100 IV Technical Info
by Mike Tomkins | Posted 06/10/2015
Although it has the same size and effective resolution as that in the RX100 III, the Sony RX100 IV's 1.0"-type, 20.1-megapixel image sensor is brand new, and radically different in design to everything that precedes it. The Sony Exmor RS CMOS chip is still backside-illuminated, but it now features a stacked design that layers DRAM memory and A/D converters beneath the light-sensitive surface.
This design is, says Sony, a world's first, and it allows a significant improvement in performance. And not just in terms of burst shooting rate, either. It also allows for 4K video capture, an impressively swift 1/32,000-second electronic shutter function, *and* a huge reduction in the level of rolling shutter (or jello effect) when using the electronic shutter.
(Sony's marketing materials suggest that rolling shutter is basically eliminated, or is a least reduced to such a low level as to effectively make it a non-issue. We found that to be largely true for stills shot with the electronic shutter and for Full HD video shot at 60p as they both exhibited minimal jello effect even during fairly rapid panning. However, rolling shutter was still noticeable in 4K video as well as in Full HD video at slower frame rates, so don't be surprised if you see it in some situations.)
As in the Exmor R chip of the RX100 III, the Sony RX100 IV's Exmor RS image sensor has a 3:2 aspect ratio. While the effective resolution is unchanged, the total pixel count is increased just fractionally, from 20.9 megapixels in the earlier design to 21.0 megapixels in the new one.
Output from the Sony RX100 IV's brand-new image sensor is handled by the current-generation BIONZ X-branded image processor, which was also used by the earlier RX100 III.
Together, the pairing of image sensor and processor produce the exact same ISO sensitivity range offered by the RX100 III.
For still imaging, the Sony RX100 IV offers everything from ISO 125 to 12,800 equivalents by default, with the option to extend the lower end of the range to ISO 80 / 100 equivalents. Movie capture allows the same standard sensitivity range, but not the extended sensitivities.
You can also reduce noise levels for relatively static subjects using a Multi-Frame Noise Reduction function. When enabled, this allows a maximum sensitivity of ISO 25,600 equivalent.
While the sensitivity range hasn't changed, there's been a big step forwards in terms of burst capture performance. Where Sony rated the RX100 III for a modest 2.9 frames per second, it now says that the RX100 IV will manage a much handier 5.5 frames per second, an improvement of almost 90%.
And that's in standard shooting. Enable Speed Priority Continuous mode, and the RX100 IV is manufacturer-rated for a seriously impressive 16 frames per second at full resolution. That's a 60% improvement over the already-swift rate of 10 fps set by the RX100 III. The catch in this mode is that autofocus is locked from the first frame, although the RX100 IV does at least continue to adjust exposure variables between frames in the Speed Priority burst.
In our lab testing the Sony RX100 IV performed as promised when shooting JPEGs, capturing full-resolution JPEGs at precisely 16 fps, for 40 frames. Outstanding. The framerate did however fall to 8.6 fps when shooting RAW files. See our Performance page for details.
(With the RX100 III in Speed Priority Continuous mode, we managed exactly 10 fps when shooting best quality JPEGs, and 6.7 fps with RAW or RAW+JPEG files.)
Perhaps the most significant feature Sony has retained intact from the predecessor camera is the Sony RX100 IV's 2.9x optical zoom lens. It's very bright, with a maximum aperture of f/1.8 at wide angle, falling to f/2.8 by the telephoto position. It's also a bit shorter than the lenses of the RX100 and RX100 II, however, with a 35mm-equivalent focal range of 24-70mm.
Just as in the earlier camera, it has a 10-element, nine-group design with no less than nine aspheric elements, including one crafted from two Advanced Aspheric elements cemented together. There's also a seven-bladed aperture iris, a Zeiss T* coating, and a built-in, three-stop neutral density filter that can be automatically or manually enabled or disabled.
And just as in the RX100 III, the Sony RX100 IV's lens also includes SteadyShot optical image stabilization for still images. When shooting movies, the more powerful Intelligent Active SteadyShot stabilization is use, and it's coupled with electronic compensation as well.
The Sony RX100 IV uses contrast-detection autofocus, and has a minimum focusing distance of five centimeters at wide angle, or 30 cm at the telephoto position. Most autofocus options are the same as in the RX100 III, but there's one notable addition. As well as the Wide, Center, and small, medium or large Flexible Spot autofocus modes, there's also now an Expanded Flexible Spot AF mode. And of course, you can still opt for single, continuous or Direct Manual Focus servo modes, as well as fully-manual, fly-by-wire autofocus.
Like the RX100 III before it, the Sony RX100 IV has a clever popup electronic viewfinder that adds relatively little to the size of the camera body, but which adds much to its versatility. It's not the exact same display, though. While the basic design is the same, including a switch on the left side of the body (when viewed from the rear) to manually deploy the finder, the Organic LED panel around which it has based is brand-new.
The total dot count of the display has been doubled, and now stands at 2,359,296 dots. That equates to a 1,024 x 768 pixel array, which should yield a 28% increase in linear resolution over the 800 x 600 pixel array in the earlier camera, all else being equal.
When the viewfinder is raised, the camera will power itself on automatically if need be. You then manually pull the rear element of the finder backwards a little to lock it in position. Sony rates the viewfinder at 100% coverage with 0.59x magnification and a 20mm eyepoint. It also has a five-step auto / manual brightness control, and a -4 to +3 diopter adjustment.
On the rear side of the Sony RX100 IV is a 3.0-inch, 4:3 aspect Xtra Fine TFT LCD panel. It has the same dimensions and dot count -- 1,228,800 dots -- as that used in the RX100 III, and is quite likely the very same panel. It also still has a five-step brightness adjustment plus a Sunny Weather mode for better visibility in direct sunlight, however the Mark III's Auto brightness setting has been dropped.
As in its predecessor, the Sony RX100 IV's LCD monitor is mounted on an articulation mechanism. It's not our favored side-swivel design, which is by far the most versatile option, but it's still much more useful than a fixed-position LCD. It allows the display to be tilted upwards a full 180 degrees for selfie shooting, or downwards by 45 degrees for shooting over your head.
Exposure modes in the Sony RX100 IV are much as they were in the RX100 III, but with a couple of notable changes. One is the fact that there's now a single Auto mode on the mode dial, rather than the separate Intelligent Auto and Intelligent Auto+ modes seen previously. The other is a new HFR mode, for high frame-rate capture.
The program, priority and manual modes that you'd expect on an enthusiast-friendly camera remain, but there have been some tweaks here, too. You can can now access the slowest shutter speed of 30 seconds in program and aperture-priority shooting, not just in shutter priority and manual modes as before. There are also a variety of scene modes, a panorama mode, and a handy Memory Recall mode to quickly set the camera up for a common shooting situation.
Exposures are determined using multi-segment, center-weighted or spot metering modes, and shutter speeds range from 30 to 1/2,000 seconds with a mechanical shutter, or as fast as 1/32,000 second with an electronic shutter. There's also a bulb mode function and you can tune metered exposures with +/-3EV of exposure compensation in 1/3 EV steps.
If you need a little more light cast on your subject, a built-in flash strobe is provided. It's exactly the same as that in the RX100 III, with a range of 0.4 to 10.2 meters at wide-angle, or 0.4 to 6.5 meters at telephoto using auto ISO sensitivity.
We mentioned the panorama mode of the RX100 IV a moment ago, but there are quite a few other creative options to choose from, as well. Most of them will be immediately familiar to Sony camera owners, including dynamic range optimization, multi-shot modes like Handheld Twilight and Anti Motion Blur, bracketing for exposure, white balance and DRO, and so on. And of course, you can tune images to your tastes with picture effects and creative styles. What's new is a five-second option for the self-timer, in addition to the previous two or ten-second options with one, three or five shots captured once the timer expires.
The Sony RX100 IV has received a pretty significant upgrade in the movie department. Most notably, it can now record consumer-friendly 4K videos (3,840 x 2,160 pixels at up to 30p), where its predecessor topped out at Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels). However, 4K footage is limited to just five minutes per clip, likely due to the difficulty of getting heat out of such a small body.
There's also now a wide selection of high frame-rate modes, with NTSC / PAL mode sensor readouts as follows:
1,824 x 1,026 pixels
240 / 250 fps (quality priority, two-second clip length)
1,676 x 566 pixels
480 / 500 fps (quality priority, two-second clip length)
240 / 250 fps (shoot time priority, four-second clip length)
1,136 x 384 pixels
960 / 1,000 fps (quality priority, two-second clip length)
480 / 500 fps (shoot time priority, four-second clip length)
800 x 270 pixels
960 / 1,000 fps (shoot time priority, four-second clip length)
HFR clips are upsampled to Full HD size (1,920 x 1,080) before being saved in XAVC S format with selectable playback speed options of 60p, 30p or 24p (50p or 25p in PAL mode).
The two and four-second capture length limits may not seem like much, but keep in mind capturing four seconds at 960 fps with a playback rate of 24 fps results in over 2.5 minutes of playback.
Standard speed movies include stereo audio, recorded courtesy of an on-board microphone on the top deck of the RX100 IV.
Like its predecessor, the Sony RX100 IV includes both Wi-Fi and NFC wireless connectivity, allowing file transfer and remote control with Android or iOS smart devices, not to mention easy bump-pairing with Android.
As well as its wireless connectivity, the Sony RX100 IV also sports both a Micro (Type D) HDMI port for high-def video output, and a Multi Terminal Micro USB port that provides a USB 2.0 High Speed data connection to your computer. The Multi Terminal also supports an optional RM-VPR1 wired remote control and tethered remote shooting from a Windows or Mac computer running Sony's Remote Camera Control utility.
Images and movies are stored on a single slot compatible with either Secure Digital or Memory Stick Duo cards, and this is also compatible with SDHC, SDXC and UHS-I SD cards, not to mention PRO Duo, Pro Duo High Speed or PRO HG MS Duo cards.
Note that if you plan to capture XAVC S video clips, a 64GB or larger SDXC card with UHS Speed Class U1 is required, and if you want to record 100 Mbps video, a 64GB or larger UHS Speed Class U3 card is required.
Power comes courtesy of a rechargeable NP-BX1 lithium-ion battery pack, the same type used in all earlier RX100-series cameras, and the battery is charged in-camera via the Multi Terminal Micro USB port. Sony rates battery life as 280 shots using the LCD monitor, or 230 shots with the electronic viewfinder, to CIPA standards. That's a fair bit less than the RX100 (330 shots), RX100 II (350 shots), and RX100 III (320 shots), but still fair for the class.