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A Review of the Sony RX100 IV Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 4k Digital Camera

by on November 22, 2015
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Overview

The RX100 IV is Sony’s fourth instalment in the RX100 range, and it’s safe to say that it’s currently one of the leaders in the high end compact camera category. The RX100 IV takes superbly vivid, crisp, colourful images that can match up to and in some cases surpass even high end DSLRs. Oh, and did we mention that it shoots 4K video? Yes, you read that correctly.

The camera has a high quality ZEISS Vario Sonnar lens which has a high diameter of 24-70mm1 with F1.8-2.8 and is packing the world’s first 1.0-type stacked CMOS image sensor with DRAM chip which allows it to take 40x super slow motion all the way up to 1/32000 sec super high speed.

The RX100 IV is also oozing with a whole host of other features. It has the ability to shoot images at 16 fps continuously without blackout and shoot images at 17 mega pixels whilst taking video footage. Other stand out features include the ability to wirelessly send photos/videos from the camera to any Android tablet/smartphone, a 180 degree tiltable screen to enable more creative shooting angles, a pop out high-contrast retractable electronic viewfinder (EVF) as well as built in bright monitoring to allow low light images like starry nights to really pop.

The camera is let down ever so slightly by a few niggling issues. Firstly, autofocus is not the best, this is primarily because the camera lacks a touch screen. Secondly, the battery life isn’t really that great and is actually about 14% worse than the RX100 III (previous model). Third and finally, RAW mode has to be turned off if you want to use some of the cameras features. All in all though, the issues with the camera are minor annoyances and none are bad enough to outweigh the large and overwhelming strengths of the camera.

Other camera’s the RX100 IV is up against are the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100 and Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II.

The Good

Super slow and super-speed shooting - The RX100 IV allows you to execute super slow and super speed shooting at a quality level that has, for a long time, been restricted to cameras much more expensive and a lot bigger in size than the RX100 IV. This is largely thanks to the fact that the RX100 IV is packing the world’s first memory-attached 1.0-type stacked CMOS sensor. The camera allows you to capture in 40x super slow motion up to super-high-speed 1/32000 sec. This really pushes the creative potential a lot further than was previously possible for cameras of this type.

4K video at up to 960 FPS – This is truly awesome for a camera of this size and in this price range. It’s one of the shout out features of this camera and rightly so. Put simply, the video this camera produces looks absolutely sublime. The quality of the 4K footage is aided greatly by the cameras XAVC S codec.

Effortless bright condition & low light condition shooting – Shots in bright light look crisp, clear and detailed thanks primarily to the cameras super-fast Anti-Distortion Shutter which allows wide range shooting coverage up to a truly impressive EV19. Conversely shots in low light also look spectacular. This is large part thanks to the fact that the cameras sensitivity extends all the way up to ISO 12800. If you are not one for manually adjusting settings to achieve the best shots in low light conditions then you can switch the camera to “Auto ISO” mode where it will determine the optimum settings for your low light shot.

High speed continuous shooting – The camera allows up to 16 frames per second continuous shooting (no blackout) at 20.1 megapixels. This feature is essential for action shots where you don’t want to miss anything and want to capture the true essence of the moment.

180 degrees tiltable LCD Screen – The RX100 IV packs a high resolution 3 inch screen that can tilt up to 180 degrees. This essential for accurately and successfully capturing those previously hard to achieve shots from high or low shooting positions. This added flexibility allows much greater creative freedom. Oh, and it’s better for taking selfies too.

Bright XGA OLED Tru-Finder – The cameras retractable electronic viewfinder (EVF) achieves a remarkably great resolution which is equivalent to around 2359k dots. Further, the viewfinder eyepieces optics are treated with Sony’s proprietary ZEISS T Coating which greatly reduces undesirable reflections.

One touch smartphone/tablet connection – As if my magic you can instantaneously transfer any and all of your photos and videos from the RX100 IV to your android smartphone and/or tablet, in, well you guessed it, one touch. The “magic” that enables this to happen is a combination of Wi-Fi and NFC that are built into the camera. The one touch feature can also be used to turn your smartphone/tablet into a remote control for the RX100 IV. Pretty neat.

Check the Price of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV 20.2 MP Digital Still Camera on Amazon:

4.4 - 98 Reviews

The Bad

Poor auto-focus system – The lack of a touchscreen means setting auto-focus points is slow and quite frustrating. Although setting auto-focus without a touchscreens takes an extra few seconds at most, which may not seem much to most, but when you are trying to capture an action shot or rare shot these precious few seconds can make all the difference. Additionally, the camera can’t focus on standby mode which can be very frustrating.

Poor battery life – The battery life really is quite terrible on the RX100 IV. It’s approximately 14% lower than the RX100 III (previous model). You can still get a decent number of shots out of the camera before the battery dies on you, so depending on the type of user you are or the purpose you have for the camera this might not be an issue. However, if you shoot a lot or are planning on having this as your primary camera then this may be an issue.

RAW issues – Another pertinent issue is that you have to turn off RAW shooting mode in order to use a number of the features of the camera. This might not be an issue for some photographers, but others that like the freedom that comes with editing RAW images using post processing / editing tools will probably find this to be quite a large drawback.

Final Thoughts

The RX100 IV is Sony’s fourth instalment in the RX100 range and is currently one of the best performers of all high end compact cameras. The camera takes brilliantly vivid, crisp, balanced images that can match up to and in some cases surpass even high end DSLRs. It’s in the video arena this camera really shines though, it’s able to shoot at true 4K which remarkable for a camera of its size.

The camera is let down ever so slightly by a few small issues. The autofocus isn’t great largely because the camera lacks a touch screen. The battery life is quite poor, which would be especially problematic for power users. Finally, RAW mode has to be turned off if you want to use some of the cameras features. It has to be said though that the small problems with the camera are at best minor annoyances and do not detract too much from the huge benefits and positives of the camera.

Specs

Size & Weight

Dimensions: (W x H x D) (CIPA compliant) /Approx. 101.6 mm x 58.1 mm x 41.0 mm (approx. 4 x 2 3/8 x 1 5/8 in.)

Image Sensor

Sensor Type: 1.0-type (13.2 mm x 8.8 mm) Exmor RS CMOS sensor, aspect ratio 3:2
Number of Pixels: [Effective] Approx. 20.1 megapixels / [Gross] Approx. 21.0 megapixels

Lens

Lens Type: ZEISS® Vario-Sonnar T* lens, 10 elements in 9 groups (9 aspherical elements including AA lens)
F-number (maximum aperture): F1.8 (W) - 2.8 (T)
Aperture Type: Iris diaphragm (7 blades)
ND Filter: Auto / On (3 steps) / Off
Focal Length (f =): f = 8.8-25.7mm
Focus Range (from the front of the lens): AF (W: Approx. 5 cm [0.17 ft.] to Infinity / T: Approx. 30 cm [0.99 ft.] to Infinity)
Optical Zoom: 2.9 x (Optical Zoom during movie recording)
Clear Image Zoom*1: [Still Image] Approx. 5.8x / [Movie] Approx. 5.8x
Digital Zoom*1: [Still Image] Approx. 11x / [Movie] Approx. 11x

Screen

Screen Type: 7.5cm (3.0type) (4:3) / 1,228,800 dots / Xtra Fine / TFT LCD
Brightness Control: Manual (5 steps)/Sunny Weather
Adjustable Angle: Up: approx. 180 degrees, down: approx. 45 degrees

For full specs please visit here.

Accessories

The RX100 IV comes with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack, AC adapter, micro USB cable and wrist strap. As the RX100 range is so popular there are many accessories on the market such as specifically made cases, lens protectors and cleaning tools. Further, often retailers will bundle the camera with relevant accessories to sweeten the deal.

Highlights

True 4K Video – The RX100 IV shoots true 4K video in all its glory. It is one of the biggest highlights of this camera and is particularly impressive given the cameras size and dimensions. Additionally, the 4K footage is greatly improved by the cameras XAVC S codec. The only slight downside is that the camera can only shoot 5 minutes of 4K in one go.

Super slow and super-speed shooting - The RX100 IV lets you capture in 40x super slow motion all the way up to super-high-speed 1/32000 sec. This really opens up a whole new creative realm and allows you to take even more interesting footage. And when you couple this with the cameras 4K ability you really do get some pretty spectacular footage.

180 degrees tiltable LCD Screen – The RX100 IV packs a high resolution 3 inch screen that can tilt up to 180 degrees. This is one of those things that many might dismiss when compared to the above 4K video ability and super slow and super speed shooting, but it’s not to be glossed over. The tiltable screen allows you to take some incredibly diverse, creative and interesting shots – enabling you to get the most out of the cameras amazing sensor and lens.

Great low light shooting – Let’s be honest, some of the best video and photos are to be captured at night. Thankfully the RX100 IV will not let you down. The cameras sensitivity extends all the way up to ISO 12800 which enables you to take crisp, beautiful pictures in really low light. And if you don’t want to fiddle with the settings then Auto ISO will take care of you.

Check the Price of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV 20.2 MP Digital Still Camera on Amazon:

4.4 - 98 Reviews

Image Quality and Resolution

Just in case it hasn’t been made abundantly clear so far. The RX100 IV takes phenomenally great pictures. Make sure to get a 4k monitor such as the Samsung UE590.

This camera has a 1 in 20 megapixel sensor, which is actually the same size that’s in all the other RX100 models. The big difference however with the RX100 IV is the way things are designed. To elaborate, the original RX100 has an FSI sensor, the two models that proceeded both had BSI sensors, but this latest RX100 IV takes things to a whole new level with a stacked CMOS design. What this essentially does is move the sensors circuitry to behind the sensors area as opposed to having it at the cameras edges. So what’s the big deal about that? Well, it doesn’t improve the photo quality by that much compared to previous models, but what it does do is greatly enhance the cameras shooting speed and allows for the cameras two killer features – super slow and super speed shooting.

Interestingly, RX100 IV produces a very similar dynamic range to the RX100 III. At an ISO 100, it offers up a decent 12.4EV range, which gives you enough scope to successfully extract shadow details from RAW files. Once you get to something like ISO 1600 however, you then see the dynamic range slip to about 9EV, but it still manages to remain above a very good 8EV even at an ISO of 3200. When we get into the territory of ISO 6400 to 12,800 the figure drops slightly again, this time to 7.2EV and 6.6EV respectively.

The camera is also packed with a range of other features to improve and enhance images. For example, it has thirteen creative picture effects such as HDR painting and Rich-Tone Mono. Additionally, the camera has its own dynamic range optimiser (DRO) built in which has the purpose of improving shadow detail.

When it comes to video, this camera really shines. The RX100 IV shoots true 4K of up to 5 minutes with absolutely no pixel binning or line skipping, oh and no visual aliasing either. There are not many cameras of this size that can boast about being able to shoot in 4K, so hats off to Sony for this feat. The camera utilises the XAVC S format in order to maximise on high-bitrate shooting of up to a truly impressive 100 Mbps – this is really professionally quality video from the little RX100 IV.

Your creative freedom is heightened further as the RX100 IV has the ability to capture super slow motion high frame video at up 40 times slower than real time. It looks absolutely phenomenal. These slow motion videos are recorded at 240, 480 and 960 fps in NTSC mode, and at 250, 500 and 1000 fps in PAL mode. The camera also shoots at below 4K. It can shoot up to 29 minutes of 1920 x 1080 video in a single go.

Pricing

The base Sony RX100 IV is currently selling for $948.00 on Amazon. The camera plus accessory bundle is retailing for $1,030.47.

Check the Price of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV 20.2 MP Digital Still Camera on Amazon:

4.4 - 98 Reviews


The Not So Great

As has been covered in detail above, the RX100 IV has some immensely great features, one of the most notable being its ability to shoot true 4K.

However, the camera does have a few issues. First and foremost, the autofocus isn’t great, this is mostly due to the fact that the camera lacks a touch screen, something many of it’s rivals do have, this is particularly disappointing as the camera has a 3 inch LCD screen. Secondly, the battery life is quite poor and is in fact 14% weaker than its previous incarnation the RX100 III. Finally, you can’t use RAW mode when you want to use some of the cameras specific features.

It must be noted however that all of the above are not critical issues and in fact many of them may not even be detected by some owners of the camera depending on the manner and frequency o their usage. So overall the problems with the camera are at best minor frustrations and do not detract too much from the huge benefits and positives of the camera.

Positives

4K video shooting up to 960 fps
Super slow and super-speed shooting
Great bright condition & low light condition shooting
High speed continuous shooting at 16 fps
180 degrees tiltable LCD Screen

Negatives

Poor auto-focus system due to lack of touchscreen
Poor battery life
Unable to shoot in raw in certain camera settings

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Bottom Line
 

The RX100 IV takes superbly vivid, crisp and striking images that can match up to and in some cases surpass even high end DSLRs. It shoots real 4K video and is the world’s first camera to have a 1.0-type stacked CMOS image sensor. The camera has a large number of features but thankfully, gets the basics right and performs them beautifully.

The camera is let down ever so slightly by a few niggling issues. Firstly, autofocus is not the best, this is primarily because the camera lacks a touch screen. Secondly, the battery life isn’t really that great and is actually about 14% worse than the RX100 III (previous model). Third and finally, RAW mode has to be turned off if you want to use some of the cameras features.

All in all though, the issues with the camera are minor annoyances and none are bad enough to outweigh the large and overwhelming strengths of the camera.

Check the Price of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV 20.2 MP Digital Still Camera on Amazon:

4.4 - 98 Reviews

 
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