Price (RRP): $2599
There are many things to weigh up in purchasing a camera. Price is a biggie, of course. But there’s also compactness, picture quality, versatility, and convenience. If you want the best quality and to heck with the rest, then you’ll be choosing a DSLR along with a bunch of lenses. But what if quality and convenience and versatility are your priorities, and you’re not so concerned about the rest?
Then you’ll likely want a fixed lens camera, but one with quite a zoom. A compact camera? No, quality suffers, and the lens is probably slow. Which brings us to the Sony CyberShot RX10 IV camera (model number DSC-RX10M4). This is the fourth version of the RX10, as the Roman numerals suggest, and it seems to be targeted very much at someone who wants a quality picture, with control and versatility, but without the hassle of lens changes.
The RX10 IV is fairly large, challenging the size of many a changeable lens mirrorless camera. Indeed, with its substantial fixed lens, it isn’t the kind of camera to hang flat against your side when suspended from your shoulder with its strap. It weighs nearly 1.1 kilograms and, switched off (so that the lens is retracted) measures 144mm front to back, 142mm side to side and 96mm top to bottom.
But what you get is a wide range of zoom from a fast lens, a high quality 20.1 megapixel Exmor RS CMOS-stacked sensor, Sony’s BIONZ X image processing, and a stack of manual controls to supplement the highly developed auto features.
First the lens. It has a 25x zoom range, from 8.8 to 220mm. That works out to be 24 to 600mm, 35mm equivalent. That’s not too unusual these days, except that the lens – a ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T – has a maximum aperture of between f/2.4 and f/4.0. Combine that with Sony’s “Optical SteadyShot” – its version of optical image stabilisation – which Sony says is good for around 4.5 stops of “shutter speed improvement”, and you’ll find it possible to use this camera hand held for long shots that could not be managed with most super telephoto compact models.
The lens has the focal length – in 35mm equivalent terms – marked on its barrel so you have a quick visual indication from the outside. It accepts 72mm optical filters.
Sony says that the auto focus has a 0.03 second response time and that it uses 315 focal-plane phase-detection points. Continuous shooting with auto focus can proceed at 24 frames per second. The camera will also do up to 4K video at bitrates of up to 100Mbps. And slow motion with high frame rate shooting.
The rear display is not touch sensitive. It has 1.44 megapixels and a 75mm diagonal. It can fold out so you can use it from above and below, but it doesn’t swing side to side, nor all the way around to allow you to frame selfies. The electronic optical viewfinder has nearly 2.4 megapixels and dioptre adjustment so those of us with imperfect vision can use it. The screen was fairly visible under most lighting conditions, but having the viewfinder both makes sure that even under the brightest light you’ll be able to frame things properly. Furthermore, I always find that pushing the camera into your eye makes for a more stable hold when taking telephoto shots.
There is a tripod mounting point on the bottom, but I didn’t actually use it during the test. I do like OIS and fast lenses. On top there’s a pop up flash, but also a proper flash (and accessories) mounting shoe. A top-mounted LCD display shows a few basic settings, the number of shots remaining on your card and the battery status. The movie button is distinct from everything else and able to be reached by the right thumb for activation even while you’re framing through the viewfinder.
The camera works with SD cards and Memory Stick Duo media. If you’re going for that 100Mbps video recording, you’ll need SDHC or SDXC with a speed rating of U3. Apparently Memory Sticks aren’t fast enough.
There’s a microphone input and headphone output, along with a “multi” output for use with HDMI. The battery is charged in situ via a Micro-B USB socket. A 1.5 amp, 5 volt adaptor is provided with the camera. This will not run the camera from power. For that you need a separate adaptor that goes into the battery compartment.
In addition the camera has 802.11b/g/n WiFi, running in the 2.4GHz band, along with Bluetooth and NFC for easy pairing. You can use an app for extracting photos from the camera to your phone for easy sharing on the fly. It will also allow GPS and time data to be taken from your phone and included in the photo metadata on the camera.