Sony RX100 IV Review

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Walkaround

Sony has retained almost exactly the same body design it used in the RX100 III for the followup Sony RX100 IV. Indeed, body dimensions are identical to those of the earlier camera, and weight is only increased by a scant eight grams.

Look closely, though, and there are a few subtle differences here and there.

Sony RX100 IV Review -- Product Image

Look at the front of the camera, and there’s no way to tell the Sony RX100 IV apart from its predecessor. The lens still dominates the front deck, and there are no controls visible save for the front of the zoom rocker that protrudes from the top deck. There’s still an AF assist lamp just above and to the right of the lens (as seen from the rear), and all of the same badges and markings remain just as they were in the RX100 III.

Sony RX100 IV Review -- Product Image

Once you move to the top deck, though, there are some subtle tweaks. Most notably, the control ring around the lens barrel now has a diamond-knurled texture, where in the past it had simple, longitudinal grooves. The change is largely cosmetic, but gives perhaps just a touch more grip as well.

Another change can be found on the mode dial. Where previously there were separate positions for Intelligent Auto and Intelligent Auto+ shooting (the latter allowing multi-shot capture), there’s now a single combined Auto position. This frees up space for the new HFR position, providing access to the special high frame-rate modes that have been added in the Sony RX100 IV.

In other respects, the top deck, too, is unchanged — at least, if you ignore the “RX100 IV”, “Exmor RS” and “4K” branding.

Sony RX100 IV Review -- Product Image

The sole change on the rear side of the Sony RX100 IV is an extremely subtle one indeed. The movie record button on the RX100-series cameras to date has always been silver, but on the RX100 IV it changes to match the body color, just as do all the other buttons. It still has a red dot at its center to call attention to it, though.

In other respects, the controls and features of the RX100 IV’s back deck are all the same as those of the RX100 III.

Sony RX100 IV Review -- Product Image

Other than the aforementioned change in the lens ring, there’s again nothing new to see on the right-hand side of the Sony RX100 IV. Save for the Wi-Fi logo, Multi and HDMI connector flaps and wrist / neck strap eyelet, this side of the camera is pretty smooth and featureless.

As in the RX100 III, the LCD monitor is articulated, as you can see above. It tilts upwards 180 degrees for selfie shooting, or downwards 45 degrees for shooting over your head.

Sony RX100 IV Review -- Product Image

Finally, we come to the left side of the Sony RX100 IV. Just as on the other side, there are no changes of note here beyond the lens ring. The release switch for the popup electronic viewfinder remains just where it was, as does the NFC logo that indicates the location of the short-range antenna for pairing with Android phones and tablets.

Technical Info

Basic Specifications
Full model name: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV
Resolution: 20.10 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1 inch
(13.2mm x 8.8mm)
Kit Lens: 2.92x zoom
(24-70mm eq.)
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
Native ISO: 125 – 12,800
Extended ISO: 80 – 25,600
Shutter: 30 – 1/32000
Max Aperture: 1.8
Dimensions: 4.0 x 2.3 x 1.6 in.
(102 x 58 x 41 mm)
Weight: 10.5 oz (298 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $1,000
Availability: 07/2015
Manufacturer: Sony
Full specs: Sony RX100 IV specifications

Sensor

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 are suggesting that rolling shutter is basically eliminated; our understanding from talking to company reps is that rolling shutter will still be present, but at such a low level as to effectively make it a non-issue.)

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.

Processor

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.

Sensitivity

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.

Performance

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.

Of course, these are all manufacturer figures, thus far. We’ll have to get the RX100 IV in the lab to see how it performs in the real world. In our review of the earlier camera, though, we found them pretty reflective of our experiences.

(With the RX100 III, we managed about 2.8-3.3 frames per second by default, and precisely ten frames per second in Speed Priority Continuous mode so long as we didn’t enable raw mode. We’re particularly looking forward to testing raw performance in Speed Priority mode, though, because with the RX100 III this combination was much slower than in JPEG mode.)

Lens

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.

Stabilization

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.

Focusing

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.

Viewfinder

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 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.

Monitor

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, Sony’s press materials no longer mention an auto brightness control, so it’s possible that this has been removed. (We’ll check this once we get the camera in the lab for testing.)

Articulation

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

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.

Flash

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.

Creative

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.

Movie

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
    • 950 / 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.

Wireless connectivity

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.

Wired connectivity

As well as its wireless connectivity, the Sony RX100 IV also sports both a Micro HDMI port for high-def video output, and a USB 2.0 High Speed data port for connection to your computer.

Storage

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.

Power

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.

The evolution of the the large-sensor enthusiast compact continues with the Sony RX100 IV, a camera with some very worthwhile improvements over its predecessor, the RX100 III. Continuing the RX100-series that has defined the category, this handsome compact retains almost exactly the same pocket-friendly body as in the earlier model, but under the skin it’s more capable than ever with greater performance and a much clearer viewfinder.

Most of the new features in the Sony RX100 IV come courtesy of its brand-new Sony Exmor RS image sensor, which replaces the earlier Exmor R chip in the RX100 III. Featuring an industry-first stacked CMOS sensor design with embedded DRAM, this allows not only a significant improvement in burst capture rate (now up to 16 frames per second at full resolution), but also provides for electronic shutter capability up to 1/32,000 second. And impressively, Sony is claiming that high-speed readout will translate to minimal rolling shutter (or jello) effect, even when using the electronic shutter!

Nor is that all. The new sensor also allows the Sony RX100 IV to provide for 4K video capture, and high frame-rate video at up to a staggering 1,000 frames per second. And there are upgrades in other areas, too — for example, a brand-new Organic LED display in the popup electronic viewfinder that now has double the dot count of that in the earlier camera.

Sony has also included plenty of firmware tweaks in the RX100 IV. These include a new expanded flexible spot autofocus function, and an additional self-timer option of five seconds duration. And when shooting in Program or Aperture-priority modes, you can now access the longest shutter speed of 30 seconds that was previously restricted to only Shutter-priority or Manual shooting. Add in seven new Picture Profile options that allow you to control things like black level, gamma, black gamma, knee, and plenty more besides.

All of these new features sit alongside the same 24-70mm equivalent, f/1.8-2.8 optical zoom lens with SteadyShot image stabilization as in the earlier camera. Also retained are an ISO sensitivity range of 125 to 12,800 equivalents (extendable down to ISO 80), a BIONZ X-branded image processor, 3.0-inch LCD monitor with tilt articulation, and a built-in popup flash.

Priced at US$1,000 or thereabouts, the Sony RX100 IV goes on sale from July 2015 in the US market. Let’s take a look around the body, and see where tweaks have been made, as well as what remains unchanged!

Sony RX100 IV Slow Motion Video

Wow, this camera is a blast to use! (An actual blast, in a couple of our clips!) If you’ve never had a chance to play with super slow-motion video, you’re in for a real treat!

We’ll expand on the coverage here over the next day or so, but didn’t want to delay posting the video below, because the effects are so incredible. So stay tuned for a lot of background here in the next short while, but in the meantime, enjoy seeing the kind of super slow-mo video you can capture with the Sony RX100 IV!

Given the pocketable nature of this little camera, the capabilities and image quality of the high frame rate (HFR) videos is quite impressive. Unlike most cameras, while there’s some cropping depending on the frame rate and duration of the clip, the RX100 IV processes the video internally to deliver 1,920 x 1,080 video as the final product. So the highest-speed videos will look softer on playback, but the quality loss didn’t detract from the fun we had with it in the slightest.

Sony RX100 IV slow motion: Capture frame rate ÷ file frame rate = Slow-mo factor

The Sony RX100 IV lets you choose the capture frame rate and the movie file frame rate separately, so you have a wide range of slow-motion effects available to you. The capture frame rate is pretty self-explanatory, it’s the number of times per second the camera will be capturing new frames, with options of 240fps, 480fps, and 960fps. (If you set the camera to PAL video timing, the corresponding rates are 250fps, 500fps, and 1000fps.) The file frame rate is the frames/second that the resulting movie will be played back at, with options of 24/30/60fps in NTSC timing or 25/50fps in PAL mode.

The amount the action is slowed down is the ratio between the capture and file frame rates. For instance, at the low end of the scale, 240fps capture played back at 60fps would give a slowdown of 240/60 = 4x. At the other extreme, 960fps played back at 24fps gives a slow-motion factor of 960/24 = 40x. In between, there’s quite a range of options, with choices of 4, 8, 10, 16, 20, 32 and 40x for NTSC videos. The corresponding factors for PAL timing are 5, 10, 20, and 40x.

The video above has examples shot at 480 and 960 fps, played back at 24fps, so the slow-motion effects are 20x and 40x, respectively.

(imaging-resource.com)

 

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