Sony set the bar high with the RX100 III, and the RX100 IV promises to be even better. Michael Topham tests the latest premium compact camera to hit the shelves
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV review: Introduction
At a glance:
- 20.1-million pixel, 1in-type Exmor RS CMOS sensor
- Bionz X image processor
- ISO 125-12,800 (expandable to ISO 80/100)
- 3in, 1.23-million-dot tilting LCD screen
- 16fps continuous shooting
Back in 2012 Sony redefined expectations for small cameras by fitting a large, high resolution 20.1-million-pixel 1-in sensor into the pocket-sized RX100. Every year since then, it has taken its advanced point-and-shoot compact and improved it for the better. The arrival of the RX100 II back in 2013 was a step up from the original RX100 and introduced a new backside illuminated CMOS sensor, tiltable LCD screen and Wi-fi connectivity.
A year later the RX100 III arrived having received further attention from Sony’s engineers. Its shorter 24-70mm zoom range enabled the manufacturer to improve the maximum aperture to f/1.8-2.8 from f/1.8-4.9 on previous versions. The real standout feature on the RX100 III however was the introduction of its ingeniously designed pop-up electronic viewfinder. When we revealed our verdict of the RX100 III just over a year ago it was difficult to see where future developments would be made, but the new RX100 IV arrives with yet more attractive features and improvements to ensure it’s right up there as one of the very best pocket-sized compact cameras.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV Review – Features
For the last two generations Sony has rolled out the RX100 II and the RX100 III with a 20.2-million-pixel Exmor R BSI-CMOS sensor. Though the resolution remains exactly the same on the RX100 IV, the configuration of the sensor is different. Rather than employing the previously used BSI, or back-illuminated sensor, the new Exmor RS chip incorporates a stacked design that repositions the circuitry from the edges of the sensor to behind the photodiodes, or pixels, themselves.
The benefit of this is that it prevents high volumes of data having to work their way to the edge of the sensor, resulting in a data readout speed that Sony claims to be five times as quick as the existing Exmor R sensor. To make this all possible and to ensure the RX100 IV’s Bionz X processor doesn’t falter with the extra demands, Sony has incorporated extra DRAM memory at the rear of the sensor to act as a buffer and gradually feed the data to the image processor at a speed it can deal with.
This more sophisticated sensor design allows the RX100 IV to be faster in a number of key areas. Not only can it rattle off a continuous burst at up to 16fps, it can also shoot at shutter speeds up to 1/32,000sec thanks to the new electronic shutter that deploys beyond 1/2000sec.
The new sensor and speed benefits don’t end here. Slow motion video recording is possible up to an incredible 1000fps (visit the performance section of this review to view our examples) and 4K video recording is available with full sensor readout and bit rates up to 100Mbps. To take advantage of the new movie features, users are required to insert a UHS-I U3 SDXC memory card; with a slower card, or one smaller than 64GB, the features will be disabled. The RX100 IV also enables 17-million pixel still images to be captured whilst recording a movie thanks to the addition of a new Auto Dual Rec release function.
Like the RX100 III, the native sensitivity range runs between ISO 125-12800 with the option to expand it to ISO 80 and ISO 100. Aside from the new sensor design, the RX100 IV shares many similarities with the RX100 III. It has the same f/1.8-2.8 (24-70mm equivalent) Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens that features a built-in ND filter. Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity are both present and there’s a 3-in, 1.23-million-dot articulated screen at the rear, though regrettably it’s still not the touchscreen type we’ve been longing to see on an RX100 model for a while. The pop-up EVF sees a jump up in resolution to 2.36-million-dots from 1.44-million-dots and in the same fashion as before it’s positioned beside a popup flash.
The RX100 IV accepts the same NP-BX1 battery, but the battery life has taken a bit of a hit and is now rated at 280 shots per charge – 40 less than the RX100 III, but still 70 more than one of its key rivals in the market – the Canon PowerShot G7 X.