Sony RX100 IV — pocket-sized photo power plus 4k video

The battle of the compact cameras has hotted up in the last couple of years and Sony has added to the fray with possibly the most powerful and versatile all-round compact camera on the market — the Sony RX100 IV.

I have reviewed other super compacts, such as the Ricoh GR, Nikon Coolpix A and the Sigma DP Quattro series, and they are all brilliant cameras with excellent APS-C sensors and great lenses producing very sharp results. The drawbacks with this trio are that they have fixed-length lenses and they don’t shoot particularly good video (the Sigma doesn’t do video at all).

Fog is nature’s softbox for photography: Sony RX100 IV, ISO 640, f5.6, 1/80 sec, lens at 46mm (35mm equiv). Copyright rogerpacker.com

The Sony RX100 IV has a so-called 1-inch-type sensor (13.2 mm x 8.8mm), which is smaller than APS-C but much bigger than most compacts and somehow produces image quality that competes with the best of the bigger format.

Autumn leaves: Sony RX100 IV, ISO 640,  f2.8, 1/80 sec, lens at 70mm (35mm equivalent). Copyright rogerpacker.com

The camera also features an incredible top shutter speed of 1/32,000 sec, 4k video and high-frame-rate slow-motion video.

The sensor is capable of producing 20MP images and uses a fast Zeiss lens ranging from f1.8-f2.8 with a zoom reach of around 24mm-70mm in 35mm terms. There is a flip-out monitor which has a fairly limited range of movement (up and down only) but enough to take angled and waist-level pictures and even selfies with the screen turned up and over.

The Sony RX100 IV has very accurate color reproduction: ISO 200, f5.6, 1/125 sec, lens at 43mm (35mm equivalent). Copyright rogerpacker.com

One of the real clinchers for me is the fact that the Sony RX100 IV also has a viewfinder — and a pretty good one at that. It’s a pop-up finder sited on the top left of the camera which gives a decent view with full exposure information and includes a neat dioptre lever to adjust it to your vision.

If you’re interested in video, then the Sony RX100 IV is a true pioneer as you simply can’t get 4k and slow-motion modes (at sub-4k resolutions) in any other compact or at this price level. I’ve only dabbled so far with video with the RX100 IV but what I’ve seen looks great and you can also shoot stills while using video functions.

All this power comes in a startlingly small package at just 4 inches wide, 2,4 inches tall and 1.6 inches deep (101.6 x 61.0 x 40.6 mm). The Sony RX100 IV is considerably smaller than the Ricoh GR, Nikon Coolpix A and the Sigma DP Quattros, it’s smaller, in fact, than many much less powerful compact cameras.

Grasses in the wind (high-contrast mono mode) — Sony RX100 IV, ISO 200, f5.6, 1/250 sec, lens at 70mm (35mm equivalent). Copyright rogerpacker.com

Some photographers reckon it’s too small as the body is slick and it comes without a grip of any sort, although one can be added, but I’m very happy with the size as you really can put this one in any pocket easily to carry and use at any time.

I do always have a wrist strap on compact cameras and so long as you use the Sony strap, which is included, you shouldn’t have any mishaps.

Dahlias — Sony RX100 IV, ISO 500, f2.8, 1/40 sec, lens at 35mm (35mm equivalent). Copyright rogerpacker.com

The camera does fall down in the area of settings where Sony has a menu-driven maze which covers 25 main areas. This is a nightmare when compared with a camera such as the Ricoh GR where you can change vital settings such as ISO simply and quickly. However, Sony does allow you to save a range of settings to keep in Memory Recall and then switch between them which at least improves things.

High contrast mono mode — Sony RX100 IV, ISO 200, f5.6, 1/100 sec, lens at 36mm (35mm equivalent). Copyright rogerpacker.com

Even with this annoyance, the Sony RX100 IV is a joy to use. I have been startled at the accuracy of exposures, the sharp detail of the pictures and the brilliant color reproduction.

The lens seems to perform excellently across the full zoom range and the pictures here used a variety of lens lengths and ISO settings up to 800. All the pictures in this post (apart from the product shots) were taken as Fine Jpegs with minimal post-processing.

Spiders’ webs — Sony RX100 IV, ISO 800, f2.8, 1/40 sec, lens at 38mm (35mm equivalent). Copyright rogerpacker.com

I’ve only had a week or two of shooting with the RX100 IV, so I’m just scratching the surface of its capabilities so far but I’m hugely impressed. It’s currently priced at about $950 (around £815), which could be considered expensive for a compact but I think it’s a bargain when you take into account the sheer all-round capability of this camera.

Take it as red — Sony RX100 IV, ISO 200, f3.2, 1/80 sec, lens at 50mm (35mm equivalent). Copyright rogerpacker.com

If you don’t fancy the 4k video, then you could save a couple of hundred dollars by opting for a Sony RX100 III, which has largely the features of the IV without the 4k movies.

All the RX100 models are still available as Sony hasn’t discontinued any of them — the original model, the II and the III can be bought new on the market at very reasonable prices.

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