3 years ago, I reviewed the first-generation Sony RX100, an amazing compact camera with outstanding performance. This year, Sony released its 4th-generation RX100, Mark 4. I requested Sony Singapore to lend me a unit so that I could review during the eventful holiday season.
The RX100 IV has so many features that you will never believe they all come from such a small camera.
– memory-attached 1-inch stacked CMOS sensor with DRAM: what this jargon means that the camera is capable to capturing and saving still and video images at a much higher speed
– customisable controls: I would expect no less from a top-end compact camera to allow extensive customisation of buttons and dials. For instance, I can assign the control ring around the lens for manual focus instead of zoom controls. I can also customise the 12 function menu items. Similarly, I can assign specific functions to the left, right, centre dials.
– up to 1/32000s: the camera can shoot still images up to 1/32000s using electronic shutter, which means the sensor cuts off light electronically instead of relying on the mechanical shutter, where physical constraint usually prevents such technical capabilities.
– up to ISO 12800: chroma-noise images are really a thing of a past. Even at the highest ISO, colour information is well-retained and very usable for web publishing.
– up to 16fps: the RX100 IV captures high fps effortlessly, I don’t even feel it’s capturing. That’s because the camera does not have any mechanical movements while recording the images. Best of all, there is no viewfinder blackout, so I can follow through the action while shooting.
– up to 1000fps video: the new speed-saving capability plus the high ISO quality also means the camera can shoot at super-high frame rate (HFR), up to 960/1000fps (NTSC/PAL). Note however, that HFR recording is only available with high-spec SDXC cards.
– record 4K videos: RX100 IV makes it possible to record home-made 4K videos. Just make sure you get the top-spec SDXC cards.
– capture still images during video recording: many cameras now support this, but the RX100 IV captures still images up to 17MP.
– retractable EVF: I personally find it a chore to use it as I need to pop it up and pull out the window. But at times when ambient light is too strong or when I’m tight in space, the EVF helps. And the quality is so good that I’d wish the EVF is a lot larger. I love how the camera switches between the main display and EVF even during live video recording.
– Wi-Fi and NFC: I can easily transfer images wirelessly to smartphones via PlayMemories app. Even if your phone does not have NFC, transfer via Wi-Fi is impressively fast.
– 180-degree flip-up display for selfies: it’s a must-have for the new-generation camera users.
– installable applications: there are a handful of apps which I can download to add more features. But I’m really not that keen to explore those as it drains battery and loses focus on what the camera does best, that is to capture and save images amazingly fast.
Vacation in Hong Kong
The RX100 IV has proven to be the best camera for travel. Earlier this month, I went for a vacation in Hong Kong, with 3 kids, 4 adults and an elderly. Getting bulky with camera equipment is not an option. Besides, it is just too cumbersome to lug even a mirrorless camera around the neck. Yet, leaving it in the bag would mean constant loss of shooting opportunity.
I was extremely pleased with the RX100 IV. Here’s what I feel works for my trip:
– pocketable. The RX100 IV fits my front jeans pocket. I can whip it out any time when I needed to snap.
– quick start up. The RX100 IV starts up fast enough to ready me for the shot I needed.
– fast AF. The trusty RX100 IV gets the scene in focus in a blink of an eye. I don’t have to wait too long to get focus before pushing the shutter all the way to capture the moment.
– fast shooting response. The RX100 IV keeps up with my demand for fast shot-to-shot response. It works very well when capturing the hyperactive kids. I did not opt to do continuous shots because I prefer controlling the shutter instead of blind firing. Focus-shoot-release, Refocus-shoot-release.
– looks good without much processing. I’m spending a lot less time post-processing images, so I appreciate a camera that gets me the right colour vibrance without looking too over-processed.
– works in all lighting conditions. Because the camera performs so well at high ISO, I can shoot without any worry about light issue. Of course, I must still have a steady hand, for there is no recourse for hand-movement blur.
– quick access to critical shoot settings. New cameras may have a lot of fancy shoot settings, but all a photographer really needs is to control the shutter, aperture, and exposure value compensation. The RX100 IV easily achieves that, especially the EV, and reflects the exposure on the display.
– EVF. I was initially not a fan of the pop-up EVF. It would be better if the EVF is permanently accessible. But I began to appreciate what this feature could do. What it means is that the RX100 IV does not compromise on the size to build a feature that not everyone like me appreciate, yet when used, offers uncompromised quality. I have also learnt that in many cases, I would anticipate the need for EVF and I would pop it up in advance to allow me to switch between the main display and EVF when needed.
– sufficient zoom range. Every photographer would love a super zoom camera, but there must be a balance. The RX100 IV ha sufficient zoom for more situations, and it also has a smart zoom option to do digital crop to get higher zoom effect with lower resolution.
– Wi-Fi. My smartphone does not have NFC, but manual connection via Wi-Fi works just as fast. It makes sharing to smartphones so convenient. Some Android devices might require manual connection to the Wi-Fi Direct setting on the RX100 IV before it can work seamlessly. Others are more forgiving, and upon initial password entering via the PlayMemories app, auto-connects subsequently
– USB charging. On the day at Disneyland Hong Kong where I took a lot of shots, I was able to charge the RX100 IV over dinner using the portable power bank so that it will last me over the evening. For the rest of the days, the RX100 IV lasted the whole day without charging.
Shooting Tips for Travel Photography
Shoot First, Decide Later. There are times when you were hesitant about a moment. But during travel, the moment missed is a moment forever gone. So shoot first, then decide later if you think it’s a good image to keep.
Process Photos to Convey Mood. As much as I prefer not to apply effects, there are shots where it simply works better when an effect is applied.
Creative Shot. Anyone can take photos, and creating interesting images is not as difficult as you may think. With digital photography, you can experiment without additional cost. Try these:
- Drag the shutter. Create a balance of blur and sharp details within a photo. (More images that use this technique)
- Tried-and-tested Framing techniques. Rule of thirds, symmetry, leading lines, negative spaces. Just some of the terms to make your images stand out a bit more. Look through all the photos I posted on this blog to see if you can identify which technique I used.
- Isolate images with shallow depth of field. Most of the compact cameras cannot achieve shallow DOP, but you can make do by zooming in to the highest focal length (70mm for RX100 IV) at the closest possible distance and take the shot. (Tutorial: understanding aperture)
The features I did not test
The RX100 IV has so many features that it is not possible for me to use all of them. For instance, I was not able to test the HFR but you’ll find a lot of resource online regarding this feature.
I also did not test most of the Scene modes, as they are mostly presets based on Aperture, Shutter and ISO. I also did not attempt on apply Creative Style or Picture Effects. Neither did I shoot in RAW because my Lightroom version does not support RX100 IV.
Improvements Wish List
RX100 IV is pretty good, but a few improvements won’t hurt. First, it would be nice if the control ring has some clicks while turning, so that it would give a good feel of how much to turn. As of now, the ring does not feel entirely responsive. The other nice thing that RX100 IV could have is to be able to tilt the screen sideways. Finally, it would boost the ease of use if the display is touch screen.
The Sony RX100 IV continues to be my favourite compact camera to date. It beats a mirrorless camera except for the flexibility of interchangeable lens, the larger sensor size for better image details. Other than that, the RX100 IV performs exceedingly well in all aspects of speed: focus, capture, frame-per-second.