While most consumers tend to always go for DSLR’s to capture great moments, they always hesitate to invest in extra lenses or are not in favor of the fact that different lens is required for different occasions and scenarios. This is something I’ve come across many of my family members and friends who just don’t have the time to grasp and understand the concepts behind the importance of different types of lenses. The only way to rectify that is with a bridge camera with a lens that has the focal length for almost all scenarios. The Sony RX10 series is no stranger in this market and is also acknowledged by many photo enthusiasts and photographers alike. Sony’s latest RX10 Mark 4 is here and we review on just how good the camera is.
Sony has seriously come a long way in improving their bridge camera shooters and while the latest edition of their camera packs some critical features for fast shooting, the design of the camera remains to be almost the same as the previous generation. It’s a fixed lens camera and along with the battery and SD card, the device weighs about 1.09kg. It may be a bit heavy for some but remember that the camera houses a long 600mm lens. The switch that lets you choose between different focus modes is located on the left front end (near the start of the lens portion). You will be able to choose between Single Shot, Auto, Continuous mode, DMF and Manual Focus mode. And in case you want to take some macro shots, there is another switch that lets you choose the focus range between Full or infinity to 3m. Right above that is the Focus Hold button that lets you lock onto a focal distance to activate Eye AF (something that most Sony high-end cameras excel at). The famous aperture ring of the Sony RX10 series is here and you can now silence the aperture clicking sound with the help of a nifty switch beneath the lens. The ZEISS lens can expand by either turning the lens manually or with the zoom trigger on the left side.
There is also the mode selector on the upper left that lets you choose between the Auto mode, Program, Aperture, Shutter priority, Manual focus, video, special Scene modes, Panorama, and high frame rate mode (the super slow-motion recordings). Each of the modes is already self-explanatory. On the right is the trigger shooter at the upper end of the handgrip. Behind the trigger is the power On/Off. The trigger also doubles as a zoom function for the lens. There is also a small screen on the top that shows all the important aspects while shooting videos or capturing images. This is particularly a useful design that’s found on many professional DSLRs. There comes to use when you can’t depend on the main rear screen for certain shooting situations. At the left side of the screen is the exposure selector and above the screen is the flash button, the illuminator, and the C1/C2 buttons for your custom configurations. Sony has placed each of these buttons conveniently and I was able to reach them easily without any hassles. There are times when these important buttons are hard to reach while in the midst of shooting videos. Speaking of which, the video record button is placed on the right side of the viewfinder. I must say that its really easy for my thumb to reach that portion when I want to record videos instantly.
The rear portion includes most of Sony’s usual camera buttons, including the Function button, the AEL button, the navigator button, the playback button and the delete button. There is also another manual ring that’s located on the right side of the video record button. While in manual mode, I’m able to adjust the shutter speed with this ring while I use the aperture ring on the lens to adjust the aperture. The tiltable 3-inch screen on the rear is a 1,440,000 dot TFT LCD display that can swing up to 109 degrees up and down by 41 degrees. The display also has touch features that allow you to select the focus point while shooting. The viewfinder consists of an XGA OLED screen and offers 100% of field coverage. For adjusting the focus on the viewfinder, there is also a diopter ring that ranges from -4 to +3m-1.
The left side of the camera has the headphone jack, the microphone jack, the micro USB port and the micro HDMI port. These ports are protected with a rubber seal. And if the battery is running low, you will be able to connect a power source (such as an external power bank) to the MicroUSB port, while using the camera. The SD card reader is on the right side of the hand grip. Speaking of which, the RX10 Mark 4 includes a battery that offers an approximate 400 photos while using the main LCD screen and 370 shots while using the viewfinder. Of course, there are other factors as well that affects the battery life, such as the number of times you zoom the camera, the camera mode, flash and so forth.
Specifications And Image Quality
While the RX10 series may not feature an image sensor that’s similar to traditional DSLR’s, the 1-inch Exmor RS CMOS sensor is far larger than any of the image sensors used in smartphones and compact cameras. Let’s just say it’s the sweet spot between APS-C/ Micro Four Third Sensors and 1 by 2.3-inch image sensors. 1-inch sensors have proven to be great in terms of performance and so the latest offering from Sony shouldn’t be any less. Adding to that is the super-fast autofocus speed with 315 points of phase detection that covers over 65% of the sensor area. The high-performance Tracking AF focuses on a moving object and activates the AF points around the subject in advance, ensuring that the moving subject doesn’t go out of focus. You can also touch to focus the object via the main screen. Although, through my time of testing, the touch AF was a bit slow while I was zooming at an object at maximum focal length (600mm). This could be a problem for wildlife photographers as animals and birds do not stay at the same place for long. It was better off for me to rely on the trigger focus.
Another spectacular feature of the RX10M4 is its ability to fire of 24 fps of continuous burst shots and adding to that is the capability to capture up to 249 frames at a time. The speed of the continuous burst and along with the advanced AF performance, lets you capture any fast-moving subject. My test subject was the simple sparrows of Dubai that are known to fly away very fast. And just like any wildlife photographer, I had to patiently wait. From far away, I’m capable of extending my lens up to 600mm (without the need of using digital zoom) and when you feel that the bird is about to take its flight, I start firing the shots in advance, making sure I get each and every bit of frame. Keep in mind that you need a high-speed memory card to cope up with the camera’s burst mode performance. The best option is to go for an SDHC card with UHS-1 speed performance or a high-speed Memory Stick Pro Duo.
The image quality is well processed as far as a 1-inch sensor can do and also with the help of the BIONZ X image processor that also reduces the noise in the image. Keep in mind that while the aperture starts at F2.4, the aperture doesn’t stay constant when you increase the focal length. The aperture hits at F4.0 at maximum 600mm. Night shots are also good and I did try to shoot some moon shots with the RX10 Mark 4. For those who prefer manual controls, the ISO ranges from 100-12800 and is extendable from ISO 64 to ISO 25600. The default shutter speed ranges from 4-1/2000 and from 30” to 1-2000 for shutter and aperture priority modes.
The camera is also capable of recording videos up to 4K resolutions in XAVC S format for the best of video quality. You also get optical stabilization to reduce shakes while recording handheld videos. The RX10 Mark IV also features NFC so that you can transfer your images via WiFi to your NFC enabled smartphone. However, you will need to install the PlayMemories application in order to make use or sync content. You can also remote control the RX10 Mark 4 with the PlayMemories application and this feature comes in handy if you want to shoot a family picture with you in the frame.
While the Sony RX10 Mark IV comes with specifications and capability that are needed for those who love to take long-range shots or fast-moving subjects. And for the price that it's being sold for, many would argue that they can simply buy a full-frame camera at the same price. But the fact is that the price you're looking at will only fetch you the body of the full-frame camera or any high-end camera. And if you want a 600mm (35mm equivalent) lens for high-end cameras, those kind of lens are may more expensive and massive to carry around. Yes, we agree that full-frame sensors can capture way more detail than a 1-inch sensor, but the price of these models isn't something any normal consumer will be happy. And that's where a bridge camera comes handy and the RX10 M4 is simply one of the best all-in-one cameras on the market. You get a 24-600mm lens with ZEISS glass that covers almost all sorts of focal lengths anyone would need and the 24fps continuous burst mode with the advanced phase detection autofocus is something needed to record or capture fast-moving subjects. And the level of pro features it offers also helps many to do professional video work.