Your smartphone may be good enough for everyday shots, but premium compacts are offer a quality that satisfies without going all-out on a DSLR. Sony is here with another update to their chart-topping RX100 premium compact camera line, featuring a large 1" image sensor.
The reason why the RX100 line was so well-received was simply because this is a pocket-sized camera that was quick enough at shooting, comfortable handling, all while packing a sensor size that produced high quality pictures. Three iterations saw the camera come with NFC and Wi-Fi connectivity for the second version, and subsequently an electronic viewfinder in the third, together with a faster lens. This time, Sony stuffs a DRAM chip in their new Exmor RS stacked CMOS sensor – allowing faster image read-out speed of more than five times when compared to the previous make.
The RX100 IV is identical in size to its predecessor, and is slightly 8g heavier at 298g. Sadly, battery life has taken a hit, the RX100 IV shoots 280 shots per charge, compared to the RX100 III's 320 shots per charge.
If you are familiar with the Mark III’s interface and controls, you’ll be pleased to know that handling the Sony RX100 IV will feel just as good. As mentioned in our initial experience walkthrough, the exterior has only undergone minor tweaks, such as the addition of the high frame rate (HFR) mode on the mode dial. Comfort has not been compromised in any way.
With all these advantages, the RX100 IV also tops it off with the old features that RX100 users are very familiar with –the compact yet ergonomic grip and feel, a smooth focusing ring with tactile diamond-embossed design, with a ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T* 8.8–25.7mm lens (24–70mm in 35mm equivalent), and a wide aperture of f/1.8 for fast shooting.
The pop-up electronic viewfinder (EVF) remains, and has been upgraded to a 2.35m dot OLED display, up from 1.44m dots in the RX100 III. Sony also kept the relatively user-friendly controls for tweaking the camera while on Manual mode – an important point for high-end compacts since they embody ease of use and user-friendliness.
The key advantage that the new Exmor RS stacked CMOS sensor brings is that the RX100 IV shoots fast, really fast.
In PAL mode, the RX100 IV can capture up to 1,000 frames per second (fps), 500fps and 250fps of high frame rate (HFR) video. In NTSC mode, the camera can capture 960fps, 480fps or 240fps.
You can choose to record slow motion video in 60/50p, 30/25p and 24p for various slow-motion speeds, for example, a video captured at 1,000fps and recorded at 60p provides motion slowed down by approx. 16x (1000fps recorded divided by 60 fps playback), and a video captured at 1,000fps and recorded at 24p slows down the action by approx. 40x (1000fps divided by 24fps).
This is what 1,000 frames per second of HFR video looks like, when a face meets exploding tofu:
It's astoundingly fast, but one drawback is that the RX100 IV doesn't record at Full-HD at these speeds. It records at the maximum resolution of 1,824 x 1,026 when shooting 240/250fps at Quality Priority, and at the lowest resolution of 800 x 270 when shooting 960/1000fps in Shoot Time Priority.
The good news is that you can capture 1080/120p video, but because it's not part of the RX100 IV's HFR functions, you won't be able to preview the slow-motion on-camera, it will play at the same speed as normal footage. Editors, however, will be able to slow it down back in post-production.
To record the slow motion footage more accurately, Sony also gives us a “start trigger” which allows the camera to record two seconds after pressing the record button, and an “end trigger” where it stops recording two seconds after pressing the same button. We’re happy to learn that a feature that’s akin to having high-speed recording equipment is available on a premium compact camera.
Check out what an exploding water-balloon looks like, shot at 1,000 frames per second:
There’s also the Speed Priority Continuous Shooting, which is new to the RX100 series and is a notch above standard Continuous Shooting modes found on every compact. The Sony RX100 IV is capable of chugging out shots at 16 frames per second (thanks to the DRAM chip stacking), so we have the option of getting precisely the images we want in a fast-moving or time-sensitive shot.
The Sony RX100 IV is actually capable of still images taken at 1/32,000s while using the electronic shutter, giving you the literal ability to freeze a moment in time.