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Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV: A premium compact camera

By Ian Chee & Liu Hongzuo - 25 Aug 2015

Introduction, Design and Handling & Features


 The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV.

Your smartphone may be good enough for everyday shots, but premium compacts 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 lineup, and it's called the RX100 IV.

The reason why the RX100 series is so well-received is simply because it consists of pocket-sized cameras that offer quick shooting, comfortable handling, and most importantly, capture high-quality pictures. It's also good to see that the camera has evolved well since its first iteration. The second generation came with NFC and Wi-Fi connectivity, while the third came with an electronic viewfinder and a faster lens. This time around, Sony stuffed a DRAM chip into the sensor array, taking technology from its Exmor RS technology. This allows faster image read-out speeds, making this camera faster than it really looks. 

Design and handling

The RX100 IV may be small and compact, but it packs a punch when it comes to image quality.

The RX100 IV is identical in size to its predecessor, and is 8g heavier at 298g. Sadly, battery life has taken a hit - the RX100 IV shoots 280 shots per full charge, compared to the RX100 III's 320 shots per full charge.

The mode dial adds an additional HFR (High Frame-Rate) mode.

If you are familiar with the Mark III’s interface and controls, you’ll be pleased to know that in terms of handling, the Sony RX100 IV is 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.

The interface and button layout of the RX100 IV is almost identical to the RX100 III.

With all these advantages, the RX100 IV still comes with some old features that RX100 users are familiar with – the compact yet ergonomic grip and feel, a smooth focusing ring with tactile diamond-embossed design, a ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T* 8.8–25.7mm lens (24–70mm in 35mm equivalent), and a wide aperture of f/1.8 for low-light photography.

The RX100 IV has a built-in flash and a pop-up EVF.

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 controls relatively user-friendly, for when you're tweaking the exposure settings while on Manual mode – an important point for high-end compacts since they embody ease-of-use and user-friendliness.

The RX100 IV shoots extremely high-speed videos and photos

The key advantage that the new Exmor RS stacked CMOS sensor brings to the table is incredibly fast shooting speeds.

In PAL mode, the RX100 IV can capture up to 1,000 frames per second (fps), 500 and 250fps of high frame rate (HFR) video. In NTSC mode, the camera can capture 960, 480 or 240 fps.

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 1,000 fps and recorded at 60p provides motion slowed down by approx. 16x (1,000 fps recorded divided by 60 fps playback), and a video captured at 1,000fps and recorded at 24p slows down the action by approx. 40x (1,000 fps divided by 24 fps).

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 240/250 fps at Quality Priority, and at the lowest resolution of 800 x 270 when shooting 960/1000 fps 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 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 shoot.

The 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.

Here's a shot taken using the camera's Priority Continuous Shooting mode. Shot at 1/32,000 sec, f/2.8, ISO 6,400, 26mm (70mm for 35mm equivalent), external continuous light environment.

  • Performance 9.5
  • Design 9
  • Features 9
  • User-Friendliness 8.5
  • Value 8.5
The Good
Exciting video features
Faster shutter speed options
All-around a great premium compact
The Bad
The price just keeps going up and up
Battery life is lower than previous model