Tech Review: Sony RX10 IV is the King of Bridge Cameras

Sony’s RX10 IV was released back in October 2017, but even nearly six months later it remains the reigning King of Bridge Cameras with its 24-600mm zoom range, lightning-fast autofocus and 20.1 megapixel sensor.

 

Massive zoom ranges are the hallmark of bridge cameras, and the RX10 IV’s 24-600mm lens (35mm equivalent) is no exception. 600mm is enough to get you close to the action from wherever you are – across a sports field, out a tour bus window, or right up close to the animals at the zoo. With nice fast apertures – f2.4 at its widest and f4 at the telephoto end – you’ll be able to get beautiful blurred-out bokeh in your backgrounds as well as a nice sharp image all the way through at a smaller aperture.

The RX10 IV boasts the fastest autofocus you can get in a camera with a fixed lens and 1-inch sensor – 0.03 of a second – and almost everything you need to make a vlogger happy, with external mic input, a hotshoe to pop a shotgun mic on, and a variable angle screen. The screen won’t flip all the way out to face you, so it’s not ideal for recording yourself, but it will help you get a high- or low-angle shot without needing to lie on the ground or shoot blind. The camera is also dust and moisture resistant, which definitely helps those of us living in humid climates or anyone who likes to get out and really adventure with their camera – although I wouldn’t recommend testing its limits!

Shot on the RX10 IV
1/40 sec
f2.8
ISO 160 Click to see full size version on Flickr.

If you’re stepping up to the RX10 IV from a smaller compact camera, this camera will give you the feeling of shooting with something professional and hardcore – and its image quality and ease of use will be exactly what you’re looking for, which we’d hope is the case at the $2599 price point. For me personally, if I wanted to spend over two and a half thousand on a new camera, regardless of how versatile the RX10 IV is, I’d be putting that money towards something more specialised.

Let’s talk technical specs. The RX10 IV has a lot of bells and whistles – most notably how fast it is to autofocus with the aforementioned 0.03 second AF. Add to that the 315 phase detection AF points over 65% of the image area, and high density AF tracking borrowed from Sony’s higher-end Alpha series cameras, and you have all your problems solved when shooting a moving object. The camera also offers to take over the focus mode selection for you – it will switch between single and continuous, depending on the circumstances, unless you’d prefer to control those options yourself.

Shot on the RX10 IV
1/160 sec
f3.5
ISO 100 Click to see full size version on Flickr.

You can also ditch the old half-press of the shutter button to focus if you’re a live-view shooter who prefers to compose your shot with the screen – now you can just tap the screen on the spot you’d like in focus and the camera will take care of the rest. On the flip side, if you favour the viewfinder while shooting stills like I do, you can touch the screen WHILE you’re looking through the viewfinder and move your finger relative to the focus you’re seeing through the viewfinder to fine tune it.

A little side-note while we’re on the topic of viewfinders – I LOVE the design of the RX10 IV’s. As with most cameras, the back of the body is fairly flat, but the viewfinder protrudes away from the screen, meaning that your face isn’t smooshed up all over the back of the camera while you shoot. I’m left eye dominant, meaning I hold my camera up to my left eye, and I quite often lose all of my makeup off the left side of my nose and some off my cheek if I’m shooting a lot. This design means the camera doesn’t have to touch my face in order for me to see what I’m shooting, and I love that about it. If you’re right eye dominant, I would imagine this isn’t such a big issue for you anyway, and it’s definitely a big First World Problem but it’s something I’d like to see more of in high end cameras!

Shot on the RX10 IV
1/160 sec
f4
ISO 100
Click to see full size version on Flickr.

If shooting action is important to you – like flying birds or playing cats, or sporting children, or sporting adults – then you’ll be pleased to hear that the RX10 IV and its BIONZ X image processor offers 24 frames per second for up to 249 frames in one burst. That means you can hold the shutter down for about 10 seconds and have the camera capture 249 photos consecutively before it needs a rest. You’re going to need a really fast class 3 SD card if this is something you want to do though, otherwise the camera’s going to need longer to write those photos to the card and it will need a little break between shorter bursts to catch up. You’ll also still have to go through all those photos and find your “money shot”, but in a sensitive moment where you don’t want to miss anything, it’s good to know you’ll be able to just shoot, shoot, shoot and not let that moment go uncaptured.

Shot on the RX10 IV
1/100 sec
f3.5
ISO 500
Click to see full size version on Flickr

There’s also the silent electronic shutter option – like a ninja mode for your camera – that will make your shooting completely silent. No focus beep, no shutter sound, no nothing. Handy for situations like intimate concerts (especially if they’re being filmed or recorded), wildlife, places of worship, wedding or christening services, street photography, and any other time when you don’t want the “click click click” of your shutter to disturb the situation around you.

Shot on the RX10 IV
1/160 sec
f3.5
ISO 100
Click to see full size version on Flickr.

For those who shoot video, you’ll have fun with 4K movie recording, with fast hybrid autofocus to keep your action sharp at all times. I used the RX10 IV to shoot my dance school’s end of year concert in 4K, and framed my shot nice and wide to capture the whole stage. When I edited the footage I set up my project in full HD, and used the 4K footage to crop in on shots for solo pieces, track dancers across the stage, or pull back a bit wider for the group pieces. It added to our production quality greatly!

As is always the case with bridge cameras, I know that this camera was not designed with me – a pro wedding photographer – in mind. I love shooting with prime lenses and full frame cameras, and this camera offers none of those things… but somehow, this is the kind of bridge camera that makes me want a bridge camera. I’ve never owned one, and I don’t believe I ever REALLY will, but testing out the RX10 IV has made me appreciate how this camera would be great for travel; to go from a sweeping landscape to a tight-cropped portrait without having to change lenses (or settings, if you prefer auto modes); or great for the soccer mums and dads who want action shots of little Timmy on the field.

Score: 8 out of 10
Highlights: Huge zoom range, super fast autofocus, 4K video
Lowlights: Screen doesn’t flip around to the front
Manufacturer: Sony
Price: RRP $2599
Available: Now