Calling the RX10 IV a “bridge camera” does it a disservice – it’s a fantastic choice for those who want a well-rounded, do-it-all camera, especially for travel. Wildlife photographers also benefit from the long lens and fast frame rates. You pay a premium to own it, though.
- High zoom
- 1-inch sensor
- Tilting and touch-sensitive screen
- Touchscreen controls not fully implemented
Bridge cameras have a bit of a bad reputation, generally seen as something which is full of compromises – the biggest one probably being image quality.
These days however, there are some premium bridge cameras in the market which change the way we think about the sector. Sony’s RX10 series was a pioneer in this area, and we’re now on the fourth iteration of the popular model.
Unlike most bridge cameras, it uses a larger one-inch sensor (20.1 megapixels), combining it with a 25x optical zoom (24-600mm in 35mm terms). The sensor has been improved from the RX10 III, now using a stacked-design, coupled with a BIONZ X processor and front-end LSI. Mix all these together and you’ve got something which has been designed for serious performance.
One such impressive potential is the option to shoot at 24fps, all while maintaining full autofocus – something which wildlife photographers will be drawn to, especially considering the 600mm equivalent focal length.
Other features include a 2.35-million dot EVF, a tilting, 1.44-million dot 3.0-inch screen which now offers touch-sensitivity, 4K video recording, inbuilt Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth and both an electronic and mechanical shutter.
Build and Handling
There’s no denying that the RX10 IV is a fairly chunky camera. However, when you consider that you’re packing a 600mm (equivalent) lens, it puts things into better perspective. The camera looks and feels a bit like a mid-range DSLR, with a nice and solid chunky grip which has a coated texture.
It’s likely that you’ll want to use your second hand to support the lens as the RX10 IV is fairly weighty, but the vast majority of dials and buttons are on the right hand side of the camera for making quick changes with your thumb and forefinger.
As is common for Sony cameras, several of the buttons on the RX10 IV can be customised to suit your particular preferences, which is great for setting up the camera to your own way of working. Pressing the Fn button brings up an on-screen quick menu which gives you quick access to commonly used settings – but again this can be altered to contain the settings which you personally use the most frequently.
The RX10 IV’s lens barrel contains an aperture ring, which is a quick and classic way to change aperture. The ring clicks, but if you’re shooting video (or just prefer a quieter approach) you can flick a switch to change the operation to silent.
A second ring around the lens can be used to extend the zoom – something which you can also do from a switch around the shutter release if you prefer. Once the lens is fully zoomed, you’ll almost definitely want to use your second hand to support it, if for no other reason than to help prevent blur from camera shake.
There is a customisable button on the side of the lens. There’s dozens of different options which you can assign to this, but one I find particularly useful is “Zoom Assist”.
This comes in very handy when shooting at long focal lengths – hold down the button and the lens will quickly zoom out to help you find your subject, releasing it again will see the lens resume to the focal length you were previously using. If you’re shooting wildlife, such as birds or other moving subjects, it’s incredibly useful.
An electronic viewfinder can be used to compose your images, with a sensor automatically detecting when the camera has been lifted to your eye. The finder itself is bright and clear, offering a great view of the scene. There’s also no real noticeable lag, too.
Your other option is to use the tilting screen. For the first time in an RX10 series, Sony has included touch-sensitivity – but it’s a little limited. While you can use it to set the autofocus point and zoom into images in playback, there’s no option to use it to control settings in either the Fn or main menu, nor the ability to swipe through your images in playback.
It’s frustrating and suggests Sony hasn’t given quite enough thought to how photographers like to use touchscreens.
Performance and Image Quality
The RX10 IV has 315 phase-detection autofocus points which cover 65% of the frame. Focusing is very quick and accurate in almost all shooting conditions, even when using the telephoto end of the lens. In low light, the lens hunts a little more before locking onto the subject, but it’s unusual for a false confirmation of focus to be displayed.
Tracking focus is also excellent, especially when following a relatively predictably moving subject – I was able to use it to track my pretty swift dog chasing a ball across a beach with a very high success rate.
Indeed, I was so impressed with just how well it performed (outdoing many of the “professional” cameras I have used), that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it for wildlife and nature photography lovers on the strength of this alone.
Official battery life is rated at 400 shots. In real-world shooting it’s very likely you’ll get more from the camera than that, depending on how you use it. A second battery probably won’t be needed for most, but if you’re travelling and want to ensure that you never miss a shot, a second battery is a good insurance plan.
Impressive image quality is something that the RX10 series has become well-known for, and the RX10 IV is certainly no different. The one-inch sensor is very capable of producing lovely images, with a good degree of dynamic range, pleasing colours and lots of details.
The camera’s optical image stabilisation system does a great job of keeping camera shake in check, even while using the lens at its full 600m (equivalent) extension. The amount of detail at this focal length is also very good, too. Detail is also well-kept throughout the rest of the lens’ zoom range.
Shooting in low light reveals that the best results can be seen if you keep ISO speeds to below ISO 800, which is not overly surprising for a one-inch sensor. That’s not to say that ISO 1600 and ISO 3200 are unusable though, especially if you’re mainly sharing or printing at A4 or smaller.
Sony RX10 IV Sample Photos
There’s a lot of features to like about the RX10 IV, and it’s fair to say that if you’re in the market for a camera that can do a bit of everything, it’s certainly a fantastic option to consider.
It copes well with a variety of different subjects, but will perhaps particularly appeal to travel and wildlife photographers who want a neat and compact package which is far easier to carry around than an equivalent DSLR and lenses.
However, having such an impressive amount of features and flexibility in a (relatively) small and lightweight package comes at a cost – even a year after release, the RX10 IV still retails for around £1800.
If you don’t want to splash the cash quite so much, you might consider the slightly older RX10 III, which also features the 25x optical zoom but doesn’t have quite such an impressive autofocusing system – but at around £1249, it’s a significant saving. You might also want to consider the Panasonic FZ2000, which has a slightly shorter 20x optical zoom, but comes in at under £900.
Overall, the RX10 IV is one of the best bridge cameras you can buy – in fact it’s one of the best cameras you can buy full stop, with some features that match or even outdo what might be traditionally considered “more advanced” – but you really do pay the price for it.