I’ve used a few superzoom cameras down the years. Also known as bridge cameras, their big selling point is the zoom range of the built-in lens that covers just about every eventuality. Macro, landscapes, telephoto wildlife and sports. You name it.
However, in reality I’ve known superzooms as cameras with uninspiring image quality and unusable telephoto lens settings. This all changed with the Sony Cyber-Shot RX10 series – the first superzoom with a 1in sensor, much larger than any other.
We now have the fourth iteration in the series, the Sony Cyber-Shot RX10 IV. After addressing a variety of shortcomings each time, the result here is wonderful. The RX10 IV is hands down the best superzoom camera around. Ever.
Asides from its predecessor and to some degree the Panasonic Lumix FZ2000, the RX10 IV is in a league of its own.
Sony RX10 IV: That lens
What impresses me most is the lens. It’s a 24-600mm f/2.4-4 unit with up to 4.5EV optical stabilization built-in. The image quality it produces is nothing short of astounding.
The lens is the same one as found in the RX10 III. Yet, coupled with Sony’s new on-chip 315-point phase detection autofocus, you get what for me is the most useable telephoto settings of a bridge camera ever.
I’ve been able to get sharp pictures at 600mm in low light. Remarkable.
When using f/4 and f/5.6 apertures, detail is super-sharp from centre all the way to the corners, with only a fractional softness in the very edges.
All lens distortions are handled very well – that’s fringing, vignetting, barrel & pincushion distortion. And I’m talking about images taken at any focal length. I’d expect barrel distortion at 24mm but you be hard pressed to see it.
Sony RX10 IV: Supercharged
So we get really sharp 20.1MP images with the RX10 IV and it’s backed up by a headline grabbing feature set.
First there is the 24fps high-speed shooting with full time autofocus. The camera will sustain this rate for around 10 seconds. No other camera can shoot this fast with full-time AF. In use the camera processes these images speedily and there really is very little waiting time to shoot again. Impressive.
As for autofocus, Sony has made great strides in the latest RX10 IV. The hybrid system features an on-chip 315-point phase detection AF that covers 65% of the frame.
Sony claims the RX10 IV can acquire a sharp focus in as little as 0.03sec. We can’t attest to this other than to say focusing in good contrast light appears instant.
AF modes include an improved Eye AF, which is designed to get the eyes of your subject sharp and this works really well in most scenarios.
Tracking AF works a treat, especially in good contrast light. It’s highly satisfying observing the Tracking AF points tightly clustered around a subject that has been detected. What’s more satisfying is the impressive end results.
I haven’t even touched on video yet. The 4K videos at 30fps and 100Mbps are really sharp, being taken from 1.7x oversampled footage.
High Frame Rate (HFR) video modes offer slow motion at 250, 500 and 1000fps. It’s processing these files where I experienced the only lags – you’ll have to wait anything up to a minute for a 1000fps sequence to finish processing and you can’t use the camera during this time.
Otherwise the RX10 IV doesn’t offer anything that feels like it can’t handle. It’s a mightily impressive camera.
Sony RX10 IV: Verdict
All in all I’ve been blown away by the Sony Cyber-Shot RX10 IV. Before I would see a superzoom camera as giving me versatility over quality. In the RX10 IV you get both.
Sure you pay for the pleasure. At £1,800, the Sony RX10 IV is more than 3x the price of its Panasonic competitor and a good bit more than its predecessor. I never thought I’d see the day that a superzoom camera would cost £1,800.
Yet I really do believe that the RX10 IV could prove to be all the camera you ever need and for that reason its price could be seen as good value.
Five Reasons why we love the Sony RX10 IV
- That lens. Sharp at all settings
- That lens. Great control over distortions
- That lens. Stabilised and fast for useable telephoto settings
- Fast autofocus with excellent tracking
- High Frame Rate modes are addictive
What’s not to like about the only RX10 IV
- For a superzoom it’s big and heavy
- For a superzoom it’s expensive at £1,800
- No time-lapse or intervalometer modes
- No built-in ND filter (which would be handy for videos in bright light)
- Touchscreen function is a tad limited