Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV Digital Camera Review
The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV proves, once again, that size doesn't matter.
By the Numbers
We've had a hard time finding weaknesses in the RX100s of the past and the Mark IV is no different. Building off the foundation laid by its predecessors, the newest RX100 has added Sony's new Exmor RS stacked sensor, which opens up features such as 4K and improved burst shooting.
With improved buffering enabling faster burst capture and 4K video, the RX100 IV has a resume that is nearly complete. The fact that this is a camera that can also slide into your pocket is incredible, though our lab tests did reveal that it's not quite the perfect camera.
Color & White Balance
Color accuracy on the RX100 III was legendary. It scored one of the best scores we've ever seen with a ∆C00 (saturation-corrected) error of just 1.66. That's better than almost every other camera we've ever tested, professional DSLRs included. However, Sony was still at the helm, so saturation was boosted to an absurd 120%, hurting the camera's score somewhat.
The RX100 IV has a still-respectable result, with a ∆C00 (saturation-corrected) error of 2.03. It's still near-perfect, and saturation is now a more reasonable 110% of ideal. It's a strong result, especially for a point-and-shoot.
White balance was fairly pedestrian on previous RX100s, but the Mark IV has changed that drastically. It's actually became one of the most accurate point-and-shoot white balance systems that we've tested. Auto white balance in most lighting situations–aside from incandescent) is going to get you just as close as most cameras will if you manually tune it.
Manual white balance is even more accurate with a variance of only 60 or so kelvins in all of our test condtions. Incandescent–which was the most inaccurate during auto white balance tests and notoriously hard for cameras to get correct–was the most accurate when we manually took a white balance reading.
Shooting RAW is still your best bet when it comes to color and white balance, but if you shoot JPEG or rely on the camera to do all the color work, the RX100 IV is about as good as it gets.
While the new Exmor RS stacked sensor brought a lot of changes to the Mark IV, it actually did very little to improve overall image sharpness—there simply isn't much room for improvement with such a compact lens. That said, the RX100 IV is still one of the sharpest pocketable cameras ever made. The combination of its lens, sensor, and processor produce images that are sharp, but not over sharpened with software–like we see with most point and shoots.
In terms of numbers, we consistently saw areas of the image produce as much as 2700 LW/PH (line widths per picture height) in the center and an overall average of 2300 LW/PH at MTF50 thanks to the software enhancement. The RAW images tend to be a little bit softer, of course, but they were still respectable if not quite on par with higher-end cameras.
Shot To Shot
The RX100 III topped out at 10 fps (frames per second) for about 15-20 shots, but the RX100 IV has the new Exmor RS stacked sensor (complete with DRAM) to help boost it further. The new sensor essentially works to lessen the bottleneck effect that typically occurs in processors when they can't keep up with the sensor. This improvement effectively doubled the amount of shots that can be taken before the camera has to stop and buffer, while also enhancing the rate of capture.
We were able to fire off shots at an impressive rate while shooting in the Speed Priority Continuous mode. The camera maxed out around 16 fps (at 1/32,000 second shutter speed) in our tests. We were able to capture up to 45 shots at once at this speed while shooting JPEG and about 20 while shooting RAW. Outside of this mode you can expect burst rates of up to 5fps, but a higher capacity as a result.
While we didn't see a huge jump in still image quality this time around, the RX100 IV has pushed its video performance to another level thanks to the addition of 4K video capture.
The 4K footage you get isn't something that pro filmmakers are going to be lining up for, but it's better than almost all other point-and-shoots we've tested. Chiefly it's much sharper, as we observed an extinction resolution of around 1,400 LW/PH vertically and horizontally in both bright and low light.
The fast lens and good noise performance helped in low light conditions, resulting in hardly any quality loss at 60 lux. It can also shoot in lighting conditions as low as 1 lux and still produce an image that is well above the acceptable threshold of 50 IRE.
The only two downsides are that you need a very specific (and fairly expensive) type of SD card to shoot 4K and you can only shoot five minute clips at a time. But given that you're dropping nearly $1,000 on a point-and-shoot, you're probably willing to pony up the extra $40 for a 4K-compatible memory card.
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