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Sony Cyber-Shot RX10 IV


George Schaub

INTEGRAL ZOOM LENS CAMERAS are often referred to as “bridge” cameras: the idea being that they bridge the gap between compact and DSLR models. If there’s a bridge connection here it’s in the rather incredible zoom range of the Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV ($1,700, retail price) that spans the far shores of 24-600mm equivalency. While a camera/lens combo of this capability is necessarily larger than a DSLR body alone, and at first glance may seem like a candidate for shaky shots when zooming to the longer focal lengths, the RX10 IV takes full advantage of Sony’s built-in Optical SteadyShot image stabilization system (4.5 EV shutter speeds) along with any corrective optical adjustments applied to the various focal lengths via the BIONZ X image processor.

Both dust- and moisture-resistant, the Sony RX10 IV superzoom camera contains a 20.1MP one-inch-type stacked phase-detection AF Exmor RS CMOS sensor with a DRAM chip. There are two key operative phrases here that speak to its overall size and image quality: the one-inch sensor allows for a “smaller” camera with such a long zoom range, while phase detection speaks to the improved autofocus (AF) performance—claimed to be an incredible AF response time of 0.03 seconds—critical when you zoom far into the reaches, and when capturing action images. (Sony’s previous model, the RX10 III, used contrast-detection based AF, which was noticeably slow.)

The Sony RX10 IV is not a camera you can slip into your pocket, being 5.25x3.75x5.12 inches in size and weighing in at 2 pounds, 6.7 ounces with card and battery. But for travelers, landscape and sports photographers, and enthusiasts who like to have one camera/lens combo that covers just about every imaging contingency, it might just fill the bill. I recently had an opportunity to test the camera while on a trip to Spain and was eager to put it through its paces.


The obvious place to start is with the lens, a Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T*, which contains six aspheric elements: it’s a comparatively fast 25x zoom that has an f/2.4 max aperture and only drops to f/4 when you begin to zoom out to the longer ranges. When working in standard format and using AF, the lens can focus as close as 1.2 inches to infinity at the 24mm setting and 28 inches to infinity at the 600mm setting; a seeming anomaly is that when shooting at 250mm the minimum focusing distance is more like 55 inches.

The specs on this seemed confusing, so I reached out to Sony to get an explanation: their reply was that constructing a lens such as this required this midstream, if you will, focusing distance change in order to make it a more reasonable size, and that this was not uncommon among lenses of this focal length range.

The large and bright XGA OLED EVF provides 100% field of view and contains 2.35 million dots with a wide-range diopter and five-step brightness control, while the three-inch tiltable LCD contains 1.44 million dots. The screen does not swing side to side and does not enable folding into the body to protect it. The view switches automatically when you move from the EVF to the monitor, and vice versa.

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June 2018