RX100 IV hands-on preview

Sony's official launch event in SE Asia for the RX100-IV and the RX10-II was held today.  I was invited along to get hands on with the new cameras, witness some demonstrations of their new capabilities and to try for myself some of the new features of the cameras.  I'll give an overview of the new items below followed by some sample images & video. Throughout the article the technical changes I discuss apply to both cameras - they share the same core sensor technology - but the bulk of my time was spent using the RX100-IV.

The biggest new change for the cameras is in their sensor design. Both share the same new 1" Exmor RS CMOS 'stacked' sensor - in layman's terms, they have separated out the part of the sensor that gathers light from the part that processes it and added a layer of fast memory to buffer the images.  The net effect is that images can be read from the sensor much faster than previous versions.

What does this mean for photographers?

Superfast shutter speeds, up to 1/32,000th sec

Previously, to freeze the action in this kind of time-frame we needed to use strobes & potentially fiddly triggering. Although for really, really high-speed photography this will still be the case, the new faster shutter speed means you can capture a lot more in continuous lighting.  Take this shot below -

Shot @ 1/32,000th second, ISO 6400 and f/2.8

In case you're wondering what it is, the gentleman out-of-shot pricked a waterballoon held by the model.

Another angle of a similar shot, settings identical to that above

The model in this case was lit using a powerful static LED light with a reflector providing fill. Good quality but affordable lighting in other words, not some kind of ludicrously high-end stuff - so the results should easily be reproducible. You can also see from these JPGs that at ISO 6400 everything is looking pretty clean. With better lighting it ought to be possible to bring the ISO down even further.

With super-high shutter speeds comes the risk of image distortion due to the rolling shutter. Check out wikipedia's page on the phenomenon for more information but, in a nutshell, because the data from the sensor is read so quickly, the distortion effect is much diminished.

The guys with their super-fast "bullet-time" specialist lighting & triggering setups aren't going to be overly worried by this but it's exciting to see how this kind of photography will be opened up to more people.

40x Slow motion video, up to 1000fps

The second new feature is more of a benefit to videographers. Being able to shoot at 40x slow-motion (1000fps) is something previously only available to high-end pro grade kit. Check out the video I shot below, 2 seconds of real time becoming 80 seconds of slow-mo video. Again the gear setup was very modest - the camera was hand-held with only a couple of tabletop LED strobes providing lighting.

It's very impressive stuff for a camera that fits into the palm of your hand. Sony continue to keep pushing sensor tech and with the A7RII turning more heads it's quite an exciting time for them. I'm not a huge video expert so I can't really assess the technical side but throughout the whole test I can confirm it was very cool to use! More time spent with it during a detailed review is needed I think!

RX100-IV First Impressions

The camera looks and feels just like the RX100-III which isn't surprising; it's the guts of the camera which have undergone the big changes with the aforementioned new sensor. Everything is familiar but with subtle improvements as you use it for longer. For example, the pop-up EVF - one of my favourite things about the RX100-III - is still here but has been upgraded to 2.3mp and it's definitely noticeable, with crisper details and more vibrant colour. New features like these aside though it's otherwise kept many of the best things of the RX100-III, though also still omitted features like a dedicated exposure compensation dial and there's still no touchscreen. It keeps the same lens too with the bright f/1.8 maximum aperture but with a range of only 24-70mm, still shorter than the competitors.

The ability to record 4K video has also been added, albeit with a time cap of 5 minutes for the RX100 and 29 for the RX10, and you can export out 17mp still images.

For a frame grabbed from a movie, shot through the glass on the 69th floor of a hotel with hugely bright glare... this is fantastic!

This may not look like much but... it's another shot through glass at f/1.8 and ISO 12,800... into the bright afternoon sun! The shutter-speed here was 1/25,600th sec.

Don't ask me when you would ever want to do this, that's not the point... the point is I CAN ;)

Although my time with the new cameras was limited, it's apparent that Sony have added a lot of new functionality that will appeal to a lot of people. It remains to be seen if the camera has improved in other areas, specifically how it handles high-ISO shooting. I'm looking forward to doing a full scale review and this brief hands-on has only whet my appetite - playing with 1/32,000th sec shutter speed was great fun! I now have to think of some interesting hi-speed scenarios to photograph for the full review coming soon...

Both the RX100-IV and RX10-II will be available in July priced S$1399 and S$1899 respectively.

** UPDATE **

Originally I had been advised of a pre-order promo code to claim the leather case, 64gb card and accessory pack. This was incorrect, the pre-order promotion is only possible when ordered directly from within a Sony store in Singapore. For international readers I suggested you ask your local Sony guys to match the deal.

To further sweeten the deal, if you do pre-order and register your warranty before 2nd August you'll be entered into a prize draw to get 100% cashback on your RX100-IV... yes, that means you stand a chance of getting it for FREE!

Get in touch with me or leave a comment if you have any questions!