9.13.2017

Sony's new RX10 camera just got announced. It's called the Sony RX10IV and it looks like everything I wanted.

This is a photo of the RX10iii, one of the best small sensor cameras I have ever used. 
Actually, one of the best cameras I have ever used....along with its
sibling, the RX10ii. 

I just read the announcement of the launch of the RX10IV on Digital Photography Review. It's the one time I hope DPR just goes insane with their product coverage as this is a product that makes sense and one for which I'll gladly line up to hemorrhage cash. 

There weren't many things I didn't like about the previous generation. The only one I can think of right off the bat would be focusing speed and sure-footed AF lock on to the longer end of the lens. Especially so in video. I haven't checked the specs (extensively) on the new camera but would also love to be able to "punch in" more than the current 5x times magnification in video in order to really nail focus when in manual mode.

The lens is the same 24-600mm equivalent Zeiss lens and the camera continues the full frame read, non-binning 4K video performance. The video is actually down res'd from a 5K capture! I found the handling and post processing performance of both 4K and 1080p video to be class-leading and the combination of all the features and performance metrics of the RX10iii to be superb. If this camera focuses better and locks focus quicker; especially in video, then I'm really to throw down money for my copy. (But I want to try it out at a bricks and mortar store before tossing around that kind of money...).

I saw other features reviewed such as silly fast frame rates for stills but I didn't pay attention to them. The older models shot just as fast as I needed them to... if you really need 24 fps then you need to be shooting video instead...

Why do I like the most recent RX10xx camera models so much? Hmmm. That's easy. The RX10-3 is an amazing still photography camera. The 20 megapixel sensor makes beautiful files when shot at 80, 100, or 200 ISO. Workmanlike files at 1600 and still decent/usable files at 3200. The image stabilization in that camera is rock solid for photography and 1080p video. Not quite in Olympus territory but as good or better than systems costing thousands more... The all encompassing lens is an "as good" or better than decent replacement for a bagful of most interchangeable DSLR lenses and has more useful reach than just about any lens available under $5000 for Nikon or Canon. Or Sony A7 series cameras. And it's foolish to discount the usefulness of a great, built-in lens; not having to change lenses means no dust bunnies, no sensor damage, no fumbling in the dark to effect the change, and much less to carry around.  You know, the difference between two weeks of shoulder battering drudgery or a real vacation.

If that was all there was to the RX10-3 it might seem expensive for a one inch sensor bridge still camera but the camera is capable of so much more. It's one of the best fully capable video cameras/systems you can get under $2,000. It's capable of beautifully detailed 4K files and, unlike other cameras in the Sony line up, I've run the camera for multiple segments of 29 minutes duration, with only seconds of delay between the segments, without any indication of overheating. You might think of bridge cameras as "amateur" but then what other "amateur" video camera comes with a full S-Log codec and a the ability to configure its video files in many more ways (knee, black level, gamma, etc.) than just about any other multi-use camera on the market? So, nearly full frame 4K at 30 fps, complete with S-Log, and the ability to write the 4K files to Pro Res files via a clean output HDMI connection to an external recorder like the Atomos Ninja Flame. Wow. And of course there are still microphone and headphone connectors, and very clean microphone preamplifiers.

I've used the RX10-2 and 3 to make video in downpours, in 100+ plus heat and in the dark of a theater and the camera has never faltered. In 2016 I used the RX10-2 and RX10-3 on enough projects that the jobs I used them on (sometimes exclusively) contributed about 25% of my fee income. So, why would I want to upgrade to the latest model; the RX10-4?

I'd do it for the phase detection AF capability that was added in the new model. Apparently it uses the same processor for AF as the new a9 camera. It focuses twice as fast as the current model and locks in (according to Sony) focus quicker and at lower EV levels. The PD AF has been well proven in the a6300 and a6500 models as well. No more dicey focus at the long end of the lens.

While I often give in to reckless hyperbole when I'm slamming around on the keyboard I believe that this new camera could provide a single tool that would be able to do most of the professional video and photography assignments most photographers will encounter in day-to-day business. Yes, $1800 is expensive if you consider comparing it directly with a larger sensor camera body. But you should really be comparing it with a whole system of lenses, a stand alone, 4K video camera and a super fast camera body. It's a camera that can replace thousands and thousands of additional dollars invested in arcane photo stuff.

I'm not saying anyone else needs to rush out and buy one immediately or their career will come to a grinding halt. This may be only really cogent to my uses. But I'm certain it will be a most useful tool.

The two biggest complaints I'm reading about the new camera model revolve around price and size/weight. It's almost as if there is a wholly uneducated but vociferous group of photographers who feel as though Sony can bend physics to their will. I've seen suggestions that the lens speed be increased to f2.0 while, in the next breath suggesting that the size of the camera be reduced by half. Many insist that, since this is not a "real" DSLR that the price should be around $599 or lower. I'm sure the same people would love a first class airline ticket to Paris for $25 --- and I'm equally sure they'd complain that their glass of Champagne had too many bubbles. That their seat should be the size of the couch at home. And that the plane did not go 2,000 mph. I'm sure these are the same people who believe their Pontiac Aztecs should be able to fly....

The camera is not as big or as heavy as any DSLR anywhere once equipped with an equivalent lens (if there was one....). The price is not just for a camera body with a small sensor but for an entire system that is capable of doing a combination of applications open to no other camera/lens system on the market. If you just broke the price in half and charged $900 for the body and $900 for the lens then perhaps it would be easier for the cognition-challenged to understand the overall value. And, since it only comes in a kit you save a dollar!!!

The RX10IV might not be perfect. It's too big to fit in the front pocket of your ever-tightening Jourdache jeans. The video specs aren't as good as those on the GH5. The dynamic range of the sensor isn't going to go toe-to-toe with the Nikon D850. But if you need to toss some plastic wrap over the top and video tape a raging flood in the middle of a driving rain storm and then walk away with near perfect 4K video, and then turn back around and make a technically great photograph of an electric transformer  blowing up on top of a utility pole one hundred yards away ---- then I think you may have found your camera.

You might not need one. You might not be able to afford one. But that doesn't mean the camera isn't pretty darn amazing. And very useful to people who need what it offers.

Go see reviews from people who bought the IV's predecessor:



20 comments:

Anonymous said...

"The RX10IV might not be perfect. It's too big to fit in the front pocket of your ever-tightening Jourdache jeans."

Nearly choked on my coffee I was laughing so hard! Thanks for the wake-up post!

runbei said...

A wonderful analysis by a working photographer who gets paid. I agree with every point. I would only add that I think the camera would be a JOY to use. That, for me, is a huge attraction of these little wonderfully capable cameras. But - sigh - for my purposes as strictly a still photographer who never shoots video and must routinely work indoors with available light, shooting stage events, school photography, speakers, and meeting candids, etc., etc., I'm not tempted to give up the Canon 6D. For my uses (shooting in the dark), the full-frame sensor gives me much more elbow room. Circumstances may dictate that an assignment be shot STARTING at 3200 and going up to 12,000; and the 6D can handle that pretty well. Also, full-frame gives me wonderfully croppable images. I hardly ever shoot with the 70-300 anymore; instead I can't pry my hands loose from the 135mm F2 which is gorgeous even when cropped severely - and that wasn't true (by a long shot) with the 1" sensor camera that I've used. Maybe the RX10 IV is a different beast; I don't know. I would love to own it, but as a photographer on a budget I can't simply swap the 6D/135 that are giving me very pleasing results. Apples and oranges; there are all kinds of photographers, it's wonderful, thank heaven!

Anonymous said...

IIRC, hadn't the proprietor said a little while ago something like: "...as soon as I buy into a new system, Sony will release..."

Those were the action and words Sony was waiting for! :)

Rick

ODL Designs said...

Hi Kirk,
A good write up on a camera segment that is shoe-horning ever more technology into their bodies.

All the best!

Gordon R. Brown said...

Sony's press release about the Mark IV, which DP Review published, had 12 footnotes. I don't know if that's a record for a press release, but it did give me a laugh.

Jim Putka said...

Spot on!

Will you trade/sell your current RX10 III?

Cheers!

Kirk Tuck said...

Yes, in fact I sold them both when I heard the first rumors just a week or two ago. The IV should be a very compelling camera.

tnargs said...

One of your classic posts Kirk, full of verve and panache and information! Thank you!

Still leaves me unsure whether a stills photographer would be advised to pick this up over, say, a D7500 with the very good Nikkor 18-300 'G' lens for the same total price....?

cheers
Arg

Kirk Tuck said...

tnargs. Probably wouldn't buy one if I had no interest in video. It's about half the value of the camera. But I pretty much guarantee that if you buy one you'll start to get interested in video....

Eric Leonard said...

I was an early RX10-er - but found the first generation camera lacking in too many ways to replace a traditional DSLR setup.

I recently added an RX10-III after reading your experiences with it - and I have to say it is without peer as a "one camera one lens" solution for my application. I work as a radio news reporter and produce companion online pieces with photos and/or videos. There is no other imaging tool (other than perhaps an iPhone) that provides the Swiss Army knife-like usefulness than this camera.

I've even had great success photographing kid sports (lock-on tracking + AF-C is unbelievably good) and now leave my older style gear at home.

I spent years as a newspaper photographer at the dawn of DSLRs. I can only wish I had something like this back then.

Art in LA said...

Thanks for the review. I love how you split the value of the camera video-to-stills ... your RX10 estimate is 50:50-ish.

I've had very powerful video capabilities on my cameras for years and years, and unfortunately, I just let it sit unused except for very rare situations. As they say in business, I'm leaving money on the table.

Are you still planning to write a video "how to" book for photographers thinking of adding video to their skill set? I'd love to see it.

Dave Hachey said...

I'm intrigued by this camera, but not yet convinced about image quality. The price doesn't bother me, the way I see it, you're getting either a body for free or a free lens. Price out Fuji's X-T2 and 50-140mm lens for a reality check. I'd like to see some side by side shots of the Sony and the Fuji to judge image quality.

Wally said...

Gotta have it, Gotta have it, Gotta have it...

Richard Alan Fox said...

If my memory serves I spent $849 on a R-1 many years ago, a great camera that I still use on rare occasions.
Fifty percent of the new camera price as it has no video, seems fair.

Anonymous said...

I really hate Pontiac Asstec's

Paul Gero said...

Kirk...great post...after using a pre production model for the past few weeks, I have to tell you...it's a seriously great little box.

Until this camera I would not buy the RX10 series -- as good as the were -- because of the contrast based AF.

Sony fixed it and fixed it nicely. It is a legitimate little sports camera. I think folks like Eric Leonard who posted above will love this camera even more than their RX10IIIs (you as well!).

It checks off virtually all the boxes of the issues I had with the three. It made me totally respect and fall in love with this system...wish I would've had something like it back in my newspaper days -- it would probably suffice for 90% of that work....maybe more!

Paul

Doug said...

Kirk: Love what they've done with the new camera. Disappointed Sony didn't improve the ergonomics, especially the awkward grip and cramped aperture ring. The FZ 2500 is so much better I this regard.

Anonymous said...

Here's why people criticize the RX10M4:
- they're mostly not paid photographers, but enthusiasts instead
- they want a light, versatile camera that they're ok with paying a premium for. Basically they want the jack of all trades - or the closest to that

Therefore:
- the RX10M4 is very expensive (basically, nearly as expensive, arguably) compared to cameras with better picture quality and more versatility
- the RX10M4 is much heavier than sufficiently versatile alternatives like the FZ1000 and even the G3X

And that's it, in a nutshell. Sure, as a photographer, the RX10M4 is great and bests both the cheaper and more expensive cameras because of it's trade offs - but as an enthusiast, its to heavy and bulky to bring around, unless the price isnt very high and then they're willing to take a risk (but the price is high...)

The trade-off doesn't work as well for all audiences basically. Still amazes me what we can get out of a 600mm single zoom lens on 1inch though. I personally own a G3X and LOVE the portability, but at 600mm its just not as good as the RX10M3,4 - and the autofocus, shooting, etc. speed are a bad joke in comparison.

Yet at the end of the day, I can mountain bike with my G3X, and I couldn't with the RX10. I could with a RX100 of course, but I lose the zoom. Audiences..

Rufus said...

Kirk - Would it not bother you that it isn't so easy to create a buttery smooth bokeh of the OOF areas at a wide aperture with this camera? Just sometimes?

Even with m4/3 I sometimes wish my wide open F2.8 50-150 could give me a softer background. This would be even harder with the RX10.

neopavlik said...

Between the A7RII for photos and the GH5 for video why would you get this camera ?
To see if it can replace both for most jobs ?