Sony launched their 4th iteration of its high performance compact camera. The new Sony RX100 IV packs a real punch and brings never before seen performance in a consumer camera. First and utmost impressive is the 1/32000 shutter speed. There’s no type-o in that last sentence. No extra zeros, it actually shoots up to a thirty-two-thousandth of a second! The only professional camera that went over 1/8000 was the Canon 1D mark I, released around the early 2000s, and it did only 1/16000. Why is this useful you might ask? It really puts the F/1.8 aperture to good use. F/1.8 is the maximum aperture the built-in lens has and it’s useful in giving you a shallow depth of field. This means you can take a picture of someone and have the background all blurry. Bokeh is the result of a very blurry background, if you get really close, you might see that silky smooth bokeh in the rear of your subject.
Sometimes a really fast shutter speed isn’t enough. A sunny day could be too bright even for the 1/32000 shutter speed at f/1.8, and Sony went all out with this camera and they built in an ND filter. The Neutral Density filter is a dark lens, like the glass from sunglasses, that darkens the image. You could also use this to take long exposure pictures during the daytime. You might have seen images that are taken during the daytime and cars are seen blurry in the street, or people that are moving are blurred out. This is taken with shutter speeds lower than 1/50th of a second, sometimes even as long as 1 second. To get these results photographers usually carry that filter around in their camera bag, they need the exact size for each lens. The fact that the ND filter is built-in, is a huge convenience.
In terms of video features it doesn’t lack. It features 4k video, which really is nothing to boast about. Filming 4k video with a compact camera or a mobile phone is like bragging you’re rich with a stack of 1$ bills. Is the quality better? Maybe marginally. What really makes a good video is dynamic range, very good autofocus and image stabilization. It certainly does well in the last department, boasting an optical stabilizer. The Anti-rolling shutter feature is a little bit vague, as is its performance. Rolling shutter is the effect when something is moving fast in the frame of your video and you might see it warped, deformed, because of the way the sensor captures the image (one line at a time). This problem isn’t resolved, only slightly reduced – which is a step in the right direction. One big plus for the video side of the Sony RX100 IV is the slow motion. Amazing quality at 120, 250 and even 1000 frames per second! What is probably the most useful thing is the super slow motion stand by mode where you can press the record button if something incredible happened in front of your frame. This is particularly useful if you are waiting for something to happen suddenly and there’s no way you can predict exactly when it happens. This is how it works: the sensor buffers 2 seconds of super slow motion video continuously. You press the button and it records the last 2 seconds and continues recording onto the card. Let’s say you want to shoot some fireworks in your backyard, but don’t want the 10 seconds of slow motion video of the fuse burning to take so much of the video. 10 real time seconds in slow motion is 400 seconds in real time! That’s a lot of video you don’t need! The 2 seconds is plenty for you to react! You hear the boom, you press the record button, and your movie starts 2 real time seconds before you pressed it. Best thought-out feature of this camera! They took this very clever idea from Nikon’s ultra slow motion camera which wasn’t even available for consumers. Some of the best wildlife documentary shots have been taken using this feature. Kudos to Nikon for putting it into a professional camera, and kudos to Sony for making it accessible to everyone in the RX100 IV
In terms of communication, you have the same functions as the Sony a7 cameras and most other higher end cameras: Wi-Fi and NFC. You can easily shoot on your camera and send the pictures and videos straight to your phone or tablet. There are, however, many things lacking that could have been an obvious feature. There battery is quite small, HDR video, timelapse function, and why not: touch screen. If cameras like the Nikon D500 can boast a very useful and functional touch screen, a nifty, do-it-all little camera could well implement it. The real problem with the Sony cameras is that firmware is slow to update and it’s usually very slight upgrades of the software. The menu is very complicated and takes ages to learn. If it takes ages to learn it takes minutes to remember after you take it out of the bag. Whatever isn’t immediately accessible is not useful, because you won’t remember how to do it.