It’s been long since I’ve put my hands on non-full frame cameras, mainly because I am an addict of this format and I think (many times wrongly) that I can’t do my job or my hobby with a smaller format.
So why I’ve put to tests the new Sony RX10 IV?
The reason I’ve dug into this new camera was mainly curiosity. Not even 4 month ago I’ve discovered a new addiction, and that is Wildlife photography, especially birds from my surroundings.
I’ve always been keen to shoot birds (photographically I mean :D) but never had the tools I needed, meaning by this a longer lens than my Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 GM. This changed when the G Master 100-400mm was available to the market and I’ve concluded that since I mostly keep my 70-200 on the shelf, so I’ve sold it and bought the longer tele.
Fast forward a couple of months later, I’ve been asked if I want to give a try to the fully packed Sony RX10 IV and my mind flew instantly to this thought:
Heck, who wouldn’t want a small packed 600mm f/4 and 24 fps plus high frame rate video for slow motion?my mind
So I said a big yes to this and took the camera in for playing around.
How does it feel?
It’s a bit bulky but well balanced and the big grip helps you hold it very good in your hands even with the lens zoomed to 600mm (when the front element almost double in length).
The menu is the new one, similar to those found in A7 III (check review) generation and in A9. Speaking of A9, that is my main camera (review is here) so I am well aware of it’s features and functions.
I was pleasantly surprised that the “little” RX10 IV holds close to the A9, in terms of fast focusing, tracking and also frame-rate. But of course this is mostly in easy situations, with clean backgrounds. When the background is full of branches or strange patterns, the focus won’t stay all the time on the subject and it will jump to the background objects.
I’ve missed the little joystick to move the focus quickly but mainly because I’m a no fan of touch to focus. Others might find it easier to move focus by touch to focus, I prefer the joystick way.
Else, the available controls and customisation of the RX10 IV is on par with most of the A7 series cameras.
Even better, it has what none of the Sony mirrorless camera have: a top LCD with vital information that I really loved.
In the photos above I’ve really appreciate that focus didn’t jump on front passing bird since I was on Wide focusing area (there is no Zone focusing area on the RX10 IV) and it is known that the camera will focus on the closest object to the camera in this mode.
Unfortunately there is no Lock-on sensitivity setting as on the A9, so you can’t specify how fast or slow the focus will jump if a new subjects comes between you and your initial subject but again, camera behaves pretty well if the scene is static, keeping your initial subject in focus.
I don’t know by what magic the camera will not focus on the front branches. If it was me taking this shot, I would have tried the DMF with focus magnification to make sure I nail the focus on the bird. But in this case, my 9 yo daughter was behind the viewfinder and she was on everything auto. This proves the camera is a great performer even for those not caring about the settings, but the subject. Being also such a big zoom (24mm wide to 600mm tele) this makes the RX10 IV a perfect camera both still and video for families interested in capturing moments everywhere they go.
Back to tracking and focusing again, it’s amazing how Sony put such great technology in this “bridge” model. I’m talking now about the 24 fps with focus and metering in-between each frame (on a side note A9 is 20 fps :p).
The biggest issue though I had with the RX10 IV in terms of focusing and tracking was with BIF (birds in flight).
First of all the lag in the viewfinder is noticeable and adding this to the lag of the command from your eye to the brain to the finger to push the button you’ll mostly miss the bird flying from perching position.
Then with BIF in lateral movement there is no problem in tracking, except your skills in keeping the bird in frame. I still have a lot to learn here, I barely do it with the 400mm, not to mention doing this at 600mm. But when the bird is coming towards you, this is where RX10 IV shows its weakness. I’ve noticed this with the Sony A7 III, compared to the A9, it might be just something that Sony wanted to keep as a big advantage for it’s top of the line A9 and crippled a little the other cameras.
Still, I was pleasantly surprised with the results for BIF
It’s a no brainer to use it with big birds, the challenge is with small, fast-flying birds, and all the negatives I’ve mentioned above are mostly related to these.
Let’s see some slow-motion
I agree I’ve seen better quality in Sony’s cameras. Maybe this whole HFR (high frame-rate) it’t too much the sensor/processor can handle, because the results which are in 1080p are not that great.
To be more correct I have to recognise I was pretty far, shooting mostly at full zoom range (600mm) and outside it was scorching hot. What this means is that some degradation comes from the heat that distort the image, but even so, quality is way below S&Q (Slow and Quick) modes of the A7 series (A9 too).
So, to conclude this, I still have to answer the initial question:
Is the Sony RX10 IV a great camera for birds and wildlife?
The answer goes more to Yes than to No. It’s amazing how much technology and features goes inside the RX10 IV, considering it’s a bridge camera. For me, not only this is a good camera for wildlife, but it looks like the perfect all-around camera.
Thinks this way: the cheapest mirrorless version to get you close to this focal range is 2.5k usd only for the lens (G Master 100-400). Add to this the price of a mirrorless camera (APS-C at least a6500, full-frame at least A7 III, not to mention the A9) and you’ll see the Sony RX10 IV it’s the most affordable toy you can play around birds. And boy, what a show wildlife gives us every time
So not only the Sony RX10 IV is great for wildlife, but it’s a must have for families that don’t want to go over the hassle of carrying a big bag full of lenses and camera in their travels and holidays and still have a great companion for their memories.
Eye-AF is present as on other A7 series cameras and works a treat. Fast frame-rate keeps tracking running kids or erratic pets a no brainer and the great focal range gives you access to wide scenes and great far away details.