Why I bought a Sony RX10 IV for Travel

April 14, 2019

After my last family holiday lugging around my entire photographic kit, including a Sony A7R II, Sony 16-35mm G Master Lens (a mainstay on my camera), the Sony 70-200mm G Lens, Sony Zeiss 55mm Lens, Sony 85mm G Master Lens as well as my Sony RX100 V with Pilotfly Gimbal…I decided, never again!

Apart from the weight of the backpack and the shoulder bag for the gimbal system, it was also the constant shuffling between the two and the changing of lenses all the time, plus the associated dust on the sensor that was the final straw. Luckily I took with me my sensor cleaning kit, but it was a constant problem on windy beaches etc. During that holiday I started to look at my options, one of which was to buy a bridge camera, such as the Sony RX10 IV, or buy the Sony 24-240mm G Lens and keep that on the Sony A7R II all the time. I really liked this option because it was a good lens with good reach.

I would however be sacrificing the ultra-wide 16mm of my 16-35mm G Master (not to mention the sharpness) but these are holiday photos after all and the G Lens would still produce usable results. So that was it, my choice was made, that is how I would move forward, or so I thought. Shortly after I returned from that holiday my son joined the local football team. I was asked to shoot the open day for the club and so I pulled out my Sony A7R II and the Sony 70-200mm lens to grab the action from the trial matches that day. While I managed to get some good shots, it was clear that this combination was not really designed for this job. I needed much greater reach than what the 200mm could give, but given I had 42MP to play with I was able to crop down and get the results I needed.

The real issue was frame rate and buffer. The Sony A7R II offers 5 frames per second top speed, which is not ideal and the buffer filled too quickly. I would often miss the shot because the camera slowed down significantly as the buffer filled. I enjoyed shooting this event and figured if my son was going to be playing I would bring my camera each week and see what I can capture. I enjoyed the challenge but the gear was simply not up to the task of fast action sport. I found myself contemplating how I could buy a Sony A9 and the Sony 400mm f2.8 G Master Lens, all of which totaled well over $20,000. Not being a pro shooter being paid for these photos, I quickly dismissed that idea.

That is when the Sony RX10 IV came into view more clearly. This camera offers massive usable reach, from a 24mm to 600mm Zeiss lens (unlike the Nikon with its 3000mm lens which simply cannot be hand held), the very capable 1 inch sensor found in the RX100 series cameras, the focusing system from the A9 (essentially) and a market leading 24 frames per second capture capability. Combine that with a massive buffer of over 125 images in RAW mode and it starts to look like the ultimate camera for not only travel, but also sports shooting, and just about anything else you can think, of all for around a tenth of the price of the A9/400mm lens combo I contemplated earlier.Key Features

  • The lens is not only reasonably bright at f2.4 (closing down to f4.0 fairly quickly however) it is also incredibly sharp through most of the range, tapering off only at the very end from about 570mm to 600mm.
  • The focusing system which was pulled from the Sony A9, is truly superb. It is not only fast but the eye focusing for stills and subject tracking during video recording is all but flawless.
  • The frame rate of this camera is simply incredible at 24 fps (electronic shutter) which can be dialed back down to 10 fps (mechanical shutter) which is my preference, and when shooting RAW does not stop until it reaches around 125 shots as the buffer fills.
  • Video capture at 4K is outstanding in sharpness and detail, with that superb lens providing extraordinary levels of smooth zooming during recording making it a very compelling buy for video alone.
  • The battery life in my “real world testing” has been excellent, with several hundred images and videos per battery being way above Sony’s claims, and lasting for the first four days of my holiday which is more than acceptable.
Sony RX10 IV

I read many reviews of this camera online and watched every video review I could find. It was clear, if you want a bridge camera with superb image quality this was the one to buy, so that is what I did. The 24mm to 600mm lens is truly superb, and as reviews say it is sharp as a razor all the way, with the exception of the 600mm end for me. I find things get a little soft at anything over the equivalent of about 570mm through to 600mm. From 570mm down to 24mm, it is an amazing lens, so hats off to Zeiss and Sony for creating such a versatile and relatively bright lens at this price point.

If you want a detailed review there are plenty online but that is not what this is about, this is to offer my experience with it and to clear up a few misconceptions about this camera, one of which relates to the battery life. Sony themselves claim 290-340 shots per charge, which is about average, not exceptional. In real life use however, you will get much more than that. At the first sport event I used this camera at, I shot 2020 images and at the end of the day had 51% battery left. I then used the camera for the next few days and got another 100-150 images and still the battery had life left in it. True, many of the images I shot at the sporting event were in burst mode, but it is remarkable no matter how you slice it.

Currently away on a family holiday, I am again amazed at just how well the battery lasts in this camera. Over the first two days, I have shot 260 images with about 30 of them in burst mode and I have 78% battery left. Now after 4 days of shooting, with the camera left on in between shots, I have managed to exhaust the battery finally after capturing over 580 still images and 68 4K videos.

Now, speaking of 4K video, this camera captures superb 4K video, image quality looks razor sharp at all focal lengths, but the most impressive features are the stabilisation and focus tracking. At all focal lengths it is possible to hand hold during capture and get very stable looking video. Is it enough to replace a gimbal? No, it is not that good, but if like me on this family holiday you have no gimbal, I would not be rushing out to buy one. Subject tracking has so far been absolutely flawless, it seems to just lock onto the subject and never lets go, very impressive.

Finally, in many reviews it is said that this camera is the very best bridge camera on the market today, that much is true, but they always give small caveats to that statement. I am prepared to say it is the best camera on the market period, for most people’s needs, with the exception of pro shooters needing high speed long focal length lenses etc. I defy anyone to justify passing on this camera for consumer use given the massive capabilities it offers, and the superb results it produces.

With the exception of the issue I had in Capture One at first, this camera is capable of producing truly superb images that would not really be beaten by the expense and inconvenience of a DSLR or Mirrorless and a bag full of lenses for the family holiday or casual shooters needs. So no, I will not be getting rid of my Mirrorless system anytime soon, it still has its place, but for the family holidays it is just the Sony RX10 IV that will be slung over my shoulder.

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