Camera: Sony RX100 IV compact Digital camera between smartphones and DSLRs

Camera: Sony RX100 IV compact Digital camera between smartphones and DSLRs
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The Sony RX100 IV compact is a good camera but price — $1399 — is an issue.
The Sony RX100 IV compact is a good camera but price — $1399 — is an issue. Source: Supplied

Sony is the king when it comes to digital cameras have come up with this wonderful 
You have to be brave to make compact cameras. But that’s what Sony has done with its RX100 Mark IV compact.
Compacts live between a rock and a hard place. The rock is the millions upon millions of smartphones with cameras most of the public judge as adequate. Even though they can be tiny and light, why do you need that extra bulge in your pocket?
The hard place is the DSLR camera used by serious amateurs and professionals. Users here seek more control over their shots with interchangeable lenses. Compacts live in the twilight zone between the two.
Sales figures bear out the dismal story. Last year analyst firm Gartner predicted sales of 31 million compacts globally this year. By 2018 it estimates half, just under 16 million sales. You may hope mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras may fare better as a DSLR alternative. But Gartner’s projections are virtually static: five million this year and 4.9 million in 2018. They are going nowhere.
And sales of DSLR camera are increasing only marginally with projections of 18.6 million this year and 20.4 million in 2018.



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Compare that with smartphone sales: 1.49 billion this year increasing to more than two billion a year by 2018. And nearly all will have cameras. It’s little wonder Gartner recommends suppliers expand production to other market segments.
The problem for compacts is that photography is no longer just about taking photos; it’s a combined act of snapping and instantly sharing to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Flickr. Some Wi-Fi-enabled cameras make it possible to directly share snaps, but they can’t do it as efficiently as a phone can.
Having said this, there’s still a market for compacts such as Sony’s RX100 series among older Australians who used compacts before the smartphone era. There also are those who don’t give a tinker’s cuss about instant sharing.

Night shot with Sony RX100 IV in King Street, Newtown in Sydney's inner west.
Night shot with Sony RX100 IV in King Street, Newtown in Sydney's inner west.

 
In my time with the latest RX100 Mark IV, I never believed it would substitute for my smartphone camera, although I toyed with the idea that it could replace my DSLR, a Sony A6000.But I need a zoom lens with high magnification for snapping conference speakers from afar. The Mark IV is restricted to a 25mm-73mm fixed lens in 4:3 still photography, so I had to rule out the idea.
If it does fit the bill, the RX100 Mark IV offers outstanding features. They include a sturdy, magnesium alloy case weighing 298g, a 20.1 megapixel Sony CMOS sensor, ISO support to 12800 for stills, a pop-up electronic viewfinder with dioptre adjustment, and a flash unit you can tilt for bounce flash photography.

Tilting the back screen 180 degrees turns the Mark IV into a selfies snapper while a 90-degree tilt is useful for shooting video. Everyday operation is similar to a Sony DSLR: the control dial, menu system, control wheel and programmable selection options made me feel at home.
The best feature is speed. Photos are snapped the instant you press the camera button and, in good light, results are sharp. I achieved almost professional quality pics snapping an amateur Australian football match near home, but with the camera’s fixed lens the action had to be close to the boundary line.
I also achieved reasonable shots at night with decent resolution photos in almost dark environments, but the contrast between scenery and street lighting was too strong. Macro performance was very good.
The piece de resistance is video. You can take 4K video in Sony’s XAVC format, although it is restricted to five minutes a time. Sony suggests you turn the power off between shoots.
There’s also a high frame rate (HFR) mode which produces incredibly sharp slow motion video at up to 1000 frames per second. Footage even of water dripping from a tap can look exciting. You are restricted to 20 second bursts however.
Price is an issue: $1399. For that you can buy a 128GB iPhone 6 or a Sony A6000 DSLR with lens kit. But if your heart is set on a compact, it’s a worthy contender.
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