Earlier this month Sony announced a bunch of new 4K cameras and the RX100 IV is the first to land on our desk for a test. Sony RX100 IV footage is nice because the camera has internal 4K (UHD) video and slow motion up to 960fps.
Before continuing, it is important for me to note, that all the slow-motion footage you see in the video above was upscaled to 4K in order to match the rest of the 4K footage on the timeline, so obviously it is softer. Also, the “flickering” when recording slow-motion is NOT a camera malfunction but is due to the electric circuit’s frequency. This can usually be overcome by using “flicker free” light fixture. At the location I wasn’t allowed to turn off the shop’s lighting.
Back to the camera. When you look at it you know this is one of those modern super compact wonders. 4K internal recording, various slow motion speeds (the 250fps with a sensor readout of 1,824 x 1,026 effective pixels is my favourite), a good lens, nice EVF and good LCD screen just to name the big ones, but if you look closer you will see that here’s another camera by Sony that suffers from an “identity crisis”.
Mostly it looks like Sony haven’t decided what they want this camera to be. If it is a photo camera, then why bother with pro features like S-log2 and internal ND filters? On the other hand, if it is a tool for the serious video shooter be it an advanced hobbyist or a pro, why is there no proper audio connectivity and only internal audio recording?
It is only when starting to use the camera, that one will notice the RX100 IV will function best as a “home shooting device”. The advanced user will suffer the shortcomings and limitations as soon as the shooting requirements get a bit more demanding.
If you decide to use this camera in the field you should be aware of the following:
- Battery life is very limited. If you intend to use HFR (slow-motion) mode, the battery will drain even faster.
- It is not possible to connect the camera to the mains and continue recording while the battery is “dead”.
- Due to extensive processing, the camera has to buffer the recorded slow motion images. This prevents you from recording the next desired shot immediately. You will always have to wait until buffering is complete.
- When entering “slow motion buffering mode” no further adjustments in manual mode are possible. You cannot change aperture, focus or ISO.
- There’s evident rolling shutter in 4K.
- There’s a limit of up to 5 minutes recording time in 4K.
- The camera has the tendency to overheat. During my test I got a “warning”, but the camera did not stop recording.
- Last but not least is the horrible connectivity/battery/SD card placement this camera has to offer. You can clearly see that it was not designed with the filming experience in mind and probably a mindset of “why do we need an external HDMI connector anyway?”. Otherwise I could not explain the awkward placement of those. Note that the REC button functionality can be set to button “C”, but still the HDMI placement on the right hand side is a design flaw in my opinion.
On the positive side: (in no particular order)
- 1 inch sensor size (16mm equivalent).
- Although the camera is somewhat limited in zoom range (24-70mm), the lens is fast (f1.8w-f2.8).
- Custom button placement is possible.
- Lowlight recording is fine for a 1 inch sensor.
- Pop-Out EVF.
- Additional professional video features like Zebra, peaking, built-in ND filter, S-Log2/S-Gamut.
- Minimal moire in the Sony RX100 IV footage.
- Various slow motion rates all being recorded in 1080p. Note the effective pixel readout of the sensor reflects the true picture quality which degrades with higher frame rates. In “Quality Priority”: 240fps/250fps (1,824 x 1,026), 480fps/500fps (1,676 x 566), 960fps/1,000fps (1,136 x 384)
- In HFR mode you can choose ‘start trigger’ to begin recording once button is pressed or ‘end trigger’ to record footage up until the button is pressed. The ‘end trigger’ mode lets shooting begin 2 to 4 seconds before the movie button is pressed so you can actually record “lost moments” in slow motion after they happened.
- 100 Mbps 4K recording (3840×2160) and 50 Mbps during full HD.
- “Take anywhere with you” sized camera.
- PAL/NTSC switchable.
- FN button is highly customizable.
- Personally I have no problem with the 5 minutes 4K recording limitation this camera has as I can not see myself shooting anything lengthy with it.
- The slow motion this camera offers is its main selling point! In the right lighting conditions it can produce beautiful effects. For the money, this is the best option currently available.
- I love working with small cameras and despite its weaknesses, I will buy the RX100 IV because of its pocket size, 4K recording and slow-motion capabilities. It can serve as a great family companion and “throw in the bag” second camera for my productions. After all, life in slow motion never looked so beautiful before (for less than $1000) …
Camera settings for the above video: File format XAVC S 4K, 25p, PP7 (S-LOG 2), ISO 1600 (camera default present in this mode), HFR settings: 25p 50M, frame rate 250fps, Quality priority,
For those who would like to experiment grading Sony RX100 IV footage: (download the 4K version).
Edited in Adobe Premiere CC 2014. LUTs: Rocket rooster.
Special thanks to Ilya and Ivan from Brothers’ Barbershop Vienna.
Johnnie Behiri is a freelance documentary cameraman/editor/producer working mostly for the BBC and other respected broadcasters. He is also co-owner of cinema5d.com
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