Sony RX10M4 Test

April 13, 2019

Sony RX10M4 + Zeiss 24-600mm F2.4-4.0 @ 24mm

Sony RX10M4 + Zeiss 24-600mm F2.4-4.0 @ 340mm

We originally were experimenting with the Panasonic DMC-ZS200 for a small and highly portable camera with a dramatically long zoom range. Unfortunately after owning it for less than 24 hours it quickly became apparent that the laws of physics would have their way - the 360mm telephoto end was simply too smeary and soft to be usable, even with reduced expectations.

One reviewer put it - “best to think of it as an advanced point-and-shoot” - and we found that to be true in practise, which was unfortunately not quite what we were looking for.

The other thing is, as much as we love the functionality of the Panasonics, we already own a Sony RX100M5 and the difference between its zoom range of 200mm and the DC-ZS200’s max of 360mm actually wasn’t quite as much as one might expect, especially since the far extremes of the telephoto are so bad necessitating avoiding using it to its fullest capacity. Since this was more to carry when hiking, that meant we’re either in the realm of normal mortals (24-105mm ish) or else at an uber extenced reach (i.e. 400mm+) - with precious little falling in between.

We hesitated before pulling the trigger on the much more expensive RX10M4 which while it did sport an attractive 24-600mm zoom and the known quantity of the excellent Sony 1-inch sensors (of which we now own three: the RX10M4, the RX0 and the RX100M5) also is eye-wateringly expensive (some may say over-priced), annoying in all the usual Sony ways (no built in time lapse ability, inane menus, etc.) and more importantly, around 3x the weight (around 1kg) and significantly bulkier than the DC-ZS200.

However, putting it next to our Sony A9 with any kind of halfway-decent lense (let alone something in the telephoto realm) or even our beloved M4/3 bodies and some decent telephoto lenses, the RX10M4 quickly proves itself to be notably lighter (perhaps due to the preponderance of plastic), non-insignificantly smaller and with more range (600mm is a rare beast, even in M/43 world).

There are in fact some situations, such as travel + hiking in the mountains, that could benefit from something more than an advance pocket cam (i.e the RX100M5) but less than the full on kits (M/43 or FF setups) - hence bridge cams such as the RX10M4. Let’s see how it does.

But for now, we just snapped a few test shots from the hotel room we happen to be staying in - no surprised. Super long zoom is super long, and ISO 6400 is noisy AF on a 1-inch sensor with crazy noticeable grain, Sony sensor magic be damned.

But one of the motivating factors behind The MountainBorn is to learn to live with “good enough that is good enough” - maybe this grain will grow on us, maybe it won’t be so bad at the smaller screen sizes everyone consumes content on anyway. Maybe we should just stop shooting this thing at night.

More test shots coming soon…

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