Camera Review: Sony RX10 IV for bird photography

Camera Review: Sony RX10 IV for bird photography

Finally, a bridge camera that closes the gap to the DSLR guaranteed to satisfy any birding enthusiast. The large zoom, large 1" 20mp BSI CMOS sensor, weather seal, as well as the compact form factor and ability to carry it with on a hike, comes in handy. I had my eye on testing the Sony RX10 IV for a while now.

Sony RX10 IV: almost like using a DSLR for birding

I am genuinely a bridge camera enthusiast and feel it is definitely underutilised for birding. If you are anything like me, I am outdoors for the full experience, hiking, nature and a bit of fitness. The last thing I want to do is lug around a bag full of heavy gear on those days. The DSLR is still the defacto standard for birding, the selection of lenses and the technology of the units has been superior. Along comes the Sony RX10 IV. I truly felt this could be the answer to get that professional body, functionality and lens into a bridge camera.


Sony RX10 IV vs Nikon P1000

First a little background, for hiking I have been using a Nikon P900 for a couple of years now, and I love it. My Nikon got damaged in a fall (weatherproofing would have helped), and I have missed it. I got a demo unit of the Nikon P1000 to try. Nikon dubbed the P1000 the P900 replacement in South Africa, however as would soon become apparent that the P950, was in design and has become available in the meanwhile. Check out my P1000 review for birding here.

Let's make a quick comparison of the Sony RX10 IV to the P1000. I would say this is a different camera, and it is smaller and more comfortable to carry. The weatherproofing is genuinely a great feature for the outdoor birding and hiking enthusiast. The operating system felt slightly less intuitive. I really missed the extra zoom.

Weather Proof Body Great for Birding and Outdoors

The first thing that stood out to me on reading about the Sony RX10 IV was its rugged design. The P900 and P1000 are made of plastic whereas the Sony has a metal body, advertised as being weatherproof. For hiking and bird photography, this could be ideal. However, when the demo unit arrived, it was damaged. Already one of my reasons for loving the camera got put into question. To be fair, the Sony agent fixed up the unit in no time and sent it back to me.


Sony RX10 IV Zoom and Outdoor Usability

The Sony RX10 IV is solid and the perfect size for a robust hiking and birding camera. The unit feels solid in your hand if it will be able to withstand weathering with the moving parts. The camera sports a 24-600mm Zeiss Vario-Sonnar lens with F2.4-4 aperture. That is a solid zoom and probably as much as you can carry on a short birding hike with a DSLR. But in the RX10 it comes in a much more manageable package. At 20.1 pixels you should be able to crop a bit to get in closer. The body feels natural to hold, and I liked the manual lens operation for zoom and aperture.


Should I buy this camera?

The camera took some getting used to after using the Nikon operating system for a couple of years. The autofocus seems to struggle to find the subject. I fiddled a little with the settings to get the optimal setup but still did not find it the most intuitive operations. The eternal buttons on the camera were definitely much more aligned to the DSLR type cameras. Users who use this camera as an alternative to their SLR will find the switch intuitive.

One major drawcard to the Sony RX10 IV is the larger 1' sensor. Four times larger than most bridge cameras with a 1/2.3 sensor. This should definitely make the image quality delivered by the Sony much better than the rivals. Providing better low light and depth of field performance

Key Considerations

  • The body is solid and sturdy for hiking and birding but will incur damage readily
  • The camera is a manageable size for hiking and birding and well suited for large male hands
  • The camera lens and available functions on the body are exceptional
  • The autofocus played up a bit test this before you buy maybe it was a user issue
  • I missed the P900 and P1000 zoom but the Nikon bridge cameras had their own issues some of which has been solved in the Sony
  • Would I buy this camera? Yes
Comparing the zoom to the P900 or P1000 is not fair, but that has been my frame of reference to date. I really missed the extra zoom. I have gotten so used to getting right up close to the subject, with the Sony I just missed that extra reach. All the photos posted here have received no post-production work, I only reduced their size and uploaded as-is. The extra zoom limit my post-production and enable me to focus on what I love, taking pictures.
Overall the camera is fantastic; most of the issues I encountered I believe is due to me not being used to it. It may just be the next article on my list to Santa.
Adriaan Buys
Adriaan BuysConservationMag
Founder of ConservationMag, Studying expansive conservation management strategy in a world of short term human needs. Researcher, Lecturer, PhD Student