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.

Key Considerations

  • The body is robust 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.
  • Having a 1' sensor in a bridge camera is fantastic.
  • The camera lens and available functions on the body are exceptional.
  • The autofocus played up a bit during the test.
  • I missed the larger zoom in the P900/P950 and P1000.
  • Would I buy this camera? Yes.
Sony Cyber-Shot RX10IV on Amazon.com and on Amazon.co.uk

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.

Image

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.
Image

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/P950 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.

Image

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.

Image

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 was updated in this model; however, the camera still struggled to find the subject focus on the birds, regularly focusing on leaves and branches. I fiddled a little with the settings to get the optimal setup, but I did not find it the most intuitive operation.
 
Users who use this camera as an alternative to their SLR will find the switch intuitive. The external buttons on the camera were much more aligned to the DSLR type cameras.

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, providing better low light and depth of field performance. The sensor size theoretically should make the image quality delivered by the Sony much better than the rivals. You may need to do a bit of post-processing to crop some closeups though.
Image
I missed the P900/P950 and P1000 zoom. I know it's not fair to compare; the extra reach is due to the crop factor of the tiny sensor. I have gotten so used to getting right up close to the subject; I just missed that extra reach with the Sony. I may have missed the additional range, mainly due to my unique workflow. I like to snap the birds as I hike, no hides and I do very little post-processing.

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.
Image
Overall the camera is fantastic; most of the issues I encountered I believe may be due to user issues ;). It may just ask Santa to put one in a stocking for me at Christmas.
Adriaan Buys
Adriaan BuysConservationMag
Founder of ConservationMag, Studying expansive conservation management strategy in a world of short term human needs. Researcher, Lecturer, PhD Student

Shop for a cause

Conservation Mag is an Amazon affiliate, by clicking on the links to do your shopping you support us without paying anything extra. 
Shop on amazon.com | amazon.co.uk
Image