Sunday, November 26, 2017

RX10 IV: One Amazing Incredible Camera (Except...)

RX-10 I
The first time I picked up the original RX-10 was in a Sony store (that should give you an idea of just how long ago that was).  I knew that it was just an RX-100 (the world's best point-and-shoot) with a bigger 24-200mm f/2.8 lens, but after 10 seconds I dismissed it.  "Takes too long to turn on.  Takes too long to zoom", I said.  I put it down.

RX-10 II
Time passed. When it came time to write a book on the RX-100 IV, the RX-10 II was available also, and I decided to write the book about both cameras since the two were basically the same: Same sensor, same CPU and compute engine, extremely similar menu structure… it would only be 20% more work.  I took both cameras with me on a family vacation to Hawaii, which stressed me out a little.

If your light is good, pictures are indistinguishable
from higher-end cameras when printed poster-sized.

One wireless flash made for the most portable
studio ever.  And it’s insanely sharp!
"But it's a small sensor camera!" I kept saying to myself.  "It'll be noisy at high ISO!  I won't be able to make bus-sized enlargements!!  I should be taking my full frame gear too in case I come across some scenics I could sell for stock!"  But I reluctantly left my high-end gear at home, taking just two "low-end" cameras with me to document the vast beauty and time with the kids.  Negative attitude in hand, I embarked on the trip.

Six weeks later, I hung some giant enlargements from that trip on the wall.  I discovered that even when scrutinized, it was impossible to tell that the enlargement was made with a small-sensor camera.  Not only that, but both the first AND the last row in my group shots were in focus. :-)  The cameras performed everything I asked of them stellarly, even my first attempts ever at shooting star trails.  And, I had experienced the joy of traveling light without the burden of schlepping extra lenses.

Although I hadn't expected it, I was falling in love with the RX-10 II.

I took it to concerts, where the fast constant f/2.8 lens and completely silent operation allowed me to be unobtrusive and still get in close.  I used it to cover political rallys where the images were submitted to stock sites with exacting standards of quality.  No matter what I asked of the camera, it delivered.

Indoor concerts?  No problem!
My true "Aha!" moment came to me last year, when I took some comparison shots of a close, highly-detailed subject with my high-end, full-frame equipment and my small sensor cameras.  I would create poster-sized enlargements from each camera, and asked attendees of my photography seminars if they could tell which camera took which image.  None could, and of those who guessed right, it was for the wrong reasons.

One of these images was taken with the 42 megapixel Sony A99 II with 135mm f/1.8 Zeiss prime.  The other was the RX-10 II with equivalent settings.  When enlarged and displayed people couldn't tell which camera took which picture.  (The giveaway is that one picture had the chest hairs in focus also.)  There's much more to the story, and you can read all the detail on my blog post at .
I had my epiphany.  And I've blogged about it here and here and here and here.  Today's cameras have improved so much that the high-megapixel, full-frame bodies are simply overkill for a population that hardly prints anymore, much less makes enlargements.  And when the light is good (as it should be if you want to impress your viewers or sell your images), these new small-sensor wonders are way more than good enough.  To use an automobile analogy, if the Nikon D5 / Canon EOS-1D X II / Sony A9 cameras were a Porsche, the RX-10 IV would be the super-charged Subaru WRX.

 The RX-10 IV can tackle Birds in Flight without even breathing hard.  Click on this or any other images to view larger.
I'm not the only one who thinks so.  Professional photographer (and perpetual blogger) Kirk Tuck has made this realization too, and uses small sensor cameras almost exclusively now for his commercial and theatrical work.  Some of his more amusing rants on the subject can be found below:

Another 600mm shot.  Before now it was
too inconvenient a focal length for me
to deal with.  Now I'll be taking advantage 

of its ability to make high-impact 
compositions with ease.
A quote from that last post: "A person walking around town with a D850 and a 70-200mm f2.8 draped over one shoulder with a Black Vapid camera strap is akin to a person walking around in a velour jogging suit, complete with gold neck chains. Or driving around in a Pontiac Firebird. It's just passé. And not very practical. And not a particularly effective methodology if your real intention is to enjoy the process of making photographs and getting great images.We find ourselves in a situation where progress has made most cameras, of all different formats, equally good, and certainly sufficient, for 99% of the uses for which people undertake. People are using one inch superzoom cameras to do work that used to be the territory of film Hasselblads and then full frame digital cameras. The targets for the images overall are different than they were in the past. The culture has changed. The obsession for horsepower has dissipated." 

(Tell us what you really think, Kirk!)

When the RX-10 III came out, with its massively impressive 24-600mm lens, I dismissed it without even looking at it.  "Contrast detect AF won't cut it at 600mm unless your light is really good.  This camera is inherently flawed.  I'm not going to bother."  And I didn't.

RX-10 IV
Fast forward to today.  Apparently Sony heard me, for they developed a new 1"-type sensor that had the same kind of baked-in autofocus points that have rocketed their mirrorless cameras to worldwide accolades.  When it first appeared in the RX-100 V, I blogged that this was overkill and that sensor must have been designed for the RX-10 III's successor.  I was right.

Most people think that small-sensor cameras can’t deliver pleasing bokeh for portraits.  But at 600mm, if your background is far enough away, the RX-10 IV’s lens does quite nicely.  (1/250th using wireless flash, camera right.  Shutter speed could have been as high as 1/2000th, with no HSS needed.)
And if you're not pleased with what it delivers, there's always the lens blur function in Photoshop. :-)

SOOC 100% crop from the above shot.  I didn't even use Eye AF!  Most superzooms go soft at the long end.  This lens is an amazing exception.  If you click on it, your browser will probably show it to you at 120% which means you'll see some pixelation.  Download it instead and view it at 100% and be impressed.

Behind-the-Scenes shot.  1 flash with one diffuser.
So imagine my delight when Sony announced the RX-10 IV, a camera spec'd similarly to the stellar A9  (20 mp vs. 24; 25 fps vs. 20) with the same ability to focus-track moving objects for just $1700 – about one quarter the price of the A9 with the 100-400mm lens.   Everyone who ever shoots sports teams will want one.  This will become as ubiquitous as the RX-100 has become among serious shooters of all camera brands.

But the day the camera arrived, I discovered one hugely disappointing thing.  (Continued after some announcements below)

Next time in Cameracraft
Many people may have heard of U.S. white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan, and the Westboro Baptist Church, but few know much about them and even fewer have any means of experiencing life as a member.  Since 2005, Anthony Karen has been spending countless hours with these groups, documenting their lifestyle and culture so that the rest of us can observe vicariously through his work.  He has documented cross lightings, blood oath rituals, pro-white civil rights rallys, naturalization ceremonies, and the homes of Imperial Wizards.   He’s spent time with white nationalists who perpetuate Nazi symbolism and values, and introduces us to Skinbyrds (female skinheads).

How does he gain access to such closed communities?  What does he do to earn their trust, and how do the parties feel about having a photographer document them?  How does he remain neutral?  In the upcoming issue I spend time with award-winning photographer Anthony Karen and get to the story behind these powerful images.

Subscribe to Cameracraft today to get the full scoop!

Best of the Blog 2 – How to Get It for FREE!

The first edition of “Best of the Blog” was a hit, and well, gosh darn it, I keep writing this stuff.  And so I’ve assembled a new edition of the “Best of the Blog”, this time also containing my best contributions to Cameracraft magazine (for those few holdouts who haven’t yet subscribed – you know who you are. :-) )

Yes, most of this stuff is available for free online if you scavenge for it, but for USD $9.95 you get a hand-curated collection of my best material, without all of those annoying announcements of new books or upcoming seminars.  Well worth it!

BUT WAIT!  I’m giving away this full-color .pdf file for FREE to all new and current subscribers to Cameracraft magazine.  Just email me your purchase receipt and I'll send you a download link.  Such a deal!

(Want to buy the book without subscribing?  You can get it in .pdf format, or in printed form in Color or B&W.)

Friedman Archives Streaming Seminars are on sale! 

2018 is looking to be a busy year already, based on the number of photo clubs that responded to my offer of “I’ll speak to your photo club for FREE, anywhere in the world!  (Ask me how!)” from last month’s blog.  More on that in January when plans solidify.  (And there's still time to contact me.)

In the meantime, in the entire month of December I’m offering the Streaming Version of the Friedman Archives High-Impact Photography Seminars at 10% off!  Just enter discount code yourbestshot2017 when checking out, and you can watch all the content as much as you want, forever.  Many have lauded the seminars as a fresh and different approach that cuts through the ever-increasing complexity of today’s cameras and teaches the essential ingredients to getting a “Wow!” image – no matter what kind of camera you have.


When the RX-10 IV arrived, I was hugely disappointed by one missing capability.  It doesn't allow you to zoom in or out while you're shooting continuously – an essential feature when you're photographing runners or skiers coming toward the camera.  (None of the other RX cameras can either, but none of them were born for shooting sports like the Mark IV otherwise was.)

This is me pushing the RX-10 IV to its 
limits in terms of image quality in 
extreme circumstances: low light, 
600mm, handheld (and I was breathing 
hard after running to get the shot!). 
Is this a big deal?  That depends on whether you plan on shooting things that come toward you or not.  If not, this will be just as capable as an A9 and provide just-as-publishable shots.  But it's a limitation you should know about.

(Interestingly, the camera CAN zoom while shooting and autofocusing when shooting 4K video.  Freeze frames from 4K are perfectly publishable at 12.8" x 7.2" @ 300 dpi.  So that's a possible work-around.)

In all other respects, the RX-10 IV is like a Swiss-army-knife  – small and light enough to always be with you, versatile enough to do just about anything you require of it, with image quality that's visibly indistinguishable from higher-end cameras when printed. It is probably the best travel camera ever made, and no longer will I lament leaving my larger cameras (and backpack full of lenses) at home when I'm traveling.

This modern era has brought us incredible feats of engineering – the internet, the smartphone, Saran wrap, and now a camera that can do everything and yet doesn't weigh you down.

The sensor is so good it happily tackles subjects that previously were relegated to my larger-sensor cameras.

So, if you are or are about to be a member of the amazing RX-10 IV club, then you’ll be delighted to know that my ebook on said camera is now out.  Order yours now!

But what about high ISO images?  This is where small-sensor cameras traditionally fall short.  Here’s a shot taken at ISO 1250 with the RX-100 IV.  Yes, it’s noisier than what a full-frame camera would have captured, but it’s still pretty amazingly good.
Until next time,
Yours Truly, Gary Friedman


  1. Yup, the RX10 III has given me serious concerns about the future of my A7R II and A7 II (and lenses)! It has already caused me to abandon and sell all my Canon equipment...

    I am seriously considering adding the IV to my collection.

    1. the IV is insanely good...I agree totally with what Gary wrote!

  2. I've thought about trying one - but the thing that makes me stick with APS-C (I've given up on FF already) is the bokeh. I get your point about bokeh at 600mm, but you need to be standing on the moon to be far enough back to take the shot and not everyone has a handy grandson to hold their flash. ;-). in fact... I don't even have a grandson.

    1. That's why I try these things out and point out the salient characteristics so people can decide if it's right for their needs.

    2. Keep your APS-C camera for shallower DOF when you want it and use the RX10iv for everything else. No one camera can do everything. That's why I own 4 completely different cameras, RX100, RX10iii, A77ii and A99ii. That said I rarely use my A77ii any more.

  3. Hi Gary,

    I'm not interested in video, I'm strictly a stills shooter, and I'm happy with the 200mm reach of my RX10 ii.

    Any other good reason to upgrade to the RX10 iv ?

    Regards, John M

    1. Much better auto focus with the RX10iv.

    2. yes the AF is's legit for sports...I only wish they would make a new Rx10IIv2 with PDAF ... would LOVE to have that to go along with the IV...

    3. I have the RX-10 III. i find it slow to focus in sports at times, particularly in soccer. Also, it will seem to be choosing between players at different distances from the camera. going into one of the manual modes and setting the center point as the focus area does help somewhat. am curious what experiences others have with soccer. track seems to be easier, and baseball is very easy. Other than that i am very fond of the camera

    4. Mitch, the RX-10 IV addresses the shortcomings you mentioned.

  4. I wanted to like the RX-10 series back when I was shopping for my first non-pocketable camera. This was in 2015 and the model at the time was the RX-10 II. It looked so great on paper. I went to a show, picked it up, nodded when the rep talked about what a wonderful lens it had on it, put it down and left. The problem: there wasn't enough space between the grip and that great lens for my fingers. Holding it was a "chalk squeaking on a blackboard" experience. I know that I have big hands, but it wasn't even close. Wasn't there a way to make this work for more people? I ended up getting an E-M1. While I like it and it's much more comfortable for me to handle, I still get a little jealous when I read about the combination of zoom range and quality on the RX-10 series. There isn't anything quite like that in the MFT world.

  5. Since apparently you have some vodoo kind of influence on SONY's development department: could you please implant the idea of an onld school mechanical zoom - or better a motorized zoom with a manual mechanical override option?
    Thanks in advance -

    1. I have no influence on Sony whatsoever. And while I too would like the zoom to be mechanical, remember that this camera was designed to appeal equally well to videographers (hence the clickless f/stop ring and pressure-sensitive zoom lever). Most of the pro videographers I know own one as a 2nd camera that is versatile and doesn't weigh them down (the same qualities that appeals to still photographers).

    2. Hi Tobias, I understand this is not exactly what you were asking about (and, apologies if this seems like I'm trying to "teach you to suck eggs!") ... but;

      You are aware that the focus-ring can be used for Zoom, independently of the Zoom-lever ... Right ?

      Also, its action can be changed from smooth to stepped in the menus.

  6. I just got to this link after reading your guide to the Sony a6500.

    Do you see any advantages of the a6500 + a zoom lens over the RX10 iv?


    1. That's a pretty vague question... each has their own advantages and everything pretty much depends on your needs.

  7. Thanks Gary,

    I think my key needs are portability, flexibility without having to switch lenses, opportunity (for a serious amateur only) to grow.

    My plan is for a camera that will allow lots of settings, in auto focus, low light, white balance, etc., but without having to carry a large camera bag. For that I think a zoom rather that a small set of primes would be better.

    But I would also like to be able to take sharp, clear pictures that could be cropped and post-processed. It seemed for that the APS-C sensor might be better.

    It seems impossible to have a lens like the 28-600 Zeiss on the RX10 on an APS-C camera and its advantages have to be traded against the larger APS-C sensor.

    1. Well, I think you understand the trade-offs pretty well. Based on what you said above, the "without having to switch lenses" pretty much constrains the recommendation to the RX-10 IV. Your concern about sensor size is a theoretical matter for pixel-peepers; read about my experiences above, try the camera yourself in a variety of situations and share with us your thoughts! GF

  8. How would you compare the RX10 IV to Canon 7d with 400mm f5.6 for sports/bif? Better?

    1. Much depends on the sports you're shooting. If it's track athletes running toward you, and you expect to zoom while continuously shooting, none of the RX cameras can do it. If not, the RX-10 IV will save you a ton of money and you'll probably have to examine the output with an electron microscope to see a difference.

  9. Great article, Gary! It's got me thinking. I leave next week for a photo trip to several wildlife preserves in Kenya. I have a very strict weight limit, so I'm planning on taking all aps-c gear - a6300 and a6500 bodies, 10-18, 18-200, and 70-300 lenses, and an rx100 to keep in my pocket. Would you consider taking the r10 instead of some of that gear?

  10. Without hesitation, I would say "Leave ALL of your APS-C gear at home and take an RX-10 IV on your trip. It was made for things like Safaris. You'll be amazed at the image quality, and of course 600mm reach means longer reach for less weight and bulk. Learn from my experience and get this camera -- I promise you you will not regret it.

  11. I hesitate to buy the rx 10 IV. I want to print my wildlife photos. I think there is to much noise, when the iso is higher than 4000. Is this right? Maybe the Sony A 7 Iii is a better choice?

    1. If your light is poor and/or your ISO is high, the camera to get is the A7s or A7s II. (Or the III when it comes out.)

  12. Thank you, i'am looking forward to your review and book about the Sony 7 iii.

  13. I'm considering the options for shooting indoor sports (basketball and american ninja warrior) with pretty variable lighting. Is this a contender for that? Is there an obvious better alternative under $2k, especially given that it's now almost 2022?

    1. Well, most indoor sports is pretty well lit with gymnasium lighting. But I've shot basketball before; you have to zoom in and out quite a bit as the action moves from one end of the court to another. The RX10 IV would be great for that if you were shooting video, but for stills I'd probably want something that zooms faster. (It should be fine for AJW, since the distance between subject and camera there doesn't change quite as dramatically as in basketball). However if it were a paid gig I would probably spring for more expensive equipment - an f/2.8 telephoto and one of the newer breed of alpha mount bodies. On the other hand just an f/2.8 telephoto will likely run you $2K. Plus there's the question of "How far away will you be seated from the action?" So many variables. If your budget really is under $2K then the RX10 IV might be your only choice. Hope this helps.

  14. The other directions I was thinking were: (a) Sony a6xx w/ a Tamron 70-180 f/2.8 or Sony 70-200 f/2.8, (b) a Canon DSLR (maybe 7D?) with first generation Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8 USM, or (c) Fuji S10 (not sure i can make the math work on that). I want to avoid black-out for fast moving action. I can get relatively close to the action. Not paid gigs. Thanks for your reactions!!

    1. Given those choices, you'd get the best AF performance via an A6400 or A6600 with an f/2.8 Tamron lens (keep in mind there will be a 1.5x magnification when attaching a full-frame lens... usually a good thing when you're shooting sports unless you're sitting too close. :-) It will be way, way faster than even the Canon DSLR.

    2. i'm hesitant about the viewfinder blackout w/ the a6xxx series. i think the flicker will detract from the experience of the game/run. Leaning to renting rx10iv to see if the lighting and focus will work for my needs. I don't understand why sony doesn't solve the viewfinder blackout in the 6 and 7 lines. Some day i'd like an a9, but not yet. i was hoping the fuji xs10 would work, because i like the size and lack of viewfinder blackout. but it seems that AF and write speed are not up to snuff for sports. Really appreciate your review and insights!

  15. Awesome. Thanks for the reactions. Super helpful!


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