In a market where point-and-shoot cameras are largely ignored, Sony has introduced a wealth of new technology in their top-of-the-line compact, the Sony RX100 IV. The previous versions have all impressed with the large sensor and bright lens, making small improvements every year with things like a pop-up viewfinder. But this year, the updates are huge--the sensor has been redesigned, the speed gets a big step up, and the video gets bumped up to 4K. And we didn't even have much complaints about the last model.
The sensor is still that large 1" size, but it's now stacked. It's a design popular in smartphones because it allows the technology to fit in a smaller space. The stacked design isn't just about space, however--it's what's allowing for the enhanced speed.
The previous model's 10 fps burst speed has been pushed even further to 16 fps. But what's even more impressive is this camera's shutter speed tops out at 1/32,000, where a lot of point-and-shoots are lucky to see 1/8,000. That's with their electronic shutter, the mechanical one stops at 1/2,000. That shouldn't be a problem though; Sony says their Anti-Distortion Shutter prevents image distortion. While we'll wait to test that claim, the fast shutter speed should be excellent for capturing action (provided there's enough light) as well as allowing for more flexibility in extremely bright lighting conditions.
That stacked sensor also leads to 4K video. It's limited to five minute clips because of the large file sizes, but point-and-shoots aren't often used for long videos anyway and 1080p video is available when longer shots are necessary. Slow motion shots are big here too, with motion as slow as 40x.
Along with all the new tech, Sony is building on what was already a solid camera. The large sensor and bright f/1.8-2.8 lens is an excellent combination for low light photography or dramatic depth of field. There's both an electronic viewfinder and a tilting LCD screen. A control ring around the lens makes those manual modes a bit easier to use. Nice extras like focus peaking and wi-fi are still there as well.
The only things we see (so far) that Sony wasn't able to cram into a compact camera is a big zoom and an affordable price. There's a 2.9x optical zoom to help with composition some, but it's not much. And of course all of those innovations don't come cheap--the Sony RX100 IV will run you nearly a grand. Sure, it's probably the best compact camera out there, but you could spend that money on a DSLR with an even larger sensor (though probably not as much speed). It's a luxury item for sure, but one that appears to perform up to its price tag.
The Sony RX100 IV will hit shelves in July, 2015.