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Truly finding the best point-and-shoot digital camera is only effective if you can get your hands on some options, which is exactly what we did. After we purchased the cameras, we shaved the list down to the top 5 options on the market today by testing things like image quality, video recording capability, and overall build quality.
We took tons of pictures and compared them to one another to see which camera can shoot the best shot in a variety of lighting situations. You might also want to check out the Nikon Coolpix B500 – Editor’s Choice/Best Point and Shoot Camera for the Money. Check out this best digital camera review to find 15 more recommendations.
Fixed lens camera manufacturers tend to try to hit particular price points with their models, making them more attractive to potential buyers, such as the best cameras under $200 or under $500. Our GE Power Pro X500 review is an example of one of these cost-effective cameras. It’s not often that a compact camera maker has to attempt to stay under the $1,000 price point, but my Sony Cybershot RX100 IV review shows a model in exactly that position. Nevertheless, cameras like the Fujifilm GFX 100 exist, and well exceed this price point, sitting at $8,000.
For that price, photographers would expect to find a camera that excels in a lot of areas, and the Sony DSC-RX100M IV fits that description. When compared to its predecessor, the RX100 is especially strong in terms of movie recording, offering both full HD and 4K resolution videos. Few fixed lens cameras can match the performance and image quality that the RX100 Mark 4 offers.
Summary: Although it carries a very high price tag, the Sony RX100 IV camera, including its 24-70mm equivalent Fl.8-2.8 lens, excels in both photo quality and movie quality. Other compact fixed lens digital cameras cannot compete with this model’s overall feature list and performance levels.
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Amazingly sharp photos and movies, especially versus other fixed lens cameras.
Price: $948 from Amazon
Available: July 2015
Model: DSC-RX100 Mark IV/DSCRX100M4/B
What We Liked
What We Didn’t
At about 1.6 inches in thickness, the Sony Cybershot RX100 IV will fit in a large pocket or purse, making it the best compact camera option, just like the Panasonic Lumix ZS60.
Unlike some of the ultra-zoom compact cameras on our best compact digital camera list linked above though, the Cyber-shot RX100 Mark 4 only offers a 2.9X optical zoom lens, which may disappoint some photographers. You’ll have to move your feet to get into position to shoot photos with this camera, rather than relying on zooming in to frame your subject properly.
One of the coolest features of the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV is its popup viewfinder unit. It’s great to have the option of framing the scene using the popup viewfinder or the tiltable LCD screen, something that very few other compact cameras offer. If you honed your photography skills on film cameras, you’ll especially appreciate the viewfinder with this model.
Related: Read the latest Sony CyberShot HX99 review
To keep the viewfinder out of the way for those who don’t use it very often, Sony sunk it into the top panel of the camera body. Much like a pop-up flash unit, the viewfinder can lift out of the camera when you want to use it. This is a great feature (also found on the RX100 III).
A change from the Cyber-shot RX100 IV’s predecessors is the ability to pick from a mechanical shutter, electronic shutter, or have the digital camera automatically select the best shutter option for you. This model can shoot at electronic shutter speeds as fast as 1/32,000th of a second, which is a great performance level.
Related: Check out this Sony CyberShot T110 review
Sony included built-in WiFi and NFC wireless connectivity with the DSC-RX100M 4, which is another in the long list of impressive features for this pricey model.
Sony included a 1-inch image sensor with 20.1 megapixels of resolution with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV. While the 20-plus megapixels of resolution matches what you’ll find with other compact cameras in the market, the 1-inch image sensor is significantly larger in physical size than what’s found on most fixed lens models, which use 1/2.3- or 1/1.7-inch image sensors.
I liked the RX100’s photos quite a lot, as its images were properly exposed and featured accurate colors in most photography situations. In comparison to the Fujifilm x-T10 and 16-55mm f/2.8 combo, the RX100’s photos look far better with enhanced clarity, exposure, and color. The RX100’s far-field performance is also quite good at f/5.6. It can’t quite compete with the best DSLR camera options in terms of overall image quality, but it blows away most compact cameras.
The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 manual modes include the full range: Manual, Shutter Priority, and Aperture Priority. You’ll access each manual mode using a traditional mode dial on the top of the camera, which is handy. When coupled with the RX100 IV’s automatic shooting modes, you can exert as much or as little control over the final image as you want. You also can shoot in RAW or JPEG image formats.
Movie recording is the area where the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV vs. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III comparison shows the biggest difference. The RX100 IV easily is one of the best still image cameras for video quality currently on the market, offering a fast f/1.8 maximum aperture which is excellent in low light, just like the Fujifilm X-Pro 3. The f/1.8 aperture also provides a reduced depth-of-field for improved subject isolation.
It offers a variety of video recording speeds and resolutions, including full HD resolution at up to 60 frames per second and 4K resolution up to 30 frames per second. The RX100 III did not offer 4K video resolution.
In terms of low light photography performance, the RX100 IV has pretty good results, even at high ISO settings. You won’t notice noise in your images until you reach ISO 1600, and even then the incorrect pixels are minimal. Until you attempt to make use of the highest ISO settings for this camera, at ISO 6400 and 12800, noise shouldn’t ruin your images. The auto ISO 125 is also capable of capturing some beautifully clear shots and shouldn’t be overlooked.
Unfortunately, you cannot connect an external flash unit to this camera, as Sony chose not to include a hot shoe. But the pop-up flash does a solid job in most circumstances. And with the small zoom lens, you won’t have to worry about shadows in the corners of images when using the flash with the zoom lens extended.
One area where the Sony RX100 IV doesn’t quite measure up to its predecessors is in terms of battery life. You can expect 200-250 shots per charge with this model, while the older Sony advanced fixed lens cameras were often good for up to 300 shots per charge. And unlike some cameras with a viewfinder, the battery life suffers a bit in the RX100 IV when you use the viewfinder to frame scenes versus using the LCD screen.
If you can stomach the high price tag, my Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV digital camera review shows an outstanding compact camera that simply destroys most similarly sized fixed lens cameras in terms of image quality, overall performance levels, and — especially — in video recording performance and options.
It has all of the full manual control features that intermediate and advanced photographers crave, while also remaining easy enough to use that a beginner could pick it up and begin shooting great photos immediately. It also has enough improvements over its predecessors, especially in terms of video recording, that an upgrade wouldn’t be a bad idea … as long as your budget is high enough and as long as you don’t need a big zoom lens.