Some say that the compact camera is dead. They may be right, as more and more people use their smartphone as a primary camera, making the cheaper compact camera all but redundant. 

At the same time, we've seen growing sophistication in high-end compacts, putting real shooting power in your pocket. The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III was one of the best cameras we saw in 2014 and now there's a new version, the RX100 IV.

This isn't just an incremental upgrade, however. Although the RX100 IV carries much the same design and functionality, it's really a story about a new sensor, or rather, a new way of supercharging the sensor.

The key to the RX100 IV's new powers is the stacked CMOS sensor. In this 1.0-type Exmor RS sensor, Sony has added a DRAM chip, increasing the readout speed five-fold and that's what really unlocks the new functions.


We got our hands on a pre-production sample of the RX100 IV and although we aren't able to judge the results (or take away any of the pictures we took), there's a lot of exciting stuff going on. Please excuse the black tape on the bottom of the camera pictured here - that was to stop us taking the SD card out.

As the sensor can capture faster, you have options for very fast shutter speeds, up to 1/32000sec, which means you can shoot directly into the sun, for example, without over exposing. Sony says you can shoot at EV19, meaning you'll be able to shoot at larger apertures in bright conditions, giving you more options for composition.

Sony is boasting that the RX100 IV has an anti-distortion shutter. What this really means is that you won't get strange effects on fast moving objects, because the information is processed so much faster by the sensor, so there's almost no lag as the sensor scans the subject. 

One thing we did get to test was the new super slow-motion video option. We didn't have a wet dog or a bursting water balloon, but with a high frame rate position on the dial, it's easy to switch over and start capturing at 960fps, or whatever takes your fancy.

To make space on the mode dial, Sony has combined its auto shooting modes into the same place, presenting iA and iA+ as an option when you switch to the auto position.


Back to the slow-mo video and although you get wonderful slow-motion - something that seems to be "on trend" at the moment - there is a loss of resolution in the process. The samples we've seen, however, are very good, and there are a range of options to help you get the results you want.

One of the nice tricks is letting the camera constantly buffer this video using the video button to end capture rather than start. This means you just have to prepare the camera for capture, then hit to button once the event has occurred. It's great fun and although a regular feature on smartphones, we can't wait to see the results from the RX100 IV getting shared.

There's also the option for 4K video capture with no pixel binning, as well as the option to extract 17-megapixel stills from it as you are recording. It's going to be a great tool for both photography and videography and much of that comes down to the new faster sensor.

Aside from these sorts of fast sensor tricks, the RX100 IV offers the same great features the predecessor did too. That makes for a camera that has a great range of diversity, packing everything into a pocketable package, with a handy control ring on the front around the f/1.8 24-70mm Zeiss lens.


One of the highlights for us is the viewfinder. The OLED viewfinder has been boosted to XGA resolution, with 2.35million dots. It's great the way it packs away for display-only shooting, but from the time we spent using it today, it's sharp, bright and clear. Yes, it's on the small side, but for shooting in bright conditions, it's wonderful to use.

Of course the proof of the pudding is in the eating and we can't wait to snack on the RX100 IV's tasty treats some more. The Sony RX100 IV will be arriving in summer 2015 and has a guide price of €1150, about £840. That's a slight bump above the £650 of the RX100 III, so although you get a lot of attractive features, you're going to have to pay for them.