Think of wildlife photographers and you immediately conjure up images of big cameras and even bigger lenses. Croatian photographer Petar Sabol is no exception. However, for a two-day visit to Pusztaszer in Hungary, Petar swapped his normal kit for the smaller, and much lighter, Sony RX10 IV.
It was strange for me to use a relatively small camera, but with such a wide zoom range. The RX10 IV has a 24-600mm equivalent lens, which is amazing to have all in one camera. It means that if I want to travel light, then this is the camera I will take. I can shoot landscape images with the wide-angle lens of the zoom, and at the other end, having a 600mm equivalent lens for wildlife is really great.
The lens of the Sony RX10 IV is impressive, but it isn’t the only feature of the camera that blew Petar away. Much of the technology found in Sony’s Alpha range of cameras has also worked its way in to the RX10 IV.
"There are many common things that the camera shares with the Alpha cameras. I immediately became very familiar with the features that it has. It has been very easy to set up and just start using it immediately."
Photographer Petar Sabol is proof that using a bridge camera isn’t a compromise. In fact, Petar’s images show that there are many advantages.
Whilst telephoto lenses are the obvious requirement of wildlife photographers, there are other features that are less visual and tucked away inside the camera. One of these is shooting rate; the faster the camera is of taking images, the greater the likelihood that the photographer will be able to capture a moment of magic.
One of my favourite images I have taken with the RX10 IV is of two white birds flying with their wings in opposite positions. One bird has its wings going up and the other has its wings flapping down. This shot was possible because of the 24fps shooting rate of the RX10 IV. It allowed me to capture that perfect moment. I have other frames in the sequence, but they aren’t as well synchronised as that picture. I caught just the right fraction of a second.
Shooting at 24fps is one thing, but being able to autofocus the lens when shooting at that speed is quite another.
There is a very, very high hit rate in terms of the images that are precisely focused, even when shooting at 24fps. The autofocus is very responsive and I was impressed at just how quickly it locks onto targets, such as with the photo I took of two Eurasian spoonbills in flight. The camera can then track the birds really well, and if some objects enter the frame and disturb the scene - like some tree branches - then the AF still tracks well despite these. It stays locked on to the subject. You feel powerful with this camera.
When all is said and done it is the image quality that is most important. Thankfully the 1” sized 20.4 megapixel sensor at the heart of the RX10 IV produces not just fine resolution, but also impressive dynamic range that allows maximum clarity in both light and dark areas.
I’m used to having 42 megapixels with the α99 and α7R III, but the 20 megapixel is great, especially when paired with the zoom range. The extra zoom means that I found I don’t have to crop as much, so having 20-million-pixels is just fine. Even when I am using the higher ISO sensitivities the image quality is still very good. I am very impressed with the performance of the sensor when compared to larger full frame sensors that I have used previously.
It isn’t just distant subjects that the RX10 IV is capable of capturing, the lens is also brilliant for shooting close-up subjects, something that Petar used to his advantage to capture some images of dragonflies.
The camera has brilliant close-up capabilities. When you look closely you can really see the small details; on compound eyes you can see all of the small eyes, like dots. On some of my dragonfly images I could have got even closer to the subject, but I chose to leave a little space around the subject to make the photo more eye-catching.
The butterfly is actually tiny and shot at 600mm, but I got so close it is almost like using a macro lens. I was able to get a nice depth of field to get all of the butterfly in focus, yet still blur the background so that it doesn’t distract you from looking at the subject
Overall Petar has found the RX10 IV is a great camera for wildlife photography, and one that he will consider taking with him to accompany his α7R III. ‘You can almost get DSLR performance in one camera, without having to ever change lenses.’
"I always try to make my photos look better, no matter how long it takes and how much effort it requires"