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Sony's RX100 IV is still the point-and-shoot to beat

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Does the world need another point-and-shoot camera? Sony seems to think so. Despite an influx of smartphones that have put sophisticated imaging features in people's pockets, the company is still keen on improving its flagship compact shooter, the RX100. The latest model, introduced last month, looks to match the accomplishments of those that came before it: being the best point-and-shoot on the market. This time around, though, Sony's RX100 IV comes with a higher price tag: It's now $950, up from $800 on the last-gen model. But you get what you pay for, meaning a mix of top-of-the-line specs with a slim body that can fit in even the skinniest of jeans.

Gallery: A closer look at the Sony RX100 IV | 22 Photos

The RX100 IV packs a 20.1-megapixel, 1-inch Exmor RS CMOS sensor alongside a BIONZ X image processor and Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 24-70mm (f/1.8-2.8) wide-angle lens. You'll also find a 3-inch, high-resolution tilting LCD and an itty-bitty OLED electronic viewfinder that pops up and slides out whenever you need it. Keep in mind that's all wrapped in a package weighing a mere 10.5 ounces, or roughly 300 grams. That said, the most notable highlights are these: Sony's new camera now shoots 4K (3,840 x 2,160) at 30, 25 and 24 fps (albeit with a five-minute limit), while frames-per-second rates of up to 1,000 will let you record super-slow-motion videos. Rounding things up are a max ISO range of 25,600, shutter speeds as quick as 1/32,000th of a second and a 16 fps continuous shooting mode.

Yes, the specs look fantastic, but how does this fare in everyday use? As you would expect, the RX100 IV performs like a champ. The pictures and videos it captures are sharp and vivid, without ever seeming over-processed or compressed. Naturally, the best things about the device are its small form factor and ergonomics; there's not another similar-sized camera that can match the RX100 IV's image quality or that includes features like a tiny EVF. For a point-and-shoot, it handles low-light situations well too, though that's not to say it doesn't struggle now and then. If you push it to its limits during night shoots, you'll start noticing some of the usual grain, pixelation and blurriness, but that's the exception rather than the rule. For the most part, I was impressed with how the RX100 IV was able to match cameras with bigger sensors -- even Micro Four Thirds models from Panasonic and Olympus.

Since it is a point-and-shoot after all, I also wanted to test the RX100 IV in full-auto mode, and I can't complain about the results. I wanted to take it out of my back pocket and, with one hand, turn it on, aim at the subject, focus and then hit the shutter. It's not the most scientific of tests, but nine out of 10 shots came out looking good enough that I would feel comfortable sharing them and, you know, not deleting them instantly. The same goes for videos, which is one of the reasons this camera's become so popular among YouTubers. It's the perfect capture device for "vlogging" (ugh), especially now that it does both 4K and slow-motion videos. And that right there is who this pocket-sized shooter is geared toward: people who need something portable that's still capable of producing high-quality content.

Sony's RX100 has been the point-and-shoot to beat since it was first introduced in 2012. The fourth-generation model builds upon that success and tops everything its predecessors have offered. Sure, it's more expensive than ever, but $950 is a fair price to pay to feel safe leaving your heavy full-frame camera behind on a trip or two.

Gallery: Sony RX100 IV sample images | 37 Photos

To view full-resolution sample images shot with the Sony RX100 IV, click here.

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