Sony RX100 M4: Close-Up Introduction and First Samples

Introduction | Investigations | Sample Photos | References

This page and its companion pages discuss the macro, or better, close-up, abilities of the Sony RX100 M4. Although the camera has a macro mode (allowing shots from 5 cm), I would not call these photos "macros" and therefore use the term "close-up."

This page investigates the minimum object width for the Sony RX100 M4 under various conditions (in my opinion this tells you more than the maximum magnification) and presents sample photos that demonstrate the camera's close-up abilities.

 

Introduction

Ricoh's small sensor cameras, including the "old" GRs, are extremely good macro shooters. The Ricoh R and CX series as well as the Ricoh GXR S10 and particularly, P10 camera units demonstrate what is possible (see elsewhere on this site). Having a 1" sensor (size: 13.2 x 8.8 mm), the Sony RX100 M4 cannot really compete with these small-sensor cameras. On this page, I test the minimum object width for the camera, calculate its magnification, and provide some sample close-up photos.

 

Investigations

Sony does not disclose the maximum possible magnification for the RX100 M4 in macro mode. I took a few test shots (see some examples below) with manual focus and found a minimum object width of

That is, at the telephoto end you get a little more than a postcard, whereas at the wide end you get about half the size of a postcard.
With Clear Image Zoom, you get an even smaller minimum image width of about 80 mm at the longest focal length, that is, about the size of a credit card - however, at the expense of image quality.

Test Shots

The following informal photos measure the minimum object width (using manual focus) at the extreme ends of the zoom range using a ruler:

Photos: Horizontal sections of test photos at 24 mm (top) and 70 mm (bottom)

Photos: Horizontal section of test photos at 140 mm with Clear Image Zoom

Calculating Maximum Magnification

The above data allows me to calculate the maximum magnification for the Sony RX100 M4 (adopted from dkpeterborough, L-Camera-Forum):

This result is not impressive, but for close-up shots of flowers the close-up abilities of the Sony RX100 M1 are still useful, as the samples below (will) demonstrate.

Minimum Object Width and Zoom

I then tested the minimum distance and thus, the minimum object width, for some "standard" focal lengths (equivalent). Without showing the respective photos here, I list the minimum object widths for these focal lengths:

These are just coarse numbers, because I did not do "controlled" tests (these tests were done with autofocus).

Please note that the minimum object distance increases dramatically with increasing focal length, reaching 30 cm at an equivalent focal length of 70 mm. Thus, you can only sensibly shoot close-up (or "macro") photos at a focal length of 24 mm (equiv.), that is, at the wide end of the focal length range, or one might consider using the longest focal length for close-up shots, particularly if you cannot get close to the object.

Minimum Object Width and Digital Zoom

As written above, my initial test showed that, with Clear Image Zoom (one of the two digital zoom modes available for the RX100 M4), you can cut the minimum object width in half if you zoom to 140 mm (equiv.). That is, you can achieve a minimum object width of about 8 cm, which is even less than the 10 cm for the optical zoom at 24 mm (equiv.). But what does this mean in practice? To answer this question, I did a few more test shots.

The following "quick and dirty" photos taken with Clear Image Zoom at 140 mm (equiv.) and optical zoom at 24 mm (equiv.) demonstrate the differences that you get, particularly if you download the original files (you can see a lot of artifacts there in 100% view for the Clear Image Zoom photos).

    

Clear Image Zoom at 140 mm (equiv.), manual focus - large - original

 

Optical zoom at 24 mm (equiv.), manual focus - large - original

 

Clear Image Zoom at 140 mm (equiv.), autofocus - large - original

 

Optical zoom at 24 mm (equiv.), autofocus - large - original

I found, as expected, that at the largest digital zoom value, the image quality is visibly affected. Nevertheless, in some cases, using Clear Image Zoom may be an option to getting "very close from a distance"... The difference in perspective is also striking: With the optical zoom at the wide end the frog looks distorted.

When I looked at these photos a few months later, I was somewhat puzzled, because, considering the minimum object widths of 8 cm and 10 cm, the photos should be much more similar than the ones I got. I asked myself, whether I had made a mistake when taking theses photos. Since I do not know where the camera records the distance in the EXIF data, I decided to take some more test shots to find this out.

Minimum Object Width and Digital Zoom - Take 2

This time, I took test shots of a ruler as a flat example object as well as of three-dimensional objects. I also included 70 mm (equiv.) without Clear Image Zoom in the test. The ruler was meant to help me decide whether my assumptions about the minimum object width were correct. Within some variations, I was able to verify my original data presented above (8 cm, 10 cm, and a little more than 16 cm).

         

24 mm (equiv.) - about 10 cm

 

70 mm (equiv.) with Clear Image Zoom - about 8 cm

 

70 mm (equiv.) - a little more than 16 cm

Then I repeated my test photos of the frog and also took photos of some other smaller objects, which are presented below.

24 mm (equiv.)

 

70 mm (equiv.) with Clear Image Zoom

 

70 mm (equiv.)

         
         
   
         
   
         
   
         
   

So what do the photos tell me? In some cases, the Clear Image Zoom photos look closer than they should (a factor of about 1.4 instead of 1.25), in other cases about right or even farther away. In the end, I am no wiser now, and it seems to depend on the object that is being photographed and its 3D-ness (that is, where I put the focus on)...

 

Sample Photos

I take mostly close-up photos at a focal length of 70 mm (equiv.). Therefore, the following demonstration photos were all taken at this focal length. In addition, the photos were not taken at the shortest possible distance, but at various distances, according to the needs of the photographed objects.

    
     
 
     
 
     
 
     
 
     
 
     
    
     
 
     
 
     
 
     
 
     
 
     
 
     
 

 

References

 

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09.10.2017