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Sony updates its best compact camera with slow-motion and high-speed shooting

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The long-zoom RX10 and high-resolution A7R are also getting new sensors and capabilities

Sony's RX100 series is the best compact camera you can buy, and today, it's getting even better. The new RX100 IV has the same 1-inch 20-megapixel CMOS sensor and 24-70mm equivalent zoom lens as last year's RX100 III, but it has a new, better OLED viewfinder and the ability to shoot slow-motion footage at up to 960 frames per second. Slowed down to a standard 30 frames per second in playback and the footage is 40x slower than normal. For comparison, the iPhone 6 can shoot up to 240 frames per second slow motion. Additionally, the RX100 IV can shoot stills at up to 16 frames per second, with shutter speeds up to 1/32,000 of a second.

Sony is calling the new sensor in the RX100 IV a "stacked Exmor RS CMOS" chip, which combined with a new processor and RAM combination is what enables the new high-speed and slow-motion capabilities. The RX100 IV is also capable of shooting 4K video up to five minutes in length. Sony says the 960fps video is approximately XGA resolution (1280 x 800), while the 480fps is 720p HD, and the 240fps mode is 1080p full HD.

Sony RX10 Mark II

Sony RX10 II

The superzoom RX10 is also getting a similar upgrade with the same sensor and RAM combination and shooting capabilities. The RX10 II has a XGA OLED viewfinder, water and dust resistance, and a 24-200mm equivalent f/2.8 lens. It can shoot up to 14 frames per second stills and the same 960 frames per second slow motion video as the RX100 IV.

Sony isn't stopping there: today it's also announcing the A7R II, which features a new 42.4 megapixel backside illuminated CMOS sensor that can shoot at up to ISO 102,400. The A7R is an interchangeable lens camera with a full-frame 35mm sensor and works with Sony's FE mount lenses. Sony says the new camera has a new shutter that reduces vibration by up to 50 percent, and it has the Silent Shooting mode from the other A7 models. The autofocus system has 399 focal plane phase detection points, which work with 25 contrast detect points to focus 40 percent faster than the original A7R.

Sony A7R II

Sony A7R II

The A7R II also benefits from the same 5-axis image stabilization system that first debuted in the A7 II that lets photographers shoot at shutter speeds up to 4.5 stops slower. The A7R II can also shoot 4K video utilizing the full width of the image sensor. That's something that should excite videographers hoping to use the A7R II as a compact replacement for larger DSLRs or video cameras.

The viewfinder on the A7R II has been updated to a XGA OLED unit with more magnification than before, and the camera has the same Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity of Sony's other A7 models. Sony says this camera was designed to provide photographers with both high-sensitivity and high-resolution shooting without having to make a compromise as they had to in the past.

The RX100 IV and RX10 II will be available for order starting June 17th at $1,000 and $1,300, respectively. Last year's RX100 III was pushing the price envelope for a compact camera at $800, so it will be interesting to see who's willing to pay even more for one. Sony says the other RX100 models will still be available at lower price points, giving the company a spread of four cameras that share very similar features and capabilities. The A7R II will be available in August for $3,200.

We got to spend a brief amount of time handling the new cameras, and as you might expect, there aren't a whole lot of changes from the hardware and design perspective. The RX100 IV and RX10 II are exactly the same bodies as their predecessors, so all of the improvements will be seen in the photo and video output.

The A7R II is a little different and the most notable thing about it is its new viewfinder. It's exceptionally large and bright and even competes with the Fuji X-T1 for the best electronic viewfinder we've ever seen. Sony says it's even bigger thanks to larger magnification and without an X-T1 to test side-by-side, we're inclined to believe it. The new shutter is much better sounding than the old model's, which sounded like it was shattering the inside of the camera with every frame, and the silent mode is truly noiseless. Otherwise, the A7R II is very similar to the A7 II in terms of handling and feel, though Sony upgraded some of the plastic parts to magnesium for the new model.

We can't really make any judgements on the new camera's image and video quality just yet, so stay tuned for more impressions once we've spent some significant time with them.