This is a review produced jointly with our friends over at clubulfoto.com
Sony has released the third version of the already famous RX100, the advanced compact camera. With the one digit increment in its unglamorous name – in style with its predecessor -, the Sony RX100 III comes with a number of important improvements. It’s a sign that Sony listened to criticisms made to the previous generation and improved the product in essential areas. For instance, the lens is now offering an equivalent focal length of 24mm at the wide end, is brighter (has f/2.8 at the 70mm end), and includes an optical ND filter (3x). But by far the most exciting improvement is brought by the new popup electronic viewfinder. Also, the Sony RX100 III includes the Bionz X image processor, the same as on the Sony A7, and boasts the ability to continuously take shots at up to 10 frames per second in full resolution. With that in mind, the new RX100 M3 has all the chances to become our favorite premium compact camera, being more than just an update to the previous generation. Let us see it in action!
As of this writing, Sony RX100 III can be found in stores at a suggested retail price of approximately $798. Check out the current price and more hands-on reviews
Sony RX100 III – the tech specs at a glance
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- 1 inch EXMOR CMOS sensor with 2.7x crop factor
- 20.2 megapixels resolution
- Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* Lens
- 24-70mm equivalent focal length
- f/1.8-2.8 aperture
- Electronic viewfinder with 1.44 million pixels
- Lens-integrated optical stabilization
- Continuous shooting at up to 10 fps at full resolution, 20.2MP
- Integrated pop-up Flash
- Bionz X processor (same as on the Sony A7/A7R)
- ISO 100-12.800
- P/A/S/M Auto modes, Preset scenes, Panorama
- Video recording in Full HD 1080 30p
- Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity
- Storage on SD/SDHC/SDXC cards
Photo taken with Sony RX100 II:
Sony RX100 III vs. RX100 II
The major improvements brought about by the new RX100 III over the RX100 II are the following:
- the inclusion of the (pop-up) electronic viewfinder
- 24-70mm lens which is also brighter at f/1.8-2.8 (instead of 28-100mm at f/1.8-4.9 on the RX100 II)
- integration of a 3x ND filter
- the Bionz X processor
- the LCD screen now folds vertically (used for self-portraits)
Build and handling
At first glance, the exterior of the Sony RX100 III is quite a lot like that of the previous generation. However, a keen eye will notice the lack of the external flash hotshoe. A strange decision by Sony? Not really! The hotshoe has been excluded from the new RX100 III in order to make room for the integrated flash. Okay, okay, you say, but the previous model also had an integrated Flash! Correct, but there’s something new: the RX100 III now includes an electronic viewfinder that’s “hidden” from view. It can be popped up with a button located on the left side of the case and looks like in the image below when open:
So, Sony dropped the external flash hotshoe, which was pretty cumbersome to use with a camera so compact anyway, and has introduced the pop-up electronic viewfinder. It’s small, so, how well does one see through it? Actually, this viewfinder is built very smartly: it’s got an optical system in front of the integrated mini-LCD screen that makes the viewed image large and sharp, and the dioptric adjustment dial (yes, it’s got one) will definitely help those who wear glasses. To sum up: the electronic viewfinder has good image, has no discernible lag, and the high resolution will allow to even try to focus manually, if you want to play with this feature of RX100 III (for this the camera has a built-in focus assist system called Peaking Focus).
Here’s a shot through the viewfinder of the Sony RX100 III showing the information displayed:
Apart from that, the Sony RX100 III does not differ very much at the outside from the RX100 II. The tilting LCD screen can turn to display self-portraits (selfie lovers will be happy about this feature!), and although the buttons are rather small (proportional to the small size of the camera, we might add), they press easily and comfortably, without trouble even for large-handed folks.
In addition, there’s a ring around the lens that can be used to set different parameters of the exposure. It can be programmed to perform any of the following functions: control the aperture, exposure time, ISO sensitivity or zoom. It’s very useful for quick access to the above mentioned parameters, but also to contribute to the “professional” feel of the camera, with a usage similar to that of DSLR or mirrorless cameras. At this point, if we mentioned the “pro” feel, let’s not forget the aluminum-cast body of the Sony RX100 III, which adds to the overall impression of strength and robustness of this mighty little camera.
The access lid to the card and battery is located in the familiar spot, at the bottom right corner of the camera. Also located there is the tripod mount (masked by the battery cover in the image below).
Images of the Sony RX100 III:
The menu of the Sony RX100 III is similar to that of the cameras in the Sony Alpha line. Which is good, because it includes a lot of features that other compact cameras (and sometimes mirrorless or even DSLRs) can only dream of. Here are some of the functions that particularly caught my attention in the Sony RX100 3 menu:
- Peaking Focus and Zebra – to assist in manual focusing
- Wi-Fi – sending of photos to a smartphone or tablet is now done very easily, thanks to the integrated Wireless connection of the Sony RX100 M3 and to the simple configuration options in the menu. The ‘Play Memories’ application, available for free for Android and iOS, allows quick access to images from the camera, directly from your mobile (including Remote Shooting). In addition, it is possible in the future that Sony develops applications that can be downloaded and installed directly onto the camera.
- Soft Skin Effect – for smoother-skinned portraits 🙂 This is a whole routine dedicated to automatic correction of wrinkles, spots etc.
- Auto Object Framing – photograph a person, and the camera will automatically select the most ‘suitable’ framing for that particular shooting situation (at least according to Sony algorithms).
- Auto HDR – HDR images (multi-frame) can be taken automatically thanks to the function that you’ll find in the main menu (we get into examples, just below)
- Panoramic images (180 or 360°), vertical or horizontal.
- A lot of scenes and effects: two Auto modes (standard and Intelligent Auto for night shots) and over 16 scene presets for various situations, such as photographing inside, at a party, of fireworks, or sports images.
- Live special effects: over 8 artistic filters are available in the menu, and the result can be previewed live before triggering. We mention just a few effects: Miniature, Pop Color, Selective Desaturation (on red, blue, yellow or green), Toy Camera, etc. Many of these effects can be customized with the help of sliders on the screen. Some examples of images taken with the effects available in the menu of RX100 III are below.
Images with the Sony RX100 III Menu:
Image quality, ISO, and the autofocus system
We find that image quality has been improved significantly over the RX100 II, especially at high ISO values, although the RX100 II was holding well already in this respect. The AF system has been essentially improved, especially in order to keep pace with the fast subject tracking demanded by the 10x continuous shooting feature. Focusing speed is not the fastest we’ve seen, but is large enough for a compact, and the precision of focus is very good – in all of our tests, the RX100 III did not miss focus in any frame.
The integrated colormeter manages to automatically set the optimum color temperature, even in the evening or at night, when different light sources are in the same frame.
The large number of scene presets and night modes will allow novice photographers to get good shots, at least from a technical point of view. Artistic filters (monochrome, sepia, old photo, toy camera, vivid etc) are complemented by a few very useful shooting modes, such as the function to record panoramic images or the possibility to capture multi-frame HDR images, without resorting to photo processing software on a computer.
The HDR and D-Range Optimizer
Two very useful and very important functions that the RX100 III boasts are the D-Range Optimizer and the Auto HDR. The first of these, activated by default, automatically optimizes the level of detail in images with a high contrast, so the photos are in balance. The D-Range Optimizer can be user-adjusted to increase or decrease the effect. On the other hand, the RX100 III can generate HDR frames directly on-camera, taking three consecutive images with different exposures, which are overlapped in a single final frame. This function also allows for adjustment of the HDR exposure range (from +/- 1EV up to 5EV). Here’s an example of the two functions that we just mentioned.
Other HDR images:
As already mentioned, the Sony RX100 M3 comes with a new, brighter lens, (with f/2.8 at 70 mm instead of f/4.5 in the previous generation), which gives it a real advantage when taking night photos. In addition, the BSI CMOS sensor is doing excellent at high ISO values, so we almost no longer have to worry about image noise when capturing frames in low-light (also a sign that the BIONZ X image processor, taken from the Sony A7, does its job with flying colors!). Here are some examples that speak for themselves:
Sony was the first to include the automatic panorama function on their photo cameras. Neither does Sony RX100 III make an exception, since it can shoot normal and extended panoramic images (with 180 or 360° coverage angle, on the vertical or horizontal), as can be seen in the following examples:
Filters and special effects
Sony RX100 III, includes a small “artist”, if you will, that can help free your imagination shooting with filters such as Black and White Poster, Water Color, Selective Desaturation (on red, green, blue, or yellow), Illustration, Soft Key, Miniature, or Retro Photo and HDR Painting. Here are some examples for almost all of these filters:
All the images with filters and special effects taken with the Sony RX100 III and selected for this article:
Wi-Fi and NFC
Shots taken with the RX100 III can be transferred wirelessly to a smartphone or tablet with both Android or iOS, thanks to the built-in Wi-Fi connection and the Play Memories application available for free in the Apple Store/Google Play. Setting up the Wi-Fi connection is done automatically if you have a smartphone or a tablet compatible with the NFC standard, which makes transferring easy and fast. At the same time, Sony RX100 III can be controlled from a distance (remote shooting), via Wi-Fi, with the same application.
How good is the RX100 III’s video recording?
The Sony RX100 M3 records Full HD 50/25p video at 30MB/s with stereo sound, image stabilizing and active zoom during filming. Here are some examples, recorded in Full HD 1080 50p:
Autonomy, file formats, storage, and connectivity
- Autonomy: Sony RX100 III is powered by a NP-BX1 Lithium-Ion battery which, in practice, gives the camera an autonomy of approximately 200 frames (that’s how it performed in our tests, despite Sony’s specifications indicating 350 frames to a single battery charge)
- File Formats: photos are saved in JPEG format (with two levels of compression: Fine and Normal), RAW, or simultaneous RAW + JPEG. Video clips are recorded at a maximum resolution of 1980×1080 (60, 50, 30, 24 fps) with Stereo sound, in MPEG-4 (H.264 compression) or AVCHD format. Files are stored on cards of any of the types: SD/SDHC/SDXC, Duo/Pro Duo/Pro-HG Duo Memory Stick.
- Connectivity: the camera has a USB 2.0 connector and a HDMI one. It’s got no IR sensor for a remote control, nor a connector for a wired remote control.
- Wireless: the RX100 III has integrated WiFi and NFC, free Sony Play Memories app, allowing transfer of photos and remote shooting.
- Photo storage: SD/SDHC/SDXC cards of 64GB max. We recommend cards of Class 6 or better if you want to use the video function of the camera, or for short waiting times in the continuous shooting mode.
- Weight and size: The camera weighs 290 grams (with battery and card) and has the following dimensions: 101.6 x 58.1 x 41.0mm
What’s in the box?
In the box of the Sony RX100 III we find the user manual together with the warranty certificate, a shoulder strap, battery and charger, and a USB cable.
As of this writing, Sony RX100 III can be found in stores at a suggested retail price of approximately $798. Check out the current price and more hands-on reviews here.
Improved in essential areas, the Sony RX100 III strengthens its top of the range position in the premium compact camera category. The great surprise of the new model is, of course, the integrated electronic viewfinder, which offers a good image, and proves its usefulness in certain situations. Instead Sony did away with the hotshoe for external flash, something that we don’t think will enrage many photographers, keeping in mind that the new RX100 III belongs to the compact category, and is one of the smallest in its class. The camera holds the flag up with an outstanding image quality, including at high ISO values, and a lens that sports a pretty short focal range (24-70 mm, equivalent to approx. 3x zoom), but which comes with acclaimed optics and very good brightness. Because of that, the RX100 III will shine in any conditions. The new Sony compact is, definitely, a camera that we can recommend without reservations.
Max’s Grade: 9/10
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- very good image quality up to ISO 3200
- quality optics (Carl Zeiss)
- wide angle lens, 24-70mm, f/1.8-2.8 for higher brightness
- customizable functions
- small in size
- RAW/JPEG recording
- video recording in Full HD 1080p AVCHD/MPEG4
- night shot, panorama, auto HDR functions
- integrated 3x ND filter
- many filters and artistic effects
- short startup time
- imperceptible shutter delay
- high resolution LCD screen, vertically folding
- the lack of an external flash hotshoe
- pretty slow zoom
- the lack of a dial for exposure compensation
- the built-in flash feels pretty fragile
- charging via USB (although an external charger can be purchased)
- low autonomy (200 frames on average)