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Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III: First Look


Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III: First Look

Well, it’s been a while! There hasn’t been much to write about in terms of new gear over the last few weeks – nothing really noteworthy, at least – and I’ve not had much to review lately either; but today, there is! Sony gives us the third variant (or the second update, however you want to look at it) of the Cyber-shot RX100 camera: the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III

It’s been well less than a year since the RX100 II came out, so it was a surprise (to me, at least) to read the press release today. A pleasant one. And a couple of hours of research and emails later, here are my first impressions on what looks to be another winner from Sony

The entire RX line of cameras (which includes the RX1 series as well as the RX100) is an adventurous one. Isn’t it? There are not many cameras that compare with any in the RX line today – and that shows how inventive Sony has become these days. And fearlessly continuing in this vein, today we get the RX100 III. And at first glance, it looks superb

The first clearly apparent improvement over the RX100 II is, as everybody was expecting, thanks to the leaks and all that, the new lens. It’s wider at the wide end, it’s shorter at the other end – and, most importantly, it’s faster. Compared to the previous lens, the Zeiss 28-100mm f1.8-4.9, the new one gives us a range of 24-70mm with a maximum aperture of f1.8-2.8.  That’s quite a difference in almost every aspect. Is it better? That depends on what you want from it. What do I think? Keep reading!

Image from Sony

Image from Sony

Apart from the lens, what struck me as different was the lack of the hot-shoe. The RX100 lacked the shoe too, but this model’s immediate predecessor added it on. Unfavorable reviews on that, perhaps, made Sony feel that it was not necessary. And to be honest, it makes sense – I love having it on mine, and it makes it look a bit better, if you ask me, but have I used it? Not once. And it’s not like they removed it for no reason. What you gain in its stead is a pop-up EVF! How cool is that?! Yeah, you get a very nice-looking, 1.44m-dot OLED EVF. Stunning

Other than that, it’s pretty similar to the RX100 II, and that’s great – I love that camera. The sensor is the same as the one found on the Mk II – a 20MP 1” backlit sensor. The screen is the same, brilliant WhiteMagic one, although now it does tilt upwards a full 180°. It’s got the same control ring, which can be customized, and which works well for manual focus and zoom – and it’s got Sony’s fantastic focus peaking feature. Oh, and one more new feature: a 3-stop neutral density filter

Looking at this feature list, similar to how I felt comparing the RX100 vs. RX100 II, I feel as though the newest model is a variant more than an upgrade – and while it has some amazing new features, it gains these features while compromising a bit – the loss of 30mm zoom, and the loss of the hot-shoe for instance. But every camera is a compromise between something. You can’t have it all. And I think the new RX100 III gives a lot for what little it takes away. Read on for more – I’m finding out more about this while I’m writing

Costing around the same as the RX100 II, although the previous RX100 prices will naturally drop, the decision will not be based too heavily on how much money you have to spend, but what you want from your compact camera, and that’s how it should be. I personally love my RX100 II, and I’m tempted to upgrade – but I’m not quite sure just yet

Pre-order/Buy from Amazon  |    Pre-order/Buy from B&H Photo

Anyway, read on for more on what I know of this camera. And if you’re already convinced, and are looking to pre-order yours, please use the links posted above (and below) – as always, it helps pixelogist stay online!

Specifications You Would Want To Know

  • Body: Compact, aluminum
  • Resolution: 20.1 mega pixels
  • Sensor Size: 1”
  • Sensor Type: Back-illuminated EXMOR R CMOS
  • Processor: Sony BIONZ
  • Lens: Zeiss 8.8-25.7mm f1.8-2.8 (24-70mm equivalent)
  • Image Stabilization: Yes, SteadyShot
  • Shutter Speed: Max 1/2000 sec, Min 30 sec, Bulb
  • ISO Range: 125-12800
  • Video: 1080p @ 60fps
  • Video Format: XAVC S/AVCHD/MP4
  • Metering Modes: Multi-area, Center-weighted, Spot
  • Exposure Modes: P, A, S, M, Intelligent Auto, Superior Auto, Scene, Panorama, Memory
  • Built-in Flash: Yes, pop-up
  • Flash Modes: Auto, Forced, Slow Sync, Rear Sync, Off
  • Hot-shoe: No
  • Autofocus: Contrast Detect
  • AF Modes: Multi-Area, Center-Area, Flexible Single Spot, Tracking, Face Detection
  • Number of AF Points: 25
  • Manual Focus: Yes
  • Macro Range: 5cm at wide-angle end of lens
  • Screen: WhiteMagic 3.0” LCD (1.229m dots)
  • Articulated: Yes, tilt (180° up, 45° down)
  • Touchscreen: No
  • Optical/Electronic Viewfinder: Yes, pop-up OLED EVF (1.44m dots)
  • Max Drive Speed: 10fps
  • File Formats: RAW, JPEG
  • Connections: USB 2.0, microHDMI, WiFi/NFC
  • Memory Card Types: SD/SDHC/SDXC, Memory Stick Pro Duo/Pro-HG Duo
  • Dimensions: 102 x 58 x 41 mm (compared to 102 x 58 x 38 of the RX100 II)
  • Weight: 290g (including battery and memory)

First Thoughts

Well, there haven’t been many cameras that have become such instant hits like the RX100 and the RX100 II. And they didn’t become this popular without reason. They’re just that good – simple as that. They’re superb cameras and also, let’s face it: they are quite unlike anything else out there on the market. Find me another camera with a 1” sensor (or larger) that fits in my pocket and I’ll give you an RX100. The RX line is just that unique, and that awesome. It takes a brave company to come up with stuff like this – and Sony, after having done it twice already, have waited hardly 8 months before giving it another shot. And from what I can see, they seem to have nailed it yet again

If there was one thing that people could fairly complain about – and even as I say that, I realize it’s not really that fair – it’s the slightly slow nature of the lens at the telephoto end. Well, guess what? They’ve fixed that. The RX100 now has a lens that is super-fast throughout its range: f1.8-2.8. Yes, it has compromised on range – and it’s 3mm thicker because of it – but you can’t have it all. If you want a lens that is faster throughout its range, this is absolutely brilliant

Another complaint from RX100 users, a bit unfair this time, but something I’ve heard quite a few times, is the lack of an EVF. The RX100 II gave people an option, albeit an expensive one, of adding an EVF via the hot-shoe, but now they’ve gone one further: they replaced the hot-shoe with a pop-up EVF. Thinking about it, it’s quite clever: the only really useful accessory for that hot-shoe was an EVF. I can’t think of many who would buy a clumsy external flash for such a compact camera. So yeah, why not just do away with the shoe and get an EVF in there? Fantastic. And from the looks of things, it retains a similarly built pop-up flash, with a flexible head, a flash that I really love. Perfect

The EVF on the left and the flash in the middle - Image from Sony

The EVF on the left and the flash in the middle – Image from Sony

Those two improvements alone are huge, and some would call it worthy of an upgrade already. But there are still a few more differences, and while they’re not really the type that would change your mind over this particular product, they’re well worth mentioning.

The LCD, for once, is hinged, meaning it can tilt, just like on the RX100 II – but now, it tilts up all the way to 180° – a selfie-ready LCD, as Sony calls it

More importantly, it’s now got a 3-stop ND filter built-in. What this does is, in case you don’t know, it cuts down on the amount of light entering the camera through the lens, much like a pair of sunglasses. Sound stupid? Well, no – not if you want to make use of the super-fast lens, outdoors in bright sunlight. In these cases, when you want shallow depth of field, but you constantly find yourself overexposing your shot, add in the ND filter, and you’re good. DSLRs and mirrorless systems require you buy a separate filter that screws on your lens’ filter thread – but some compacts have them built in, and now the RX100 does too. Awesome

The 'selfie-ready' LCD - Image from Sony

The ‘selfie-ready’ LCD – Image from Sony

Then there are little improvements that you might miss but are useful and should be taken note of too: a slightly lower base ISO of 125 as compared to a base of ISO 160 on the Mk II – and the RX100 III has a bulb shutter feature, which I don’t recall on the previous two models. Useful. Also an addition is the new XAVC S video format, which, as I rarely shoot video, I’m rather unfamiliar with. It also shoots in regular AVCHD and MP4, but I believe this new format is something better. Don’t quote me on that, though

Other than these – a fairly extensive list of improvements, I’d say – the rest is the pretty much the same as what is found on the RX100 II. The identical sensor found on the RX100 II, which is fantastic; the exact same AF system, which is blazing quick; the very same control ring, which I have mixed feelings about; and that very nice pop-up flash

Going through what I have just written now, the compromises I talked about don’t seem that obvious. You gain a much faster and wider lens, a built-in EVF, and you lose the hot-shoe, while the body gains 3mm in thickness. That’s not bad, actually. The only significant thing to point out is that you lose 30mm in zoom reach. That might put a few people off. But that is IT

The lack of the hot-shoe doesn’t concern me – the EVF looks far more useful. Sure, you can’t plug in that microphone or external flash. But seriously, if you want the microphone for video, get a proper video camera. And as for the flash, the pop-up flash does an excellent job, and why would you want a bulky external flash on this super-compact camera anyway?

The only issue that I, and some others, would have with this is the new lens, and here I’m talking about the focal length range. You gain 4mm at the wide end – a huge difference when it comes to shooting landscapes – at the expense of 30mm at the telephoto end. As the 4mm is a huge gain, the 30mm is a fairly huge loss too – for those who want and regularly need this reach, it could be a real deal-breaker. As for myself, I’m not so sure. I rarely shoot at close to 100mm. Having said that, however, I like having that reach in a compact camera. When I’m buying a lens for one of my camera systems, I know exactly what I want to use it for, so I know the focal lengths that I need from this lens – but in a compact camera, I don’t have the luxury of changing lenses and switching focal lengths. That’s why I like having all the reach I can get in the built-in lens – so if there’s any problem for me with this new incarnation of the RX100, it’s this. Everything else is simply stellar and begs me to upgrade

Controls

The controls look pretty much identical to both the RX100 and RX100 II. Except for one button. And this is an absolute delight for me to introduce, because I’ve repeatedly mentioned this button being used up by absolutely useless feature, and it really feels like Sony has actually listened – so I’m going to take credit for this! The button I’m talking about is the one marked C on the RX100 III. Previously, this was a Help button – something I believe users of a camera of this nature would rarely need. Replacing it makes a lot of sense, and it’s wonderful to see it actually implemented. The C button appears to be a customizable button and should act much like a traditional Fn button, in addition to its standard 7-feature Fn button

In addition to this, another little grievance that I had in regard to the RX100 controls has been rectified. Which one? The flash release. Previously, there was no flash release button: you turned on flash via the menu, and it popped up. To turn it off, you had to go back to the menu/Fn button, and turn it off. Sounds easy, but it’s a bit of a nuisance if you want to shoot the same scene with and without flash. Now with the physical flash release button, you just release the flash to shoot with it, pop it back and shoot without. Just like on the Fujifilm X20. I’m liking this camera more and more…

Yeah, the controls are the same, and even though I don’t think this is the best layout I’ve seen on a camera – that award often goes to Fujifilm and its X-series – it’s a good one, and being unchanged, RX100 users will feel comfortable with it right out of the box. And to be honest, there’s not much space to play around with anyway, so instead of messing up what they already have, they just stuck with it, while improving a couple of finer details, and I think that’s just fine. Alright, here are the controls:

On top, we have the usual combination of power button, shutter button with zoom rocker around it, and the mode dial. What’s new on top is the flash release button – and of course, there’s the double pop-up section: the flash and the EVF

Image from Sony

Image from Sony

In front, there’s just the control ring. Nothing else – very clean – just like on the previous RX100s

And on the back, there’s that control layout which is near-identical to the RX100/RX100 II. On the right side of the large LCD, there is the dedicated Movie button, the Menu button, and the Fn button. The Fn button, like on the previous RX100s, doesn’t open up just one setting but allows you to customize and adjust seven different settings, all accessed via this Fn button. Below these there buttons is the standard four-way directional pad, which doubles up as a control dial, the four directional keys controlling Display, Flash, Exposure Compensation, and Self-Timer/Drive Mode. Below the four-way pad is the Playback button, and the all-new C button. To be frank, I’m not 100% sure what the C button is, but I’m pretty confident it’s a customizable button that will allow you access to adjust one more setting – so if you assign ISO to the C button, for instance, pressing it will allow you to quickly adjust your ISO sensitivity

Image from Sony

Image from Sony

And that’s about it for the controls. Not much different, but I can tell you for sure that when using the camera in real life, the flash release button and that new C button will make a HUGE impact on how well the camera feels. I’m very excited to use this

Performance

To be honest, there seems to be nothing new in terms of performance. The RX100 III packs the same power found on its predecessor. It might have a new processor – I’m not sure about it – but I’m pretty certain when I say that in terms of speed, all three RX100 variants would perform similarly. I guess things would be progressively better as the models go along, but the difference is slight. And don’t let this sound like I’m not impressed: both the RX100 and the Mk II are outstanding when it comes to spend, and especially the RX100 II, a camera I have a lot of experience with, is outstanding in every aspect of performance

Yes ,the RX100 II is fast in every way: power-on is near-instant, shot-to-shot speed is very fast,  it burst-shoots at10fps, and focuses almost instantly in all but the worst lighting conditions

The RX100 III must surely be as good, if not better. So while I can’t comment on anything just yet, I expect everything to work as smoothly and as fast. That’d be good enough. Make things better and I can’t even imagine how good it’d feel to use it!

Conclusion

Well, has Sony done it again? Just when I thought the RX100 has got has good as it can get, and that it’s safe to go out and buy one just for me to keep and shoot forever, it seems that it’s been upgraded and made even better. Time to upgrade? Unfortunately for me, yes

There’s seriously not much to dislike about it. If you didn’t like the previous RX100s (are you crazy?!), you probably would find a lot to dislike about the RX100 III, but I doubt anyone could possibly not fall in love with this brilliant series of compact cameras. And this one is probably the best of them all

Adding on to the wonderful features of the RX100 II – the fantastic 1” backlit sensor, the fairly useful control ring, the true compact size, fast performance, the useful flash, and all that – the RX100 III adds some features that were needed, and some features that are just nice to have: the fast f1.8-2.8 lens, the pop-up EVF, the built-in ND filter, the wider 24mm end of the lens – it’s all really useful stuff. It even fixes a couple of issues I had with the control layout: the flash release button and the new C button. And this has all been done, unlike I thought at the beginning, without much compromise

The only compromise of sorts is that its zoom range is quite a bit shorter. 30mm shorter. It also loses the hot-shoe. And it’s about 3mm thicker

I don’t think many would miss the hot-shoe, because, like I said earlier, the only real use for this hot-shoe was to add in an EVF, so replacing the shoe with the EVF serves both purposes, and makes things more sleek and compact. The 3mm of thickness, on the other hand, might be felt – I felt the 2mm difference between the RX100 and RX100 II immediately. I still feel it’d still fit comfortably in my pocket, though. The zoom range of 24-70 is the difference that will be most significantly felt. Losing 30mm of zoom reach is not something I’m too happy about, but gaining that large aperture makes up for it. I don’t know how everybody will feel about it though. But there’s always some compromise in every camera. You just have to figure out what you need and what you can live without


And yeah, there you have it. The new piece of brilliance from Sony. I missed doing a First Look post on their new full-frame system, the Sony a7, which was another piece of amazing innovation, but they just keep churning this stuff out, so I was able to catch up with this camera! And I feel more qualified to talk about this device, since I have owned, used, and reviewed both of its predecessors – so when I say I’m loving the sound of it, and that I can’t wait to use, and possibly upgrade my Mk II, you know I mean it

Pre-order/Buy from Amazon  |    Pre-order/Buy from B&H Photo

Alright. That’s all for now. Please use the links if you’re buying this camera, because, as you all know, it helps! Leave a comment for questions, thoughts, and all that. Thanks for all the support for pixelogist even when I wasn’t posting much the last couple of weeks – thanks for keeping it going! Until next time

By Heshan Jayakody
All content in this post is my own - all images from Sony
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Discussion

14 Responses to “Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III: First Look”

  1. Wow! This looks fantastic!! I’m super excited and wow really can’t wait to check it out. Review coming up?

    That EVF alone is a winner, but add the fast lens, and oh yes…you can tell how excited I am!

    Posted by John | May 17, 2014, 08:10
    • Haha yes, I am as excited as you are. Review will be coming up in a couple of weeks, hopefully. The fast lens and the EVF are huge bonuses compared to the Mk I and II, so even if it’ll be around $100 more when its released, I say it’s worth it

      Posted by pixelogist | May 18, 2014, 07:37
  2. I too am a bit curious about how the 3mm extra on the body will affect its fit in a tight pocket or small bag. I don t think it sounds much but who knows – you say the 2mm is noticeable so maybe this is even more. Other than that, it’s all win. Lens, EVF, wow…thanks Sony :)))

    Posted by Trung | May 17, 2014, 08:14
    • Yeah, it’ll be noticeable, especially if you own the Mk II. That’s what happened to me with the Mk I vs II – I had the original for quite a few months and really got used to it, so when the Mk II came out, the 2mm extra thickness was felt. But I think this will be just fine. Measure out 41mm and see for yourself!

      Posted by pixelogist | May 18, 2014, 07:40
  3. This looks just perfect. Love the lens, the body, the EVF. It’s expensive, that’s the only issue…and for a guy who finds it perfect, that’s the price I guess!!

    Any clue about when it’s available?

    Posted by Joe | May 17, 2014, 15:51
    • Indeed, you’d be paying extra but it gives you a lot in return too. Definitely worth it, if you ask me. B&H Photo and Amazon both have it on pre-order already, it’ll ship out end of June (around the 20th, if I remember right) – and if you don’t want to pre-order, it’ll be available on this date or thereabouts

      Posted by pixelogist | May 18, 2014, 07:41
  4. I have used the rx100 and I liked it. the rx100 ii didnt seem worth an upgrade. What about this one? I think it might be worth upgrading…new sensor, new lens, etc. etc.

    Please help me decide!!!

    Posted by Isabelle | May 21, 2014, 07:48
    • Hmm, yeah I guess you could say the Mk II didn’t improve a LOT on the Mk I: new sensor, WiFi and hot-shoe. The RX100 III doesn’t add a whole lot more either, but if you’re coming from the Mk I, the RX100 III gains: a faster lens, a newer sensor, an EVF, and WiFi…among a host of other improvements that are probably in there too. If you’ve got the money, go for it – it’s a definite improvement :)

      Posted by pixelogist | May 21, 2014, 19:16
    • You didn’t think the upgrade from the 100 to the 100M2 was worth it!
      I’ve owned both and both camera’s are the very best red producing camera’s I owned in the past 45 years.
      The SONY flash HVL-F20M isn’t very large but it totally eliminates the dreaded red eye.
      No the preflash method to control red eye is worthless when shooting fast moving grandchildren.
      And software removal is no match for not getting red eye in the first place.
      The popup flash is severely in range compared to the F20M. Doesn’t use the camera’s battery so it lasts longer.
      With this little flash I can take a flash photo to rival my sold Nikon D7000 with a SB800 or either of my SB600’s.
      And yes it still fits in a shirt pocket.

      Posted by Jeff | May 24, 2014, 09:46
      • Thanks for adding your thoughts, Jeff :) Good to know how useful some of you find the hot-shoe on the RX100 II. I guess the updated RX100 III isn’t for you

        Posted by pixelogist | May 25, 2014, 07:23
      • I forgot to mention one more thing.
        I purchased from SONY the attachment device so you can use filters.
        I bought the Carl Zeiss polarizer lens and a no name lens cap.
        Yes the camera is now even thicker but I love what a polarizer does when used outdoors.Besides the bulk of the assembly pops off living on a thin attachment ring held on with double sided tape.
        With a UV filter you’ll have some protection when used in dusty, dirty environments.

        Posted by Jeff | May 25, 2014, 10:23
      • That’s another good accessory, yes. I’m not much for UV/protective filters, but the ability to use a CPL etc. is very nice indeed

        Posted by pixelogist | May 25, 2014, 10:51
  5. Unfortunately, the RX100 does not have an external mic jack. To use an external mic, you would need to use an audio recorder and sync sound in post.

    Posted by kingwellbattery | May 21, 2014, 16:00
    • That is true – I mentioned this in my post as well. However, you must understand that video is mostly just a secondary feature in digital cameras like this one – even though a lot of new cameras can shoot stunning video too. For some people, like yourself, I guess video is a bit more important than that, though; so if you really need high-quality video/audio, this camera is probably not the one for you. If video is your main thing, get a proper video camera – or look at the host of other digital cameras that offer what you want in terms of video, which would probably include the RX100 Mk II :)

      Posted by pixelogist | May 21, 2014, 19:31

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