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Sony RX10 III Review: Should You Buy this Camera?

Sony RX10 III Review

Design - 86%
Build - 84%
Handling - 85%
Performance - 86%
Image Quality - 87%

86%

Overall Score

The new large-aperture high-magnification lens leads to an amazing image quality

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Sony RX10 III Review

Key Features

  • 20.1 MP CMOS image sensor with an aspect ratio of 3:2
  • 3-inch 1,228,800 dots Xtra Fine TFT LCD display
  • 24-600mm equivalent f/2.4-4 Zeiss Vario-Sonnar 25x zoom lens
  • Contrast-detection autofocus system
  • Fast and intelligent autofocus in just 0.09 sec
  • Bionz X image processor
  • ISO sensitivity of ISO64-12,800
  • 100% frame coverage high-resolution OLED electronic viewfinder with 2.35m dots and 0.70x magnification
  • Maximum 14 fps Continuous burst shooting with the focus locked from the first frame
  • 3 fps burst capture with AF active between frames
  • 4K movie recording
  • Anti-distortion shutter for fast and silent shooting
  • Built-in Wi-Fi with NFC

Introduction

Sony announced RX10 III in March 2016 which is basically designed for those photography enthusiasts who are looking for the superior image quality and telephoto reach. The new camera marks the inclusion of a 24-600mm equivalent f/2.4-4 Zeiss Vario-Sonnar mega zoom lens (25x optical and 100x digital zoom). The camera is packed with a nice set of features that include 20.1 MP CMOS sensor, 4K video recording, built-in Wi-Fi with NFC etc.

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Design, Build, and Handling

The camera is mainly of plastic build, but it feels quite solid and sturdy with a round body and a protruding front grip. The camera is significantly larger and heavier which is, no doubt, to accommodate the mega zoom lens. The camera weighs at 1050g (with the battery and SD card) and measures at 5.25 x 3.75 x 5.12 inches. Though the company has not indicated the degree of weather-sealing provided to the camera, it claims of it being resistant to both dust and moisture.

Sony RX10 III Controls

As we all know that the camera sports a new lens which protrudes more than the earlier one even when you are not using the camera. This makes an extra space that Sony has utilized by adding a semi-assignable ring on the lens. Therefore you get a total of three rings including the aperture ring. There is a Focus hold button and a button to switch between Manual AF, Continuous AF, Direct Manual Focus (DMF) and Single-shot AF on the top-left of the camera.

The front ring acts as a focus ring by default. Since it is disabled if you are using the autofocus mode, you can swap the functionality of the rings. The top plate has an additional custom button which is a bit unreachable and you have to adjust your grip. The no-bounce flash pops up higher that is good for a longer fixed-lens camera and for the elimination of red eye. The grip is much deep and the rear thumb indent is a bit more pronounced that makes the camera comfortable to hold for many hours.

Sony RX10 III uses a contrast-detection autofocus system that Sony calls Fast Intelligent AF. The viewfinder is same as the RX10 II which is an organic LED panel with 0.39-inch diagonal and a total resolution of 2.35m dots. The viewfinder has 100% coverage, 0.7x magnification and a 21.5mm eyepoint from the eyepiece frame. There is a dioptre adjustment for specs wearers that range from -4 to +3 dioptres. Additionally, there is an automatic brightness control option that has a five-step manual brightness adjustment.

Sony RX10 III Tilt Screen

The 3-inch high-resolution 1,228,800 dots LCD display on the rear has an articulating mechanism. Unfortunately, the screen is not touch-sensitive but the resolution and the level of brightness is pretty good. It can be flipped outwards, can be adjusted upwards or downwards to a certain extent but it cannot be flipped around inside.

Just like the RX10 II, RX10 III also includes both built-in Wi-Fi and NFC radios. We are quite impressed with Sony’s implementation of the easy to use Wi-Fi. The Android users can easily transfer pictures to their smartphones by viewing them in the playback mode on the camera and bumping the NFC antennas of both the devices together.

Sony RX10 III Connectivity

Coming to the wired connectivity, the camera includes a USB 2.0 High-Speed data connection for transferring images and videos to your PC, and a Micro HDMI connector for viewing all the stuff on your TV. Additionally, there is an external microphone and a headphone for capturing videos. There is also Sony’s Multi Interface Shoe that works as a hot shoe for Sony strobes. This also serves as an attachment option for several other accessories. Sony RX10 III ships with a rechargeable lithium-ion 7.2-volt NP-FW50 battery.

Performance and Image Quality

The big news here is that the Sony RX10 III sports a more powerful 24-600mm f/2.4-4 Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens. The focal length range is much greater if we compare it with RX10 II that has a range of 24-200mm. In spite of having a lens with a huge zoom range and wide aperture, the lens exhibits a much low amount of chromatic aberrations and other distortions. RX10 III adopts an 18-element optical design in 13 groups which includes eight ED glass elements and two ED aspherical elements. The nine-bladed aperture leads to an attractive bokeh.

Sony RX10 III Design

The improvements at the center of the images are not that pronounced at around 25mm. However, other areas of the image reveal a huge improvement, especially when you stop down from its maximum aperture of f/2.4 to f/2.8. At 400mm, the sharpness and the resolution are good with a slightly iffy left side and a much better right side.

Sony RX10 III Lens

One of the most important reasons for people considering bridge cameras is the reach. Sony has extended the reach of RX10 III by 400mm over its predecessor. The lens is much sharper which is maintained throughout the entire zoom range and the faster maximum aperture helps in combating diffraction. The lens is too good when it comes to speed and reach. It is approx 0.4EV brighter than the 1”-type sensor contemporaries at the wide end of the zoom.

Even though the camera sports a new lens, it carries over the same JPEG engine modifications that were present in RX10 II. The overall color is generally pleasing. With an improved noise reduction mechanism, the images show much more detail. There were much lesser artifacts around the edges as compared to the earlier RX10 and FZ1000.

The camera boasts a 20.1MP stacked CMOS (1-inch) image sensor with a DRAM chip attached to it.  It uses the contrast-detect AF system which means you might go through some autofocus hunting, especially at the longer end of the zoom range. It often happens when the camera suddenly faces a low-contrast subject. The (Lock-on AF) subject tracking is not that reliable which is true for most of the Sony cameras.  However, we liked the continuous Eye AF. The camera is not the best choice for those who are more inclined towards capturing action and sports.

The Zoom Assist feature comes as a handy option if you have a camera with such a big zoom range. You need to assign it to any of the shortcut buttons and it will allow you to adjust the zoom level that making your framing much easier. The option Dual Rec allows you to capture up to 17-MP shots while capturing video (except the 4K video).

The ISO performance is decent. The camera is capable of holding off the noise totally till about ISO800. There is a very mild noise at ISO1600 but that is not exactly visible. Though the luminance noise is visible at ISO3200, you don’t get any chroma noise. The situation is quite same for ISO6400 and above.

Sony RX10 III Viewfinder

The macro performance of RX10 III is quite impressive. You can even assess the texture of a fly’s eye when you try to zoom in. The Expand Flexible Spot Focusing mode is pretty handy in quickly re-focusing the subject. The low-light performance is good up to ISO3200. The level of noise is much low and the optical image stabilization allows you to keep the shutter speed to 1/15sec. The pop-up flash is quite bright and powerful.

The video quality continues to be one of the best features of Sony’s RX-series. RX10 III is not an exception in this regard. The camera is not only capable of recording 4K/30p video but also provides high frame rate modes for slow motion clips. However, the camera lacks a built-in Neutral Density Filter that was present in the RX10 II. The feature is quite useful in keeping the shutter speeds low and avoiding jerky footage in brightly-lit surroundings.

Sony RX10 III 4K video

Since the camera features a variable aperture lens, its maximum aperture changes when the camera is zoomed. Therefore your exposure settings are taken care of if you are using the camera in manual mode and at different zoom levels. The RX10 III supports a variety of video tools that include zebra patterning, focus magnification, and focus peaking during the video capture. Additionally, there is a feature called S-Log2 that is quite useful in capturing high-contrast areas and scenes with high dynamic range. The presence of a mic and a headphone is also a welcome addition for the videographers.

The camera draws power from the rechargeable lithium-ion 7.2-volt NP-FW50 battery. The battery life is (CIPA) rated at 420 shots on a full charge when using the LCD, 370 shots when using the electronic viewfinder (20 shots more with LCD and 10 shots more with the viewfinder in RX10 II). We would like to mention that the battery life is pretty impressive as compared to its predecessor. It may not sound a huge upgrade but we should not forget that RX10 III has a zoom range that is triple the earlier cameras.

Should You Buy the Sony RX10 III camera?

Sony RX10 III is priced at $1,400.99. The camera sports a much powerful and far-reaching zoom lens which is incredibly versatile. The camera is not just mean for stills, it is equally capable of video capture with good details. The camera might be a bit bulky and heavy, but you just cannot argue with the image quality. The camera is equally good for an enthusiast, a traveler, and a videographer. If your budget is not tight, then the camera should make its way to the top of your shortlist.

Pros

  • Optically excellent 24-600mm f/2.4-4 zoom lens
  • 1-inch stacked sensor leads to a nice dynamic range and good ISO performance
  • Good ergonomics with comfortable grip and better customizability
  • 4K video with good amount of detail
  • Effective image stabilization for 1080p
  • Mic and headphone ports
  • Good combination of zoom reach and video
  • Comprehensive remote control settings
  • Wi-Fi with NFC, wireless live view

Cons

  • A bit heavy for a fixed-lens camera
  • Absence of a built-in ND filter in the new lens
  • Slow startup and zoom time
  • Autofocus is prone to hunting at times
  • Lack of touch-sensitive screen
  • Slow buffer clearing
  • Menu system and controls could have been better
  • Images are sometimes soft in the corners at telephoto or wide-angle

 

 

About Richard Smith

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