Sony RX10 III Review
Sony’s RX10 III is the latest in its line of high-end premium bridge cameras. It comes less than 12 months after the RX10 II was announced, but the company has said that both of the cameras will exist at the same time, offering two different options to consumers.
The RX10 III uses an almost identical sensor to the Mark II version, being a 20.1MP CMOS one-inch “stacked” sensor with DRAM chip. The Mark II was a 20.2MP version of the same design. The biggest new feature of the camera, and the biggest talking point, is its new zoom lens, which offers a 24-600mm (25x) equivalent focal length range, and a maximum aperture of f/2.8-4.
Previously, the RX10 II offered a more modest 24-200mm (8.3x), so it makes the new camera a much more appealing all-rounder for those looking for a camera to do everything. That said, you pay the price for such a functionality, with the RX10 III having an asking price of £1,249.
Other specifications include an electronic shutter which facilitates shutter speeds of up to 1/32000, a 3-inch tilting 1.23-million dot LCD screen, a 2.36-million dot OLED viewfinder, SD memory card compatibility and a better life of up to 420 shots per charge.
As is becoming the norm, 4K video recording is available on the RX10 III. You can also grab stills from 4K video recording, something which is also starting to become a popular function.
There are quite a few premium bridge cameras currently on the market. The Sony RX10 III competes reasonably closely with the Canon G3X as well as the Panasonic FZ1000.
The Sony RX10 III retails for £1,250 / $1499.
Ease of Use
The Sony RX10 III has increased in size to accommodate the extra zoom of the lens when compared with the Mark II. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it brings it in line with the size of a mid-range DSLR, especially with a large lens attached.
Although the lens is large, it's important to remember that something that would cover the same focal length range with a DSLR would be much, much larger, making it appealing as a travel or holiday camera.
The Sony RX10 III has a large and chunky grip, which has been reworked slightly from the RX10 II to make it more comfortable to hold, especially when holding the camera to your eye when the viewfinder is in use. It is textured and coated, with an indent to help your middle finger sit nicely.
Around the lens you'll find three rings. One of which controls aperture and has a satisfying click when turned. At the base of the lens there's a switch to turn these clicks off if you are shooting video, or perhaps just somewhere very quiet and don't want to draw attention to yourself. A second ring can be used to extend the zoom length of the lens, while a third is used for adjusting focus. If you prefer, you can also use a switch around the shutter release to extend and retract the zoom.
|Front of the Sony RX10 III|
There is a customisable button on the side of the lens which can have a number of different functions assigned to it. One which is particularly useful is “Zoom Assist”. If you are zooming in on a subject in the distance, and it moves out of frame, or you move the camera and lose the subject, if you hold this button down, the lens will zoom out, allowing you to find the subject, and zoom back in on release of the button again.
Just underneath the lens is a switch for moving between focusing modes, including single, continuous, manual and DMF (Direct Manual Focus). DMF allows you to make fine manual adjustments to focus after autofocus has locked on.
Moving to the top of the Sony RX10 III, there's an array of dials and buttons here. There's the on/off switch which is placed just behind the shutter release, and the aforementioned zoom rocker. On the left hand side is a mode dial, which allows you to quickly choose between the camera's different exposure modes, including semi-automatic options (aperture priority and shutter priority), Program, Manual, Automatic, Scene Modes, Panorama and so on.
|Rear of the Sony RX10 III|
On the right hand side is an exposure compensation dial which is handily placed for your thumb to reach while gripping the camera. There's a button for popping up the inbuilt flash, and two custom buttons which again can be assigned to a variety of different functions depending on what you find you use most often. A small LCD screen can be found on the top of the camera too, this displays a few key settings, such as aperture, shutter speed, number of shots left, battery status and so. To accompany this is a button for illuminating the screen if you're using the camera in low light conditions.
The back of the Sony RX10 III is a relatively minimalist affair. There is a further custom button, which is also doubles as the delete button when in play back. A menu button can be found on the left hand side of the of viewfinder, but otherwise all of the buttons are conveniently placed on the right hand side making quick changes easy.
A Fn button brings up a quick menu which can be used to access many of the most common features that you're likely to want to change frequently. This menu can be customised to add or remove any functions that you want to - it's clear Sony gives a lot of consideration to how photographers actually like to work. The main menu is a little more convoluted and takes some time to navigate and get to know. Some settings seem a little strangely named and can be quite difficult to find at first - it's something that you will get used to the more you use the camera, though.
|Side of the Sony RX10 III|
Other buttons on the back of the Sony RX10 III include a playback button, an AEL button, and a dedicated video record button. There's a small scrolling dial which can be used to adjust shutter speed (depending on the shooting mode you're in). Another scrolling dial is used for a couple of functions, such as changing autofocus point, scrolling through menus, or scrolling through images in playback. The dial also doubles up as a four way navipad.
To change the autofocus point, first you need to make sure that autofocus mode is set to flexible spot. From there, you can change the AF point by pressing the central button, then using the directional keys to move to the point that you want to use. The scrolling dial can be used to alter the size of the AF point - you can use a smaller size if you're trying to focus on a fine detail.
The viewfinder has a built in sensor which detects when the Sony RX10 III has been lifted to your eye for a swift transition between using the screen and the viewfinder. The image inside the viewfinder is bright and clear and there's no noticeable image lag. In short, this is a viewfinder you will actually want to use - and not just when bright sunlight prevents the screen from being used. An electronic viewfinder also has some advantages over an optical version, including the ability to preview the effect any changes made to settings will make.
The three-inch screen can be pulled out from the body of the Sony RX10 III and tilted upwards and downwards. This makes it useful for shooting from some awkward angles, but not quite as flexible as a fully articulating screen which helps when shooting portrait format images from strange angles. Sony has once again resisted making the screen touch-sensitive. Although it would perhaps have been nice to have one for some functionality, with a wide range of buttons and dials, it's not something that is too badly missed.
Although general operational speeds are quick, with good shot-to-shot times, start-up time can be a little slow because the zoom has to extend before you can use it. It makes sense therefore to keep the camera switched on if you can between shots if you're taking several in quick succession.
Focusing speeds are good, but the lens can struggle a little to get things into focus quite quickly when using the telephoto end of the zoom. This isn't particularly surprising given the focal length equivalent, but it's something to watch out for as you can fire the shutter release before the camera has finished focusing - make sure to half press to lock focus before committing to the full press to take the shot.