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The Tamron 50-400mm F4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD boasts an impressive zoom range in a relatively compact package. How does it perform? We took a look.
All video was shot in Sony's XAVC 4K codec, at 4K/24p (except for the high-frame rate samples). Shutter speed was locked at 1/50 sec, aperture was manually selected on the lens and the camera was left in Auto ISO. Both manual focus and continuous autofocus were used.
The Sony Cyber-shot RX10 III is a conventional product for Sony. That might sound slightly negative at first, but really it means that the RX10 III is built well, attractively designed, packed with great technology and is capable of capturing excellent images. Unfortunately, it also means that there's some usual Sony foibles at work; the menu system is horrid, there's no touch screen, there's some operational weirdness carried through from the rest of the Cyber-shot line, and some of the ergonomics could use some work.
The standout feature on the RX10 III is its lens. As you can plainly see from our samples gallery, the 24-600mm equivalent F2.4-4 lens is stellar. What's more, while the camera is somewhat hefty for a 'compact,' it doesn't feel unbalanced in your hand. When you combine that stable hand-holdability with the RX10 III's optical stabilization, the average user will be able to get smooth telephoto video and sharp telephoto photos with ease. The XAVC 4K codec also means video will be crisp and detailed, the flat S-Log2 Gamma control (which was not used in the sample video above) and audio in / out ports indicate that the RX10 III will appeal to aspiring videographers as well.
What about downsides? Well, even if you've come from another Sony camera, you'll need to spend some time figuring out where your menu options are. As mentioned in our RX1R II review, even the video and audio recording settings are spread not just across multiple pages, but also multiple sections of the menu. We also wish Sony would add things like video capture resolution and frame rate to the 'Function' menu in movie mode. And though it's to be expected with such a wide zoom range, some users will be turned off by the amount of time it takes to zoom that impressive lens in and out. Unlike Sony's a7 cameras, you cannot half-press the shutter to acquire focus in movie mode. It's either continuous AF or manual focus. My last major gripe is that, like on other Sony cameras, the C1 and C2 buttons require a contorting of the hand to operate.
Overall, though, once you get used to some workarounds and get familiar with the camera, the RX10 III represents one of the most versatile and capable all-rounders I've ever used.
The standout feature of Sony's new RX10 III is, without a doubt, its lens. It's got incredible reach, and with a maximum aperture of F2.4-4, remains relatively bright throughout its zoom range. Brighter max apertures help keep noise (and ISO) levels low, and afford relatively good depth-of-field control (or background blur). A look at our equivalent aperture diagram indicates the RX10 III is well ahead of its nearest competitor, the Canon G3 X (lower equivalent aperture is better for any given focal length). The RX10 III's lens is also far brighter than Nikon's 24-500 DL, which ranges from a max aperture of F2.8 on its wide end to F5.6 on its tele end. That said, if you really don't have much of a need beyond 200mm equivalent, the RX10 II retains a brighter aperture for most of its zoom range, save for on the wide end where the RX10 III is slightly ahead (F2.4 vs F2.8).
The lens appears sharp edge-to-edge even wide open at 24mm equivalent, at 70mm, 200mm, and 600mm. Granted, these are JPEGs we're looking at, which are sharpened (with a class-leading sharpening engine, no less), so we'll have to reserve final judgement for when we've been able to analyze the Raws, but, suffice it to say we're thoroughly impressed by the performance of the lens so far. Good performance wide open is important on smaller sensor formats: it means you don't have to stop down too much and deprive the smaller sensor of more light, which also helps combat diffraction-induced softness (which starts at earlier F numbers with smaller sensor formats, as diffraction is correlated with equivalent aperture).
Sony's recent improvements in its JPEG engine also mean very high detail retention through smart sharpening and noise reduction that very effectively reduces noise while maintaining detail at high ISOs. This 220mm shot has plenty of detail despite being shot at the tele end of the zoom, and at ISO 320, which is approximately ISO 2500 equivalent on full-frame, assuming equivalent sensor efficiency and performance. Impressive.
Pair that lens and JPEG engine with a stacked 1"-type high dynamic range, high sensitivity CMOS sensor, and you've got a very impressive camera. The stacked sensor design marries a separate chip for memory and signal processing circuitry to the image sensor itself, which allows all that data to be read off the image sensor faster. The faster readout offers a number of benefits: faster autofocus, and fast frame rate video, as well as oversampled 4K video generated from 6K readout.
How about downsides? Well for one, despite respectable AF undoubtedly benefiting from fast sensor readout, there's only so much you can do with contrast-detect AF (CDAF) and longer telephoto focal lengths. CDAF and extreme telephoto are a recipe for hunting, without information about the direction to send the lens in from phase-detection (PDAF). We'll be curious to compare AF performance of the RX10 III and Nikon's new DL 24-500, which does have on-sensor PDAF.
There are plenty other cons to speak of though, ergonomically. The Cyber-shot philosophy is starting to make less and less sense with such high-end offerings, and we wish Sony would instead essentially brand this as an Alpha camera, conferring upon it the advantages of the Alpha line and a consistent user-experience across all their cameras. For example, it doesn't make sense that the 'Focus Settings' option can't be assigned to the center dial back button on a Cyber-shot, yet can on an Alpha - it's one of my favorite ways to make that button have dual function: click it to use the 4-way dial to move the AF point in any Flexible Spot mode, or click it and turn the dial to change AF area. As it is, on any Cyber-shot, you can't assign this option, instead requiring you to leave the button assigned to 'Focus Standard' - lest you wish to lose control over focus point placement. That means you'll have to waste yet another custom button for AF area mode.
Thankfully, pressing that back dial's center button now toggles the camera into AF point selection mode (like the a6300), which means you don't always have to first press it to the move the AF point, but this isn't ideal: I'd also like access to whatever custom functions I've assigned left, right, and down to on that 4-way dial. I don't understand why Sony doesn't simply include an AF point selection joystick, or add a touchscreen for that matter.
Particularly problematic across all Sony cameras is the menu system. As I wrote in our a7R II review: '22 AF options are split across 11 different submenu pages under two different main menu headers,' and things aren't any better for the RX10 III either. The lack of organization is inexplicable, but what makes it even worse is the lack of a customizable 'My Menu'. Furthermore, now that these cameras are both stills and video powerhouses, there need to be separate customizations for each. Currently, if I assign a button to 'Focus Magnifier' to get around the fact that the camera doesn't automatically magnify focus as I turn the focus ring in any video mode, that button becomes entirely redundant in stills mode, where the camera does do so.
There are countless other examples of button customizations that are relevant to video, but entirely useless in stills - for a camera body with rather limited customizable buttons and dials, there really shouldn't be any assigned physical controls that are only useful in one shooting mode. And as Carey mentioned, there also remain the customizations (like movie frame rate or codec) that remain unassignable to the Fn menu, requiring a menu dive, which should be avoided at all costs considering the disorienting, unorganized menu system.
Frankly, Sony would benefit from hiring a firm dedicated to UI to re-design the physical controls, menus and button/dial interface completely from scratch. It pains me to see such refined technological achievement placed into hands of photographers, only to hear 'I wouldn't shoot it because I'm constantly fighting the ergonomics' or 'it just isn't a pleasure to use'. An ergonomic overhaul would go a large way to addressing such complaints.
Mar 31, 2019
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Apr 4, 2019
We've added the Sony RX10 III to our studio comparison test scene. Does that fancy new glass shine on our test chart? Read more
Sony's new Cyber-shot RX10 III might look a lot like the older RX10 II, but its lens is something else. With a versatile 24-600mm equiv. range, on paper it's a great traveling companion, which is why DPR editor's editor chose it to take on a weekend hike. See how he got on
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from University Graduation Day
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