When the RX10 III was revealed as the 'top secret' Sony product launch in San Francisco earlier this year, I felt a bit cynical. 'Another RX10, Sony? Really?' I cried, along with a few bored commenters. 'The last one is hardly a year old!'

Then I saw some telephoto sample images and was immediately impressed, wondering if I had been underestimating the 1" bridge camera segment. Then Barney described the RX10 III to me as 'magic', which is high praise indeed and warranted further investigation. Which is exactly what we've done, below. Note that our results here are only indicative of the one copy of each camera we have on hand, some of which appear to be slightly decentered.

The Shootout

Starting at the wide end, which is around 25mm for all the cameras tested, we see in the center of the image (where our RX10 II appears to perform as expected) improvements over the RX10 II aren't incredibly pronounced. Other areas of the scene show the advantage of the RX10 III, especially when it is stopped down from its maximum aperture of F2.4 to F2.8. Its performance is definitely a step up from the Panasonic FZ1000, and is miles ahead of the Canon G3 X.

Where crazy zoom lenses like these typically struggle is in the extremes of the frame, with neither the RX10 III or the FZ1000 being an exception. The sharpness fall-off is less severe with the RX10 III, though, and all in all, the RX10 III is the best performer on the wide end.

Moving on to 400mm, the maximum focal length for the Panasonic FZ1000, we see a similar amount of detail between the Panasonic and Sony near the center of the image. Sharpness and resolution change for both throughout the frame, with the Sony showing a slightly iffy left side, and a better right side. Through most of the scene the two are practically neck and neck, with the G3 X turning in comparable performance as well, but let's not forget the Sony and Canon still have more zoom range to go. 

The RX10 III's 24-600mm lens isn't only useful for distant details.

The real reason people consider bridge cameras is for the reach, and Sony extended the RX10 III's reach by a full 400mm over the RX10 II. That means it now offers the same amount of reach as the G3 X's 600mm equivalent maximum focal length. The RX10 III's lens is clearly sharper, but it has another thing going for it: its faster maximum aperture helps it combat diffraction. Remember that F4 and F5.6 on 1"-type cameras are equivalent to F11 and F15, respectively. Both cameras are limited by atmospheric distortion at these focal lengths (hence the drop to 'print' resolution in the previous comparison link), but it's clear that the RX10 III exceeds the G3 X's performance, while offering just as much zoom versatility. The Canon PowerShot G3 X's trump card has been trumped.

Even at 600mm (equiv), the Sony Cyber-shot RX10 III's lens delivers sharp results.

In all, it seems the RX10 III does offer a bit more than similar 1" bridge cameras from other manufacturers. It exceeds, or at least matches, the competition with respect to zoom range, while offering sharper images, and brighter apertures than all but Sony's own RX10 II. Importantly, sharpness performance appears to be maintained throughout the zoom range, from wide to tele, which cannot be said for any of the other cameras in this test. Feel free to explore through these images and post your own findings below.

Things to Consider

As you look at the comparison widget, bear in mind that It appears our copy of the RX10 II appears to be slightly decentered. This isn't really noticeable in normal shooting but it's obvious in a controlled test like this. 

The second caveat to these results is the weather. Light varied over the course of the test, and had darkened so much that the Panasonic, the final camera tested, needed 2/3rds more exposure to produce a comparable image. All the exposures were processed in ACR with default sharpness and the 'Adobe Standard' profile used across the board.

We'll be adding the RX10 III to our standard database of studio test images very soon - watch this space!