All about that lens: Sony Cyber-shot RX10 III review
The Sony DSC-RX10 III is an enthusiast-oriented bridge camera with a 24-600mm equivalent F2.4-4 lens and 20MP 1"-type stacked CMOS sensor. That sensor and the BIONZ X image processor are shared with the RX10 II and Sony RX100 IV, and offer great dynamic range and high ISO performance as well as 4K video and a range of high-speed video capture modes.
The RX-series has always been designed as much for video shooting as well as stills shooting in mind, and the RX10 III doesn't change that. The real story of the RX10 III lies within its massive zoom lens. The RX10 III may look similar to the RX10 II when you look at them individually, but once you see them together, it's immediately apparent just how much Sony tweaked the design of the III to accommodate the threefold increase in zoom power. The body and grip are 'chunkier,' and the weight has increased as well. Overall, the two are more siblings than twins.
- 20MP 1"-type stacked CMOS sensor
- 24-600mm equivalent F2.4-4 Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens
- Bionz X processor
- 4K video capture
- Ultra slow-motion video capture
- Tilting screen and high-resolution OLED electronic viewfinder with 2.35m dots
|Straight-out-of-camera JPEG, cropped to taste. 124mm equivalent | F4 | 1/3200 sec | ISO 100. Photo by Carey Rose|
There will be those people that buy the RX10 III straight away, simply because it zooms more than x camera. But it's worth asking yourself if you really need 600mm of reach - because if you aren't really sure you do, then you probably don't. But as you'll see later on, the RX10 III's lens is so good that it might be worth it to you even if you only use the extreme reach occasionally.
Let's also put that 'extreme reach' into some perspective here. The RX10 III's 600mm zoom might seem to pale in comparison to a Nikon Coolpix P900, which packs a 24-2000mm zoom - but puts it in front of a much smaller sensor. The Sony and the Canon PowerShot G3 X attempt to strike a balance between image quality and size with their 1"-type sensors, and the image quality compared to smaller sensor solutions speaks for itself. Larger sensor = more light = better quality.
|Straight-out-of-camera JPEG. 41mm equivalent | F5 | 1/1000 sec | ISO 100. Photo by Jeff Keller|
Now, whether or not you want to use all this reach will vary greatly depending on the types of photography you enjoy. But it's worth noting that long telephoto focal lengths, just like very short (wide angle) focal lengths, can take some practice to get good photographs with. Just because you can zoom closer in to an object doesn't necessarily coincide with an increase in the quality of your photos or the video clips you capture.
With all that out of the way, let's look a little closer at what this lens can do.
The RX10 III's lens zooms in so far it's almost amusing. It takes between three and four seconds for the lens to rack through the full zoom range. It also takes noticeably longer for all that glass to extend for power up than either the Panasonic FZ1000, which has less reach, and Canon G3 X, which has a much more compact lens at the expense of a slower maximum aperture.
So while the lens makes the camera a little slow to start up and adds some bulk, in use it is very sharp throughout the zoom range, irrespective of distance to your subject (atmospheric conditions notwithstanding). Before using the RX10 III, I simply wouldn't have thought images from a 1"-sensor superzoom camera could look this detailed. This model commands a $300 MSRP premium over the RX10 II, but in this case, it seems you get what you pay for.
Key features compared
|Sony RX10 II||Sony RX10 III||Panasonic FZ1000|
|Sensor||20MP 1"-type stacked CMOS||20MP 1"-type stacked CMOS||20MP 1"-type CMOS|
|ISO range (native)||100-12800||100-12800||125-12800|
|Lens (35mm equivalent)||24-200mm F2.8||24-600mm F2.4-4||25-400mm F2.8-4|
|Built-in ND filter||Yes||No||No|
|Min. focus distance||3cm||3cm||3cm|
|AF system||Contrast detect||Contrast detect||Contrast detect|
|LCD||3" 1.23M-dot tilting||3" 1.23M-dot tilting||3" 921k-dot fully articulated|
|Burst rate||14 fps||14 fps||12 fps|
|Wi-Fi||Yes, with NFC||Yes, with NFC||Yes|
|Battery life (CIPA)||400 shots||420 shots||360 shots|
|Dimensions||129 x 88 x 102mm||133 x 94 x 127mm||137 x 99 x 131mm|
|Weight||813 g||1051 g||831 g|
As you can see, besides the lens and a modest increase in both size and battery life, the RX10 III is all but identical on the inside to the RX10 II. The older, less expensive Panasonic FZ1000 loses out in a few areas like battery life and weather sealing, but it is still a competitive machine in many ways (so long as you don't need 600mm, that is).
While Sony touts the RX10 III's lens as having a 9-bladed aperture for better out-of-focus renderings (compared to 7 blades on the Mark II), it lacks the built-in ND filter that was present on the previous model. This was especially helpful for shooting video under bright daylight. Of course, since the front of the lens is threaded, you can always add your own ND, but having the option at the press of a button would be a lot more convenient.
Beyond that omission, the RX10 III offers all that made the RX10 II such a compelling camera. The sensor offers great performance, the 4K and high frame rate video is detailed and of good quality, and the body is weather-sealed. But unfortunately, the fact that the RX10 III shares so much with its predecessor also means that you get the standard Sony UI woes as well as a contrast detection-only autofocus system that works fine for static subjects, but struggles with low contrast subjects and at telephoto distances, where phase-detection would help the camera minimize hunting.
If you're not shooting fast action all the time, the RX10 III has a lot of potential as a family vacation camera, an all-in-one photo and video solution for a journalist in a tightly staffed newsroom, or documentary photography where you can't necessarily get close to your subject.
So without repeating everything that we've already covered on the RX10 II, let's look chiefly at how the RX10 III differentiates itself by virtue of its optics.
|Processed and cropped to taste from Raw. 375mm equivalent | F5.6 | 1/100 sec | ISO 200. Photo by Carey Rose|
Sony RX10 III overview video
In case you missed it (or prefer video), here's an overview video we produced at the launch of the RX10 III back in March, 2016.
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