Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III Review
Body & Design
From an aesthetic perspective, not much has changed from the previous RX100 models. The RX100 III is just 3mm thicker than its predecessor in order to accommodate the larger lens. Build quality remains very good. The front and top plates are aluminum, making your $800 feeling well-spent. There's no grip on the front of the camera - which can make holding it a bit slippery - but after-market grips are available from both Sony and third parties.
While the display panel itself remains the same, the RX100 III's LCD can now flip up 180 degrees, for self-portraits. While the LCD has a total of 1.23 million dots, the actual resolution of what you see on the screen is VGA - 921,000 dots worth. The difference between those numbers comes from Sony's WhiteMagic technology, which has a fourth white pixel, which allows for both a brighter screen along with reduced power consumption.
|The RX100 III has a refined tilting mechanism allowing the display to go all the way up 180 degrees (for self-portraits) and down by 45 degrees.|
Controls are unchanged from the previous RX100 models, which is a mixed blessing. Buttons and dials are sensibly laid out, but they're a little tightly packed on the back of the camera. The dial around the lens is a bit 'thin' and still turns smoothly, which works for movies and not so much for adjusting settings. We would've loved to have seen a clicking dial (or, better still, a dual mode dial like the one found on the Olympus XZ-2) to give more of a sense of feedback from the camera.
The user interface has been tweaked just a bit, with the customizable function menu brought over from the Cyber-shot RX10 and Alpha 6000. The RX100 III has an 'MR' spot on the mode dial, which can store up to three sets of your favorite settings.
In your hand
The right side of the RX100 III offers less of a grip than most cameras in this category. The likely reason is its larger sensor requires a bigger lens barrel than most. It's still easy to hold and use once you're used to it, but Sony does market a stick-on grip which should improve handling.
|The camera is easy to hold and operate with one hand, but the controls on the rear are tightly packed.
The front control ring encourages a more steady two-handed approach, however.
The top of the camera has a sensible, uncluttered layout, with buttons that are easy enough to tell apart. The flash release catch is easy enough to reach, but subtle enough to avoid accidental operation.
While the new lens is nice and all, the feature which will impress your friends the most is the pop-up electronic viewfinder. It takes the position of the flash, which has moved to the center of the camera. At the push of the button, the EVF rises up and turns the camera on (and off when you put it back down).
|Here you'll see the SVGA electronic viewfinder in all its glory. You must pull it toward you before you can actually see anything. The diopter correction knob is on the top.|
If you look right into the EVF on engaging it everything will be blurry, but that's because you need to 'pull' the finder toward you. Once that's done you'll be impressed with the quality of this OLED display, despite the 800x600 pixel SVGA resolution (compared to XGA on some other Sony cameras). The company stresses the value of the Zeiss T* coating on the EVF's outer glass, which attempts to reduce reflection on a finder with no enclosing eyepiece.
The EVF is 0.39"-type and, of course, offers 100% coverage. The magnification is 0.59x (35mm equiv.) which is great for a compact camera, but smaller than what you'll find on most mirrorless ILCs. A diopter correction lever is located on the top of the viewfinder, and the eye sensor is cleverly hidden nearby.
Top of camera
On the top plate, from left to right, you'll see the EVF and flash (with stereo mics surrounding the latter) followed by the power button, shutter release/zoom controller, and mode dial. The flash is released with the switch on the top of the camera, while the switch for the EVF is on the left side.
Notice anything missing? The RX100 III has lost the hot shoe that was found on the RX100 II, though we imagine that most people will think the EVF was worth the trade-off.
As mentioned earlier, that dial around the lens turns smoothly, which is great for manual focus (particularly during video shooting), but the lack of tactile feedback when it's used to adjust settings is still disappointing.
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