Sony rx10 iii


Sony Cyber-shot RX10 III review -

The Sony RX10 Mark III is a high-end DSLR-styled bridge super-zoom. It has a a 20 Megapixel 1in sensor, 4k video, and a 25x / 24-600mm zoom.

The RX10 III is numerically the successor to the previous RX10 Mark II, but the older model remains on sale at a lower price for those satisfied by a shorter zoom range. The new Mark III retains the earlier model’s 1 inch stacked sensor with super-slow-motion video and 14fps continuous shooting. It also inherits the same 2.3 million dot 0.7x electronic viewfinder and 3 inch 1.3 million dot screen from the RX10 Mark II.

It’s the lens that really sets the new model apart from its predecessor, with a three-fold increase over the 200mm telephoto coverage of the earlier RX10 Mark I and II. The maximum aperture is also a little brighter at the wide angle setting – f2.4 compared with f2.8 on the earlier models, but the big increase in telephoto focal length means the Mark III no longer enjoys a constant focal ratio; instead it inevitably closes, in this instance to f4.4, at the long-end. The lens also gains a third control ring, but sadly loses the built-in ND filter of earlier versions.

In my review I’ve tested and compared the Sony RX10 Mark III alongside its biggest competitor: Panasonic’s Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500. Many of the FZ2000 / FZ2500’s upgrades over the previous FZ1000 were in response to Sony’s earlier RX10 models, so I wanted to see how it measured-up against the latest Mark III, which in turn seems designed to tackle the bigger zooms of the Lumix models.

With a 20x zoom topping out at 480mm equivalent, the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 lacks the RX10 III’s 25x range but it has a fully articulated touch screen, a Cinema 4K mode and a 64x variable ND filter, and all at a much lower price point. Read on to find out which movie-oriented premium super-zoom will be best for you!

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Sony RX10 III design and controls

The RX10 III is chunkier and weightier than its predecessor, the lens is obviously bigger, but the body has bulked up a too; it’s taller, wider and deeper with a more substantial top panel and grip.

The RX10 III measures 132 x 94 x 127mm and weighs 1095 grams. Compare it with the dimensions and weight of the RX10 II – 129 x 88 x 102mm and 813g and you can appreciate just how much more substantial it is. At at 138 x 102 x 135mm and weighing 4 grams short of a Kilo, the FZ2000 / FZ2500 is a little larger, but significantly lighter.

One of the RX10’s distinctive features is a DSLR-style LCD top panel which provides exposure information among other things. The extra space on the top panel means there’s now room for a second C2 programmable function button and the panel backlight button has been relocated in front of the panel; previously it was on the side of the flash hump and a little awkward to get to.

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Everything else on the top panel is much as before; There are two dials, a thumb-operated one for exposure compensation and the unchanged shooting mode dial on the left. As before the on/off switch is a collar around the shutter release with a switch at the back and one at the front controls the zoom. You can also zoom using the lens ring.

This is probably as good a time as any to mention that I had a recurring issue with the exposure compensation dial which had a nasty habit of moving itself while I wasn’t looking with the result that on a couple of occassions I ended up with a handful of shots that were over or under exposed before I realised what had happened. Probably I inadvertently nudged the dial while carrying the camera or removing it from a bag, so a lock button of some sort would be a welcome modification.

On the rear panel, what was the C2 button becomes C3, but the control layout is otherwise unchanged. The RX10 III really spoils you with custom button options as in addition to C1, C2 and C3 you can assign three of the four positions on the control wheel to a range of functions including ISO, metering mode, white balance, stabilisation, image size and quality, display features like grids and peaking, pretty much anything in fact. As well as the cardinal points on the wheel, the wheel itself can be programmed. In terms of physical control customisation I’d say it just outdoes the Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500, which is itself very well endowed in this respect. But the FZ2000 / FZ2500 also benefits from a touch screen which as well as providing programmable touch function buttons reduces reliance on the physical controls.

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Don’t be fooled into thinking that because the RX10 III has only one control dial (vs two on the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500) it lacks physical control options. Don’t forget, it has a dedicated (and de-clickable) aperture ring on the lens which means you don’t really need a second dial. Plus the range of custom options available means its extremely unlikely you won’t find a way of configuring the numerous physical controls in a way that suits you.

Like the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500, the RX10 III has a separate card compartment as well as connections for headphones and an external microphone. It’s powered by the same NP-FW50 rechargeable Lithium Ion battery as its predecessor. On a full charge it provides enough power for 420 shots if you’re exclusively using the Electronic viewfinder or 370 with the screen, a handful more than on the earlier RX10 II. Practically speaking, you’ll likely be using both so the figure will be somewhere in between those two numbers.

That’s significantly more than the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 for which the numbers are 350/270 for the screen and viewfinder respectively. The two models also differ in how they recharge. The Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 is supplied with an external AC mains battery charger, so if you have a spare you can continue shooting while the depleted battery charges – assuming you’re within reach of a mains socket.

The RX10 III on the other hand charges the battery in the camera via the USB port. You can use either the supplied mains charger or plug the camera into any suitable power supply. Not everyone’s a fan of in-camera charging as it ties up the camera, but there’s no denying it’s a lot more convenient because you don’t have to carry the mains charger everywhere with you.

The RX10 III can also shoot when connected to an external USB power source so you can keep shooting when your battery is low – great for extended filming or timelapse shooting. This capability was introduced on the RX10 II and I’m very glad to see it retained here.

Like the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500, the RX10 II has a built-in pop-up flash as well as a hotshoe. The built in flash is mechanically activated by pressing a button next to it and is raised well clear of the lens so you can avoid casting a shadow as long as you’re more than around a metre from your subject. It has a quoted maximum range of 10.8 metres and is good for subjects that are reasonably close or as a fill-in in poor light.

The RX10 III’s hotshoe, or Multi-interface shoe as Sony calls it can also accommodate other accessories, including a variety of LED lights, external microphones and it even supports Sony’s XLR-K1M adapter which not only includes an external microphone but XLR jacks for other professional mics. You’ll need an additional bracket to mount the XLR-K1M alongside the RX10 III, but it’s accessories like these which really place the Sony on a much higher level than its rivals, and one which will satisfy professional videographers. Since Panasonic offers similar accessories for its flagship mirrorless, maybe it should consider making them compatible with its premium bridge cameras?

The RX10 III retains the 3 inch 1228k dot LCD screen of its predecessor. The screen tilts up just a little past 90 degrees, and down by 42 degrees; handy for waist level and low or high angle shooting, but it can’t be positioned forwards-facing for selfies or filming pieces to camera. In that respect it’s not nearly as versatile as the side-hinged screen on the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500, which can face forward, turn in on itself for protection and be used for portrait format shooting from low and high angles.

At 1040k the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500’s screen actually shares the same colour resolution as the Sony RX10 III which simply employs an additional white dot which in theory should deliver a brighter view, although in my view the two models looked similar.

Another interesting difference regards the screen shape: 3:2 on the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500, and 4:3 on the Sony RX10 III, which means that while stills fill the screen on the FZ2000 / FZ2500 there is a black bar at the bottom of the RX10 III screen, put to good use for exposure details.

While these differences in resolution and aspect ratio may make little practical difference, one thing that really differentiates these two models is that the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500’s screen is touch sensitive. This makes a huge difference to the handling, making everything from focusing to entering Wifi passwords much quicker and simpler and is a clear advantage the FZ2000 / FZ2500 enjoys over its Sony rival.

Which brings us to the viewfinder. The RX10 III is equipped with a 2.3 million dot XGA (1024 x 768) OLED electronic viewfinder. Like the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500, the RX10 III is fitted with a sensor which automatically activates the viewfinder when you raise your eye to it. You can override this and even assign viewfinder or monitor selection to a custom button, but it’s not quite as accessible as on the FZ2000 / FZ2500 which allows you to toggle between auto or manual selection with the button.

The viewfinder itself is a pleasure to use, it’s big and bright and provides a stable view, even when panning. As on the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500, the 3:2 native resolution view when shooting still images is displayed with black bars top and bottom on which exposure and other info is displayed.

In a side-by-side comparison with the Sony RX10 III the FZ2000 / FZ2500’s viewfinder looks slightly bigger, brighter and more detailed. Perhaps most importantly the view looks a little more stable with no hint of flicker even at the default 30fps refresh rate.

Sony RX10 III lens and stabilisation

The RX10 III has a new zoom lens with significantly longer reach than its predecessor. The older RX10 II’s 8.3x 24-200mm lens barely qualified it as a super-zoom by today’s standards, but with a 25x zoom with a 24-600mm range the RX10 III comfortably outguns the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500’s 24-480mm zoom. Below you can see the coverage of the new lens at the 24mm and 600mm equivalent limits of its range. Below that you can see the RX10 III’s 600mm equivalent compared to the 480mm equivalent maximum zoom on the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500.

Sony RX10 III coverage, wide and tele

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Above left: 8.8-220mm at 8.8mm (24mm equivalent). Above right: 8.8-220mm at 220mm (600mm equivalent).

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Above left: Sony RX10 III at 8.8-220mm at 220mm (600mm equivalent). Above right: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 at 8.8-176mm at 176mm (480mm equivalent).

As before, the lens has a dedicated aperture ring marked with f stops from its maximum f2.8 to f16 and this can be configured for stepped or smooth and silent operation via a switch on the lens barrel. Where the earlier RX10 II has a constant f2.8 maximum aperture the RX10 III’s f2.4 maximum aperture closes to f4 at the telephoto end of the zoom range. Personally, I think that’s a price worth paying for the longer range.

The other feature that the new lens loses is the earlier model’s 3 stop built-in ND filter, just when Panasonic has introduced not one, but two ND filters on the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500, capable of providing up to six stops of light reduction. ND filters are useful for deploying large apertures in daylight conditions whether you’re shooting stills or filming video; they’re especially useful for video as you’re normally using fairly slow shutter speeds which should be no faster than double your frame rate for the best-looking motion. ND filters also let you extend exposures in dimmer conditions for still photography to deliberately blur motion, such as clouds or water during dawn or dusk.

The RX10 Mark III’s electronic shutter lets it shoot at shutter speeds of 1/32000, and this makes the ND less critical for shooting stills at larger apertures in daylight, but of course it’s still very useful for movies or extending exposures under dimmer conditions – plus of course using the mechanical shutter avoids any potential artefacts with the electronic shutter. You could of course fit external ND filters, but you can’t beat the convenience of having this feature built in so it’s a little disappointing to see it go and becomes an advantage the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 has over the RX10 III.

So much for what’s lost, but there are other gains, among them a third control ring. The older RX10 II has just two rings, one for the aperture and a second that can be configured either to zoom the lens or adjust the focus manually. The third ring on the newer model means you no longer need to choose, the thicker middle ring zooms and the slightly narrower (but still substantial) outer ring controls manual focus. If you prefer it the other way around you can swap the ring functions and use the middle one to focus and the outer one to zoom.

Sony RX10 III Steadyshot Off / On

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Above left: 100% crop, 8.8-220mm at 220mm 100 ISO 1/60th Steadyshot off. Above right: 100% crop, 8.8-220mm at 220mm 100 ISO 1/60th Steadyshot on.

Like its predecessor, the RX10 III is equipped with optical SteadyShot stabilisation. There are two positions, On and Off which can be selected with the mode dial in any position with the exception of some scene modes. To test the stabilisation I zoomed the RX10 III to its maximum 600mm equivalent zoom setting and took a series of hand-held shots in Shutter Priority mode at progressively slower speeds, first with the stabilisation turned off, then with it turned on. As you can see from the above crops, the RX10 III is capable of being handheld at speeds down to around 1/60th – three to four stops slower than convention suggests is safe with a non-stabilised lens.

Sony RX10 III movie modes

The Sony RX10 III’s video capabilities are essentially unchanged from the earlier RX10 II. The highlights include 4k recording up to 30p, 1080 recording up to 120p and High Frame Rate modes which allow 10x, 20x and even 40x slowdowns. The best quality 4k UHD video is available at 25p in PAL or 24p / 30p for NTSC and at a choice of 60 or 100Mbit/s.

Note that while the maximum recording time on the RX10 III is just under 30 minutes the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 allows unrestricted 4k recording and I was able to film in 4k with it well-beyond the traditional half hour limit – even on a European model. With a large enough card, you should be able to film a single 4k clip lasting over two hours on a single charge with the FZ2000 / FZ2500, which is pretty impressive.

If you’re filming 1080p there’s a wealth of options. With the camera set to XAVC S, you can record 1080 at 25p / 50p in PAL regions, or 24p / 30p / 60p in NTSC regions, all at 50Mbit/s. You can also film at 100 / 120p for PAL / NTSC at 60 or 100Mbit/s, allowing a 4x slowdown, or 5x if you’re using the 120p on a 24p timeline. The nice thing is it’s possible to switch the camera between PAL and NTSC to access all the frame rates, although doing so will require a reformat of the card so if you’re likely to switch frame rates regularly, you should carry a card for PAL and a card for NTSC. Like all Sony cameras, you’ll also need an SDXC card (64GB or higher) to support the XAVC S and 4k modes.

If you want to squeeze more footage onto your card, there’s lower bit rate AVCHD options available, offering 1080 at 50p / 60p at 28Mbit/s, 50i / 60i at 24 or 17Mbit/s, or 25p / 24p again at 24 or 17Mbit/s. Finally, the MP4 menu unlocks 1080p at 50p / 60p at 28Mbit/s, 25p / 30p at 16Mbit/s or 720p at 25 / 30p at 6Mbit/s.

When filming in 1080p, the RX10 III takes the full sensor width and scales it down to 1920 pixels wide. When shooting in 4k, it first takes a mild crop before scaling it down to 3840 pixel width. The 4k crop slightly reduces the wide angle coverage compared to 1080p, but not by a great deal as indicated in the composite below where I’ve superimposed the 4k crop (indicated by the outer edge of the red frame) over the full sensor coverage.

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Above: Sony RX10 Mark III movie coverage. Red frame represents crop when filming in 4k.

At this point it’s worth mentioning the RX10 III’s sensor readout is sufficiently quick for it to capture 17 Megapixel / 16:9 still photos while it’s filming, and in a nice ‘Auto Dual Record’ option, it can also do so automatically. It’s fun to film a clip then find a bunch of photos taken at regular intervals automatically, and the camera lets you adjust the interval from three settings; you can alternatively press the shutter release if you want to manually snap a still photo at a crucial moment, like someone blowing candles out on a birthday cake. Note this is only available when filming in 1080p; sadly it’s not possible on the RX10 III when filming in 4k.

As before the RX10 III offers full manual control over exposures with the choice of filming in Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority or full Manual. You can adjust the aperture, shutter, ISO, exposure compensation and even the AF mode while filming. The Aperture ring click can be disabled using the switch on the lens barrel, but it can’t be assigned to other functions so is of no use in Shutter priority mode. The shutter speed is always set via the control (thumb) dial which has discrete click positions but they’re relatively quiet. You can assign ISO sensitivity to the control wheel which, like the thumb operated control dial, has a relatively quiet click.

The full sensitivity range is available for movies up to 12800 ISO and there’s an Auto ISO option that works in any of the exposure modes including Manual. Like still photos you can apply a selection of Creative Styles, which also provide manual tweaking of contrast, saturation and sharpness. You can also apply a selection of Picture Profiles which include S-Log 2 under profile 7 for fairly flat output that’s ready for subsequent grading.

You can also enter the on-screen Fn menu while filming to highlight another setting to adjust, although doing so will inevitably wobble the camera and result in audible clicks, but if you can’t bear to stop the recording, it’s nice to have the option. Meanwhile, optional Zebra patterns from 70 to 100 in increments of five allow you to accurately judge the exposure on-screen.

Even with the focus selector set to the AF-S position, the RX10 II will only work in AF-C or manual focus modes for movies. You can select from any of the AF area modes, but moving the AF area during shooting is a little bit of a chore as you need to use the control wheel or dial to position it and the chances of doing that without moving the camera or making a noise are slim. How much easier it is just to tap the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500’s screen to position the AF area.

With the focus set to Manual you have more precise control using the front ring, Optional focus peaking makes it easier to judge which regions will be sharp.

Turn the mode dial to HFR and the camera can capture video at a choice of three very high frame rates: 240 / 250fps, 480 / 500fps or 960 / 1000fps in NTSC / PAL regions respectively. These are automatically conformed in-camera to (your choice of) either 25p or 50p for PAL regions, or 24p, 30p or 60p for NTSC regions. If you choose the 25p and 24p options, the three recording modes will slow-down the action by 10, 20 or 40 times respectively.

There are understandably a number of restrictions when filming at these sort of speeds. First is the recording time with two options: Shoot Time Priority mode captures four seconds of action, while Quality Priority captures just two seconds. The second limitation is the quality which reduces as the frame rate increases. Set the camera to Shoot Time Priority, and the 240 / 250fps mode will capture video at 1676×566 pixels, while the 480 / 500fps and 960 / 1000fps modes record at 1136×384 and 800×270 pixels respectively. Set the camera to Quality Priority and the 240 / 250fps mode will capture video at 1824×1026 pixels, while the 480 / 500fps and 960 / 1000fps modes record at 1676×566 and 1136×384 pixels respectively. In each case, the video is up-scaled to 1080p resolution and the 16:9 shape so it’s ready to slot-into in a standard 1080 timeline.

That’s a lot of numbers to digest, but when set to 240 / 250fps, the Quality Priority mode is only just shy of delivering Full HD / 1080p resolution, while the 480 / 500fps mode is close to HD / 720p quality. This means you can enjoy close to HD quality with a 10x or 20x slow-down, and if you’re happy with standard definition quality, you can slow footage by 40x.

Sony’s also had a good think about how best to capture bursts that only last two or four seconds. By default the HFR modes start recording when you press the record button and stop two or four seconds later, but an alternative End Trigger option constantly buffers the video and stores the previous two or four seconds when you press the button. The idea is to follow the action as it happens, then once the decisive moment has completed, such as landing a jump, you press the button and the camera stores the last two or four seconds depending on the quality mode. The constant buffering employed by the End Trigger mode chews through your battery quickly but allows you more easily capture the exact moment of action and end up with more successful footage. To demonstrate what’s possible with HFR, here’s a compilation I filmed with the earlier RX10 Mark II which shares the same slow motion capabilities.

Download the original file (Registered members of Vimeo only) Above: Compilation of slow motion clips filmed with the Sony Cyber-shot RX10 II; clips include 1080p at 120fps and the three HFR modes at 240, 480 and 960fps, all using the Quality Priority option which captures two seconds of action. All were filmed in low light at relatively high ISOs, so some noise is inevitably visible, especially for the faster frame rate modes. Also note that even in Quality Priority HFR, the RX10 II reduces the resolution as the frame rate increases. The 240fps mode is close to HD, but the 480 is lower and the 960 is lower still.

Now for a selection of movie samples with the RX10 Mark III.

Download the original file (Registered members of Vimeo only) Above: This clip, like the others below was shot in the using the RX10 III’s 1080/50p 28mb/s mode. There’s also a 4K UHD version. The stabilisation does a good job of keeping things nice and steady, though it doesn’t quite iron out all the wobbles when zoomed all the way in to 600mm equivalent. I used the rocker control on the shutter release to power the zoom, which is nice and smooth, though a little noisy.

Download the original file (Registered members of Vimeo only) Above: For this second clip the camera was mounted on a tripod and the stabilisation was disabled. As before, I shot this clip in both 1080/50p 28mb/s shown here as well as in 4K 100mb/s UHD mode. What’s impressive about this clip is the rock-steady AF which doesn’t wander out for a second – even during the zoom. The zoom motor is inaudible here at the slower setting.

Download the original file (Registered members of Vimeo only) Above: For this low light panning clip I set the RX10 III to Aperture priority mode and selected F4 at 1600 ISO. The quality looks very good and not at all noisy and, once again the AF does an outstanding job.

Download the original file (Registered members of Vimeo only) Above: To test the continuous autofocus on the RX10 IIII zoomed the lens in a little and opened the aperture as wide as it would go then panned from the coffee cup on the table up to the counter and back again. This is very impressive from the RX10 III which manages to adjust the focus so smoothly and accurately you’re barely aware of it. Particularly impressive for a contrast-based system.

Sony RX10 III shooting experience

The RX10 III is equipped with a small switch next to the lens barrel on the front, which can be turned to select Single AF, Continuous AF, Direct Manual Focus (DMF) which allows you to adjust the focus manually after first using AF, or Manual focus. The choice of Single or Continuous has no effect in the movie mode where it’s either Continuous AF or Manual focus only.

The main menu lets you choose from four focus areas. Wide automatically chooses from a 9 area system, Center positions the AF area centrally, and Flexible Spot lets you choose one of three AF frame sizes and move it to almost anywhere on the screen apart from a border around the edges. Introduced on the Mark II, Expand Flexible Spot works like Flexible Spot set to the Small size, but also considers a small area around it.

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Above: 1.3s, f16, 100 ISO, 32mm (88mm equivalent)

If AF-C is enabled, you can also choose Lock-on AF which tracks a subject based on its shape and colour, surrounding it with an elastic frame that changes shape and size depending on where it is in relation to the camera. Lock-on AF is available with Wide, Center, Flexible Spot (small, medium or large), or Expand Flexible Spot. To kick-off you position the active AF area over the subject (or in the case of Wide, hope that it’s automatically identified), then simply keep the shutter half-pressed for the camera to subsequently track it. If you’re likely to reposition the AF area frequently, I’d recommend assigning it to one of the function or custom keys, then you can get to it in a single press. But even then, I still wish Sony offered touch-screens like the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 where you can just tap where you’d like the AF area to be. It’s so much quicker and easier. Though it is at least possible to select an AF area when filming movies.

If Face Detection is enabled, it’ll over-ride any of the area options if a human face is detected. If you’ve pre-registered specific faces with the camera, it’ll also give them priority over others – handy at an event like a wedding where you can prioritise the bride and groom in a group shot. There’s also optional smile detection which will trigger the shutter automatically when the mouth on the detected face reaches a preset level of happiness or toothiness.

In terms of speed, the RX10 III snaps onto most subjects almost instantly across its focal range in AF-S mode. Pre-focusing ensures the subject is invariably sharp or close to sharpness as you compose the shot, so that when you finally press the shutter release, there’s not much work to do.

Positioning a single AF area is relatively straightforward – when you’re in (Expand) Flexible Spot AF area mode a single press on the centre button of the control wheel activates the AF area for repositioning. I found that if I allocated AF area to the programmable left position on the wheel I could quickly switch the AF area mode and reposition the box. That said, you can’t beat a touch screen for this and the process is much simpler and faster on the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500.

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Above: 1/1250, f4, 200 ISO, 36mm (100mm equivalent)

Like the earlier RX10 II, the Mark III has two continuous shooting speeds – Continuous and Speed Priority Continuous. The former shoots at 5fps with continuous AF if you want it. The latter offers a quoted speed of 14fps – with focus locked on the first frame (though you can choose to have the exposure metered continuously). To put it to the test I fitted the RX10 III with a freshly formatted UHS-3 SD card, set the shutter to 1/500 and the sensitivity to 400 ISO before firing-off a series of bursts.

Set to Fine JPEG and the normal Continuous mode, the RX10 III fired-off 80 frames in 12.71 seconds for a speed of 6.29fps and the camera seemed happy to keep shooting at a reduced rate. Set to Speed Priority, it rattled-off 49 Fine JPEGs in 3.4 seconds for a rate of 14.41fps, before then slowing down to a still fairly respectable 4fps.

Set to RAW and back to the normal Continuous mode allowed me to capture 30 frames in 4.63 seconds for a rate of 6.47fps, before slowing to around 2fps. Set to Speed Priority and RAW, the RX10 III recorded 28 frames in 3.33 seconds for a rate of 8.43ps before slowing to around 1.5fps.

So in my tests the RX10 III essentially delivered the quoted speed for JPEGs, and just over 8fps for RAW. The burst length on the Sony is very usable too, allowing you to shoot at any speed and quality for at least three seconds. Checking back over my figures for the RX10 II it’s interesting to note they’re pretty much identical.

With a fixed-focus continuous shooting speed of 12fps and 7fps with Continuous AF, the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 is more or less on a par with the Sony RX10 III. But it also offers Panasonic’s 30fps 4K Photo modes which allow you to easily extract 8 Megapixel stills from 4K video in-camera, along with exploiting high-res video to effectively refocus still photos after taking them.

Sony RX10 III Wifi

The Sony RX10 III has built-in Wifi with NFC to aid negotiation with compatible devices. Wifi allows you to wirelessly browse and transfer JPEG images onto an iOS or Android smartphone using a free app, and also remote control the camera with your phone or tablet. The RX10 III can additionally download apps directly to extend its capabilities.

For my tests I used my iPhone 6, onto which I’d previously installed Sony’s free PlayMemories app. If you have an NFC-equipped android device the entire process is incredibly simple: just choose the image you want to send in playback on the camera, then hold it against your phone. The NFC then instructs the camera and phone to connect (automatically taking care of network names and passwords), before then transferring the image and finally disconnecting. It all happens without a single button press and, bar Nikon’s SnapBridge Bluetooth system, is the best implementation there is for copying images from camera to phone.

If you don’t have NFC, or for some reason it doesn’t work (on iPhones NFC won’t work in this context as it’s reserved exclusively for Apply Pay), you’ll need to connect to the RX10 III’s Wifi network. The simplest way to do that is to press the Fn button on the rear while in playback mode; you’re then given the option of scaning a QR code with the playmemories app on your phone, or you could just connect to the SSID displayed on the camera screen in the usual way.

If you opt to select the image on the camera, it’ll then be sent straight to the phone. If you select the option to choose with your smartphone, you’ll see the camera’s memory presented in a thumbnail view – just select the desired image and again it’ll be copied over. A menu in the PlayMemories app lets you choose whether the image is sent in its original 20 Megapixel format or resized down to VGA or 2 Megapixels. Full sized 20 Megapixel JPEGs take about five seconds to copy over and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that, while I couldn’t copy RAW files to my iPhone, Playmemories did transfer a 2 Megapixel JPEG copy of the RAW files – very useful if you’re shooting RAW only. I was also able to copy mp4 HD movie files onto my phone in their original format, though you’ll obviously need to be careful with this as longer files will take a while to transfer over and may quickly fill up your available phone memory.

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Remote control requires the Smart Remote app to be installed on the camera – as luck would have it, Sony embeds this into the RX10 III to get you started in the world of apps, no doubt in an attempt to get you comfortable with the idea and possibly purchase some more in the future – although there is a catch I’ll mention in a moment.

If you don’t have a phone with NFC, you’ll need to first select the Smart Remote from the App menu on the RX10 III. This sets the camera up as an access point for the PlayMemories app on your phone to connect to. Once you’re remote-controlling your camera, you’ll be able to see what it sees, adjust the exposure compensation and take a photo when desired. But out-of-the-box you won’t be able to change the aperture, shutter speed or ISO, nor reposition the AF area. There is however a solution: an update to the in-camera Smart Remote app unlocks full exposure control along with the chance to tap anywhere on your phone’s screen to move the AF area – some consolation for the absence of a touch-screen on the camera itself.

To update the app, you’ll need to connect the RX10 III directly to the Internet, log into the PlayMemories service (using an account you’ve previously set up on a computer), choose Smart Remote in the camera’s Application menu, then select the update option. Alternatively you can download an app via a browser on a laptop or desktop, then connect the RX10 III to transfer it.

A few seconds later you’ll have the latest version of Smart Remote sporting a wealth of manual control. It’s great the camera offers this, but a shame you need to go looking for it, as I’m sure many owners won’t jump through the required hoops. Sony really ought to ship its cameras with a more up-to-date version of Smart Remote. It’s also a shame that while you can trigger a movie using Smart Remote, you can’t use the screen on your phone to reposition the AF area by touch, as you can when shooting stills.

While updating the Smart Remote, you’ll notice a selection of other apps you can download to extend the capabilities of the camera, some free, some costing up to $9.99. Arguably the most powerful app is Timelapse which has gradually become more sophisticated over several updates. It works alongside an Angle Shift Add-On ($4.99) that lets you perform pans, tilts and zooms within a timelapse video, all generated in-camera.

There’s also apps to simulate the effect of long exposures by combining multiple frames and ones designed to better capture light or star trails. It’s all good fun, but the question is whether most or even all of these should just be part of the standard camera operating system. After all most rivals offer built-in timelapse facilities, and Olympus continues to raise the bar for cunning long exposure options.

Sony’s apps aren’t always accessed or adjusted in an intuitive manner. Rather than integrating new functions into the existing menus, they’re all kept in a dedicated Apps section and parameters such as image quality are set independently of the in-camera settings, which can get confusing. Sony really needs to think more carefully about how the Apps integrate with the camera.  

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Sony RX10 III vs Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 JPEG quality results

To compare real-life performance, I shot this scene with the Sony RX10 III and the Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 within a few moments of each other, using their best quality JPEG settings and at their base sensitivity settings. For this test the cameras were mounted on a tripod and image stabilisation was disabled. Both cameras were set to their 24mm equivalent maximum wide angle focal length.

I’d previously determined that best results were achieved at f4, so both cameras we’re set to Aperture priority mode and f4 selected. The Sony RX10 III was set to its base 100 ISO sensitivity setting and selected an exposure of 1/400. Also set to f4 and at its base 125 ISO sensitivity setting, the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 metered an exposure of 1/320 – the same as the RX10 III given the different ISO sensitivity.

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Both of these cameras share a 20 Megapixel resolution producing 3:2 images measuring 5472 x x3648 pixels so the crops areas and image detail are the same size. As usual the crops below are taken from the areas marked in red above..

Casting an eye down the left hand column the results from the Sony RX10 III look very promising. The first crop, from close to the left edge of the frame is a little fuzzy; there’s plenty of detail but those edges are clearly not as crisp and distinct as they could be. Move on to the second crop, though, and things improve considerably. The fuzziness is gone and the fine detail in the catherdal stonework is beautifully rendered. The detail gets even sharper in the third crop from right in the middle of the frame, before going slightly soft again in the crop from the right edge of the frame.

The crops from the Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 fair similarly, they’re soft and a little fuzzy at the edges and sharper in the middle. But the difference between the quality at the edges and centre of the Lumix crops is greater and overall they’re not as detailed as those from the RX10 III. I think the RX10 III’s lens is outperforming the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500’s zoom at this wide angle setting, no mean feat considering its extra reach – 25x compared with 20x on the Lumix.

The question is, can the Sony lens maintain its advantage over the Lumix throughout its range? Scroll down to find out, or to find out how they compare at higher sensitivities head for my Sony RX10 III noise results, skip to my Sony RX10 III sample images, or head straight to my verdict.

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Above left: Sony RX10 III f4, 100 ISO. Above right: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 f4, 125 ISO

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Above left: Sony RX10 III f4, 100 ISO. Above right: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 f4, 125 ISO

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Above left: Sony RX10 III f4, 100 ISO. Above right: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 f4, 125 ISO

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Above left: Sony RX10 III f4, 100 ISO. Above right: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 f4, 125 ISO

Sony RX10 III quality at 200mm equivalent

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For this next test I zoomed both cameras in to roughly 200mm equivalent. At this focal length the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 stops down to f4.5 but the RX10 III can maintain f4. So for this comparison I closed both lenses to f4.5. As before the crops below are taken from the areas marked in red above.

At this 200mm equivalent focal length, there’s a clear difference straight off between the Sony RX10 III and the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500. In the first crop from the left edge of the frame the RX10 III on the left is a lot cleaner and crisper. There’s a level of detail in the stonework in the RX10 III crop that just isn’t there in the FZ2000 / FZ2500 crop. The same is true of all the crops at this focal length, across the frame the Sony RX10 III produces crisper cleaner crops with more detail than those from the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500. What’s more, the difference in quality in the middle of the zoom range is more pronounced than at the wide angle setting.

Scroll down to see how they fair when zoomed to the FZ2000 / FZ2500’s maximum 480mm equivalent focal length.

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Above left: Sony RX10 III f4.5, 100 ISO. Above right: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 JPEG f4.5, 125 ISO

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Above left: Sony RX10 III f4.5, 100 ISO. Above right: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 JPEG f4.5, 125 ISO

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Above left: Sony RX10 III f4.5, 100 ISO. Above right: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 JPEG f4.5, 125 ISO

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Above left: Sony RX10 III f4.5, 100 ISO. Above right: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 JPEG f4.5, 125 ISO

Sony RX10 III quality at 480mm equivalent

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For this comparison I zoomed the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 to its maximum 480mm equivalent focal length and zoomed the Sony RX10 III to match it. This is still a little way short of the Sony RX10 III’s maximum 600mm equivalent focal length which you can see in the final set of crops below these. As before the crops are from the areas marked in red above. And as before, the RX10 III does better across the frame, with all four crops showing sharper edges and better detail. Whichever way you look at it, it’s a pretty emphatic win for the Sony RX10 III.

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Above left: Sony RX10 III f4.5, 100 ISO. Above right: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 f4.5, 125 ISO

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Above left: Sony RX10 III f4.5, 100 ISO. Above right: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 f4.5, 125 ISO

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Above left: Sony RX10 III f4.5, 100 ISO. Above right: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 f4.5, 125 ISO

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Above left: Sony RX10 III f4.5, 100 ISO. Above right: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 f4.5, 125 ISO

Sony RX10 III quality at 600mm equivalent

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For this final set of crops I zoomed the Sony RX10 III all the way to its maximum 600mm equivalent focal length. The crops below are from the three areas marked in red above taken from the top left, centre, and bottom right of the frame. As at the wide angle setting there’s a visible difference between the image quality in the middle of the frame, which is excellent, and in the corners, which is merely pretty good. All in all this is a great set of results for the RX10 III’s zoom, which produces excellent results across the frame throughout the zoom range.

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Above: Sony RX10 III f4.5, 100 ISO

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Above: Sony RX10 III f4.5, 100 ISO

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Above: Sony RX10 III f4.5, 100 ISO

Sony RX10 III vs Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 JPEG noise results

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Sony RX10 III and the Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 within a few moments of each other at each of their ISO settings. The cameras were set to their best quality JPEG modes and mounted on a tripod and stabilisation was disabled. I disabled DRO on the RX10 III as it can affect the noise characteristics of images shot in low light.

Both cameras were set to their 24mm equivalent maximum wide angle focal length. I’d previously determined that best results were achieved at f4, so both cameras we’re set to Aperture priority mode and f4 selected. Set to its 100 ISO base sensitivity the RX10 III chose an exposure of 0.6s and at its 125 ISO base sensitivity the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 chose 0.5s – the same exposure as the RX10 III given the different ISO setting.

Both cameras have an extended ISO sensitivity range that can be activated from the menu. The RX10 III provides 64 and 80 ISO at the low end of the range and the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 extends down to 80 ISO and has an additional 25600 ISO setting at the top. For the sake of completeness, and because it’s interesting to see the comparisons, I’ve included these additional settings in the table below, but bear in mind the important comparison is between the base ISO settings – 100 ISO for the RX10 III and 125 ISO for the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500.

Casting an eye down the left column of crops I think it’s fair to say that the Sony RX10 III puts in a pretty good noise performance for a 1 inch sensor. At the lower ISO settings and at the base 100 ISO there’s very little if any noise texture visible. As you move up the sensitivity scale of course the noise increases but it’s managed well with the result that up to 400 ISO you’d have to be pixel peeping these 100 percent crops to spot the difference. The noise is visible at 400 ISO, but it’s very fine-grained and isn’t reducing the image detail appreciably.

Likewise at 800 and 1600 ISO, despite the increase in noise the crops maintain a natural look with all but the very finest detail affected, but 3200 ISO is a bit of a watershed, and the point at which you can begin to see the noise without having to look for it. It’s worth pointing out that at smaller sizes 3200 ISO looks pretty respectable, beyond that it’s a real battle between the noise and image detail. Again though, worth pointing out that up to 12800 ISO you can get away with it at smaller sizes.

Compared with the crops from the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500, it’s too close to call. I’ve stared at these crops for a while and I can’t spot much of a difference at any of the sensitivity settings.

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Above left: Sony RX10 III at 64 ISO. Above right: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 JPEG 64 ISO not available.

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Above left: Sony RX10 III at 80 ISO. Above right: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 JPEG at 80 ISO.

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Above left: Sony RX10 III at 100 ISO. Above right: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 JPEG at 100 ISO.

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Above left: Sony RX10 III at 125 ISO. Above right: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 JPEG at 125 ISO.

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Above left: Sony RX10 III at 200 ISO. Above right: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 JPEG at 200 ISO.

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Above left: Sony RX10 III at 400 ISO. Above right: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 JPEG at 400 ISO.

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Above left: Sony RX10 III at 800 ISO. Above right: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 JPEG at 800 ISO.

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Above left: Sony RX10 III at 1600 ISO. Above right: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 JPEG at 1600 ISO.

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Above left: Sony RX10 III at 3200 ISO. Above right: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 JPEG at 3200 ISO.

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Above left: Sony RX10 III at 6400 ISO. Above right: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 JPEG at 6400 ISO.

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Above left: Sony RX10 III at 12800 ISO. Above right: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 JPEG at 12800 ISO.

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Above left: Sony RX10 III 25600 ISO not available. Above right: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 JPEG at 25600 ISO.

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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 III

Sony's original RX10 was a groundbreaking camera, delivering image quality that was well beyond that of other long zoom designs, with a tough, weather-resistant build. The latest iteration, the Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 III ($1,499.99), triples the zoom range of the original while adding some of the advanced video features introduced in the RX10 II. There's no question that $1,500 is a lot of money to ask for a fixed lens camera, but the RX10 III stands alone in versatility and performance, and earns Editors' Choice marks in the process.

DesignLike its predecessors, the RX10 III mimics a compact SLR in styling and size. It measures 3.7 by 5.2 by 5 inches (HWD) and weighs a hefty 2.4 pounds. Compare this with an entry-level SLR, like the Canon EOS T6s, which measures 4 by 5.2 by 3.1 inches without a lens. You'd need to carry at least two zooms—the Sigma 17-70mm (1 pound) and Canon EF 100-400mm (3.6 pounds) for example—to cover the same range as the RX10 III. When you consider the cost (and weight) of a pair of good zoom lenses, the RX10 III's price comes into perspective.

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An SLR and a pair of lenses do have some inherent advantages in image quality when compared with a superzoom. But the 1-inch sensor used by the RX10 III makes the gap between compact and SLR smaller—it's about a third of the size of the APS-C format used by consumer SLRs. Pros will still want an interchangeable lens camera for paying gigs, but the RX10 III is a phenomenal all-around performer, capable of capturing wide-angle landscapes, wildlife at long telephoto distances, macro shots, and dimly lit street scenes, all in a package that's not much bigger than an entry-level SLR with a starter zoom lens.

The versatility comes not just from the sensor, but from the lens. The 8.8-220mm f/2.4-4 zoom covers the same range as a 24-600mm lens on a full-frame camera. Of course, no 24-600mm full-frame zoom exists. The RX10 III doesn't feature a fixed f/2.8 aperture like previous models in the series, but its f/2.4-4 zoom betters other long zoom 1-inch models, including the Panasonic FZ1000 (25-400mm f/2.8-4) and Canon G3 X (24-600mm f/2.8-5.6) in terms of range and light-gathering capability.

Close focus is a strong point. At its widest angle the RX10 III can focus to 1.2 inches, and it can lock on as close as 2.4 feet when zoomed all the way in. You'll have no problems getting up close and personal with subjects at wider angles, and when zoomed all the way in you can capture images at about 1:2 magnification at the minimum focus distance. The lens is stabilized, with a 4.5-stop CIPA rating, so you can capture crisp images (and jitter-free video) when shooting handheld at longer shutter speeds.

The RX10 III is priced at a level that's off-putting to casual photographers, but it does have have a fully Automatic mode, as well as Scene modes to tune settings to capture certain types of photographs—sports action, landscapes, moonlit shots, sunsets, and portraits, among others. To get a real grasp of its zoom power, take a look at the wide shot of the sky above, with the moon at the center of the frame, captured at 24mm. The image below is captured from the same position at 600mm, without any additional cropping.

For those that like to take manual control over exposure, the RX offers ample manual controls, supplemented by a solid overlay menu system. There are three rings on the lens itself—manual focus, zoom, and aperture. The aperture can be set to turn at third-stop increments with click stops, or to turn freely for video use, with a range of f/2.4 through f/16. There's an unmarked button on the left side of the lens barrel; it activates focus hold, which is useful for situations when you want to recompose a shot after focus has been locked.

The focus mode toggle switch, with settings for Single, Continuous, Direct Manual Focus (DMF), and Manual Focus, is situated on the bottom corner of the faceplate, accessible using your left hand. Save for DMF, which allows you to override autofocus at any time using the manual focus ring, the modes are self-explanatory.

The Mode dial sits on the top plate, to the left of the pop-up flash and hot shoe. The flash itself is raised using a mechanical release. If you're using it, you'll want to remove the lens hood for shots at 40mm or wider, as it will cast a shadow. With the hood removed the flash has no problem covering the 24mm wide-angle frame.

To the right of the shoe you'll find a monochrome information LCD. It shows aperture, shutter speed, white balance setting, drive mode, the number of shots remaining on the memory card, and the battery life. Its orange backlight is toggled by a button just above it. Other top controls include customizable C1 (by default, ISO) and C2 (Drive Mode) buttons, and a dial to set Exposure Value compensation (from -3 to +3 in third-stop increments). The shutter release, which is threaded so that it can accept a mechanical release cable, sits atop the front handgrip, surrounded by a zoom control lever and the power switch.

The Menu button is nestled into a corner to the left of the EVF and above the rear LCD. To the right of the eyecup you'll find the Movie button and the rear control dial. Below it you'll find AEL (Autoexposure Lock) and Fn buttons, a flat control wheel that supports push-button input at the cardinal directions and center, Delete/C3, and Play buttons. Most of the buttons can be reprogrammed.

The Fn button launches an on-screen overlay menu. It supplements the physical controls, providing quick access to set the Drive Mode, flash output settings, focus area, ISO, metering pattern, white balance, and JPG output parameters by default. Like the physical buttons, the bank of 12 total settings can be customized to suit your needs.

The rear LCD is mounted on a hinge. It can tilt up or down, but doesn't face all the way forward, a downer for the selfie crowd. It's crisp, with 1,228k dots packed into its 3-inch frame. One quarter of those dots is there to increase luminance, so the LCD is visible on bright days. The only real complaint is that touch input isn't supported. Tap to focus is a very useful feature on competing models with touch screens, including the Panasonic FZ1000, and it's missed here.

An eye-level viewfinder is also included in the design. It uses OLED technology and sports a 2,359k-dot resolution, matching the excellent EVF found in the RX10 II. When zoomed to the 50mm position, the EVF is rated at 0.7x magnification, equivalent to a pro-grade full-frame camera like the Nikon D810. An eye sensor automatically selects the EVF or rear display; it's less sensitive than similar sensors on earlier RX10 models, and that's a good thing, since the RX10 and RX10 II have a tendency to switch the feed to the EVF too early and black out the rear LCD unexpectedly.

Wi-Fi and Physical ConnectionsThe RX10 III includes Wi-Fi with NFC. It works with a companion app, available for Android and iOS, to transfer images to your smartphone for easy sharing on social networks. Remote control is also available. The RX10 III ships with a very basic remote app installed—it only allows you to adjust EV compensation, zoom the lens, and take a picture. However, can connect the camera to Sony's PlayMemories Camera App store and install a free update that expands the remote, giving you full control over exposure along with tap-to-focus through your smartphone. It's unfortunate that Sony doesn't include the more robust remote app out of the box. Requiring owners to create an account and download it helps to promote its own app store, which includes several other applications that expand the functionality of the RX10 III—some free, but many priced at $5 and up.

The RX10 III has several interfaces for accessories. The multi-interface hot shoe can accommodate an external flash or a balanced XLR microphone. There are also standard 3.5mm microphone and headphone jacks for analog audio input and monitoring. The micro HDMI port outputs a clean, uncompressed signal, so you can use a field recorder for video if desired. It's joined by a micro USB port, which is used to connect to a PC or to charge the RX10 III's battery. The memory card slot supports SD, SDHC, SDXC, and Memory Stick Duo media.

Sony opts not to include an external charger, which is a shame, especially when you consider the price point. If you want to charge a battery and continue to have use of the camera, you'll want to invest in an external charger as well as a spare battery. CIPA rates the RX10 III for 370 images using the EVF and 420 using the rear LCD, but video recording—especially in slow motion—eats away at the battery more quickly than shooting stills. We recommend picking up an extra battery and an external charger, especially if you're looking at the RX10 III as a traveling companion. That will allow you to charge one battery in-camera and a second in a charger simultaneously, which is a common situation after a long day of shooting vacation pictures and video.

Performance and Image QualityThe RX10 III may not support interchangeable lenses, but it's as speedy as an SLR in many respects. Its startup speed (2.3 seconds) is on the slow side, as the power zoom lens must extend before a shot is fired. Autofocus is extremely quick, locking in less than 0.05-second both at the 24mm and 600mm positions. The latter is a feat for any superzoom.

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Burst shooting with locked focus is possible at 14fps when shooting JPGs or at 8fps when the camera is set to Raw or Raw+JPG capture and the Drive is set to Speed Priority. When paired with a fast SanDisk 280MBps memory card you can expect to capture 45 JPGs, 28 Raw+JPG, or 27 Raw images before the rate slows. You can also set the focus to continuous and the Drive to the standard high-speed mode, which slows the rate to 5fps but reacquires focus between each shot. In our standard continuous focus test, which photographs an object moving toward and then away from the camera at a steady rate, the RX10 III nailed almost every shot with those settings.

That test mostly fills the frame with a single plane on which to focus. In the real world you're going to face more erratic objects, often against difficult backgrounds. I was pretty happy with the RX10 III's focus system set to its wide coverage area in field tests, especially when combined with the tools it offers to identify and track subjects.

One of those is Lock-on AF, tracks a specific target. If the wide focus area is having a hard time identifying the right subject for focus, or if you want to track a moving subject as it moves, locking onto a target is a good idea. The RX10 III does a solid job keeping track of moving targets, although it can get confused if you allow them to exit the frame. It tends to reacquire subjects with similar color palettes, which can require you to start the tracking process anew.

The RX10 III also supports Eye AF, which is a useful tool for portraiture. It looks for human eyes, drawing a small green dot around the eye when it finds one, to ensure that they enjoy the sharpest point of focus in a portrait. It's especially helpful as the RX10's lens can manage quite a shallow depth of field, especially when shooting a headshot or head-and-shoulders portrait, where locking focus on the eyes is essential.

I used Imatest to evaluate the image quality delivered by the RX10 III and its 20MP image sensor. At 24mm f/2.4 it delivers excellent performance, scoring 2,536 lines per picture height on a center-weighted sharpness test. That's better than the 1,800 lines we want to see in a photo. Edge quality sometimes suffers, and while the edges of the frame lag behind the center, they score 1,922 lines, still crisp enough to show fine detail.

Stopping down to f/2.8 doesn't effect image quality, but there's a jump at f/4. The overall score improves to 2,810 lines, with edges that hit 2,436 lines. Peak performance is at f/5.6 (2,857 lines), and there's a slight hit in image quality at f/8 due to diffraction—the lens scores 2,694 lines there. We don't recommend shooting at f/11 or f/16, as image quality takes a more serious hit there, and f/8 will deliver ample depth of field for most shots that require it.

At 50mm the maximum aperture narrows to f/3.2. Overall image quality is excellent, with Imatest showing a 2,768-line result here, with edges that are just as sharp as the center of the frame. There's a bump at f/4 (2,829 lines), with a slight drop at f/5.6 (2,779 lines) and f/8 (2,606 lines).

At 100mm the maximum f-stop narrows to f/4. Performance remains extremely strong, the average score across the frae is 2,837 lines, and edges are just as sharp as the center. Image quality stays steady at f/5.6 (2,801 lines), and starts to drop at f/8 (2,595 lines). The story is the same at 200mm, with strong results at f/4 (2,715 lines), f/5.6 (2,825 lines) and f/8 (2,609 lines).

Results remain steady at 300mm f/4 (2,723 lines), f/5.6 (2,726 lines) and f/8 (2,553 lines). At 400mm there's a slight drop—2,670 lines at f/4, 2,679 lines at f/5.6, and 2,513 lines at f/8. This is the first zoom setting where we're sampling fewer data points on the test chart, as space constraints in our testing lab don't allow the chart to be framed from edge to edge at with this level of zoom engaged.

There are fewer data points analyzed at 500mm, so take the drop-off in score with a grain of salt, it appears to be more dramatic in the lab than it was in real-world testing. At 500mm the lens scores 2,199 lines at f/4, 2,450 lines at f/5.6, and 2,244 lines at f/8. The same is true at 600mm, where our tests show the lens delivering its weakest performance (1,990 lines at f/4, 2,525 lines at f/5.6, and 2,329 lines at f/8).

The RX10 III's only competition in the 1-inch space as far as zoom range goes is the Canon G3 X. The G3 X is less expensive and smaller, but it doesn't include a built-in EVF, is a little slow to focus, and its zoom lens has an f/2.8-5.6 variable aperture—it captures less light than the RX10 III. The Canon's lens also lags behind in sharpness. Its center-weighted resolution never hits the same level as the Sony, and its edge performance leaves us wanting.

Imatest also checks images for noise, which can detract from detail and add an unwanted grainy quality to photos at high ISO settings. The RX10 III has a native ISO range of 100 through 12800, with ISO 64 and 80 available as low extended settings. When shooting JPGs at default settings the RX10 III controls noise through ISO 6400, where it shows about 1.4 percent. At the top ISO 12800 setting noise jumps to about 2 percent. We look at all of our test images on a calibrated LCD, and include pixel-level crops in the slideshow that goes along with this review so you can peruse them yourself.

When shooting JPGs, detail is strong through IS0 800, with very little evidence of smudging or noise. At ISO 1600 there is a little bit of smudging of the finest lines in our test scene, but overall quality remains strong. Image quality starts to get dicey at ISO 3200, as a more noticeable drop in clarity sets in. There's an additional, but not substantial, drop in quality at ISO 6400. At the top ISO, 12800, the loss in image quality is more evident. You should avoid pushing the RX10 III that far when shooting JPGs.

The camera is also capable of Raw image capture. Raw images don't have any in-camera noise reduction applied, and also retain more data so you can make adjustments to exposure or color balance without detriment when using a software developer, like the popular Adobe Lightroom CC that we use as a Raw converter. With default settings applied, the RX10's images show very strong detail through ISO 1600. Grain becomes evident at ISO 3200, and does detract slightly from photos, but Raw shooters should still feel comfortable pushing the camera that far. Noise is more of an issue at ISO 6400 and 12800, but Raw output is much stronger than JPG at those extreme ISOs. You'll notice that the Raw images from our test scene don't have quite the same punchy contrast as JPGs. That's the way Lightroom renders them without making any adjustments; you can always tune development settings to give images the look that you desire.

Distortion and uneven illumination are two other things we look at when testing lenses. The RX10 III's zoom doesn't show any noticeable distortion when shooting in JPG or Raw format. There is undoubtedly some in-camera correction going on, but we're more interested in the finished dish, not the recipe or cooking technique. The same goes for illumination—it's acceptably even throughout the frame, even at the corners of wide-angle images.

VideoAs strong as the RX10 III is as a still camera, it's equally as formidable when capturing moving images. It can roll footage at 4K resolution, at 24 or 30fps, compressed using XAVC S 4K at a 100Mbps bit rate. You can also record HD video at 24, 30, 60, or 120fps, also using XAVC at 50Mbps for the three more modest frame rates and your choice of 60 or 100Mbps when recording at 120fps.

Video quality is simply outstanding. Details are crisp and the autofocus system smoothly adjusts focus as the scene changes. The internal mic pics up voices with clarity, but is also prone to recording background noise, including fans in a small room and wind outdoors. Serious videographers will want to invest in an external microphone. One downside to video recording is the lack of an in-lens neutral density (ND) filter. Both previous versions of the RX10 included one, which cut incoming light out so you can more easily shoot using proper shutter angles at wide apertures. Videographers will have to go back to old-school 72mm front filters to apply ND.

Image stabilization is key to steady handheld video. This is one area where the RX10 III doesn't maximize its potential. When zoomed all the way in, handheld footage has a shaky quality to it. It can be minimized by bracing yourself against a wall (or sitting down while shooting), or using a camera support like a tripod or monopod. When you aren't zoomed to the extreme, the in-camera stabilization system does a fine job keeping handheld footage steady.

The RX10 III also supports in-camera slow-motion video. Sony calls this High Frame Rate (HFR) and offers several different levels of slow-down, ranging from one-quarter speed playback (4x slow-motion) all the way to 40x slow-motion. You can vary the frame rate (240fps, 480fps, and 960fps are available) and playback rate (24, 30, and 60fps), as well as choose between Quality Priority and Shoot Time Priority—the former slows two seconds of footage and the latter four seconds.

Recording HFR isn't a one-button process; it requires some care and attention to detail. When you engage the setting on the Mode dial you'll want to find a subject and allow the camera to lock focus. Once that's done, you can hit the center button on the rear dial to start buffering the slow-motion footage. When you're ready to record a clip, simply press the Record button and it will capture the clip, and then convert it to slow-motion. The conversion process occurs in roughly real-time; 8-seconds for a quarter-speed clip and close to 1.5 minutes for one shot at 1/40th speed.

It can be tricky to capture the right moment, but the RX10 III gives you the option of starting the slow-motion recording when you hit record, or using the button press to go back in time and grab the last two or four seconds (depending on settings). The overall quality of the slowed down video is quite strong at 240fps and 480fps, but does lose some fidelity when pushed all the way to 960fps.

ConclusionsThe Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 III doesn't have the longest zoom lens of any camera that we've tested, but it delivers the best image quality, focus speed, and video capabilities of any camera that covers its zoom range. You can opt for models with longer zooms and smaller sensors, like the Nikon Coolpix P900, which zooms to an insane 2,000mm, or the excellent Canon PowerShot SX60 HS with its 50x lens if your needs exceed that of a 600mm zoom.

But for most photographers, that's not the case—the 600mm field of view is plenty long. Not only does the RX10 III achieve that level of telephoto reach, it does so with a lens that stays open to f/4, focuses quickly, and captures sharp images throughout the range. A tough body with a magnesium chassis and resistance to dust and splashes, along with Wi-Fi for easy image sharing, combined with its marvel of a lens, make it the perfect travel camera. You won't need to reach into the bag to change lenses, and you can just as easily record 4K video as you can capture crisp still images.

The only problem is the price. For many casual shooters—especially those who buy an entry-level SLR and never move beyond the included zoom lens—the RX10 III is a camera that would far better serve their needs. But those aren't the folks who are going to spend $1,500 on a camera. The RX10 III is priced at a level where it's likely going to be a secondary camera for SLR owners who want the convenience of a long zoom design, and don't want to skimp on image quality. It's a phenomenal camera, and one that earns our Editors' Choice nod for premium superzooms.

If the price is too hard for you to swallow, consider the Panasonic FZ1000 as an alternative; its zoom is ample, reaching 400mm, and it shoots 4K video, but its build quality is not on the same level as the Sony. There's also the original RX10, which sells for about half the price of the RX10 III, end earned an Editors' Choice nod when it was released—but its zoom lens is a comparatively short 24-200mm design.

www.pcmag.com

Sony RX10 II vs Sony RX10 III

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Differences

Sony RX10 II advantages over Sony RX10 III

  • $998 vs $1298 Save money for lenses or accessories
  • 531 vs 472 iso Take photos in low light with less noise
  • Yes vs No Shoot in daylight with a large aperture or slow shutter

Sony RX10 III advantages over Sony RX10 II

  • f/2.4 vs f/2.8 Take photos in low-light or isolate your subject
  • More telephoto lens reach 600 mm vs 200 mm Capture objects farther away

Similarities

Common Strengths

  • Both provide Your camera will highlight what's in focus
  • Both provide You'll be able to frame photos even when the sun is out
  • In-Camera Image Stabilization Both provide Reduces the effects of camera shake at slower shutter speeds
  • Both provide Make sure you have a fast computer
  • Both provide Stitches multiple shots into a panoramic photo
  • Both provide Tilt the screen for shooting flexbility
  • Both provide Gives you more flexibility to develop your photos later
  • Both provide Share your photos wirelessly
  • Both provide Simplifies pairing your camera with supported phones
  • Both provide Useful in a pinch for fill flash
  • Both provide AF is for the weak. Real photographers focus manually.
  • Both provide Check settings with a screen on top of the camera
  • Both provide Improved sound fidelity when shooting video
  • Both provide Use HDMI output to monitor or review video
  • Both provide Off-camera flashes open new possibilities
  • Both provide Hold the shutter open manually for long exposures
  • Both provide

Common Weaknesses

  • Neither provide Tilt and swivel the screen for maximum shooting flexibility
  • Neither provide Interact with your camera just like your smartphone
  • Neither provide Always-on wireless connectivity
  • Neither provide
  • Neither provide Usually improves live view and video AF performance

User reviews

Buy From

Review Excerpt

The Competition

www.imaging-resource.com

Sony RX10 III Review | Photography Blog

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.

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.

Pop-up Flash

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.

Next Page Image Quality »

www.photographyblog.com

Sony Cyber-shot RX10 III review

The Sony RX10 III was announced in March this year, less than a year after the RX10 II which, according to Sony, the new camera doesn't replace. The most noticeable difference is the inclusion of a variable aperture (f/2.4-4) mega zoom lens, with a reach of 600mm (25x optical and 100x digital zoom), and with this comes a substantial increase in size and weight.

[Update: The RX10 III has been replaced by the RX10 IV, which brings a host of improvements, most notably the increase to 24fps burst shooting and an improved AF system. The core features - including the design and built-in 24-600mm lens remain the same though.]

Like the RX10 II, the RX10 III is aimed at the serious enthusiast end of the market – photographers looking for ultimate image quality and telephoto reach in a bridge-style package.

Features

  • 1.0-inch CMOS sensor, 20.1MP
  • 24-600mm f/2.4-4 zoom lens
  • 4K video capture

The RX10 III has the same 20.1MP 1-inch stacked Exmor CMOS sensor, and offers the same excellent 4K video functionality, as the RX10 II. In fact most features and functions are identical, and the main talking point is the large and impressive Zeiss 24-600mm lens. Only the Canon Powershot G3 X has the same reach, if we compare other bridge cameras with 1-inch sensors, with the much older Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 only going to 400mm.

Sensor: 20.1MP 1-inch Exmor RS CMOS sensor

Lens: 24-600mm f/2.4-4 

Screen: 3.0-inch tilt-angle screen, 1,288,800 dots 

Viewfinder: EVF with a 2.36-million-dot resolution

Burst shooting: 14fps 

Autofocus: 25-point contrast-detect AF 

Video: 4K

Connectivity: Wi-Fi and NFC

Battery life: up to 420 shots 

Weight: 1,095g

The variable aperture of f/2.4-4 still makes this a pretty fast lens, certainly compared to the competition, and it boasts hugely impressive minimum focusing distances of 3cm at the wide end and 72cm at the long end.

As with other Sony compact and bridge cameras, a large range of shooting options and photo modes are included, with 3:2, 4:3, 16:9 and 1:1 formats for both raw and JPEG images. Maximum resolution is 5472 x 3648 pixels in its native 3:2 format. Sensitivity ranges from ISO100-12,800, expandable to ISO64-25,600.

Single shot autofocus (AFS), continuous (AFC), direct manual focus (DMF) and full manual focus (MF) are available, with Sony's very effective focus magnification and focus peaking options making the latter easy to use.

The EVF and tilting rear LCD are both high quality; the latter isn't a touchscreen, but unless you're using the camera on a tripod a touchscreen wouldn't be particularly practical given the size and weight of the camera.

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There's no getting around the bulk of the Sony RX10 III. It's very well made and comfortable in the hand, but I suspect many more casual users will be deterred by its size (and price) and, if they want such long telephoto reach, may opt instead for the Canon Powershot G3 X or possibly the Panasonic Lumix FZ330/ FZ300, which has a smaller sensor but also offers 4K shooting, and impressed us last year. The Canon suffers from a slower lens and no included EVF by comparison, but the Lumix FZ330/ FZ300 does benefit from a constant f/2.8 aperture, albeit with a much smaller sensor.

However, if you want the ultimate image quality in a bridge camera, it's hard to look beyond the class-leading performance of the RX10 III's Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens, and I'm sure enthusiasts looking for more reach and a highly specified camera will be attracted to this. Whether they'll be prepared to pay the £1,250 ($1,500, AU£2,150) price tag is another matter. That price is likely to fall post-launch, but at the moment it's around double the cost of both the G3 X and the Lumix FZ1000 (the Lumix FZ330/ FZ300 is cheaper again). That said the RX10 III is in a league of its own in some respects, so it's likely to find a market, albeit a niche one.

  • The 10 best bridge cameras you can buy right now 

www.techradar.com

Sony RX10 vs Sony RX10 III

Buy From

Differences

Sony RX10 advantages over Sony RX10 III

  • $698 vs $1298 Save money for lenses or accessories
  • Yes vs No Shoot in daylight with a large aperture or slow shutter
  • 832g vs 1095g

Sony RX10 III advantages over Sony RX10

  • 4K (UHD) vs 1080p Make sure you have a fast computer
  • f/2.4 vs f/2.8 Take photos in low-light or isolate your subject
  • More telephoto lens reach 600 mm vs 200 mm Capture objects farther away
  • 3 years vs 6 years old Newer cameras often support more advanced features
  • 14.2 fps vs 10.0 fps Faster JPEG shooting (burst mode)
  • 44 vs 21 shots Take more JPEG shots before waiting (burst mode)
  • 8.0 fps vs 6.5 fps Faster RAW shooting in burst mode
  • 29 vs 10 shots Larger buffer for RAW shots (burst mode)
  • Yes vs No
  • 1/32000 vs 1/3200 sec Shoot wide open in bright light

Similarities

Common Strengths

  • Both provide Your camera will highlight what's in focus
  • Both provide You'll be able to frame photos even when the sun is out
  • In-Camera Image Stabilization Both provide Reduces the effects of camera shake at slower shutter speeds
  • Both provide Stitches multiple shots into a panoramic photo
  • Both provide Tilt the screen for shooting flexbility
  • Both provide Gives you more flexibility to develop your photos later
  • Both provide Share your photos wirelessly
  • Both provide Simplifies pairing your camera with supported phones
  • Both provide Useful in a pinch for fill flash
  • Both provide AF is for the weak. Real photographers focus manually.
  • Both provide Check settings with a screen on top of the camera
  • Both provide Improved sound fidelity when shooting video
  • Both provide Use HDMI output to monitor or review video
  • Both provide Off-camera flashes open new possibilities
  • Both provide Hold the shutter open manually for long exposures

Common Weaknesses

  • Neither provide Tilt and swivel the screen for maximum shooting flexibility
  • Neither provide Interact with your camera just like your smartphone
  • Neither provide Always-on wireless connectivity
  • Neither provide
  • Neither provide Usually improves live view and video AF performance

User reviews

Buy From

Review Excerpt

The Competition

www.imaging-resource.com


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