When I booked an adventurous journey through Tibet in 2013, I abandoned my comfort zone and decided to bring along only one camera: the Sony RX100 II. I was somewhat reluctant to let go of my trusted Fuji mirrorless camera system, however, both during that trip and afterward, I didn’t regret my decision for one second. You can still check out that review here: One Month In Tibet With The Sony RX100 II.
Last summer, Sony announced its successor, the RX100 III. The previous model is still very suitable as a travel camera. However, Sony introduced a number of interesting new features. On the other hand, it’s regrettable that some issues weren’t solved, and several useful features are still missing.
– 20.2 megapixel 1″ (13,2 x 8,8 mm) Exmor-R Backlit CMOS sensor
– Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens (equivalent 24-70mm F1.8 – F2.8)
– ISO 125 to 12800 (expandable to ISO 80/100)
– Exposure compensation +/- 3.0 EV, 1/3 EV step
– Flash compensation +/- 3.0 EV, 1/3 EV step
– Customizable buttons
– Built-in pop-up flash
– Built-in OLED Tru-Finder electronic viewfinder (EVF)
– 3 stops neutral density filter
– 1080/50p/25p and 720/100p Full HD movie recording (XAVC S, AVCHD, MP4)
– 180° tiltable 3 inch 1.229 million dot WhiteMagic LCD screen
– Wi-fi & NFC (Near Field Communication)
Most notable differences with the RX100 II
– Full HD movie recording using the format XAVC-S. Note: to use this format, you need an SDXC memory card. If you don’t, you can’t activate this option.
– The LCD screen is 180° tiltable which is very useful for making selfies.
– Built-in electronic viewfinder.
– New lens with an equivalent field of view of 24-70mm F1.8 – F2.8
– The hot shoe has disappeared.
Like the previous model, you can customize a number of keys in order to make frequently used functions accessed more quickly. Below you’ll find my personal settings.
– At the Control Ring in front of the camera, I have assigned the ISO function. I use Auto ISO most of the time, but in those few occasions I prefer to use a fixed value, I can set it easily through the Control Ring.
– When working with Aperture Priority (A), you can turn the Control Wheel at the back to change the aperture. If you choose to work manually (M), you can set both aperture and shutter speed using the Control Wheel. By pressing the lower key you can switch between the aperture and shutter speed. An icon shows on screen shows which function is currently active.
– The lower button on the Control Wheel is not programmable. Exposure compensation is set by default.
– By pressing the right button on the Control Wheel, I can change the flash mode. By pressing the left button, I can adjust the flash exposure compensation.
– C-button: Focus Area
– A maximum of 12 functions can be registered underneath the Function Button (Fn) (see image below).
Using a smartphone
The Sony PlayMemories App is available on both iOS and Android. This app allows you to transfer images wirelessly from your camera to the phone. This feature works pretty good. No complaints here.
Installing apps on the camera can be done via your desktop computer, or directly through the camera by connecting to your wireless home network. However, you need an account at Sony Entertainment Network. Some of these apps are free, while others cost. Prices vary between €4,99 and €9,99.
The remote app allows you to control the camera via the smartphone, although the options are rather limited. The image sent to my iPhone 4S shows delays. I suppose this has to do with the outdated hardware of the iPhone. When I operate the camera from my new Android-based smartphone, there are no delays.
Despite the fact that my new smartphone holds Near Field Communication, I couldn’t get this function operational, no matter what I tried.
What I Like
– Very straightforward and easy to operate. I was already familiar with the Sony RX1 and RX100 II, so it didn’t take long before I got to know the camera, as operation and menus are very similar.
– Light and compact design.
– Like its predecessor, the Sony RX100 III features a tiltable LCD display allowing you to tilt the screen not only upwards or downwards, but now also at 180° which comes in very handy to make selfies.
– Surprisingly, the battery life span is pretty good. I could easily shoot up to 300 images before the low-battery-indicator blinked. Make sure you carry one or two spare batteries to make it through the day.
– Good quality at high ISO. Very usable up to ISO 1600 and even up to 3200 if carefully exposed.
– Reliable and fast autofocus when used in normal lighting conditions.
– Excellent image quality when used in normal lighting conditions.
– Customizable buttons: Control Ring (front), some buttons on the Control Wheel, the C-button, and you can assign up to 12 different functions to the Fn button.
– Although the RX100 III lacks a dedicated dial for exposure compensation, it never felt like a great loss. By default, exposure compensation is assigned to the bottom button of the control wheel. Operating this button while using the camera went quite smoothly.
– The built-in pop-up flash can be positioned upwards using your finger, allowing you to modify the angle of light. The position of the flash cannot be locked.
– The built-in pop-up flash is not very powerful, but more than adequate for portraits at a short distance.
– Built-in 3 stops neutral density filter
– Built-in OLED electronic viewfinder offers a very good quality. The delay in the viewfinder remains limited. Expect no viewfinder like the Fujifilm X-T1, but the viewfinder is certainly perfectly usable.
What I Don’t Like
– The camera became slightly larger. But despite its small size, the camera doesn’t fit easily in your pocket. It’s possible, but it doesn’t feel very comfortable.
– The LCD screen is hard to use in bright daylight.
– Still not a touchscreen.
– No built-in GPS or timelapse.
– The battery has to be charged while in the camera. There is no separate battery charger included. You have to buy one separately.
– Operating the Control Ring was somehow cumbersome. It didn’t turn very smoothly. I haven’t used it very long, as most of the functions I needed could be assigned to other buttons.
– Heavy price tag for a compact camera.
– Apparently, the built-in electronic viewfinder is hardly useable for those who wear glasses. I can’t judge if this statement is correct as I don’t wear glasses myself.
Room for improvements
Some ‘minor’ issues can easily be fixed with a firmware update.
– When pushing in the electronic viewfinder, the camera shuts down instead of reactivating the LCD screen.
– When your memory card contains large video files or lots of photos, the camera has a slower startup. It sometimes takes about ten seconds before all information is displayed on the LCD screen. With a formatted card, all settings are loaded instantly.
– When in playback mode, the file name isn’t shown.
– Scrolling through the menus can only be done vertically. If you want to scroll horizontally, you have to use the left or right button which is rather awkward. On the previous model you could scroll through all menus very quickly just by spinning the Control Wheel.
– There is no indication as to whether the camera is writing onto the memory card.
– Protect Images is a rather time-consuming process with too many buttons that have to be pushed.
– Auto ISO doesn’t let you set a minimum shutter speed.
To Upgrade or Not To Upgrade?
Remarkably, the previous models are still available in Sony’s online store. It proves that the RX100-series has been a huge success from the start. In a market segment where cameras featuring an 1″ sensor are becoming more popular and more established, I suppose it’s a very wise decision and a well-considered marketing strategy from Sony to sell these previous models at a lower price.
I never tested the very first model, which was introduced almost three years ago. In my opinion, you can’t go wrong when you want to upgrade from this model. Upgrading from the previous model is a more difficult decision to make. It all depends if you purchased accessories for mounting on the hotshoe (for example a flash or an optional viewfinder). Beware: on the latest model the hotshoe has been removed, i.e. you can no longer use these accessories. If you don’t have any of these, you have to consider for yourself whether the new features are worthy of an update, considering the higher price tag.
In this market segment, the RX100 III has to cope with an increased competition. Nowadays consumers can choose from a long list of similar cameras offering almost identical qualifications. If you are looking for a compact (travel) camera that generally offers very good performance, and if you are also prepared to pay the premium price of €849, the Sony RX100 III is definitely highly recommended.