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|Photographer's Guide to the Sony DSC-RX10 III: Getting the Most from Sony's Advanced Digital Camera
by Alexander S. White
Now, nothing is beyond reach. Aim for more dramatic stills and movies from wide-angle to ultra-telephoto. The 24-600mm1 (25x) ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T lens offers a bright F2.4-4 max aperture that can take full advantage of the large 1” 20.1 MP image sensor. See subjects stand out beautifully in all kinds of scenes from wide-angle landscapes to ultra-telephoto sports action. *Clear Image Zoom (Still Image):Approx. 50x (including Optical Zoom). *Digital Zoom:Approx. 100x (including Optical Zoom) 2.
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242 of 252 people found the following review helpful.
The decathlete of digital cameras?
By D. F. Watt
This is a somewhat revised review based on an additional month or more of experience with this camera. This is my seventh Sony digital camera (Sony Alpha 55/65/99/77ii) and my third RX model (after owning and loving both the RX1 & RX100III). So you could say I’m biased, or alternatively, pretty comfortable with Sony products and operating systems. There is little question that Sony is at the head of the class in designing sensors for digital cameras, and they lead if not dominate the sensor market, all the way from cell phones to medium format and virtually everything in between. On the other hand, there have been times when users might readily question whether they have clearly moved past simply making great sensors to creating great cameras and great camera systems. The latter takes a very different set of technical skills from the former.
Opinions on this vary of course, but I believe that their recent products suggest that Sony continues to learn, evolve, and improve their grasp of what it takes to create a great camera (and system) beyond simply a great sensor. This latest effort is overall most impressive, with only a few caveats and minor problems. Indeed, if you could carry only one camera with one lens with you on a long trip and were not constrained to carry something that would fit just in your pocket, I cannot imagine a better choice for an enormous variety of shooting situations, for both video and stills. It’s the digital photography equivalent of a brilliantly balanced decathlete, who can’t really challenge the best in the world at the glamour events of sprinting (analogously, not as good as FF professional equipment in stills photography where their DR and low light S/N performance is clearly way better), but whose overall excellence and versatility is very tough to equal. And in good light, it’s capable of taking excellent still images, and simply stunning video. Its video is leagues better than virtually any professional full frame stills camera, excepting the Sony A7Rii/ASii (two models that can equal it in the HD and 4k video department). It offers very high quality video in both more traditional 1080p as well as newer 4K modes, and excellent still photography image quality, as long as you stay under ISO 800 (and frankly ISO 400 is a reasonable limit if you’re shooting JPEGs and want fairly clean images). The lens provides an enormous range of view angles from wide-angle to super telephoto plus a macro ability at 600mm, and with generally excellent optical quality. The lens itself a technological tour de force, and recent formal testing suggests that it is sharper at least most of the time than the lens on the competing Panasonic FZ 1000 as well as perhaps slightly sharper than the fine lens on the RX10 Mark 2. The lens alone might be almost worth the purchase price, as there’s nothing like it available on larger APS-C or full frame sensors. Its optical quality easily exceeds the nearest APS-C competition, the recently released 16-300 Tamron, which has only ¾ the reach, and is not nearly as fast, and that lens is not remotely as sharp all the way out (at a 450mm equivalent view) as this lens is at 600mm equiv. view. Of course, it’s not a fair comparison, as smaller sensors allow the construction of lenses that would simply be huge (and hugely expensive), on larger sensors. Still, with all these qualifications, it’s a very impressive lens. I would argue based on recent testing (see the DPR and IR reviews) that it’s the best 24-600 anyone has built up to this point in time (and it’s in another league from the only other 24-600 on a 1” sensor, the lens on the Canon G3x).
For those unfamiliar with the RX10 line, some history might be useful. The original Sony RX 10 Mark 1 came out with basically the same operating system and sensor as the hugely successful, much more compact Sony RX100, but with a significantly larger and faster and more versatile 24-200 2.8 lens, and a correspondingly larger form factor. Features on that groundbreaking first model included:
20.9 MP 1”-type Exmor R CMOS sensor with BSI construction
24-200mm equivalent F2.8 lens with optical image stabilization
Up to 10 FPS continuous shooting
ISO 125 - 12800 (expandable to ISO 80)
3” tiltable LCD with 1,228,000 dots
Built-in 1.44M dot electronic viewfinder
1080 60p/24p HD video with full exposure control (MPEG-4/AVCHD)
Built-in flash and expandable Smart Accessory Shoe for system accessories
Eye AF function detects and focuses on a subject’s eye
Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC for sharing and remote camera control
Bright F2.8 Zeiss Vario Sonnar T* Lens (24-200mm)
Fast AF thanks to new “BIONZ X” processing engine (but using CDAF instead of on-sensor PDAF).
It easily garnered a Gold Award from DP Review, but it was rather expensive on release, at $1300, although it has now dropped significantly to only $800, less than two thirds that price. It was fairly successful commercially, although its high price made it less attractive than its closest large sensor compact rival the Panasonic FZ 1000 (which used the same Sony sensor as the RX10), but which sported a lens that went twice as long to 400 mm, even if not a constant f2.8 – and it offered in body 4K, two very significant advantages, all for a $300 lower price. It generally looked like clearly the better value, and was rated slightly higher on DPR, also easily garnering a Gold Award.
Sony was clearly not content to rest on this first benchmark, and knew that they needed to up their game in view of Panasonic’s impressive offering in the FZ 1000. That original model RX10, released in early 2014, was updated early last year in the RX10 Mark 2, which provided all of the previously mentioned features plus some very significant upgrades, centered around a ‘stacked’ sensor, with very fast data readout enabled by the layered sensor construction, allowing extremely high frame rates, up to 960 FPS in slightly down-rezed HD, along with now being able to do in-body 4K recording (finally!), and gaining a useful bump in continuous shooting from 10 frames per second to 14 frames per second (but with AF locked from the first frame). Sony has chosen (at least so far) not to sell this new sensor to the competition, so there are no directly competing compact larger sensor compacts from Canon, Nikon, or Panasonic (unclear what the sensor is in the new Nikon DL 24-500 which is late arriving to market due to production problems in Japan but it’s not likely a Sony sensor). In any case, this seems to parallel their new-found reluctance to sell their state-of-the-art full frame 42 megapixel BSI sensor to Nikon. Perhaps they’ve decided that when they have a technological advantage, they’re no longer going to give it away, even at a premium cost, to the competition. Perhaps long overdue?
Both of those predecessor RX 10 (I/II) models are still available, so the RX 10 Mark 3 is intended to be their ‘big brother’, taking all of the advances in the Mark 2 and adding the impressive 24-600 f 2.4-4.0 Zeiss lens. The weight penalty from the 3x longer telephoto reach increases only modestly from 849g to 1095g (both weights w/batteries). This creates essentially a super-zoom ‘bridge camera’, but with a significantly larger sensor than that class of camera has traditionally contained. And while it can’t compete with the truly ridiculous 83x optical zoom of the Nikon P900, its 24x zoom exceeds anything currently available on the 1” Sony sensor. Given that the newest version of this exceptional sensor is still only available currently in Sony products, this means that these cameras are without real peers – although there is now more competition with several more compact travel zooms from both Canon and Panasonic using an earlier version of the 1 inch Sony sensor in addition to the aforementioned Panasonic FZ 1000 – but nothing remotely as fast as this lens. Additionally, initial testing suggests that this lens is significantly sharper than the lens on the Panasonic FZ 1000.
So . . . . how does it function? Overall, I’d have to say exceptionally well, although it’s not perfect, and its autofocus system is still a LARGE step down from the best PDAF systems, particularly in low light, and, like its predecessors, the price of admission is steep. Then again, there’s nothing quite like it, and although it will clearly not take the place of full frame or even APS-C equipment, in low light, or for shooting wildlife or sports at the highest possible image quality with long telephoto primes, it offers a set of functional competencies in a single package that are extraordinary, even when you have to take into consideration its rather steep price. You get what you pay for here. I would say that if you weigh still image and video image quality equally, it’s the best camera I’ve ever had, and the best on the market for under $3k – and only bested by the likes of the Sony A7Rii and A7Sii, but not on the video side, only on the still image side.
The photographs at the end of the review show the RX10iii compared to an APS-C semipro a77ii body with a Sony 70-400 G2 lens offering comparable telephoto reach. Although that big and heavy combination (costing nearly $3000 or twice the cost of the Sony RX 10iii) clearly takes better pictures as ISO drifts past 800, or when autofocus demands are particularly challenging, in bright light and when the target is not challenging the CDAF, there is little to separate this camera from an expensive APS-C rig costing twice as much and weighing almost three times as much. Additionally, when I’m using the RX10iii and taking advantage of the ~ one stop faster lens aperture, and the two stops better OIS, I can undercut the ISO of a larger ILC by two stops at least, where the 1” sensor is now less noisy than the sensor in the A77ii. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that this camera can replace APS-C let alone full frame equipment for taking the best possible picture, particularly in challenging light, but I am impressed with how close it can get in good light and where the autofocus system is not unduly challenged. And the 4k video is so good, when displayed on a 4k set that has been properly adjusted and calibrated, that it will take your breath away. It’s like looking through a window onto the subject matter. And the audio is excellent to boot. If you love video, don’t mind getting bigger hard drives, and like a ‘single solution’ that avoids all lens switching hassles (and lots of other hassles too associated with that big bag of gear you’ve been toting for years), buy one. If you’re not sure, rent one. It will likely win you over in short order.
1) Extraordinary ‘stacked’ BSI 1 inch sensor with exceptional versatility, capable of 4K video in body, high resolution 20 megapixel stills, variable high frame rate video up to 960 FPS, an overall package of capabilities currently unmatched by any single system in the digital photography world.
2) Customizable menu and operating system, with high degree of menu organization overlap with other Sony cameras (but see cons). You can customize this to the moon, in terms of several custom buttons, and multiple settings, such as whether aperture ring has click stops or smooth action.
3) Overall very good photo IQ quality, with decent lowlight ability. Good JPEGs to ISO 400-800, and usable RAW to 1600, and perhaps even to 3200 for smaller prints and web postings – losing ~ 1.5 stops in low light ability compared to the Sony A6300 which is competitive with the best APS-C bodies, and about 2.5-3 stops compared to full frame.
4) Remarkable 24-600 f2.4-4 lens that has very few weaknesses (but see cons). Sharp, contrasty, and with variable speed zooming action. Capable of minimal focusing distance of 2.3 feet, essentially making it a .4x macro lens at 600 mm.
5) Exceptional video, rivaling professional 4K equipment, and excellent sharpness and definition with minimal moiré at both 4K and 1080p. Many advanced video features including various S log profiles, focus peaking, flat picture profile, etc. Possibly an even better video cam than still cam?
6) Decent autofocus – certainly a step down from the A77II, but not nearly as bad as several reviews have suggested (but see cons). In good light, AF is reasonably fast and accurate. And given the CDAF on-sensor, no endless fiddling with MFA (I dislike dealing with MFA on cameras with traditional separate dedicated PDAF arrays).
7) Excellent EVF, fully the equal of the unit on the A77ii, bright, contrasty, fast, and very sharp. Image stabilized (even more so than the A77ii which also sports this feature, given virtue #8). You get to see exactly what the picture is going to look like before you shoot it. After you’ve used a first rate EVF, OVFs seem quite primitive and confining.
8) Highly effective IS worth ~ 4-5 stops. This is significantly improved from the previous model. I have taken many shots at 1/10 sec (!) exposure (on non-moving subjects) at 600mm equiv. view and had many of them be quite sharp. Significantly mitigates noisier 1 inch sensor, and allows you to shoot at lower ISOs (can typically beat ISO of a Sony A77ii which has a less effective IBIS by two stops).
9) Both zoom and focus rings are now on the lens barrel, and can be customized in terms of placement (either ring can be assigned to zoom or focus) and lens zoom speed is nicely variable – but see cons.
10) Video IS has options for modes that offer very impressive stabilization, at least in 1080p (if not in 4k).
11) Excellent, if not remarkable, remote control software, in form of numerous apps. Apps can be activated easily from a custom button, allowing, for example, total smart phone remote control, time lapse, star trails, or special portrait face processing, among the many useful Sony app store apps.
1) Weight and balance. Not only is this significantly heavier than the RX 10II, but it’s a bit front heavy with the lens.
2) Menu system – many have commented on the top heavy and cumbersome nature of the Sony operating system where you often have to do a lot of menu diving. Somewhat offset by the highly accessible Function menu, which gives you easy access to your most frequently changed settings, and by the highly customizable buttons.
3) Not the camera for sports action junkies. Continuous autofocus is disappointing if you’re coming from dedicated PDAF arrays and it’s a large step down from the Sony A77II, and other large bodied cameras with excellent PDAF.
4) Clearly struggles a bit with autofocus in low light - one suspects the next generation will have PDAF or perhaps hybrid PDAF-CDAF. Takes significantly longer to achieve AF lock in dimly lit indoor scenes, and you often times have to hunt for a high contrast edge. PDAF is likely in line for the RX10M4?
5) Lack of a touchscreen is a deficit for some, although not for this user. However this is a consistent complaint in reviews (including no doubt in the upcoming DPR review).
6) As a minor ergonomic gripe, the back control buttons are virtually flat with the surface instead of more raised up, making simple tactile location and control more challenging and requiring more focused attention.
7) The focus and zoom ring control systems are both fly-by-wire systems, and lack any version of tactile feedback or immediacy.
8) Video IS during 4k is limited to the least effective (but still decent) base IS mode (presumably limited to prevent overheating).
9) As minor gripe, deleting images on smartphone not allowed from smartphone.
10) As another minor gripe, lens retraction is automatic after a minute or so of inactivity (configurable as a menu item?).
Pros and Cons Relative to the Panasonic FZ 1000
Pros (Relative to the Sony)
Way cheaper (basically half the cost)
Faster Autofocus (DFD is excellent)
Less turgid menu structure?
Cons (Relative to the Sony)
Not nearly as much reach (400mm vs. 600mm)
Lens not a sharp or as fast (Sony is f4 at long end)
Sony has better build quality and is weather resistant
Sony may have 4k IQ advantage
Sony may have a JPEG engine advantage
The well-informed reader will note that both the Panasonic FZ 2500 and the Nikon DL 24-500 are conspicuous by their absence, as these are both still unavailable, and the Nikon is looking like it's not going to be available any time soon, whereas the FZ 2500 is supposedly shipping in November. It's likely that the new Panasonic model will continue to autofocus faster than the RX10iii, with Panasonic's excellent Depth-from-Defocus algorithms. However it's unlikely that the lens, even though they've extended it to 480mm, will be fully the equal of the 24-600 F2.4-4 in terms of sharpness, and it certainly isn't as fast at the long end, but getting within half a stop of the Sony at 480 (f4.5 vs.f4). The FZ 2500 however it does have a very video-centric operating system, and it's possible that with all the upgrades that it equals or perhaps even slightly exceeds the RX10iii in the 4k video department - and most regard the current 4K video coming from the FZ 1000 as perhaps not quite fully the equal of the 4K coming from the Sony RX10M3. The Nikon DL 24-500 has the advantage of a hybrid autofocus system phase detection on chip which is likely to offer faster autofocus than the simpler contrast detection method on the Sony, but nobody's actually seen one of these cameras, or tested one, so who knows. The DL is also supposed to offer high frame rate video, but the lens is neither as long nor as fast as the Sony's. On the other hand, both the new Panasonic FZ 2500 ($1200) and the Nikon DL ($1000) are going to significantly undercut the price of the Sony RX10M3, which should put some downward price pressure on the Sony model. Competition is after all good for the consumer and prices. Right now, as of the first week in October, this camera still doesn't really have any true competition as neither the Nikon DL 24-500 or the new Panasonic FZ 2000/2500 have even been tested by the digital photography press – And right now they're both unavailable. For those with smaller budgets, both the Panasonic FZ1000 and the Sony RX10M2 remain the most attractive options.
In any case, I’m finding far more to like than dislike as I get to know the camera and its systems - I'm now in my fourth month of ownership. As a neat bonus for those with other Sony cams, you can simply drop your SD card from an RX100 or other Sony product into this and go, and your photos and videos across different bodies appear in a neat chronological order when reviewing, and in their normal folder (as long as you don’t stray from the default folder assignments). I’m finding this a big plus and highly convenient, as I can rotate the SD card from body to body, depending on what I’m shooting. While I can’t review or magnify photos from an A77ii or RX1 (due to the larger image dimensions?), I can still see them in the viewfinder, and all RX100 photos can be conventionally magnified and manipulated. As another neat bonus, there are a huge number of useful apps, although not cheap, with many of them $10, at Sony app store (but some are $5 and some are free). Some are potentially very useful for specialized shooting situations: Star Trails and Time Lapse apps, a super-bracketing app, a Sky ultra-high HDR app, and both sync to smartphone and smart remote control apps (both free). While some of these may strike some users as gimmicky, the results so far suggest the apps are quite effective at what they do. In fact, the remote control app that works both for this model and various RX 100 iterations is possibly the best in its class, and allows you to control many shooting parameters from a smartphone remotely. When shooting on a tripod, it's really quite useful. It allows super-stealthy shutter activations (as far as 30 ft. away from the camera) without any chance of moving the camera when you press the shutter button. Don’t leave home without it. I have gotten some amazing wildlife picture using the smartphone remote app from inside the house, while the camera and tripod are outside.
I’m impressed with the fundamental truth of the old aphorism – “it’s all trade-offs”. While this camera comes close to excelling at everything, there are still important compromises that you must appreciate: this camera trades off some weight and slightly more compact size against its smaller brother RX-10II, trades off any version of ‘pocketability’ to the RX 100 series, trades off photo (but not video) image quality against bigger APS-C, let alone FF, equipment, and trades off cost against the slightly less capable Panasonic FZ1000 and the minimally less capable RX-10II. You’ll have to decide for yourself what your optimum balance points might be, and how you might trade your favorite virtue against other functional competencies, particularly how much ‘pocketability’ trumps excellence in other areas. Certainly there is little difference in picture quality – if you are shooting at 24-70 mm – between this camera and the much more compact RX-100IV. So for shooting where I simply can’t stand to carry anything even moderately sized, this will not displace the Sony RX100 (I have the M3 version). However, for a ‘single solution,’ encompassing high degrees of competence in relationship to both still photography and videos, and offering an enormous range of focal lengths, it’s hard to find a more balanced athlete than the Sony RX 10 III. There is a reason why is camera is sold out virtually everywhere and often backordered all the way to November . . . demand for this kind of exceptional flexibility and versatility has been running very high ever since its introduction in May. And Sony concedes that they have grossly underestimated the enormous demand for this camera, and they are scrambling to catch up.
99 of 101 people found the following review helpful.
Did not buy on Amazon but wanted to drop a a few notes...
[[VIDEOID:5994386225bc559538104f6dc275deee]]I have not bought the camera on Amazon but I wanted to share a few notes for those whom are interested. I own various DSLRs and mirrorless systems and do occasional professional work. This is a bridge camera that would do 70-80% of what a fully kitted pro system with multiple lenses can do with a zoom reach hard to beat without a decent money spent. I also own FZ1000, used and liked it extensively but was not fully pleased with the image quality (mostly noise and sharpness) either in RAW or JPEG formats. I found the images shot on RX10 iii much clear and sharp without post processing. On video quality, please note HFR (High Frame Rate) modes up to 1000fps does NOT shoot in 4k, it shoots 1080p but very with very pleasing results. One key difference from RX10 ii is that RX10 iii does NOT have internal ND filters; in case it is a must for the user it has to be bought separately (72mm thread). I personally found the zoom reach in excess of 400mm to 600mm very useful. For some reason at or near 400mm FZ1000 was lacking contrast deeply, this one does not. Menu system is an acquired taste as any Sony system but with some patience, the camera may be personalised extensively. Focus tracking works fine (not a workhorse for sports shoots but does the trick most of the time) and at high frame rate it works great. Attaching some pictures and a 250fps video. I have added a Hoya CPL to the lens otherwise images and the video are untouched. If you'd like to have any questions, please ask along as I am very pleased with this purchase and at this price point it should answer many needs as a great bridge camera or the 2nd unit for a pro shooter.
99 of 107 people found the following review helpful.
The Sony RX10iii is a remarkable camera that is as good a video camera as it is a still photography camera.
By Kirk Tuck
This is a superb camera the capabilities of which seem to be lost on people who would just judge it as a casual camera. Starting with video: The cameras shoots in UHD 4K video at 100 mbs. The files are sampled at 6K and down sampled to 4K making it very, very sharp. The files are not binned or line skipped; you get a full sensor read for every frame which means, again, sharpness and high image quality. The camera features cinematic profiles, including S-Log-2 and every one of the video profiles can be customized with a wide range of parameters which will be familiar to professional videographers (gamma, black level, knee, etc.). The camera also includes a microphone input and an audio circuit unhampered by AGC (automatic gain control) so you can actually set microphone levels to your taste or set a single point that's be calibrated in conjunction with an off camera mixer or digital audio recorder and then you can use physical control knobs on the mixer to even more effectively set levels.
I have tested the video from the camera I bought (locally) and found it to be superb. I underexposed a little bit (my fault) and I could see some shadow noise start to creep in at ISO 800 but exposed correctly I would feel comfortable shooting up to 1600 for interviews and up to 3200 for images with lots of detail that might hide noise.
Speaking of interviews, the camera also features a headphone jack which will help you get better sound by monitoring. Also included is professional caliber time code and the ability to "mark" your screens with "safe zones" center marks and other guides to composition. In my mind this is a full on, professional video camera and one I will use in conjunction with the previous model to do work with for paying clients.
Now, add to this a full 29.99 minute record time with no over heating and you have the makings of a perfect hybrid camera.
But there's more. The lens is amazing and it delivers everything Sony promises. I have samples on my blog site which show amazing sharpness, handheld, at the 600mm equivalent. Some less well educated reviewers have said that the camera does not really have an f4.0 or f2.4 (at wide) aperture but, of course, they are dead wrong. What they are trying to say is that one does not get the same depth of field flexibility with smaller sensor cameras. That part is true but, rest assured, you are not getting a "slower" lens. f4.0 is f4.0 because it always describes a geometric relationship.
Moving on. The still portion of the camera is on par with the still capabilities of its immediate predecessor; which is to say, Pretty darn good. While it is not a low light monster like a Nikon D750 it does very well with shooting situations that go all the way down to ISO 3200. Is there noise? Of course! But it's not obnoxious unless you underexpose.
There is always negativity about the small Sony battery but I've gotten an hour and ten minutes from a freshly charged battery while shooting video (worst case scenario) and that's just a little shy of what I was getting from a Nikon D810 battery when shooting video with that camera.
Do not buy this camera if you are imagining that it is small and light. It is not. The physics of the lens preclude that. But it feels good in my hands and the extra space on the grip and the overall surface of the camera is welcome.
The still images, especially raws processed in Adobe Camera Raw software are great. At ISOs like 80 and 100 they are amazing. Rich color and great sharpness. This is a camera that WILL require reading the manual but it will repay your time with great photo and video files. If you are looking for a tiny and simple snapshooting camera you have definitely landed on the wrong page.
The camera is a solid value and something I wanted the minute I read the first press releases about it. If you want to read more about my early experiences with the camera please look for my author's page here on Amazon under my user name. There is a feed from my blog and the entries from May 4th and 5th are the ones cogent to this camera.
The images above are handheld and shot from exactly the same location. The first wide shot is the widest focal length while the second image is a shot at the longest end. The image quality delivered at the long end reaffirms the Zeiss reputation. It's a great overall system.