The Sony RX100 Mark III File

While I’m not a friend of miniaturization for the sake of miniaturization — you still have to be able to comfortably hold a camera! — Sony engineers once again cheat physics and make possible what seemed to be science fiction not too long ago. The third edition of the successful RX100 lineup with a new built-in EVC and faster plus wider Zeiss 24-70mm (35mm equivalent) F1.8-2.8 Vario-Sonnar T* is not bigger than most compact P&S cameras, yet the premium Sony RX100 Mark III is packed with a large 20.1MP 1-inch CMOS sensor at its heart, the rear LCD now flips up by up to 180° (new selfie king cam?!), sure thing it has Wi-Fi and video now features a full-sensor readout 1080p stored at up to 50Mbps in the XAVC S format. Add the faster new BIONZ X processor. All this weighing not even 300 grams.

Sony RX100 Mark III
Sony RX100 Mark III

Loved the first RX100 incarnation. Mark I was announced only two years ago. No doubt Sony set a new standard. Now when I heard they gonna pep up the RX100 III (specs) with an electronic viewfinder (a.k.a. battery eater), well I wasn’t too enthusiastic since I tried to like the compact Panasonic LF1 with adjustable electronic viewfinder and Leica glass. Sounds like a match, yet that viewfinder is simply a gimmick and totally not usable. This Sony, however, looks like the perfect pocketable backup camera — knowing Sony they’re more an electronics than optical company. Yet because photography is more and more an electronic affair, Sony enjoys a clear advantage, this OLED viewfinder will certainly deliver.

They invent the pop-up electronic viewfinder. That’s a world’s first and a great addition for people with impaired eyesight. Personally I don’t want and need a built-in viewfinder in a compact camera. A point-and-shoot camera is always a compromise of convenience. You can’t have it all. Yet Sony is trying to get the attention of enthusiast amateurs and pros alike

Not only the new compact king, you can flip that rear LCD 180° upwards, making the Sony RX100 Mark III the perfect selfie cam...
Not only the new compact king, you can flip that rear LCD 180° upwards, making the Sony RX100 Mark III the perfect selfie cam…

And they manage to fit in an ND filter when maximum shutter speed of 1/2,000th of a second isn’t fast enough. Cool. Add the “standard” 24-70mm zoom range. Not an ultra zoom, yet certainly a most promising all-rounder. While the shooting experience with an RX100 needs a bit of familiarization, the Mark III as well can be easily customized.

The things missing is touchscreen and yes, the Mark III loses the flash hot shoe and I wish it was made of metal and if I want a proper viewfinder I buy something bigger with more performance. But in the end photography is always about the optics. The lens is a marvel of optical engineering. It doesn’t extend as far as its predecessor at the long end, however it is a brighter optic which allows an aperture of F2.8 to be used at full telephoto. So much imaging power and versatility for not even $800. Anyone seriously complaining?

+++ You can order the Sony RX100 III from Amazon, B&H Photo, Adorama and Sony Store for $798.

+++ Now what do reviewers and photographers say about this new compact king? Read our definitive, continuously updated Sony RX100 III bringing you all the relevant hands-on reviews and field reports that matter (latest update on top):

Engadget likes the fantastic and costly point-and-shoot:

When Sony launched its first RX100 back in 2012, we were very impressed. The camera offered tremendous functionality in a pocketable package. Then, when the RX100 II came around last year, Sony added WiFi along with a full size hot shoe (which can accommodate high-end audio gear, among other accessories), besting the original model. This year’s iteration is by far the most capable yet, with a superior lens, XAVC S encoding and a unique popup EVF. At $800, it’s a significant investment, particularly within the point-and-shoot category, but if you need a ton of power in your pocket and you don’t mind paying for it, you can’t do any better than this.

Pocket-lint says autofocus ought to be more effective in all lighting, price is high and buttons controls are small, but:

As has always been the case with the RX100 series, the third-generation model does a sterling job when it comes to its images. Indeed it’s the best in the series yet and not just because of its sensor and new Bionz X processor, but because of the new lens.

It’s hard to believe such a small camera can deliver images with such clarity and its results clear many of our minor performance quibbles(…)

The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III adds key features that were absent in its predecessors and is the camera to shake up the high-end compact market one again. It’s the benchmark pocketable camera to beat.

We love the new built-in electronic viewfinder, the tilt-angle LCD screen, the lens ring’s smooth control and the newer, faster lens. We’re less keen on the physically small controls and the autofocus really ought to be more effective in all conditions, but we can forgive that as similar competitors are no better and the excellent image quality ensures the camera stands out in the category.

The RX100 III isn’t a subtle re-rub of the known formula, it’s a rethink for the better and one that further elevates Sony’s position in the premium camera market. If pocketable is priority then the RX100 III is the best of the bunch. Assuming you can afford it — but then it is worth saving for.

Ming Thein tests the third generation RX100 — more pros and cons, he concludes:

The thing is, I own a GR already, and these cameras aren’t something I use for paying client work; they’re really what I consider to be ‘off duty’ entertainment devices. If I didn’t, I’d probably buy the Mark III straight away; however, for the way I shoot and the way I use the GR, the tradeoffs the RX100III requires are a toss up against the things I gain. I’m going to have to use it a bit more before deciding if I’ll buy one or not; good thing I’ve got a couple more weeks with the loaner. I’d like to finish with one thought: throughout the time I’ve used the camera, I’ve been subconsciously assessing it for what it’s lacking or where it falls short against much larger and more fully featured cameras. This is an important point to note: it is a compact that really plays in a class above, and puts things into perspective, don’t you think?

DP Review‘s verdict? Right, it’s a Gold Award:

The RX100 III is the most capable compact camera we’ve ever seen. With its built-in viewfinder and more consistently fast lens, there’s nothing that can provide better image quality in such a small package. It’s not the perfect camera to take shot-to-shot control over, but it’s capability means it justifies its high price tag (…)

Our concerns about the handling leave us concluding that, if it had a credible rival, there’s every chance the RX100 M3 wouldn’t get a Gold award – we’d like a more enjoyable shooting experience from an $800 camera. Ultimately, though, the additions to what were already the strongest cameras in their class leave the RX100 III literally peerless. At which point it has to go one better than its predecessors, and receive our highest award.

PhotographyBLOG‘s verdict:

The new Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III is once again a better camera than its predecessor, both in terms of features and image quality, but it has gone up in price again. The eye-watering price-tag of $799 continues to be an awful lot to ask for a humble compact camera, making the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II one of the most expensive models on the market and putting it into direct competition with mid-range compact system cameras and entry level DSLRs. Having said that, this camera will actually be a better fit for many people, especially if size is a priority, and it also makes a perfect second camera for professionals. We loved shooting with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III, which proves there’s still a lot of life left in the compact camera yet…

Honorable Luminous Landscape tests the mighty pocket camera, saying the best pro-level compact camera simply gets better:

There’s a lot to like about the Sony RX100 Mark III. The new features over the Mark II and especially the Mark I make it highly attractive. When I first saw the camera I thought — guess I have to get one. But by the end of my two weeks of almost daily shooting, and as I packed the sample camera up to return to Sony, I realized that I probably wouldn’t. The reason is that as good as the Mark III is, and as full-featured as one could likely wish, the original Mark I which I’ve owned for the past two years is still a great little camera and continues to do its job as my go-everywhere camera.

If I didn’t own the Mark I, I would almost certainly order the Mark III immediately. But since this isn’t my main camera, or even my secondary, it’s hard for me to justify an expensive upgrade. On the other hand, for anyone with less cameras that me, or who wants the latest tech in a truly pocketable camera, the new Sony RX100 Mark III is hard to trump.

The Sony fights off smartphone cameras, writes the Australian Financial Review. They especially like that EVF:

The popup viewfinder is the real treat. It’s missing from most cameras this size, including the previous RX100 models. But for a travel camera that you’re likely to use in the bright outdoors, it’s a fairly essential feature. It’s not the highest resolution viewfinder on the market by any means — it’s only got 1.44 million dots, a million less than we’re used to — but it’s bright and clear enough that you’ll find yourself using far more than the technical specs might suggest.

DxOMark talks of a “high-end compact with all the trimmings”:

Almost a year on from unveiling its predecessor, the RX100 II, the new Sony RX100 III appears to be more than just minor upgrade, with some pretty impressive looking additions to the spec’ sheet. Chief of these is the new built-in electronic viewfinder, or EVF, which was a feature sadly lacking from the Mark II version. As we’ve said before, the Sony engineers are certainly keen on innovation (…) Whereas the RX100 II offered a maximum sensitivity of 25,600 ISO, the Mark III now maxes out at 12,800 ISO, offering 1-stop less sensitivity.

SonyAlphaRumors is pretty ecstatic about the new compact Sony, summing up the top improvements (read the whole thing!) — in short:

The new RX100 Mark III has 5-axis stabilization, 3-times faster processing, AA aspherical elements and more!

The Camera Store says the Sony RX100 series are widely considered the most capable compact cameras available. While the RX100 was a ground-breaking camera, the RX100 Mark II offered only incremental improvements. Does Sony up the ante with the Mark III? Chris Niccolls investigates:

DP Review especially likes “that new lens”:

Sony's optical designers have managed something that the company says has never been done before: bonding two aspherical elements together.
Sony’s optical designers have managed something that the company says has never been done before: bonding two aspherical elements together.

The RX100 III’s lens is much more ambitious than those of its predecessors, offering a much improved maximum aperture range and a wider starting point (if you don’t mind the drop in telephoto reach). Sony is immensely proud of one of the technologies it has developed: the combination of two aspherical lens elements. This has been key to allowing such a wide and bright lens to be built into such a compact design. The lens can focus as close as 5cm at wide angle and 30cm at the long end of the zoom (…)

So when will you see this benefit? First, since the fast lens allows more light to hit the sensor, it improves image quality, particularly in low light. Also, the lower the equivalent aperture, the shallower the depth of field. While the RX100 III won’t perform as well as the G1 X II in this regard (particularly since the Canon is at its best at longer focal lengths, which the Sony doesn’t offer), it’s still excellent by compact camera standards.

TrustedReviews say Sony looks to up its game again:

Our first impressions of the Sony RX100 III are that Sony has once again upped the anti, creating the standout premium compact camera. The new inbuilt EVF is excellent and a very useful addition, while the revised lens range should make this model even more versatile than its predecessors. The powerful stabilization and new video modes also make this a serious videographers tool too.

From Amateur Photographer‘s first impressions:

Some users will appreciate the improved customisation control, and the customisation that’s been added to the control ring is an advantage over the previous model. Anyone coming to the RX100 III from a previous model in the RX100 series will be able to pick it up and use it from the word go — very little has changed in the menu other than a few new additions.

Our overall view is that it’s an improvement on an already excellent premium compact. The RX100 II picked up numerous accolades and there’s no reason to say the RX100 III will be any different. Now with an in-built bright and magnified EVF, it offers the perfect blend of what users want from a premium compact camera.

CNET laments the Mark III costs $100 more than its predecessors, yet in a lot of ways it’s a completely different camera:

Still targeted at enthusiasts, albeit now deeper-pocketed ones, the RX100 Mark III has a potentially better lens, cleverly designed built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF) and newer-generation image processing which provides a host of new features (…)

The biggest sadness here: it uses the same, rather lackluster contrast autofocus system as most of Sony’s other compacts. Plus it still lacks a grip.

From Pocket-lint‘s hands on:

We think Sony is on to a real winner with the Cyber-shot RX100 III, albeit one that you’ll need to save up for. But if there’s a camera that could be tipped to be king of the compacts then this is it. There might be larger sensor offerings out there, but none are as small and truly pocketable as the Sony.

Here are two official Sony promo videos offering some insights:

+++ You can order the Sony RX100 III from Amazon, B&H Photo, Adorama and Sony Store for $798.

  • OneCut

    A Contax T for the 21st century. Nice.

  • Dillan

    You can also order it from The Camera Store if you’re in Canada for $899. Hey, they’re my local store, I have to give them a boost.

  • I’m all for supporting your local store Dillan, yet when doing so via one of the provided links I’ll get a small fee that doesn’t make the camera a cent more expensive for you and pays for the costs involved running such this site. Most importantly, it has to be right for you!

  • reviveramesh

    way too small and cannot withstand the rough and tough usage – they all look really good in the ads and in ladies handbags – try using them for a few months – then we can talk

  • Got a point there Ramesh, yet this camera is not about ultimate image quality per se, it’s about best possible image considering the compromises.

  • Brad

    I shoot the mk1 version, carry it in my jeans pocket and it handles normal usage just fine. I would not recommend using it as a hammer but I would not use my pro level gear like that either. The only real negative about the handling is the slippery metal finish although, that can easily be rectified with either gaffer tape or a stick on grip.

    The camera is a great one handed shooter and works well enough if you shoot two handed using holding the lens barrel with your left hand. The image quality easily surpasses a Nikon d200 and probably matches a d300 slr. Yes they are now older cameras but the rx100 can be a viable replacement in some situations.

  • Brad

    I looked at this and my first thought was that I wanted to upgrade from my mk1. Now I’m not so sure. At 70mm the new lens is only a stop faster. At 50, only 1/3 stop faster, it is the same at 35mm and slower at 28. You do get the benefit of a wider 24 though.

    For my usage though, it looks like the new flash cannot articulate to bounce or be used to fire off camera flashes without contributing to the exposure like the mk 1 or mk ii can and that may be the biggest deal breaker for me.

  • The wider reach is certainly sweet. Add the (video only?) image stabilization, more processing power and certainly stunning optics. I can live without the viewfinder, gosh my Df takes way over 1k shots per charge whereas these small cameras with lots of battery hunger run out of juice after 200 or 300 shots. With a backup battery I’d go for the upgrade. Lens speed is not everything, and higher sensitivity means less reliance on flash (which anyway is a nuisance”.

  • Brad

    My d700 can take 1000 shots also but it requires a concerted effort to take it out in a bag and additional lenses. As a result I find I don’t use that in more informal situations. Even the e-x1 is less of a chore but still requires a bit of effort. The rx fits in a jeans pocket and as a result gets more use than either of the bigger cameras. I have shot band photos at ISO 5000-6400 and they are perfectly usable, a bit noisier than the Nikon or Fuji at 100% but when reduced to a normal viewing size with noise reduction they are perfectly usable. That is the huge benefit of having 20mp to start with.

  • kirk tuck

    Such a great site and yet you are absolutely wrong about the need for an EVF. It’s not just for people with impaired sight. It’s also for people who understand the best way to hold a camera for maximum stability and for people who need to see their composition in areas with very high light levels. Like outside. Away from their game consoles and, God Forbid!!! in full sun. The inclusion of the EVF finally makes this a camera worth buying without exceptions. EVF=always necessary. No EVF=always a failed product.

  • In many cases EVF — or OVF for that — limit the field of view. Composition via LCD is like freestyle compared to a legacy compromise. Many pros and cons for all options, yet with these small cameras personally I think LCDs are a godsend whereas I’d never compose with my Df’s LCD…

  • Brad Morris

    Rx100mkIII hands on

    1. I have not seen this mentioned anywhere breviously but the flash in the Mk3 does articulate so it can be used to bounce or trigger remote flashes without adding to the exposure. The problem is that because of the new location, in the centre of the body, it is difficult to reach the flash comfortably to hold it back with the EVF retracted and close to impossible to hold it back with the EVF extended and still use the camera.

    2. The Menu system navigation has been improved. on the mk 1 there was only a single level to switch through each different menu page. On the Mk3 you can now move from menu group to menu group at a higher level in the menu hierarchy. The text in the mk3 menus seems to be larger and slightly more legible than the Mk1

    3. The EVF is nice to look through when it is extended however it is easy to knock the slide out lens and that will make the viewfinder blurry and lock the camera controls. Could have potential to be frustrating in use. The pop up design does not, in my opinion help with the bracing of the camera in the same way that you can with a fixed viewfinder. And pressure on the EVF frame pushes the slid out optic out of position.

    4. The lens control ring is just as “disconnected” and unresponsive as the ring on the RX100mk1. I was disappointed that they have not made the ring more responsive.

    5. I did not have my Mk1 with me to make a direct comparison, I know that it is slightly thicker in the measurements but in the hand it was not really noticeably different to my Mk1. The Mk2 feels thicker in the hand if my memory serves me correctly. My impression was that the rear tilting LCD screen is better engineered to fit flush with the body compared to the Mk2. I think the new tilt mechanism is simply a more refined design compared to the Mk2.

    6. the Zoom speed and Autofocus felt to be the equal of the Mk1.

    7. Sony Australia is asking $Au1099 for this camera. that includes a 10% GST tax.

    8. any Mk1 or Mk2 user will have no problem picking the new model up and using it immediately. they all feel quite similar in hand.

  • Brad Morris

    The floppy pop up design of the EVF will not add anything to the stability. It should help with full sun viewing though.

    The small size and shape of the first two rx100 models do lend themselves to using them in more creative ways than you may use a more traditional, larger dslr or rf style camera