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Sony’s third-gen RX10 bridge camera gets 25x long-zoom lens

If there is one complaint to be had about Sony’s Cyber-shot RX10 and RX10 Mark II, it’s the limited 8.3x zoom lens. Well, the company just shut us up with the new RX10 Mark III, its third-generation fixed-lens bridge camera in the RX series. With a newly developed 25x super-telephoto lens, we can truly call this camera a super-zoom.

Specs-wise, the imaging chips are carried over from the RX10 II, which unveiled some innovative camera technologies when the RX10 II was announced last June. These include the 1-inch, 20.1-megapixel “stacked” Exmor RS CMOS sensor with DRAM memory and Bionz X image processor. Together, they deliver speedy 0.09-second autofocusing (especially at full telephoto, which is a challenge for long-zoom cameras), 40x super slow motion at 960 frames per second, fast anti-distortion shutter at up to 1/32,000th of a second, and 4K video capture without pixel binning or artifacts. There’s Wi-Fi and NFC, as well. (Click here to read more about the components.)

Related: Sony’s HX80 is the smallest camera you can buy with 30x zoom, viewfinder

But the highlight is the lens, which is the main difference between the RX10 III and RX10 II. In terms of size, the RX10 III doesn’t look any different than its predecessor, but it is heavier and has a redesigned grip. The lens has a much longer focal range of 24-600mm and aperture of f/2.4-4, which would require three or four interchangeable lenses on a DSLR or mirrorless camera, Sony says.

The RX10 II has a constant aperture of f/2.8, but the RX10 III is more flexible in its ability to perform capture, macro, wide-angle, and full-telephoto, and everything in between for stills and movies. And at full-telephoto, you have a max aperture of f/4, which Sony says is what makes it different from other long-zoom cameras.

The Zeiss lens (one super extra-low dispersion glass element, five ED glass elements, and two ED aspherical lenses) borrows technologies introduced in new Sony interchangeable lenses, and is coated to reduce flare and ghosting while preserving color accuracy. The lens has built-in Optical SteadyShot image stabilization, which comes in handy in keeping things still at full-telephoto.

The lens also has three manual control rings for adjusting aperture, zoom, and focus, as well as a focus hold button to fix the focus point. The focus ring can be set to smooth or click-step turning. Click here to see sample images.

The RX10 III will be available in May, for $1,500, a $200 premium over the RX10 II. The RX10 II’s strength is its constant aperture, but for users who want greater reach, there’s now an option.

The high-zoom category is one that Sony and other camera makers want to own. It’s an area in the business that’s seeing growth, even while overall camera sales are down. Consumers are interested in buying cameras with large sensors (1/1.7-inch or larger), and within this category, high-zoom camera sales are increasing. Sony also said that more than 50 percent of RX10 II sales were to professionals or “high amateurs,” and that 81 percent of RX10 II owners also own an interchangeable lens camera.

That means many pros and enthusiasts are using the RX10 II as a secondary camera (most bridge cameras use smaller sensors, and are geared toward casual photographers). The longer lens in the RX10 III gives the look, feel, and functionality of an ILC, but in a more compact camera. For general consumers, the RX10 III is expensive, but it’s a strong, flexible all-purpose camera that’s great for travel or shooting YouTube videos.

We’re currently taking a spin with the new camera. Check back for our hands-on first impressions.