Hands-On: Sony RX10 III

Shooting San Francisco with Sony's RX10 III, a compact pros can be proud of

Sony’s new enthusiast bridge camera, the RX10 III, has something that we wanted in its predecessors: a quality, high-zoom lens that delivers great performance.
Sony recently made a big deal unveiling the RX10 Mark III ($1,500), its latest mega-zoom camera. The RX10 III doesn’t hit stores until May, but Sony provided us with a hand-on opportunity in San Francisco locations. We shot at several notable San Francisco landmarks, each designed to show off the highlight feature of this camera: the 25x Zeiss zoom lens. Here are our first-look impressions.

Mark III vs. Mark II (and others)

What really sets this RX10 from earlier releases is the long, built-in (fixed) zoom with a range of 24-600mm (25x) – triple the telephoto power of RX10 I and II (24-200mm, 8.3x). And this is no low-end lens either; it’s newly developed glass that incorporates the latest in lens technology Sony developed for its interchangeable lenses.

When the zoom is pushed to the max, the lens barrel is huge; this bridge camera is more like a DSLR than a pocket travel camera like the 30x Panasonic Lumix ZS60. The nearest competitor to the Mark III is the Canon PowerShot G3 X, but the Canon doesn’t have a built-in electronic viewfinder, 4K or slow-motion video capture, or “stacked” sensor technology. Plus, the G3 X has a slower lens (f/2.8-5.6 vs. f/2.4-4 for the Sony).

The RX10 III is larger than the RX10 II overall, weighing 10 ounces more and has a much bigger and sturdier grip. The grip proved useful when hand-holding the camera at maximum telephoto range. Sony also improved the built-in optical image stabilization system to help capture crisp, faraway subjects. We had good luck with birds at the San Francisco Zoo but the bountiful sunshine for fast shutter speeds certainly helped. The lens has a nine-blade aperture and wide f/stops (f/2.4-4.0) so we used the aperture priority setting a lot to blur backgrounds for a smooth, film-like effect. Even with the stabilization, when shooting at full telephoto, finding a nearby railing, to use as a makeshift tripod, should be considered. We did this at the Embarcadero, with the ruins of Alcatraz prison off in the distance.

Menu still needs improving

During media previews like this (we were Sony’s guest, but all opinions are our own) Sony typically offers interesting subjects for us to test the cameras. For example, a golden fan dancer made for a great slow-motion clip. The end-results were terrific but Sony still makes it difficult to use this feature, as the menu system is very obtuse. First, you have to turn the mode dial to HFR for High Frame Rate. Who other than Sony engineers knows this means “slow motion?” Then, there are multiple steps to prep the camera before you can shoot the scene. This has been annoying from Day One with the original RX10, and hopefully it will be resolved with the Mark IV or whatever is coming down the road.

Performance

Beyond a fan dancer, the company had fashion models, a mermaid (!), as well as a jazz combo to shoot. And, of course, there was the San Francisco waterfront with its sea lions and cityscapes as subject matter.

We found the camera focused quickly and the zoom moved rapidly through the 25x range. It was a lot of fun using it for the 10 hours or so we had with it. Just as important were the results, which had rich, accurate colors for stills, while the 4K and Full HD videos were smooth with no hint of rolling shutter or jelly effects.

We will talk more about image quality when we get a until for a full review, but we want to note that, specs wise, the RX10 III is nearly identical to the RX10 II. It uses Sony’s newly developed “stacked” 1-inch sensor that has a DRAM chip for enhanced performance, and how it achieves the super-slow-motion and 4K video capture without pixel-binning. And, both have features that videographers will find handy. The two are very similar, but the RX10 III has the advantage of the longer zoom lens. It was a complaint we had about the RX10 and RX10 II, and it was one Sony obviously acknowledged.

First impression

Bridge cameras that have a DSLR-like body pretend they can run with the real thing, but their smaller sensors are usually not up to snuff. They are fine as travel cameras for casual shooters, but they couldn’t step in as a secondary camera for pros or enthusiasts, who shoot with DSLR and mirrorless cameras. Sony is targeting this latter group wth the RX10 III, as a secondary camera.

From our brief take, this is a perfect camera for a DSLR owner, for the times he/she doesn’t want to lug around a big camera body and bag’s worth of interchangeable lenses (Sony says the 24-600mm range covers the most popular interchangeable lenses photographers use). The zoom offers more shooting options (from macro to wide-angle and telephoto), and the Mark III has just about every feature a 2016 camera should have, other than a touchscreen (fail). Bottom line? Even from our brief hands-on experience, this is another winner from Sony.

Update December 26th, 2017: Sony has since released the latest version of this camera, the Sony RX10 IV. The Sony RX10 III is still available for purchase. The original hands-on was published on April 1st, 2016.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Self-balancing skates, tiny tripods, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Photography

All about that bokeh: Meet the Sony 24mm f/1.4 G Master with updated autofocus

The Sony 24mm f/1.4 G Master lens uses primary XD elements at the front and rear of the lens for better chromatic aberration suppression and smooth bokeh. The 30th native E-mount lens, the 24mm also uses a new autofocus motor.
Photography

The best mirrorless cameras pack all the power of a DSLR, minus the bulk

Mirrorless cameras offer a lot of photography firepower, inside a compact body. Explore the best mirrorless cameras, from the pro-level to the beginner-friendly shooters, in this guide.
Photography

These point-and-shoot cameras make your smartphone pics look like cave paintings

If your smartphone camera just isn't giving you the results you're looking for, maybe it's time to step up your game. The latest and greatest point-and-shoot cameras offer large sensors, tough bodies, and long lenses - something no phone…
Photography

When you're ready to shoot seriously, these are the best DSLRs you can buy

For many photographers the DSLR is the go-to camera. With large selection of lenses, great low-light performance, and battery endurance, these DSLRs deliver terrific image quality for stills and videos.
Mobile

Too close to call: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus vs LG G7 ThinQ camera shootout

We take the LG G7 ThinQ and Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus to Rome for a camera shootout, photographing everything from the amazing local sights to an impressive showjumping event. How do these two excellent phones compare?
Product Review

Canon Pixma iP8720 review

The Canon Pixma iP8720 is a wide-format, single-function home printer that’s ideal for photos, crafts, and documents.
Photography

Instagram’s shopping stickers for businesses see wide rollout

As the Stories format continues to grow, Instagram is allowing users to shop the items inside a Stories photo or video. Instagram recently expanded stickers that let people shop inside a Story by tapping on the sticker.
Deals

Black Friday 2018: When it happens and where to find the best deals

Black Friday is the biggest shopping holiday of the year, and it will be here before you know it. If you can't wait until November 23 to start formulating a shopping plan, we've got you covered.
Photography

Not just for photographers anymore, Loupedeck+ now supports Adobe Premiere Pro

Video editors can now get physical with the Loupedeck+ control board. Originally for Lightroom, a software update allows the controls to adapt to video editing, including color grading, clip trimming, and navigating through the timeline.
Computing

PowerDirector, PhotoDirector aim to balance advanced tools with easy editing

CyberLink's latest photo- and video-editing programs fix advanced tools with a simple UI. PowerDirector adds Chroma-Key tools and multicam features, while PhotoDirector gains tethered shooting, an updated layer, and Content-Aware tools.
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Computing

Photoshop isn't required to resize images. Here are 6 ways to do it in seconds

Resizing an image isn't the toughest thing in the world, even if it may seem like a hassle. Here's how to resize an image using six tools that allow you to make quick work of any photo, regardless of your operating system.
Photography

No gimbal required: GoPro’s HyperSmooth stabilizer makes Hero7 a must-have upgrade

Just how good is the stabilization inside the new GoPro Hero7 Black? GoPro calls it gimbal-like, and it works well. Also new: live-streaming, shooting modes, and menus. Plus, Hero7 Silver and Whit.