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Sony RX100 III An Evolutionary Upgrade

DSC08684When Sony launched the first RX100 in 2012, it made it into TIME’s Best Inventions of 2012, putting it in the same league as, say, the Mars Curiosity Rover. Sony just announced the 3rd generation of their RX100 last week. What’s new with the RX100 III, and how does it compare with previous models? (Camera pictured on left is the 2nd generation RX100 II.)

The Sony RX100 III, also known as the RX100M3, continues with the winning formula of the RX100 family, namely a very compact camera with great optics and an amazing 1″-sized sensor. Each new generation brings with it some enhancement. The RX100 III, however, makes a bigger jump from the RX100 II, than the RX100 II did with the original RX100.

There are two significant upgrades in the RX100 III. First, there is a totally new lens. It’s a brilliant super-fast (35mm equivalent) 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens. The last two generations shared a 28-100mm f/1.8-4.9 Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens. The new RX100 III significantly opens up the aperture at the telephoto end, making possible nice bokeh shots throughout the lens’ zoom range.

Next, there’s a pop-up OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF) with 1.44M dots resolution. I personally don’t find the EVF to be an absolute must-have feature, but certainly there are some usefulness to it in some scenarios. Some photographers, however, strongly prefer using an EVF (or optical viewfinder).

There are quite a few more additions. The new 3-stop neutral density filter will come in useful with bokeh shots in bright sunlight, as well as when shooting video. The RX100 III now shoots 1080p @ 60fps video with full sensors readout and 50 Mbps XAVC S support. There’s also 720p video @ 120fps. There’s also a new Bionz X image processor.

Finally, and this could be an important thing for some people, the flip-up LCD screen flips a full 180 degrees, so now you can finally take selfie shots with the RX100 III. The RX100 II does let you remote shoot the camera via the Sony PlayMemories Mobile app on Android or IOS device, and it also has a remote viewfinder, so technically you could also do selfie shots with that.

The RX100 III includes Wi-Fi and NFC like the RX100 II did, but it does lose the multifunction hot-shoe. I don’t think anyone would really miss the hot-shoe. It’s primary use had been for the external EVF, which is now integrated into the RX100 III anyway.

The RX100 III has gained a little thickness, the dimensions now being 102 x 58 x 41 mm vs 102 x 58 x 38 mm of the RX100 II. It’s also gained a slight bit of weight, 290 g from 281 g previously. The thickness doesn’t seem like much, unless you consider that the RX100 II did gain 2 mm thickness from the original RX100.

The RX100 III’s rated battery life has decreased slightly to 320 shots from the RX100 II’s 350 shots (CIPA). That’s almost a 10% drop, and makes the difference between “good” and “just ok”. Spare batteries are easy to carry around, so I personally wouldn’t care too much about it.

There’s no Singapore price given yet, but the US launch price for the RX100 III will be US$799, which is US$50 more than the RX100 II at launch.

Sony will still continue selling the RX100 II (as well as the original RX100). The big question is whether the RX100 III is worth US$50 extra?

The new lens is nice, particularly the all-around fast speed even to the telephoto end. But remember that the lens, while wider, has less zoom reach. It’s 70 mm (35 mm equivalent) with 2.9x range, compared to the 100 mm and 3.6x in the previous generations. Do you need that little bit more zoom, or do you need that faster telephoto-end speed? I think this will be the big deciding factor whether to go with the 3rd generation or stick with the 2nd generation.

There’s probably little benefit upgrading from the RX100 II to the RX100 III, but for the original RX100 users, the 3rd generation could be an attractive upgrade. Remember, there was no Wi-Fi in the original RX100, but in these times, wireless connectivity has come to be an expected feature. The articulating LCD screen also makes it more convenient to take shots from awkward positions, including the possibility of taking selfies.

All things considered, the RX100 III is a great compact point-and-shoot camera. But the RX100 II can still hold its own beside the RX100 III.

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