Sony RX100 III Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Only very slightly larger and heavier despite new features; still quite pocket-friendly
  • Very high resolution gives crisp images with lots of detail at lower sensitivities
  • 24-70mm eq. lens has generally very good optical performance for its type
  • Very fast f/1.8-2.8 max. aperture offers better low light potential and subject isolation than predecessors at focal lengths above ~35mm eq.
  • Lens is wider than predecessor (but see Con about less tele reach)
  • SteadyShot stabilization is more effective for still imaging than in earlier models
  • Much better high ISO performance than typical enthusiast pocket cameras
  • Built-in three-stop ND filter
  • Built-in, retractable high-resolution electronic viewfinder
  • Bright LCD has better visibility than most under direct sunlight
  • More versatile LCD articulation allows selfies
  • Very fast autofocus speeds
  • Very low shutter lag
  • Outstanding single-shot cycle times
  • 10fps full-resolution burst mode when shooting JPEGs (autofocus locked at first frame)
  • Deep buffers
  • No longer penalizes an early shutter button press
  • Flash syncs at all shutter speeds
  • Fun and useful multi-shot modes
  • Refined user interface is a good improvement
  • Sensor readout for movies doesn't skip lines, shows a noticeable improvement over earlier models
  • Improved image stabilization (SteadyShot Intelligent Active Mode) for movies
  • Built-in Wi-Fi wireless networking with NFC is quite handy for sharing photos
  • Smart Remote Control app is loads of fun
  • Clean HDMI output
  • Above average battery life for its size
  • Center of gravity is further left, so doesn't feel as comfortable without a grip
  • Hand grip is an optional extra that should really be included
  • Not compatible with tight-fitting cases designed for earlier models
  • Lens doesn't offer as much telephoto reach as competing models (but that's offset somewhat by high-res, which allows lots of cropping)
  • Macro performance not quite as good as predecessors'
  • It's still fairly hard to blur backgrounds at this sensor size
  • Viewfinder view is (not surprisingly) quite small; we didn't use it as much as we thought we would
  • JPEGs can look overprocessed and a little noisier than predecessor's, especially at higher ISOs
  • Slightly below average saturation levels and hue accuracy
  • Warm auto white balance indoors
  • Weaker flash than predecessors
  • No hot shoe
  • Top burst speed slows (to 6.7fps) when shooting RAW files (still pretty good, though)
  • New XAVC S compression with Full HD at 60p and 50Mbps bit rates gives only a very subtle improvement in detail over AVCHD, yet doubles file sizes
  • Video is cropped from sensor, not the entire sensor surface; 120fps mode crops video even more significantly
  • Quite pricey for a fixed-lens camera
  • PlayMemories apps are also quite pricey for single-purpose, single-manufacturer apps
  • Apps also require you give Sony your email address and log in with a very fiddly on-screen keyboard

It's not very often that we go into a review with access not just to the camera we're reviewing, but also every prior version in the line. We had that rare privelige with the Sony RX100 III, though, and it made for a very interesting side-by-side comparison. Initially, we were offput by the gradual increase in size and weight across the line, but it actually turned out not to be a big deal at all, although we'd definitely recommend an accessory grip for the Sony RX100 III.

Once we got used to the size and realized that this camera really does still fit in your pocket, though, we had a whole lot of fun shooting with the RX100 III. And shooting with it side-by-side with the earlier models, we really grew to appreciate some of the thoughtful changes. Little things like the tidier menu system end up making quite a big difference to the overall experience, but it was the increase in performance that really grabbed our attention, coupled with much more generous burst depths.

The brighter lens and more generous wide-angle position were also quite handy, but that's not to say we didn't have any regrets. We did find ourselves wishing for more telephoto zoom now and then, most notably. Of course, the high resolution of the RX100 III's image sensor means that you can still crop, but it's equally obvious that you're trading away print size when you have to do so. And we weren't thrilled by the RX100 III's new noise processing, which to our mind is a bit too heavy-handed.

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Still, on balance there were far more positives to the Sony RX100 III experience compared to those of its siblings than the few negatives. And while we didn't find ourselves using its new electronic viewfinder most of the time, on the occasions when we did use it -- under harsh sunlight when even the RX100 III's bright LCD monitor was a bit challenging to see, for the most part -- it was a complete life saver. The improved movie mode was also a big plus, showing noticeably more detail at Full HD resolution, and we really quite enjoyed playing with the Smart Remote Control app, even if the other apps didn't do much for us.

Really, the Sony RX100 III is an incredibly easy camera to recommend -- at least, if you can justify its cost. There are no two ways about it: by fixed-lens camera standards, this is a pretty pricey little device. That's true for a reason, though, because other than its own siblings, this camera really doesn't have any clear rival. Image quality is in a different league to anything else this portable and pocket-friendly, and performance is superb too.

If you can stretch to its pricetag -- and it's definitely worth doing so -- we think the Sony RX100 III should be right at the top of your shopping list. It's a clear Dave's Pick, just as were its predecessors, and we think it's pretty clear that the Sony RX100 III is the best pocket-friendly compact on the market today.

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