Battle of the RX100s: Sony’s RX100 vs RX100 II vs RX100 III
posted Monday, June 16, 2014 at 3:01 PM EDT
The RX100 and RX100 II are possibly two of the most decorated cameras in digital cameradom. Don't believe us? Well, the original RX100 is still the most popular point-and-shoot on flickr, and it won our award for pocket camera of the year in 2012. Steve Huff named it the "Best pocket digital compact of the year..actually…EVER!" Heck, Time Magazine even called it the Best invention of the Year for 2012.
Sony followed up a banner year in 2012 with a strong 2013. The RX100 II again took our award for pocket camera of the year in 2013, as well as PDN's and reviewed.com's. Tech writer David Pogue cited the RX100 II as one way that "Sony is ushering in a golden age of photography."
Given the RX100 pedigree, it's safe to say every photographer this side of Instagram wants to see the different versions of this camera duke it out. We've taken up the challenge, and written three exhaustive comparisons, pitting each of these cameras against the other. We won't spoil the conclusion, but it's safe to say the RX100 III is a strong contender for pocket camera of the year for 2014. Without further ado...
This is the main event: last year's champion against this year's new favorite. Head on over to the extensive editorial comparison on our Sony RX100 II vs Sony RX100 III page, but these are the highlights:
There are many reasons to buy the Mark III, but improved image quality is not one of them. Yes, you read that right. While Sony changed its noise reduction and sharpening algorithms, the result was a wash. Better for some applications, worse for others. And savvy readers will have heard that Sony lopped off 30mm of zoom. So why is the RX100 III still one of our favorite cameras so far this year? The reasons are legion: when it comes to video, the RX100 III is basically a smaller, cheaper RX10; the lens is a full stop brighter at 70mm; and having an electronic viewfinder of any sort in a camera this small is an engineering wonder. Read our full comparison for all the details, or take a look at our RX100 III review if you want to read more.
You might expect that deciding between a 3-year-old camera and a 2-year-old camera would be an exercise in choosing the least bad option. That's decidedly not the case here, and the final decision is actually something of a toss-up thanks to the RX100's budget price of $500.
In one crucial respect, The RX100 and RX100 II are more similar to each other than are the RX100 II and RX100 III: the zoom range and max apertures are identical. The tiltable screen, Wi-Fi and accessory shoes are welcome additions on the RX100 II, but in contrast to the RX100 II vs RX100 III, the major differences are in the image quality department, where the RX100 II has a big advantage thanks to its backside-illuminated sensor. But RAW and JPEG shooters will see different benefits here... For the full story, head over to our RX100 vs RX100 II comparison page.
While it might seem ridiculous to compare a $500 camera with an $800 camera (and yes, it is a little bit), that's exactly what we're going to do. In fact, this is an interesting statement on the state of the industry (and Sony's dominance in this category). This 3-year-old camera really is a tremendous photographic tool.
The extra $300 gives you some pretty awesome features like a built-in EVF, a faster lens and backside-illuminated sensor -- not to mention the big step up in the video department -- but none of them are essential. In fact, if you don't plan to shoot video, seldom shoot indoors or at night and are on a budget, you'll be every bit as happy with the RX100 as the RX100 III.
These days, camera companies aren't just competing against today's models, but yesterday's as well. Fortunately for us, Sony has recognized this, and much like Apple moving last year's top of the line iPhone to this year's second-best model, Sony has kept all three RX100's available for sale. For the full story read our in-depth RX100 vs RX100 III comparison page.
This comparison told us as much about the evolution of the market as it did about the advantages of any one camera. Sony outdid themselves with the RX100 III, just as they did with the RX100 II and RX100 before, so you'll be a happy photographer with any one of them. While we were disappointed to see image quality improvements stagnate, the amount of additional functionality in the RX100 III is incredible.
Hopefully you've found value in these match-ups! Please do let us if you know if you have suggestions for improvement, if we missed any key advantages, or if you have questions about which one is right for you. Also give us a shout if you'd like to see a particular editorial comparison in the future. Scroll down to the comments section below to leave your notes!