Sony Hits Home Run With RX100 iii
Reading this weepy plea to Canon on Planet5D made me realize that the most effective statement you can make to a big company not meeting your needs is to buy the competitor’s products. Nothing illustrates that better than my new Sony RX100 M3.
Sony’s new RX100 M3 is an update to the popular RX100 series and is everything you want a pocket camera to be. For video shooters the RX100 holds many wonderful surprises and, in some ways, is a better video camera than a still camera, though it does both well.
The first thing you notice about the RX100 M3 is how impossibly small it seems. It is seriously tiny and defines a pocket size camera. The size is both good and bad. It’s so small it looks like a toy, not much bigger than a cell phone. I’ve taken it out and started shooting in public places and no one has given me a second glance. The only downside to small frame is working the tiny buttons with large hands can be a little tricky.
How they fit a 1 in CMOS sensor into such a small frame is impressive all on its own, but along with that is Sony’s BIONZ image processor and a Zeiss 40-70 f/1.8 zoom lens that folds up into the camera when not in use.
I chose this camera specifically for the popup EVF. That’s one of those things you think you want, but in actual practice I rarely use it because I wear either reading glasses or sun glasses almost all the time. The LCD screen is easily visible, even in broad daylight, and the EVF has a secondary lens you have to pull out with your fingers that can be tricky to grip. One nice feature about the EVF is you can turn on the camera by popping it up and shut it down by pushing it back in. Another odd quirk of the EVF is the LCD stays on until you put your eye on the EVF viewfinder, then it goes out. How does it know!?
Low Light Performance That Borders On Amazing
By far the RX100s most compelling feature is its low light performance, which is nothing short of astounding. Using this little camera in dark restaurants I realized immediately why Sony left the external hotshoe off this model, it doesn’t need the extra light. Sure, shooting in dark restaurants, mostly lit by candles, you will get some grain at high magnifications but it’s well within the acceptable range. Using the wide end of the Zeiss f/1.8 built-in lens you’ll get some really shallow DoF, which is sometimes inconvenient. For Instance, one side of your dinner plate might be in focus, the other half out of focus because your DoF is that shallow. In those situations the RX100 M3 has a built-in flash. The only twist to that is you have to pop it out manually, it doesn’t pop out or fold up on its own.
The shot below was lit by a single candle.
Additional shots in the Camera Forum.
The default video setting is AVCHD at 60i and that yields acceptable results but the 24p looks much better as you can see below.
The low-light video is even more impressive, although the auto-focus doesn’t do as well in mixed light and I was laughing the entire time we were shooting.
The RX100 M3 comes with built-in ND filters and stereo mics. The ND filters work fine but the mics need a wind cut filter. If you want to use the M3 for serious video you’ll need second sound and use the camera audio for sync.
I think the automatic settings yield totally acceptable video but, if you want manual control, the RX100 iii will give it to you. I hear people whine about AVCHD but it blends just fine on a timeline and mixing footage from the RX100 iii and my Canon 7D.
The Minor Dings
The battery compartment door switch sticks out too far and is easy to open accidentally. Nothing falls out but I worry about shearing the door off.
Another issue that drove me bonkers was that SDSX cards are 64GB, if you try to step down to 32GB card it switches to SDHD, which won’t record the XAVC S video format. It took me the longest time to catch on to that.
I’m also a little disappointed that a company the size of Sony can’t do a better job getting backward support for its file formats on older software. I’d really like to use Lightroom 4 for editing my Sony ARW2 format files but it won’t open them. I had to spend $49 to upgrade AfterShot Pro to AfterShot Pro 2 for RAW editing of my RX100 photos. I refuse to play Adobe’s cloud game and switch to subscription software.
One would also expect Sony to support their video formats on their own editing program but, once again, we run into the upgrade hostage-taking on file formats.
Overall the RX100 is a home run for Sony. It’s a compact camera that takes photos far beyond its size. If anything it’s a better video camera than a still camera but does both well. $798 at B&H.
Tags: camera review, RX100 iii pictures, RX100 iii videos, RX100 m3, Sony RX100