I want to tell you the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 Mark III has on it a periscope; the niftiest little periscope Iâve ever had the pleasure toÂ use. But I canât tell you that, because if the thing that pops up from the RX100 III is a periscope, then the RX100 III is a submarine, and itâs way too small to be a submarine. Itâs too small, even, to be a mini-sub.
Indeed, the RX100 III is almost too small to be what it actually is: a 20-megapixel compact camera that takes really good photos. Looking at some photos I took last night in a very dimly lit pub, I find it hard to believe they were taken by a camera I pulled out of my pocket. They look like they came from something much bigger.
But, still, there is something very much like a periscope on the camera, which comes out this month. Itâs the tiny electronic viewfinder that pops up where the flash would be on other compact cameras. Together with the faster, slightly shorter zoom lens, the viewfinder is the main thing that differentiates the RX100 Mark III from the Mark II, and itâs one of the main things that makes the RX100 Mark III a resoundingly good camera.
If youâre looking for a tiny travel camera or what you might call your âcarry aroundâ camera, one that fits (if only just) into your pants pocket or that you can keep in the bottom of your bag, the RX 100 Mark III could well be it, periscope and all.
Though before I get too carried away I should note this isnât a full-blown review of the RX100 III so much as something halfway between a âhands onâ preview and a review. We had the camera in our labs for less than 36Â hours, and while we had time to run it through its paces in our little studio (where we take the exact same pictures with every camera we ever test), and while we had enough time to take enough pics in the wild to satisfy ourselves that itâs a great little shooter, we didnât have the time to get a proper feel for what it would be like to own one.
A matter of size
I suspect the diminutive controls on the RX100 III could begin to feel a little claustrophobic after a while, though never so claustrophobic youâd think they werenât a fair price to pay for the convenience of owning such a small device.
I suspect, too, the one real flaw we did find with the controls (other than the fact that theyâre small, which isnât a flaw so much as a necessity) might begin to grate on the nerves after a few months as well. The one control on the RX100 III that actually is quite large â the lens-mounted dial that you use for setting, say, the cameraâs aperture when its in aperture priority mode or its shutter speed when itâs in speed priority mode â could have lent the camera a satisfying tactile feel, if only it clicked solidly when you turned it from setting to setting, the way any proper camera dial does. But it just slides around, meaning you can easily adjust your setting by more or less than you intended, and meaning you have to watch the screen the whole time to make sure you actually get the setting you intend.
But the very good rear screen that now articulates all the way around for âselfiesâ, the quality of the images, especially in low light where this camera crushes most other highly compact cameras (not to mention the mobile phone camera you might otherwise be forced to use) and the high-bit rate videos this tiny camera can shoot (which, alas, we couldnât test because for lack of a fast enough memory card to cope with the prodigious output), are things you probably wonât tire of.
The pop-up viewfinder is the real treat. Itâs missing from most cameras this size, including the previous RX100 models. But for a travel camera that youâre likely to use in the bright outdoors, itâs a fairly essential feature. Itâs not the highest resolution viewfinder on the market by any means â itâs only got 1.44Â million dots, a million less than weâre used to â but itâs bright and clear enough that youâll find yourself using far more than the technical specs might suggest.