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A couple years ago, Sony trotted out the Cyber-shot RX100 compact camera, and pretty much everyone fell in love with it. It was pocketable but no-nonsense, thanks to its larger-than-most sensor, fast F1.8 lens, terrific image quality, and deep manual controls. The sequel, the RX100 II, was even better, adding a low-light-optimized sensor, new video capabilities, and an adjustable LCD screen.
Now it looks like itâs time for another iterative update. The brand-new RX100 III adds a wider-angle zoom lens (24mm to 70mm) with an aperture that stays wider throughout the zoom range (F1.8 to F2.8). The new camera also has a built-in neutral density filter, which lets you slow shutter speeds without washing out the exposure.
Compact cameras with any kind of eye-level viewfinderâoptical or electronicâare pretty rare these days. The RX100 IIIâs 1.4-million-dot eye-level viewfinder pops out of the cameraâs top left corner and retracts back into the bodyâa unique solution given the limited space. The camera also has a 3-inch LCD screen that flips all the way up so you can see it from the front. For selfies or something.
The âRX100 Mark 3,â as Sony calls it, has the same sensor as the RX100 II and larger RX10, but itâs backed up by a brand-new processor: the same Bionz X image processor found in Sonyâs full-frame A7 series cameras in fact.
That upgrade allows the camera to do a full-pixel readout from the 20.2-megapixel sensor in video mode, which should translate to sharper 1080p video with fine detail and more-accurate colors. Itâs not a 4K video cameraâmovie mode captures 1080p video at 60/30/24 fps and 720p video at up to 120fpsâbut it does record XAVC-S video at an absurdly high 50 Mbps bit rate. Youâre going to need a fast, roomy SD card.
The RX100 III is also the first of Sonyâs compact cameras to run camera apps like the companyâs higher-end Alpha series cameras. This will essentially let you add a-la-carte features to the camera, such as focus bracketing or a stop-motion animation generator, simply by downloading apps from Sonyâs PlayMemories service and installing them on the camera.
Operationally, the RX100 III will be pretty much the same camera as its predecessors: Manual controls, RAW+JPG shooting, good low-light performance, Wi-Fi, NFC, and excellent in-camera AI. Thatâs definitely a good thing, as the previous RX100 cameras (which will still be around) are widely considered to be the best-performing compact cameras out there right now.
That performance will come at a cost. Like previous models, the RX100 III will have a much higher price tag than most point-and-shoot cameras. At $800, it costs as much as a midrange DSLR. But the new model in the lineup should mean that the prices dip on the other still-excellent RX100 cameras.