Thursday, 26 June 2014

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III review (preview)

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III – pros

  • An ingenious pop-up EVF that discreetly tucks inside the camera body when not in use

  • A large 20.1-million-pixel, 1in sensor

  • A new 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 zoom lens, offering better low-light performance

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III – cons

  • The Multi-Interface Shoe has been removed to make way for the EVF and pop-up flash

See sample images taken with the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III – Introduction

Sony is on something of a roll at the moment. The past few years have seen the company win plaudits for cameras such as the Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 and RX1R, Alpha 7 and 7R, and Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 and RX100 II. The one thing these models have in common is that they offer larger sensors than other cameras in their class.

Within the RX series, it is the pair of RX100 cameras that have proved to be the most popular. Enthusiast photographers have been impressed with not just the size of the cameras, but also the quality of the images they produce. The latest version, the RX100 III, adds further improvements to what is one of the best digital compact cameras we have tested, but it comes at a cost of around £700.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III – Features

Although the RX100 III’s back-illuminated, 20.1-million-pixel, 1in (13.2 x 8.8mm) CMOS sensor is the same as that found in the RX100 II, there are some big differences between the two cameras.

The first improvement is that the RX100 III features the latest Sony Bionz X processor. This chip is far faster and more powerful than its predecessor, and as such allows for improvements in how the camera processes in-camera JPEGs. Colour rendition and lens corrections both benefit from this new technology.

Although the widest aperture of the lens is still f/1.8, the shortening of the focal length of the zoom lens from 28-100mm in previous RX100 cameras, to 24-70mm in the RX100 III, has allowed Sony to make the maximum aperture f/1.8-2.8, rather than the far smaller f/1.8-4.9 on previous versions. This will help improve low-light performance when zooming in, and will also offer a slightly shallower depth of field.

However, the standout feature of the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III is the built-in electronic viewfinder. Sony isn’t the first to add an EVF to a compact camera, with Panasonic having used an EVF in both the Lumix DMC-LF1 and the DMC-TZ60. Yet Sony has bettered the resolution of both of these by using a 1.44-million-dot EVF that pops up from the top left of the camera in much the same way as a flash unit.

The new EVF does mean the loss of a feature, though. As the EVF now takes the position where the pop-up flash used to be, the built-in flash has been moved to sit centrally above the lens. As a result, the Multi-Interface Shoe that was introduced in the RX100 II has gone. This shoe allowed the optional EVF accessory, external microphone adapter or a flashgun to be mounted. Given that the EVF is an expensive accessory, and most photographers won’t require the use of a flashgun with such a small compact camera, it was clearly thought that the shoe was surplus to requirements with the addition of the built-in EVF. I think it is a shame to lose the Multi-Interface Shoe, if only because it did at least give the option to use a flash or an external microphone when shooting video. Given the audience for the RX100 III, though, I don’t see this as being a big loss in practice because the built-in EVF will be far more beneficial.

The full Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III review will appear in AP, 5 July 2014 issue

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