Sony’s Cyber-shot RX10 line has redefined what we can expect from superzoom compacts, but can the latest in the line score the company a hat trick? Matt Golowczynski finds out in this RX10 III review
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 III review: Features
The Sony Cyber-shot RX10 III is designed around a new ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T* 24-600mm f/2.4-4 lens that not only eclipses the range offered by previous RX10 models, but also edges ahead of the competition when focal range and aperture are considered. In order to keep it as compact, bright and high in optical performance as possible, it’s been constructed with eight extra low-dispersion elements, including two ED aspherical elements and one Super ED element.
The optic’s maximum f/4 aperture at its telephoto end is impressive, but those familiar with the previous models may have noticed that the f/2.4 maximum aperture at the wideangle end also represents a half-stop improvement over the f/2.8 maximum aperture on the company’s previous RX10 models. This does, however, close down to f/4 at the 100mm mark, which some may find disappointingly early.
The lens can focus at a distance of 3cm away from the subject at its wideangle end and 72cm away at the other extreme. It also incorporates Sony’s proprietary SteadyShot technology, which promises up to 4.5EV stops of correction over pitch and yaw when the lens is extended to its maximum focal length. Curiously, Sony appears to have quietly dropped the ND filter that featured on both the RX10 and RX10 II.
The camera appears to use a similar sensor to the 1inch Exmor RS model inside the RX10 II, although its effective pixel count is 20.1MP rather than the 20.2MP in the latter. Regardless of their exact relationship, it’s been designed with a backlit architecture for better light-gathering efficiency, as well as a stacked construction which is said to boost processing speeds. The further inclusion of a DRAM chip means that the camera can handle large amounts of data at a time, and this principally benefits two key areas: the ability to record images at a continuous rate of 14fps and the option to record video at speeds of up to 1000fps for the purpose of creating slow-motion footage.
Videos captured more conventionally can be output at a maximum 4K UHD resolution (3840×2160), although Sony claims the camera actually records around 1.7x more information than actually required, using the full sensor without any pixel binning, before downsampling it to 4K UHD. By doing so, Sony claims that footage not only benefits from better detail overall, but is also less susceptible to aberrations resulting from aliasing.
The camera employs the same efficient XAVC S codec as Sony’s other 4K-capable cameras, and this is used for both 4K and Full HD video, with 4K footage captured at a very respectable 100Mbps maximum bit rate. As an added bonus, the camera mirrors certain Panasonic models in allowing an 8.3MP JPEG to be extracted from 4K footage upon playback, or alternatively a 2MP still from full HD footage.
Sony claims the RX10 III’s contrast detection autofocus system can acquire focus in as little as 0.09 seconds, with spatial object detection to detect and predict a moving subject’s motion (much like its 4D Focus technology seen elsewhere).
The inclusion of an electronic shutter means the camera’s standard 30-1/2000sec shutter speed range can be stretched up to 1/32,000sec, with the further advantage of this operating silently. This is also used when capturing images at the camera’s 14fps burst rate, which drops to 5fps when the mechanical shutter is employed. Another advantage of the DRAM chip’s data handling is that moving subjects captured using fast shutter speeds are less likely to be affected by a subject-stretching distortion that results from a rolling shutter.
Wi-Fi and NFC have been integrated into the body, which allows for effortless image sharing and remote control with iOS (Wi-Fi only) and Android devices, although tethering via the camera’s USB 2.0 port is also possible. As is fairly standard for a Sony model, the camera records all images and videos on a choice of SD media (including UHS-I cards), while also accepting the Memory Stick Pro Duo format.
The camera goes on to offer many useful features, from an electronic levelling function to help keep the camera straight, to focus peaking for accurate manual focus adjustment, although the option to record time-lapse footage is not built in as standard and instead confined to a paid-for PlayMemories app.