Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 III review: Introduction

At a glance:

  • 20.1MP 1in sensor
  • 24-600mm equiv f/2.4-4 lens
  • ISO 64-25,600 (extended)
  • 3in, 1.23-million-dot LCD
  • 2.36-million-dot EVF

With relatively small sensors and often worryingly ambitious lenses, superzoom bridge cameras have usually been overlooked by discerning photographers, as compact system cameras and DSLRs have become more powerful and portable. Most people appreciate that a camera that tries to offer everything will not succeed on all fronts, but since releasing its RX10 model back in 2013, Sony has been doing impressively well to alter this idea.

With a Mark II update to that camera released only last year, the arrival of a third iteration so soon may seem somewhat premature, although Sony has stated that this new model will sit alongside the RX10 II rather than replace it. The only significant difference between the two models highlights why this is the case: while the Mark II followed its predecessor in offering a lens equivalent to 24-200mm in 35mm terms, the new model increases this to 24-600mm.

Clearly this presents a significant advantage for telephotography, but it potentially makes it a viable option as a primary camera, in place of a DSLR or compact system camera. Needless to say this extra stretch is a bold move – and with a four-figure asking price we should expect very little compromise.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 III review: Features

Sony Cyber-shot RX10 III

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.

RX10 III review

The lens has a minimum focusing distance of 3cm at wideangle and 72cm at telephoto. This image, captured at 500mm, shows how close you can get

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.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 III review: Build and handling

Sony Cyber-shot RX10 III opener

Incorporating such a bright and wide-ranging optic has come with the expected penalty to its size and weight; the body is now almost 37% larger than that of the RX10 II, which includes around an extra inch or so in length for its lens, and weight has increased from 813g to 1,095g (when loaded with a card and battery). The overall difference between the two is significant but whether this is considered to be entirely a bad thing will depend on who’s using it and how; it could, after all, be argued that the heavier body aids stability when using longer focal lengths – exactly where much of the camera’s appeal lies.

The longer lens barrel has allowed Sony to provide a third lens ring around it, with the triplet providing control over aperture, manual focus and focal length (the latter is also adjustable by the collar around the shutter-release button). Sony has also made good use of redundant space just behind the barrel by including a new focus hold button, although this and many of the other controls around the body can be customised.

Sony Cyber-shot RX10 III top

Overall handling is very positive. The camera is built to the expected standard, with the familiar blend of magnesium alloy and polycarbonate, although the extra weight compared with previous RX models lends it a greater feeling of solidity. Dust and moisture resistance, in the form of various seals around the body, is also welcome when you consider the high likelihood of using this camera outdoors.

Sony is said to have reworked the grip from that of the Mark II model to better support the new lens. Upon being powered up, the camera extends the inner barrel of its optic by around 45mm, although this eventually retracts if the camera is being used for anything but image or video capture (image review, menu browsing and so on). The centre of gravity noticeably shifts as the lens is extended to its maximum telephoto focal length, although the grip’s design combined with the length of the outer barrel still allows for comfortable and secure handling when the optic is extended to this point.

Usefully, the lens’s zoom can be set to Normal or Fast speeds, and you can also configure it to stop at common focal lengths such as 35mm, 50mm and 100mm, or in either fine or coarse focal length increments. At its speediest settings the lens takes just under 3 seconds to travel through its focal range, which is perfectly reasonable.

One thing that would be good to see, however, is the option to change aperture via the body itself rather than the ring on the lens barrel (in the same way that the zoom can be controlled through the collar around the shutter-release button). Only part of this aperture dial is ridged for purchase, and on a camera this small its proximity to the main body and grip means that it can be awkward to rotate without bashing hands.

The inclusion of two custom controls by the shutter release button is a nice touch, given how easily they can be accessed by the index finger. I found it useful to assign movie recording to one of these, as the position of the dedicated movie button next to the viewfinder makes it somewhat difficult to finish recording without shaking the camera when reaching for it.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 III review: Viewfinder and screen

Sony Cyber-shot RX10 III back

The RX10 III opts for the Mark II’s partnership of a 3in, 1,228k-dot LCD screen with a 0.39in, 2,359k-dot OLED viewfinder. Mounted on a hinge, the LCD is tiltable by 107 degrees upwards and around 42 degrees downwards. As with previous models it lacks touch sensitivity. While touch sensitivity may find itself useful in some situations, when you consider how the camera is likely to be used by its intended audience, it’s not a significant omission.

The slim screen adds little to the camera’s overall profile, while the extent to which it can be pulled away from the camera’s body makes it less susceptible to the familiar issue of being blocked by the viewfinder’s eyecup when viewed from above (such as at waist level). The LCD’s default brightness and contrast are pleasing, and its resolution is high enough for focus to be assessed when this is manually adjusted. As with many other screens, however, it benefits from a manual boost to brightness when used under harsh, midday sun.

We’ve come to expect a lot from electronic viewfinders in recent generations of cameras, but the one inside the RX10 III doesn’t disappoint. Details are clear, free from aberrations and largely free from noise, and its dynamic range appears to be wider than that of the LCD, which allows a broad range of details to be visible throughout a scene simultaneously. I also found its eye point to be at just the right level for the entire screen and the information around it to be visible at the same time. One minor issue is that that electronic viewfinder’s proximity sensor responds to movement around 3cm away from it; with the viewfinder itself extending around an inch or so from the camera’s body, it’s easy to confuse this into deactivating the LCD when unnecessary.

The menus are displayed clearly in both the viewfinder and EVF, although repeated calls for this to be overhauled for a more user-friendly interface sadly continue to be ignored. Every screen appears much like the next and options are more difficult to find than they ought to be. Even a simple colour-coded separation, which is present in some of Sony’s other models, would make a difference.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 III review: Autofocus


Focus is speedy enough in good light, with just a slight slowdown when shooting with smaller apertures. Even at the telephoto end performance is sound, partly helped by the camera’s tendency to acquire an approximate focus as the lens is zoomed. It’s not quite as instantaneous as the systems we’ve seen on other recent compact and mirrorless cameras, but not slower to the extent that it makes much difference.

It also doesn’t fare too badly when set to track a moving subject, recognising its shape and adhering well as it moves around the scene. I was pleased with my overall hit rate when shooting continuously, although I found it struggled to initially get a lock if the subject isn’t too dissimilar from its surroundings. A fast memory card is required here as it can take some time to flush all these images out from the buffer, although the camera does remain partly operational while this happens, should you need to quickly fire a few extra frames.

Some hunting occurs at the telephoto end of the lens if the camera can’t identify the subject, and on occasion the camera fails to deploy its AF assist light where it would clearly be beneficial, leading to a slowdown. Fortunately, the lens travels between its focus extremes reasonably swiftly, but it can slow things down if it has to travel this whole range repeatedly.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 III review: Performance

RX10 III review

The camera’s electronic shutter permits shutter speeds of up to 1/32,000sec to be used, which was used here to freeze these water droplets

The effectiveness of an image stabilisation system is vital on such a camera, so it’s welcome to find this works as well as it does. The feed holds firmly as you compose the scene through the viewfinder. If anything, this is so effective that some may find it actually hinders accurate composition, in that the usual slow and continuous dragging of the feed is replaced by more defined jumps between positions as the camera drifts while handheld.

Its claimed effectiveness should make it possible to capture acceptably sharp images at around 1/30sec at the 600mm end. Using the viewfinder, with my face providing some support, I found it was indeed possible to achieve this, although only in-between many blurred results. But here’s something: this is just as effective when used in conjunction with the camera’s (JPEG only) Smart Teleconverter, as this offsets its 1.4x or 2x crop by outputting images at 10MP and 5MP, respectively. In other words, you can capture acceptably sharp images at an effective focal length of 1200mm – at a shutter speed of just 1/30sec. No doubt for more critical work many will prefer to deactivate this in favour of cropping a 600mm Raw file, but it’s impressive that this is possible straight out of the camera.

Captured using the camera’s Smart Teleconverter feature at 600mm, the effective SteadyShot system has meant this 1200mm-equivalent image is still sharp at 1/30sec

Captured using the camera’s Smart Teleconverter feature at 600mm, the effective SteadyShot system has meant this 1200mm-equivalent image is still sharp at 1/30sec

Raw files opened in Photoshop show practically no distortion and very little lateral chromatic aberration, although opening these files in Capture One Express – a downloadable trial of which is provided with the camera – shows this fine performance can be attributed to a profile embedded within the Raw file. Here, a moderate amount of distortion is apparent at both ends of the objective, although chromatic aberration, while present, is surprisingly low.

Very slight vignetting at f/4 can be noticed in captured images of a plain white subject, although this improves at mid-range apertures and fails to manifest itself to any noticeable level in real-world images. Perhaps most crucially, although some softness can be seen in corners at these settings, detail across the frame remains relatively consistent.

The profile built into the camera’s Raw file successfully corrects pincushion distortion at the telephoto extreme of the lens

The profile built into the camera’s Raw file successfully corrects pincushion distortion at the telephoto extreme of the lens

I found the camera’s metering system to do an excellent job to expose appropriately for a range of scenes, doing particularly well when faced with a high-contrast scene with large areas of highlight detail, the kind that easily sways many cameras into underexposure. In such a scene this can cause highlights to blow their detail, and against defined edges, such as a window frame, this can have the effect of causing blooming and purple fringing.

Sony’s Dynamic Range Optimizer technology has proven itself in previous models, and once again it helps to bring up shadowy areas in such scenes where necessary. Examining JPEG files with their Raw counterparts shows some of the finest highlight detail to be lost in the former, although plenty more can be successfully regained with careful post-processing. I was also pleased with the reasonable amount of detail that could be teased out of shadow areas in underexposed Raw images.

While the RX10 III wouldn’t be an obvious choice for low-light performance photography, this image captured at ISO 1600 shows very good detail in such circumstances

While the RX10 III wouldn’t be an obvious choice for low-light performance photography, this image captured at ISO 1600 shows very good detail in such circumstances

Colours produced using the default Standard Creative Style appear to be largely accurate, although I often made use of the Vivid option for its ability to make colours more vibrant without being too artificial, particularly when shooting flowers, foliage and so on. Colour accuracy is helped by a largely unerring auto white-balance system, which maintains a strong performance under combinations of natural and artificial light.

The standard of video is impressive. There is plenty of detail in 4K footage and movement is nice and fluid. If zoomed in sufficiently on a person, the face detection also does a great job to notice the subject, and the slight sound from the lens is often sufficiently masked by ambient noise. Aliasing artefacts are low in many scenes, but noticeable in compositions that contain the usual problematic subjects, such as architecture. With audio, activating the wind filter is advisable as the camera can pick these sounds up quite easily, although audio quality itself is perfectly good.

The High Frame Rate options are also fun to experiment with, although there is a marked difference in quality between the three options available. The 250fps maintains good detail and is free from artefacts, but things turn sour at 1000fps options and you really need good light for these to be usable.

4K Movie Grab

4K video grab

The ability to lift 8.3MP JPEGs from 4K video footage may not sit well with purists, but this is clearly a useful option and the way in which this has been implemented is well thought out. Footage can be slowed right down, rewound and fast-forwarded until the desired point is reached, and the high resolution of the screen allows you to check if the frame you are pulling out is appropriately focused.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 III review: Dynamic range, resolution and noise

The Sony Cyber-shot RX10 III makes use of a 20.1MP 1inch CMOS sensor of the kind that has been employed in Sony’s recent RX models. Although Sony hasn’t explicitly made any claims regarding improvements over the performance of the RX10 II, there appear to be (very) slight changes for the better here with regards to dynamic range and resolution – although the the latter will be a refelciton fo the lens as well as the sensor.

Dynamic range at the lower end of the ISO scale is perfectly respectable, and while considerably lower later on, the drop isn’t any deeper than expected. The impressive resolution may please those using the camera to capture images with finely detailed subjects such as birds or wildlife, while the respectable noise performance also means it may be used in poorly lit environments with success.

Dynamic range:

Unsurprisingly, our Applied Imaging tests show the RX10 III’s sensor to offer similar dynamic range to that of the RX10 II. At its base ISO of 100 it offers 12.5EV, on a par not just with many Micro Four Thirds cameras, but also some APS-C DSLRs. Readings fall only slowly to 11.6EV at ISO400, but drop off more quickly at higher sensitivities. Nonetheless 8.0EV at ISO3200 is quite respectable, but higher ISOs will show noticable shadow noise.

Sony RX10 III DR graph


Despite the much more ambitious lens design compared to the RX10 II, it’s pleasing to see that resolution remains at least as good. JPEGs show 3200l/ph resolved at ISO 100 and 2600l/ph at ISO 6400, and the fall in resolution follows the familiar pattern of slight changes at the lower end of the spectrum and more defined jumps through the middle and higher settings. Raw files do show a slight advantage over JPEGs, with 3400l/ph at low ISO settings falling to 2700l/ph at ISO 6400.







RAW ISO 1,600

RAW ISO 1,600

RAW ISO 6,400

RAW ISO 6,400

RAW ISO 12,800

RAW ISO 12,800


Both raw and JPEG images taken from our diorama scene are captured at the full range of ISO settings. The camera is placed in its default setting for JPEG images. Raw images are sharpened and noise reduction applied, to strike the best balance between resolution and noise.







RAW ISO 1,600

RAW ISO 1,600

RAW ISO 6,400

RAW ISO 6,400

RAW ISO 12,800

RAW ISO 12,800

The camera has its standard sensitivity range of ISO 100-12800 augmented by expansion settings equivalent to ISO 64 and ISO 80 (at the usual expense of highlights potentially clipping to white sooner). At lower sensitivities there’s not much to grumble about with regards to noise, with clean and detailed images. Integrity is maintained very well up until around ISO 1600, and even after this point it stays decent, although as is the case with many cameras, the top setting – that is, ISO 12,800 – is best reserved for when absolutely necessary. Processing Raw files carefully can result in very good detail in images captured throughout much of the sensitivity range, and although the effects of noise reduction make themselves known, it’s still possible to end up with a perfectly good level of detail in many scenes up to ISO 1600 at least.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 III review: Video recording options

RX10 III review

Videos recorded in the camera’s 4K option can have individual frames selected and saved as 8.3MP JPEGs in camera

Videographers are likely to be drawn to the RX10 III for its ability to record 4K UHD footage, but the healthy range of supporting options reveals just how confident Sony is that this camera will be considered for more work.

Those wanting a good starting point for flexible post-production can choose to record using Gamma S-Log2, with a new Gamma Display assist mode to make it easier to assess this footage as it is being recorded. Videographers wanting to achieve a specific look in camera, meanwhile, can record using one of seven Picture Profiles. Each of these can have their black point, gamma, saturation and other parameters adjusted to taste.

Sony has also enhanced the Zebra pattern function included in previous models to make it easier to accurately assess highlight areas, and the option to attach time code to the file is also provided. Footage may also be output clean (i.e. uncompressed) through the HDMI socket.

Built-in microphones handle audio recording as standard, although a port at the side of the camera accepts a 3.5mm microphone. Furthermore, a headphone port underneath this allows audio to be monitored too, with levels displayed on screen.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 III review: Our verdict

Sony Cyber-shot RX10 III side onThe RX10 III rounds off an impressive trilogy of cameras from Sony, and it is difficult to come away from using it and feel underwhelmed. Although it covers much the same territory as the RX10 II, the increase in focal range over previous models changes its proposition, and makes it far more viable as an alternative to a DSLR or mirrorless camera than its two predecessors.


Is it fit as a replacement for such a model? In many respects, yes. Its sensor is clearly capable of capturing very good detail and manages to maintain this at higher sensitivities, while the expansive optic is sharp and blessed with effective image stabilisation, with aberrations either minimised by its optical formula or sufficiently corrected by way of processing. Those scrutinising images closely will appreciate that it can’t always match the clarity offered by the combination of a camera with a larger sensor and a high-quality lens, but it does a mighty good job attempting to do so and maintains this well at higher sensitivities. With the further advantage of sound metering and accurate colour, it is easy to get quality results without recourse to post-processing, although some may wish for in-camera Raw processing.

The list of additional advantages that sweeten its appeal is exhaustive, from its high-quality viewfinder, detailed video footage (and comprehensive control over it) and the various benefits associated with its electronic shutter. The lack of a touchscreen isn’t too significant an issue on such a camera, but a handful of ergonomic revisions would result in a more pleasing user experience, as would a menu system that isn’t quite as tedious to navigate.


Perhaps its main issue is the same one that has troubled previous RX-series models: price. While you’d be hard pushed to find an equivalent DSLR or CSC and lens for the same money, the camera’s main rivals have already enjoyed some time on the market, and this has significantly lowered their asking prices from where they originally began. This leaves the RX10 III undeniably better specified in most areas but significantly dearer.

Price aside, the RX10 III is a stellar camera that’s flexible in both stills and video recording.


Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 III review: Full specification