With the first RX10 of the name, Sony had invented the concept of expert bridge, a rare type of device – Panasonic and Sony are the only ones to offer it – which combines the attributes of expert compacts (large sensors, high-end optics, modes manuals) to those of bridges (comfortable grip, powerful zoom). But if Sony was the first to shoot, it was Panasonic that won the laurels with its FZ1000, a more balanced case, as much or even more efficient and cheaper. With its RX10 Mark III, Sony decided to play the high-end card by pushing the price even higher (€ 1,800 against € 1,200 “only” for the brand new FZ2000 currently under review) in order to offer the best quality possible image. A good bet?
Good construction, no tropicalization
Solid and rather heavy for a bridge – 1095 g – the RX10 Mark III benefits from a good build quality. If its weight is substantial, it is incredibly lower than what an equivalent SLR would represent since it has an optic equivalent to a 24-600 mm f / 2.4-4 – in SLR, it must be close to 10 kg!
The screen can only be oriented vertically, but this position has the advantage of not hindering access to the video sockets (read below) and if the viewfinder deserves to be a little wider, the aiming panel is bright and very readable (it changes). The controls are generally well placed as soon as you get used to it – the video button is very close to the viewfinder but it falls well under the thumb. The exposure dial is strong enough not to spin on its own in a bag, which is nice, but unfortunately it’s a bit small.
Image quality: high-flying optics
Nowadays, at a time when all image sensors are good, the real difference is made on optics. This RX10 Mark III is the perfect proof: rather than playing the race at absolute power, the x24 zoom of this high-end bridge offers exceptional performance. Opening at f / 2.4 at wide angle and f / 4 at the end of zoom (we are at f / 3.5 from 56 mm), this optic offers an excellent sharpness of image from the full opening. The few optical defects are impeccably corrected in Jpeg in the box and easy to rework in RAW if necessary (read further). Sony brings us one of its best optics here, especially since the zoom power is tripled compared to the first RX10!
View and download the images in high resolution on our Flickr album.
At 600 mm, the optics always manage to produce pictures with well-defined contours and delivering an impression of relief (the sharpness). The sensor, yet rich in pixels (20 Mpix) compared to its size is perfectly served by this large zoom and produces images so detailed that we often have the impression of having a good reflex image under the eyes. Bluffing. Especially since the photos above were taken “by show of hands”.
Progressive ISO upgrade
Without being a champion of low light, this high-end bridge performs well when light is scarce. If the degradation of the details starts (slowly) from ISO 400/800, the rise in digital noise is progressive, almost linear and offers a pleasant grain … as long as we take the trouble to deactivate the noise reduction algorithms by high ISO; (first tab “Photo”, 6th tab, 4th function “High ISO RB“).
The nature of the colors is preserved up to ISO 6400, the value from which a slight blue / green hue appears. If 1600 ISO remains the value not to be exceeded for large prints, we were pleasantly surprised by the maintenance of the consistency (colors, noise, details) of the photos up to the maximum value of 12.800 ISO.
In expert bridge there is “expert” which implies the presence of the RAW file format. This digital “negative” file which, like its silver grandfather, contains much more information than the “developed” photo in Jpeg. If the RAW does not change much for small sensors equipped with low-end optics, with a 1-inch sensor and high-end optics we are entitled to expect much better results.
And this is indeed the case as these two examples show: in the case of the cow, we recover a fairer white balance and we benefit from a better level of detail (development in DxO Optics Pro 11). In the case of the moon image, the RAW file allows to reveal and highlight the darker areas of our satellite.
If ordinary people shoot Jpeg on a daily basis, advanced users will opt, when they can / want, for RAW. This is all the more so since Sony is still having a little trouble producing colors that are doggy.