Sony RX100 III vs RX100 II vs RX100 – Differences

Sony RX100 III banner

In this article I will give you an in-depth introduction of the new Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III pocket large-sensor zoom camera.  We’ll talk about its key features and the reasons why this little camera should be your next camera. Furthermore, I will compare the RX100 III versus the two older model, the RX100 II and the RX100 (Mark I). There significant chanced in the new model, so without further ado, let’s get excited!

Sony RX100 III

The Cyber-shot RX100 III, or some refer to it as the RX100 Mark 3 or MK3 in short, was announced in May 16, 2014.  There was a great anticipation for a replacement for the RX100 II, which in many people’s opinion, was one of the most interesting, innovative and best performing compact camera on the market.

On of the main reasons why the Rx100 series a lot of attention was due to the combination of advanced photographic capabilities and high performance, all packed in a pocket-sized camera — a camera that you can take everywhere you go. For many photographers this all that it needs to be convinced to get this camera, and the RX100 and RX100 II releases, followed by mane positive reviews from the leading camera review websites.

Sony is already a synonym to innovation in the photography world, but not just. Sony keep innovating and that make more people make a transition and buy its products.  I am among those by the way.

The Sony RX100 III is the latest in the RX line of premium compact cameras.  The new camera has many of its predecessor features improved and some new added as well. The RX100 III does feature the same exact 1″ (13.2×8.8mm) BSI 201.MP sensor as its predecessor, the RX100II, but enjoys a more advanced Bionz X image processor.

1-inch sensor vs 1/2.3-inch sensor size comparison illustration
1-inch sensor vs 1/2.3-inch sensor size comparison - light capture area that is 4 times greater than the 1/2.3" sensor

The RX100 III 1″ sensor is also referred to as large-sensor, because it’s much larger than the conventional 1/2.3″ (6.17×4.55mm) size sensor that you can find on many compact camera and bridge cameras.

Sony also improved the lens by using a specially developed Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 lens.  So the RX100 II features both a wider-angle (thank you Sony!) compared to the 28mm of the previous models, but it’s also faster (f/2.8 vs f/4.9) as the tele-end. The catch here, and there is a slight catch if you haven’t noticed, is that Sony decided to use a lens with a shorter focal length range, or smaller zoom in other words. So instead of a 3.6x optical zoom lens, you get a 2.9x optical zoom. 24-70mm focal length is a very popular range for a walkaround/general purpose lens.  I don’t know how many people will miss the 70-100mm range, but I assume that Sony had no other option in order to keep the lens size small, and the price relatively low. Furthermore, I think that having a faster is better, because it elevates the camera’s low-light capabilities and therefore allows you to shoot at night and get well-exposed shots, without the need to have an external flash or without the nee to bump up the ISO to very high sensitivity — which can lead to more image noise.

The new lens gives 1 stop advantage over the RX100 and RX100 II lenses, which means that it can gather twice the amount of light at the tele-end. This also means that you have more control of the depth of field, and you can achieve more prominent background defocus effect. On top of this, you will be able to capture fast moving subjects with better ease, because you can use a faster shutter speed /  aperture combination without the need to use higher ISO sensitivity. I personally prefer faster apertures due to the more prominent shallow depth of field effect, which allows me to be more creative with my shots.

Having a 24mm lens (compared to 28mm) allows more of the scene to be captured from a given same distance from the subject compared to a 28mm lens.  It’s great for landscape shots, group shots and macro as well (as close as 30 cm).  This is also what made the RX100 a popular camera among travelers. Indeed, it’s lack the zoom range as some other superzoom lenses, but you gain better portability, wide-angle and better low-light capabilities which are, so it seems, not less important then having a big zoom.

The new lens feature 10 elements in 9 groups, including nine aspherical glass elements alongside two advanced aspherical elements, which both have lute together to provide edge-to-edge clarity and sharpness, while also helping to maintain the compactness of the optics. According to Sony, this is the first time such lens elements molding is used. The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III lens also features ZEISS T* unique lens coating that further enhance reduec flare and ghosting.  Sony works hard to perfect the lens and make its new baby appeal to enthusiasts and pros who are looking for a super advanced compact camera. The lens is one of the most important parts of this camera, and no doubt that Sony put a lot of effort to perfect it to a great extent.  The lens features seven-blade circular aperture for buttery-smooth defocus effect (aka Bokeh).

Sony also incorporated a 3-stop neutral density filter, that allows you to have more flexibility when shooting outdoors at bright daylight, and you want to use slower shutter speeds, while still maintaining an optimal exposure or still maintaining the shallow depth of field with the aperture wide open.

I think that even without talking about the other features, the new lens by itself might might already convinced RX100 and RX100 II owners to upgrade to the new model, and such an amazing model it is.

BUT wait, it’s far away from being over.

RX100 III pop-up electronic viewfinder vs RX100 II flash only
RX100 III also features a pop-up electronic viewfinder, alongside its pop-up flash

The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 MK3 also features a (new to the series) 1.4M-dot OLED Tru-Finder EVF with ZEISS T* coating on the eyepiece to reduce reflections. This is not just the ordinary EVF that you can expect in a premium compact camera. The EVF itself is built inside the camera itself with a pop-up mechanism – That’s what I call innovation! More than that, the RX100 III costs approx. $100 more than the RX100 II at the time of writing. This means that you don’t need to buy an external EVF that costs around $250-$350 (depends on the model, maybe more or less, didn’t do a comprehensive check) and takes a lot of space at the top of the camera – AMAZING!

By using this type of pop-up mechanism, Sony kept the RX100 III size smaller. This instead of using it externally, which would lead to a large bulge at the top.

At the back of the camera you’ll find a  tiltable LCD display, which was designed to allow easy selfie shooting (self-portraits) by tilting the display 180-degrees up, or 45 degrees down for for high-angle shots.

Sony RX100 III selfie shooting using the rotating LCD
Sony RX100 III selfie shooting using the rotating LCD

The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III, like its predecessors, can shoot Full HD videos. However, the RX1000 III enjoys more advanced features, including the option to record videos using the XAVC S format. The XAVC S is Sony’s own format. It was announced by Sony on April 7, 2013. This format supports video recording up to 3840×2160 resolution (3840×2160 = 8,294,400 pixels = UHD-1 Ultra High Definition Television resolution) and uses MP4 as its container format and AAC or LPCM for the audio recording.

The RX100 III is the first of the RX series to use this format. It allows the camera to capture videos at 50 mbps using a lower compression. This leads to improved video quality that many enthusiast videographers demand. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to purchase a fast SDXC card with a Class 10 or higher (visit Sony website for more detailed information), as video recording at 50mbps cannot be recorded on a standard speed SD card. The RX100 III also supports Clear HDMI output (uncompressed video preview, however not for recording to external device), 120 fps 720p video recording, 5-axis image stabilization for video that Sony calls ‘Intelligent Active Mode’ (first in the series). This significantly helps to reduce the shakiness effect when shooting videos handheld.

Other features include a built-in Wi-Fi and NFC, PlayMemories app compatibility, P/A/S/M shooting modes, built-in sweep panorama function, auto HDR, Smile shutter technology, 10 fps continuous shooting at full resolution, 1/2000 sec maximum shutter speed, lots of picture effects and scene modes to play with, built-in LED as an AF illuminator, 25 contrast-detect AF points, Clear Image Zoom, 320 CIPA battery life, etc.

No doubt that the new Sony Cybershot RX100 III is meant for greatness. I am personally so excited to see that Sony keep innovating and keep emphasizing in improving in areas that are expected to be improved, and not just that, adding its own unique tech innovation technologies as well. What more can you ask for?

If you are like me, you are probably super excited about this new release. In the next section we’ll take a closer look at the differences between the new RX100 3 and the older models, so you can clearly see and understand the differences.

RX100 III vs RX100 II vs RX100

Now that you are familiar with the Sony RX100 III M3 key features, let’s take a look at the differences between the M3, M2 and M models.

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You can clearly see from the above comparison table, that the new RX100 III is the best among three (as expected of course), but also positioned itself as a well-worthy upgrade for people who own the previous model. If I had the RX100 II, I think that I would certainly upgrade to the M3 RX 100 III camera for its EVF, XAVC video format and faster optics.  The RX100 III image quality also expected to be better do to the new image processor.

I think that Sony will eventually recreate the success of its first RX100 all over again.  The 3-stop ND filter, Zebra pattern and focus peaking function, NFC/Wi-Fi, faster lens, pop-up OLED EVF, 180-degree tiltable LCD, very good battery life, customizable front lens ring, etc — this is the mother of all compact cameras!

The RX100 III drops the Multi-Interface shoe connected, leaving you with no option to connect and external stereo mic or attach an external flash. I think that most people who buy a compact camera couldn’t care less. They search for a pocketable camera that they can take everywhere they go, and want Sony to focus on features that are most important for such cameras. I think that exactly what Sony has focus on and it delivered an exceptional large-sensor compact camera that the competition will have a very tough time competing against.

I also think that some people who previously planned buying a mirrorless camera, might even consider buying the RX100 III instead.

What’s your opinion? — share your opinion by leaving a comment in the comment section below. Thanks for reading and please don’t forget to like and share!