Sony RX10 III Review – Real World Video Samples & First Impressions

With the introduction of the new Sony RX10 III a month ago today, Sony surprised us all with yet another upgrade to their successful 1” sensor size, built-in zoom lens camera line.  It is alway fascinating to see how a particular camera model evolves over time and the RX10 is no exception. When I first tested the original Sony RX10, I was impressed by the HD video quality and relative ease of use. In many ways, it felt like a potential “dream come true” camera for the many video journalists out there. Then came version II. In a way, I didn’t like working with it as much as with the original model, so I decided to give priority and review the Sony RX100 IV first, which was announced at the same time.

Sony RX10III- Photo by Masami-san IV (1 of 1)

Now that the Sony RX10 III is here, I took it for a short spin and was instantly reminded why I didn’t find the second generation so easy to work with. Let me start by saying that to my opinion, this is a less friendlier camera to work with for the occasional video journalist.

The extended zoom range (600mm, 35mm equivalent) is surely a nice addition for photographers and could have been a very helpful feature for videographers. Unfortunately, the flip side to adding a powerful zoom lens is the lack of the previously implemented ND filter, as well as the loss of constant f2.8 aperture which was so nice to have in the previous models. In addition, although you can now control focus and zoom with two separate lens rings, the overall feeling when dealing with the lens is less than ideal.

It is tiring to deal with endless ring twists in order to achieve a perfect focus point or a certain focal length. The combination of such a lens with a a viewfinder which I find less then attractive to work with, is a recipe for a disaster when working in manual focus mode with this camera. I cannot count the number of times I simply gave up using the manual focus and simply switched to automatic in order to be sure I was in focus.

While the video resolution was upgraded from the original model, the EVF did not catch up. The lens did not give me a sharp corner to corner view and while moving my head just a bit, it looked as if I was already out of focus. Furthermore, that stiff plastic eye cup should simply be replaced in the next model. There is no way to shoot video with confidence in strong outdoor light, as light enters the viewfinder from all directions. If I can compare it to the a7xx models, Sony should adopt the same EVF structure where one can simply remove the provided eye piece to replace it with a better fit.

On a separate note, and like with the previous model, 250 frames for second in almost HD quality is a very nice thing to have. Although I wish Sony would allow adjusting the focal length or focusing AFTER entering the HFR standby mode. For now it feels rather limiting.

On the positive side, Sony added a new REC trigger button on the left hand side of the lens, making it even easier to start recording faster when needed.  You can also choose which ring controls zoom and which one controls focus. Sony also gave us a little extra when it comes to zooming and implemented their “Clear Image Zoom” technology with this camera. Last but not least, they included a “zoom assist” function where you can now re-frame your shoot within the general frame (middle only) and the lens will travel to that chosen focal length. Not sure yet how beneficial it is for my filming workflow but if anybody finds it helpful,  then Sony did their job well.

Sony RX10III- Photo by Masami-san III (1 of 1)

Sony RX10 III Pros: (in no particular order)

  • 4K (UHD) video quality (XAVC S codec)
  • Worldwide camera settings (PAL/NTSC)
  • A variety of High Frame Rates. 240/250 fps (NTSC/PAL) show good quality
  • Great range of min/max focal length (24-600mm, 35mm equivalent)
  • Min. focus distance at the widest focal length is less than 1 cm
  • Compatibility with Sony’s XLR-K1M or XLR-K2M professional audio accessories
  • Can monitor and control audio while recording
  • Well controlled moiré in 4K mode. (HD was not tested)
  • Zebra
  • Peaking
  • Ability to “punch zoom in” for focusing while recording
  • Good “auto focus” performance
  • Clean HDMI output (8 bit, 4:2:2)
  • Extremely customizable “custom keys” feature. You can assign almost any button you need for very easy control
  • “Clear Image Zoom” technology
  • S-log picture profile for wider dynamic range

Sony RX10 III Cons: (in no particular order)

  • No longer features an ND filter
  • When shooting with external recorder or connecting an external monitor, the camera LCD/EVF will go blank leaving only the layouts visible on the camera while the picture itself moves to the external device
  • Constant fast aperture through the range is unfortunately a thing of the past
  • The glass before the OLED viewfinder should be improved as it does not give a sharp image edge to edge
  • The stiff plastic eye cup should be replaced and be like the one found on the Sony a7x family where one can simply remove the provided eye piece to replace it with a better fit.
  • “Running on NTSC” notice on a PAL camera is still there
  • Noticeable amounts of rolling shutter effect

Conclusion: 

It might be a bit misleading looking at the above list and see so many Pros vs Cons points. One may ask why the reviewer does not like working with this particular camera. One of the most important things for me is to end a shooting day feeling like the camera and I worked in complete harmony in order to achieve the best possible video quality. I’m afraid I cannot say that when it comes to working with the Sony RX10 III. I actually finished my working day questioning the quality I had achieved. Furthermore, the absence of previously available features like ND filter and a constant fast aperture leads me to think that this particular model is aimed more for the photographers among us rather then the videographers.

As the original Sony RX10 is available at $798 and the Sony RX10 II can now be had for $1198, I’ll leave it to our distinguished users to decide if this updated model is indeed for them.

For those who would like to download the ungraded 4K file, please use the link above

 

Camera settings for this video: XAVC S 4K 25p 100m file format and record settings. Mostly shot on native ISO 800. Max ISO used: 1250. When recording in HFR: 250fps. Picture Profile: S log 2. All audio was recorded in camera (XLR-K2M with Rode NTG 2 microphone). Audio was processed in Audacity in order to remove camera pre amp noise. Light set-up: Kinotechnik Practilite 602. Edited in Adobe Premiere CC latest edition and graded with filmConvert Sony RX10 II preset.

Music: Art-List. Used themes: “Wellington Joke by Bs” & “Natural Way by Easy People”

A special thank you to Masami Morimoto. Find out more about her activities by clicking here

 
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 Ash Tailor Reply
Ash Tailor May 3, 2016

Looks fantastic and beautiful little insight Johnnie.

I dont think the music worked though, totally conflicted the tonality of what was on screen. That’s just me though :)

Reply
Johnnie Behiri May 4, 2016

Hi Ash, Thank you for taking the time to watch the video and comment.

“Sharp eyes” (or should I write “sensitive ears”)? you have. Because of different reasons, it was not easy to find music for that specific review. After spending a considerable amount of time, that’s the best that I could come up with.

Thanks again!

Johnnie

 KC Bassett Reply
KC Bassett May 3, 2016

Great Job Looks Impressive but i’m sure your skillset had a lot to do with that ;)

Reply
Johnnie Behiri May 4, 2016

Hi KC.

You are too kind with words. I still have A LOT to learn and that’s one of the reasons to why this job excites me over and over again.

Thanks!

Johnnie

Chris Gibbs Reply
Chris Gibbs May 4, 2016

That’s one cool and talented lady Johnnie, how do you find these great subjects? ~Chris

Reply
Johnnie Behiri May 4, 2016

Hi Chris. Thanks for watching the video!

Masami-san is indeed a very special person!!.
I guess my internal curiosity helps in finding those special people. After all, everybody has something small to tell!.

Thanks again!

Johnnie

Reply
Alexander Tardif May 4, 2016

Thanks for sharing, Johnnie! I recently acquired RX10M2 (as well as RX100M4) and agree with all of your findings for both cameras. RX100M3 doesn’t give me enough incentive to move up/upgrade, and the lack of built in ND is a biggie, so I personally see it more focused on stills, wheres M2 is a better balanced tool for video. I really like what you’ve done in post with the footage, big plus for someone considering this camera!

One question… did you have any issues with the mic that came with XLR-K2M or was there another reason to replace that with the Rhode?

Reply
Johnnie Behiri May 4, 2016

Hi Alexander

Always welcome!

No issues what so ever with the supplied XLR-K2m mic. I use it on the field as a better “camera mic” or when I’m stuck from what ever reason with no other mic alternative.
The Rode is simply a better alternative for that kind of film.

Thanks!

Johnnie

Reply
the SUBVERSIVE May 4, 2016

I don’t understand why they removed the built-in ND, I mean, I get it, probably because of the new lens but they should had found a way to keep the ND, it was an important feat.

Reply
Johnnie Behiri May 4, 2016

Hi the SUBVERSIVE

I can only echo your words. What a missed opportunity.

Thanks.

Johnnie

 John Christopher Eleazar Reply
John Christopher Eleazar May 4, 2016

hi johnnie,

awesome review! been waiting for this before purchasing. i’m seriously considering this as a 3rd camera next to 2 canon c100s for events. now, i’d like to ask what you meant about endless ring twists? could you please elaborate on that? it’s very much appreciated! :-)

regards,
john e.

Reply
Alexander Tardif May 4, 2016

Fly by wire focus mechanism: no hard stops, amount of turn is related to your turning velocity – the faster you turn the ring the quicker the focus moves but not in a linear fashion. This makes precise focus very difficult and muscle memory turns impossible. To further compound the issue is that the sensors on these are not very precise (as they are on some Sony G lenses or Zeiss Batis primes). With that said, focus peaking and magnification makes things manageable :) just don’t expect precision you get on your L glass or true mechanical and/or fully manual mechanisms.

Reply
the SUBVERSIVE May 4, 2016

It doesn’t necessarily has to be velocity sensitive, there are some other cases in which it works pretty well and some very clever solutions. But I’ve to say that I’ve never had it working properly with a Sony, it’s either too sensitive or you have to make 3 turns from closest to infinity, it’s really annoying.

Reply
Johnnie Behiri May 4, 2016

Hi John.

Alexander did a great job in elaborating on what I meant by endless ring twists.

Hope it helps.

Thanks!

Johnnie

Reply
Thomas Brohl May 4, 2016

Thanks for the great review. I have one coming.
I’ll miss the ND filter. The photo above looks like you have one attached? If so, which one?
Thanks,
Tom

Reply
Johnnie Behiri May 4, 2016

Hi Thomas.

I used the SLR Magic 77mm Variable Neutral Density Filter.

For more info, in the link above at the end of the review under “ADDITIONAL EQUIPMENT USED/-Adapters / Filters

Thank you!

Johnnie

Reply
Thomas Brohl May 4, 2016

Thanks Johnnie! Sorry I missed it first time around.
-Tom

Reply
Johnnie Behiri May 4, 2016

No worries. We definitely have to improve that part of our page.

Thanks!

Reply
Thomas Brohl May 4, 2016

Johnnie, before I order, I thought the filter size on the RX10 III was 72mm?
Thanks,
-Tom

Reply
Johnnie Behiri May 4, 2016

Indeed! I used a 72-77 ring.

Reply
Thomas Brohl May 4, 2016

Great, Thanks

Art Sanchez Reply
Art Sanchez May 4, 2016

Hi Jonnie.
I have a question:
In which focal lenght does it change from 2.8 to f4?
Thanks in advance

cinema5D Reply
cinema5D May 4, 2016

Hi Art. Camera is not here anymore but if I’m not mistaken it was around 85mm. Thanks. Johnnie

Art Sanchez Reply
Art Sanchez May 4, 2016

Thanks for the info

 Ian Hunter Reply
Ian Hunter May 4, 2016

Put a full frame sensor in this thing and were in business.
All the cam you’ll ever need.
Plus, I’ve always had an affinity for a single lens.

 J.c. Monzón Reply
J.c. Monzón May 4, 2016

So can it do 4K an SD NTSC/PAL WOW!!! No HD??? It’s a Standard Df Only camera??? What good is that if its only does NTSC/PAL and Not ATSC or HD? We live in a HD world with frame rates of 23.98Pfs to 120Fps???

Reply
Johnnie Behiri May 4, 2016

Hi J.c.

Surely it is an HD camera too. I used the term NTSC/PAL to highlight its world compatibility.

Thanks.

Johnnie

Reply
Roberto Garces May 8, 2016

Convincing portrayal of this woman. Interesting story told by a diversity of nice shots. Congrats!

Concerning the colours, I find them to be not as near as appealing as what the Blackmagics can offer. The price is good though and could be very useful when traveling, etc.

It is just this camera colours that give you that feeling of “not really”.

Reply
Johnnie Behiri May 9, 2016

Hi Roberto.

I truly advice you to download the non graded version (https://vimeo.com/165143021) and see if you can grade it for your liking. Maybe then colours in general will be less then an issue for you.

Thanks!

Johnnie

Reply
Roberto Garces May 20, 2016

Thanks for the advice Jhonnie. I’will see what I can come up with. Let’s keep an open mind. Maybe I am just too used to the Blackmagic camera colour excellence.

Rodrigo.

 Franck Bernard Reply
Franck Bernard May 9, 2016

Thanks Johnnie for the great review and film. Very inspiring.
A quick question if I may. You are also using the A7Sii, so how would you compare these 2 cameras ?
I know they are in different categories, but the RX10iii looks impressive, so I was wondering if the A7Sii is justifying the extra spend ? Thanks !

Reply
Johnnie Behiri May 9, 2016

Hi Franck.

Thanks for your thumbs up. Appreciated!.

I would prefer working with the a7SII over the RX10 III on any given day. The main 2 reasons are:

– Ease of focusing (I still think that the a7SII EVF is better then the RX10III, and there are many other zoom lenses to fit the a7SII with a better focus throw.

– Picture aesthetics. I personally prefer the look of a full frame camera over 1” sensor.

Actually, I would even prefer the Sony RX10 II over the RX10 III because of the built in ND filter and constant f2.8 aperture.

Hope that helps. Thanks!

Johnnie

 Franck Bernard Reply
Franck Bernard May 9, 2016

Thank you so much for taking the time to provide your insight. This is indeed very helpful.

 Franck Bernard Reply
Franck Bernard June 23, 2016

Hi Johnny
I went ahead for the A7Sii and I must say it is really impressive so far. Beautiful image, lots of flexibility and pleasant to use. Low light is fantastic.
One aspect I’m not sure about is the difference between shooting videos in “Movie” mode on the mode dial (say Movie/P for example, with a specific set of parameters for picture profile etc…) versus shooting in “P” mode (supposed to be for stills) and recording a video in that mode, with the same set of parameters.
In “P” mode it seems it is also using the same video parameters, and we can shoot both video and stills in that mode (in Movie mode, we can’t take pictures).

Is there any down side of shooting video clips using one of the standard (stills) mode (like P, A and S) ?
The advantage is obviously the ability to shoot both videos and stills while staying in the same mode.

Thanks for your opinion on this !

Reply
Johnnie Behiri June 24, 2016

Hi Frank.

Happy to know you are having fun with your new camera.

Regarding video mode vs stills mode.

– When the camera is on stills mode, some video settings won’t be visible until you hit the REC button. For example, try adding “Markers” when on stills mode (I often use this function as I like that 2:35:1 aspect ratio), and those layouts won’t be visible until you start recording.

– Another example is the “APS-C/Super 35mm” function when shooting 4K video. When on stills mode, you can play with this function and believe you can crop into the sensor in order to achieve a narrower field of view by a click of a button, but in reality when you press the REC button the picture will “zoom out” as this function is not available for 4K video recording.

I’m sure there are more valid reasons to why NOT to shoot video on photo mode but I can summarise it all by saying that if you are on a family trip, I see no reason to why not stay on the photo mode and shoot video/stills pictures, but if you are on a paid work, then I will definitely set the camera on “video mode”.

Last but not least, When it comes to shooting video, I’m always on “video M mode” in order to control the camera and its behavior. From your comment I can see that you prefer letting the camera do some of the work for you (P,S,A modes). It’s OK, just mind you that the results you will be getting are partly creatively limited to what you would have been getting if shooting on “M mode”.

Thank you!

Johnnie

 Franck Bernard Reply
Franck Bernard June 24, 2016

Thanks a lot Johnnie. Very helpful as always.
I agree on the manual mode, and I will get there ultimately :-)

Reply
William Rowbottom May 19, 2016

Wow, great footage. I am going to downgrade from my sony a7s and lesnses as it is to expensive to either the sony rx10 II or Sony rx10 III. Which one would be a great all around camera for multiple kinds of cinematography including portraiture and wildlife, event/advertisement/wedding filming as well as sometimes photography? The Sony rx10 mark2 has built in nd filters and a fast 2.8 lense at 200mm. But according to what I have researched the sony rx10mark3 has a lense that can do sceneary portrait zoom and macro all in one. Does the sony rx10mark2 focus very well it would be annoying to have a lens that zooms focuses with only one ring and no manual control similar to a kit lense. On the other hand can you focus while filming slkow motion on the sony rx10mark2? As this is a very bad drawback on the sony rx10mark3.How bad is the viewfinder on both rx10 cameras as I loved my view finder on the sony a7s?
Would the sony fs700 be a better filming tool or would it be to expensive for a low budget
?

Anyway, Sorry about all the questions.I just need an all around great cinematic camera that does not get to expensive and need to many accessories.

Once again excellent footage.

William Rowbottom

Reply
Johnnie Behiri June 24, 2016

William, please excuse my very late response. I simply missed your comment. Apology for that!.

Regarding your questions:

– The only advantage I can see for working with the RX10III over the RX10II is when shooting wildlife.
– I don’t have any of the RX10 cameras in house, but if I’m not mistaken, it is not possible to focus on either after hitting the REC button in slow-motion mode.
– For my old eyes, the RX10II/III viewfinder is inferior to the a7S/II.
– The FS700…Well, this camera will behave like the RX10II/III when recording slow-motion internally, BUT, attach it to Convergent design’s odyssey and you get a completely different beast! Beautiful 2K 240fps video. No buffering or soft HD video.

Hope that helps and SORRY again!

Johnnie