I bought my RX100M3 in December 2014 and it’s pretty much the only camera I use to capture my personal memories and I choose to leave the bulky Canon 5D Mark iii for work only events.
In the last 8 months I’ve taken my trusty RX100M3 skiing in Austria, a long weekend in Paris, a stag week in Vegas, a week at Glastonbury Festival and most recently a week in Switzerland. I look after my kit and it’s never dropped, exposed to moist or excessively dusty environments, kept in a soft pouch, etc. It’s got an official Sony screen protector on the rear and Sony grip on the front. (If you are reading this and you own any RX100 model do yourself a massive favour and buy the Sony stick on grip, you’ll thank me).
So on my latest trip to Switzerland I was trying to capture the beautiful lake view and instantly noticed a large dark spot in the sky on every image.
I have a lot of big camera equipment (5D3, 5D2, 7D, and pretty much every Canon L-series lens with a focal length of 200mm or less, speedlights, extenders, strobes etc) but that’s because photographer is my day to day business.
I used to take at least a full frame 5D and perhaps 24-70 F2.8L with me on holliday along with an entry P&S like an IXUS but I hated the results from the small sensor IXUS and loathed carrying the heavy 5D combo around when trying to enjoy a holiday but I was always afraid I’d miss a great and memorable shot with the family.
Some time in 2011 Fuji released the X10 which ticked a lot of boxes for me, compact(ish), larger than normal sensor and good manual zoom lens with viewfinder. I went on a ski holiday packing only that camera and never looked back. My bulky SLRs were banished from all future holidays. Then I added the APS-C sensor X100S to my travel kit and on a trip to NYC that was the only camera I took and the photographs (aka future memories) are amazing but the X100S is not pocketable, it’s small and light and fine for walking around with a small shoulder strap but I still craved a pocketable camera. My X10 was stolen but with the insurance payout I bought the Fuji XF1, even smaller than the X10, same sensor and manual zoom but I never really fell in love with it. Yes the XF1 was tiny and IXUS sized and fits in a jeans front pocket but the lens opening was fiddly, the focussing was hit and miss and the quality was good but obviously not a patch on the X100S images I had become accostomed to.
[I know I’m going on a tangent here but I’m sure a few people considering the RX100M3 will own or had experience with the X10, X100S and XF1 so I’m just setting the scene on what I was after in a camera.]
Roll on Amazon Black Friday and the Sony A5100 with kit lens comes up so I take a punt and buy it. I loved it, APS-C sensor, flash you can bounce off ceilings, wifi, touch screen, flip screen, and so on. I used it for a week at home and around my home city and thought I’d found a winner but it was just a little too big with the kit lens. It would fit in most jacket pockets but not jeans pocket so I decided I’d rather sell it to a friend who wanted one and keep looking.
Then I spoke with somebody who had just bought an RX100M3 and raved about it and they very rarely raved about a camera. I took the plunge and bought one and I’m really glad I did. Ok so the sensor is smaller than the APS-C in the X100S and A5100 but it’s still a huge sensor for this size of camera and the lens is phenomenal. F1.8 at the wide end and F2.8 at max zoom, coupled with steady image and dedicated multi-shot night time modes mean I’ve been able to get some low light shots of the Christmas light switch on that you would struggle to get even with a tripod mounted SLR. The tilting screen I thought would be gimmicky but it really helps get low shots with more accuracy and frame high shots with ease.
It’s great to have the EVF built in too. I’ve been spoilt with the hybrid EFV in the X100S which is still one of thes best systems I’ve ever used but this little EVF on the RX100M3 is perfect for what I need. It really helps you see what you’re shooting in direct sunlight and using a viewfinder generally helps me keep the camera steady too compared to arm extended screen composing.
What can I say, it fits in my front and back jeans pockets, that’s all I needed. It’s heavy and you know it’s there but it fits and it means I can take it with me almost everywhere meaning I don’t miss a shot. It’s a little slippy in use, there’s a small thumb grip on the rear but nothing on the front so I’ve ordered the offical sony stick on grip for the front to eliminate that minor issue.
I’m very impressed. The 1″ sensor and fast lens combo (24-70 equiv) mean you can get some great sharp shots even in low light, you can get some great shallow DOF shots if that’s your cup of tea, you can get some equally great wide landscape shots too. The focusing is fast and accurate, I must admit I don’t ever have a need to photograph any fast moving subjects to test out the tracking focus but in every day people, landscape, holiday photography it seems fast and accurate. I grumbled a little that at this price Sony don’t give you a stand alone battery charger and you charge the battery via USB but then I realised it’s perfect for me as I have a 15000 mah portable USB charger so I can simply take that on holidays and it gives me the added benefit of being able to charge the camera whilst out and about which is something you can’t normally do so I always buy spare batteries for my cameras but I’ll stick with just the one battery with this.
you’ll have to ask somebody else for a review on this. I don’t shoot movies, perhaps a shot 5 second clip on an iPhone 6 which I then never do anything with. Others praise the new video codec in this camera, I believe them that it’s good, but no point in me commenting on something I know nothing about.
WiFi connectivity. I know this isn’t new or specific to the RX100M3 and in fact I had a few days playing with it on the A5100 I had but I love it. I’m used to coming back from a shoot (work or personal), taking out a memory card and downloading from CF or SD cards to my computer into lightroom for editing or straight into iPhoto if it’s just general snaps. Sometimes you just want a photo to share on social media or quickly send to a family member and you don’t want to have to wait until you get home, download it and then share it. Previously I’d end up taking two shots, one with the X100S and one with my iPhone 6 for instant sharing. Now I just take it with the RX100M3 and can pick and choose which ones to upload to my iPhone (at reduced size or full resolution if I want) for instant sharing/backup. Once upon a time I bought an eyefi card to do this but it was clunky and just didn’t work reliably, Sony have a nice fast and streamlined system integrated into this camera which works well and also lets you use your smartphone as a remote trigger, handy for long exposure shots. Built in ND filter – I have this on the X100S and it’s great for portrait shots at low aperture in bright sunlight, I forgot the RX100M3 has one too, nice bonus.
No real deal breaker cons to mention although there are a few things I wish were different. The flash could do with a little more power so I could bounce it off very high ceilings but considering tiliting the flash backwards to bounce it isn’t actually listed as a feature I can’t complain. Even thought the A5100 touch screen was limited in functionality, I did find tap to focus useful every now and again to quickly focus on a subject that auto-focus kept missing. There is no touch screen on the RX100M3 but I can live with that (until an M4 comes out with touch screen and envy kicks in). The camera powers off when you close the EVF, this is by design but sometimes you just want to get the EVF out the way and carry on shooting.
The low down
My XF1 has been sold and I’m even contemplating selling my X100S and just keeping this as my one and only go to camera for non-work related photography it is that good. If you are tempted by the RX100M3 but it’s just a little too pricey then opt for the RX100M2. You won’t get the EVF and the lens is a little slower (but longer) and screen doesn’t tilt as much but it’s substantially cheaper.