a review of the sony cybershot dsc-rx100 iii point-and-shoot (short version: it's amazing)
Before I begin, let me just say something about getting really comfortable with using an SLR camera: you inevitably become very skeptical about point-and-shoots. Once you're used to adjusting things like apertures and shutters speeds, cameras that don't allow you to manage these aspects of your camera start to be really frustrating. Of course, Instagram and other photo app filters help; nonetheless, the fact is that when you allow a camera to do all of the adjusting automatically for you, it limits how creative you can be when you're composing a shot.
It's for this reason that for many years I haven't had a point-and-shoot camera (and honestly, the reason that I came late to Instagram) -- I've always found the inability to adjust all camera settings in a point-and-shoot incredibly frustrating. A few years ago, I was given one to review, one that purported to let you adjust all the sorts of things that you would adjust on an SLR camera. While the image quality was fine, I found it really unwieldy: using it manually required opening up menus, changing things, exiting menus and then opening up different menus ... and by the time I had everything set, the lighting had changed on me, or I looked up to find my subject had lost interest and walked away.
You think I'm kidding.
Anyway, the point is that for the most part, I've been using my dSLR to shoot everything. Admittedly, about 10 months ago I did go ahead and open up an Instagram account to use with my iPad Mini (and have been having fun looking for the light, as you know), but even so, while my little iPad Mini camera shoots well enough for what it is, I've found the disparity between the quality of images between the iPad and my Nikon frustrating. So as I mentioned last week, I told Marcus that I wanted a new point-and-shoot. My only requirements were:
1. I wanted the image quality to be strong, so that I could occasionally leave my hefty dSLR at home if I were going on a quick personal trip (or simply have the point-and-shoot constantly in my bag, so that if I stumble across a great shot during my day, I wouldn't lament the fact that I didn't have my big Nikon on me); and
2. I wanted the camera make it easy for me to post images to the internet on the fly -- but I preferred that it not be a Samsung (to date, the only camera I know of that actually allows you to install the Instagram app on it), mostly because Marcus already has the Samsung Galaxy camera.
So Marcus, the ultimate Gadget Guy, went off to do some research, and returned with his favourite: enter the Sony CyberShot RX100 III.
First of all, let me just start by saying that if you're someone who doesn't care a whit about apertures and ISOs and shutter speeds, and you just want a point-and-shoot that automatically takes great shots without having to adjust anything, this little Sony definitely is able to do that beautifully. To wit:
Even better, it allows you to wirelessly connect to your smart phone or tablet so you can transfer your photographs there, and process and upload your photographs to Instagram or Facebook or Flickr or your photo sharing site of choice -- except now, the technical quality of your images will greatly exceed whatever you've been taking on your phone or tablet.
(Admission: while getting the photos to my iPad mini is dead simple once it's all set up, the extra step of having to do that before going to Instagram is a tad cumbersome. But I'm nitpicking here, and the fact that it's even able to transfer the shots wirelessly to the iPad is more than a lot of point-and-shoots do. Besides, when I'm on assignment, like traveling internationally for a commissioned gig, it will be handy to have the Sony to update Instagram on the road to keep you apprised of what I've been up to while I'm gone, and not have to worry about downloading and processing any shots from my Nikon until I get back in front of my big desktop screen.)
So yes, great, easy point-and-shoot.
But here's the best part.
I read an article somewhere (I'm afraid I forgot where, or I'd link to it), that this camera is "the point-and-shoot for experienced photographers." And I think that description is spot on. The lens (from Zeiss, no less!) has a dial on it that lets you easily adjust aperture, and there's a dial on the back of the camera that allows you to adjust shutter speed on the fly. This means you can shoot manually, without having to make your subject wait for eons for you to capture the image -- with a point-and-shoot, no less! It has a sexy viewfinder, so if you don't want to compose your shot using the screen on the back, you don't have to. There's barely any shutter lag -- you click and it shoots, just like a dSLR, without any perceptible delay. And this is awesome: open to its widest angle (24mm), the aperture goes to f/1.8; at its maximum telephoto (70mm) it goes to f/2.8. Which means that this point-and-shoot has a lens that has enough range to capture both decent scenery shots and decent portraits, and you can finally get some of those narrow depth-of-field shots that are so difficult with most point-and-shoots.
And ... get this ... the ISO starts at 125 and goes as high as 12,800. What? I don't know that I would recommend pushing the camera to that sort of ISO (and it does have an attached flash, if you need it), but the shot below of Rufus was taken in extremely low light: at about midnight, without a flash and with only my very dim lamp on the bedside table next to me, while he was lying at the foot of the bed.
Now, clearly, this is not the sharpest of photographs, but instead of grain or noise, notice that the image almost looks like a painting -- the camera did that, it's not a filter that I added. (Note also that the photograph of the wet leaf, 3 images above, was also shot at ISO 6400, and while there was clearly more light there, there's no noise in the image whatsoever.) Wild, right?
So yes, I can tell you that I'm loving playing with this camera -- to the point that I may not be carrying my dSLR with me as often as I used to. There are still things about my Nikon that completely outperform this little camera (as it should), and the Nikon will remain my camera of choice when shooting a commission, but I can tell you that this camera is going to live in my day bag, and will likely take many of the photographs you see on Chookooloonks going forward.
And in 10 years of sharing SLR photographs here on this site, I can't believe I'm saying that about a tiny little point-and-shoot.
So anyway, here are a few more shots that I took with the Sony on Saturday: Marcus, Alex and I walked around 19th Street in the Heights, checking out the small boutiques, the vintage stores, an art gallery or two before finally having a great lunch at the Heights General Store Restaurant.
And finally, a little bonus bit of fun that this camera offers: you know how it can be sort of hard to take a selfie with a point-and-shoot, because you can't see what the image looks like? Well, the screen on this bad boy flips out and forward 180° so you can see what you're shooting when you take a selfie -- and even counts down 3 seconds, so you can get your smiles right before the shutter squeezes.
I always let you know when I'm doing a sponsored post, and as you can see here, I didn't mention anything. That's because this isn't sponsored -- Marcus bought this camera for me for my birthday, and I was blown away enough by it that I wanted to tell you guys about it. I love it that much.