However, instead of a 24-200mm lens, the new model is equipped with a Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 24-600mm equivalent f/2.4-4 zoom with image stabilizer boasting an impressive optical formula. This includes a super ED and five ED glass elements plus two pieces of ED aspherical glass to correct aberrations as well as Zeiss T* coating to minimizes flare and ghosting. Other benefits over its version II predecessor (which remains a current model at $1700) include an updated mechanical shutter, electronic shutter capability to 1/32,000 sec., as well as a silent shooting mode. Maximum magnification in close focusing has increased, to a full 0.49x (nearly one-half life size) thanks to the longer focal lengths.
Evaluation: After the press conference, I had an opportunity of working with a production-level DSC-RX10 III at the San Francisco Zoo, along the Pier 39 waterfront and at a restaurant where models posed for the dozen of us testing the various new Sony products. This hefty camera (1095 g) feels rugged and the body is similar in size to a DSLR. In addition to the many familiar analogue controls, Sony has equipped the lens barrel with controls for aperture, zoom and manual focus as well as a focus hold button. All-in-all, the experience of shooting with this “bridge” camera was very similar to working with a DSLR model.
Of course the viewfinder is electronic, using an organic LED panel with a 0.7x equivalent magnification; dioptric adjustment is available. By default, automatic brightness control is provided but the camera allows for manual brightness adjustment. Particularly with the latter, the EVF can provide a fully accurate view of the scene in terms of exposure and white balance. This is a benefit over an optical finder since the accurate rendition of the scene makes it easy to determine (before shooting an image) whether overrides are required for the optimal results.
Autofocus was very fast in the 24-300mm range particularly in outdoor photography. Like other contrast-detection systems, focusing time was longer in low light, particularly at long focal lengths. Now that the built-in lens extends to a 600mm equivalent focal length, the Optical SteadyShot stabilizer is particularly valuable. This mechanism is said to provide a 4.5 step benefit in camera shake compensation. While I did not have time for extensive testing of OSS, some of my super telephoto images made at 1/60 sec. inside a zoo building were razor sharp.
After reviewing my 300 photos on a pro monitor, I made the following preliminary assessment. The combination of high-grade optics, excellent sensor and BIONZ X processor provide snappy contrast and clarity, with great definition of fine detail especially in the 24-400mm range. I often used the maximum aperture but stopping down to f/8 at long focal lengths did provide better edge-to-edge sharpness at longer focal lengths. Image quality at ISO 4000 was quite impressive and still decent at ISO 6400. While a six hour test period is too brief to make a final evaluation, I was pleasantly surprised with my level of satisfaction with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 III in terms of speed, reliability and especially image quality.
Price and Availability: $2000, Street; May 2016