Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Sony RX100M III Is Impressive, But Was Anyone Expecting Anything Less?

The first reviews of the Sony RX100M III are out, and really, we didn't need them to reach a conclusion: The RX100M III is even better than its predecessors. It damn well better be considering the price increase. $800 is a lot of coin.

And that's the difficult part. Sony was not exactly being aggressive with the original RX100 at $650. It sold, like, ninety buhjillion copies. The RX100M II sold for $750, an even harder sell. It still sold well, but sold less than half of the first. Granted, some of this is because the first camera ate up a great deal of demand. Let's face it, there are only so many people willing to plunk down the better part of a grand on a small camera. That said, that should have made Sony even more aggressive in keeping the price the same or even lower. Do you see Apple increasing the price of the iPhone or iPad every year? No. And considering inflation, that means that today's $200 iPhone is cheaper than the $200 iPhone from 2007.

Basically, the price increase was stupid on Sony's part. But, well, Sony is stupid. Their camera division is smart, but I guarantee that after the monster success of the RX100 that higher-level executives jumped in and fucked everything up. The price increase was a decision that was almost undoubtedly made by executives outside of the camera division.

And those executives are obviously still in control, because here we are, with the eight-hundred-freaking-dollar RX100M III.

Let's withhold judgment, though. Is the new camera worth the price? It has that viewfinder that everyone wants, which is a genuine upgrade, but it loses the hot shoe from the last RX100 camera. Its lens is brighter but shorter, meaning that there is even less chance of getting any bokeh out of the small, 1" sensor. At the same time, it keeps the flash that no enthusiasts would ever use. And who the hell else is buying this thing save for enthusiasts?

Sony has thankfully made some progress with the sensor. I maintain that ISO performance has stopped being a serious concern for anyone with larger sensors, but on smaller sensors, it is still a huge concern. DxOMark shows that the sensors of the M II and M III are the same, but the photos themselves are not. Sony made definite progress in making the photos look less like P&S images. Nikon's inane 1-series cameras and the first RX100 looked like P&S images. Unbelievably fantastic P&S images, but still P&S. The RX100M II also seemed like this in some shots.

It may just be the processing, but the new RX100M III looks better than the M II. This is a big deal. Because while these cameras may never be useful in low-light, they could become genuine tools for high-light situations. And the lens on this bad boy is awesome. It is tack sharp. You could easily take landscape photos and architecture photos with this camera.

Aside from that, and that is arguably a big deal, there is little in the way of real changes to this camera. And for that honor, we pay $50 more over an already overprices camera? Sony's price increase may come from the fact that there is almost nothing in the way of competition out there, and the competition that exists is even more arrogant and stupid. The Canon G1X II is utterly obviated by even the first RX100. It is over-priced, under-powered, and under-featured. And it is of course housing one of Canon's famously-crap sensors.

Likewise, the Nikon Coolpix A was a $1,200 piece of shit that targeted the Fuji X100. No one bought it. Seriously, the RX100 stood more-or-less alone and pretty much still does. There are rumors that Fuji has a camera coming out, and Panasonic undoubtedly will have a camera with the sensor from the new FZ1000 in it, but those are all in the future. Right now, it's Sony or nobody.

What's especially disappointing is that the original RX100 was groundbreaking. It was stupid that it took camera companies that long to release the first large-sensor P&S (I'm not counting Sigma's Foveon cameras), but it was still groundbreaking. For the large price increase to the M III, I would want to see more groundbreaking work. More pro-level features, more options, more connections, more tools. This is basically just a better RX100, and for the price, I don't think that it's much worth it.

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