Sony RX100 III Review: Why It’s the Best Travel Camera I’ve Ever Had (and Why I Sold My a6000 to Buy It)

Sony RX100 III real world review of the best travel camera I've ever owned


Before I met Ian, the nicest camera I ever owned was probably the one on my cell phone. Well, he fixed that faster than you can say “interchangeable lenses,” and gave me my first digital SLR (a Canon T2i) after just two months of us being together. That was three years ago. Since then, the digital cameras I’ve “owned” include a Canon EOS M, a Sony a6000, and finally, my beloved Sony RX100 III. The T2i was a great camera to learn on, the EOS M I never really grew fond of, and the a6000? It was GREAT! Until I tried the RX100 III and just HAD to have that instead. Keep reading to find out why AND to see my favorite photos I’ve taken with this camera.  Sony RX-100 III digital camera front view with flash and viewfinder It was a seemingly miniature version of my a6000: the photos it produced were just as good, and the interface was almost exactly the same. But the RX100 III trumped the a6000 on 4 immediately noticeable points:

4 Reasons Why the Sony RX100 III is Better Than the a6000

1. Size

I thought I had the camera size thing all figured out when I got a pancake lens for my a6000. I mean, I found a belt pouch that it fit into that I wore at Burning Man last year. But the RX100? It’s the size of a point-and-shoot, guys. I can’t tell you how AMAZINGLY PRACTICAL that makes this camera for travel. It fits in my purse. Easily. And my purse is TINY. Now I’m so much more likely to bring a camera with me everywhere… and it’s all because of its small size.

Diana with her Sony RX-100 III at Teotihuacan pyramids, Mexico

The best camera is the one you have with you. // Diana on top of the Pyramid of the Sun

2. Lens

Before you photography buffs out there have a heart attack, let me explain. I’m not saying the lens is better in every possible way than any lens you could possibly put on the a6000. BUT… the RX100 has an f/1.8 lens which makes it super good in low light and lets me blur out the background just like a DSLR. I had a pancake lens on my a6000 (which, by the way, is a relatively small and lightweight mirrorless camera, too) and I still prefer having the diversity of the zoom lens with the (more important to me) retractability of a point-and-shoot-style lens. And as far as I know, there’s no such thing as a completely retractable interchangeable zoom lens out there… so yeah. The RX100 is my obvious winner here. I should mention: I literally NEVER changed the lens on my a6000, despite having access to two or three other fantastic lenses, in the whole 6? 8? months that I owned it. So yeah… interchangeable lenses, I’ve determined, are NOT that important to me.

3. Style

After I sold it, I finally admitted: the a6000 is actually not that stylish. It’s more compact and doesn’t overpower an outfit like a bulky D-SLR will, but it’s still kinda chunky and plastic-y. With the RX100 III, on the other hand, Sony has got it DOWN. I’m not sure it’s even possible to buy the camera without the high-quality, non-bulky, attachable leather case. It gives it a vintage, quality look and feel, and it complements the camera itself perfectly. I love how the front and back cover are detachable (by snaps), while the camera remains attached to the bottom portion of the case, which stylishly hugs the camera along the lower third of the camera’s front and sides.

Note: I’ve also replaced the stock shoulder strap with one of my lovely and ever-so-comfortable handmade silk camera straps. If you want to make your own, follow my step-by-step video tutorial on Skillshare.

4. Selfie Mode

Yep. That was a factor. I could name #4 “diversity of use,” but in the interest of being honest, it’s the selfie mode that was the most important diversity point for me. Ian (that professional photographer boyfriend of mine) and I may argue over the best way to aim a selfie shot of the two of us standing in front of a famous landmark on our travels… but the camera we use? That’s never up for debate. We know the RX100 III is the best option. The LCD literally flips completely up to look you straight in the face. No selfie stick required.

Sony RX-100 III digital camera selfie mode

Sony RX100 III selfie mode

selfie at Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica with the Sony RX-100 III

Selfie time at Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

So now you’ve got a little taste of my approach to choosing a camera. Basically I don’t — and will likely never — call myself a professional photographer. But neither will most of the general public. So, if you fit into the “I know how to generally operate a camera and I want something better than my $300 point-and-shoot” category, this review is for you.

More Reasons I ♥ the Sony RX100 III

I could go on and on, but to keep it concise, I’ll stick to just these 10 12 15:

  • the lens
  • zoom
  • large aperture lens + large sensor combo produces low depth of field photos in a compact camera
  • compact size
  • lightweight
  • pop-up viewfinder
  • video stabilization
  • stylish design — even more stylish with a custom camera strap (shown above)
  • nice attachable leather case can be purchased with the camera
  • selfie mode
  • built-in flash (can be tilted up for bouncing off the ceiling)
  • built-in ND filter (lets you shoot at f/1.8 in bright sunlight)
  • easy social sharing with the PlayMemories app on your smart phone
  • chargeable via USB
  • It takes a mean Milky Way photo, too (see below for proof).

A List of Things to Long for

There’s really not much I don’t like.

  • a quicker way to remove the memory card with the case on — You have to unscrew and remove the leather case completely to access the memory card and battery compartment.
  • someone to take a selfie with — It’s WAY better than doing it with a cell phone, I promise!

Sony RX100 III Photography Samples

Sony RX-100 III photography sample: cooking on a Xochimilco trajinera in Mexico

Grilling with friends on a trajinera in Xochimilco, México

Sony RX-100 III photography sample: woman's silhouette on beach at sunset

Our friend Mónica on the beach in Acapulco, México

UPDATE: Check out my photo of the Northern Lights in Yellowstone National Park, taken with my RX100 III!

Sony RX-100 III photography sample: Ian at la Fería in Heredia, Costa Rica

Ian at La Fería (farmer’s market) in Heredia, Costa Rica

Sony RX-100 III photography sample: Arenal volcano landscape photo at Arenal Lake, Costa Rica

View of Arenal Volcano from Arenal Lake, Costa Rica

Sony RX-100 III photography sample: Diana picking out nose piercing jewelry at Ink Monkey Tattoo in Los Angeles, California

Picking out my nose piercing jewelry at Ink Monkey Tattoo, Los Angeles, California

Sony RX-100 III photography sample: lounging in the ocean at a secret beach near Manuel Antonio, Quepos, Costa Rica

The obligatory ocean float vacation photo, secret beach in Quepos, Costa Rica

Milky Way photograph with the Sony RX-100 III digital camera

Milky Way at Trona Pinnacles, California

Sony RX-100 III photography sample: Frida Kahlo's painting supplies at Casa Azul in Mexico City

Frida Kahlo’s paint supplies at Casa Azul, Mexico City

Sony RX-100 III photography sample: Ian at Sky Adventures hanging bridges tour in Costa Rica

Ian with his travel camera, the Sony a7 II, on the Sky Adventures tour in Costa Rica

Sony RX-100 III photography sample: marking off the countries we've visited on a scratch-off map

Marking off the countries we’ve visited on a scratch-off map, a gift from our friend Helene

The Video is Awesome, Too

Crystal clear and with built-in stabilization, videos turn out awesome with basically no effort on this thing. Here’s a video sample:

R.I.P. Andie the sloth, who I had the pleasure of meeting on our visit to the Toucan Rescue Ranch in Costa Rica back in February.

You can also watch a video of me getting my nose pierced, taken with the RX100 III, here. (WARNING: not recommended for those with weak stomachs.)

Worthy Accessories for the Sony RX100 III

  • leather case — Usually bundled with the camera, it’s the only way to attach a shoulder strap.
  • screen protector — I have the Sony one on mine. It was super easy to put on.
  • custom silk strap — I made my own! I’ve provided DIY instructions over at Stylish Travel Girl, and I’ll make and sell them on occasion through Etsy.

Ian’s Astrophotography Review of the RX100 III

He finally finished it! Don’t miss our Milky Way photography with the Sony RX100 over on Lonely Speck!


 

I hope you enjoyed this post! If you want to read more camera gear reviews from me and Ian, give these a try:

About the Author

Diana Southern
In March 2014, Diana called it quits on her traditional American working life and set out to explore the world with her partner in crime (and love of her life) Ian Norman. They now live a sustainable life of full time travel, working for themselves and seeking adventure at the same time. Here on North to South, Diana documents their journey in achieving and maintaining this "road less traveled" way of life.

22 Responses

  1. Monica June 4, 2015 / 2:17 am

    My camera is so, so heavy. I understand your choice on being practical, specially if you are a full time traveller. The f/1.8 lens that you mention sound very attractive. I have the Canon 28-135mm f/3.5, so I feel a bit jealous. I try to make the most out of it anyway 🙂 . Although, I still feel like owning a 50mm f/2.5 or a 35 mm f/1.4, for my street photography. I love natural light. Which ones would you and Ian recommend? Cheers.

    • Diana Southern June 4, 2015 / 7:03 am

      Hey Monica! If you’re shooting on a full frame Canon (5D, 6D), the EF 50mm/1.8 STM would be a great option. If you’re shooting on a crop sensor camera (T2i, 450D, 60D, etc.), Ian would recommend the EF-S 24mm/2.8 STM. Those are two of Canon’s most affordable lenses, and Ian says they’re both very good (better than the 28-135). 🙂

      Good luck with lens shopping!

  2. Shannon June 5, 2015 / 9:45 am

    What?! This little thing took the sunset and milky way photos?! WOW. Christmas list…. here I come! 🙂 Thanks for the info, Diana!

    • Diana Southern June 5, 2015 / 10:40 am

      I was amazed too!!! See why it’s my favorite? 😉

  3. Brian June 10, 2015 / 1:08 pm

    Hi Diana,

    I’ve been after a new camera to take on my travels. I’d narrowed down between Sony’s a6000 and RX100-III and was leaning heavily in favour of the RX100 when i found you blog which reinforced all those reasons. I’ve just ordered the RX100-III to arrive in time for a 2 week tour of Scandinavia so really looking forward to putting it through it’s paces.

    I have one question which I hope you can advise on… Should I get a spare battery and charger? I take a lot of photos on the basis that my photography skills are average at best so the more i take the more chance i have of getting some great shots. Typically i’d need the battery to last all day and found with other cameras that i’ve had that this is pushing it with a single battery.

    Thanks for the great article and any advise on your experience would be appreciated!
    Brian

    • Diana Southern June 10, 2015 / 1:19 pm

      Hey Brian — Great question. I opted to not purchase the extra battery, and I’ve been AMAZED at how long the camera lasts. I, too, take a lot of photos, and I’m not that great about charging it every day either. I’ve only run out of battery on the thing once, and that was on a day of extremely heavy use. I noticed the battery also lasts well past when the indicator says it’s out.

      That said, I basically always have a back-up camera with me, since Ian always has his camera with him. I also always have my smartphone, which takes decent photos… But if I were traveling with just the one camera, I’d probably get an extra battery — just to be safe, so you don’t miss capturing those amazing Scandinavian landscapes. And, though I’d probably skip it to save packing space, if you want the convenience of charging two batteries at once, get the charger.

      Hope that is helpful! Let me know if you have any other questions. Have an awesome time in Scandinavia, too! We absolutely loved Norway when we visited last spring. 🙂

      • Brian June 11, 2015 / 1:14 pm

        Diana, thanks for the reply, that’s really good to know. I will have my Smartphone as a backup. My last few trips i’ve just taken that – takes as good pictures as my bridge camera and much less bulk than my DSLR. I miss a “proper” camera though hence the purchase. I’ll see if i can get a battery at a reasonable price but from you’re comments I won’t be too worried if i can’t find one.

        Our first trip to that part of the world so really looking forward to it.
        Thanks again!

        • Diana Southern June 11, 2015 / 3:16 pm

          I literally just exhausted my battery for the second time ever and thought of you. But I hadn’t charged it for a few days, and I was taking a LOT of photos in rapid succession. I think it lasted for 20-30 photos after the battery meter hit zero.

          And I hear ya on needing a proper camera. Having a viewfinder on the RX-100 III makes a huge difference. 🙂

  4. Flo June 18, 2015 / 2:59 am

    I have this camera too and it’s the perfect camera for a traveller who doesn’t want to lug around a heavy SLR! I especially love the wifi feature since it lets me easily transfer the photos over to my phone where I can share them on Facebook or Instagram. 🙂

    I do struggle a little with the focus though; sometimes it focuses on something I don’t want it to. I’ve learnt to get around this issue, but do you have any tips on using the flip screen for selfies? It’ll usually focus on my face and everything behind me is blurry. Is it possible to get a crisp background too or is there too much of a difference with the depth?

    • Diana Southern June 18, 2015 / 4:45 am

      All you need to do is adjust your aperture to get everything in focus!

      Set your top camera dial to ‘A’ (aperture priority) and then press lightly and rotate your thumb around the circular dial on the back to change it to a higher number like f/8 or f/11.

      This will work great in the sun since your shutter speed will still be fast enough that your photo won’t be blurry from accidental hand movement.

      If it’s not sunny you can go full manual mode (M) and set your shutter speed and ISO, too, keeping your shutter speed fast enough (1/125 or so) and bumping your ISO up until it looks bright enough. (In manual mode press the down button to toggle between aperture and shutter speed, then rotate dial to change. Set ISO by pressing Fn. You can try auto ISO there, too.)

      Hope that helps!

      • Flo June 21, 2015 / 5:01 pm

        Thanks Diana! 🙂 Will be sure to try out your tips next time.

  5. Michelle June 18, 2015 / 10:02 am

    This camera looks amazing but unfortunately out of my price range at this time… I am very much a beginner with cameras but I was wondering if you had any good suggestions for a point and shoot in the $200-$300 range? Heading out for a 3 week trip to the Badlands, Yellowstone, and Sawtooth Mountain Range in Idaho, and I want some good shots! I also have a handful of people telling me that phone cameras are just as good as digital cameras, can you debunk those claims? Thanks!!

    • Diana Southern June 18, 2015 / 12:02 pm

      So the Canon EOS M is a really good affordable option ($300ish), and it’s not even a point and shoot (it’s a mirrorless with interchangeable lenses). It’s been discontinued in the U.S. because it never grew enough in popularity, but you can still find some in stock, and even perhaps a discounted used one (check B&H Photo and Amazon).

      Other cameras to check out: Sony a3000, Nikon 1 series, & Panasonic GM1 (all interchangeable lens cameras, but point and shoot size).

      Also check pricing on the older gen of my camera, the Sony RX100. Currently there are some used options under $300 at that link. It won’t have a viewfinder, though many point and shoots don’t either.

    • Diana Southern June 18, 2015 / 12:05 pm

      Also, a lot of phone cameras ARE getting good, especially the iPhone 6 and the Samsung Galaxy S6, and would be better than many cameras in this price range (though not the ones I mentioned).

      Hope that’s helpful! Good luck in your camera search. 🙂

    • Diana Southern July 14, 2015 / 12:10 pm

      Honestly, you won’t notice a difference in how fast these cameras will take a single shot. There’s a MINOR difference, according to that chart, in image capture speed when shooting in continuous mode (holding down the shutter to capture multiple frames), but the difference is 11.1 vs. 10 frames per second, so again not very noticeable.

      If I were you, I would choose based on which camera feels better to you when you hold it and whether or not you want to deal with interchangeable lenses. If you prefer something with a bigger grip and more bulk and the option to change lenses, go with the a6000. If you want something smaller — point-and-shoot size with a versatile (but unattachable) zoom lens with just as high quality images — go with the RX100 III.

      If you care about the look, the RX100 III, in my opinion, is a lot better looking than the a6000, too. Especially with the nice leather case attached. Hope that helps!

      • Yen July 14, 2015 / 5:40 pm

        thank you so much. I have a one year old so I want good quality images and I can capture his movement quickly. He does not know how to stay stil for pictures. 🙂

        • Diana Southern July 14, 2015 / 6:39 pm

          Happy to help! And this camera should work really well for that!

  6. Russell Lemasters September 21, 2015 / 3:00 am

    All this and not to mention it’s probably the best point and shoot you can own for underwater photography!

  7. Vanessa October 13, 2015 / 5:24 pm

    Hey. This seems fantastic for travel! Does it shoot in RAW?

    • Diana Southern October 14, 2015 / 10:27 am

      It sure does!! 🙂

  8. Zubs November 11, 2016 / 8:06 am

    Hi Diana, true this camera is truly great. I took the Rx100 iii on my travels to Malaysia this year instead of lugging my Sony SLT and lenses. I am glad I did, a fantastic all round camera that didn’t let me down in all sorts of scenarios. Sony made a gem!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Prove you're not a robot! :-) Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.