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Testing

August 13, 2018

Sony A7 III vs Sony RX100 VI? Full Frame vs 1 inch Sensor, Ultimate Power vs Ultimate Convenience…

Sony A7 III vs Sony RX100 IV?

Hello everybody! In this article I’m going to compare the latest Sony Full Frame Mirrorless A7 III vs the latest Ultra Compact Pro Power House RX100 VI. You might be thinking, really Jay? Well, not so fast friends!!

Imagine you have the money to buy the A7 III w/ kit lens ($2198), and your thinking it’s the best possible option, you will use it all the time to great photos of your friends, family, going out hiking, biking, trips, and so fourth.

Well, the reality is most people new to photography and larger camera systems underestimate the burden of carrying such a camera around all the time. Fast forward a few weeks and the camera ends up sitting at home, because you’re afraid it might get damaged, stollen, or you just don’t want to physically carry it around. After all, it’s sort of heavy and gets in the way if not actually taking pictures…

I know many people in this situation! The intentions are all good, but the burden of hauling around the larger more expensive camera must be learned which usually takes a few weeks as the initial excitement and enthusiasm dies down… Then the reality of the larger camera purchase hits them like a ton of bricks. This is precisely why so many Pro photographers pick up a RX100 series camera for when they don’t want the large heavy camera burden, but still want a killer camera on hand….

Some people newer to photography are looking at the full frame cameras, because they want the best and they can afford it, but they may never even consider the ultra compact high quality cameras like the RX100 VI ($1198). They might actually be way happier in the long run, and get way more great shots like they were hoping for, with a more practical and much cheaper real world solution.

This article is to really help those folks in that situation, and to bring to light the huge advantages and image quality of the ultra compact cameras. Having almost zero burden when carrying around, you are so much more likely to actually bring it everywhere and use the camera regularly. Think about it! Yes, the full frame camera is better, but not if it’s at home….

In the real world results are what matters. If you want awesome results, but your not sure how much better the full frame A7 III quality is when compared to the 1″ sensor RX100 VI, then please keep on reading!!

The A7 III w/ FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS kit Lens is what I will be using for this test, because it’s the best bang for the buck currently available and is what most people in the proposed situation will be looking at I believe. The A7 III kit goes for $2198, so the price is significantly more than the RX100 VI, but you get the killer full frame sensor and ability to use a huge variety of lenses and other accessories like pro flash units, etc…

The RX100 VI goes for $1198 and is a all in one turn key solution to your photography and video needs. It has an amazing amount of features, built in flash, and awesome image quality that really is more than good enough for a lot of people.

 

 

 

Physically

Yeah, clearly the physical differences are huge!! Images Courtesy of Camerasize.com

The A7 III does not have a lens on for this image comparison, but you can clearly see the enormous size difference, even without the kit lens mounted… Imagine another 4 inch tube coming off the front of the A7 III. The RX100 VI on the other hand fits in your pocket, although a little tight with jeans depending on how snug they are fitting.

Weight

A7 III Kit = Approximately 2lbs vs Sony RX100 VI = 10.62oz

Here is a closer look at the actual sensor size differences courtesy of ephotozine: Full frame is all the way on the left just to be clear. APS-C is what is found in the Sony A6500 which is in between the 1″ and Full Frame.

Sony Sensor Sizes

Sony Actual Sensor Sizes Compared

 

Practicality

Do you want to carry around a camera that requires you to where a neck strap, or camera bag? Have you ever gone on a trip and carried a camera around in your hands the entire time? It can really suck! Especially if you have kids that need help with stuff or you want to play for example. You will end up having to put the camera down, or ask somebody else to hold it, pack it away in the bag etc… Well, this is what to expect with the Sony A7 III or any larger heavier camera system for that matter. Don’t get me wrong, this is not necessary a bad thing, it’s just part of the deal when using a larger camera system.

The ultra compact cameras like the Sony RX100 VI, can easily fit into your pocket. This allows for hands free interaction when out and about, with almost no negative. It does have a little weight to it, so you will feel it in your pocket, but for all intensive purposes, it’s a way better experience when compared to carrying a larger camera like the A7 III.

Versatility

The A7 III has by far more potential versatility, but at the cost of buying more lenses and other accessories like a flash unit. The Sony RX100 VI however, is an extremely versatile out of the box package with a built in flash, and serious 24-200mm effective range Zeiss badged lens. The RX100 VI can’t really be accessorized much other than a case, waterproof housing, and things like that.

So when comparing just the basic Sony A7 III w/ kit lens vs the RX100 VI, the RX100 VI wins the out of box versatility department.

If the ultimate versatility and all around quality is what you’re after, then the Sony A7 III is a no brainer!! Just look at all the available lenses you can get in my E-Mount Lens Guide Here >>

Performance

The Sony A7 III camera body is going to have a significant advantage in Auto Focus performance when it comes to high speed sports shooting in particular. Especially when equipped with a lens capable of keeping up with the speed of the focus tracking. However, with the 28-70mm kit lens the telephoto reach is limited, so the RX100 VI will actually have a significant range advantage here due to the awesome 24-200mm effective lens. You can zoom in from the side lines and get some really great coverage with such a lens.

Remember, this article is for those newer to this type of information, so this may be common knowledge to a lot of you…

The image quality results in the sports shooting area will be noticeable better on the A7 III when equipped with a G-Master 70-200mm f/2.8 lens for example, but at some serious shelling out of cash money. I was really just comparing the A7 III w/ kit lens vs the RX100 VI, but clearly you can upgrade the A7 III package to insane levels of performance and quality depending on the lenses and other accessories attached.

When it comes to frames per second, the RX10o VI can due 24fps with AF and AE (Auto Exposure) vs the A7 III which can only do 10fps with AF and AE. That is a pretty big deal, and when trying to capture a batter swinging at a ball for example, this can make the difference in getting the shot or not. Otherwise, 10fps is enough for pretty much anything.

With video, both cameras due a great job in the real world, but the RX100 VI offers High Frame Rate Mode which goes up to 960fps. This allows for incredible slow motion abilities that the A7 III just does not have although it can do 120p for some slow-motion, but not that jaw dropping slow-mo that 960fps, or 480fps yields.

The A7III has the newer HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) which is a powerful more advanced way of controlling the exposure curves. More for power users and post processing advantages I would say.

As far as 4k video goes, the RX100 VI can only due 5min clips, which is a huge disadvantage when compared to the A7 III 29min clips. This is due to the ultra compact form factor and heat that is generated according to Sony.

As far as battery life, the A7 III destroys the RX100 VI. The A7 III can go almost all day with regular shooting, but you will need an extra battery for the RX100 VI for a days outing of active shooting.

Ergonomics

The size of your hands will influence the ergonomics a little, and these cameras are just so different in that department. As basic kits I think the A7 III is way easier to hold thanks to the grip and raised thumb rest. However, it’s much heavier than the RX100 VI.

To hold the RX100 VI, I have have to squeeze the camera with my thumb and fore finger, then curl my other fingers under the camera for support. It’s not that hard, but with larger hands it does feel a little awkward. I do love the viewfinder being all the way on the left though, so my nose does not crush into the screen, like on the A7 III. I really think Sony should consider a new model and move the viewfinder to the top left of the camera. I think it would be way better that way, and that design would also create more room on the right top side of the camera for buttons.

 

Image Quality

Clearly the A7 III is going to have better image quality due to the huge sensor and killer depth of filed that can be obtained. However, how noticeable is this really? Especially if you have never used either camera? I think you will be absolutely amazed at how good the IQ is on the RX100 VI when compared to the A7 III w/ kit lens in particular.

The RX100 VI sample photos will tend to look a bit sharper then the A7 III. This is due to both the better Zeiss optic found on the RX100 VI, but also due to the depth of field differences thanks to the smaller sensor size. The field of sharpness is far larger than that of a full frame sensor, which is why the full frame camera can get those extra buttery out of focus areas in the foreground and background when compared to the RX100 VI. See images samples below for a visual reference to what I’m saying here… The Razor scooter photos shows this off quite clearly I think.

Low light

The A7 III is going to have a large advantage due to the huge full frame sensor, even when paired with a slower aperture kit lens than the RX100 VI. This goes for focus accuracy as well in such low light conditions.

The RX100 VI maxes out at ISO 12800, where the A7 III goes all the way to ISO 204800!! This is an enormous difference and you must take note of this. The huge A7 III 24mp sensor really shines in this area particularly..

Comparison Photos:

So I took a bunch of snapshots using each camera to try and illustrate just how good both cameras are, and in the real world at the end of the day, how much difference is there really to an untrained eye? Well, judge for yourself, and be sure to click on the photos for a larger version…

Also don’t forget, I was using the FE 28-70mm kit lens on the A7 III which has a way more limiting range than the effective 24-200mm lens found on the RX100 VI

Lab

First a quick Lab Test photo which mostly illustrates the depth of field differences due to sensor size. I took these photos in Jpeg quality mostly to compare actual colors and clarity output from each camera. Raw quality can yield better results on both cameras however, if you choose to process…

Sony A73 @ F/4.5, ~50MM

Sony RX100 VI @ F/4, ~50MM

Another quick lab shot illustrating max zoom with each “kit”. Again, the A7 III can have so many other lenses attached this is not really fair, but this is just for the basic A7 III w/ kit lens vs RX100 VI.

Sony RX100 VI @ F/4.5, 200MM

Sony A73 @ F/5.6, 70MM

Minimum Focus Distance Test:

RX100 VI @ Minimum Focus Distance, 24mm

Sony A7 III w/ Kit Lens @ 28mm, Minimum Focus Distance

Real World Photos

Now lets look at some real world photos comparisons shall we! These next few are straight off the camera jpeg images encase you were wondering…. Unfortunately the lighting changed pretty drastically with the Jase photos.

Sony A73

Rx100 VI

More depth of field exploitation to help illustrate the sensor size differences in the real world.

Sony A7 III

RX100 VI

Again, Straight off the camera jpeg quality images untouched in Lightroom, but resized for web…

RX100 VI

A7 III

A7 III

RX100 VI

A7 III

RX100 VI

A7 III

RX100 VI

A Few Landscape style photos to compare:

RX100 VI

Sony A7 III

A7 III

RX100 VI

And a few more from the Basha Kill…

Sony A7 III

RX100 VI

Sony A7 III

RX100 VI

Sony RX100 VI

Sony A7 III

Sunrise Shots:

Sony RX100 VI

Sony RX100 VI

Sony RX100 VI

Sony A7 III w/ Kit Lens

Sony A7 III w/ Kit Lens

Sony A7 III w/ Kit Lens

Update: More Photos from Goshen, NY

Looking out the car window here so you can see the different background renderings with maximum out of focus bokeh blur effect.

Sony RX100 VI

Sony A7 III

These next two were taken at the widest angle available: 24mm vs 28mm 

Sony RX100 VI

Sony A7 III

And these next two were taken at Max Zoom: 200mm vs 70mm

Sony RX100 VI

Sony A7 III

These were also taken at Max Zoom

Sony RX100 VI

Sony A7 III

 

Ok, so after looking at these comparison photos, you must be thinking something?? The image quality overall is a lot closer than you might have thought perhaps?? Maybe not? Please tell me below!!

High ISO/ Low Light

So the RX100 VI maxes out at ISO 12800, where the Sony A7 III goes all the way to ISO 204800. Thanks to the latest 24mp full frame sensor, the A7 III has a gigantic advantage in this area in particular. However, the RX100 VI is still really good by todays standards when compared to most cameras, and especially cell phones!

Here are two sample photos of the same scene using the same settings (ISO 12800) on each camera. Just note the incredible difference in detail captured by the A7 III.

Be sure to check out the full reviews of both these cameras for a more detailed analysis of each cameras capabilities…

* I cropped in a lot on these two photos so the fine detail is easier to see.

Sony RX100 VI @ ISO 12800

Sony A7 III @ ISO 12800

 

 

Conclusions

So clearly the RX100 VI has some significant advantages over the A7 III, but the A7 III also has some huge advantages over the RX100 VI.

The point of this article was to make crystal clear what those differences actually are, so you can make an informed decision on your camera requirements. What are you planning to do? How good image quality do you really need, and at what cost are you willing to bare? The A7 III has that special magical full frame 3D look that you just don’t get with the smaller sensor RX100 VI, but when taking landscape style shots for example, the difference is really not that apparent.

If you have not owned a larger camera lie the A7 III, then do yourself a favor and carry a brick around for a few days to see if you can deal with it! Don’t mind the brick? The The A7 III will not be a problem for you! If you despise the brick after a day or two, then I highly recommend trying out a smaller large sensor camera like the RX100 VI instead. If after a year you are still longing for the full frame A7 III, then perhaps it’s time for an upgrade, or companion camera. I would just highly recommend starting small if you decide to jump into the photography pond! Remember, it’s about the real world results with the least burden possible for most people. Professionals are operating as a business, so that burden is expected, but for an enthusiast that burden is not a requirement for great results!

If this article got you thinking about how good the Sony 1″ Sensor actually is, then you should really look at the RX10 IV which I reviewed here >> The Sony RX10 IV is not a small ultra compact camera like the RX100 VI, but it has the same sensor, is insanely capable, even more versatile, and easier to use in my opinion due to the dslr like ergonomics and button layout.

Final Words…

That is about it for this comparison style article. I really hope it helps those in the market for a new high quality camera that are struggling to decide what is best for them and their real world needs. Bigger is not always better depending on your situation/ lifestyle, etc… Food for thought is what I’m trying to say here guys!

Please let me know what you think in the comments area below, and by all means let me know if you think I’m crazy for comparing these two cameras!!

Have questions? Please ask below and I will be happy to answer as best I can!

Thanks and have a great day,

Jay

Learn Even More about the Sony A7 III and RX100 VI using the links below:

Sony A7 III w/ Kit Lens for $2198 @ BHPhoto

Sony RX100 VI for $1198 @ BHPhoto


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Thanks,
Jay



About the Author

Jay
Hello, I'm the owner and operator of SonyAlphaLab.com. Please check out the About page for a full background on myself and the Lab ;) Google+ | Twitter | RSS-feed | Email Updates!!




16 Comments


  1. Keith Hodgkinson

    A great comparison where some of the pictures used show that the RX100 V1 is in fact very capable.I love these little chaps and often use a RX100 IV and RX10 II in tandem whilst travelling.
    This was a good fun article and i must say the A7 III and RX100 VI would make a fantastic team,Cheers.


    • Jay

      Thank you Keith for the comments and sharing your thoughts about these to cameras 😉 It would be ideal to have both for sure!

      Thanks again,
      Jay


  2. Herman

    That’s a comparison I’ve been waiting for! And just as Jay is highlighting here, the A7 III has its wonderful capabilities but there’s a price for it: A FF camera, even a mirrorless one, can turn out to be a burden like a brick. On the other hand the RX100 series cameras provide surprisingly high IQ, but you won’t use the buttons and dials much due to the small size.

    Therefore I think, for an ambitious photographer (maybe not a beginner) the Sony A6000 series could be the best compromise in all respect – if only Sony wasn’t neglecting the lens line (and lens quality) so much. It’s a shame!

    BTW, there’s a typo in the title: …Sony RX100 IV … (instead of RX100 VI)


    • Jay

      Thanks for the comments Hermann and the incredible typo error has been corrected 😉 I must have read the article 50 times and I still missed that!!

      I also agree the A6000 series would be a better starting point, but with the limited lenses and now much more reasonable the prices have become for the full frame mirrorless, I figured I would go for the best value full frame vs the best ultra compact available. The A6500 would also be worth considering for sure if you want the ability to change lenses, no question!

      I really appreciate the comments, and please have a great day!
      Jay


    • James Landers

      Unfortunately Sony is neglecting the lens line up for the A6xxx bodies. I just returned from a trip to Italy where I shot the RX100VI and the A6500 with the 16-70/4. In good light, there was no comparison at equivalent FL. IMO, the RX100 was much superior to the 16-70/4. I was surprised by what I saw so I came home and did a parallel shot comparison with the RX100Vi, A6500 with 16-70 and A6500 with the 18-135, and there was no comparison. Of course the A6500 files were superior in high ISO situations and tolerated manipulation in post better, but suffice it to say I was surprised and more than somewhat disappointed in the performance of the crop lenses compared with the lens on the RX100VI


      • Jay

        Wow, I’m surprised to hear the RX100 was much better than the 16-70mm f/4 Zeiss lens on the A6500 at the same focal length. The A6500 images should be a little better at least I would think. Depth of field wise in particular, as well as high ISO like you mentioned. Snapshot wise, I would think they would be very close. The smaller 1″ format also tends to make shots look sharper, but that is just the depth of field difference more than actual lens sharpness. In other words the RX100 shots will be sharper (in focus) for a larger distance front to t back, from the focus point. like 6 inches vs 3 inches for example… The 18-135mm is not the same quality as the Zeiss 16-70mm based on what I have seen. Unfortunately as you said, APS-C lenses are very limited, so you would need to use the Full Frame e-mount lenses to get more range at that higher Zeiss or GM quality.

        The RX series cameras are incredible quality for the sensor size! The RX10 IV as well is just amazing power, size, optical range, all in one package. The RX100 VI is really amazing power for such as small package, and as you said the quality is superb and in a lot of situations hard to tell the difference. Even in this article using a full frame camera it’s hard to tell in a few scenarios…

        Thank you for the excellent comments and sharing your real world experience and honest thoughts!

        Have a great day,
        Jay


  3. Jonathan Meyers

    Thank you, Jay! Your analysis was quite enlightening and very helpful. I wonder if you could now compare the “mid-point” series camera, Sony’s Alpha 6500 with its 18-135mm “kit” lens, with the RX100VI?


    • Jay

      Hi Jonathan and thank you for the comments! That is the second request I have gotten for this kind of test 😉 Perhaps I will find the time to do that, but the results will be very similar as in this article, just a bit closer spread in the depth of field is all. Otherwise the same pretty much as the A7 III, although that 18-135mm lens would make the game a bit more fair. The actual A6500 kit lens is the 16-50mm though… If I were going to do non kit lenses, the FE 24-105mm would have been a good lens for the A7 III to compare against. I really wanted to compare the kits though.

      Great suggestion and thank you again for the comment and kind words,

      Jay


  4. JackS

    Really good article on a topic, 1″ vs larger format, that should be covered more widely.

    What would be your take on the RX100 vs a6300 with kit lens (16-50)?
    Now the prices for each are in the same ballpark, the size/weight aren’t so different, the kit lens is 35mm equivalent to 24-75 and Clear Image Zoom would make that go up to 150.

    Would an APS-C camera using Clear Image Zoom match the image quality of a 1″ sensor at 150mm optical? That would be a closer contest.


    • Jay

      Hi Jack,

      Personally I would rather have the A6300 w/ 16-50mm kit lens, because I would rather have the option to put another lens on like the Sony E 55-210mm lens for example at a relatively low cost.

      Yes, that burden to carry around would be worse than the RX100 VI, but not to much more. The A6300 with just the 15-60mm kit lens is super light weight and not very bulky either. I could still fit that in cargo pocket for example. If I were to go to the zoo with the kids, I would also bring the 55-210mm in small holster style bag, or I would just put it in the bag of extra clothes worst case. This is what I did at Disney World years ago with my Nex-6. It was really nice having the larger APS-C sensor for the better depth of field control and what not. If I had unlimited funds, then I would also have an RX100-series camera for when I wanted the lightest possible solution. Other than that, the cell phone can do the job in most other situations when I was not planning on taking good photos anyway.

      Clear image zoom works great, but is not real optical zoom, so I would not consider that an equivalent to a 150mm lens. I do see you point though, and depending on your needs it’s an awesome feature for when carrying an extra lens is not worth the burden.

      Thoughts?

      Jay


  5. Jack

    Thanks Jay!

    I’m still wondering on your thoughts about clear image zoom here because the contest is between:
    A. 1″ sensor + 150mm optical
    vs
    B. APS-C sensor + 75mm optical + clear image zoom

    The 150mm optical is better than the clear image zoom … but it’s attached to the much smaller 1″ sensor, which is worse image quality than APS-C.

    Will the larger sensor size allow clear image zoom to match the image quality of a 150mm optical on a smaller sensor?


    • Jay

      Jack,

      I see what you are getting at here and I would really need to compare the two images side by side in Lightroom to know for sure. However, I think it would be fairly close in quality I would say to your point in sensor sizes, but I would still think the 150mm optical would look a little better overall due to the clear image zoom not being optical.

      Jay


  6. tom

    Great job with the comparison pictures! I don’t imagine it was easy to match them up so well.

    Would you be interested to add something about close-up photography? Pocket cameras are often very good at it so I wonder if the RX can beat the A7/28-70.

    According to specs, the RX can autofocus down to 8 cm at wide and 100 cm at tele. I don’t know if it’s different with manual. That makes 0.15x magnification at wide, which is useful, and 0.08x at tele, which is disappointing. 28-70 max magnification is 0.19x. It’s not obvious how that works out.

    I’d be interested to see some close up comparison pictures.


    • Jay

      Hi Tom and thanks for the great comments! That was a great point raised about the Macro and I did do a quick minimum focus distance comparison test, although the lab scene was different. I added the images above for you to check out, and clearly the RX100 IV has an advantage in the close-up department compared to the A7 III w/ kit lens…

      Thanks again for the excellent feedback and have a great day,

      Jay


  7. Totally agree! I own the a7RIII, but when I head out the door I have to have a “reason” to pack it. But my trusty RX100IV ALWAYS goes in the bag or pocket. It’s like that old American Express commercial; I “don’t leave home without it.”


    • Jay

      Thanks for the nice comments Martin and I would never leave home without it either if I owned it 🙂 I sent it back to BHPhoto already, but now I have the RX100 VA to play with and compare to the Leica D-Lux (type 100), and also some of the RX100 VI photos…

      Have a great day,
      Jay



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