I’ve been using the Canon G7x camera for several months. The image quality is excellent as is its handling quality, but with one major exception – it has no eye level viewfinder. I struggled trying to compose with the LCD and convinced myself that I would get used to it. I was making progress and found by tilting the screen at 90 degrees I could use it like a reflex camera without the eye level prism. All was going well until a hint of summer arrived in April and viewing an LCD with sun shining on it was impossible.
I’d read rave rave views about the Sony RX100 III with its electronic eye level viewfinder (EVF) and was intrigued. The downside was the more limited range of it’s 24-70mm (35mm equiv) lens, but I persuaded myself this would not be an issue. I eventually got my hands on the Sony and was blown away with the quality of view from the EVF. Included in the viewfinder was exposure information, camera level, focus points etc. I was very impressed. I had the odd twinge of doubts about wee things though. The folding LCD seemed a bit fragile and the pop up EVF looked if it would fall apart in a year. None the less I ran it through my usual exhaustive tests for image quality and was not disappointed. The lens was very slightly better for sharpness in the corners than the Canon and at high ISO (1000 ASA and above) the noise levels were half a stop better.
The ultimate test was now to happen. It was one of these very bright overcast days with hazy sun and I was in the town of Paisley taking shots of the town’s magnificent but crumbling architecture. How did the EVF perform in the outdoors? Well pretty awful really. The EVF is simply not bright enough or the image big enough to see what you are doing. The brightness level can be increased in the menu (navigating anything in the menu is a nightmare) but not enough to be useful. That was a big let down but I persevered. I was using the camera in both servo and fixed focussing. The servo was poor – the camera would continue to hunt before it locked focus and this was a static subject not one moving. The number of keepers in servo mode was poor. OK in fixed point mode.
Well that was it – Sony has lots of promise but slightly disappointing. A summary in relation to the Canon. Canon is better built – feels more solid – although limited in angle of tilt the LCD is more robust. Canon focusing is precise in all modes, the menus are easier to navigate. The lens range of 24-100mm (35mm equiv) is more useful. The Sony has less noise above 1000ASA, has slightly sharper corners at edge of frame in the image.
You will see many reviews preferring the Sony over the Canon but the dim EVF, poor focusing and limited zoom range really go against it for me. The Canon is very slightly noisier above 800ASA and the corners slightly less sharp, but on an A2 print or a 1600px image for the web these differences will be hardly noticeable.
There is a new Sony RX100 IV on the way but I think the EVF will be similar but hopefully the focusing will be better.