After going through countless reviews and personally trying out several different camera choices, I settled on the Sony RX100M3 as my carry everywhere travel camera. While I will carry my trusty Nikon D610 for serious photography trips, the RX100M3 should be more than sufficient for casual travel photography. Here are the main reasons why I chose the RX100M3 as my travel camera, in decreasing order of importance to me:
- Ease of ability to take a selfie. I don’t have many good pictures of my travel companions and myself from my early travel days. While you can always ask a stranger to take your picture, these often do not turn out so well. Taking a tripod also works but it is cumbersome and may not be appropriate for the situation (think crowed tourist sights). Especially when paired with a selfie stick (more on this later), the 180-degree flip or an articulating screen allows you to take a good travel photo of yourself with the exact composition you want, all without spending too much time doing so. The RX100M3 does not have an IR port for a wireless remote, but I find that the smile shutter feature works quite well for selfies. When you are ready to take a picture, simply smile and the camera will take the picture. Another alternative would be to use your smart phone as a remote or buy a wired shutter release cable.
- Great image quality, full manual control and RAW capture ability. Image quality is the main reason that I wouldn’t simply use a cell phone camera. The RX100 image quality exceeds or matches that of many entry level DSLRs and mirrorless cameras that I tested. If you don’t already use manual controls or shoot RAW, you can use this camera as a starter camera for more serious photography (or not).
- Ease of transporting so it can be taken everywhere with minimal hassle. It is often said that the best camera is the camera you have with you. I don’t take my DSLR with me everywhere due to the bulk and weight. So I needed a camera that is easily portable to take better than cell phone quality pictures. The RX100M3 fits in my jacket pocket (Men’s medium) or pants (slacks) pocket without too much additional bulk. Some people carry it in their jean pocket, but I don’t find that comfortable. I also stick it in my travel bag when I’m not actively using it (more on this later).
- Availability of features. Built in ND filter makes it easier to take long exposure photos (think silky smooth waterfall pictures). The built in electronic viewfinder (EVF) allows viewing and taking pictures in extremely sunny situations when it is difficult to see the image on the LCD. I don’t personally use WiFi much, but you can use it to transfer photos to your phone or upload directly to Flickr or Facebook. Additionally, Sony PlayMemories apps (some requires purchase) allows you to do time-lapse, various types of bracketing, multi-frame noise reduction, etc. The ND filter is especially handy since the minimum aperture for this camera is f/11.
- Availability of accessories. I want to go swim with the whale sharks in Australia in the future, and wanted a camera popular enough that vendors will make underwater casing. It seems you can buy the lower end ones for ~$200. I plan to use the casing for any other trips involving beach/rain/water.
The main rivals for RX100M3 is RX100M4, since M1 and M2 do not come with the flip up screen for selfies. RX100M4 comes with slightly improved image quality, 4K video and slower slow motion video (120 frames per second v. 1000). I didn’t need those additional features, so I decided to get the M3 and save about $200.
DxO ONE may be a good alternative for those who have an iPhone, but I wanted a stand-alone camera. Canon G5X, another competitor, is a bit too big to fit comfortable in my jacket pocket. You can see a size comparison at Camera Decision (http://cameradecision.com/compare/Canon-PowerShot-G5-X-vs-Sony-Cyber-shot-DSC-RX100-III). Nikon is releasing the DL24-85 and DL18-50 which may also work well for travel photography. However, those cameras do not have built-in flash or viewfinder. I do not have firsthand experience with the cameras mentioned above besides the RX100M3.
Here are some sample photos taken with the RX100M3 (mostly RAW captures processed in Adobe Lightroom)
Under typical conditions I find that RX100M3 has better image quality than the following combinations:
Sony NEX-3N or a6000 with Sony 16-50mm kit lens (SELP1650)
Sony NEX-3N or a6000 with Sony 16mm f/2.8 lens (SEL16F28)
Sony NEX-3N or a6000 with Sony 18-200mm lens (SEL18200)
Read about alternatives to the RX100M3 in this post.