Sony RX10 M3: Zoom Modes

Introduction | Zoom Setting | Zooming | Step Zoom/ZoomSpeed | Zoom Indicators | Comments | References

On this page, I present the different zoom types that the Sony RX10 M3/4 offers: optical zoom, Clear Image Zoom, and Digital Zoom. All in all, this is very similar to the ony RX100 M4, although the mechanics of zooming are somewhat different... I also include further zoom settings.

Note: I do not present sample photos for the different zoom types here. I did this extensively for the RX100 M1 and I do not think that there will be much difference between the two models in this respect. Thus, for sample photos, please look at page RX100 M1: Zoom Modes.

Note: The menu screens have been updated for the Sony RX10 M4; this page only shows the M3 menu screens and has to be updated in due course...



The Sony RX10 M3/4 offers three different types of zoom functionality:

  1. Optical Zoom: 24-600 mm equiv., 1 x - 25 x)
  2. Clear Image Zoom (electronic): 600 - 1200 mm equiv., 25 x - 50 x
  3. Digital Zoom (electronic): 1200 - 2400 mm equiv., 50 x - 100 x

Note: If both electronic zoom variants are enabled, Clear Image Zoom takes precedence within its range (25 x to 50 x).

The electronic zoom variants are enabled/disabled in the Custom menu (page 3; M3). For details, see below.

Clear Image Zoom is a digital zoom that offers better image quality at a lower zoom range than the so-called Digital Zoom. Alexander White writes about the Clear Image Zoom (M3):

In my experiments I tried, among others, to find out whether the claimed better image quality of the Clear Image Zoom is indeed visible (see the samples on page RX100 M1: Zoom Modes).

Smart Zoom: There is also another possibility to extend the range of the optical as well as of both electronic zooms: to reduce the Megapixel count from 20 Megapixels to 10 Megapixels or less. For 10 Megapixels, you get a longest focal length of 840 mm equiv. (but less pixels than with 20 Megapixels), that is, with this image size, the Sony RX10 M3/4 behaves like a 10 Megapixels camera with an optical zoom range from 24 to about 840 mm equiv. (Clear Image Zoom: about 1200 mm equiv., Digital Zoom: about 2400 mm equiv.). For 5 Megapixels, you get even 1200 mm equiv. (but with even less pixels than with 20 Megapixels), here the camera behaves like a 5 Megapixels camera with an optical zoom range from 24 to about 1200 mm equivalent. Sony calls this feature Smart Zoom. It crops the image and thus, you get no image deterioration at the expense of less resolution as long as the Smart Zoom is involved.


Zoom Setting

To activate Clear Image Zoom and/or Digital Zoom, you have to go to the Custom menu, page 3 (M3 only) and select item Zoom Setting. For details, see the Figures below:


The Zoom Setting menu item in the Custom menu


Clear Image Zoom on, Digital Zoom off, optical zoom active


Optical zoom on, Clear Image Zoom off, Digital Zoom off


Digital Zoom on, Clear Image Zoom active, optical zoom active



Zooming can be done with two camera controls in parallel:


Top view (from left to right to bottom)

  • Mode dial (left)
  • Exposure compensation dial (right)
  • Shutter (release) button
  • Zoom lever (around shutter button)
  • POWER button (ON/OFF)
  • Flash (pop-up)
  • Display panel illumination button
  • C2 button (C)
  • C1 button (C)
  • Front lens ring (at the lens, C)
  • Rear lens ring (at the lens, C)
  • Aperture ring (at the lens)
  • Multi interface shoe

Here are the screens from the Custom menu, page 6, where can select the position and behavior of the zoom ring:


Menu item Lens Ring Setup allows you to select which lens ring you want to use for zooming and whoc for focusing


Here the rear lens ring is selected for zooming (default).


Here the front lens ring is selected for zooming.

Menu item Zoom Ring Rotate lets you choose the rotation direction for zooming   Here you zoom from left (wide) to right (telephoto) (default)   ... and here the other direction


Step Zoom/Zoom Speed

Zoom Speed (Zoom Lever)

For the zoom lever, you can select between a standard zoom speed and a faster speed. This can be set in the Custom menu, page 5, Custom Key Settings


Item Zoom Speed in the Custom menu, page 3 (M3), allows you to select a normal zoom speed or a faster one for zooming with the zoom lever.


Normal selected


Fast selected

Zoom Speed and Step Zoom (Zoom Ring)

For zooming with the zoom ring, you have the option of a faster zoom speed (menu item Quick) as well, and also of a step zoom option (menu item Step). Both options are selected in the Custom menu, page 6, item Zoom Func. on Ring:

          The Zoom Func. on Ring menu item in the Custom menu, page 6, allows you to select a step zoom (Step) or a faster version of the continuous zoom (Quick).

The Zoom Func. on Ring menu item in the Custom menu, page 6


Option Standard selected (default, continuous)



Option Quick selected, it offers a faster zoom speed (continuous)   Step Zoom selected   Step Zoom is indicated on the LCD screen (or in the EVF)

On my Ricoh GXR camera I liked the step zoom feature a lot. It means that the camera offers several standard focal lengths (24 mm, 28 mm, 35 mm, etc.) and allows you to jump between these steps instead of zooming continuously. The Sony RX10 M3/4 offers this feature as well if you use the control ring for zooming (the RX100 M4 as well, whereas the M1 does not offer step zoom). This feature is handy for me, because I like to use those standard focal lengths. On the negative side, zooming takes longer, particularly for larger differences in focal length.


Zoom Indicators

The zoom state is briefly indicated in the display if you use the zoom lever or the zoom ring. Basically you see the rough position within the focal range, the zoom factor, when digital zoom is enabled, and if so, which of its two variants is active (C = Clear Image Zoom, D = Digital Zoom). ´The scale disappears after a few seconds.


Optical zoom in effect (wide end)


Optical zoom in effect (telephoto end)


Clear Image Zoom in effect


The scale disappears after a short while...


Digital Zoom in effect


The scale disappears after a short while...


Smart Zoom in effect (for 10 MP and less)


The scale disappears after a short while...




Usage of the Zoom Modes

I mostly use only the optical zoom. In special cases, for example photos of butterflies, I use a combination of optical zoom and Clear Image Zoom, that is, Clear Image Zoom is enabled. This way, I have, at least, a zoom range from 24 to 1200 mm equiv., although with lower image quality beyond 600 mm. But usually this quality is sufficient for me. With these settings, I also prevent that I can "rush" beyond 1200 mm equiv., which would lead to visibly poorer image quality.

Step Zoom

Using Step Zoom with the zoom ring helps me avoid running into Clear Image Zoom inadvertently. On the negative side, Step Zoom slows down the zooming process, but I like to shoot at "classic" focal lengths. For faster zoom speeds I would have to use the zoom lever and set a higher zoom speed (if I still want to use the step zoom in parallel).




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