So even though it’s been around a year since the original RX100 was released – around the time period it usually takes for a camera maker to upgrade an original model in a series – I never quite expected an upgrade to the RX100 until I saw it yesterday. Probably because ‘upgrade’ and ‘RX100’ don’t seem to go together in a sentence, if you know what I mean – but yeah, the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II (or RX100M2 or RX100 Mk II) is out, and it’s time for me to take a virtual look at it!
UPDATE: I have now published a more complete review (and a comparison with the original RX100) separately, so if you want more information on the product with a more hands-on feel, check it out: my Sony RX100 II Review/Comparison
And I just noticed, this is my Post #100!
The original Cyber-shot RX100 is already a classic, in my opinion. A game changer. And a year after its release, it’s still arguably the best compact camera on the market. That’s something special. The combination of the large 1” CMOS sensor (double the size of what was previously considered large for a compact), a truly compact aluminum body, a fast Zeiss zoom lens, and a bunch of other great features, made for a near perfect camera. So an upgrade, they say? It’s going to take something very special to successfully upgrade a model like this
When I first checked out the specs (and the images) of the RX100 II, I’ll admit I was slightly disappointed. A 1” CMOS 20.2MP sensor (same as before, right?), the same Zeiss lens, in a body that looked the same except for a little bump on top that’s obviously a hot-shoe (which makes it look better, I admit), and that seemed to be it. Then I read more
Alright, so the lens is the same. No problem there, I loved the original lens. A slightly faster lens (at the telephoto end) would’ve been nice, but I’m fine here. The body is the same, and more importantly, it’s the same size – and that’s wonderful news. It looks around a millimeter thicker, and has about an additional millimeter on the top to accommodate the hot-shoe, but it’s basically the same size. Excellent. But that’s all the same. Now for the changes, and the first one is a big one!
The sensor! It’s not the same at all! It’s the same size, and the same resolution – why change that, right? – but it’s an all-new sensor nonetheless. This new EXMOR CMOS by Sony is built using very new technology that Sony (if I’m not mistaken) has never used on any of their cameras before – quoting Sony, it is “the world’s first 1.0-type back illuminated sensor ever developed”. Cool!
Other additions and improvements include:
- The Multi-Interface Hot-shoe (a standard shoe that also doubles as Sony’s proprietary accessory shoe)
- Built-in WiFi/NFC connectivity
- The same WhiteMagic LCD, but articulated – it now tilts up and down
- A slightly redesigned working of the control ring (read on)
- Improved AF performance (capable of AF lock in 0.13 sec) but no specifics on the AF system yet
And that’s about it, really. But that new sensor sounds impressive, right? And what it does is more impressive. I can’t really explain how it works without taking up half this post for that purpose, but what it does is it allows the sensor to be more sensitive to light. Up to 40% more sensitive, in fact. This means you gain around an entire stop of exposure! Wonderful, isn’t it? In addition to this, high ISO noise performance will be just that much better – not to mention much better lowlight AF performance. This all combines together and should work wonders when shooting in low light, where, for example, images from the original RX100 at ISO 3200 should technically look the same as the Mk II’s ISO 6400! With faster autofocus! This is the most important change in the RX100 II and is a reason for RX100 users to upgrade, in my opinion. If that’s not enough by itself, there’s not a LOT more significant improvements – just the few that I listed above – but seriously, the sensor is worth it!
Oh and in case you weren’t aware of it, along with the RX100 II Sony released a new version of their amazing RX1 too – the RX1R (the R stands for resolution, I believe!) – which does away with the anti-aliasing filter found in the original RX1, among a few other changes. It’s not for everyone, but for the person who was looking for exactly that, it’s just perfect. More details on Sony.com (or Google!)
Both these cameras will be released mid-to-late July – but you can pre-order yours now. The RX100 II is currently going for $749 – the price has been upgraded too, yes – and as usual, please think about using my affiliate links. Buying from Amazon or B&H Photo helps me keep this blog online
Specifications You Would Want To Know
- Body: Compact, aluminum
- Resolution: 20.2 mega pixels
- Sensor Size: 1”
- Sensor Type: Back illuminated EXMOR R CMOS
- Lens: Zeiss 10.4-37.1mm f1.8-4.9 (28-100mm equivalent)
- Image Stabilization: Yes (SteadyShot)
- Shutter Speed: Max 1/2000 sec, Min 30 sec (yes, no faster shutter speed yet)
- ISO Range: 160-12800 (expandable up to 100-25600)
- Video: 1080p @ 60fps (the cinematic 24fps frame rate is new, which wasn’t available on the RX100)
- Video Format: AVCHD, MPEG-4
- Metering Modes: Multi Segment, Center Weighted, Spot
- Exposure Modes: P, A, S, M, Two Auto modes, Scene, Panorama, Memory Recall
- Built-in Flash: Yes
- Flash Range: 0.30-15m (ISO Auto, at 28mm)
- Flash Modes: Auto, Forced, Slow Sync, Rear Sync, Off
- Hot-shoe: Yes (standard hot-shoe/Sony accessory shoe)
- Autofocus: Contrast Detect
- AF Modes: Multi-area, Center-Area, Flexible Single Spot, Tracking, Continuous, Face Detection
- Number of Focus Points: 25
- Manual Focus: Yes
- Macro Focus Range: 5cm (at 28mm)
- Screen: WhiteMagic 3.0” LCD (1,228,000 dots)
- Articulation: Tilt only
- Touchscreen: No
- Optical/Electronic Viewfinder: No (but accepts external VF via hot-shoe)
- Max Drive Speed: 10fps (Buffers 12 JPGEs or 13 RAW files at a time)
- File Formats: JPEG, RAW
- Connections: USB 2.0, microHDMI, WiFi/NFC
- Memory Card Type: SD/SDHC/SDXC, Memory Stick Duo/Pro Duo/Pro-HG Duo
- Dimensions: 102 x 58 x 38mm – compared to RX100: 102 x 59 x 36mm
- Weight: 281g (including batteries) – compared to RX100: 240g (including batteries)
Yeah, it’s got a few pretty cool additions on top of the awesome new sensor. The looks, first of all, are improved (for me, at least) with the addition of the hot-shoe on top. It’s not THAT noticeable, but at least in pictures it looks better. That little hump on top makes it look more like a professional camera somehow. Apart from that, nothing’s changed. The additional body thickness I mentioned earlier comes from the newly articulated LCD, which is very useful, and I’m glad it didn’t add more than a very little bit to the body. It’s still very slim and pocketable
The hot-shoe is extremely useful. Not just for a flash – I love the built-in popup flash of the RX100 – but for so many other accessories that this standard hot-shoe/multi-interface shoe accepts: external viewfinders, microphones, you name it. The external VF will be a very popular buy, I’m sure. On top of this, there’s a multi-terminal socket on the side where you can connect a wired remote – something that many people wanted on the original, and now finally have!
NOTE: The flash is just the same, with the flexible head, so bounce effects are definitely on!
Built-in WiFi connectivity (with NFC) is fast becoming standard, isn’t it? Wireless tethered shooting (is that what it’s called?) with your smartphone or tablet – that’s a fantastic experience, and I’m glad it’s becoming standard. Good to see it here. That’s a great addition too
What else? The tilt-LCD, as I already mentioned, can be very useful, and while it doesn’t tilt all the way upwards (I think it tilts 84° upwards, 45° down) and won’t work for self portraits (where you need a 180° tilt) it will be a blessing for a lot of high or low angle shots
The AF system, I believe, has been improved too. They haven’t clearly mentioned it anywhere, but I keep reading about high-speed AF in the press releases for the RX100 II, so I believe something’s been worked on. Sony claims the Mk II can lock focus in as fast as 0.13 sec, and that sounds great. And as the new sensor is that much more sensitive to light, this should mean significantly faster AF in low light; fingers crossed on that one! It should be good
And now for the control ring, the only part of the RX100 that I didn’t really love. It’s a great idea, but just not well implemented. I was hoping for a firmware fix that never came, but maybe the Mk II fixed it? They have added a sort of new feature to this ring, so I’m hoping they’ve added a bit more that I was hoping for too. The new feature is called ‘step zoom’, and works (obviously) when you set the ring to control zoom. This feature allows you to set five preset focal lengths i.e. 28, 35, 50, 70, 100mm, and then, with a little twist or turn of the ring, the lens automatically jumps forward (or backwards) to one of those exact presets. No fiddling about. I can’t yet say how well it works in practice, but it sounds good – it sounds like an improvement. When I say I completely stopped using this ring on my old RX100, you know I didn’t love it. I hope I’ll be using it a lot more on the Mk II
And I left the sensor for last! Not that there’s much more to say about it. It’s got the same resolution, the same sensor size, but all new technology that promises 40% more sensitivity to light, allowing us to gain nearly an entire stop in exposure, better low light performance, and it apparently makes for sharper photos too. Combine this with the terrific Zeiss glass, and the pictures should be amazing. I really can’t wait!
And that’s about it, really. It’s good to see such smart upgrades coming from camera manufacturers these days, isn’t it? First Fujifilm, cleverly upgrading the X10 to what was a fantastic camera, the X20, changing only the parts that needed to be changed – and now Sony, upgrading the superb RX100, and also changing just what needed to be changed, and nothing more. Seems they definitely listen to the users. Ok, so the Sony didn’t need to change much anyway – there were very few flaws in the RX100 as it is – but it still is a really nice upgrade. I’m not sure if many will think it’s worth the extra $100 for existing RX100 users – I think so, as the sensor really sounds special – but if you’re in the market for a high-end compact and you have $649 saved up for the RX100, I definitely suggest you add another $100 there and go for the Mk II
While I didn’t LOVE the RX100’s control layout, it was probably because I was coming from the comprehensive Fujifilm X10 control layout – but I quickly got used to the Sony and it’s pretty good setup. I don’t think anything has changed at all in this area, and while that’s not entirely a bad thing – Sony did a decent job with the limited space available on the back of the RX100 – a few improvements could’ve been made to make this camera perfect. Let’s have a look at the controls anyway
On top: the hot-shoe in the middle, the flash on the left. On the right side of the top panel, there is the power button, the shutter button with the zoom rocker around it, and the mode dial. Simple – and apart from the shoe, exactly the same as the RX100
On the back is the large articulated LCD, with all the controls on the right side of it, identical to the RX100 if I remember right. Here we have the movie record button, Fn and Menu, Playback and Delete/Help, and a four-way controller that doubles as a control wheel. The four directional buttons control Display, Flash, Exposure Compensation and Drive Mode/Self Timer, with a Select button in the center. The left, right and center buttons can be customized, as with all new Sony digital cameras
I wish they did away with that meaningless Delete/Help button, and used that space for a Q menu button – but overall, the identical controls of the RX100 is not a bad way to go
Don’t forget the front, though, where there is a single but very important control, the ring around the lens…and that’s it for controls
The RX100 was a top performer in every way. Fast to turn on, fast to turn off, very fast between shots, great burst mode, and very good AF speed. If nothing else, the Mk II should be as good, and I’ll be satisfied. However, with upgrades, things usually get faster, don’t they? The power on speed, for instance, is supposed to be even faster, so I guess general operation, shot-to-shot speed and such should also be faster
The AF system, like I said earlier, is said to be improved, without any specifics on the system itself or how exactly it has been improved. If it’s faster than the RX100, I’ll take it! I’m assuming its still contrast detect, but these days that’s good enough – contrast detect AF systems can be blazingly fast if implemented right
Burst shooting is the same as on the RX100 – 10fps – and buffers 12 JPEGS or 13 RAW files before it needs to slow down to start writing to your SD card. Nice
Yeah, that’s about it. I’d be happy if its as fast as the RX100 in every way, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be faster in more ways than one
And there you have it, another fantastic new camera by Sony. The perfected RX100? Not quite. But close. I still don’t believe the control system and control ring (the only real flaws in the original RX100 for me) have been perfected, but the new sensor, the hot-shoe, and other little additions make it a worthwhile upgrade – they make you forget the little imperfections, really – and really makes a wonderful option for those who want these sort of imaging capabilities in their pocket. For a price of $749, it’s not for everybody – but for those of you who want something special, this is the one to get
Full review hopefully coming up soon, as I’m waiting to get myself one for some hands-on experience, and I really can’t wait. It’s been a while (exactly a year?) since I’ve been this excited about a new camera, and again it’s one from Sony
Alright, this has been a rather long First Look – I’ll cut it off here. Thanks for reading. Please use my links (yes, I know I keep saying this!) if you’re pre-ordering this camera. I think they’re selling it for $748, so you get to save a dollar too! Until next time
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By Heshan Jayakody All content in this post is my own, except for images which are from Sony
- Sony RX100 II: A Totally New Sensor, A More Perfect Point-And-Shoot (gizmodo.com.au)
- Sony Launches New Cyber-shot RX100 II and RX1R Digital Cameras (dailytech.com)
- Sony officially announces the Cyber-Shot RX100 (technutty.co.uk)