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Reviews, Tech Talk

Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II: Review


Sony Cyber-Shot RX100 II: Review

Well, I already reviewed this camera, disguised as a comparison with the original RX100, so you know most of my thoughts on this camera already. However, when I reviewed it then, I wasn’t able to use the camera for more than a very short period of time, so while I was able to get a good idea of what the product was like, I wasn’t able to go into as much detail as I usually would when I have the product in hand. Then I found myself looking for a high quality compact camera, for those moments when I don’t want to lug around my camera bag – a true compact that is actually pocketable, and that can take really high quality images – and, to be honest, just one model stood out. This one. Well, this and the original RX100. So yeah, now that I actually use this one, I’m more able to go into the finer details that I usually cover, and let you know basically everything you’d want to know about the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 Mk II. Here we go

Image from Amazon

Image from Amazon

For those of you who are really late on getting to know this camera, the RX100 II (or RX100m2 or RX100 Mk II, as it is also known) is the ‘upgrade’ to the Sony RX100, the sensational, revolutionary large-sensor compact camera that was released in late 2012. I say ‘upgrade’ in quotes because the more you look at it, the more you realize it’s not really an upgrade but more like a variant of the original, a point which is basically confirmed by the fact that both the RX100 and the RX100 II are sold side-by-side in Sony’s high-end RX line

The Mk II varies from the Mk I in a very few ways. The main variant has to be the new sensor, the back-illuminated 1” CMOS. Yes, the size remains the same (large) 1”, but back-illumination is a new sensor technology – it hasn’t been used in a sensor this large before – that, without going too technical, allows sensors to be more sensitive to light. Up to 40% more, according to Sony. This means better high ISO noise performance, faster AF in low light, that sort of thing. Sounds wonderful. Google it if you want to know about this technology – that’s all you’re getting from me. Other than the new sensor, the Mk II features a multi-interface shoe (a standard hot-shoe that also accepts Sony’s proprietary accessories), as well as an articulated LCD, and built-in WiFi. Apart from these variants, it’s identical to the RX100. And costs around $100 more. Worth it? Probably

Buy the RX100 II on Amazon – Buy the RX100 II on B&H Photo

Buying it? You know where! Please use my links – and keep pixelogist going. Keep reading for more on what looks like a pretty awesome new camera!

Specifications You Would Want To Know

  • Body: Compact, aluminum
  • Resolution: 20.2 mega pixels
  • Sensor Size: 1”
  • Sensor Type: Back-illuminated EXMOR R CMOS
  • Processor: Sony BIONZ
  • 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
  • ISO Range: 160-12800 (expandable to 100-25600)
  • Video: 1080p @60fps (30fps and 24fps available)
  • Video Format: AVCHD, MPEG-4
  • Metering Modes: Multi Area, Center Weighted, Spot
  • Exposure Modes: P, A, S, M, Intelligent Auto, Superior Auto, Panorama, Scene, Memory Recall
  • Built-in Flash: Yes, pop-up
  • Flash Modes: Auto, Forced, Slow Sync, Rear Sync, Off
  • Hot-Shoe: Yes
  • Autofocus: Contrast Detect
  • AF Modes: Multi-Area, Center-Area, Flexible Single Spot, Tracking, Face Detection
  • Number of AF points: 25
  • Manual Focus: Yes
  • Macro Range: 5cm, at the wide-angle end of the lens
  • Screen: WhiteMagic 3.0” LCD (1,228,000 dots)
  • Articulated: Yes, tilt-LCD
  • Touchscreen: No
  • Optical/Electronic Viewfinder: No (EVF can be attached via hot-shoe)
  • Max Drive Speed: 10fps/buffers 12 JPEGs or 13 RAW files
  • File Formats: JPEG, RAW
  • Connections: USB 2.0, microHDMI, WiFi/NFC
  • Memory Card Types: SD/SDHC/SDXC, Memory Stick Duo/Pro Duo/Pro-HG Duo
  • Dimensions: 102 x 58 x 38mm (compared to RX100’s 102 x 59 x 36mm)
  • Weight: 281g (including batteries, compared to RX100’s 240g)

First Thoughts

Taking it out of the box, instead of picking it off the shelf at Sony, the first impression I got, after using the original RX100, is that the Mk II is larger. Well, fatter. And it is – by around 2mm. Not much. And it isn’t really that noticeable, but well…I noticed it. This is due to the articulation mechanism for the LCD, and as tilt-screens are so useful in so many scenarios, I can’t complain. And it actually never feels chunky or large – it’s just a feeling I got after using the old RX100 for so long. Oh, and because of the hot-shoe, it’s a tiny bit ‘taller’ as well. Just to get a better idea of what small increases in dimensions I’m talking about, the thickness of the RX100 vs. RX100 II is 36mm vs. 38mm, and the height 58mm vs. 59mm respectively. Yeah. Not much

Looks and build: identical to the RX100 Mk I. It looks sleek, it is very compact (although a millimeter or so larger in the areas I mentioned above), and is built very well indeed. Solid aluminum. The Mk II is apparently 30g heavier, which you’d think I would’ve noticed more than the 2mm on the back – maybe that’s what I did actually notice – but it never feels heavy. It just feels solid. Very nice

After going through the contents of the box, it’s clear that two major issues I had with the original RX100, issues that had nothing to do with the camera itself, were present in the Mk II as well: lack of a proper, printed instruction manual, and lack of a proper battery charger. You just get a quick-start guide in like 50 languages, and USB cable that plugs into an adapter, which you plug into your camera to charge. This means you need your camera to charge the battery. At this price, it’s ridiculous not to get a proper battery charger. Buying one would set you back $40. Very annoying. Anyway, moving on

Powering it on, it’s ready to go in an instant. The store assistant already set it up, so it was ready for shooting when I turned it on right out of the box, and power-on time was very fast. Again, just like the original. You better get used to me saying that, I have a feeling it’s going to be repeated a lot over the next few pages!

NOTE: The power button is slightly depressed into the body, as it should be, and just as it was on the RX100 Mk I. However, I often press the button, thinking that I did press it, when I actually haven’t. This is quite frustrating, as I sometimes try to power it on for a quick shot only to realize it’s still turned off. I think it’s the slight depression in addition to the small size of the button that makes me feel like I’ve pressed it when I haven’t, but I can’t remember having this issue on the RX100 Mk I. Maybe I just need a bit more time to get used to it

A quick comment now about the design of the RX100 Mk I and Mk II: you have no idea how convenient the built-in automatic lens cap is! I was recently using the Panasonic Lumix LX7, and I was using the Fujifilm X20 for a while too – and having to constantly place the lens cap in your pocket, then pop it back on the lens, then back in your pocket…that can get very frustrating and tiring. With the RX100 series, you just turn it off, and the lens cap comes on for you – turn it on, the lens cap disappears. I know this is a feature of all cheap compacts, but somehow, on the high-end ones, it’s a rare feature – and I’m really glad to have it on my camera. It’s necessary for a compact, I feel. Alright then

Taking the first couple of test shots, in low indoor light (as usual), I was rather taken aback at the speed of the RX100’s focusing. This is probably due to the fact that I haven’t used an RX100 in nearly a year, and the camera that I’ve been using for the last 6 months has been the Fujifilm X-E1, which is rather average in terms of AF speed, but yeah, the RX100 Mk II locked focus on this rather dimly lit subject almost instantly. I can’t compare it with the original here, but I’m going to just say it’s faster. That’s how it felt. It’s really quick to focus

NOTE: After using the Fuji X-E1 regularly, I was quite used to Auto ISO having a shutter speed limit as well as ISO limits. The RX100 II doesn’t have the ability to set your shutter speed limit, meaning you’re at the mercy of the camera deciding how slow a speed your hands can handle in low light. Not a big deal, but I would’ve liked to have seen that feature here too

Image quality? Well, at first glance, the images look stellar. Really, they do. Do they look BETTER than the RX100’s, though? Well, with the new sensor, even in low light, where it is expected to outperform the original, I can’t say for sure. Maybe as I go along, doing more detailed tests, I might be able to discern a difference, but right now, they look fantastic – as did the Mk I’s images – but there’s no real difference that I can tell

Being fairly familiar with the RX100’s operation, I was quickly able to set up the camera to my liking, customizing the Fn button and other buttons to the way I had set up my original RX100, and was soon shooting with this camera like I’d been shooting with it for years – probably because I have, if you think about it. The RX100 Mk II offers the same amount of customization as the Mk I, which isn’t a LOT, but is quite satisfactory. More on this in the Controls section

One thing that disappointed me with the Mk I was the control ring, which just didn’t work as well as it could have. Things are not much different on the Mk II, but I have to say that the ring feels better. It feels more responsive. The Mk I’s ring needed a bit of turn before it registered movement, whereas the new one registers movement instantly, which is a significant improvement, really. As for sensitivity of the ring, as with the Mk I, the Mk II’s takes a bit of turning to get it to do anything, which is fine for some people, I guess, but for those who want more sensitivity and less turning, there should really be an option to customize this in the extensive menus. It works alright for changing settings, but come on – everyone wants to use this as a zoom ring. You don’t want to have to turn the ring that much to zoom from 28mm to 35mm

Image from Amazon

Image from Amazon

The control ring on the Mk II does have a new feature for zoom, though, called the step zoom function. What this does is, when you set the ring to control zoom, each little turn you make on the ring makes the lens zoom to a preset focal length. Therefore, it’ll jump from 28mm to 35mm with a slight twist. Twist again and it’ll jump to the next preset (35mm) and so on (50mm, 70mm, 100mm). Twist back and the process reverses. It’s useful. Still, I’m waiting to see a menu option for ring sensitivity. That’d make this control ring near-perfect

One thing I loved about the original RX100 was the flash on that flexible head, allowing you to tilt the flash upwards for great bounce flash effects. The same flash is here, so it’s just as fun to use

However, the lack of a flash release button is something that I find a bit annoying. I’m not sure if I noticed it on the original RX100, as that too lacked this button, although I don’t think I mentioned it in that review. But the point I’m making here is this: without a button to manually release the flash, you have to turn the flash on from the menu/Fn button to get the flash to pop out. Once its out, it’ll fire every time – pushing it back won’t turn it off. To turn it off, you have to dive back into the menus. Compared this to the X20, where you release the flash to use it and push it back with your finger to turn it off, the RX100 is a bit cumbersome, especially when you want to shoot the same scene with and without flash, repeatedly

Talking of flashes, and hot-shoes, I didn’t have any accessories with me, so I was not able to test this shoe properly. But as most of the accessories are extremely expensive, and the flashes are large (and the built-in one is good) I can’t see myself ever using this shoe

The LCD is super-clear – yes, just like the original – and now being articulated, it’s very nice to use. I can’t remember how much it tilts downwards – around 45°, I’d say – but I know it tilts to around 90° upwards. Very good

Lastly, built-in WiFi. I heard a lot of complaints about this not being very well implemented, but I found it perfectly easy to use. I’ve not used many WiFi-capable cameras before, but I was using this without any problem. Install the app, connect to it from the camera – either through the camera menu, or via NFC –  and that’s that. I found it far easier to use on Android, though. On my iPad, to connect to the camera, I had to first go to iOS settings, open up the WiFi tab, and connect to the camera – then close Settings, open PlayMemories, and THEN I was good to go. On Android, I just open PlayMemories, and I’m connected. Transfer speeds were pretty fast, and it was simply quite pleasant to use

Using a tablet or smartphone to control the camera – well, the PlayMemories app doesn’t give you a lot to…play with…so I can’t really say I’d be using this too much. But it’s an option

Yeah, after using it for a while, after playing about with all of the settings, doing some quick tests, it all felt good. Familiar, really. I feel I really missed this camera. The design is great, it’s very compact and pocketable, the image quality is superb, and it feels very nice in the hand. The controls are fairly customizable and, while not the best in the business, are pretty comfortable to use. The only thing that still isn’t great – although I feel it’s been improved – is the control ring. Add some sensitivity option for this ring in the menu, Sony…that’d make it near-perfect

Anyway, moving on to more detail on the controls…

Controls & Handling

The RX100 Mk II is a true compact. It’s not one of the chunky-type compact cameras like Canon’s G1X or Fuji’s X20 that feel great in the hand but don’t fit the pocket. So, while the RX100 Mk II fits the pocket, it will not handle quite as nice. It’ a compromise, of course

But does it handle badly? Not at all. In fact, it handles just like a standard point-and-shoot camera would handle. And which one of us hasn’t used a standard point-and-shoot before? Yeah. It’s built for two-handed operation, with that control ring, but since I rarely use this ring anyway, I go for the standard one-handed operation that I’m comfortable with when using a camera of this size. With the wrist strap on, it feels perfectly fine. Controls are all reachable with my right thumb or index finger, and yeah…no complaints here whatsoever

As for controls, they are identical to the RX100.  For the sake of the completeness of this review, I shall, of course, repeat it all here:

On the top, there’s just the power button, the shutter button/zoom rocker, and the mode dial. On the left of the top panel is the pop-up flash – and in the middle is the hot-shoe. That’s all

Image from Amazon

Image from Amazon

The back is mostly occupied by the 3” flip-LCD. On the right of this, you find the Movie button, Fn, Menu, Playback and Help/Delete. There’s also the four-way directional pad, which doubles as a control dial, and a Select button in the middle. The four directional buttons control Display, Flash, Drive/Timer, and Exposure Compensation

Image from Amazon

Image from Amazon

The Right and Left buttons are customizable, as is the center Select button. By default, the center button selects your AF point in manual modes (P, A, S, M modes), and in Auto modes it initiates tracking focus – a mode that detects a subject you choose and tracks that subject around the frame. If you rarely change AF points, you can program this button to act as either an AF/MF toggle, Focus Magnifier, or as an AE lock. Yeah, the options to customize the center button are not extensive, but I think it’s decent. The Left/Right buttons have far more options for customizing

The Fn button, like on the RX100 Mk I, allows you to access seven different settings. For example, my Fn button allows me to adjust: ISO, white balance, Picture Style, AF mode, image quality, flash mode, and flash compensation. Very useful. This allowed me to change the Flash (Right) key to work as an AE lock – since I usually need the AE lock far more often than I need to change flash modes. With a bit of tweaking, you can really get the RX100 to work to your liking

Again – I keep saying this when talking about the RX100 controls – I wish they got rid of the useless Help button and made a Q menu out of it. Users who buy the RX100 are not usually the type who would need help when using the camera – why not make it something that an enthusiast would want?

And yeah, that’s that for the back. The front has the control ring, and that’s it. Overall, the controls of this compact camera are pretty good. It’s not perfect, it could have been better, but I’m not complaining. Like I said, the customizability of the controls are decent, so with a bit of work, you should be able to set this up to work quite comfortably for you

Performance

The Sony RX100 II is a very fast camera. Everything about it is quick. There’s hardly any lag in any way, unless you senselessly jam on buttons while browsing through menus etc. And surely you won’t be doing that?

Power-on speed is excellent. I can’t really time these things, but I’d say it’s under a second. Thanks to the automatic lens cap, this is all the time it takes from off-and-protected to ready-to-shoot. Awesome

Autofocusing is blazing fast. It uses the same CDAF system found on the RX100, and that was super-fast too, but I think that because of the new sensor, which is that much more sensitive to light, the AF speeds, especially in low light, are faster. I’ve now used the camera in all sorts of lighting conditions: sunny outdoors, dim indoors, cloudy outdoors, night cityscapes – you name it – and this camera has never disappointed. Superb

Continous AF (and Tracking AF, see Features) works pretty well too. Sure, it isn’t as fast as the Single Shot AF mode, but the subject is always monitored and is generally kept in focus. I did notice, however, that when half-pressing the shutter button to focus and shoot the picture, in Continous AF mode, it strangely took a bit longer to lock focus, even though the subject has been continually kept in focus all the while. It does a sort of quick focus hunt, before refocusing on the subject that has it had previously been focused on. I’m not sure why this is, and it’s more than a bit frustrating

Shot-to-shot speed is very good. Hardly any lag at all. Just remember to turn off the auto-preview, and you can snap away pretty much non-stop. RAW and JPEG both

Burst shooting speeds go up to 10fps and buffers 12 JPEGs or 13 RAW files before it slows down to write. This means you get more than a full second at full-speed, which is excellent. 10fps is VERY fast, you know

Battery life – something I tend to omit in my reviews – is excellent. It went through all my tests and more, and it still has plenty of charge

General operation, thanks to the quick processor, keeps everything running very smoothly. Like I said earlier, there’s no lag in any way at all. Unless you’re trying to make it lag. When operating normally, like a camera should, it’s always fast

Yeah. It’s fast


Features

Back-illuminated EXMOR R CMOS Sensor: This is the main difference between this and the Mk I, one of the most advertised new features of the upgrade/variant; and as I mentioned earlier, on first glance I wasn’t able to tell much difference in image quality between the Mk I and Mk II. I guess this means the sensor’s improvements are not that obvious – maybe in more detailed tests, coming up shortly, these improvements might be a bit more apparent – but still, the images it takes are naturally very good. There was just nothing strikingly different or better than the original. I did, however, notice a definite increase in AF speed in low light – so the sensor DOES make a noticeable improvement somewhere

Multi-Interface Hot-shoe: I can’t say much about this, as I’ve never used it, and don’t plan on it. Flashes are too big, and the built-in one is pretty good – and other accessories, such as the EVF, are very expensive. I see my hot-shoe being covered up for the rest of its lifetime, unless someone gifts me an accessory. But if you want add on some accessories, this is available, and I know for a fact that it works perfectly well

Articulated LCD: The 1.2m-dot LCD is a pleasure to look at. The images you take look so good right off the camera that it just encourages you to shoot more. And add to that the fact that the Mk II’s screen is now articulated, allowing you to flip the screen up and down, it’s perfect. The articulation mechanism adds a bit of bulk to the camera – I’m talking a millimeter or two here, not much – but it’s worth it. Shooting high/low angles are super-easy now. And clear!

Image from Amazon

Image from Amazon

Built-in WiFi: I already mentioned this feature, and how it works, so I won’t go on about it again. Just let me say that I’d rarely use my phone/tablet to control the camera, based on the features of the current mobile app, but being able to wirelessly transfer the images I’ve just shot on to my iPad for large-screen previewing is very nice, and works well. And fast

And those are basically the new features unique to the RX100 Mk II. The rest of these are found on the RX100 Mk I, and, again, for the sake of completing this review, I’ve listed them below…

Control Ring: The ring around the lens is a smooth one, with no indents or clicks for you to feel as you turn it around. It’s identical to the one found on the RX100, although the RX100’s ring had a bit of an issue where it took a bit of ‘turn’ to register movement, whereas the Mk II seems to have fixed that issue, registering movement as soon as the ring is turned. That’s what I felt, at least. On top of that, there’s the step zoom feature, which I outlined in the First Thoughts section. In the end, it’s still not fantastic, but it’s an improvement, and that’s what you expect from a newer model

Clear Image Zoom: A Sony-developed technology, this is a form of digital zoom that apparently doesn’t cause much image degradation as you zoom in. I’m not sure how it works, but if you really want a bit more reach, try this instead of the regular digital zoom: you get nearly ‘8x’ zoom, compared to the ‘3.6x’ optical. Here’s a quick sample shot – decide for yourself if the extra zoom is worth it!

Optical Zoom/Crop - Clear Image Zoom/Crop

Optical Zoom and a crop vs. Clear Image Zoom and a crop

Macro: The macro capabilities of the RX100 Mk II are decent, if not great. You can get within 5cm of your subject, at the wide-angle end. It’s not as good as the X20 or LX7’s 1cm macro mode, but it’s alright. Here’s an example of how close you can get to a subject: this little figure is just under 7cm tall, and it just about fills the long edge of the frame

Sony RX100 II Macro

Tracking Focus: A feature only available in the Auto modes, unlike Continuous AF (which relies on you having to follow the moving subject with your AF point), Tracking Focus asks you to place the center ‘box’ or AF point over your subject, and initiate tracking (by pressing the center button), after while it will track this subject and continually keep it in focus, no matter if you move the camera or your subject moves, or you both move. It’s a superior mode to Continous AF, where you NEED to keep your subject in your chosen AF point, and I wish it was there in manual modes too, because it does work rather well. It’s a bit slow to focus on the subject when it moves, but it does a great job of following the subject around

Flash: Yeah, you know I love these flexible-head pop-up flashes. When shooting indoors, just tilt it up with your finger and the results really look good, and extremely natural! But again, the lack of the flash release button is a bit annoying

No Flash - Direct Flash - Bounced Flash

No Flash – Direct Flash – Bounced Flash

Multi-Frame Noise Reduction: Accessed via the ISO menu, this mode will take a quick burst of five frames, and process them to create a single, low-noise image. It uses the extra information that is available from all five frames to perform extra noise reduction without losing much detail. It actually works rather well – noise is noticeably less, while detail is still fairly good. Note, however, that since this is a multi-shot mode, you need to hold the camera pretty steady – and it won’t work for moving subjects. But yeah, it works well. Select the mode, set the ISO sensitivity you want (Auto, 160-12800) and shoot. Easy enough. The sample shots below were handheld and taken at ISO 6400

ISO 6400 Standard NR vs Multi Frame NR

ISO 6400 Standard NR vs. Multi Frame NR

Dynamic Range Optimizer/Auto HDR: DRO takes an image and brightens the shadows/controls the highlights. It has an Auto DRO mode as well as five user-selectable levels of DRO. The example below was shot at Level 3, just for testing purposes, and I’d say it has simply brightened up the shadows – and didn’t do much on the blown highlights. Not bad, not great

Without DRO/With DRO Level 3

Without DRO/With DRO Level 3

Auto HDR is an in-camera HDR mode, where the camera shoots a burst of 3 shots, at intervals of EV 1 to EV 6 (you select the level) and then blends them into one HDR. It works alright, but you’re stuck with the final HDR that the camera does for you – not much customization available

I always prefer to shoot brackets myself and process the set later on using Photomatix or Photoshop. Unfortunately, just like the Mk I, the Mk II doesn’t have a very good Auto Exposure Bracket feature too. It simply allows you two bracketing choices: 0.3 EV intervals, and 0.7 EV intervals. I usually shoot at intervals of 1 EV, so the 0.7 EV is close enough, but still not ideal. Sure, you can manually compensate exposure and shoot three exposures, but you’d need a tripod for that. Not good, Sony – I was hoping this would be fixed on the Mk II

Sweep Panorama: Shooting a panorama on the RX100 Mk II is easy, just like on any other decent new camera. It does a good job of stitching and yeah, if you shoot a lot of panoramic stuff, you might like this mode – although, if you’re serious about it, you’d probably stitch ‘em yourself afterwards

Picture Effects: Like all new digital cameras, the RX100 II features picture effects, or ‘filters’, for those particular styles of images that people love to shoot these days: retro, toy camera, high contrast, color highlights, etc. The RX100 has some of the better effects I’ve seen, so it’s not all that gimmicky. Here are a few samples:

Manual Focus: Like on the RX100, manual focusing is very easy, with the control ring becoming a manual focus ring in MF mode regardless of what you’ve programmed it to do in AF mode. The smooth nature of this ring works great for focusing, and with Sony’s class-leading focus-peaking, manual focusing is a breeze

Movies: I haven’t shot any videos on my RX100 II yet, to be honest, but then again I never really shoot movies with any camera I own. I hear it does a good job, though. It shoots at 1080p at 60fps, just like the RX100, but it also includes a new cinematic 24fps mode. Interesting

Size: Yeah, having all these features, I wouldn’t have been this excited about the RX100 series if it wasn’t this small. It’s a high-quality compact camera that’s actually compact and fits in your pocket. That’s amazing when you really think about it. No other compact camera that is even close to the RX100 in terms of image quality can do that

Image Quality

You know how this section is going to go. You know what I think of the original RX100 and the superlative quality of images it is capable of producing. The same goes for the RX100 Mk II. It’s simply stunning in this department. Sharp images, with strong colors and contrast, while remaining natural and real…and noise-free, even at high ISO settings. Fantastic

Now the point I need to make here is that, even after a lot of tests and close examination, there’s not much difference between this and the older RX100. In sharpness etc. there’s no difference, and I wasn’t expecting any – but I closely analyzed the high ISO shots, looking for anything new from the backlit sensor, and to be quite frank, I can’t honestly say that I noticed anything significantly different, or superior. It’s really good – very clean images even at ISO 3200 – but it’s basically identical to the superb RX100 Mk I

Now that I’ve said it – that the new sensor doesn’t improve image quality all that much  – let’s move on with the regular stuff, shall we? Alright…

Sharpness? Superb. Frame centers are tack sharp, as they say, even wide open. Corners might be a bit soft at f1.8 or f2.0, naturally, but stop down to f3.5 or f4.0, and it gets nice and crisp. Sweet

As I hinted at earlier, noise control is superb. I shoot at ISO 3200 and images are clean. At 6400, they’re still pretty clean, but show slight loss of detail. At 12800, things still look fairly clean, but  you have to admit the images look rather soft. However, being able to shoot at ISO 3200 without any issue is fantastic; and being able to up to ISO 6400 and still get pretty clean images, and well…that’s all you can ask for from a compact camera. Or any camera, really

Comparing the high ISO shots of the RX100 Mk II against the Mk I, I have to say they’re rather similar. I’d probably say that, at ISO 6400 and higher, the Mk II produces slightly cleaner JPEGs, at the cost of a bit of detail, but that’s just the noise reduction being a bit stronger on this model. Which is actually contrary to other reviews I’ve read, which state that noise reduction on the Mk II is slightly less aggressive than on the Mk I – not the case in my tests, though. But as for as the difference in noise due to the newer sensor, there’s not much that I could see

Lens distortions are minimal, and controlled very well in JPEGs. They are noticeable at the wide-angle end, but zoom in a bit, and this disappears. In RAW files too, the correction is applied, so when you open it up in Lightroom, it appears corrected. The Mk II uses the same Zeiss lens as the Mk I, where the actual focal length of the lens was equivalent to around 25mm but distortion correct cut the field of view down to around 28mm; so naturally things are the same here too. Bottom line: distortion is never really an issue

Automatic White Balance worked great in most cases, resulting in JPEGs that looked very natural. Colors looked great. In my living room at night, though, it struggled, just like the RX100 Mk I did, giving a fairly strong green cast over the image. Most cameras struggle in that scene, so it’s not just this camera. A quick custom WB is all that’s needed in these cases. This is also easily fixed in Lightroom

Vignetting is hardly noticeable, except when shooting wide open at 28mm. Have a look at the sample images for more on this

Chromatic aberrations? Mostly corrected in-camera. I can’t say I noticed anything in this regard worth mentioning. The sharpness crops might show a hint of color fringing in some cases, but yeah…not really that strong to mention here, and easily corrected if you feel the need to

As you know by now, the flash does a great job. As a fill-flash, it works very well, and when tilted back and bounced off some surface such as your ceiling, the results look extremely natural and…professional

Blurry backgrounds can be easily achieved at f1.8, especially if you step in close to your subject – thanks to the 1” sensor. And the bokeh, or the quality of the blur, is very smooth and natural. Nice, very nice

Image Quality: Sharpness/Detail/Noise

All are approximately 100% crops. The ISO sample crops are taken from around the center of the frame, and were shot at around f5.6 

Image Quality: RAW vs. JPEG

All of the above are approximately 100% crops. The ISO crops are taken from around the center of the frame, shot at f5.6. JPEG first, RAW second

Image Quality: Vignetting

And yeah, the images look fantastic in general. In daylight or at night, they look superb. Colorful, contrasty, natural, sharp…with low noise levels even at high ISO sensitivities…and with hardly any noticeable lens errors. Sound good? It is. Very, very good

Sample Image Gallery

Product Image Gallery

All product images from Amazon

What I Liked/Didn’t Like

Positives:

  • Class-leading image quality
  • Amazing high ISO noise control
  • True compact body – it fits in your pocket
  • Superb Zeiss lens – at f1.8-4.9, it’s fast too
  • Fast, accurate AF system – it’s quicker than the Mk I in low light, due to the new sensor
  • Fast performance all around
  • Top class burst shooting performance – shoots for over a second at full speed (10fps)
  • Useful Fn button, with access to seven different settings
  • Good control layout – with a bit of work, it can be very comfortable to use
  • Good level of control customization
  • Hot-shoe for flash units and other Sony accessories
  • Very useful built-in flash with tilting head
  • Built-in WiFi/NFC connectivity
  • Lovely high-resolution LCD – with tilt-articulation
  • Very easy-to-use manual focus system, with smooth control ring and focus-peaking
  • Superb build quality
  • Fairly useable control ring

Negatives:

  • New sensor is terrific, but it doesn’t really improve on image quality
  • Control ring is still not as good as it could’ve been – needs an option to control its sensitivity
  • Control layout is good, but it’s the same as the RX100, which had room for improvement
  • The Help button is absolutely useless – it should’ve been turned into a Q menu button
  • Lack of a flash release button makes switching between flash on and flash off cumbersome
  • Continous AF mode is a bit slow and tends to hunt when focusing before shooting
  • Menu system is not as user-friendly as on, say, the Fuji X20
  • Lack of printed manual
  • Lack of proper charger – the proper one costs $40
  • It’s quite pricey

Conclusion

To put it in a few words, the Sony RX100 Mk II is the best compact camera available today. There’s not much argument against that statement, I assure you. If you want a compact camera that takes very high quality images and fits in your pocket, this is the only camera that’ll meet your requirements. It’s truly fantastic

I ended my RX100 vs. RX100 II comparison/review-type post by saying the RX100 II is basically the RX100 with WiFi and a hot-shoe; and while that maybe true, these few additions to the already-fantastic original – plus the faster AF system, thanks to the new sensor (even if it doesn’t change much in terms of image quality) – make a camera that is well ahead of the competition. In fact, it’s quite unlike anything else on the market

It’s compact, it’s pocketable, it takes images similar to what a DSLR or MILC can take. It’s got a customizable and very useable interface, it focuses fast, it’s quick in operation, it bursts 10fps. It’s got WiFi and a hot-shoe. It’s got a beautiful flip-LCD. Its built-in flash is very good. And – yes, I love this – it has an automatic lens cap. At $699, it’s not cheap, but boy, is it worth it!


Yeah, you get the idea that I love this camera. I do. For street photography, I see myself using this as much as my X-E1 – or maybe even more. Fast and discreet, this camera is ideal for street work. Not that I don’t love my X-E1, but the RX100 II is terrific in this regard too. It is fantastic for all sorts of photography, really. I mean that

Buy the RX100 II on Amazon – Buy the RX100 II on B&H Photo

Alright, I’ll leave it here. For questions/comments/thoughts/ideas/whatever you have on your mind that you feel like sharing, fill in the comment box and hit Post! And please, please use my links if you’re buying this camera – or anything else! Until next time

By Heshan Jayakody
All content in this post is my own, except where noted. Product images from Amazon
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Discussion

31 Responses to “Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II: Review”

  1. i wish there was a bit more different comparing this to the mk 1. coz now i want to save money and get the older one, but i also like getting newest tech, and this one the decision is not easy – if it had something superior like definite quality difference, it would’ve been easy choice. ahh sony!

    Posted by Mupp | February 27, 2014, 19:34
    • Haha I get where you’re coming from. But if you like newer tech, the Mk II DOES have some additions over the Mk I – if you feel you’d like WiFi, and if you like articulated screens, think about the Mk II. There’s also the faster low-light focusing. And maybe you’d notice a difference in image quality even if I didn’t :)

      Posted by pixelogist | February 28, 2014, 06:48
  2. Love the sample image, this baby looks a beauty! Truly looks the part of being the best compact camera available, and shows the goods when it comes to business. Love it!

    Posted by Reevy | February 27, 2014, 19:45
  3. Super review :) I enjoyed reading this. Nice to know the point of view from somebody who’s actually used the RX100 I and now using the II. I’m a bit disappointed that you felt it was noticeably larger. But you still maintain that it is compact and pocketable. How does it actually feel? Does it fit in the pocket, or in a small bag/purse?

    Posted by Nancy | February 28, 2014, 07:49
    • I suspect that what I did notice was more of the 30g extra weight than the 2mm on the back. Seriously, 2mm isn’t that noticeable. It will probably fit in a decently sized pocket, just like the RX100 Mk I would. And it’ll easily fit in a small bag or purse. And note that though I said I probably noticed the 30g extra weight, it’s not a heavy camera at all. It’s compact, it’s light, and it’s powerful. Let’s just say that if I were blindfolded, and I picked up the Mk I in my right hand and the Mk II in my left, I’d know which is which :)

      Posted by pixelogist | February 28, 2014, 08:06
  4. Looking at your Rx100 review and this one of the M2, I cannot really say theres anythign different either. It looks equally stunning – ISO 6400 is insanely clean, and not too much loss of detail in the JPG also. Super fantastic, really, but same as Rx100 1

    Posted by Jon | March 2, 2014, 08:09
    • If you’re talking about image quality, yeah…I can’t say there’s much different either. But you’re right, ISO 6400 is very clean indeed, maybe a tad cleaner than the RX100 Mk I?

      Posted by pixelogist | March 3, 2014, 07:16
  5. Im liking the look of this baby! Looks just like how I want. Im glad to note the zoom ring has been improved somewhat. What kind of case would you recommend for it?

    Posted by Joseph | March 2, 2014, 11:36
    • Yeah, it’s a fantastic little camera. Depends on what kind of case you’d want for it. A lot of people go for full leather jacket. I’d much rather keep it as it is, compact and clean, and pop it in a pouch if I want to put it in another bag – or just put it directly in my pocket

      Posted by pixelogist | March 3, 2014, 07:17
  6. Those test shots you’ve taken DO make me want to get my hands all over this :)))) Haha…really, some of those sample pics look beautiful. The colours are RICH. People talk Fuji and its colours all the time, but the RX100 looks even better :))

    Posted by Blu | March 4, 2014, 07:01
    • Haha yeah, I agree. It’s a superb little camera. The colors are very rich, yes…strong, but natural. Really good. People talk of Fujifilm’s colors because they’re sort of unique, due to their Fujinon lenses, and also due to their own sensors. They look quite unlike other cameras, really. You can’t call that better or worse, it’s just unique – but the RX100 does produce gorgeous colors too!

      Posted by pixelogist | March 4, 2014, 08:37
  7. continuos bursts of 10fps and 13 raw files is very cool. i do some basic sports shooting and this might be useful, although the 100mm zoom is the only issue. but i guess i should not expect more from what is a compact camera. still, very cool

    Posted by Christian | March 4, 2014, 07:26
    • Yes, it’s very powerful for a compact camera. But if you’re really into sports photography, you’d need a DSLR or a really fast MILC, to focus fast, and get the reach with a long telephoto lens. But as you say, if you’re just starting out with basic sports photography, the speed of the RX100 Mk II is excellent. Just make sure you get a good seat, close to the action :)

      Posted by pixelogist | March 4, 2014, 08:38
  8. I used the Fuji X20 and Lumix LX7. Both claimed to have fantastic image quality and they did quite welll but to me, it was only better than a normal compact. Compared to better cameras, these were not really that good. Is the RX100 better, with the much bigger sensor etc. etc.? I hope so
    Thanks!!

    Posted by Sonia | March 6, 2014, 07:45
    • I know what you mean. The LX7 has the smallest sensor of all, so while it is good in daylight, at night it really starts to show that it is a small-sensor compact. The X20 is much better, with its 2/3″ sensor, and performs great in daylight, and even in night its quite good

      The RX100/RX100 II, on the other hand, with its 1″ sensor, is outstanding in all lighting conditions, and is comparable to mirrorless cameras or even DSLRs in some cases. It’s really that good. Remember, the Nikon 1 series of interchangeable lens cameras has the same size (1″) sensor. It’s really rather huge, and for a compact camera to have that, it is pretty astounding :) And the image quality really shows it. Go buy an RX100, you won’t be disappointed!

      Posted by pixelogist | March 7, 2014, 07:51
  9. Hi, thanks for the review. How much should I spend on this camera today, what is the best price? I really like it and want to buy xD

    Posted by Maria | March 10, 2014, 17:46
  10. I’m tempted to go with this one or then again I look at a really sleek mirrorless like the NEX 3n and I wonder which to go for. Any help? Thanks

    Posted by Gerry Harris | March 18, 2014, 15:56
    • Really depends on what you want. The NEX 3N would take better pictures, I guess – better high ISO performance, allow shallower depth of field etc – thanks to the larger sensor. But while it’s very small, it’s not nearly as compact as the R100. So if you think it’s small enough (it’s also cheaper than the RX100), and you like the pictures it takes, and you like how it handles, go for it. If you want true compactness, the RX100 is the only one

      Posted by pixelogist | March 19, 2014, 07:31
  11. I know this might be crazy to compare the two, but I’m mainly talking size here: how about the RX1? Picture quality difference is vast and price difference is insane. But the RX1 is very small too, isn’t it?! And RX100’s picture quality is very good, but the RX1 is so much better?

    Posted by Xavier | March 19, 2014, 07:26
    • Size-wise, the RX1 is significantly bigger, because of the lens protrusion. It sticks out a lot. So even though the RX1 is just about 1cm wider and about the same height as the RX100, it’s nearly twice as thick. So putting it in your pocket is out of the question

      Image quality? Of course the RX1 is better. It’s a full-frame! It’s better than most DSLRs. However, remember than the RX100 has a fixed ZOOM lens, while the RX1 has a fixed PRIME lens (35mm, fixed)

      Posted by pixelogist | March 19, 2014, 07:34
  12. the high ISO shots look really clean. 6400 looks amazing to me. not comparing it to anything else, not even to the RX100 mk i, but by itself, woww…amazing noise performance

    Posted by Rog | March 20, 2014, 06:55
    • Indeed, they look very clean – even ISO 6400 is useable. In fact, it’s wrong to say it is just ‘useable’ because that implies it is passable but not great. The shots taken at ISO 6400 look great. A bit of noise, but nothing that would ruin a shot. Fantastic

      Posted by pixelogist | March 20, 2014, 17:41
  13. I think there is a difference in night shots if you look closely. I can’t be sure, but I used both together in a showroom and I felt the night shots were clearer.

    Posted by Viktor Tzarus | March 20, 2014, 16:58
    • I’m not so sure it is that obvious. Especially if you compared the shots at a store, on the built-in LCDs, without much time to analyze. Maybe it’s just me but I really can’t say there’s much difference. Slightly cleaner? Sure. But that’s comparing 100% crops etc. Compare full-size images and just glance through them, and I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference

      Posted by pixelogist | March 20, 2014, 17:43
  14. Guess a price-drop is coming for this camera thanks to the Mk III. Would it be a good buy to get this if it drops to, say, $600 or 650?

    Or best to get the newer one?

    Posted by Anna | May 17, 2014, 08:12
    • It’s currently $699 at most stores, so I don’t see a drop to $600. $650, yeah. That’d make it $150 cheaper than the RX100 III, which is quite a saving. If you don’t need the faster lens, the EVF, and if you’d rather have a 28-100mm zoom lens (instead of the III’s 24-70mm), you might as well go for the Mk II. But if not, save up the extra cash and go for the newer one. They’re both awesome cameras, but with slightly different features – see what you need, and decide if you want to save that $150 or spend it :)

      Posted by pixelogist | May 18, 2014, 07:39
  15. Hi,
    I’ve stumbled over your blog while looking for some Sony RX100 vs RX100 II vs Canon S120 reviews.

    What would you buy from these 3 if buying right now? Mind that I live in Europe, so price difference between RX100 and RX100 II is higher than in US ($540 vs $738). Canon S120 is $458.. and you don’t even want to know the price of RX100 III.. :)

    Thanks!

    Posted by fructal | June 22, 2014, 01:36
    • Hi :) The RX100 (I, II or III) is in a different league and cannot be compared to the Canon S120. It’s a far superior camera, really. And it’s really compact as well

      If you don’t want to spend over $700 for the Mk II, get the Mk I. It takes pictures that are pretty much equal to the Mk II, and while it doesn’t have WiFi and a hot-shoe etc., it’s a bit slimmer – and of course, significantly cheaper for you

      Cheers!

      Posted by pixelogist | June 22, 2014, 15:54

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