Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II Review - The Sony RX100 II updates the award-winning RX100 with the addition of Wi-Fi, hotshoe and a vari-angle screen. Can it improve on an already excellent model?
It arrives with a host of improvements, including Wi-fi, NFC functionality and a new accessory point hotshoe. Lets see if these improve the RX100 II…
Sony RX100 II Review – Features
The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II’s sensor shares the same resolution and dimensions to the RX100, however the 1in 20.2MP Exmor R chip is now back-illuminated to increase the amount of light that’s captured to help improve its low-light performance.
Compared to the RX100’s 125-6400 sensitivity range, the RX100 II provides a 160-12800 ISO range that’s equivalent to a 1EV gain at the high end. Set to overlay burst shooting mode, it’s also possible to expand the ISO further to an equivalent of ISO 25,600.
Sensor and sensitivity aside, the RX100 II adopts the same 3.6x optical zoom lens as found on its predecessor. This fast 28-100mm lens is engineered by Carl Zeiss and features a maximum aperture of f/1.8 at the wide end that closes to f/4.9 at full telephoto.
To prevent the lens protruding too far from the body when it’s switched off, Sony have used an Advanced Aspherical (AA) lens element to keep it as slimline as possible, while the lens also features a 7-blade aperture diaphragm to produce pleasing Bokeh (out-of-focus areas).
Users of filters and conversion lenses should note that lens doesn’t support a filter thread, but there is now an option to set the zoom in step increments, with 28,35,50,70 and 100mm settings all available to choose from.
To counteract the affects of handshake, the RX100 II incorporates Sony’s Optical SteadyShot system. Active and Standard modes can be set when recording HD video, and the zoom can also be used when shooting HD video, which is unlike some other compacts and smartphones.
Improving on the Sony RX100’s fixed screen, the Sony RX100 II features a 3in, 1229k-dot display that’s the tilting type. It utilises Sony’s White Magic technology and is designed to display brighter images and preserve battery power. Additionally, a new Multi interface shoe opens up possibilities for creative photographers who’d like to attach additional accessories to the hot shoe, such as an electronic viewfinder, external flash or remote control.
Not to forget its new connectivity options, it’s also Wi-fi equipped and becomes Sony’s first camera to be NFC enabled – allowing one-touch image transfer between the camera and NFC enabled devices.
Along with the standard P,A,S,M settings, scene modes and the option to shoot in the versatile Raw format, the RX100 II offers a selection of five Creative styles to create punchy and dramatic results straight out of the camera.
Adding to all this, the RX100 II can fire a continuous burst of images at 10fps in its Speed Priority mode, and HD video is supported in AVCHD or MP4 formats at 24/25p and 50/60p.
Sony RX100 II Review – Design
The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II has a similar design to the RX100 and when they’re viewed side-by-side, it’s difficult to spot the differences. The hot shoe on the top plate is the clue we’re looking at a camera with subtle design changes and it feels slightly bulkier in the hand with the addition of its new flip-out screen.
This can be tilted up by 85 degrees to make it easier to compose images from low angles, or alternatively, it can be tilted downwards by 20 degrees to get a clearer view of what you’re shooting when it’s held up high above your head.
Finished in aluminium, much like the RX100, it has a premium and hardwearing feel. Regrettably, it lacks any form of handgrip or rubberized material at the front and if this was added it could potentially improve the handling and prevent it from slipping from your hands when they’re wet or cold.
The arrangement of the RX100 II’s buttons hasn’t changed either and all the exterior controls are kept to the bare minimum. Advanced photographers will appreciate the mode dial on the corner of the body and this offers instant access to the P,A,S,M modes, as well as Sweep Panorama, Intelligent Auto and Movie mode.
As we found out, it’s possible to fire the shutter and change shooting modes single handedly, and though most of the buttons at the rear of the camera are small, they offer a reassuring click when used.
The Sony RX100 II’s control ring that’s wrapped around the zoom can be setup to control a host of functions, including White Balance, Creative Style, Shutter Speed, Aperture or Zoom. It doesn’t notch into place or offer audible clicks like the RX100, but this prevents it affecting audio when video is being recorded.
After setting up the control ring to control the zoom, we took advantage of the new five-step preset focal lengths. Though the zoom operates no faster than if you were to use the zoom lever, it’s useful to have a 35mm equivalent readout reference.
As you’d expect on a compact, a small pop up flash is found to the left of the hot shoe, while the function button (Fn) provides quick access to frequently used settings, such as exposure compensation, ISO, white balance and D-range optimizer.
Sony RX100 II Review – Performance
The RX100 II’s menu is split into seven groups and the white on black text will be a familiar-looking interface for any Sony Alpha DSLR/SLT users. From an operational perspective, we found it odd how the scroll dial has to be spun anti-clockwise to increase the ISO after accessing it via the function button. Usually, the scroll dial is rotated clockwise to increase the shutter speed or close down the aperture and the result of having it the other way around for the ISO is that it’s easy to lower the sensitivity when you want to increase it and vice versa.
While the Sony RX100 II’s contrast-detect AF system might not be as sophisticated as the hybrid systems you’ll find on CSCs and DSLRs, it’s impressive by compact camera standards. For quick snaps, the multi-area AF mode works well, but if you’d prefer to select the point of focus yourself, Flexible spot lets you position the AF up to the edge of the frame and very near the top.
Without a touchscreen though, you’re reliant on tapping, or holding the directional buttons to reposition the AF-point – something that’s been made much easier with the introduction of Touch AF technology on touchscreen cameras.
The fastest autofocus is achieved in Single AF mode (AF-S) and it adopts the same AF acquisition speed (0.13secs) as the RX100 – dropping to 0.23secs in low light. Focus tracking works well when you’d like the camera to automatically follow a specified subject in the frame, but it’s best suited for slow-medium paced subjects rather than fast action which it struggles with.
Speed and EVF
Switching the RX100 II to Speed priority mode and loading it with a Lexar Class 10 Premium Series SDHC card allowed 7 JPEG+Raw images to be captured simultaneously. Switching the file format to Raw only enabled 10 shots to be taken, and when we set the camera to JPEG (Fine) it rattled out the same number of frames before the buffer required a breather.
The option to attach an electronic viewfinder to the Multi Interface Shoe is very well received. The Sony EV1MK (£329) displays a crisp, high-contrast view just like the screen, albeit smaller and at closer distance to your eye. The unit slides effortlessly onto the hot shoe and provides a quick transition between the LCD feed and EVF feed thanks to the responsive eye sensor.
The extortionate price is the only aspect of the electronic viewfinder that’s likely to put people off, especially when you consider it’s more than half the price of the camera and would bring the total cost with the camera above the £1000 mark – a price that’s well above and beyond what a majority of people are willing to pay for a compact camera.
Sony RX100 II Review – Image Quality
Colour and White Balance
With the White Balance set to auto, the Sony RX100 II produces neutral colours that appear neither too warm nor too cool. There are eleven other presets to choose from, which include Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent: Warm White, Fluorescent: Cool White, Fluorescent: Day White, Fluorescent: Daylight, Flash, Colour Temp/Filter and Custom.
As previously mentioned, there are also five Creative styles to choose from if you’d like to enhance, or reduce, the saturation of colour in-camera. These include Vivid, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset and Black and White. If any of these Creative styles are used, we’d advise shooting in the Raw+JPEG format so you can always retrace your steps back to the original saturation from the Raw file if required.
The Sony RX100 II put in an identical tone and exposure performance as produced by the RX100. The camera’s metering system gives you the choice of either Multi, Centre-weighted or Spot modes, but it can take some time to find from the main menu and we’d prefer it if they could be selected directly from the function button.
Set to Multi, the exposure system handled high-contrast scenes very well, but we did occasionally find ourselves dialing in -0.7-1.0 EV to preserve maximum detail when we were shooting scenes with exceptionally bright highlights. There is also Sony’s D-Range Optimizer with an Auto mode and 5 selectable levels.
This is used to produce a more natural looking result than Auto HDR, with in-camera processing applied to a single image to improve detail in both the shadow and highlights.
With the same sensor as the RX100, albeit now back-illuminated, it’s no surprise that the RX100 II delivers identical resolution results to its predecessor. The 1in 20.2MP sensor delivers outstanding detail for a camera of its size and resolved an impressive 26 lines per millimeter at ISO 100 on our resolution chart.
If you’re after a compact with a greater detail performance than this you’d need to look at model with an even larger sensor, such as the Nikon Coolpix A or Ricoh GR. The disadvantage of both of these models however is their size, and they’re not as light or as small as the Sony RX100 II. The 28-100mm lens produces exceptionally sharp images through the range. The fast f/1.8 maximum aperture allows you to shoot with a super shallow depth of field at the widest end of the zoom, but a faster maximum aperture at the long end would be preferable.
The RX100 II produces a clean, noise-free performance at the low end of its sensitivity range, and for the very best results, you’ll want to keep the sensitivity between ISO 100 and ISO 400. At ISO 800 noise begins to creep in to images, but it’s not detrimental to the overall image quality and can be quickly removed using noise reduction techniques in Camera Raw.
At ISO 1600, colour noise becomes more noticeable when images are inspected closely and the furthest we’d push the sensitivity to in low-light is ISO 3200. Beyond this point, luminance and colour noise becomes more of an issue, while the saturation also becomes more muted.
Saying that, the detail that’s resolved at ISO 3200 and ISO 6400 is very impressive and only starts to drop off slightly when you push up to the ISO 12,800 limit.
Sony RX100 II Review – Verdict
When we reviewed the Sony RX100 last year, it stood out as the best pocket-sized compact that money could buy. The new features that have been added to the RX100 II might make it seem like a basic upgrade, but they all add up to make it a better all-round compact. Great for amateurs or enthusiasts who’d like a smaller camera that’s less cumbersome than a DSLR, but isn’t a CSC, the RX100 II ticks all the boxes a compact camera should.
The pairing of the large sensor and fast lens allow you to produce images of exceptional quality, and the shallow depth of field effects you can create at f/1.8 are remarkable when you consider there’s little trade off in regard to image sharpness.
The back-illuminated sensor delivers an improved performance in low light at high ISO, while the addition of Wi-fi and the way it can communicate wirelessly with smartphones or tablets via Sony’s Play Memories app will appeal to those who’d like to shoot and share in an instant.
The only downside is its price, and at £649 it’s one of the most expensive compact camera on the market. It’s more versatile than the Nikon Coolpix A with its 3.6x optical zoom lens and is more practical too if you’re concerned about size and how well it fits in the pocket. If it’s out of your budget, the original RX100 remains a great buy and will continue to be sold alongside the RX100 II up until Christmas, by which time we expect the price of the latter to fall below the £600 mark.
To sum up, the RX100 II is a sensational compact capable of producing astounding image quality. Its petite body makes it great for discreet shooting, travelling, or when it doesn’t seem suitable to carry a larger camera. It’s a camera that can be picked up and used instinctively, with the only downsides being its price and the cost of the optional electronic viewfinder.
Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II Review – Sample Image Gallery
These are just a small selection of images captured with the Sony RX100 II. For a full range of images, head on over to the Sony RX100 II review sample image gallery.
Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II Review – First Look
Sony has today announced the RX100 II – a premium compact camera that’s designed to sit beside the RX100 at the top of Sony’s compact Cyber-shot range.
Just like the RX100, the RX100 II employs a large 1in 20.2MP sensor and as such firmly put a premium on image quality. The sensor itself is now back-illuminated to give the camera an improved native ISO range of 100-12,800, which is extendable to an ISO equivalent of 25,600 when the camera’s overlay burst shooting mode is selected.
The RX100 II employs the same 28-100mm f/1.8-4.9 lens as the RX100. A new step zoom feature lets users instantly choose from five popular focal lengths (28, 35, 50, 70 and 100mm) using the control ring – an intuitive alternative to zooming in and out when attempting to compose a shot in a hurry.
The Sony RX100 II also features an all-new multi interface shoe and multi terminal expand possibilities for the creative photographer who’d like to attach an electronic viewfinder, stereo flash, or stereo microphone.
At the rear of the camera sits a 3in display that utilises Sony’s impressive ‘White Magic’ imaging technology. The display itself is one of the main areas of improvement over the RX100, as it’s now of the vari-angle variety and as such can be tilted away from the camera’s body.
In addition to being Wi-fi enabled, the RX100 II is the first ever camera from Sony to feature NFC (Near Field Communication) technology. NFC technology is becoming ever more prevalent in compact cameras and it provides an easier way of transfering images – simply touch the RX100 II against any other NFC-enabled device and you’ll be able to transfer images wirelessly
Completing the RX100 II’s impressive specification is Full HD video capture. This is also an upgrade on the RX100 in that it now features the addition of 24p/25p shooting for smooth results that mimic a cinematic feel.
Available in the UK from mid-July, the RX100 II is expected to cost £650, with the production of the RX100 continuing up to Christmas.