In The Box
16GB Memory Card
Sony NP-BX1 Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Pack
Sony AC Adapter (AC-UD10/11)
Sony Micro USB Cable
Sony Wrist Strap
Sony Shoulder Strap Adapter
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II Hands-on Preview
Review based on a production DSC-RX100 II running firmware V 1.00
The Sony RX100 wasn't the first camera to feature a 1" sensor, but it was the first to fit it in a body as small as a conventional compact. The 13.3 x 8.8mm sensor may only be one-third the size of a typical DSLR chip but it's 2.7x larger than those used in most enthusiast compacts - meaning the RX100 was able to offer impressive image quality in a genuinely pocketable body.
Now Sony has introduced the RX100 II (also known, confusingly, as the RX100 M2 - it's II on the top, and M2 on the bottom label: we'll be using the former until someone gives us firmer guidance), which it says will sell as a sister model to the existing camera. A new, back-illuminated 20MP sensor (the largest BSI chip we've yet encountered), gives a claimed 40% improvement in low-light sensitivity, which should allow the RX100 II to focus faster in low light than its predecessor, as well, of course, as resulting in cleaner high-ISO images.
Meanwhile, the camera's enthusiast appeal is bolstered by the addition of a Multi-Interface hot shoe, allowing use of external flashguns or, significantly, accessories such as an electronic viewfinder. The rear screen also now tilts up and down, which should make the RX100 II more flexible to use and more at ease in bright light. Impressively, Sony achieved this while adding just 2mm to the camera's depth - so it retains its pocketable prowess. The RX100 II will cost $750 - $100 more than the MSRP of the RX100.
- 1"-type Exmor-R BSI-CMOS sensor (13.2 x 8.8mm, 3:2 aspect ratio)
- 20.2 million effective pixels
- 28-100mm (equiv), f/1.8-4.9 Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens
- Steady-Shot image stabilization
- ISO 160-12,800 (Down to ISO 100 and to 25,600 expanded)
- NFC-mediated Wi-Fi allowing file transfer and control from smartphones
- Rear control dial and customizable front control ring
- 10fps continuous shooting in 'Speed Priority' mode
- Tiltable 3" 1.2M-dot 'WhiteMagic' LCD screen
- 13 Picture Effects (27 with variations)
- Memory Recall feature can store up to three groups of custom settings
- 1080p60 video, (AVCHD) with MP4 option (50p in PAL regions)
- Built-in stereo microphones
- 330-shot battery life (CIPA)
The RX100 II also manages to find room to include Wi-Fi capabilities that can be set-up using near field communication (NFC) if you have a smartphone that supports it. iPhone users will have to set the Wi-Fi up manually.
The RX100 II's video capabilities have also been expanded, with the camera now offering the ability to capture 1080p footage at 24 frames per second, in addition to the 60p and 30p the current RX100 offers (50p/25p on European models).
And when it comes to accessories, it's not just the Multi Interface hot shoe options that the new camera gains. There's also a Multi-Terminal socket for attaching a wired remote - a feature we've seen keen RX100 users modify their cameras to add. And this isn't the only sign that Sony has been looking at what its customers have been adding to their cameras - it's also created a magnetic mount for a filter adapter and a distinctly Richard Franiec-esque glue-on hand grip.
Finally, though Sony hasn't added actual click detents to the front ring, you can now set the zoom to move in steps, which can improve speed, especially for those like to think in focal length equivalents. With the feature activated, the front zoom ring selects among 28, 35, 50, 70, and 100mm equivalents.
A small camera with a big sensor
For those who might have forgotten, the distinguishing feature of the RX100 is its unusually large sensor compared to others in this pocket category, so it bears repeating: A 1"-type sensor is 2.7 times larger than most of the rest of the class, and twice as large as the 2/3" sensor used in the Fujifilm X20 and XF1. The only comparable camera to offer a sensor larger is the Canon G1 X, which offers impressive image quality but with the payoff being bulkier styling and the larger dimensions demanded by its near-DSLR-sized sensor.
In general you can divide the enthusiasts' compact sector by body style, with the Canon S110 exemplifying the conventional compact style and the G12 representing the more bulky, dial-encrusted choices with tunnel-style optical viewfinder. Sony has chosen to go down the compact route and opted for a lens that slows considerably as you zoom in, rather than the bright zooms offered by the Pentax MX-1, Olympus XZ-2,Panasonic LX7 and Fujifilm X20. This is the same balance Canon has chosen with its popular S110, but of course that doesn't have a sensor anywhere near as large as the RX100's.
Despite the large sensor, the RX100 II is still pocketable. It's not the smallest compact camera on the market, but it'll fit in breast pocket of a jacket, making it a genuine carry-around second camera for DSLR owners. In principle, at least, the RX100 shouldn't present the same image-quality compromise that switching across to one of the existing compact cameras would.
Shooting for the enthusiasts
With the same menu as Sony puts in its SLRs and a good selection of controls, it's clear that the RX100 II is still aimed at enthusiast buyers. Early NEX cameras were aimed at step-up users, but it seems Sony learned its lesson, catering first to enthusiasts. Like its predecessor, the RX100 II is extremely customizable, with function buttons and dials, with many options to assign to each.
Well, to put this price in perspective, you have to really understand the sensor size and what it means for the camera's capabilities.
|The sensor in the RX100 and RX100 II is the same 1-inch format that Nikon uses in its 1 System. It is considerably smaller than those used in most interchangeable lens cameras but is much larger than those found in most enthusiast compacts.|
A large sensor is one of the most significant factors in terms of providing good image quality. The larger area simply means that, compared to a smaller sensor camera, it will be exposed to more light during any exposure with the same settings (ISO, shutter speed and F-number). And more light means a better signal-to-noise ratio.
The RX100 II offers an F1.8-4.9 aperture range across its 28-100mm equivalent zoom. Here we break down the equivalent focal lengths at which the aperture changes:
As is common in compact cameras with wide-angle lenses (and many mirrorless cameras), software correction of the lens' distortion is an inherent part of the design. This is one of the way Sony has been able to offer such a wide-angle lens in front of such a large sensor, while keeping the whole package down to a sensible size.
Most distortion is automatically corrected in the camera's preview and in its JPEGs. Corrections are applied when the Raw files are processed with Sony's own software or with Adobe's. Other third-party converters, such as DxO will offer their own corrections. Since correction is part of the camera's design, we'd conclude that any converter not applying the corrections doesn't fully support the camera.