Sony RX100 II Review

 
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Sony RX100 II Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Class-leading image quality with excellent high-ISO performance
  • Very good dynamic range, especially from RAW files
  • Bright f/1.8 maximum aperture for shallow DOF and good night shooting
  • Handy step-zoom option for quickly selecting one of 5 preset focal lengths
  • Compact, discreet design, great for candid shooting
  • Generally great build quality
  • Tilting LCD screen for high or low-angle shooting
  • "WhiteMagic" LCD tech for very bright, readable display, even in sunlight
  • Multi-interface hotshoe supports external flash, stereo mic, or optional EVF
  • Very fast AF performance
  • Crazy-fast shutter response when pre-focused
  • Focus peaking helps manual focus
  • Excellent low-light AF capability
  • Great shot-to-shot speeds
  • 9-10 fps JPEG bursts in Speed Priority mode (focus/exposure lock after first shot)
  • Good buffer depth and fast clearing (be sure to buy a fast memory card)
  • AVCHD 2.0 Full HD video with stereo sound
  • 1080 Full HD video at 60i/60p, and 24p for that "movie look"
  • Good low-light video quality
  • Good exposure tracking
  • Built-in Wi-Fi for connection to smart devices, NFC support for compatible devices
  • Excellent Sony "Handheld Twilight" mode for handheld exposures after dark
  • Sweep panorama mode (one of our favorite camera features)
  • USB charging; charge from your laptop or USB wall charger
  • Multi-terminal supports optional wired remote
  • Good 350-shot battery life
  • Slightly larger than original model, pushes limit of being a "pocket" camera
  • $100 more than prior model, gets into price range of DSLRs
  • Not easy to hold; feels slippery in your hand (see above to buy a Richard Franiec accessory grip)
  • RAW files don't show as much noise improvement over predecessor as JPEGs (may not be worth it to upgrade if you only shoot RAW and don't need the new features)
  • Reduced burst rate when shooting RAW files (RX100 bursts didn't slow down with RAW files)
  • Limited 3.6x zoom range
  • Max aperture drops quickly as you zoom
  • Lens produces soft corners and could be sharper at some focal lengths
  • Very limited flash range at telephoto
  • Uneven flash coverage at wide angle
  • Flimsy plastic zoom ring and slow zooming speeds
  • Sometimes-confusing user interface
  • Tilting LCD screen does not side-swivel
  • Slow start-up and shutdown speeds
  • Wi-Fi awkward to set up when mobile device does not support NFC
  • USB charging means you have to buy a separate charger to charge 2nd battery outside the camera

The original RX100 shook up the compact camera market, and the new Sony RX100 II continues in that mold, picking up our award for 2013 Best Pocket Camera of the Year. While superficially very similar to the original model, the new RX100 II brings a number of key enhancements.

The most obvious change is the addition of a 3-inch tilting LCD screen on the back. This uses the same "White Magic" technology as on the original (for better viewing in bright conditions), but the tilting configuration makes it much easier taking over-the-head or ground-level shots. A new Multi Interface Shoe supports not only an external flash, but a number of other accessories as well, including a stereo microphone and high-quality electronic viewfinder.

Perhaps the most important upgrade, though, is to the RX100 II's sensor, which now uses backside-illuminated technology, conservatively providing a full f-stop of improved high-ISO performance over its predecessor when combined with the Mark II's revised JPEG processing. In our testing, JPEGs from the RX100 II looked better at ISO 6400 than those from the original model at ISO 3200, however RAW files showed less improvement, around a third to half an f-stop. Still, any improvement over the RX100's already excellent high-ISO performance is welcome, and combined with a maximum aperture of f/1.8 at its widest-angle setting, the Sony RX100 II is truly a fantastic low-light performer.

The new sensor also seemed to help the Sony RX100 II's video quality, not only producing excellent video under low-light conditions, but also responding unusually well to abrupt changes in scene brightness, when panning from areas of shadow to bright sunlight and back again.

The Sony RX100 II carries forward a number of other excellent characteristics from its predecessor, including very fast autofocus and great shutter response, great low-light AF capability, fast shot to shot speeds, blazing ~10 fps JPEG continuous mode shooting, and fast buffer clearing. (Be sure to buy a really fast SD card for use with the RX100 II, it'll really help with buffer-clearing speed.)

On the downside, the Sony RX100 II is still slow to start up and shut down, its burst rate slows down with RAW files, it's a bit thicker and heavier than the original model, and is $100 more expensive, to boot. We also found the newly-added Wi-Fi connectivity a little difficult to set up, and the NFC capability that eases such connections obviously doesn't work on Apple phones & tablets, which lack the needed circuitry. (Clearly not Sony's fault, on that score.)

With the $100 price bump, the Sony RX100 II is now clearly in the cost bracket of many entry-level DSLRs. If you can afford it, though, we consider the added cost relative to the original RX100 (which remains available, as of this writing in December, 2013) to be well worth it. The Sony RX100 II literally has no close competitor in the premium compact camera market; it was an easy choice as a Dave's Pick, not to mention as our 2013 Pocket Camera of the Year.

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Sony RX100 II



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