Sony RX100 II Review

 
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Sony RX100 II Image Quality Comparison

Below are crops comparing the Sony RX100 II with the Sony RX100, Canon S120, Nikon J3, Olympus E-PL5 and Panasonic GM1.

NOTE: These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All interchangeable lens cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses.

Sony RX100 II versus Sony RX100 at base ISO

Sony RX100 II at ISO 160
Sony RX100 at ISO 125

As expected, the RX100 II and RX100 look strikingly similar at base ISO levels. Both produce very high levels of crisp, fine detail, particularly noticeable in the mosaic. Interestingly, the RX100 did better with the red and pink fabrics.


Sony RX100 II versus Canon S120 at base ISO

Sony RX100 II at ISO 160
Canon S120 at ISO 80

Compared to Canon's high-end slim and pocketable point-and-shoot, the RX100 II wins hands down thanks the larger 1-inch type sensor and higher pixel count. In all three comparisons, the RX100 II shows more fine detail and more accurate colors than the S120.


Sony RX100 II versus Nikon J3 at base ISO

Sony RX100 II at ISO 160
Nikon J3 at ISO 160

The battle of the 1-inch type sensors! However, it's a pretty one-sided battle, with the victor being the Sony RX100 II, which handily bests the Nikon J3 in color accuracy and level of fine detail. (As is almost always the case in these shootouts, though, the Nikon wins on the red fabric swatch. For whatever reason, Nikon's processing of that particular target element is better than that of other manufacturers.)


Sony RX100 II versus Olympus E-PL5 at base ISO

Sony RX100 II at ISO 160
Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 200

The smaller sensor of the RX100 II really stands up to the larger Four Thirds sensor of the E-PL5 here, although we wouldn't really expect to see much difference at base ISO. While the E-PL5 does better with the fabric and ever-so-slightly better with the mosaic crop, the RX100 II is not drastically different.


Sony RX100 II versus Panasonic GM1 at base ISO

Sony RX100 II at ISO 160
Panasonic GM1 at ISO 200

Like the previous comparison, it's once again a 1"-type sensor versus a Four Thirds sensor in the GM1, and this time around, the two cameras are pretty evenly matched. Both show crisp and clean bottle crops, but while the GM1 does a little better with the fabrics, the RX100 II does slightly better with fine detail in the mosaic crop.

 

Most digital SLRs and CSCs will produce an excellent ISO 100 shot, so we like to push them and see what they can do compared to other cameras at ISO 1600, 3200, and 6400. Recent advances in sensor technology have made ISO 1600 look a lot more like ISO 100, but there are still cameras whose quality starts to fall apart at this setting. We also choose 1600 because we like to be able to shoot at least at this level when indoors and at night.

Sony RX100 II versus Sony RX100 at ISO 1600

Sony RX100 II at ISO 1600
Sony RX100 at ISO 1600

At higher ISO levels, the back-illuminated sensor of the RX100 II is showing its strength here against the traditional front-side illuminated sensor in the RX100. The noise in the shadows is much cleaner in the Mark II camera, though both show a similar level of fine detail. (Once again, though, the RX100 actually did a better job with the fabric swatches.)


Sony RX100 II versus Canon S120 at ISO 1600

Sony RX100 II at ISO 1600
Canon S120 at ISO 1600

The smaller sensor and aggressive noise reduction of the S120 at ISO 1600 produces a very noticeable drop in detail compared to the RX100 II. Despite the aggressive noise reduction, though, there's still more noise remaining in its image, easily visible in the shadow area between the two bottles.


Sony RX100 II versus Nikon J3 at ISO 1600

Sony RX100 II at ISO 1600
Nikon J3 at ISO 1600

The RX100 II wins again here at ISO 1600, with noticeably less noise and significantly more fine detail. While both struggle with producing a recognizable leaf pattern in the red fabric, the RX100 II does better with the pink swatch.


Sony RX100 II versus Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 1600

Sony RX100 II at ISO 1600
Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 1600

Alas, the larger Four Thirds sensor of the E-PL5 wins handily at ISO 1600. The E-PL5 shows better fine detail, less high-ISO noise, and better handling of the challenging red fabric (and the pink, too).


Sony RX100 II versus Panasonic GM1 at ISO 1600

Sony RX100 II at ISO 1600
Panasonic GM1 at ISO 1600

The larger sensor of the Panasonic GM1 again wins against the smaller one in the RX100 II, but the difference is less visually apparent here than it was with the E-PL5. We attribute this to the GM1's less-aggressive in-camera sharpening, which means lines, edges, and fine detail don't "pop" quite the way they do with the E-PL5. All the detail is there, though, it's just not emphasized to the same extent by the camera's default sharpening algorithm.

 

These days, ISO 3200 is a very viable shooting option for most good cameras, so let's take a look at some comparisons there.

Sony RX100 II versus Sony RX100 at ISO 3200

Sony RX100 II at ISO 3200
Sony RX100 at ISO 3200

ISO 3200 is tough with a 1"-type sensor, but the high ISO performance of the Mark II is significantly better than that of the RX100. This is largely down to the RX100 II having a backside-illuminated sensor versus the conventional one in the original model, but also due to revised noise processing. The shadows are much cleaner, but similarly to what we saw with the ISO 1600 comparison, the level of fine detail is only slightly improved.


Sony RX100 II versus Canon S120 at ISO 3200

Sony RX100 II at ISO 3200
Canon S120 at ISO 3200

Not surprisingly, the RX100 II easily bests the smaller-sensored S120 at ISO 3200 with much more fine detail and less noise.


Sony RX100 II versus Nikon J3 at ISO 3200

Sony RX100 II at ISO 3200
Nikon J3 at ISO 3200

The Nikon J3 really struggles at ISO 3200 compared to the RX100 II despite, both having 1"-type sensors. The RX100 II shows less noise and more fine detail, as well as much more pleasing colors.


Sony RX100 II versus Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 3200

Sony RX100 II at ISO 3200
Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 3200

The high ISO noise reduction from the E-PL5 is quite aggressive at ISO 3200, but it still manages to handle fine detail pretty well, helped in part by its strong in-camera sharpening. The RX100 II can't quite match the performance of the E-PL5, with its larger sensor.


Sony RX100 II versus Panasonic GM1 at ISO 3200

Sony RX100 II at ISO 3200
Panasonic GM1 at ISO 3200

This is a surprisingly close contest, although we again think that much of the visual difference between the GM1 here and the E-PL5 above has to do with the amount of sharpening the E-PL5 applies. While the GM1's image doesn't "pop" quite as much as the E-PL5's, it does show more fine detail here than that from the RX100 II. Still, it's pretty remarkable that the RX100 II can come as close as it does to the performance of cameras with larger sensors.

 

Detail: Sony RX100 II versus Sony RX100, Canon S120, Nikon J3, Olympus E-PL5 and Panasonic GM1.

Sony RX100 II
ISO 160
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Sony RX100
ISO 125
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Canon S120
ISO 80
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Nikon J3
ISO 160
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Olympus E-PL5
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Panasonic GM1
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. In the high-contrast detail comparisons, the RX100 II and RX100 look very similar at base ISO, while the Mark II does progressively better as the ISO rises. The king of the comparison is easily the Olympus E-PL5 (at all ISO levels), thanks again to its strong sharpening. The Panasonic GM1 arguably has equal detail, but uses less sharpening to emphasize it. Both Micro Four Thirds cameras beat the RX100 II, but we're amazed that a 1" style sensor can do as well as the RX100 II's does, clearly besting the same-sized chip in the Nikon J3. As you'd expect, the S120 doesn't really compete in this league

 

Sony RX100 II versus RX100 Low Light Comparison

By Dave Etchells

Sony RX100 II review -- ISO 6400 RX100 night sample
Sony RX100
Sony RX100 II review -- ISO 6400 RX100 II night sample
Sony RX100 II

As we've said elsewhere, the biggest news with the Sony RX100 II is its sensor: The first 1-inch type backside illuminated sensor to hit the streets. Sony's claims of a full 1-stop improvement in high-ISO noise seems well-justified by our own experience - the difference between JPEGs from the new and old models is pretty dramatic. Shot at ISO 6400, the original RX100's images are pretty good for that ISO level from a compact camera, but the RX100 II's shots are really exceptional.

 

Sony RX100 II review -- ISO 6400 RX100 crop
Sony RX100
Sony RX100 II review -- ISO 6400 RX100 II crop
Sony RX100 II

Here's the first of two sets of crops from the photos above. Note not only the lower noise in the shot from the RX100 II, but also the crisper edges on everything.

 

Sony RX100 II review -- ISO 6400 RX100 crop
Sony RX100
Sony RX100 II review -- ISO 6400 RX100 II crop
Sony RX100 II

Here's the second crop from the images above. What most stands out to our eyes is the significantly improved tonality of the RX100 II's output: Note how much better the II renders the woman's face above.


Sony RX100 II review -- ISO 3200 RX100 crop
Sony RX100 ISO 3200 (100% crop)
Sony RX100 II review -- ISO 6400 RX100 II crop
Sony RX100 II ISO 6400 (100% crop)
Sony RX100 II review -- ISO 6400 RX100 crop
Sony RX100 ISO 6400 (100% crop)

We've said elsewhere that the RX100 II's noise in JPEGs is a full f-stop better than that of the original RX100. This shot shows pretty conclusively that it's even better than that. Here, we have a crop from the RX100 II, shot at ISO 6400, bracketed by RX100 images. The top image was shot by the RX100 at ISO 3200, the bottom one at ISO 6400. To our eyes, the RX100 II's shot at 6400 is actually cleaner than the RX100's at 3200. At ISO 6400, there's no comparison.

The RX100's sensor was already an excellent one, and its high-ISO performance outstripped anything near its size. The new Mark II version takes it to an entirely new level, though. And all of this is without taking into consideration Sony's highly effective multi-shot modes, which use multiple, rapid-fire shots to cut noise, while giving the exposure effect of a much longer exposure, combined with the anti-camera-shake effect of a much shorter one.

All in all, the Sony RX100 II really blows away the competition when it comes to after-dark shooting with a compact, pocketable camera. As Dave said in his YouTube video on the RX100 II, the improvements are enough that we think a lot of current RX100 users will be looking to trade up. Very impressive!

 

Sony RX100 II Print Quality

Very good 24 x 36 inch prints at ISO 100/160/200; a nice 13 x 19 at ISO 1600; a good 4 x 6 at ISO 12,800.

ISO 100/160 prints are very good at 24 x 36 inches, with nice detail and good color. Wall display prints are quite usable up to 36 x 48 inches.

ISO 200 also produces a nice 24 x 36 inch print, with wall display prints possible to 30 x 40 inches.

ISO 400 shots are good at 20 x 30 inches. 24 x 36 inch prints are certainly usable for less critical applications, with only mild softening in the red channel and minor noise in a few areas.

ISO 800 is where things start to get interesting, as the original RX100 and the RX100 II both make worthwhile prints at 16 x 20 inches, but with slightly different minor issues. The RX100 displays more contrast and detail in our somewhat difficult red fabric swatch, and yet has more grain in shadowy areas than the RX100 II.

ISO 1600 is where the newer backlit sensor in the RX100 II starts to shine, as a good 13 x 19 is possible here, where the RX100 has a bit too much noise at that size and requires a reduction to 11 x 14 inches.

ISO 3200 shows this trend continuing, as a good 11 x 14 is the yield from the RX100 II, but is a bit too noisy in flatter areas in the RX100 at that size.

ISO 6400 prints at 8 x 10 almost make our "good" standard, and are certainly useful for less critical applications, with 5 x 7's being quite good here.

ISO 12,800 yields a good 4 x 6, which is a nice size at this ISO for a 1"-type sensor!

The Sony RX100 II continues in the hallowed footsteps of last year's RX100 and takes the compact camera world yet a step further as ISO starts to rise, thanks to its improved backlit sensor and more refined processing. Where the RX100 shines quite brightly for a compact camera, the RX100 II is capable of one print size larger at ISO 1600 and 3200, as well as adding a good 4 x 6 at ISO 12,800 to the roster of possibilities. The sizes this camera prints for a true pocket camera, and not just a small CSC that happens to fit into a coat pocket, is quite remarkable indeed. (Oh, and thank Sony for not adding single-shot ISO 25,600 just to say that it could! At IR we appreciate the integrity in marketing.)

 

Sony RX100 II



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