Sony RX1R II Image Quality


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Slightly lower than average saturation levels and about average hue accuracy.

ISO Sensitivity
50
100
200
400
800
In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located toward the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center. Mouse over the links to compare ISOs and click on a link for a larger version.

Saturation. The Sony RX1R II's mean default color saturation is 107.9% at base ISO or in other words, oversaturated by 7.9%. That's just a touch lower than average these days. Mean saturation remains very stable up to ISO 1600, after which it begins to gradually drop as sensitivity is increased, to a minimum of 100.5% at maximum ISO. Reds, dark blues and dark green are boosted the most, but not as much as we often see. Most other colors are pushed just a bit, though light orange and light green are slightly undersaturated, and yellow is moderately undersaturated. Overall, saturation levels are still pleasing to our eyes, and you can of course tweak saturation to your liking. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. The Sony RX1R II does fairly well with Caucasian skin tones. Brighter flesh tones have a healthy-looking pinkish tint, though darker areas are nudged slightly toward orange. Still, pretty realistic results here. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. Like many cameras, the Sony RX1R II shifts cyan toward blue, red toward orange, orange toward yellow and yellow toward green, but shifts are relatively minor. (The cyan to blue shift is actually fairly minor and very common among the digital cameras we test; we think it's a deliberate choice by camera engineers to produce better-looking sky colors. The yellow to green shift combined with its desaturation is however unfortunate, as it can produce somewhat dingy-looking yellows.) With an average "delta-C" color error of 5.08 after correction for saturation at base ISO, overall hue accuracy is about average, and it's fairly stable across the ISO sensitivity range. Hue is "what color" the color is.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Slightly warm cast with Auto white balance; Incandescent is pretty good, and Manual is very good. Less than average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance
0 EV
Incandescent White Balance
0 EV
Manual White Balance
0 EV

Indoors, under normal incandescent lighting, color balance is a bit too warm and orange with the Auto white balance setting, though results here are better than average. White balance with the Incandescent setting is quite good and only a touch warm. Results with the Manual setting are the most accurate, though just slightly cool. The Sony RX1R II required no exposure compensation here, while +0.3 EV is about average for this shot. (Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.)

Outdoors, daylight
Excellent results under harsh lighting, with very good handling of contrast, color, and exposure.

Manual White Balance,
+0.3 EV
Auto White Balance,
0 EV

Outdoors, the Sony RX1R II performed extremely well. Only +0.3 EV of exposure compensation was required to keep the mannequin's face bright in our "Sunlit" Portrait shot, which is less than the +0.7 EV average among the cameras we've tested. Contrast is a little high as you might expect under such harsh lighting, but despite the bright appearance, the camera does a great job of holding onto detail in both the shadows and bright highlights, even without the help of DRO (see below). We preferred Manual color balance for our "Portrait" shot, though Auto white balance produced very similar results. Default exposure is excellent in our Far-field shot with almost no highlights blown, however there are some dark shadows that are discolored at very low levels, though detail is actually quite good. The Far-field shot with Auto white balance has very good color balance, just a touch cool. Overall, great performance in harsh lighting, especially considering DRO was off for these shots.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
~3,750 lines of strong detail from JPEGs, about the same from RAW files.

Strong detail to
~3,750 lines horizontal
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~3,750 lines vertical
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~3,750 lines horizontal
ACR converted RAW
Strong detail to
~3,750 lines vertical
ACR converted RAW

An in-camera JPEG of our laboratory resolution chart reveals sharp, distinct line patterns up to about 3,750 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction and to about 3,750 lines per picture height in the vertical direction, though some minor aliasing can be seen starting as low as 3,300 lines. Complete extinction of the pattern didn't occur before the 4,000 line limit of our chart in both directions. Adobe Camera Raw wasn't really able to extract more resolution here from matching RAW file, but it produced a lot more color moiré and false colors at and above the limits of resolution. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Excellent detail and sharpness, with very few sharpening artifacts. Mild noise suppression visible in the shadows and areas of low contrast.

Excellent definition of
high-contrast elements with very
low sharpening artifacts.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur
detail in areas of subtle contrast.

Sharpness. The Sony RX1R II captures incredibly sharp, crisp and detailed images, and the camera's sharpening algorithm doesn't generate obvious sharpening halos around edges with high contrast that we often see around the lines and letters of our bottle label crop (above left). The RX1R II's RAW images don't need a lot of sharpening especially with the low pass filter turned off, but Sony really has done an excellent job with the RX1R II's low-ISO JPEG processing. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows fairly mild noise suppression in the darker areas of the mannequin's hair. A number of low-contrast strands are smudged together, though higher contrast strands are distinct, though as you can see some suffer from the "jaggies" and other aliasing artifacts (see below). Still, outstanding results here considering the resolution. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

Variable Low-Pass Filter. As you can see, the Sony RX1R II's variable low-pass filter works quite well at reducing and even eliminating aliasing artifacts such as moiré, and Sony has included bracketing support in case you're not sure which setting to use. (LPF bracketing is also useful for blending areas from different settings to selectively remove or reduce aliasing in problem areas of static images). Very cool!

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above, the Sony RX1R II produces in-camera JPEGs with incredible amounts of crisp detail. Additional detail can often be obtained from carefully processing RAW files with a good converter, so let's have a look at base ISO:

Base ISO (100)
Camera JPEG, defaults
RAW via Adobe Camera Raw

In the table above, we compare an in-camera JPEG taken at base ISO using default noise reduction and sharpening (on the left) to the matching RAW file converted with Adobe Camera Raw 9.1 via DNG Converter 9.3 using default noise reduction with some moderate but tight unsharp masking applied in Photoshop (250%, radius of 0.3 pixels, and a threshold of 0).

As you can see, the Adobe Camera Raw conversion renders just a touch more detail than the camera, while higher contrast and saturation makes the in-camera image pop a bit more, but the ACR conversion also reveals a bit more luminance noise in flat areas. You can always turn up the luminance noise reduction (default of zero was used here), though noise levels are already quite low. Also note the moiré pattern in the red-leaf pattern in both images (LPF was Off ).

Bottom line: Although Adobe Camera Raw is able to extract a little more detail and produce perhaps a slightly more natural-looking image, there's really very little to complain about the Sony RX1R II's JPEG engine at low ISOs. It provides a great balance of fine, crisp detail, low noise, and low sharpening artifacts straight out of the camera.

ISO & Noise Performance
Surprisingly good high ISO performance.

Default High ISO Noise Reduction
ISO 50 ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800 ISO 1600
ISO 3200 ISO 6400 ISO 12,800
ISO 25,600 ISO 51,200 ISO 102,400

The Sony RX1R II's JPEG images are quite clean and extremely detailed at ISOs 50 though 400, with very little image degradation, and image quality drops in a nice, very gradual manner up to ISO 1600. ISO 3200 produces a more noticeable drop in image quality with higher noise and some noise reduction artifacts, however fine detail is still quite good, and chroma noise remains very low. ISO 6400 shows more noise and artifacts from noise reduction, but fine detail is still pretty good, and more objectional chroma noise still remains low. ISO 12,800 is significantly noisier, and sharpening combined with strong noise reduction give the image a rough look in darker areas and shadows, but chroma noise is still well-controlled. Interestingly, the camera's shading correction seems to back-off at this sensitivity and above, likely because the exposure boost in the image corners and edges would reveal too much noise, however that results in a dimmer periphery with lower saturation as well. Image quality drops rapidly from ISO 25,600 on, though, with images that almost look like stippled paintings, and strong chroma blotching becomes an issue at ISO 51,200 and 102,400 as well.

Overall, though, the RX1R II offers surprisingly good high ISO performance especially considering its resolution and pixel size. As always, see the Print Quality section below for maximum recommended print sizes at each ISO.

A note about focus for this shot: We used to shoot this image at f/4, however depth of field became so shallow with larger, high-resolution sensors that it was difficult to keep important areas of this shot in focus, so we have since started shooting at f/8, the best compromise between depth of field and sharpness.

Extremes: Sunlit, dynamic range and low light tests
Excellent highlight and shadow detail. Excellent low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images in near darkness.

0 EV +0.3 EV +0.7 EV

Sunlight. The Sony RX1R II handled the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above brilliantly. We preferred the +0.3 EV exposure here, as the default 0 EV exposure is a touch dim in the face while the +0.7 EV exposure is a bit too bright. Contrast is a little high, but shadow and highlight detail are both very good. Despite the bright appearance, very few highlights are blown in the mannequin's shirt and face at +0.3 EV, though the red channel is clipped in some of the flowers as is often the case, and in specular highlights where you'd expect clipping. There are some dark shadows however they're fairly clean with lots of detail, though very deep shadows are posterized and discolored, as expected. Overall, excellent performance here.

For best results, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible. See below for results with Dynamic Range Optimization and High Dynamic Range features enabled.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here. In actual shooting conditions, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown here; it's better to shoot in open shade whenever possible.)

Face Detection
Aperture Priority, 0 EV
Face Detection Off
Aperture Priority, 0 EV
Face Detection On
Auto Mode,
0 EV

Face Detection. Like most cameras these days, the Sony RX1R II has the ability to detect faces (up to 8 in a scene), and adjust exposure and focus accordingly. As you can see from the examples above, face detection worked as expected in Aperture Priority at f/8, producing a brighter image than without it by reducing the shutter speed from 1/40 to 1/25s (that's a bit slow for handheld use and the type of subject, but it had little other choice since the aperture and ISO was manually selected). Full Auto mode also produced a better exposure than Aperture Priority without face detection. It selected a larger aperture of f/3.5 while maintaining a relatively fast shutter speed of 1/160s, and automatically applied DRO (see below) to reduce overall contrast.

Outdoor Portrait DRO Comparison
DRO
Setting:


Auto
(Default)


Off

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4

Level 5

Dynamic Range Optimization is Sony's name for their dynamic range enhancement technology. DRO divides the image into small areas, analyzes the range of brightness of each area, and adjusts the camera's image processing parameters accordingly to make the best use of the available dynamic range. Auto DRO is enabled by default on the Sony RX1R II. You can also set the level manually, from 1 ("weak") to 5 ("strong"), or turn it off. As one would expect, DRO is only available for JPEG files.

The above thumbnails and histograms show the effects of the various levels of DRO on our "Sunlit" Portrait shot with no exposure compensation. Mouse over the links on the right to load the associated thumbnail and histogram, and click on the link to visit the full resolution image.

As you can see from the thumbnails and associated histograms, increasing DRO progressively boosts shadows and midtones while leaving highlights essentially intact, though boosting shadows does make noise slightly more visible. The Auto setting did a decent job overall though it could have boosted more, and the five manual levels give quite a bit of control over the effect.

Above, you can see the effect of DRO settings on our Far-field shot. The default Auto setting produced a nicely balanced exposure, despite the harsh lighting. A useful feature that works well.


Outdoor Portrait HDR Comparison
HDR
Setting:


Off
(Default)


Auto

1 EV

2 EV

3 EV

4 EV

5 EV

6 EV

High Dynamic Range. The Sony RX1R II's HDR mode takes three images in rapid succession, one nominally exposed , one underexposed, and one overexposed, then combines them into one high dynamic range JPEG automatically. Lighter areas from the underexposed image are combined in-camera with darker areas from the overexposed image to produce an image with compressed tonal range. The camera then saves a single composite image, as well as the nominally exposed image. The overlaid images are micro-aligned by the camera, but it can only correct for so much movement. If it can't micro-align successfully, an icon indicating HDR capture failed will appear. For best results, the subject should not move or even blink, so it's not really intended for portraits. There is also a manual mode where you can select 1 EV ("weak") to 6 EV ("strong") difference in exposures.

Mouse over the links to load the associated thumbnail and histogram, and click on the link to visit the full resolution image.

As you can see, the Auto setting did a decent job, producing results somewhere between the 2 and 3 EV manual settings. The higher the manual setting, the more highlights were toned-down and shadows opened up, but as you can see higher settings can produce flat and unnatural results with this subject.

Far-field HDR Comparison

Above, you can see the effect of HDR settings on our Far-field shot. Watch out for ghost images from subject movement during the capture sequence, though, as can be seen in some of the shots above. It appears that the RX1R II attempts to eliminate them during the merging process, but isn't always 100% successful.

Dynamic Range Analysis (RAW mode). While we once performed our own dynamic range measurements based on in-camera JPEGs as well as converted RAW images (when the camera was supported by Adobe Camera Raw), we've switched to using DxO Labs' results from their DxOMark website. As technology advanced, the dynamic range of modern high-end cameras in some cases exceeded the range of the Stouffer T4110 density scale that we used for our own measurements. DxO's approach based on RAW data before demosaicing is also more revealing, because it measures the fundamental dynamic range of the sensor, irrespective of whatever processing is applied to JPEGs, or to RAW data by off-the-shelf conversion software.

In the following, we use DxO's "Print" dynamic range results, which are scaled based on camera resolution. As the name suggests, this scaling corresponds to the situation in which you print at a given size, regardless of how many megapixels the camera might have. (In other words, if you've decided to make a 13x19 inch print, that's the size you're printing, whether the camera's resolution is 16 or 300 megapixels.) For the technically-minded, you can find a discussion of the reasoning behind this here on the DxOMark website. Also note that DxO Labs uses a signal-to-noise (SNR) threshold of 1 when defining the lower boundary of acceptable luminance noise in their dynamic range measurements, which corresponds to the "Low Quality" threshold of the Imatest software we used to use for this measurement.

Here, we compare the Sony RX1R II's dynamic range to its predecessor, the RX1R, and also to the Sony A7R II, which uses a similar if not identical sensor. You can always compare to other cameras directly on dxomark.com.

As you can see from the above graph (click for a larger image), the RX1R II's dynamic range (orange) is similar to its predecessor (yellow) from base ISO up to ISO 1600, but the newer model pulls away significantly at higher ISOs, offering at least one EV of additional dynamic range at all remaining ISO sensitivity settings they share.

Unsurprisingly, the Sony RX1R II's dynamic range is nearly identical to Sony's A7R II mirrorless ILC, with both cameras offering a peak dynamic range of around 13.9 EV at base ISO, to a minimum of between 6.42 and 6.78 EV at maximum ISO.

Bottom line: Excellent dynamic range results from the Sony RX1R II, with exceptional results at higher ISOs. Click here to visit the DxOMark page for the Sony RX1R II for more of their test results and additional comparisons.

  1 fc
11 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16 fc
No NR
ISO
100
Click to see RX1R2LL0001003.JPG
1s, f2.0
Click to see RX1R2LL0001007.JPG
15s, f2.0
Click to see RX1R2LL0001007XNR.JPG
15s, f2.0
ISO
3200
Click to see RX1R2LL0032003.JPG
1/30s, f2.0
Click to see RX1R2LL0032007.JPG
0.5s, f2.0
Click to see RX1R2LL0032007XNR.JPG
0.5s, f2.0
ISO
102400
Click to see RX1R2LL1024003.JPG
1/1000s, f2.0
Click to see RX1R2LL1024007.JPG
1/60s, f2.0
Click to see RX1R2LL1024007XNR.JPG
1/60s, f2.0

Low Light. The Sony RX1R II performed very well in our low light tests, producing usable exposures with very low noise down to the lowest light level we test at (1/16 fc) at base ISO of 100. Noise is very low at base ISO and surprisingly low at ISO 3200, though as expected, at the highest ISO of 102,400 luminance noise is very high and blotchy chroma noise can be seen in darker areas. With noise reduction minimized (right-most column), noise "grain" is quite fine and tight and not too objectionable, except at the highest ISO.

We found a few hot or bright pixels at base ISO, particularly when long exposure noise reduction is turned off (where you'd expect to find them), but nothing out of the usual. Banding (fixed pattern noise) in deep shadows is very low and we did not detect any significant heat blooming.

Auto white balance did a very good job here, producing a fairly neutral, just slightly cool color balance.

The Sony RX1R II's autofocus system was able to focus on our test target down to below the 1/16 foot-candle light level unassisted with its f/2 lens, which is excellent. And with the AF illuminator enabled, the camera was able to focus in complete darkness. This of course will vary with subject type, distance, etc.

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) Thanks to its larger sensor and Hybrid AF, compact system cameras like the Sony RX1R II tend to do better than point & shoots, but you still shouldn't expect a quick autofocus lock with moving subjects.

Output Quality

Print Quality
High-quality prints up to 30 x 40 inches at ISO 50-800; Nice 8 x 10 inch prints all the way up to ISO 12,800; and usable 4 x 6 inch prints at ISO 51,200.

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageISO 50 through 800 prints all look practically identical and equally impressive up to a whopping 30 x 40 inches and beyond. Prints show lots of detail and pleasing colors, and we see no apparent noise as the ISO increases all the way up to ISO 800! Truly impressive print quality performance.

ISO 1600 images show just a hint more noise than lower sensitivities, but it's mainly situated in the shadows. The prints, up to a sizable 24 x 36 inches, are still very impressive, with lovely fine detail.

ISO 3200 prints look very similar to ISO 1600 with only a slight increase in shadow noise. We are going to call it at 16 x 20 inches here, but we're totally fine with larger 20 x 30 inch prints for less critical situations.

ISO 6400 images show an increased level of noise as expected, but at up to 11 x 14 inches, visible noise is still mainly constrained to the shadows and doesn't impact detail elsewhere to a major degree; even the tricky red-leaf fabric of our Still Life target shows detail at this print size.

ISO 12,800 prints still look amazingly nice up to 8 x 10 inches. Noise becomes a bit too strong for our liking if printed any larger, however there's still a lot of fine detail available, so an 11 x 14 could be usable for less critical applications.

ISO 25,600 images still show a good level of detail at similar print sizes to the previous sensitivity, but noise is visibly stronger, forcing us to limit prints to just 5 x 7 inches.

ISO 51,200 prints are getting quite noisy, but the Sony RX1R II still manages a good 4 x 6 inch print, which is an impressive feat.

ISO 102,400 images are both too noisy and lacking in fine detail to be considered usable for making prints.

The Sony RX1R II, simply put, manages a fantastic showing in our print quality department. Packing a high-res 42-megapixel full-frame sensor, the Sony RX1R II manages some impressively large prints, especially at lower ISOs. From expanded low ISO 50 all the way up to ISO 800, the RX1R II can manage massive prints up to 30 x 40 inches -- and larger, depending on how much you want to push the sensor's resolving power. 30 x 40 inches is the largest print size we test nowadays, and up to ISO 800, the RX1R II produces stunning prints with tons of crisp detail with little to no impact from noise. Even when raising sensitivity, images maintain pleasing noise characteristics. Prints as large as 8 x 10 inches are totally usable up to ISO 12,800. Going higher with ISO sensitivity, we do observe noise beginning to impact print size, and ISO 51,200 is the highest we're willing to go. Here, we top-out with a usable 4 x 6 inch print. We don't recommend using ISO 102,400 for prints, as the images are just too noisy and lacking in detail.

About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageTesting hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, which we named our "Printer of the Year" in our 2015 COTY awards.

The Canon PRO-1000 has a lot of characteristics that make it a natural to use for our "reference printer." When it comes to judging how well a camera's photos print, resolution and precise rendering are paramount. The PRO-1000's more than 18,000 individual nozzles combine with an air feeding system that provides exceptional droplet-placement accuracy. Its 11-color LUCIA PRO ink system delivers a wide color gamut and dense blacks, giving us a true sense of the cameras' image quality. To best see fine details, we've always printed on glossy paper, so the PRO-1000's "Chroma Optimizer" overcoat that minimizes "bronzing" or gloss differential is important to us. (Prior to the PRO-1000, we've always used dye-based printers, in part to avoid the bronzing problems with pigment-based inks.) Finally, we just don't have time to deal with clogged inkjet heads, and the PRO-1000 does better in that respect than any printer we've ever used. If you don't run them every day or two, inkjet printers tend to clog. Canon's thermal-inkjet technology is inherently less clog-prone than other approaches, but the PRO-1000 takes this a step further, with sensors that monitor every inkjet nozzle. If one clogs, it will assign another to take over its duties. In exchange for a tiny amount of print speed, this lets you defer cleaning cycles, which translates into significant ink savings. In our normal workflow, we'll often crank out a hundred or more letter-size prints in a session, but then leave the printer to sit for anywhere from days to weeks before the next camera comes along. In over a year of use, we've never had to run a nozzle-cleaning cycle on our PRO-1000.

See our Canon PRO-1000 review for a full overview of the printer from the viewpoint of a fine-art photographer.

*Disclosure: Canon provided us with the PRO-1000 and a supply of ink to use in our testing, and we receive advertising consideration for including this mention when we talk about camera print quality. Our decision to use the PRO-1000 was driven by the printer itself, though, prior to any discussion with Canon on the topic. (We'd actually been using an old Pixma PRO 9500II dye-based printer for years previously, and paying for our own ink, until we decided that the PRO-1000 was the next-generation printer we'd been waiting for.)

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1R II Photo Gallery .

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1R II with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!



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