Sony RX10 II Image Quality Comparison

Below are crops from our laboratory Still Life target comparing the Sony RX10 II vs. the original Sony RX10, Canon G3X, Panasonic FZ1000, Olympus Stylus 1 and Nikon J5. These models represent the RX10 II's direct predecessor, both of its closest rivals, an enthusiast-grade long-zoom camera with constant-aperture lens but a smaller sensor size, and a very compact mirrorless camera with the same sensor size.

NOTE: These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera.

For those interested in working with the RAW files involved: click these links to visit each camera's respective sample image thumbnail page: Sony RX10 II, Sony RX10, Canon G3X, Panasonic FZ1000, Olympus Stylus 1 and Nikon J5 -- links to the RAW files appear beneath those for the JPEG images, wherever we have them. And remember, you can always go to our world-renowned Comparometer to compare the Sony RX10 II to any camera we've ever tested.

Sony RX10 II vs Sony RX10 at Base ISO

Sony RX10 II at ISO 100
Sony RX10 at ISO 125

At base sensitivity -- which is now just slightly lower than before -- the Sony RX10 II looks to have just a slight edge on its predecessor. Sharpening haloes in the bottle crop aren't quite as prominent, and there's just a little more detail in the mosaic label, as well. The RX10 does just slightly better with the fabric swatches, though, holding onto the thread patterns slightly better and showing more contrast in the red swatch.

Sony RX10 II vs Canon G3X at Base ISO

Sony RX10 II at ISO 100
Canon G3X at ISO 125

Against the Canon G3X, the Sony RX10 II looks to have a little bit more of an edge. (And again, a slightly lower base sensitivity.) As well as a crisper mosaic label and more detail in the fabric swatches, Sony's noise reduction better handles the bottle crop. (Even at base ISO, Canon's NR gives the edges of the bottles a slightly stippled look.)

Sony RX10 II vs Panasonic FZ1000 at Base ISO

Sony RX10 II at ISO 100
Panasonic FZ1000 at ISO 125

The Panasonic FZ1000 proves to be a tougher rival. There's clearly more detail in the fabric swatches than Sony was able to gather, and the FZ1000 also yields an even crisper mosaic label.

Sony RX10 II vs Olympus Stylus 1 at Base ISO

Sony RX10 II at ISO 100
Olympus Stylus 1 at ISO 100

We've included the Olympus Stylus 1 in this comparison as an example of an enthusiast-grade, small-sensor long zoom that, like the RX10 II, has a constant-aperture f/2.8 zoom lens. And right off the bat, you can see that at base sensitivity the Sony RX10 II does a better job. Olympus' noise reduction leaves mottlin in the bottle crop even at ISO 100, despite a lower resolution that offsets its smaller sensor size. And that lower resolution shows itself in the mosaic and fabric swatches, both of which contain far less detail. In fairness, though, it's also a much smaller and lighter camera than is the RX10 II.

Sony RX10 II vs Nikon J5 at Base ISO

Sony RX10 II at ISO 100
Nikon J5 at ISO 160

And finally we come to the Nikon J5. It uses the same sensor size as does the Sony RX10 II, but allows for interchangeable lenses. The rumor mill has it that unlike past 1-series models which uses sensors from Aptina, this one may in fact feature a Sony chip. Whether that's true or not, the Nikon J5 seems to gather a little less detail than the Sony RX10 II in the mosaic label. It also has less aggressive sharpening, though. The bottle crop doesn't show as much haloing, and also looks a little cleaner.

Sony RX10 II vs Sony RX10 at ISO 1600

Sony RX10 II at ISO 1600
Sony RX10 at ISO 1600

Stepping up to ISO 1600-equivalent, we have a more interesting comparison between predecessor and successor. Sony seems to have dialed back its noise reduction, leaving more grain in the bottle crop but perhaps holding onto a touch more detail in the mosaic label. Clearly, both cameras are starting to have a little difficulty, though, and noise reduction is squashing some finer details, yielding a somewhat smudgy look.

Sony RX10 II vs Canon G3X at ISO 1600

Sony RX10 II at ISO 1600
Canon G3X at ISO 1600

Canon's approach looks to have even less noise reduction processing, but despite this the mosaic label looks muddy and has lost most of its finer details.

Sony RX10 II vs Panasonic FZ1000 at ISO 1600

Sony RX10 II at ISO 1600
Panasonic FZ1000 at ISO 1600

At ISO 1600, Panasonic still seems to have an edge over Sony. The FZ1000 shows a bit more detail in the mosaic label, along with better-controlled noise in the bottle crop. And while it really struggles with the red fabric swatch, it holds onto some thread patterns in the pink swatch that the RX10 II has lost.

Sony RX10 II vs Olympus Stylus 1 at ISO 1600

Sony RX10 II at ISO 1600
Olympus Stylus 1 at ISO 1600

At ISO 1600, the Olympus Stylus 1 is really handicapped by its smaller sensor. Almost all fine detail is gone in both the mosaic label and fabric swatches, and the bottle crop is much noisier too.

Sony RX10 II vs Nikon J5 at ISO 1600

Sony RX10 II at ISO 1600
Nikon J5 at ISO 1600

Again, Sony holds onto detail better than Nikon in the mosaic label, which is a bit muddy in the J5's image. And the RX10 II also wins in the red fabric swatch, albeit not by a huge margin. However, the Nikon still shows a little thread detail in the pink fabric swatch and does a noticeably better job with noise reduction in the bottle crops.

Sony RX10 II vs Sony RX10 at ISO 3200

Sony RX10 II at ISO 3200
Sony RX10 at ISO 3200

Finally, at ISO 3200 the Sony RX10 II definitely shows more noise than did the RX10 in the bottle crop, but thanks to that less aggressive noise reduction holds onto more detail in the mosaic label. The fabric crops are a wash: Neither model does a great job in them this time around.

Sony RX10 II vs Canon G3X at ISO 3200

Sony RX10 II at ISO 3200
Canon G3X at ISO 3200

The Canon G3X's mosaic label and fabric swatches are both muddy and have relatively little detail. At the same time, its bottle crop is noisier, although that noise has a finer and more film-like grain to it.

Sony RX10 II vs Panasonic FZ1000 at ISO 3200

Sony RX10 II at ISO 3200
Panasonic FZ1000 at ISO 3200

At ISO 3200, the Panasonic FZ1000 still has an edge over the Sony RX10 II, but it's much more modest. There's a little more fabric detail in the swatches, and the mosaic label also shows a touch more detail as well as better contrast. Completing the sweep, noise is also better controlled in the bottle crops. Not a huge difference in any area, but a worthwhile one across the board, we'd say.

Sony RX10 II vs Olympus Stylus 1 at ISO 3200

Sony RX10 II at ISO 3200
Olympus Stylus 1 at ISO 3200

No two ways about it: At ISO 3200, the Olympus Stylus 1's results from that small sensor are pretty ugly. Chroma and luma noise run rampant, and most fine detail is obscured. The Sony RX10 II's image is still pretty usable so long as you don't pixel peep, by contrast.

Sony RX10 II vs Nikon J5 at ISO 3200

Sony RX10 II at ISO 3200
Nikon J5 at ISO 3200

Very different approaches from Sony and Nikon at ISO 3200. If these truly are related sensors, then it just goes to show how much the processing affects the final result. The J5 somehow still retains a touch of pink fabric pattern and better tamps down noise in the bottle crop, but detail in the mosaic label really suffers.

Sony RX10 II vs. Sony RX10, Canon G3X, Panasonic FZ1000, Olympus Stylus 1, Nikon J5

ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 125
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 125
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 125
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Stylus 1
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 160
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. If one thing stands out in a glance at the high-contrast detail, it's the Olympus Stylus 1. Partly for its lower resolution and partly its weaker high-sensitivity results, its smaller sensor clearly hobbles it against the 1"-type sensors of the other cameras. The Nikon J5 and especially the Panasonic FZ1000 stand tall above the rest with the best results. Behind them, the Sony RX10 II has a slight but worthwhile edge on the original RX10, with the Canon G3X trailing the large-sensored field.


Sony RX10 II Print Quality

High-quality prints up to 24 x 36 inches at ISO 64-100; Nice 11 x 14 inch prints at ISO 1600; and 4 x 6 inch prints just pass the mark at ISO 12,800.

ISO 64/100 prints show impressive detail and pleasing colors all the way up to 24 x 36 inches. Even with larger 30 x 40 prints, there is very little visible pixelation from this 20-megapixel image, making this size just fine for wall display.

ISO 200 images show a hint of shadow noise, but detail and colors are otherwise excellent, making for a great 20 x 30 inch print. We'd be fine with a 24 x 36 print for wall display here, too.

ISO 400 prints, despite the increase in sensitivity, look strikingly similar to ISO 200, in terms of noise level and detail. We're happy to call 20 x 30 inch prints good here too. Our tricky red fabric swatch does appear slightly less detailed here than at the previous ISO, but detail elsewhere in the print at this size looks great.

ISO 800 images start to show noticeably stronger noise, and a 16 x 20 inch print is on the cusp of being considered acceptable. We're more comfortable, however, calling it at 13 x 19 inches, with the next higher print size used only for less critical applications.

ISO 1600 prints still display nice, pleasing colors, but noise is certainly becoming an issue and impacting fine detail, therefore making 11 x 14 inch prints the largest size we're calling at this sensitivity.

ISO 3200 images display both higher noise as well as slightly blander-looking colors. Detail is still high enough for an acceptable 8 x 10 inch print, though.

ISO 6400 prints show a lot of softening due to noise and noise reduction processing, but we're still pleased with a 5 x 7 inch print at this ISO level.

ISO 12,800 images max-out at 4 x 6 inches. Any larger and the lack of detail due to noise makes for a disappointing print.

Summary: The Sony RX10 II maintains the same 20-megapixel resolution as its predecessor and the print sizes are more or less similar -- which is to say very good for a 1-inch sensor camera. As with its RX100 IV sibling, the RX10 II's big upgrades are centered around the new 1"-type Exmor RS stacked CMOS sensor, which offers improvements to performance rather than image quality. If you're debating between this model and its predecessor, the still image quality difference is not a major factor in terms of available print sizes.

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

Testing 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.)


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