Sony RX100 II Image Quality

Color: The Sony RX100 II produces pretty good overall color, though colors at default settings are not as vibrant as most cameras. With a mean saturation of 104.6% at base ISO, the Sony RX100 II's saturation levels are lower than most cameras which average about 10% oversaturation. You can always increase saturation or select the Vivid Creative Style mode if you find default colors too flat, though. In terms of hue, cyans are moderately shifted toward blue, orange towards yellow and yellow towards green, though those shifts are fairly common. Overall, hue accuracy is about average, but the yellow-to-green shift combined with its desaturation can lead to somewhat dingy-looking yellows.

Auto WB:
Good, a touch warm
Incandescent WB:
Also warm
Manual WB:
Very good, a touch cool

Incandescent: The RX100 II's Auto white balance setting works better than most cameras, producing slightly warm results in our indoor portrait test. The Incandescent setting is also warm with a slightly yellow tint, but again, better than average. The Manual white balance setting is very good, producing the most accurate color balance, perhaps just slightly on the cool side. Unlike a lot of compacts, the RX100 II has a Kelvin temperature white balance setting as well, however we did not test that mode.

Horizontal: ~2300 lines
Vertical: ~2100 lines

Resolution: Our laboratory resolution chart reveals sharp, distinct line patterns to just over 2300 lines per picture height horizontally but only to about 2100 lines vertically, which is a little low for the megapixel count. (There's likely a bit of lens astigmatism at play here.)Extinction of the pattern occurred at about 2800 lines per picture height horizontally, and about 2600 lines vertically.

Wide at 49.2 ft.:
Tele at 18.7 ft.:
Auto: Slightly dim

Flash: Our manufacturer-specified flash range testing (shown at right) is inconclusive at wide angle, with the rated distance of 15m / 49.2 ft. with Auto ISO, being too far for our lab despite employing spot metering. However, the telephoto test came out bright at the specified 5.7m / 18.7 feet with Auto ISO (the camera chose ISO 2500), so we'd say Sony's flash range rating is credible.

Auto flash mode produced slightly dim results at ISO 200, selecting a somewhat slow shutter speed of 1/30 second. Image stabilization should help with the slow shutter speed, but movement of the subject could be problematic at slow shutter speeds unless detected by the camera. Shot taken at ~5 feet (~1.5m) on a stable tripod.

ISO 100
ISO 12,800

Low Light: The RX100 II is able to capture bright, clean images at the lowest light level we test at (1/16 foot-candle, about 4 stops down from typical city street lighting at night), even at its lowest ISO setting, thanks to its fast lens and larger-than-average sensor. Even its top ISO of 12,800 was able to capture a usable image, though as you'd expect, noise is quite high and fine detail suffers. Auto white balance performed well, producing a slightly cool color balance. Excellent performance for its class here.

Low Light AF: The camera's AF system was able to focus down to below the 1/16 foot-candle light level without AF assist enabled, and in complete darkness with the AF assist lamp enabled. Excellent results here.


ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail is strong and well defined at ISOs 100 through 400 with default noise reduction. We start to see a noticeable decline in image quality at ISO 800, but fine detail is very good with much better image quality than typical pocket cameras. Fine detail is still good at ISO 1600, though subtle detail in our red-leaf fabric becomes soft. Detail and noise levels are generally still pretty good at ISO 3200 which is remarkable given the size of the camera, but at ISOs 6400 and 12,800, noise and strong noise suppression blur away much detail and definition, particularly in the red channel. Chroma noise is however effectively controlled throughout the sensitivity range, though saturation does drop off a bit at higher ISOs.

Overall, a nice improvement over the RX100 at higher ISOs, but some of it comes down to more advanced JPEG processing as the RX100 II's RAW files show a smaller improvement in noise performance, perhaps a 1/3 to 1/2 of a stop, and the camera seems to be applying fairly subtle noise reduction to RAW data at higher ISOs as well. Still, much better high ISO image quality than typical enthusiast compacts. See Printed results below for more on how this affects prints.

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.)

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.)


The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 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-RX100 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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