Sony RX100 II review first look: Best gets better with groundbreaking sensor, viewfinder support and more (HANDS-ON VIDEO)


posted Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 11:01 PM EST

Last summer, the debut of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 answered the prayers of enthusiast shooters looking for a capable yet compact second camera, and those who wanted large-sensor iimage quality, but who found interchangeable-lens cameras simply too large. Unlike almost all its large-sensor compact camera competitors, the RX100 sports a handy optical zoom lens. (And it's far smaller than the rare models which pair a large sensor with a fixed zoom.)

Not surprisingly, the RX100 was a big seller for Sony. We loved it too, awarding it our Pocket Camera of the Year for 2012, and noting that "unlike many new cameras, it actually lived up to most of the hype, while packing an astonishing amount of imaging power into a small body". High praise, and well deserved -- but it has set a mighty high bar for Sony to clear with its followup, the Sony RX100 II.

(And we've already been hands-on with the RX100 II: We've just published a raft of test shots that will help you make your buying decision quickly, before the queue gets too long. Read our Sony RX100 II review for a first look, RX100 II test images, and real-world RX100 sample photos; compare to other cameras using our legendary Comparometer!)

A hands-on introduction to the Sony RX100 II with Imaging Resource founder Dave Etchells.

With the Sony RX100 II, the company has shown itself unafraid of the challenge laid down by its earlier camera. Where many would simply have shipped much the same design with a slight boost in sensor resolution and perhaps a few new firmware features, Sony has made some pretty comprehensive changes, all the while retaining the most important features. The Sony RX100 II has the same lens and resolution, but sports a brand-new, groundbreaking image sensor that's the largest backside-illuminated chip ever commercialized, and is said to be a full stop more sensitive. It's also said to yield faster low-light autofocus, and greatly-improved low-light movies.

The Sony RX100 II's groundbreaking 1"-type backside-illuminated image sensor is intended to increase sensitivity and reduce noise. It's the largest yet to reach retail, by a huge margin.

On the rear is much the same WhiteMagic LCD monitor as before, but now it tilts up and down for greater versatility. There's also a new flash hot shoe compatible with system accessories including an optional electronic viewfinder, a USB multi-terminal that now accepts a wired remote release cable, and both NFC and Wi-Fi wireless connectivity for remote live view, capture, and data transfer. And that's far from all!

The RX100 II (right) is scarcely any larger than the original, but packs in a lot more features, and for not much more cost. The two will compete head-to-head at retail.

Available from July 2013, the Sony RX100 II is priced at US$750, a modest US$100 increase over list pricing for the original Sony RX100. If you want to know the full story, read our hands-on Sony RX100 II review (complete with test shots!)

The Sony RX100 II sports a new tilting LCD panel, and can also accept the same optional hotshoe-mounted electronic viewfinder as the flagship Sony RX1.

As an indication of the RX100's lasting popularity, it's important to note that the RX100 II doesn't replace it. Both will continue to be sold side-by-side for the time being, with the RX100 aimed at SLR and mirrorless owners seeking a second camera, and the RX100 II aimed at step-up photographers wanting to avoid the bulk of an interchangeable-lens camera.