Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II
Category: Enthusiast Large Sensor Compact Camera
What We Like
- Image quality is at the top of its class
- Comparatively large 1" sensor in a compact-sized camera
- Good quality Zeiss lens with bright wide-angle aperture
- Tilting LCD that's usable even in bright conditions
- Wi-Fi sharing works consistently and quickly
- Customizable memory recall shooting modes
- Great AF speed for a compact
- Fast power charger included with useful USB compatibility
- Hot shoe adds compatibility with viewfinder and flash accessories
What We Don't Like
- Overabundance of filter and low-light shooting modes
- Clickless control wheel makes for a somewhat unengaging shooting experience
- Available hot shoe accessories are pricey, oversized for RX100 II
- Continuous AF mode somewhat jarring and unreliable
- No in-camera Raw conversion
- Filter effect modes unavailable in Raw + JPEG shooting
- In-camera charging puts camera out of play while battery is charging
It's hard to review the RX100 II without calling out its predecessor/sibling model, and seeing as they're being sold simultaneously (at least for now) it may even be appropriate to offer some direct comparisons. The RX100 II is differentiated by only a handful of features, so naturally the more important those particular features are to you, the more it makes sense to spend a little more money on the RX100 II. But just how much are those new features worth? And at considerable cost of the RX100 II, would you be better off investing in a similarly-priced-but-much-bigger interchangeable lens camera? We've spent some time pondering these things during this review.
Our complaints with the RX100's somewhat unengaging shooting experience still stand in our evaluation of the RX100 II, since very little about the camera's physical form and interface have changed. The function ring around the lens is still clickless and the command ring on the back panel feels slightly under-used. Sony's excess of low light and dynamic range modes can be overwhelming, but the good news is the RX100 II makes wonderful images without any of their involvement.
The tilting LCD is nice to have, but it doesn't have the full range of motion that a flip-out LCD has, and is therefore slightly limited in use. The LCD panel itself, however, is excellent and stands up to use even in bright light. Overall the RX100 II looks, feels and handles like a premium point-and-shoot.
At the risk of over-stating it, we'll say it again: the RX100 II takes really nice pictures. When you compare image quality from like-sized cameras, it's practically peerless. However, comparing image quality from like-priced cameras, it starts to look a little more average. An Olympus E-PM2 now costs $500 and offers a significantly larger sensor. Sony's own Alpha NEX-6 offers an APS-C sized sensor for the same $750 price. As good as the RX100 II's image quality is, it falls short of the high ISO and dynamic range performance of Micro Four Thirds and APS-C sensor cameras at its price point. The obvious trade-off though, is a much bigger camera - neither of those options is pocketable.
As it stands, the RX100 II produces excellent JPEGs with good color rendition and detail. It shows a slight tendency toward cooler white balance in auto mode and has a habit of over-saturating reds, but overall produces images that will satisfy just about any user. The fact that its images are even comparable to an APS-C camera's images is impressive in itself. As long as you're expecting compact-level image quality, the RX100 II will exceed your expectations.
The addition of Wi-Fi, outside of gains in image quality, is one of the most notable new features. Wireless sharing hasn't been well integrated into the RX100 II's interface, but despite that it's a reliable and useful feature. Connecting a mobile device to the camera (once the initial setup is done) takes only a few moments. And, if this means that you can now shoot and share with an RX100 II on the move, that's a huge step up from using your smartphone.
The RX100 II's hotshoe introduces compatibility with a few accessories, including an electronic viewfinder. That's great news; the bad news is that the viewfinder costs $450. Add that to your shopping cart with the RX100 II and you're up to $1200 worth of camera gear. Needless to say, you can buy a whole lot of camera for $1200. At that price you're almost in NEX-7 territory, and that comes with an excellent built-in EVF. While the hotshoe is nice to have, it's hard to see it as a must-have for the vast majority of potential RX100 II owners.
The final word
It feels almost greedy asking the RX100 II to do more than it does. As it is, it takes exceptional pictures for a camera of its size, offers a wealth of manual shooting and customization options, and takes great video. It does everything and more you'd expect from a compact, and quite a few things you'd expect from a bigger camera.
Our disappointment with the slightly unengaging control wheel and shooting experience has remained unchanged since we reviewed the RX100. We want a compact camera with a big sensor, we really do, but we want to not feel like we're shooting with a compact camera. We want the convenience of a camera that will, if we want, make some or all of our shooting decisions for us with reliability and fit easily into a bag or big pocket. But we still want to take control and feel a connection between ourselves and the pictures we're making. That's not asking too much, is it?
Okay maybe that's getting a little philosophical about the whole thing, and when it boils right down to it the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II produces some of the best images we could ever expect to see from a compact camera. It's not the best shooting experience, but Sony has pushed the limits for this category and produced something really innovative.
Is the RX100 II worth the cost of a mid-range interchangeable lens system? And would you be better off saving some money and buying the now-discounted RX100 instead? That depends. If a slightly-less-noisy ISO 3200 JPEG is worth an extra $150 to you, then the RX100 II will be the better investment. If you can live with a little more noise, don't care much for a tilting LCD and don't plan to use Wi-Fi sharing, then you're better off with an RX100.
Overall, the RX100 II is virtually untouchable in its compact camera class. For anyone simply looking for the best image quality from a compact, the RX100 II is the answer. Enthusiasts, however, should be cautioned. Anyone who picks up the camera will love the images it produces, but someone looking for a more satisfying shooting experience might need to look elsewhere.
Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
Available light photography, enthusiasts looking for a high-resolution lightweight compact.
Not so good for
Budget-conscious shoppers, and anyone who really wants a viewfinder
The RX100 II performs much the same as its RX100 predecessor, turning out some of the best image quality we've seen from a compact camera. With the addition of Wi-Fi connectivity and a BSI sensor, it's at the top of its class in terms of performance and features. With a few caveats regarding the shooting experience, it's a clear class-leader.
Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II Samples Galleries
There are 30 images in the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II preview samples gallery, and 38 more in our review samples gallery. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.
Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution. Because our review images are now hosted on the 'galleries' section of dpreview.com, you can enjoy all of the new galleries functionality when browsing these samples.