Design and Handling

The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II, as the name implies, is not an complete overhaul of the RX100. The two cameras share the same basic shell with the RX100 II adding a hotshoe and tilting LCD. Build quality is still good - the RX100 was made of sturdy stuff and the addition of a "II" on the top panel hasn't changed that. We had hoped for an update to the control wheel surrounding the lens - the RX100's dial left us feeling a little unengaged while shooting, sadly the RX100 II retains that 'clickless' wheel. Overall, very little has changed on the surface, and that's a (mostly) good thing.

Control ring

The control ring circling the RX100 II's lens isn't new, but it is a central part of the camera's operation. Here are the functions controlled by the ring:

  • Standard (the Sony-chosen setting, based on exposure mode)
  • Exposure Compensation
  • ISO
  • White Balance
  • Creative Style
  • Picture Effect
  • Zoom
  • Shutter Speed
  • Aperture
  • Not Set (no function assigned)

As mentioned above, the ring is designed to rotate smoothly without any click detents. To be nit-picky about the dial's interface, there's an ever-so-slight delay between rotating the wheel and when the dial function's quick screen is displayed on the LCD (part of the reason it's easy to feel disconnected from the process).

Set to 'Standard' mode, the control ring will change its function to match the shooting mode you're in. Changes in settings are marked with audio cues as the ring is turned - but no physical 'clicks.' The RX100 II's audio signals are an all-or-nothing affair, meaning for instance there's no way to keep the control ring clicks and silence the AF beep.
In Program mode it acts as an program shift shortcut, and in aperture mode it provides adjustment of aperture. An on-screen indicator mirrors the ring's turning action.

One excellent application of the step-less control ring is in movie mode. Coupled with the RX100 II's focus peaking, the control ring's freely rotating operation comes in handy when using manual focus.

Turning the dial from f/1.8 to f/11 also requires several good twists of the ring, something that's done more easily and quickly by using the rear command dial. Overall the control ring is a nice hardware feature, but in practice is a little bit of a letdown.

Body elements

The RX100 II's Carl Zeiss lens covers a useful range of 28-100mm (equivalent), with its maximum dropping from f/1.8 to f/4.9 as you zoom. You can zoom the lens using a standard rocker around the shutter button, or use the control ring around the lens barrel if you'd prefer. The RX100 II's lens also accepts a glue-on filter adapter accessory, which allows the use of 49mm filters.
The RX100's tilting 3.0-inch LCD offers a 640 x 480 pixel (1,229,000 dot) resolution, rotating 84 degrees up and 45 degrees downward. There are slight protrusions on the bottom edge of the LCD housing for extra grip, but it's a little awkward to handle.
Still, it's useful for composition and video shooting, and the LCD panel's 'WhiteMagic' design delivers better-than-average performance in bright light.
The RX100's top plate is flat and relatively spartan, playing host only to a power button, combined shutter release/zoom collar and exposure mode dial.
The RX100 II's multi-interface hotshoe now sits centered above the lens. It's compatible with an optional electronic viewfinder accessory. It also accepts Sony's HVL-F20 flash.
The built-in flash pops up into position offset to the left of the lens. There's no mechanical release for the flash, you'll have to activate it via the flash mode button on the rear 4-way controller.
The 4-way controller functions just as the RX100's does. By default the different direction keys adjust (clockwise from top) display mode, flash mode, exposure comp and drive mode. The left-hand, downward and central controls can be customized.

The Fn button is key to the camera's control, accessing a Fn menu that can be customized to have up to seven functions assigned to.
To record movies from any exposure mode, just press this button, that's inset slightly into the thumbgrip on the top right of the RX100's rear. Above this you can see the knurled edge of the exposure mode dial.
The RX100 II accepts both SD and Memory Stick media but you won't be able to change either card or battery with the camera on a tripod (the door opens over the tripod mount). The battery charges via USB, using a supplied AC adapter.
The RX100 II's tripod mount is offset from the lens axis, and positioned immediately next to the battery/memory card compartment.

Its HDMI port now resides on the side of the camera next to a 'multi' port that's used to charge the camera. (The original RX100 placed it next to the tripod mount).

Handling

The RX100 II gives away its complexity in the hand. It may look like any other compact, but it's appropriately hefty thanks to the large sensor and lens. Despite a slightly matte finish the body is somewhat slippery, though a rubberized back thumb grip helps keep it steady. Overall it's comfortable and feels secure enough to use one-handed, but attaching the enclosed wrist strap is a good idea. Sony now sells an accessory grip for the RX- series, applied to the front of the camera with an included double-sided adhesive. We had a similar third-party accessory for our RX100 review unit and it made a considerable difference in how the camera felt in the hand.

With the camera held in your right hand, the RX100 II's key controls are easy to locate. The lens is zoomed using a conventional rocker switch 'collar' around the shutter release or via the control ring encircling the lens.

The RX100 II has added a little thickness and height to the RX100's profile, thanks to a hotshoe and tilting LCD. There's not a whole lot to say about the latter, which is one of a few key differences between this camera and its predecessor. The screen's ability to tilt makes it easier to grab a shot above the head or at waist level and below. There are slight protrusions on the bottom edge of the LCD housing for extra grip when putting its tilting function to use, but even so it's a little awkward to handle. Still, it's useful for composition and video recording.

Roughly the same size as a typical compact, the RX100 II's back panel controls are all easily within reach when shooting one-handed.

User interface

The RX100's interface has been carried over to this model. Menus are still lengthy, but they provide plenty of opportunities for customization. Users can add certain image setting controls to the quick menu that's accessed via the function button on the back panel, providing essential shortcuts to things like white balance and focus mode.

Up to seven settings can be added to the quick menu accessed via the Function button.
Once assigned, they'll appear in the on-screen quick menu. Each setting is adjusted by using command dial on the back panel.

The interface for accessing the RX100 II's wireless features is a little unintuitive since the options to 'send to smartphone' and 'send to computer' are located in the main menu's playback tab, and the option to use a smartphone as a wireless remote is another tab. It's not hard to work out where these options are located within the menus, and it's hardly worth creating a new menu tab for three items.