This image was shot at a burst rate of 5fps. The RX10 II can also fire bursts as fast as 14fps, in Priority Continuous Mode, but with focused locked. Shot at an equiv. of 200mm. ISO 200, 1/1600, F5.6.

Note: Our full review on the Sony RX10 II has been posted, read it here.

The original RX10, impressive as it was on paper, never truly appealed to my needs as a photographer. I've always much preferred the compact size of the RX100 to the nearly-DSLR size of the RX10. My feeling is that if I am going to carry a camera the size of the RX10, it's going to be one with a larger sensor (also I tend to prefer shooting with primes, so a 24-200 equiv. lens is quite intimidating). Still, there is no denying that the RX10 has a lot to offer, and I completely understand the appeal of a superzoom camera with a relatively large sensor. Moreover, after shooting with the RX10 II for some time, with its added speed, 4K video capture, and AF improvements, I can honestly say it might just be the best all-in-one camera I've ever used.

Impressive inside and out

First, what specifically sets the RX10 II apart from its predecessor: from the outside, and in terms of general handling, the two cameras are identical. But beneath the magnesium alloy body, you'll find the RX10 II has some very impressive components. For starters, its image sensor is the same as the one in the new RX100 IV, a 20.2-megapixel 1"-type Exmor RS stacked BSI-CMOS sensor. This stacked backside illuminated sensor represents Sony's latest technology, and the RX10 II is one of the first cameras to use it. For the record, in traditional CMOS sensors, circuitry and pixels share the same surface area, but stacking the circuitry beneath the pixels gives more room for both components, and can enable better image quality and faster processing.

The sensor also features an integrated DRAM chip to help buffer all of the information coming off of it.  So when you're shooting a 14fps burst in Priority Continuous Mode, or a 5fps burst in normal continuous mode with AF, the camera will be able to fire off frames longer, before slowing down. It also enables some really cool video functionality, as well as faster and more sophisticated continuous AF, but more on that below. By the way, the original RX10 was able to fire bursts at 10fps in Priority Continuous Shooting and 2.5fps in normal continuous mode. Video capture was also limited to 1080/60p.


Perhaps most impressive are the RX10 II's video capabilities. Not only can it capture 4K video in 24p and 30p directly to a memory card with full sensor readout (in the XAVC S codec), it can also capture video at incredibly high frame rates, including 960fps, 480fps and 240fps. Of course, at some of the higher frame rates, video resolution is diminished.

In use, I found the 240fps mode to be the best balance of high frame rate and solid video quality (at 1824 x 1026 in Quality Priority, it's nearly full HD resolution capture at 240fps). Recording at these high frame rates is fairly straight forward: High Frame Rate (HFR) even has a spot right on the mode dial. When shooting in this mode, the camera offers two options, one that prioritizes record time and one that prioritizes video quality. Video capture is limited to 2 secs in Quality Priority Mode and 4 secs in Time Priority Mode, though keep in mind that quality drops considerably in Time Priority, so I would personally choose Quality Priority every time. Also fun fact: 2 secs of video taken at 960fps will play back over about two and a half minutes.

To capture High Frame Rate video, users must first engage the mode by pressing the center button on the back click wheel. At this point, the camera is continuously buffering video, and focus and exposure are locked. When the moment is right, users can then go ahead and hit the video record button to capture their clip. It's really that simple. But be prepared for the camera to lock up while the clip processes. This can take upwards of 30 seconds, but at least the camera plays back the clip as it's being written, so you get a nice preview of what you just recorded.

One feature of the HFR mode I found to be particularly helpful is the ability to toggle whether one's clip is captured before, or after the video record button is pressed. In the case of the bees above, I opted for the video to be captured in the two seconds before I hit record. This is because bees can move surprisingly quick in and out of a frame, and my lowly human reflexes simply weren't fast enough. The camera can record the two (or four) seconds prior to your button press because it's constantly buffering video once you've pressed that center button.

One of the most noticeable non-feature-related improvements in the RX10 II is its 2.35 million dot XGA OLED viewfinder. It's a pretty serious jump up from the 1.44M dot OLED viewfinder found in the original RX10, and for curiosity's sake, I took the time to look though both back to back, and the difference is, well, serious. The RX10 II's looks crisper, with better detail/contrast and in general, is just a more usable EVF.

The RX10 II also benefits from improved AF performance. According to Sony, it employs the company's 'Fast Intelligent AF' with focus speeds as fast as 0.09 secs. To be honest, I had been shooting with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV quite a bit before picking up the RX10 II and was a bit disappointed that the RX10 II's AF doesn't seem as snappy as the RX100 IV's, especially in low light.

A quick conversation with technical editor Rishi Sanyal pointed to some reasons why. For starters the RX10 II offers more than twice the zoom range of the RX100 IV, and in general, the lens in the RX10 II contains a whole lot more glass than the lens in the RX100 IV. The more glass there is to move, the longer it can take to acquire focus.

And while both cameras have the same sensor and likely use the same AF algorithm, with the same readout speed, the RX100 IV's lens is F1.8, while the RX10 II offers a F2.8 max aperture. Both cameras employ Contrast Detect AF systems, which acquire focus by very rapidly hunting. Because the maximum aperture of the RX10 II is smaller in diameter than that of the RX100 IV, the Contrast Detect system has less light to work with, and also must typically 'search' a longer range before determining the point of highest contrast and, therefore, focus. At least compared to the RX100 IV on the short end (the RX100 IV closes down to F2.8 as you zoom in).

Image edited to taste using Adobe Camera Raw Version 9.1. The following adjustments were made: Exposure +0.15 | Highlights +8 | Shadows +53 | Whites -39 | Blacks -32 | Clarity +28 | Curve Adjustments: Lights +7 | Luminance Noise Reduction: 23. Shot at an equiv of 80mm. ISO 8000, 1/320 sec, F2.8.


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