Studio scene comparison (Low Light)

The low light scene is shot with Auto White Balance, to show how the camera's JPEGs look under artificial light. Any 'keep warm tone' options are left at their default setting.

The low light scene Raws are processed to demonstrate the capability of cameras in low-light shooting situations. Noise reduction is minimized and the white balance is neutralized to reveal blue channel noise. The black level is lifted to prevent noise being hidden by clipping. A standardized amount of sharpening is applied in Photoshop.

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The Sony RX100II's auto white balance gives our low light studio scene an orange cast, likely in an attempt to avoid amplifying noise in the sensor's blue channel. All of the skin tones displayed in the scene take on this orange tint as well, something we spotted in real-world shooting under tungsten light. The color shift affects the purple objects in our scene as well, shifting the spool of thread to a very dark violet.

This problem is made worse at higher sensitivities like ISO 800, where the darker purple tones in our color wheels have shifted almost to black. At ISO 1600, the RX100 II is doing noticeably better than the Canon PowerShot G16 with rendering text, though predictably not as well as the Sony Alpha NEX-6. At ISO 6400 the darker blue and green tones are beginning to clip to black. The NEX-6 does a bit better with the dark tones at the same sensitivity, as well as low contrast detail. The RX100 II is obviously struggling, but renders an impressive level of detail in the scene even at ISO 12800 - much more than the Canon G16.

There's also evidence of some slight lens issues, seen more clearly in the low light scene close to the light source. The white arrow on the black background shows a bit of a brown halo on its top edge. It's some form of chromatic aberration, and wasn't something we found problematic in real world shooting situations.

Switching the low light scene to Raw shows about what you'd expect - less noise than the smaller-sensor Canon G16 and better rendering of darker colors even as ISO increases. At ISO 3200 the RX100 II is clearly struggling with darker tones and noise levels have increased, but it's still ahead of the G16. Compared to the NEX-6, it's obviously a bit more noisy, and the effect continues as ISO increases through the rest of the range. Still, evidence points to the advantages of shooting Raw, especially in low light to preserve as much tone as possible.