Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II review: The best enthusiast compact to date

Still a problem: no grip on the camera makes it slippery and difficult to hold. Sarah Tew/CNET

The top mode dial offers the usual manual, semimanual, and automatic modes, plus a dedicated movie mode (with a full set of manual and semimanual exposure controls) and Sweep Panorama.

I think that the RX100 II, like the RX100 (like a lot of cameras, actually), offers too many automatic mode options: a scene program mode, intelligent auto, and Superior auto. I always thought the whole point of automatic was to not have to make any choices. On the flip side, there are too many functions that are only available in auto mode. The M2 adds control-ring stepped zoom for 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 70mm, and 100mm, which would be really great for people who need to replicate exact framing (like me). But it's only available in complete auto mode. Also available only in auto mode: auto flash. The rest of us need to continually toggle between always on or always off. Stupid and irritating in a camera at this price level. Same goes for the inability to manually invoke macro mode.

The movie button on the back is a bit hard to press because the location demands it be too recessed in order to keep from accidentally hitting it. The rest of the controls have just enough travel to keep them from being difficult to operate.

The LCD is good and visible in direct sunlight, but the tilting range is limited compared with on the company's NEX models, many of which now flip completely upward for selfies. It's fine for shooting from the hip or above your head, though.

Like the RX100, you can manually tilt the flash while shooting, an excellent flash feature to have; it allows you to quickly control intensity and direction to bounce the light or simply prevent hot spots.

Canon PowerShot G1 X Fujifilm X20 Ricoh GR Sony Cyber- shot DSC- RX100 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II
Sensor (effective resolution) 14.3MP CMOS 12MP X-Trans CMOS 16.2MP CMOS 20.2MP Exmor CMOS 20.2MP Exmor R CMOS
1.5-inch
(18.7 x 14mm)
2/3-inch 23.7 x 15.7mm
1-inch
(13.2 x 8.8mm)
1-inch
(13.2 x 8.8mm)
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 12800 ISO 100 - ISO 12800 ISO 100 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 - ISO 6400 ISO 100 (exp)/ISO 160 - ISO 12800
Lens
(35mm-equivalent focal-length multiplier)
28 - 112mm
f2.8-5.8
4x
28 - 112mm
f2-2.8
4x
28mm
f2.8
28 - 100mm
f1.8-4.9
3.6x
28 - 100mm
f1.8-4.9
3.6x
Closest focus (inches) 7.9 3.9 3.9 1.9 1.9
Continuous shooting 4.5fps
6 JPEG
12fps
11 JPEG/n/a raw
4fps
4 raw/ unlimited JPEG
2.5fps
(10fps with fixed exposure)
n/a
2.5fps
(10fps with fixed exposure)
13 raw/12 JPEG
Viewfinder Optical Optical Optional
Reverse Galilean
(est $250)
None Optional
EVF
Tilting OLED
0.5-inch/ 2,359,000 dots
100 percent coverage
($449.99)
Autofocus n/a
Contrast AF
n/a
Contrast AF
190-point hybrid AF 25-area contrast AF 25-area contrast AF
Metering n/a 256 zones n/a n/a n/a
Shutter 60 - 1/4,000 sec 30 - 1/4,000 sec 300 - 1/4,000 sec; bulb; time 30 - 1/2,000 sec; bulb 30 - 1/2,000 sec; bulb
Flash Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Hot shoe Yes yes Yes No Yes
LCD 3-inch articulated, 922,000 dots 2.8-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed
921,600 dots
(plus another set of white dots for brightness)
3-inch fixed
921,600 dots
(plus another set of white dots for brightness)
3-inch tilting
921,600 dots
(plus another set of white dots for brightness)
Image stabilization Optical Optical None Optical Optical
Video
(best quality)
H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/24p
Stereo
H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/60p Stereo
Motion JPEG AVI
1080/30p/ 25p/24p
Stereo
AVCHD
1080/60p/50p
Stereo
AVCHD
1080/60p/ 50p/25p/24p
Stereo
Manual iris and shutter in video No No Yes Yes Yes
Optical zoom while recording Yes Yes n/a Yes Yes
External mic support No Yes No No Yes
Battery life (CIPA rating) 250 shots 270 shots 290 shots 330 shots 350 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches) 4.6 x 3.2 x 2.6 4.6 x 2.7 x 2.2 4.6 x 2.4 x 1.4 4 x 2.4 x 1.4 4 x 2.3 x 1.5
Weight (ounces) 18.8 12.8 8.6 (est) 8.5 9.9
Mfr. price $799 $599.99 $799.95 $599.99 $749.99
Availability February 2012 March 2013 May 2013 July 2012 July 2013

Compared with the RX100, the RX100 II has a bounteous feature set. Though it still lacks geotagging, you can tag photos via your mobile device. The addition of NFC (near-field communication) makes connecting the phone to your mobile device a lot less annoying than with most Wi-Fi camera connections -- provided your device has NFC. That leaves out Apple folks, but you can still use the clunky manual process to connect. It's still not the most streamlined operation. For instance, you have to invoke the connection differently if you want to transfer photos (initiate from the playback menu in the camera) than if you want to remotely control the camera (initiate from the PlayMemories Mobile app on the phone).

As an aside, thus far NFC in cameras is solely used to invoke automatic Wi-Fi connections between the mobile device and the camera via proximity; it basically puts the tap in the tap devices together to connect.

For effects junkies, the RX100 offers a handful, with a few very nice and unusual ones. But you've got to scroll through every variation -- a rotating cornucopia of 33 slots when there are really only 13 filters -- which gets seriously annoying. They're not accessible in raw or raw+JPEG mode (though the camera doesn't bother to tell you that's why they're grayed out) so you can't save a simultaneous version without effects, and you can't control any of the parameters.

Also, the RX100 II offers an EVF option, albeit a really expensive one: I don't know that I'd be willing to pay for a $450 EVF on a $750 camera. The EVF's price makes more sense relative to the $2,800 price tag of the DSC-RX1, for which it was designed.

For a complete rundown of the RX100 II's features and operation, download the PDF manual.

Conclusion
For a compact camera, $750 seems like a lot, but if you're looking for an all-around solid option with good performance, a flexible feature set, and excellent photo quality it's worth it. The RX100 is still a fine alternative if you don't need the connectivity, tilting screen, or hot shoe, or simply can't spend the extra $150. I haven't yet tested the similarly priced Ricoh GR, the only other camera I can see possibly outperforming it at this point. But even if the photo quality is better, the RX100 II is a more generally appealling package, with a decent zoom lens, a tilting LCD, and a real video codec.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot
Raw shot-to-shot time
Typical shot-to-shot time
Shutter lag (dim)
Shutter lag (typical)
Canon PowerShot G15
2.3
2.6
1.9
0.6
0.2
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100
2.1
0.2
0.2
0.3
0.3
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II
2.5
0.2
0.1
0.5
0.4
Nikon Coolpix P7700
1.8
3.2
1.5
1.1
0.4
Canon PowerShot G1 X
1.9
3.2
2.4
0.7
0.4
Fujifilm X20
1.5
0.7
0.7
0.4
0.4
Typical continuous-shooting speed (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Digital camera type Compact
  • Optical Zoom 3.6 x
  • Optical Sensor Type Exmor R CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 20.2 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical (Steady Shot with 3-way Active Mode)
  • Optical Sensor Size 1.0"