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Cameras

Sony updates RX10 II fast-lens point-and-shoot with speed, slow-mo, 4K

One of the first implementations of the company's new stacked CMOS technology confers some useful benefits.

Now playing: Watch this: Sony RX10 II evolves for video
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I always felt that Sony's RX10 was too big and expensive for what it offered, but with the Mark II update you'll get a lot more for your still-not-inconsiderable bucks. While it retains the same body and 24-200mm f2.8 lens, a new, faster sensor technology in the RX10 II promises to deliver some crowd-pleasing and useful features.

We expect to see the camera in July, and it will run $1,300; there doesn't seem to be UK or Australia pricing yet, but that converts directly to around £840 and AU$1,700.

What's new

  • Sensor. Although it's the same 20-megapixel resolution in a 1-inch sensor as before, the sensor uses a completely new design. Announced 2 years ago, Sony's stacked CMOS sensor finally debuts in the RX10 II and RX100 IV, branded Exmor RS. It's a variation on the backside illuminated (BSI) design, which has the photodiodes on the top layer -- those are the actual light-sensing pixels -- shared with the circuits that process their data and a substrate in a layer below. For the stacked sensor, the photodiodes have their own layer and the circuits sit in a layer beneath. That means more room for the photodiodes (and possibly bigger ones) for a given sensor size. Another modification from conventional designs is the use of high speed processing and additional memory DRAM in the substrate below the circuitry for increased readout speed. Sony also claims that with its high readout speed, rolling shutter artifacts in video -- the wobble and slanted verticals that you see during horizontal motion -- are eliminated. The new sensor also buys you...
  • High frame rates and 4K. The faster sensor enables whizzy features like 960 frames per second shooting for 2 seconds, which allows you to produce slow-motion video clips (also 240fps and 480fps for longer durations), as well as 14fps continuous-shooting speeds with fixed exposure (the real rate is 5fps). It can record 4K to an SD card using the XAVC S 100Mbps codec, for as long as 29 minutes per clip. It can prerecord -- buffer frames -- so that it doesn't matter if you juuust miss the decisive moment.
  • High shutter speed. The electronic shutter goes up to 1/32,000 second, which sounds a little more impressive than one stop above the 1/16,000 second most cameras in its class support. However, it does mean you have a little extra exposure wiggle room in extremely bright conditions.

My take

The slow-motion and 4K video capabilities alone may make it worth the money for a lot of action shooters. At the moment, there's nothing comparable in its price range, and now it offers some significant and nontrivial differentiation that it didn't when the RX10 first came out. The photo quality is a wild card, though; Sony's got a good track record but the new sensor is an unknown. That's always fun to test, but you may not want to be first out of the gate to plunk your money down.

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