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Sony RX100 II gets tilting LCD, hot shoe, Wi-Fi, new sensor Sony adds some desired features to the Cyber-shot DSC-RX100's new sibling, along with a new 1-inch BSI CMOS sensor.

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I'm not sure what to make of Sony's addition to its RX100 series of advanced compact cameras, so bear with me while I ponder aloud about who should or might buy the more expensive, better-featured Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II, which also swaps out the 1-inch standard CMOS for a 1-inch backside-illuminated (BSI) CMOS.

The camera keeps the same design as the RX100, but incorporates a hot shoe -- for accessories like an electronic viewfinder or microphone, as well as a flash -- as well as Wi-Fi and a tilting LCD. Those three features alone are probably worth the $150 premium you'll pay for the RX100 II over the RX100, though I have to admit 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 RX1, for which it was designed.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II (pictures)

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In addition, the camera gets some other updates including 1080/24p video; the ability to program the control ring for stepped zoom to 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 70mm, and 100mm; and an optional accessory grip. The latter is especially welcome, since the biggest problem with the RX100's design is its slippery, gripless body.

But then Sony, for some reason, felt compelled to change to a BSI sensor at the same time. Producing a 1-inch BSI sensor is (at least according to Sony) quite a technical feat as well as expensive because of the low yields in the process. The company claims that it gains faster focus in low light and a stop of low-light sensitivity over the traditional sensor.

In practice, that means photos shot at ISO 3200 should look acceptable, compared to my recommended maximum of ISO 1600 on the RX100; though the camera's rated through ISO 12800, the top ISO sensitivity specification tends to represent the fantastical dreamings of wee marketing folk rather than actual, usable settings. The multishot high ISO modes are an exception.

However, with BSI sensors that gain generally comes at the expense of bright light quality. The lowest ISO sensitivity rises to ISO 160 from ISO 100 (though actual values tend to differ from rated ones for ISO sensitivities), giving you less latitude for daytime photography. And thus far I haven't been terribly impressed by the quality of BSI-sensor cameras, though that may be because they tend to have small sensors in general.

Then there's the issue of price. If you really want a large-sensor compact, the Ricoh GR provides an even larger APS-C sensor for the same money, though it does lack many of the features.

Here're some comparative cameras:

Canon PowerShot G1 X Nikon Coolpix A Ricoh GR Sony Cyber- shot DSC- RX100 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II
Sensor (effective resolution) 14.3MP CMOS 16.2MP CMOS 16.2MP CMOS 20.2MP Exmor CMOS 20.2MP Exmor R (BSI) CMOS
1.5-inch
(18.7 x 14mm)
23.6 x 15.7mm 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 3200/ 25600 (exp) ISO 100 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 - ISO 6400 ISO 160 - ISO 12800
Lens
(35mm-equivalent focal-length multiplier)
28 - 112mm
f2.8-5.8
4x
28mm
f2.8
28mm
f2.8
28 - 100mm
f1.8-4.9
3.6x
28 - 100mm
f1.8-4.9
3.6x
Closest focus (inches) 7.9 4 3.9 1.9 1.9
Continuous shooting 4.5fps
6 JPEG
4fps
n/a
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 Optional
Reverse Galilean
($449.96)
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 n/a n/a n/a n/a
Shutter 60 - 1/4,000 sec 30 - 1/2,000 sec; bulb 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 3-inch fixed
921,600 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 None None Optical Optical
Video
(best quality)
1080/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV
Stereo
1080/30p/ 25p/24p (max 18Mbps)
H.264 QuickTime MOV
Stereo
1080/30p/ 25p/24p Motion JPEG AVI AVCHD:
1080/60p/50p
stereo
AVCHD:
1080/60p/50p/ 25p/24p
stereo
Manual iris and shutter in video No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Optical zoom while recording Yes n/a n/a Yes Yes
External mic support No Optional
(with WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter)
No No Yes
Battery life (CIPA rating) 250 shots 230 shots 290 shots 330 shots 350 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches) 4.6 x 3.2 x 2.6 4.4 x 2.6 x 1.6 4.6 x 2.4 x 1.4 4.0 x 2.4 x 1.4 4.0 x 2.3 x 1.5
Weight (ounces) 18.8 10.6 8.6 (est.) 8.5 (est.) 9.9 (est.)
Mfr. Price $799 $1,099.95 $799.95 $649.99 $749.99
Availability February 2012 March 2013 May 2013 July 2012 July 2013

The RX100 taught Sony that people are willing to pay more for a high-quality compact, something that all its competitors learned a couple of years ago. But the people who spend that kind of money on an advanced compact might reactively balk at BSI. A lot will depend upon the image quality of the new sensor. I wasn't excessively impressed with the comparative print samples the company showed us during the press briefing, but then I rarely am.

I kind of wish Sony had simply added the new features to the existing model and developed a standard APS-C compact in the $1,000 range rather than confuse the issue. On the other hand, between RX1 and RX100 lies room for something like, oh, RX10.