Sony RX10 II Review

Share on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

SUMMARY

Two years after its predecessor invented the large-sensor, long-zoom category, the Sony RX10 II is here to take things to the next level. It aims to replace your bulky interchangeable-lens camera with a veritable Swiss Army knife compendium of photographic features in a beautifully-crafted body. But the RX10 II is no longer in a class of one, and there’s no getting around the fact that it is much more expensive than its rivals. Does it have what it takes to justify that extra expense? Find out now in our in-depth Sony RX10 II review!

PROS

Excellent build quality; Superb viewfinder; Excellent image and video quality for its class; Bright and versatile zoom lens; Very fast autofocus; Great burst performance and depth; Incredible slow-motion capabilities; Really intuitive Wi-Fi image transfer; Good battery life.

CONS

Expensive compared to its nearest competitors; Less zoom reach than rivals; Soft in corners wide-open; Slow buffer clearing; Small rear control dial has poor tactile feedback; Long delay to render each high frame-rate movie; No tilt/swivel or touch on the LCD panel.

PRICE AND AVAILABILITY

Available since July 2015 in the US market, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 II carries a list price of around US $1,300. Although that’s around the same price as the original RX10 at its introduction, it’s quite a bit higher than rivals. The Panasonic FZ1000, for example, lists for only $800, a full $500 below the RX10 II. And the Canon G3X has a list price of US$1,000, still some $300 less than the Sony. Of course, while they’re all large-sensor long-zooms, all three cameras have quite different feature sets, strengths and weaknesses. There’s a lot more to the story than price alone, as you’ll find out as you read through our full review!

In late 2013, Sony created a brand-new segment for the digital camera market: The large-sensor, long-zoom camera. In an instant, the Sony RX10 redefined the image quality you could achieve, vaulting past smaller-sensored rivals thanks to its 1″-type image sensor. And for a long eight months, it had the market all to itself. Then thePanasonic FZ1000 hit the scene, offering the same sensor size and an even more powerful lens for a whole lot less money. (And since then, another rival has also gotten in on the game, in the form of the Canon G3X.)

The Sony RX10 II, then, lands in an entirely different and more competitive market to that which its predecessor first created. Yet take a glance at its exterior and you could be forgiven for thinking it was unchanged: Looking only at the body and lens of both RX10 and RX10 II, you’d be hard-pressed to find any difference between the pair. Underneath its skin, though, the Sony RX10 II is a far more powerful and capable camera than was its predecessor.

Sony RX10 II Review -- Product Image

In much the same way that Sony improved its RX100-series pocket cameras with the Sony RX100 IV, the RX10 II gets most of its new capabilities from the company’s brand new 20.2-megapixel 1″-type Exmor RS stacked CMOS¬†sensor with integrated DRAM, which allows for much faster performance.

And what a handy increase in performance it is! The RX10 II’s top burst rate now hits a maximum of 14 frames per second in Speed Priority Continuous mode, and 5 fps in standard continuous mode, a significant improvement over the earlier model’s slower 10 fps and 2.5 fps rates, respectively. And at the same time, the RX10 II’s buffer has also increased to accommodate 44 Extra Fine JPEG frames or 29 raw frames in out tests, a big step above the original RX10’s 21 JPEG or 10 raw frames. (See our Performance test results for details.)

Sony RX10 II Review -- Product Image

Autofocus performance is also much improved, now employing Sony’s “Fast Intelligent AF” technology to allow manufacturer-claimed AF speeds as fast as just 0.09 seconds.

In addition, the new Sony Exmor RS sensor provides electronic shutter capability up to 1/32,000 second, which comes in very handy when shooting in bright conditions at wide apertures. And Sony claims that the RX10 II shows little to no rolling shutter “jello” effect, thanks to the high-speed readout enabled by the fast, local DRAM.

But perhaps the biggest news is that the RX10 II is now capable of capturing 4K (3,840 x 2,160 pixel) video at rates of 30 or 24 fps, and storing it to the in-camera memory card for as long as 29 minutes per clip. The RX10 II’s 4K video is encoded using an XAVC S codec at a bit rate of up to 100Mbps, and even more impressively uses full pixel readout without pixel binning. (That translates to excellent video quality with minimal artifacts.)

And that’s not all, either. If you drop the video capture resolution to Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) at a rate of 60 fps or lower, you can also capture high-resolution 16.8-megapixel stills using Sony’s Dual Rec function. (And if you are worried about shaking the camera or inducing handling noise into your video, the RX10 II can also be programmed to periodically capture stills automatically during the video, without user intervention.)

Sony RX10 II Review -- Product Image

The RX10 Mark II can also capture very high frame rate, super slow motion video clips at up to a staggering 240, 480 or 960 frames per second in NTSC mode, and then play it back at anywhere from 24 to 60 frames per second, allowing everything from 4x to 40x slow-motion effects. (Capture rates are just slightly higher at 250, 500 or 1,000 fps for PAL mode, but playback rates also differ, meaning that the slow-motion effect is identical.)

There is a catch, in that you can only record two or four seconds of high frame-rate video in each clip, but that’s not actually the limitation it might sound to be. (Typically, you only need very short clips to capture the key moment; a longer clip would quickly get boring.)

And where these high frame-rate modes impress most of all is in their relatively high resolution compared to other high frame rate-capable consumer cameras to date. All HFR video from the Sony RX10 II is output at Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixel) resolution, but that’s after upsampling. Even prior to upsampling, though, 240p / 250p video is recorded at a surprisingly high 1,824 x 1,026-pixel resolution.

Stepping up to 480p / 500p capture does degrade the quality quite a bit with a capture resolution of 1,676 x 566 pixels (approximately halving the vertical resolution), but it’s actually still pretty usable. And even the highest-rate 960p / 1,000p capture has 1,136 x 384 resolution before upsampling.

Sony RX10 II Review -- Product Image

Apart from the Mark II badging, nothing has changed from the front to distinguish the Sony RX10 II from its predecessor. As previously mentioned, the optics of the RX10 II remain unchanged from its older sibling, offering the same excellent Zeiss-branded 24 to 200mm-equivalent zoom range, with both an f/2.8 constant aperture and Sony’s SteadyShot image stabilization.

The top of the camera is very similar to the RX10 as well, though the mode dial now has an MR position capable of accessing up to 3 sets of custom settings instead of 2 dedicated custom settings. That freed up space to add an HFR mode setting for quick access to High¬†Frame Rate video. Also note the single Custom button on the RX10 is now labeled C1 on the RX10 II — we’ll see why in a moment.

The Sony RX10 II’s sensitivity range is similar to that of the original RX10, with the same upper limit of ISO 12,800-equivalent, which can be extended to ISO 25,600-equivalent when using Multi Frame NR. However, the base sensitivity is now ISO 100-equivalent versus ISO 125, and it’s expandable down to ISO 64-equivalent versus 80 on the earlier camera.

Sony RX10 II Review -- Product Image

Of course, all of those pixels need to be processed by something. To handle the workload, Sony packed in its latest BIONZ X-branded image processor. And with all of that updated hardware also comes new firmware functionality. The Sony RX10 II now includes a more robust flexible spot autofocus function, a new self-timer duration of 5 seconds, and a longer shutter speed of 30 seconds when shooting in Program or Aperture Priority modes. Also added are new Picture Profile options for movies that let you precisely adjust black level, black gamma, gamma (including S-Log2), color mode, saturation, color depth, knee and more.

For the RX10 II’s electronic viewfinder, Sony has opted to use a new 2.35-million dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder display, almost doubling the dot count of its predecessor’s EVF. Sony claims the updated EVF offers higher contrast and more natural color rendering as well, and although we didn’t have a chance to try both old and new versions side-by-side, we’d certainly agree that it’s a very impressive finder indeed.

The tilting three-inch, 1.23 million-dot LCD monitor on the rear of the Sony RX10 II remains unchanged from its predecessor, as does the control layout. One change that’s visible from the back, though, is that the Delete button has an additional C2 label, indicating it now serves as a second customizable button in capture mode.

Sony RX10 II Review -- Product Image

The Sony RX10 II uses the same NP-FW50 lithium-ion battery pack as did the RX10, but CIPA-rated battery life differs slightly, gaining in electronic viewfinder mode at the expense of arm’s length capture. While the RX10 was rated for 420 shots using the LCD and 340 shots with the EVF, the RX10 II is rated for 400 and 360 shots respectively.

And with that, let’s dig into the meat of the review with our real-world field tests, lab test results and plenty more besides!

Basic Specifications
Full model name: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 II
Resolution: 20.20 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1 inch
(13.2mm x 8.8mm)
Kit Lens: 8.33x zoom
(24-200mm eq.)
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
Native ISO: 100 – 12,800
Extended ISO: 64 – 25,600
Shutter: 1/32000 – 30 seconds
Max Aperture: 2.8
Dimensions: 5.1 x 3.5 x 4.0 in.
(129 x 88 x 102 mm)
Weight: 29.9 oz (849 g)
includes batteries
Availability: 07/2015
Manufacturer: Sony
Full specs: Sony RX10 II specifications

Sony RX10 II Image Quality Comparison

Below are crops from our laboratory Still Life target comparing the Sony RX10 II vs. the original Sony RX10, Canon G3X, Panasonic FZ1000, Olympus Stylus 1 and Nikon J5. These models represent the RX10 II’s direct predecessor, both of its closest rivals, an enthusiast-grade long-zoom camera with constant-aperture lens but a smaller sensor size, and a very compact mirrorless camera with the same sensor size.

NOTE: These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera’s actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera.

For those interested in working with the RAW files involved: click these links to visit each camera’s respective sample image thumbnail page: Sony RX10 II, Sony RX10, Canon G3X, Panasonic FZ1000, Olympus Stylus 1 andNikon J5 — links to the RAW files appear beneath those for the JPEG images, wherever we have them. And remember, you can always go to our world-renowned Comparometer to compare the Sony RX10 II to any camera we’ve ever tested.

Sony RX10 II vs Sony RX10 at Base ISO
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Sony RX10 test image taken at ISO 125
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Sony RX10 test image taken at ISO 125
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Sony RX10 test image taken at ISO 125
Sony RX10 II at ISO 100
Sony RX10 at ISO 125

At base sensitivity — which is now just slightly lower than before — the Sony RX10 II looks to have just a slight edge on its predecessor. Sharpening haloes in the bottle crop aren’t quite as prominent, and there’s just a little more detail in the mosaic label, as well. The RX10 does just slightly better with the fabric swatches, though, holding onto the thread patterns slightly better and showing more contrast in the red swatch.

Sony RX10 II vs Canon G3X at Base ISO
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Canon G3X test image taken at ISO 125
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Canon G3X test image taken at ISO 125
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Canon G3X test image taken at ISO 125
Sony RX10 II at ISO 100
Canon G3X at ISO 125

Against the Canon G3X, the Sony RX10 II looks to have a little bit more of an edge. (And again, a slightly lower base sensitivity.) As well as a crisper mosaic label and more detail in the fabric swatches, Sony’s noise reduction better handles the bottle crop. (Even at base ISO, Canon’s NR gives the edges of the bottles a slightly stippled look.)

Sony RX10 II vs Panasonic FZ1000 at Base ISO
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Panasonic FZ1000 test image taken at ISO 125
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Panasonic FZ1000 test image taken at ISO 125
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Panasonic FZ1000 test image taken at ISO 125
Sony RX10 II at ISO 100
Panasonic FZ1000 at ISO 125

The Panasonic FZ1000 proves to be a tougher rival. There’s clearly more detail in the fabric swatches than Sony was able to gather, and the FZ1000 also yields an even crisper mosaic label.

Sony RX10 II vs Olympus Stylus 1 at Base ISO
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Olympus Stylus 1 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Olympus Stylus 1 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Olympus Stylus 1 test image taken at ISO 100
Sony RX10 II at ISO 100
Olympus Stylus 1 at ISO 100

We’ve included the Olympus Stylus 1 in this comparison as an example of an enthusiast-grade, small-sensor long zoom that, like the RX10 II, has a constant-aperture f/2.8 zoom lens. And right off the bat, you can see that at base sensitivity the Sony RX10 II does a better job. Olympus’ noise reduction leaves mottlin in the bottle crop even at ISO 100, despite a lower resolution that offsets its smaller sensor size. And that lower resolution shows itself in the mosaic and fabric swatches, both of which contain far less detail. In fairness, though, it’s also a much smaller and lighter camera than is the RX10 II.

Sony RX10 II vs Nikon J5 at Base ISO
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Nikon J5 test image taken at ISO 160
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Nikon J5 test image taken at ISO 160
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Nikon J5 test image taken at ISO 160
Sony RX10 II at ISO 100
Nikon J5 at ISO 160

And finally we come to the Nikon J5. It uses the same sensor size as does the Sony RX10 II, but allows for interchangeable lenses. The rumor mill has it that unlike past 1-series models which uses sensors from Aptina, this one may in fact feature a Sony chip. Whether that’s true or not, the Nikon J5 seems to gather a little less detail than the Sony RX10 II in the mosaic label. It also has less aggressive sharpening, though. The bottle crop doesn’t show as much haloing, and also looks a little cleaner.

Sony RX10 II vs Sony RX10 at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Sony RX10 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Sony RX10 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Sony RX10 test image taken at ISO 1600
Sony RX10 II at ISO 1600
Sony RX10 at ISO 1600

Stepping up to ISO 1600-equivalent, we have a more interesting comparison between predecessor and successor. Sony seems to have dialed back its noise reduction, leaving more grain in the bottle crop but perhaps holding onto a touch more detail in the mosaic label. Clearly, both cameras are starting to have a little difficulty, though, and noise reduction is squashing some finer details, yielding a somewhat smudgy look.

Sony RX10 II vs Canon G3X at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Canon G3X test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Canon G3X test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Canon G3X test image taken at ISO 1600
Sony RX10 II at ISO 1600
Canon G3X at ISO 1600

Canon’s approach looks to have even less noise reduction processing, but despite this the mosaic label looks muddy and has lost most of its finer details.

Sony RX10 II vs Panasonic FZ1000 at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Panasonic FZ1000 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Panasonic FZ1000 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Panasonic FZ1000 test image taken at ISO 1600
Sony RX10 II at ISO 1600
Panasonic FZ1000 at ISO 1600

At ISO 1600, Panasonic still seems to have an edge over Sony. The FZ1000 shows a bit more detail in the mosaic label, along with better-controlled noise in the bottle crop. And while it really struggles with the red fabric swatch, it holds onto some thread patterns in the pink swatch that the RX10 II has lost.

Sony RX10 II vs Olympus Stylus 1 at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Olympus Stylus 1 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Olympus Stylus 1 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Olympus Stylus 1 test image taken at ISO 1600
Sony RX10 II at ISO 1600
Olympus Stylus 1 at ISO 1600

At ISO 1600, the Olympus Stylus 1 is really handicapped by its smaller sensor. Almost all fine detail is gone in both the mosaic label and fabric swatches, and the bottle crop is much noisier too.

Sony RX10 II vs Nikon J5 at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Nikon J5 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Nikon J5 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Nikon J5 test image taken at ISO 1600
Sony RX10 II at ISO 1600
Nikon J5 at ISO 1600

Again, Sony holds onto detail better than Nikon in the mosaic label, which is a bit muddy in the J5’s image. And the RX10 II also wins in the red fabric swatch, albeit not by a huge margin. However, the Nikon still shows a little thread detail in the pink fabric swatch and does a noticeably better job with noise reduction in the bottle crops.

Sony RX10 II vs Sony RX10 at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Sony RX10 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Sony RX10 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Sony RX10 test image taken at ISO 3200
Sony RX10 II at ISO 3200
Sony RX10 at ISO 3200

Finally, at ISO 3200 the Sony RX10 II definitely shows more noise than did the RX10 in the bottle crop, but thanks to that less aggressive noise reduction holds onto more detail in the mosaic label. The fabric crops are a wash: Neither model does a great job in them this time around.

Sony RX10 II vs Canon G3X at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Canon G3X test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Canon G3X test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Canon G3X test image taken at ISO 3200
Sony RX10 II at ISO 3200
Canon G3X at ISO 3200

The Canon G3X’s mosaic label and fabric swatches are both muddy and have relatively little detail. At the same time, its bottle crop is noisier, although that noise has a finer and more film-like grain to it.

Sony RX10 II vs Panasonic FZ1000 at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Panasonic FZ1000 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Panasonic FZ1000 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Panasonic FZ1000 test image taken at ISO 3200
Sony RX10 II at ISO 3200
Panasonic FZ1000 at ISO 3200

At ISO 3200, the Panasonic FZ1000 still has an edge over the Sony RX10 II, but it’s much more modest. There’s a little more fabric detail in the swatches, and the mosaic label also shows a touch more detail as well as better contrast. Completing the sweep, noise is also better controlled in the bottle crops. Not a huge difference in any area, but a worthwhile one across the board, we’d say.

Sony RX10 II vs Olympus Stylus 1 at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Olympus Stylus 1 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Olympus Stylus 1 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Olympus Stylus 1 test image taken at ISO 3200
Sony RX10 II at ISO 3200
Olympus Stylus 1 at ISO 3200

No two ways about it: At ISO 3200, the Olympus Stylus 1’s results from that small sensor are pretty ugly. Chroma and luma noise run rampant, and most fine detail is obscured. The Sony RX10 II’s image is still pretty usable so long as you don’t pixel peep, by contrast.

Sony RX10 II vs Nikon J5 at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Nikon J5 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Nikon J5 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Nikon J5 test image taken at ISO 3200
Sony RX10 II at ISO 3200
Nikon J5 at ISO 3200

Very different approaches from Sony and Nikon at ISO 3200. If these truly are related sensors, then it just goes to show how much the processing affects the final result. The J5 somehow still retains a touch of pink fabric pattern and better tamps down noise in the bottle crop, but detail in the mosaic label really suffers.

Sony RX10 II vs. Sony RX10, Canon G3X, Panasonic FZ1000, Olympus Stylus 1, Nikon J5
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Sony RX10 test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Canon G3X test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Panasonic FZ1000 test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Olympus Stylus 1 test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Nikon J5 test image taken at ISO 160
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Sony RX10 test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Canon G3X test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Panasonic FZ1000 test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Olympus Stylus 1 test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Nikon J5 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX10 II test image taken at ISO 6400 100% crop from Sony RX10 test image taken at ISO 6400 100% crop from Canon G3X test image taken at ISO 6400 100% crop from Panasonic FZ1000 test image taken at ISO 6400 100% crop from Olympus Stylus 1 test image taken at ISO 6400 100% crop from Nikon J5 test image taken at ISO 6400
Sony
RX10 II
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Sony
RX10
ISO 125
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Canon
G3X
ISO 125
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Panasonic
FZ1000
ISO 125
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Olympus
Stylus 1
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Nikon
J5
ISO 160
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. If one thing stands out in a glance at the high-contrast detail, it’s the Olympus Stylus 1. Partly for its lower resolution and partly its weaker high-sensitivity results, its smaller sensor clearly hobbles it against the 1″-type sensors of the other cameras. The Nikon J5 and especially the Panasonic FZ1000 stand tall above the rest with the best results. Behind them, the Sony RX10 II has a slight but worthwhile edge on the original RX10, with the Canon G3X trailing the large-sensored field.

(imaging-resource.com)

Comments

comments

Share on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn