Remarkable superzoom cameras are hard to come by. But every now and then, there’s a standout. Take Sony’s RX10 II. Introduced in June, this new shooter features a 20.2-megapixel Exmor RS BSI CMOS sensor (1-inch) and a Bionz X image processor, two of the latest high-end components from Sony. Naturally, the RX10 II’s main attraction is that massive 24-200mm (35mm-equivalent) Zeiss zoom lens, which lives inside a DSLR-like body (looks-wise, it hasn’t changed much compared to its predecessor from 2013). As it happens, though, Sony isn’t just positioning this as a superzoom; it’s also going after people who want a powerful video camera. Indeed, that’s one of the things the RX10 II does best: It can shoot 4K (3,840 X 2,160) at up to 30 fps and 1080p at 24, 30 and 60 fps. Pair that with a low-light sensitivity ISO of up to 25,600 and slow-motion modes that range from 240 to 960 fps (NTSC), and you have a worthy option for video buffs.
Those top-shelf specs suit the camera well in most, but not all, shooting conditions. Pictures look fine most of the time, but there’s nothing special about them, at least not when your subject isn’t at a long range. Considering this is a $1,300 camera, the close-up shots aren’t going to wow anyone; you could put them side by side with others from a less expensive model, such as Panasonic’s Lumix FZ300, and wouldn’t notice a difference. Now, this is a superzoom after all, which means those seriously considering it will likely be shooting long-range subjects. And in that respect, the RX10 II is as capable a performer as you’d expect. Being able to capture the top floors of New York City’s skyscrapers in such detail is wonderful, especially when you’re a few blocks away staring up at them from the bottom of Central Park. If you zoom in long enough, as shown in our sample images, you can see windows, balconies and even plants from tall buildings, like the JW Marriott Essex House.
Obviously that translates to video as well. Having said this, in order to shoot 4K or at high frame speeds, you’ll need to have a compatible memory card. (Sony recommends an SDXC card of Class 10 or higher.) If you don’t, it’s simple: You won’t be able to shoot in 4K or super slow-mo. I ran into this problem the first time I wanted to shoot an Ultra HD video, and that could be tedious if you happen to be out on the field without a matching card. On the bright side, Sony’s menu system is great for finding crucial settings, including the quality and format at which you want to record your videos.
You’ll also be happy to find an f.2.8 constant maximum aperture, a top shutter speed of 1/32,000 second and a 14-fps continuous-shooting mode — in case you had any doubts about the RX10 II’s photography chops. What’s more, while big (weighing in at less than two pounds), the camera never feels uncomfortable to hold. It’s not heavy either, even though it looks like it would be. In short, don’t let its bulk fool you: The design here is exquisite, especially considering the length of the glass — you’d expect it to be bigger.
Another major aspect to it, and this also applies to most recent cameras from Sony and other manufacturers, is how easy it is to transfer high-resolution photos to your iOS orAndroid device via an application. I don’t like to do this myself, but I know people who use the NFC-based feature to upload their photos to Instagram. But it’s not just about that. Let’s say you’re using it for professional purposes; you can easily use Sony’sPlayMemories app to share stuff with clients or upload to your personal website.
There’s no doubt the RX10 II will be ideal for some people, but personally, I’d rather have an interchangeable lens camera that gives me more lens options. At $1,300, the lack of shooting flexibility in Sony’s new camera outweighs most of its pros, namely the 4K and slow-motion video modes. That said, if all you want is the best superzoom money can buy, and you don’t mind the fixed lens, then you don’t need to look any further. The RX10 II might fall into a niche category, but it’s still the best of its kind.