Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II (RX100M2) vs RX100 – Features and Image Quality Comparison

June 27, 2013

Sony RX100 II and RX100 side by side

The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 was announced on June 6 2012 and was the most exciting camera that I’ve seen from Sony that year.  On June 27 2013, Sony has announced a new sister model, the RX100 II or as its model identification, DSC-RX100M2 (Mark 2).  The previous model was already plucking numerous respectable awards from leading camera reviews’ websites. Those mentioned the RX100 impressive image quality and ISO performance for both stills and videos and large degree of customization.

The RX100 II like its predecessor has a large-sensor compact camera, featuring a 20.2MP 1-inch Exmor R CMOS sensor, but this time Sony has decided to use a back-illuminated sensor, rather than go with a conventional front-illuminated CMOS which is used on most large-sensor cameras. There is a great deal of discussion about those type of cameras. In the era where mobile phones are conquering the market by storm, compact digital cameras are losing their ground to smartphone cameras.  After all, why carry two devices when you can carry just one.

In current times, camera manufacturers are searching for ways to implement advanced technologies in compact cameras in order to attract more buyers. One of the most important factors that affect image quality is the sensor size. There just isn’t any smartphone camera on the market that can compete against a large-sensor camera, so why not make a compact camera with a large sensor plus a versatile zoom lens – this should be a winning formula. As we have witnessed the success of the Sony RX100 in the last year, Sony got it 100% spot on.

In this article I will review the key features of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II (RX100 2, RX100 M2). I will also compare it versus the older model, RX100.  I’m sure that you want to know whether or not we have another winner here, and whether or not you should buy the more expensive RX100 II or buy the older model instead – which is much cheaper now.

Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II (RX100M2) Introduction

In this section we’ll take a closer look at the RX100M2 key features.

Newly-designed 1-inch BSI CMOS Sensor

The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II is a large-sensor compact camera featuring a newly developed 20.2 megapixel back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor. This is probably the most important parts of the camera, one that has drastic implications on image quality. According to Sony, the sensor light sensitivity has been improved by 40% compare to the previous model. In back-illuminated sensors, the metal wiring is behind the photodiode surface, whether in front-illuminated structure, the metal wiring is in front of the photodiode surface. This result in some light reflected back and not reaching the light-sensitive area. Furthermore, this allows sensor manufacturers to create larger photodiodes to accommodate for more light, and therefore increasing the sensor’s sensitivity to light. Furthermore, this is the first time an Exmor R CMOS sensor has been used in such a large sensor.

I remember when I reviewed the Sony RX100. I was very impressed with it but I wondered what if Sony had made this camera with a 10MP sensor. The high ISO performance was very good, but still left something to be desired. We all don’t want to be limited by the available light. We want to have more options to shoot high-quality images at night and indoors without the need for an external flash or special equipment. Being able to shoot at high ISO with low amount of visible noise can really gives us more flexibility about what and when we can shoot.

According to Sony, the new sensor and the improved image processing will result in noise one stop lower than the RX100. So in practice, images at ISO 3200 should look like ISO 1600 on the RX100. Should be very impressive, but we’ll talk about that in the image quality section later on.

It’s worth understanding what so special about the RX100 II sensor. Two things are taking place here, the size and the sensor’s technology. Most compact cameras use a 1/2.3-inch sensor, which is much smaller than the one used on the RX100M2. Take a look at the image below.

Sony RX100 II 1-inch sensor vs 1/2.3-inch sensor, diagram

Sony RX100 II 1-inch sensor vs 1/2.3-inch sensor - much larger sensor area as you can see

Worth mentioning that there are large-sensor compact cameras that have a larger sensor, but they are not pocketable. For example, the Canon PowerShot G1 X has a 1.5-inch sensor (18.7 x 14 mm), much larger than the Rx100, but the camera itself is also large as you can see from the image below.

Sensor size comparison, Canon PowerShot G1 X and Sony RX100 2

Sensor size comparison, Canon PowerShot G1 X and Sony RX100 M2

With large-sensor compacts, there is a compromise to make when going with a camera which has a larger sensor. This works the other way around. You can buy the Canon PowerShot S110 which has a 1/1.7″ (7.44 x 5.58 mm) sensor. The S110 is a bit smaller but much slimmer in size, but also has a sensor that is much smaller than the Rx100, but still larger than 1/2.3″.

F1.8 Carl Zeiss Lens

Carl Zeiss zoom lens, Sony RX100 II

High-quality Carl Zeiss optics

The RX100M2 features a 28-100 mm (35mm equiv.) F1.8-4.9 Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens (3.6x optical zoom) and in-camera Steady Shot optical image stabilization. As with all Carl-Zeiss lenses, you should expect very high optical qualities. The lens itself is very fast at the wide-angle but gets slower at the tele-end.  This means that in order to take advantage of the f/1.8 fast aperture, you will need to shoot at lower focal lengths. This is very useful when shooting indoors.

This is in fact one of the disadvantages of the RX100.  For example, The Panasonic Lumix LX7 uses a 24-90 mm (equivalent) F1.4-2.3 lens (also a 1/1.7-inch sensor). That covers a wider angle and also the same tele-end reach, but has a much faster maximum aperture lens. So in the case of the LX7, you give up on a larger sensor, but you gain a faster lens.

The RX100 II lens also features a seven-blade round diaphragm for beautiful out-of-focus background. In fact, this is one important reason why many photographers prefer shooting with large-sensor cameras. There is much better control over the depth of field, and you can achieve much higher degree of defocused background, helps to better separate the subject form distracting background elements.  DOF also depends on the aperture and distance from subject.  With small sensor it’s almost impossible to achieve a defocused background in such high degree. This is in fact one of the reasons why I don’t like shooting with compact camera with small sensors.

Sony also included a step zoom function that allows you to instantly switch between five popular focal lengths (28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 70mm – 35mm equivalent) using the camera’s control ring around the lens.

3-inch 1229K-dots Tilting Display

At the back of the RX100 M2 you’ll find a gorgeous 3-inch 1229K-dot Xtra Fine Tiltable display. The display can tilt down 45° or 84° upward. The screen uses white and RGB pixels to increase the screen brightness and visibility in daylight. This is a brilliant display,  and a very important feature considering that most of you will be composing your shots via the LCD, not using an attachable electronic viewfinder (an optional attachable EVF can be attached to the Multi interface shoe on the RX100 II).

Sony RX100 2 tilting display

Sony RXII tilting display

Multi Interface Shoe

Another big difference over the previous model is the addition of a Multi Interface Shoe. So now you are not limited for only mounting flash units, but you can also attach an electronic viewfinder, or a high-quality external stereo microphone. This is the same interface shoe used in Sony NEX interchangeable lens cameras. Sony wants to unify that connector across all its advanced camera, so more people can purchase additional accessories.

For example, you can purchase the Sony ECM-XYST1M external stereo microphone that attached to the multi interface shoe. It provides high quality sound recording with wide frequency band.

NFC / Wi-Fi Wireless Connectivity

The Sony DSC-RX100 Mark II offers Wi-Fi and NFC (Near Field Communication) wireless connectivity.  This is the first Sony camera to include NFC. It allows the camera to wirelessly connect to an Android smartphone or tablet very easily without complex setup. All you need to do is to download PlayMemories mobile app onto your device. The app is free to download via Google Play.  The app will help your establish an initial connection, that once done, you will be able to easily transfer files between the camera and your Android NFC-enabled mobile device.

You will also be to remotely control the Camera’s shutter release from your mobile device and see what your camera sees. Once the shutter has been triggered, you can get the image directly to your smartphone or tablet (aka remote viewfinder). You can also initialize a wireless connection with your iOS-based device (e.g. iPhone, iPad) that supports 802.11 Wi-Fi network (802.11n recommended) and by installing the PlayMemories mobile app for iOS via Apple app store.

The NFC simplifies the connection procedure between your RX100M2 camera and your mobile device. Just touch the touch devices together to establish a bond between the two devices.

Other features included:

  • Compatibility with Sony’s TRILUMINOS Color technology – better color reproduction when connected to a BRAVIA HDTV that supports this technology
  • 1080p60 as well as 24p (yeh!) with full exposure control
  • Pop-up flash (15 m)
  • Up to 10 fps burst
  • 7.2x Clear Image Zoom
  • Sweep Panorama
  • Smile Shutter technology
  • Face detection
  • 25-point contrast-detect AF system (0 – 20 EV sensitivity)
  • AF illumination LED (0.3m – 3.0m)
  • 350 images CIPA standard battery life
  • 0.3 Autofocus speed with high speed AF
  • ISO 12800 sensitivity with reduced noise
  • RAW + JPEG
  • mini USB port, which can also used to recharge the battery
  • A new to the RX100 II is a Multi Terminal interface which can be used to attach the RM-VPR1 wired remote commnader

The RX100 II will be available on July 2013 for a starting price of $749.88.

As you can see, a marvelous little gem the RX100 II is. Sony has refined and updated the RX100 model to become even more attractive than ever before.  So many useful and cool features in such a small camera body, it’s hard not to get impressed with this digital camera. It’s probably not inviting an immediate upgrade for those who already bought the RX100, but those who are coming from P&S and those who are searching for a second camera to accompany their DSLR, the RX100 II might be an all-around winner.

Sony RX100 II vs RX100

As I mentioned, the Sony RX100M2 is an exciting new addition Sony’s R camera’s lineup, but you are probably wondering about the differences between this new model and the original RX100. In this section we’ll take a look and compare the two camera’s specs and see whether or not the new RX100 II worth upgrading to from the RX100 or not.

RX100 II (RX100M2)RX100
AnnouncedJune 6, 2012June 27, 2013
Build QualityAluminumAluminum
Sensor20.2MP (effective)
5472 x 3648 pixels

1-inch (13.2 x 8.8 mm)
Exmor R BSI CMOS
20.2MP (effective)
5472 x 3648 pixels

1-inch (13.2 x 8.8 mm)
Exmor CMOS
The RX100 II has a newly developed and improved sensor. Although the same size and same resolution, the new sensor light gathering capability has been improved by 40% due to the use of back-illuminated technology, which put the wiring behind the photodiode layer, compare to front-illuminated sensors where the wiring are in-front.

This is the first time Sony used back-illuminated sensor technology on such a large sensor.
ISOStandard: 160 - 12800
Expandable: 100, 125, 25600
Standard: 125 - 6400
Expandable: 100 up to 25600
The RX100 starts with a native ISO a bit smaller than the RX100 II. However, the RX100 has a higher native ISO limit of 12800 According to Sony, there is a one stop advantage in noise performance between the two in favor of the RX100M2.
Lens28 - 100 mm F1.8-4.9 (35mm equiv.)
3.6x optical zoom

Carl Zeiss® Vario-Sonnar T*

7 elements in 6 groups
7 rounded diaphragm blades

SteadyShot OIS
28 - 100 mm F1.8-4.9 (35mm equiv.)
3.6x optical zoom

Carl Zeiss® Vario-Sonnar T*

7 elements in 6 groups
7 rounded diaphragm blades

SteadyShot OIS
Nothing has changed here. Same excellent super sharp lens that compliments the high-resolution sensor. Provides fast aperture in wide-angle, gets slower as your zoom in (longer focal length). Although see next feature below.
Step Zoom FunctionYesNo
New to the RX100 mark 2 is a step zoom function that let photographers quickly choose any of five focal lengths for quick framing.
AF Assist LampYes (LED)Yes (LED)
Macro Min. Focus Range5 cm (1.97″)5 cm (1.97″)
AF Points2525
Both cameras utilize the same Autofocus sensor.
LCD3-inch
1229K-dots Xtra Fine LCD
Tilting (up 84-degrees, down 45-degrees)
3-inch
1229K-dots Xtra Fine LCD
Fixed
Another great addition to the RX100 II, a tilting mechanism. Great for below hip low-angle shots and hoverhead igh-angle shots and for video recording
Eye-level ViewfinderNo (optional)No
Neither come with a built-in eye-level electronic viewfinder. The RX100 lacks a hot-shoe connector, but the new RX100 2 model now comes with a multi-interface hot-shoe onto which you can attach an external electronic viewfinder.

Another welcomed feature to see on the RX100 II
Shutter Speed30 - 1/2000 sec30 - 1/2000 sec
Pop up FlashYes (15m, Auto ISO)Yes (17.1m, Auto ISO)
Burst10 fps (at 20.2MP)10 fps (at 20.2MP)
Exposure Compensation+/- 3.0 EV, 1/3 EV step+/- 3.0 EV, 1/3 EV step
Video Recording1080p60
1080p24
1080i60

Stereo
1080p60
1080i60

Stereo
Mic ConnectorYes

You can attach an external mic to the multi-interface shoe (ECM-XYST1M)
No
Two important advantages for the RX100 II, now supporting 24p and the ability to attach an external stereo microphone to improve audio quality.
Multi-interface ShoeYes

(comes with protective cover)
No
Multi Terminal InterfaceYes

(e.g. attach a shutter release cable)

No
Battery1230 mAh

Type: InfoLITHIUM® NP-BX1 (3.6V)

350 shots (CIPA standard)
1230 mAh

Type: InfoLITHIUM® NP-BX1 (3.6V)

330 shots (CIPA standard)
Slightly higher battery life on the new model
Dimensions4'' × 2-9/32'' × 1-1/2'' (101.6 x 58.1 x 38.3 mm)4" x 2 3/8" x 1 7/16" (101.6 x 58.1 x 35.9mm)
Almost same size, with the RX100II being slightly thicker due to the tilting back LCD screen.
Weight9.9 oz. (281 g) 8.5 oz (240g)
Sweep PanoramaYesYes
Face DetectionYes (up to 8 faces)Yes (up to 8 faces)
Wi-FiYesNo
NFCYes (NFC Forum Type 3 Tag compatible, One-touch remote, One-touch sharing)No
Another great advantage for the RX100M2, featuring both Wi-Fi and NFC for instant wireless connectivity with smartphone and tablet devices. Easy to transfer images and also remote control the camera and trigger the shutter using your mobile device (* need to download PlayMemories app)
TRILUMINOS Color technologyYesNo
Picture Effects1913
Price

(As for time of writing,
6.27.2013 via B&H)
$748

Click to Check update price
$648

Click to Check update price

Let’s sum up the key advantages that the RX100M2 / RX100 II has over the RX100 (older model)

  • Newly developed back-illuminated sensor, 40% better light sensitivity = Better low light capabilities
  • Higher maximum native ISO (12800 vs 6400)
  • New Step zoom function
  • Tilting LCD
  • New Multi Interface Shoe
  • New 1080p24 video recording mode
  • Ability to attach an external stereo mic using the Multi Interface shoe
  • Slightly better battery life
  • New Multi-terminal interface
  • Wi-Fi
  • NFC (Near Field Communication)
  • Triluminos Color technology compatible

As you can see, quite a long list of useful features. If that’s doesn’t worth $100 bucks, I don’t know what is. I can understand that some of you who already bought the older model won’t worth the upgrade. After all, you will have to sell your older RX100, which will make you lose money, and purchase the new camera for a full premium price because it was just launched.

Having said that, I think that the RX100 II will turned out to be, if it’s not already are, the best compact camera on the planet. So many great technologies are packed into this tiny camera, and most are them are actually not gimmicky at all. You get better low-light capability, the option to attach an external flash or mic, tilting LCD, 24p, wireless connectivity, those all are very attractive features.  The Sony RX100 amazed me when I first reviewed it, but this time Sony was made it even better.
I am personally interested to see the difference in image quality / high ISO performance between the two models. In fact, the feature that I am most excited about is the new sensor. We’ve seen many camera vendors that used the same sensor on their camera over and over again and wrapping them with features that don’t have any affect on IQ.

The RX100 has a solid high ISO performance and movie quality was just out of this world. However, at that time I did feel that maybe Sony packed a bit too many pixels into the sensor, and there was a room for improvement there. This is why I am so happy that Sony has made something about it.

Sony RX100 II Image Quality & High ISO Performance

Dperview website has already published some sample images taken with the RX100 M2 with different ISO speeds. After spending quite some time looking and inspecting those RX100M2 test shots I must sat that I am super impressed with what I’ve seen so far.

This ISO 3200 RX100 II sample image is nothing but astonishing achievement. Even after viewing it again and again it’s hard for me to comprehend that I am looking at ISO 3200 image, and one that came from a 1″ sensor. Even better, I really liked the noise pattern, which i dotty one, rather than the smudgy pattern. This makes the image noise much easier to reduce/remove using noise reduction software like NeatImage (actually perfect for NeatImage).  Just resize the full scale image and you can’t even notice any noise.

I can see that Sony did apply some degree of noise reduction, but very little and it was done incredible well. Color reproduction is second to none. The color look very natural and this hurts how sharp this lens is.

If you are still not convinced, take a look at this ISO 12800 photo. This is a performance that I didn’t even see on many APS-C DSLR camera. I went to exif-viewer.com just to make sure that dpreview didn’t made a mistake writing down ‘ISO 12800′  for that image. And yes,  this image is indeed ISO 12800.

Just imagine all the creative possibilities that this camera can open for you. You can now shoot with it at night without worrying getting crappy noisy images. This is the ultimate compact camera that I’ve been waiting for quite a while. Each year Sony comes with amazing new products that it takes time to appreciate its innovation. It happened when Sony introduced the NEX-3 and NEX-5 camera, and it took me some time to appreciate what Sony did. Only after two years after I’ve seen what the other companies have released to the market, I came to realize how innovative Sony is.

On the downside, I did notice pretty significant distortion at the wide angle, but nothing that will prevent many people from getting this camera.

I also used imaging resource comparometer tool to compare the RX100 II image versus RX100 to see the differences and here is my summary.

  • ISO 160 (RX100M2) / 125 (RX100) –  same IQ, gorgeous colors, sharpness, just making the best out of its 20 megapixel sensor – WOW!
    I did notice a yellowish tint on the RX100 II image, which might been caused to improper white balance or maybe this is how it was designed, to produce wrammer tones. To early to judge, but the RX100 white looks white and doesn’t have this yellowish tint. We need to see if that persists on the other sample images
  • ISO 200 – same results here
  • ISO 400 – the white does look warmer on the RX100 II. Both sample images are still very clean, but I can see a slight difference in favor of the RX100M2 when I look closely at the mid-tones on the Muscat Wine Vinegar bottle, especially in the edges you can see the difference. Nothing to brag about, and maybe this will be more prominent on higher ISO.. lets see..  Advantage: RX100 II (slight)
  • ISO 800 – here we can better see the differences between the two sensors. The DSCRX100 (older model) noise is much more visible in the dark areas in mid-tones (look at the bottles). The RX100 Mark 2 stills romaines very clean. Advantage: RX100 II
  • ISO 1600 – On ISO 1600 and above is where we should clearly see the difference between the two sensors.  On both images we can see quite a low of noise when we look at a full scaled image. RX100 noisier, and indeed as Sony has mentioned, I can also see a roughly  1-stop noise advantage for the RX100 II as well. Advantage: RX100 II
  • ISO 3200 – I don’t know what Sony has done inside the camera, but for me it was hard to tell the difference between ISO 1600 and ISO 3200 on the RX100 II - AN AMAZING PERFORMANCE!
    On the RX100 (older version) we can clearly see more chroma noise . Look at the color plate at the bottom and you can clearly see that the RX100 produces much more noise. The good think that I have to say that Sony NR works incredibly well in keeping those fine details. Advantage: RX100 II 
  • ISO 6400 – this is the end of the road for the RX100 for sure, but the RX100M2 might give us a usable small size print with proper noise reduction. I would say that up to ISO 3200 you get get pretty good A4 prints with the RX100 II, which is remarkable for a 1-inch sensor. Advantage: RX100 II

Sony claimed 1-stop advantage for the RX100 II and we can clearly see this in practice. The only thing that I was eager for Sony to improve on the RX100 was indeed improved. Sorry guys, I have really nothing to complain about. Yes, I would have wanted  a large zoom, maybe better battery life and some other features, but this is just being spoiled. The Sony Cyber-shot RX1002M performance is nothing bot remarkable.

The RX100 is also known for its excellent video quality. Here’s a RX100 II sample video provided by Sony and shos its low light capabilities (at the time I viewed the video only 720p was available)

 

Conclusion

Sony has proven again that it can re-produce it’s tremendous achievement in the large-sensor compact camera category. The Sony RX100 was and still is one if not the best compact cameras on the market, but the first place will certainly be owned by the new Cyber-shot RX100 II camera. Sony added quite a large range of feature that many of you might wished you had on the RX100.

The RX100 II doesn’t come cheap, but that’s the price that you pay for high-performing compact camera these days.  I personally think that if you already bought the RX100, you should stick with it, unless you find that the new features are a must-have for you and it will improve your work by a large margin.  If you are upgrading from a Point-and-shoot compact, by all means, pay $100 and get the RX100 II. Its added features certainly worth that extra price.

The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II will be a best-seller, I have no doubt about it. Sony improved everything that needed to improved, packed all the cool and useful features that you expect to have in a premium compact camera. No need to make tough compromises. If you are buying this camera you probably already know its cons and you know that you can live with those. The RX100 II is in my opinion, THE Best compact camera on the market right now.  Its main downsides are a limited zoom and slow speed at longer focal lengths, but as an all-around performer, this is the best you can get.
Some people might prefer having a compact camera with a faster lens or longer zoom, but you will need to give up on either portability or sensor size, and you lose something either way. That’s why I think that the RX100 II offers the best combination that is tailored towards image quality.

I personally thinking of getting the RX100 II for my birthday. This is a great camera to accompany my DSLR camera, and I highly recommend putting the RX100 II at the top of your list, this camera won’t disappointed you.

Check Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II updated price on B&H Photo Website

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

peter brugman January 10, 2014 at 11:53 pm

Why is there no mention made anywhere that the dsc-rx100 ii Sony camera is also made in china and therefore is selling for less than the one that’s made in Japan.

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