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Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 II review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £633
inc VAT

Stunning photo quality and a great all-rounder – and a price that's now a little easier to swallow


13.2×8.8mm 20.0-megapixel sensor, 3.6x zoom (28-100mm equivalent), 281g

Buy the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II now from John Lewis

It’s not easy making a slim compact camera that excels in low light. This usually requires a large sensor or a wide-aperture lens – ideally both – but both tend to result in a bulky camera. There are exceptions, such as the stunning Fujifilm X100S, but it dispenses with a zoom function to achieve its just-about-pocket-sized design.

For those who want a zoom and who don’t have £1,000 to spend, the Panasonic LX7 and Fujifilm X20 are better options. Their sensors aren’t as big as the X100S’s but bigger than those used in most compact cameras. They’re paired with wide-aperture lenses to capture lots of light, and also include a modest zoom function. The X20 is a little bulky at 65mm deep while the LX7 is 50mm – a bit of a squeeze for jeans, perhaps, but slim enough for more spacious pockets.

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 II

Sony’s answer is its RX100 range. It’s going to be important to take note of which version you’re looking at, as there are in fact multiple. There’s the DSC-RX100 (around £290), the DSC-RX100 II (now around £400), the DSC-RX100 III (around £569) and the DSC-RX100 IV (£759) and all are still available.

The Sony RX100 II is a mere 39mm thick, so it’ll slip in trouser pockets more easily than the LX7 or X20. This is even more impressive when you consider that the 3in screen is articulated, tilting up by 90 degrees and down by 45. It also has an integrated lens cap that opens automatically – much more convenient than the others’ removable lens caps.

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 II

Its 20-megapixel sensor measures 13.2×8.8mm. That’s about twice the surface area of the LX7 and X20’s sensors, and four times bigger than the standard 1/2.3in sensors used in compact cameras. The lens has an f/1.8 aperture, so it gathers lots of light. However, this is only true at the wide-angle zoom position. The aperture closes to f/4.9 at the long end of the 28-100mm zoom range, which isn’t so remarkable.

The minimal design looks great but there’s not much to hold onto. This sort of camera should be perfect for parties with its slim design and excellent low-light image quality, but we’d think twice about handing it over to tipsy friends and relatives. It felt more secure once we’d tilted the screen upwards, giving an improvised grip for our left thumb in the hinge mechanism behind the screen.


There isn’t room for lots of physical controls, but Sony has come up with a superb control system that makes the most of the limited space. There’s a lens ring that can be assigned to one of eight functions, or you can leave it to the camera to choose based on the selected mode: zoom in Auto mode, aperture in aperture-priority mode, focus when manual focus is selected, as so on. For manual exposure, the ring controls aperture while the rear wheel is assigned to shutter speed.

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 II

There’s an Fn button that cycles through various other functions. These can be reassigned to provide as many or as few as you want. It’s one of the better quick-access menus we’ve seen, and we never felt that the scarcity of buttons was a problem. The main menu is based on Sony’s SLRs, with tons of options arranged over 17 tabbed pages. It’s worth changing the Menu Start option to Previous rather than Home so you can jump back to the last page you used rather than start from the beginning each time. It’s also worth turning off the Mode Dial Guide function, which explains what the selected mode is for but quickly became a distraction, appearing each time the mode was adjusted.

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 II

Our only complaint regarding the controls is that the size of the autofocus area could be bigger. The autofocus point can be placed freely in the frame, but the camera sometimes failed to lock onto subjects. We suspect that an option to use a slightly larger area to focus on would eliminate the problem; it wasn’t an issue when the camera was left to focus anywhere in the frame.

It’s a little slow to power up, taking 2.4 seconds to take a photo. Subsequent photos were reasonably quick, though, at 0.9 seconds from shot to shot. It excelled in continuous mode, setting off at 7.7fps and slowing to 2.4fps after 11 frames. Raw capture produced slightly erratic results, but an average of 3.7fps for 11 frames is a solid result.

Wi-Fi is built in for communication with Android and iOS devices. There’s NFC too, allowing the camera to pair with compatible Android devices simply by holding them together. The accompanying apps are relatively light on features, with the ability to capture photos and videos remotely but not much control over settings. Image transfers are handled elegantly, though, with the ability to pick photos on either the camera or the connected device.


The Sony RX100 II sailed through our video tests. Autofocus was responsive, details were crisp and low-light shots were bright and clean. There’s a choice of 25p, 50p or 50i recording at 1,920×1,080, with clip lengths up to 30 minutes. There’s comprehensive manual control, too, with access to manual exposure settings while recording. Manual focus benefits from a peaking mode that highlights sharply focussed parts of the frame.

The results of our image quality tests were even more impressive. Brightly lit shots were packed with fine detail, with no hint of noise or noise-reduction artefacts. Processing raw files in Lightroom only gave a minimal improvement to the fidelity of fine details, which goes to show how good the JPEG output is. Automatic exposures were expertly judged, with nicely balanced highlights and shadows.

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 II sample shot Crisp fine details, smooth expanses of colour and excellent handling of highlights – we’ve no complaints here

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 II sample shot The JPEG output is virtually indistinguishable from the best Lightroom can get from the raw file – a superb result

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 II sample shot Automatic metering has handled this tricky high-contrast shot superbly

When low light demanded fast ISO speeds, the large sensor and wide-aperture lens came into their element. At ISO 1600, noise reduction sacrificed fine details a little but image quality was in even better than from the Panasonic LX7 and Fujifilm X20. After resizing these cameras’ output to the same size, the LX7 and X20 at ISO 1600 were roughly equivalent to the RX100 II at ISO 6400 – a massive two-stop advantage. Then again, the LX7 recovers some ground with its wider aperture. It’s two-thirds of a stop brighter than the RX100 II for wide-angle shots and two stops brighter at the telephoto end.

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 II sample shot Zooming in causes the aperture to close down to f/4.9, but the sensor is still turning in great results at ISO 1600. The automatic exposure has taken this tricky backlight in its stride too

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 II sample shot ISO 3200, and noise reduction is working hard, giving fine textures an artificial sheen. Even so, it’s a superb result, and by far the best we’ve ever seen for such a slim camera

However, we had to avoid Auto mode to make the most of this outstanding low-light capability. Auto mode limited the ISO speed to 800, which resulted in excessively slow shutter speeds and blurry photos. Switching to Program mode opened up the Auto ISO range up to a maximum of 3200, which avoided blur and still produced excellent results.

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 II sample shot Auto mode picked a 1/13s shutter speed, so blur was inevitable at the long end of the zoom

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 II sample shot Switching to program mode bumped the shutter and ISO speeds up

This camera addresses a genuine need – for a pocket-sized design that doesn’t compromise on image quality or a zoom function. It’s a pleasure to use, too, and its video mode is more than up to scratch. The only real problem on launch was the high price.

As such, we’ve been waiting for the price to drop and it is finally starting to do so. You can now pick one up for significantly less than the launch price and you can now find one for £399, which makes it a far more tantalising prospect. The RX100 II is a brilliant camera – the image quality is superb and you would never guess this is a compact camera.

The newer RX100 III is undoubtedly the better camera if you can afford to stretch, however. Its price has also dropped significantly since its release and is now hovering around £570. It includes some genuinely useful new features, such as its surprising pop-up electronic viewfinder. The III model also makes some changes to the lens. Its zoom reach has been reduced to 24-70mm but with a little added to the wide end (compared to the 28-100mm of the RX100 and RX100 II). The aperture at the telephoto end is much improved at F/2.8 compared to the much poorer F/4.9 at the telephoto end on older models, adding a great deal more flexibility across the zoom range and three times more light.

Still, if you find the RX100 II for the right price, it’s still an excellent compact camera that takes wonderful photos.

Buy the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II now from John Lewis

Basic Specifications

CCD effective megapixels20.0 megapixels
CCD size13.2×8.8mm
Viewfinderoptional electronic (FDA-EV1MK)
Viewfinder magnification, coverageN/A
LCD screen size3.0in
LCD screen resolution1,228,800 pixels
Articulated screenYes
Live viewYes
Optical zoom3.6x
Zoom 35mm equivalent28-100mm
Image stabilisationoptical, lens based
Maximum image resolution5,472×3,648
File formatsJPEG, RAW; AVCHD, MP4 (AVC)


Memory slotSDXC, Memory Stick Pro HG Duo
Mermory suppliednone
Battery typeLi-ion
Battery Life (tested)350 shots
ConnectivityUSB, micro HDMI, Wi-Fi, NFC
Body materialaluminium
Lens mountN/A
Focal length multiplierN/A
Kit lens model nameN/A
AccessoriesUSB cable

Buying Information

Warrantyone year RTB

Camera Controls

Exposure modesprogram, shutter priority, aperture priority, manual
Shutter speed30 to 1/2,000 seconds
Aperture rangef/1.8-11 (wide) f/4.9-11 (tele)
ISO range (at full resolution)160 to 12800
Exposure compensation+/-3 EV
White balanceauto, 9 presets with fine tuning, manual, Kelvin
Additional image controlscontrast, saturation, sharpness, dynamic range optimisation, noise reduction, soft skin effect, colour space
Manual focusYes
Closest macro focus5cm
Auto-focus modesmulti, centre, flexible spot, face detect
Metering modesmulti, centre-weighted, centre, face detect
Flashauto, forced, suppressed, slow synchro, rear curtain, red-eye reduction
Drive modessingle, continuous, self-timer, smile detect, HDR, panorama