Hands on: Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II review

Sony has unveiled the Cyber-shot RX100 II - the second release in its high-spec compact camera series complete with a large 1-inch sensor size. Pocket-lint got the lowdown on the forthcoming compact ahead of its launch, and there are plenty of new features on board to shout about.

Within the small body size there are a number of core new features. First, a multi-interface hotshoe on the top; second, a tilt-angle 1,229k-dot WRGB LCD screen on the rear which makes the camera ever so slightly chunkier than its predecessor; and third there's a brand new sensor' and lastly both Wi-Fi and NFC (near field communication) are now on board.

READ: Sony Cyber-shot RX100 review

When we saw the original RX100 we wondered why there was no provision for a viewfinder considering the otherwise all-round high specification, so it's great to see the RX100 II fix this up. If you fancy adding on an electronic viewfinder it doesn't come cheap, however, with the optional FDA-EV1MK adding on a sizeable £379, or the lesser - but still decent - optional FDA-EV1S available for £279. Here's the other thing: the Sony RX100 II will launch with a £649 price tag. Yowch. That's a full £100 more than the original RX100 - and that was already pricey at launch in 2012.

Otherwise the RX100 II looks much the same as its predecessor. The lens is the same 3.6x optical zoom, which offers a 28-100mm f/1.8-4.9 equivalent zoom and aperture range. Just as in the RX100 that means it offers up a wide f/1.8 aperture at the 28mm wide-angle, dropping to f/4.9 at the 100mm top-end. Calls for a brighter aperture throughout aren't unfounded, yet if such a design change was made the RX100 II's body would also have inflated considerably - and the truly pocketable size from this compact is one of its key selling points. 

Under the hood things have changed for the better: the 20.2-megapixel, 1-inch sensor now sports the Exmor R designation. Now that's not just a bunch of marketing talk, it means that the sensor's back-illuminated construction ought to improve image quality compared to its predecessor. According to Sony it's a whole stop better than the original RX100, and now sensitivity extends to ISO 12,800. We're nonplussed about the top-end ISO setting as it'll unlikely be usable, but it's the apparent advance in quality which excites, i.e. an ISO 1600 shot on the RX100 II will look as good as an ISO 800 shot from the original model. Big claims - and ones that we can't yet verify as, despite getting some time to shoot with the camera, we weren't able to take images away with us to publish.

The new sensor is also capable of capturing 24p or 25p movie and full manual control in real-time is available. The maximum movie setting is a high-quality 1080p50 at 28M. Quality stuff.

Remote sharing and live preview is also possible via Wi-Fi, although you'll need to download Sony's PlayMemories applications to get the most out of the Wi-Fi service. Applications available for the NEX-series of cameras also aren't available for use on the Cyber-shot range.

Other smaller changes are also apparent. The RX100 II's lens ring can be used to control the usual settings, but now adds a "step zoom" function to quickly step between the common classic focal lengths such as 28mm, 35mm, 50mm and so on. There's still no built-in neutral density (ND) filter, but the inclusion of an optional 49mm filter thread accessory will come as good news to some.

Overall there's a lot to like here… except the asking price. At £649 the RX100 II is pushing into Canon G1 X territory. However the raft of improvements do make the RX100 II look to be one of the most exciting sounding compacts due this year - we've more or less blotted the price out of mind already as we can't wait to use the camera in full come the end of July.



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