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Gear Reviews

Sony RX10 II Initial Thoughts And Sample Slow Motion Video

By Matthew Saville on August 21st 2015

Sony RX10 ii Review Sample Images-0Order the Sony RX10 II from B&H for $1298

I remember my first “super-zoom point-n-shoot” digital camera. It had a tiny 3-megapixel sensor and a relatively large, clunky 10x zoom. It was probably equivalent to 28-280mm or 35-350mm. It captured JPG only, had zero manual control, and became almost useless by about ISO 400.

Digital cameras have progressed very rapidly since those early days. A cell phone camera can capture images far better than any of those chunky “compact” cameras from back then. More resolution, better high ISO performance, and the camera is the size of a pea!

Unfortunately, as a result, the “P&S” market almost completely evaporated before serious photographers’ demands for a more advanced, manual control, high-quality yet compact camera could be fully realized.

Sony RX10 ii Review Sample Images-9Sony RX10 mkII, raw capture, hand-held
1/640 sec @ f/5.6 & ISO 100 15mm (40mm equiv.)
Processed in Lightroom using the SLR Lounge Preset System

sony-rx10-ii-100-percent-crop-sample-1(Lightroom CC sharpening applied, no noise reduction applied)

Recently, however, some of the newer camera companies (meaning, not so much Canon or Nikon, unfortunately), have been creating some pretty impressive compact cameras that deliver the goods. Raw image capture with decent quality, impressively fast aperture lenses, wider focal lengths, and modest zoom ranges, and, of course, full manual control.

Sony’s RX100 series, and some other cameras from Panasonic and Fuji, have been looking very impressive in the super-compact range, offering near-pro quality results in a totally pocketable form factor. The Sony RX100 IV, which Anthony Thurston has already begun reviewing, is a worthy successor in that line. But what about the super-zoom? Most serious photographers wouldn’t touch a 10x (let alone 30x, or 60x) zoom P&S camera with a ten-foot pole.

In late 2013, Sony’s RX10 series aimed to change all that, with a 24-200mm equivalent zoom that hit an impressive f/2.8 aperture. Yes, 24-200mm, at f/2.8. Any full-frame DSLR shooter wanting to achieve that for a “casual” day at Disneyland with family (you’d be surprised how often I see this!) will find themselves lugging around two obscenely large zooms that tally up to about 5-7 pounds. (That’s over 3KG!)

Sony RX10 ii Review Sample Images-10Sony RX10 mkII, raw capture, hand-held
1/400 sec @ f/2.8 & ISO 3200, 8.8mm (24mm equiv.)
Processed in Lightroom using the SLR Lounge Preset System

The RX10 II delivers a smorgasbord of new improvements over its predecessor. Although it shares the same 20-megapixel number and 24-200mm f/2.8 numbers, the improvements “under the hood” are impressive. We’ll get more in-depth in our full review, but here they are at a glance:

  • Up to 40X slow-motion using 960 FPS, at 1080p final output.
    (Actual detail / quality may be reduced; stay tuned for additional testing!)
  • Up to 14 FPS shooting speed, 5 FPS with autofocus
    (without full autofocus I think, but allegedly a generous buffer)
  • High-speed “Anti-Distortion” shutter up to 1/32000 sec.
  • 4K video up to 29 minutes
    (3840 x 2160 XAVC S MP4, with S-Log2)
  • ISO 125-12800 (expands to 64-25600)
  • “Stacked” sensor design
    (Called”Exmor RS”; the reason behind the high-speed output)
  • Some amount of weather sealing (!)
  • Built-in Wifi and NFC
  • High contrast XGA OLED Tru-Finder™ EVF
  • Weighs 813 g / 1.79 lbs
  • Price: $1298 (B&H)

Sony RX10 ii Exmor RS Sensor Design

Sony RX10 ii Review Sample Images-1On a family vacation, but still want enough quality to print a landscape? Done!

Sony RX10 ii Review Sample Images-7Shallow depth and smooth bokeh on a 1″ type sensor?  Entirely possible!

Sony RX10 ii Review Sample Images-8Good quality even in dimly lit conditions?  We’ll let you be the judge…

sony-rx10-ii-100-percent-crop-sample-2Lightroom CC Sharpening: 90 @ 1.0, Noise Reduction 35 & 35
At 100%, ISO 1600 looks pretty impressive in well-exposed
areas, even though shadows leave something to be desired

Initial Thoughts

I must admit, my first reaction to any camera that looks like this is, “Oh boy, another crazy super-zoom camera. What are they up to now, 100x zoom?” But as the (Zeiss) 24-200mm f/2.8 numbers begin to sink in, you realize this is not your grandmother’s super-zoom P&S.  It is a tool aimed squarely at very serious photographers.

It feels that way too.  Solid enough to not feel like just another cheap electronic device, and yet light and compact enough that you’ll feel extremely thankful to not be lugging around ~7 lbs worth of DSLR and 2.8 zoom(s).

I’ve always felt that my Nikons had the best ergonomics in the past, however I certainly must give the nod to Sony for making this camera highly customizable, just like the A7R II, which I’m reviewing, too.

Sony RX10 ii Review Sample Images-6With f/2.8 at the equivalent of 200mm, portraits containing a good amount
of bokeh are easy to achieve. It obviously isn’t the same as true 200mm
on full-frame, but it’s still a thousand times better than a cell phone!

The focusing and shooting speed, the 4K video…pretty much all the features and performance offered are rather eye-popping considering the size and the price. I guess the only real question I have left is, are the images up to my standards as a full-time professional? Oh and of course, how good is the autofocus? I shoot many things from weddings to landscapes, so depending on the task I can be extremely demanding of high ISO performance, dynamic range, low-light autofocus, and/or fine detail.

Based on my initial glances at the test images I have so far, it is clear that this camera could be put to good use in my bag. It’s just a matter of how useful the camera will be in extremely low light or other tough conditions. Will it replace my full-frame cameras for wedding photography? No. Compact sensors smaller than 1.5x will probably never be able to truly compete with a 24x36mm sensor. However, I suspect the RX10 II will allow me to leave “the big kit” at home for many different things, and will also find its way into my professional kit for all types of “spare camera” uses.

Sony RX10 ii Review Sample Images-5If you’re a timelapse photographer, you can never have too many cameras! With 4K
video and built-in timelapse possible, the RX10 II makes a killer B-roll camera.

Whatever the verdict, keep an eye out here for it soon! We’ll publish our full review once we’ve got a complete set of sample images and final results for you.

Sample Sl0w-Motion Video

(Sample 4K video footage coming soon!)

In short, any consumer or prosumer should be thrilled with this camera’s features and performance. In my (initial) opinion, even a working professional could find plenty of uses for it on paid jobs! The Sony RX10 II looks to be a high-end piece of kit.

Take care and happy clicking,

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Matthew Saville is a full-time wedding photographer at Lin & Jirsa Photography, and a senior editor & writer at SLR Lounge.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Dave Haynie

    Nice article — but I have a few quips (well, I did wake up at 7:15 am on a Sunday, so maybe that’s part of it). For one.. yes, the camera phone has eaten into the P&S market. But there was never, far as I recall, a point at which the P&S market actually disappeared. The “free” camera phone took awhile to evolve into the somewhat decent “Instamatic of the 21rst century” that they have become.

    What the camera phone did was exert upward pressure on the P&S market. That ensured an end to $75 P&S models with 1/8″ sensors… real drek, in short. Look around today, and there’s still a cluster of P&S models around the 1/2.3″ sensor size, which not amazingly is around the largest you’ll find in any current camera phone. Camera phones are largely stymied from going to larger sensors, as it makes the phone too fat for popular appeal (Nokia tried that, didn’t do that well), while we’re now seeing a wonderful number of P&S models with appeal to serious photographers.

    Far as the long zoom camera goes, I think there has been an appeal to serious photographers here at least as a specialty item. I love creative photography at big outdoor events… most of which these days you’re not bringing that DSLR to without press credentials. But as long as the lens is fixed, the camera’s not a problem. I’m always checking out the next upgrade in this market.

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  2. Gabriel Rodriguez

    Hmmm…Im in the market for a second camera. This looks really good! Thanks for sharing this article!

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  3. Dustin Baugh

    I loved having a small Canon S95 or similar high end point and shoot nearby for when I wasn’t “on the job” to capture surprise opportunities. But this and the RX100 are making me think it’s time for another upgrade. The changes in the last 2 years for this market segment have been amazing.

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