Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX1R II 42.4 MP Compact Digital Camera Review

In 2012, Sony came out with the RX1 and RX1R cameras, which had excellent performance and image quality combined into one model. The RX1R II (or, if you want to get technical, the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX1R II 42.4 MP Compact Digital Camera - 1080p – Black) follows in those cameras’ footsteps, bringing the same sort of quality and performance—but upgraded.

The RX1R II is a 35mm focal small camera, and some of the major highlights are the integrated electronic viewfinder and the same high-resolution image sensor as Sony’s Alpha 7R II. But when it comes down to it, how well does the RX1R II stack up?

What Does the RX1R II Do?

Before we start getting into the RX1R II’s performance, here’s a brief rundown of its specs:

  • 35mm full-frame 42.4-megapixel sensor
  • A variable low pass filter
  • 35mm focal length Zeiss Vario Sonnar T* Lens
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    24 cm focal range in normal mode
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    14-29 cm focal range in macro mode
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    Pop-up 2.4 mm dot electronic viewfinder
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    Hybrid contrast for single, continuous, or manual focus with 399-point AF detection
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    AVCHD or MP4 video (1080p)
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    Built-in Wi-Fi
  • ISO 100-25600, expandable to 50-512000
  • Tilting LCD screen
  • PASM mode dial
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    Dedicated movie mode
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    Three custom modes
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    sRGB or Adobe RGB
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    F/2-F/22 aperture
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    14-bit RAW output
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    A dedicated exposure compensation dial
Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX1R II Full Frame Digital Camera - Bundle with...
  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1R II Camera - Battery NP-BX1 - Battery Charger - AC Adapter AC-UD11 - Micro USB Cable - Shoulder...
  • 42.4MP of ultimate image quality: The RX1R II utilizes a 42.4MP back-illuminated 35mm full-frame Exmor R CMOS sensor...
  • 35mm F2.0 ZEISS Sonnar T* lens with macro capability: The fixed lens design allows the lens to be precisely aligned at...

Package Deal

Right out of the box, the RX1R II comes with pretty much everything you need, which there should be for the price point. Besides the camera, you’re also looking at a battery, manuals, a wall charger, a neck strap, a metal-reinforced plastic lens cap, and the warranty materials.

Everything is in solid quality, save for the neck strap. Included neck straps don’t tend to hold up for very long on a regular basis, but the one with the RX1R II is just flimsy and is prone to snapping very quickly. It’s in your best interest to purchase a higher-quality strap to save yourself the heart attack by dropping your camera at the worst time.

While there is a charger included, it’s only a wall model, and the single battery is also a bit of a letdown. These sorts of smaller, compact cameras are excellent for street photography, but not being able to charge on the go complicates matters a bit.

This lack of portable charging is even more prominent since the size of the camera also keeps the capacity of the battery down—so it doesn’t last very long. While it’s nice to have the basics in the box, you should also invest in a few extra batteries so that you don’t run out while you’re on the go.

Handling

As a compact camera, the RX1R II is indeed small. With the attached lens, it’s not the right size to fit in your pants pocket, but it will settle down in a coat pocket with not much difficulty. Since it’s a bit bigger than some other of Sony’s compact cameras (take the RX100-IV for instance), there’s enough space for all the buttons to be comfortably accessible without much room for pressing errors.

One button that’s a little too responsive is the combined power/shutter switch. It’s a bit too easy to bump into in transit, which can drain away the already shaky battery life.

The manual focus ring isn’t mechanical, so there’s a bit of lack of tactile feedback that can be difficult to adjust to if you're used to other manual focus rings. Even so, the focus by wire system doesn’t provide much lag, so it’s still operable.

Sony continues to produce high-quality electronic viewfinders, as the EVF on the RX1R II provides a precise and responsive image without much need for squinting. There’s also an auto-orientation feature that lets you switch between landscape and portrait shots with ease. The EVF is a pop-up, so it doesn’t get in the way when you’re trying to tuck away the camera for storage.

While the rear screen is tilting capable, it’s still not a touchscreen. While the camera is still serviceable without it, it would be nice to have both features combined into one. You will be able to see Sony’s almost trademark of challenging to understand status readouts and menus on the screen, though. How much use you’ll get out of them is up to debate.

The autofocus holds its own in all situations, even night and low-light shooting. It does slow down once you start getting into much darker lighting, but it still has an accurate level of focusing. This capable functioning is excellent because the manual focusing leaves something to be desired. The focus dial isn’t very instinctive to you, so it’s frustrating to use when you want to help autofocus along.

In the end, the small size suits urban photographing, especially if you don’t want to draw too much attention when you’re doing it. If you prefer the head-turning effect in your photos, look elsewhere, but, otherwise, the RX1R II does the job.

Image Quality

No matter how simple the camera is to use, that’s not worth much if the image quality doesn’t go ahead and deliver. And the RX1R II does just that.

The RX1R II has a lot of filtering options that you can toggle on and off. The Low Pass filter settings do have some subtle differences, but the image quality is very sharp no matter which setting you use.

There is a little bit of lens distortion for images straight out of the camera. It’s subtle, but it’s still there. You can quickly correct this issue through programs like Lightroom.

The noise reduction is very significant with the RX1R II, giving you lots of options for low lighting shots through the ISO adjustment. You start to see some subtle detail muddiness when you hit ISO 25600, though the RX1R II does have the capacity to reach up to ISO 102400.

The camera also supports raw shooting so that you can pull even more options out of the RX1R II’s ISO settings. Images taken naturally are still usable up to ISO 51200, and a shot in ISO 102400 has more detail raw than when shooting for JPEG.

The RX1R II has a lot of capability when it comes to processing bright skies with darker foregrounds through the Dynamic Range Optimizer. The function takes a little bit more time to capture the image, but it’s a handy feature to have for great contrast effects in your photos.

When tweaking photos, you can recover a surprising amount of color out of darker images. You can also expect to improve some hidden detail with some skillful photoshopping.

Video

The video is, unfortunately, one of the more disappointing features. Yes, there’s still a significant amount of the potential in 1080p quality, but it’s not the best you can get. Since the RX1R II shares the same type of sensor with the A7RII, it can be a little frustrating that this camera doesn’t boast 4K video capability.

Still, when it comes down to it, the small size of the RX1R II is the main reason video doesn’t reach up that high. 4K video capability would most likely cause the camera to overheat, which would be an unfortunate end for a camera that can do so much else otherwise. If you’re looking for a camera to double for video, you’d be better off looking at other models.

If you want the occasional video, the built-in microphone still has a bright sound capture, though it’s more suited for quiet environments. Trying to record in a crowded location won’t serve your audio needs very well.

Other Build Thoughts

For a camera that’s suited to crowd photography, you still need to be wary. Unlike other cameras, the RX1R II isn’t weatherproof. It can handle minimal precipitation, but not much else. Be cautious of the weather when you use it.

The screen is also a bit sensitive to scratches and other damages, even without much wear and tear. Though this weakness isn’t as harmful as it would be on a touchscreen, you’ll want to save yourself the trouble and pick up a screen protector to keep away damage.

Pros and Cons at a Glance:

Pros

  • High image quality, even without adjustment
  • Small and light
  • Fantastic electronic viewfinder performance
  • Excellent optics
  • High ISO capability

Cons

  • Overpriced, even with quality
  • Video capabilities stuck at 1080p
  • Poor quality of the built-in strap
  • Complex menus
  • No touchscreen
  • No weather sealing

Pricing

The RX1R II is a bit pricey. Now, all the features packed into this camera make it worth it, but if you want a high-quality camera, you could put in some extra cash for something expensive with a bit better value. The lack of 4K video, portable charger, and additional batteries, plus the not-so-stellar included camera strap start to make you feel the price tag.

As it stands, though, you won’t be wasting your money by picking this camera up. If you enjoy the 35mm focal length, this is probably the camera for you, even if it brings a case of sticker shock.

Public Perception

There’s no doubt in everyone’s minds that this is an impressive camera for its size. In fact, the number of capabilities packed into one, coat-pocket-sized camera is a sign of Sony’s skill in putting forth a quality pocket. The resolution and image sensor score very high marks on most reviewer’s lists.

Most reviewers have the same concerns as we do: the battery life/lack of additional batteries and portable charger, no 4K video, and the price are some of the major worries. Some professional photographers say it doesn’t quite meet their preferences. Even so, it’s a well-received camera, and you should see if it matches your photographic needs.

How it Compares

The RX1R II stands out as a full-frame compact camera, though that’s because there aren’t a lot of those floating around the market. Despite its shortcomings, the sheer capacity partnered with the size makes it a camera to catch your attention.

If you don’t mind putting a little more cash on the line, the Leica Q is a comparable compact model. It’s a bit bigger than the RX1R II, but for some people that makes it a little easier to get a grip on and improves the overall handling.

The viewfinder doesn’t pop out of the body, but it still provides a stable image, and the Q’s manual focus experience is a lot less taxing, too. If you want the compact camera experience but prefer 28 mm focal length, consider heading for the Q instead.

For comparable 35 mm models, there’s the Fuji X100 series. For having the same focal length, the RX1R II has a slightly wider field of view, and the image and color sharpnesses are superior to the X100, offering more opportunities for cropping.

In contrast, the X100 can be a bit easier to handle, and the color focus is a matter of personal preference. The X100 is also significantly cheaper, which might be the deciding factor for you.

What We Think

When it comes down to it, the type of camera you want is very dependent on how you shoot and what preferences you have. If you’re considering the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX1R II 42.4 MP Compact Digital Camera - 1080p – Black, then the price is probably not an issue for you. That's fortunate, because the price is easily the biggest downside of this camera, notably since it lacks 4K video.

In the end, you can’t deny the quality this camera produces, and we love the easily transportable size. If the 35 mm is your preferred focal distance and you don’t mind spending the cash (and then a bit extra for a new strap and backup battery supplies), then pick out this camera. It’s not as pricey as the Leica Q, and the quality does surpass the Fuji X100.

Since it’s been a few years since the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX1R II 42.4 MP Compact Digital Camera - 1080p – Black hit the market, you may be able to find more comparable models if this camera hasn’t entirely stolen your heart. In the end, it’s best to make sure the RX1R II fits your shooting style before you invest.

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