Review – Sony RX 1 R II

In 2012, Sony announced the original RX 1 and RX 1 R- a surprisingly small form compact full frame camera. Technically, RX1R is a RX 1 but without AA (anti alias) filter. Both of them come with an outstanding Zeiss Sonnar F2 fixed lens and output impressive images from the 24 MP sensor. (You may read my review for the original RX1R here).

Although the original RX1R gives impressive output but it still has a lot of room for improvement. After 3 years of waiting, Sony finally announced the successor of the RX1 and RX1R – the RX1R II.

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Body Build and Design
Opened the box, you got a battery, a pouch, a power adapter, micro USB cable, a portable battery charger (finally!), an eye cap, a metal lens cap, a box of user manual in different languages, and of course the RX1R II.

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The new RX1R II looks almost the same as the original RX1. It is build by light but strong magnesium alloy which give you the same rock solid build feel.

You get the same outstanding Zeiss Sonnar F2 fixed lens, there is a smooth focus-by-wire focusing ring, follow by a macro switch ring which allow you to focus as close as 14 cm, and a manual aperture ring to change the aperture between F2 to F22 with a nice clickable feedback. The lens has a filter diameter of 49 mm and the size of the lens fit just nice on the RX1R II body.

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First timer might need some time to get use to this lens design. You would be wondered why the camera does not focus well and realized that you forgot to switch the macro mode back to normal mode.

On top of the RX1R II, you get the same mode dial, an exposure compensation dial, a shutter button with a hole which allows you to use the screw in remote control, and a multi interface shoe for connecting external accessory.

At the back of the RX1R II, you get the same button layout as the original RX1. There is a playback button on top of the LCD screen, and its right side is the rear control dial (you may assign few handy specific functions like shutter speed control). Below the rear control dial is a single AEL button, Fn button, a control wheel that allows you to assign more functions to 4 of its directions (top, bottom, left, right), menu button, and a C2/trash button.

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So is it the same as the original RX1? Yes, the RX1R II is almost the same as the original RX1 but not exactly. At a closer look, you got a tiltable screen like other A7 series camera, a welcome change compare to the fixed screen on original RX1 camera!

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At the top left corner, you got a finder slider. Finder? Yes, when you pulled down the slider there is a pop up EVF! A pop up EVF like the RX100 IV but it is a Zeiss T* coating EVF like the A7RII! The viewfinder is more advanced than the one on RX100 IV because the viewfinder will auto extend out when it is popped up and auto retract when you push it back to the camera body, and it has a magnification factor of 0.74 x.

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You also get an optional eyepiece cup that you may screw onto the EVF for better viewing experience but you won’t be able to push the EVF back into the camera body when you got the eyepiece cup on it.

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At the left side of the camera, you got a micro USB port, micro HDMI port, and a 3.5mm microphone stereo minijack.

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One minor changes on the camera body is the focusing button options at the front of the RX1R II. You got an extra ‘C’ option for the continuous focusing mode which is somehow omitted in the original RX1.

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New Image Sensor and AF Performance

Besides of these physical changes, the largest change in RX1R II is its image sensor. It features the same 42 MP BSI image sensor as the one in A7R II, and you get the same fast hybrid AF (399 points phase detection AF points and 25 contrast AF points) as the A7R II. The following slideshow focused on an incoming car and cropped the part that is in-focused.

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The AF performance is greatly improved compare to the original RX1, the AF speed is pretty good but the accuracy can be further improved. You get up to 5 fps in speed priority continuous shooting mode and 2.5 fps in normal continuous shooting mode.

Despite of the improved AF speed and newly added continuous focusing mode, the RX1R II also employs the Eye-AF. You may assign this function to any of the customizable button, press and hold it then the Eye-AF will detect and tracksthe closest pupil of your subject. It works in single AF, continuous AF, and direct manual focus (DMF) mode, and it can be activated without the face recognition function.

ISO Performance

The RX1R II also boost the ISO sensitivity to an impressive ISO 102400 which is same as the A7R II. You may have a look at the ISO performance from the following 100% cropped images.

RAW 

From the 100% RAW cropped, details are well preserved even at the maximum ISO 102400. However, the color noise is too much for the favor.

Noise Recuction By Capture One Pro 9

By applying noise reduction in the Capture One Pro 9, you may get rid the of the color noise at ISO 102400 at the expense of losing significant details. At the balance of details and cleaness of the image, personally I would prefer ISO 25600 although ISO 51200 still acceptable in some cases.

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ISO 12800
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ISO 12800
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ISO 25600
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ISO 25600

Besides of high ISO performance, RX1R II allows you to set the auto ISO range (between ISO 100 and ISO 102400) and the minimum ISO shutter speed. These are very handy features, the camera will adjust the ISO within your comfortable ISO range before slower the shutter speed (yes, the shutter speed may fall slower than your preferred minimum shutter speed once the ISO hit your preferred max ISO).

Lens Performance

Center Sharpness & CA

Corner Sharpness & CA

The Zeiss T* Sonnar fixed lens is pretty sharp at its center from F 2 to F 11 and peaks at F8, center sharpness at F 22 sorter significantly. For corner sharpness, it is a tad softer than its center sharpness but still remain sharp from the widest open at F 2. For chromatic aberration, magenta and purple fringing exists at the corners in all the apertures but it is well controlled in the center.

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Original at F2
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100% Cropped

The output is so sharp even shoot in F 2!

Distortion

The lens exhibits slight barrel distortion which can be fixed easily in post processing software.

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Lens Flare

The lens also handle the flare well.

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Bokeh  

The lens uses a 9 blades circular aperture to give you the round shaped bokeh even after you stopped down the aperture. Bokeh at F 2 and F 2.8 are smooth and in good circular shape as expected, at aperture smaller than F2.8 (F4, F 5.6 and etc.), you will see some onion ring bokeh if you zoom in closely.

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Nevertheless, the Zeiss fixed lens on RX1R II still renders smooth and pleasant bokeh in reallife shooting.

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Original at F 2.8
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100% Cropped
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F 2
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100% Cropped

Look at the bokeh rendering at 100% cropped view!

Other Features

Optical Variable Low Pass Filter

At this time, there is only 1 variant of RX1R in the mark II series instead of RX1 and RX1R as the first generation. Sony introduced a new innovative idea – the optical variable low pass filter to give you the best of both RX1 and RX1R in a single body. You can choose to usehigh LPF setting, standard LPF setting, or turn it off the low pass filter using camera setting.

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Removal of low pass filter shall give you sharper output while using the filter shall remove the moire in repeated pattern.

Video Shooting

Sadly, the RX1R II does not have 4K video recording as the A7R II even though they share the same 42 MP BSI image sensor. You can record full HD video in XAVC S (upto 100p in PAL), AVCHD ver 2 (up to 60p in NTSC/ 50p in PAL), and mp4  (60p in NTSC/ 50p in PAL) format.

Application

You may install Sony Play Memories app in your handphone and control the RX1R II via the preinstalled Smart Remote Embedded app. You may also purchase the timelapse app or other app via the Play Memories Camera Apps.

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USB Power

Sony mirrorless camera always has the build in micro USB charging capability. With RX1R II, you even can use your portable powerbank to power the RX1R II  when you’re shooting.

Personal Shooting Experiences

The  Zeiss Sonnar F2 lens and the 42 MP image sensor gives a wonderful combination. The output are sharp, colors are pop, and the overall output is…. WoW!

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The 42 MP sensor captures incredible amount of details, I mean… a lot more than expectation!

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Original at F2
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100% Cropped
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Original at F 2
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100% Cropped

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100% Cropped

The amount of details is crazy. This make the highly cropped image usable with reasonable amount of details.

The small and light camera body is more convinience to bring along, and easier to take it out and make a shot in any place without drawing too much unnecessary attention.

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The 42 MP full frame BSI image sensor gives an incredible dynamic range.

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The improved focusing, large F 2 aperture, and high ISO performance make the RX1R II usable in dark scenarios without a tripod.

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35 mm is also a great focal length for street and indoor shooting!

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The small and compact size of RX1R II, great high ISO performance, with a fast F 2 Zeiss lens, and the improved AF gave a pleasant and enjoyable shooting experience. However, there were still some shortfall that the RX1R II can be improved.

Firstly, the battery life is rated at 220 shots per charge. However, I hardly get 180 shots everytime even with airplane mode and no EVF usage. The battery is too tiny to provide enough juice to drive the insane 42 MP full frame sensor. Luckily, you may use powerbank to power the RX1R II during shooting using the build in micro USB port. It is a wonderful workaround if you don’t want to carry multiple batteries.

Besides of the poor battery life, the 42 MP sensor without the image stablizer made the shooting more challenging than the A7R II. 1/60 second of shutter speed could still result in blurry image easily for handheld shooting using RX1R II. At F 2, the fastest shutter is 1/2000 second, you have to stop down to F 5.6 to get the 1/4000 second.

At SGD 4,999 price point, it is not too much to expect a weather sealing/resistant feature but this feature is missing in the RX1R II. The absence of the infrared receiver also prevent you from using the wireless remote control as what you can do on other Sony mirrorless camera. Using the preinstalled Smart Remote app is an option but it will drain the tiny battery faster. Lastly, the grip of RX1R II is slippery and almost non-exist…. the ergonomic design is suitable for the lighter Sony RX 100 series but not really for the RX1R II.

Bottom Line

Let’s have a quick glance at the summary of pros and cons of the RX1R II.

Pros

+ Tiltable LCD screen

+ Built in pop up EVF

+ Solid build of compact camera body

+ 42 MP BSI image sensor

+ 399 Phase Detection AF points

+ High ISO sensitivity at ISO 102400

+ Embedded Sony smart remote control app

+ Wifi and NFC capable

+ USB power when shooting

Cons

– No weather sealing

– No image stabilizer

– No infrared receiver for wireless remote control

– Not capable of 4K video recording

– Poor battery life

– Pricey

In conclusion, the Sony RX1R II is an interesting and impressive compact full frame camera. If you are looking for lightweight camera for travelling but don’t want to sacrifice the image quality, the Sony RX1R II is the one you are looking for. You get the professional full frame image quality in a palm size compact camera. However, it is still far away for you to replace your professional full frame DSLR.

Well, that comes to the end of the RX1R II review. Hope you enjoyed the review and happy shooting!

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Contact me by email: jamesphotography2013@gmail.com

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