Last year, Sony's RX100 changed the way many of us think about point-and-shoots. The camera's one-inch sensor enabled brilliant image quality and stellar low-light performance, netting DSLR-like results in a device you can slip in your pocket. It really did change the game when it comes to everyday photography, and I instantly fell in love. What remained to be seen, however, was how Sony would build on the RX100's success by releasing an even more capable model this year. In an unexpected move, the company opted not to retire 2012's blockbuster, and kept pricing exactly where it's always been, at $650. The RX100 Mark II, meanwhile, was marketed as a modest step up -- an even more well-rounded package, for 100 bucks more.
When my Mark II sample arrived, I did what any jaded New Yorker would after a half-dozen years of shooting sample photos in Manhattan: I booked a flight to somewhere else. United's last-minute weekend specials made Chicago the best bet, and off I went for a weekend of perfect weather, approachable restaurants and sidewalks that weren't so crowded that I had to walk in the street. It's like New York -- if you take away a million tourists and pepper in smiling Midwesterners and affordable adult beverages.
A week with the Sony RX100 Mark II
But enough about Chicago; you're here for the camera. And what a camera it is. A few relatively minor features set it apart from the RX100, while one major addition -- built-in WiFi -- makes this the clear winner for at least a few social shooters. If you're looking to boost the quality of your Instagram shots, you can lock yourself into two years with Samsung's Galaxy S4 Zoom, or you can pick up the $750 RX100 Mark II and save yourself a fair amount of frustration. Getting images online requires a few steps here, but once I got the routine down of linking the camera and an Android smartphone, uploading each new shot took only a few seconds. Selected photos pop up in the handset's gallery, and you can get 'em online from there.
I spent a few days wandering around the city, with the camera in my jeans pocket. It was fantastic being able to leave my trusted mirrorless camera home in New York -- the Mark II preformed brilliantly, regardless of the shooting situation. I photographed waves crashing into the wall at Oak Street Beach, rowdy youngsters carrying on at a boat block party in the harbor and locals practicing yoga poses at dawn. The new tilting LCD was particularly useful in capturing that last shot, letting me both shoot at a lower angle and avoid attracting attention to the camera and myself. Earlier, when my Galaxy Note II wasn't able to zoom in close enough to shoot the partiers on boats, I snapped a few frames with the RX and sent them right to my phone.
Sony RX100 Mark II sample shots
The final notable physical adjustment is the new Multi Interface Shoe. It looks like a typical hot shoe that you'd find on any ol' DSLR, but this version adds a multi-pin connector for interfacing with accessories like an OLED EVF or a microphone rig -- neither of which I needed to try out on a brief vacation. Some photographers clearly prefer shooting with an EVF, but the tilting LCD suited me just fine, even with the bright summer sun hitting the camera from above.
The pictures, as expected, look great. The camera did a fine job of exposing, and colors and white balance were spot on. Everything I loved about the previous RX100 is present here, too, so you can absolutely expect a top-shelf experience through and through. The one notable setback is the price. It'll run you $750, which admittedly is a bit more than we'd like to pay for a point-and-shoot, regardless of its performance. But when you start looking at this strictly as an ILC replacement, that sky-high price tag begins to make a bit more sense. Cheap it's not, but if you want the absolute best, consider this your only option.