Sony RX1R II Hands-on Test & Review

Sony’s new RX1R II marks the very high end of pocketable cameras. It has a 42-megapixel full-frame sensor, a fixed f/2 Zeiss lens, and boatloads of features. It also has a price to match.

Sony RX1RII Camera
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Filed Under: Compact Cameras, Reviews

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Sony has released their new Cyber-Shot RX1R II model. It’s a small, pocketable body with a fixed lens. Broadly speaking, it’s a bit like a hybrid of a point-and-shoot, a mirrorless camera, and a high-end DSLR, taking elements from each of those classes of cameras. Sony is calling it a “professional compact camera.”

On paper, it has very impressive specs. A full-frame CMOS sensor that produces 42MP images. A fixed 35mm f/2.0 Carl Zeiss lens. It’s brimming with features and technologies—too many to list here. And it’s all wrapped up in a package that can fit in a coat pocket.

But here’s the kicker: it’s priced at $3900 (UPDATE: Sony has since reduced the MSRP to $3300). That’s a number that’s hard to ignore, and it’s impossible not to judge a compact camera in that price range–or any camera, for that matter–without very high expectations.

I’ve been shooting with it for a month or so. The camera is loaded with specs on paper—far too many for me to review every feature here—but here’s how it performed in real-world shooting. And if you’re looking for high-resolution sample images shot with this camera, I have some here.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 RII Digital Still Camera
  • 42MP Full-Frame Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor
  • BIONZ X Image Processor
  • Variable Optical Low-Pass Filter
  • Zeiss Sonnar T* 35mm f/2 Lens

Handling & Build

Size and Portability. One of the defining features of this camera is its size. For such a small package it includes some really impressive capabilities.

That said, it’s significantly larger than the average point-and-shoot size mostly because of the size of the lens. The whole thing fit in my coat’s pockets but is too big for something like trouser pockets, for example.

Sony RX1RII Camera

Sony’s measurements are 4.5 inches wide by 2.6 inches high (11.3 x 6.5 cm) and 2.8 inches (7.2 cm) deep from the tip of the lens to the back of the camera.

It weighs 1.12 pounds (507 grams). It feels solid in the hand–heavier than you expect thanks to the alloy body and glass in the lens.

Sony RX1RII Camera

Buttons and Controls. Taking a cue from many of the other retro-styled cameras that have hit the market in recent years, it has old-style dials on top to select the exposure mode. And the shutter button is even a threaded type used for mechanical shutter release cables.

Sony RX1RII Camera

The other buttons and dials elsewhere on the camera are pretty standard. A few are programmable. A rotating dial on the back is the primary means of navigating the menus on the screen.

Sony RX1RII Camera
The main controls on the back are logically laid out and not overdone. Some of them can be programmed with functions of your choice.
Sony RX1RII Camera
Sony RX1RII Camera
It has retro-styled dials on top for the shooting mode, power, and exposure compensation. The shutter release even harks back to the old style with a center thread for a mechanical remote shutter release. In manual mode, the shutter speed is changed with the dial on the back next to the play button.

LCD Screen. The back screen is bright and responsive. But, surprisingly, it’s not a touch screen.

It also tilts, which can come in very handy when shooting from below eye level.

Sony RX1RII Camera
The back screen folds up and out.

Viewfinder. It has a pop-up electronic viewfinder that comes out from the left side and folds down into the camera’s body when not in use. In general, I prefer using a viewfinder rather than a back screen live view, but I have a strong preference for optical viewfinders. The digital one that this one uses does have some impressive overlay tools and was bright, but ultimately I preferred not using it. The digital view it projects just isn’t to much liking, and I found myself using the back screen for live view.

Shooting Still Images

You can find some sample images here.

It has a 42.4 megapixel (effective) full-frame CMOS sensor with a variable low-pass filter. It generates JPEG or 14-bit uncompressed RAW images.

The lens is a 35mm f/2 Carl Zeiss lens. It all amounts to superb image quality of the kind you expect from a high-end DSLR.

Sony image sensors are among the best in the business, and the one they’ve put in this camera is among their very best.

It shows. There’s really not much I can fault in terms of image quality. The combination of sensor and lens works very well indeed in a wide range of lighting conditions.

Sony RX1RII Camera
It has a fixed Carl Zeiss Sonnar 35mm focal length lens with a relatively fast maximum aperture of f/2. It uses a 49mm thread for attaching filters.

I also found the autofocus to be unusually good, even with tracking fast-moving subjects.

Image Sizes & Formats. The default size for still images is the maximum 42 megapixels, which produces images that are 7952 by 5304 pixels. In the RAW format, Sony’s .arw format, they come out at roughly 86 megabytes per size.

At that rate, you can fill up memory cards very quickly, so you can also dial down the image size, with a bunch of steps down to a 7.1-megapixel size.

You can shoot RAW or RAW + JPEG, with a choice of quality settings for the JPEGs in the RAW + JPEG option.

For aspect ratio, you can choose the default 3:2 or 4:3, 16:9, or 1:1. Not all aspect ratios are available at all size settings.

Low Light / High ISO

The basic ISO sensitivity range is from ISO 100 to 25,600. That can also be extended down to ISO 50 and up to ISO 102,400. Those are the kinds of numbers that you get on top-end DSLRs.

In practice, I found the images up to at least ISO 25,600 to be extraordinarily good. Even at ISO 3200 there’s really no noticeable noise to speak of. If you really push things up to the upper limit, there’s certainly noise and the color and tone fidelity drops off quite a lot, but if it’s the difference between getting a shot or not, even the images at 102,400 are very serviceable.

Overall, there’s good reason that Sony is top of the heap at the moment when it comes to sensors, and this camera makes excellent use of that expertise.

Macro Mode

The lens has a macro switch on the front of the lens. The minimum focus distance with the macro setting is 7.9 inches (20 cm) (the minimum focus distance in normal shooting is 11.8 inches (30 cm).

Sony RX1RII Camera
The aperture ring is an old-style mechanical aperture ring. In front of that is the macro switch. And on the very front is the manual focus ring.

I’m of two minds about the way the macro is switched on and off with this. On the one hand, having it on the lens is easy to see if you’re looking down at the camera. There’s also an indicator on the LCD screen when it’s on. On the other hand, I found that it was two easy to accidentally move it, especially with the aperture dial being not far away on the lens. And if you have the macro enabled and try to take a regular-distance photo you’ll end up with a very blurry image. Overall, it’s easy enough to get used to after some use, but even after shooting with it for a while I still sometimes go to take a shot only to see a blurry image in the Live View.


This camera is very much geared to still photos, but it does have some video capabilities. Compared to many other cameras on the market, though, these aren’t especially impressive.

The highest-resolution video setting is 1080p. And the fastest framerate is 60 fps. And it has a maximum recording time of 30 minutes.

In general, the video capabilities are pretty rudimentary. It certainly doesn’t rival something like the Panasonic Lumix GH4 in terms of video, and if you plan on shooting video more than occasionally, you’ll probably want to be looking at other options for that.

But in a nice touch, you can also choose to record both a high-quality XAVC-format video at the same time as an MP4. The latter is far more convenient if you want to share the video quickly without running it through video editing software.

Raves & Quibbles


  • The image quality is excellent. It has a top-notch full-frame sensor, and that’s put to good use.
  • Excellent lens. Sharp, fast, and top-shelf optics.
  • The autofocus works unusually well, even in the face recognition and tracking modes.
  • Small and portable.


As impressive as it is, there are some things that could be improved. Here are some of the ones I ran into.

  • It’s slow to turn on. That’s not ideal for fleeting moment shots that you often run into with street photography.
  • The maximum shutter speed is 1/4000 sec. In bright daylight conditions, that’s not fast enough for the f/2 large aperture. There’s no built-in ND setting, as some newer cameras have, to overcome this.
  • The back screen is too soft and scratches far too easily. I’d highly recommend both a screen protector and a good camera case.
  • The screen refresh is frustratingly slow.
  • The battery doesn’t last long. Precisely how long, of course, depends on the shooting settings you’re using, but it feels like it needs a bigger battery. I’d definitely recommend picking up a spare.
  • When you plug the camera in to charge via the micro USB cable, there’s no light on the camera to indicate it’s actually charging. To see that it is, you have to power on the camera and check that the small AC icon is showing up to the battery indicator on the LCD screen. It would be nice to have a small LED charging indicator light on the camera itself (there is one on the dedicated battery charger).

Miscellaneous Notes

Key Specs

  • It has a full-frame 42.4 megapixel sensor that produces images measuring 7952 x 5304 pixels.
  • It has a mechanical shutter with a fastest shutter speed of 1/4000. It does not have an electronic shutter.
  • It has a native ISO range of 100 to 25,600 and an extended ISO range up to 102,4000 (and down to ISO 50).
  • The burst photo mode maxes out at 5 fps.
  • It has built-in wi-fi connectivity with NFC (Near Field Communication) to simplify connecting. But it doesn’t have Bluetooth.
  • The lens is a ZEISS Sonnar T*, 8 elements in 7 groups (3 aspherical elements including anti-aliasing filter)
  • The back screen is 7.5cm (3.0 type) (4:3) / 1,228,800 dots / Xtra Fine / TFT LCD.
  • The electronic viefinder is 0.39-type (OLED) with 2,359,296 dots. It has 100 percent coverage.

Processing Sony RX1R II Images in Lightroom Classic

If you’re processing the camera’s RAW images in Lightroom, you might want to change the profile setting under Camera Calibration. Lightroom defaults to the Adobe Standard profile, but that doesn’t work especially well with Sony’s RAW files. The colors are a bit washed out and the tones cool. The Camera Standard profile is a much better starting point and will more closely match the look you get on the camera’s own screen.


You can find a digital version of the Sony RX1R II instruction manual here [PDF].

Model Number

You’ll see this camera referred to with a couple of different model numbers, even by Sony themselves. Sometimes it’s the Sony RX1R II; other times, including in the EXIF data, it’s the Sony DSC-RX1RM2. You’ll also sometimes see it referred to as the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX1R II. They all refer to the same camera. On the camera itself, it has RX1R without the “II.”


Sony has various types of its SteadyShot in-camera image stabilization in its range of cameras, including optical stabilization and digital stabilization. The SteadyShot type on this camera is digital stabilization and applies only to shooting videos/movies.

Wrap Up

There’s no question this camera produces the best quality images of any pocket-sized camera I’ve used. In fact, it’s better than many larger cameras. With a few qualifications, the handling and performance is also excellent.

But is a small camera with a fixed lens and no zoom worth nearly $4000? For many users, probably not. After all, for that money, you can get one of the top-of-the-line Sony Alpha mirrorless cameras or their equivalent from Nikon or Canon. With those, you get basically the same (or sometimes better) image quality, more features (eg. electronic shutter, higher-spec video), and infinitely more flexibility by the simple virtue that they’re interchangeable-lens cameras. But they’re also bigger and more cumbersome. The Sony RX1R II, on the other hand, fits in a pocket or a handbag, making it highly portable as well as discreet. And there are many photographers, myself included, who prefer the experience of shooting with minimalist equipment so long as it doesn’t mean compromising image quality.

It’s not a camera that fits naturally into a specific use or category. It’s impressive in many ways and good at lots of things, but not necessarily a slam dunk for a particular use that comes to mind. It would work very well as a lightweight travel camera. You’ll get great-quality shots out of it, but some users might find the fixed 35mm focal length lens too limiting. It would also work well for street photography, but it faces strong competition there from cameras like the Fujifilm X100V, Ricoh GR III, or even the Fujifilm X-Pro3. They use cropped APS-C sensors but are also smaller and much lower in price. None of them are true apples-to-apples competitors for the RX1R II in terms of features, but they do overlap in terms of likely uses cases.

Clearly, there are photographers who aren’t going to be put off by the RX1R II’s price tag, and while I wouldn’t expect the RX1R II to be flying off the shelves by the crate-load, I would expect that any of its new owners are going to really enjoy shooting with it. If you can get past the price, and its features are a good fit for the kind of photography you want to use it for, the Sony RX1R II is a gem of a camera.

Sony RX1R II Price & Availability

The Sony RXR1R II originally had an MSRP of around $3900, which is what it was when I originally reviewed it. Since then, Sony has reduced the MSRP down to around $3300, which is still not cheap, but it seems more in line with its features and competition.

Buy New

Check the current price and availability at:

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 RII Digital Still Camera
  • 42MP Full-Frame Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor
  • BIONZ X Image Processor
  • Variable Optical Low-Pass Filter
  • Zeiss Sonnar T* 35mm f/2 Lens

Buy Used

You might also have luck finding used RX1R II’s in good condition. These places are well worth a try:

Images and product information from Amazon PA-API were last updated on 2023-09-26 at 12:21. Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon Site at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

David Coleman / Photographer

David Coleman

I'm a professional freelance travel photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. My images have appeared in numerous publications, and you can check out some of my travel photography here. More »