The Sony RX100 II: Worth $750? Russ Johnson Previews

Carneros Cropped Photo Russell Johnson
Written by Russ Johnson

Travel editor Russ Johnson previews the new Sony RX100 II, which, like its predecessor, is pricey. Russ Johnson digs in. — You can’t see it, you wouldn’t know it, but I’m packing a concealed weapon these days. In my pocket.

My concealed creative weapon is a Sony RX100, a model Sony introduced last year. In my view, it’s the best travel camera ever in both form and function. That’s saying a lot because I see a lot of cameras.  But now Sony is tugging at my heart and purse strings with its improved RX100 II.
Sony RX100 IIShown above, the Sony RX100 II. Image credit: Sony 

The Roman numeral suggests a pedigree — that it is heir to some dynasty. That is true in a sense. Most reviewers pegged the RX100 as the best camera of its kind in 2012. I was among them.

The new II, or the Mark II as it is called, adds some hocus pocus called backside illumination that, according to Sony execs, makes its one-inch sensor 40 percent more sensitive.

The wiring is placed behind instead of in the front of the sensors on the chip allowing more light to pass. It is a camera technology already found in Apple iPads and mobile phones, but Sony has adapted it to a larger sensor.

The Mark II adds a tiltable viewfinder for high and low-angle shooting and Wi-Fi and Near Field Communication (NFC) connections that let you transfer pictures to your phone or tablet. In the case of NFC, you just tap the two devices together: Tag, you’re it. It’s possible to use your device as a remote control — so that what the camera sees streams to its screen. The II also adds a hot shoe for attaching a microphone, electronic viewfinder (which is more than half the price of the camera) or flash.

This little camera is looking serious.

But Holy Mother of Ansel Adams, its costs $750.00 U.S. — ouch. I winced when my wife presented me with last year’s $650 model for my birthday. So much for the new dishwasher. But oh, did she get a big hug. The cost was well worth it.

Ft. Ross, CA - Photo Russell JohnsonPhoto above of Ft. Ross, CA. This was one of my first shots with the Sony RX100  Photo Credit: Russ Johnson,

A couple of years ago I slashed my travel gear to a single DSLR, an extra lens and a little Panasonic pocket camera as a backup. I shot stills and video with both. I often, however, ended up leaving the DSLR in my hotel room and tucking the little point-and-shoot in my pocket as I wandered the wonders of some strange place.

The Panny was light and pocketable, the quality was adequate and I could shoot on the sly.

The DSLR was … BIG. I was an ox with a yoke around my neck. Many of Henri Cartier Bresson’s famous Paris candids were shot with a tiny Leica, just a little bit bigger than today’s point-and-shoots.
Carneros Cropped Photo Russell JohnsonA 20 megapixel photo cropped to 8 megapixels. Photo Credit: Russ Johnson,

Now my Sony travels with me everywhere. Its one-inch sensor, like that of the new model, packs 20 megapixels. I know, more megapixels can be like more cheese on a pizza. Not necessary and often unhealthy. More pixels can mean more noise, but the Sony’s picture holds up. That 20MP also makes up for the camera’s short 28-100mm zoom range. I shoot knowing that I can crop later. The lens opens up to F1.8 at its wide angle setting. On my DSLR I would have to switch lenses to get that speed. That would mean carrying a camera bag.

New York Street Photo Russell JohnsonNew York Street: Sony RX100 1/80 sec, F1.8, ISO 1600. Photo credit: Russ Johnson,

The new model, like its predecessor, also has a menu setting that turns off the shutter sound, which helps when you are shooting in, say, a cathedral, where the echo of a DSLR is sure to induce a scowl from the preacher. Once a priest in an English church tried to grab my camera while shouting, “Copyright infringement!”

While the RX100 II does offer attractive new bells and whistles, some professional touches and a slightly improved sensor, I am going to hold off judgment until I can actually hold one. The old RX100 pushed the limits of pocketability. The RX100 II is 1/10 inch fatter and 1.4 oz heavier. That doesn’t seem like much, but will it replace the old model as my pixel packin’ mama?

Click here for the specs.

Based in Sonoma, California, Russ Johnson is the founder of Travelmedia and a senior editor at covering travel. Email him at and follow him @connectedtravlr.