Sony RX0 Mark II
As you can see in the illustration below, the RX0 Mark II is tiny.
It’s quite solidly constructed, has a 180-degree tiltable screen, internal 4K video recording and improved stabilisation. The RX0 Mark II is waterproof to 10 metres, dustproof, able to withstand a drop of two metres and crushproof enough to resist a force of 200 Kg.
Sony doesn’t classify either of its RX0 cameras as ‘action cameras’, instead listing them on the page dedicated to its fixed-lens compact cameras. We disagree; both models have similar constraints to other action cameras due to their small sizes and limited range of controls. Although it’s well built and offers a bit more than the average action camera, the RX0 Mark II lacks some key features from a photographer’s viewpoint.
We didn’t review Sony’s original RX0 camera, which was announced on 31 October 2017 but, despite its lack of optical viewfinder, we decided the new model (announced on 26 March this year) was interesting enough to justify a review. While it’s much the same size as its predecessor and has the same sensor and image processor, the RX0 Mark II has been improved in a number of ways – most of them designed to make it more useful for vloggers and selfie shooters.
Angled view of the new Sony RX0 Mark II camera. (Source: Sony.)
Sony doesn’t classify either of its RX0 cameras as ‘action cameras’, instead listing them on the page dedicated to its fixed-lens compact cameras. We disagree; both models have similar constraints to other action cameras due to their small sizes and limited range of controls. Although it offers a bit more than the average action camera, the RX0 Mark II lacks some key features from a photographer’s viewpoint.
On the plus side, it’s waterproof to 10 metres, dustproof, able to withstand a drop of two metres and crushproof enough to resist a force of 200 Kg. However, unlike some waterproof cameras, the RX0 Mark II will sink when placed in water so a secure strap should be attached to prevent loss when using it for water-based activities.
On the minus side, even though the menu includes a manual exposure setting, the only functions you can adjust are shutter speed and ISO sensitivity. The lens aperture is fixed at f/4 and if you wish to adjust exposure compensation, it’s a separate setting on page 5 of the stills shooting menu, just above the ISO settings.
The slowest shutter speed available is one quarter of a second, which is inadequate for most low-light shooting. The highest sensitivity is ISO 12800, which can be noise-prone unless you get the exposure absolutely spot-on – which is challenging when it’s almost impossible to gauge via the screen image.
Although there’s no shortage of shooting modes, most of them involve automatic exposures. The menu lists two ‘Auto’ settings for stills and one for video recording, all with scene recognition. The Superior Auto stills mode is able to compensate for dark scenes or backlighting (presumably through metering and ISO selection).
Program Auto, Manual and Memory Recall (which re-sets the camera to a pre-registered configuration) are available for both stills and movies, while the movie menu adds two High Frame Rate modes for slow-motion playback, one with programmed auto exposure and the other with manual exposure. That, as they say, is your lot!
Build and Ergonomics
It would be hard to find a better example of miniaturisation in today’s market, although it’s been achieved through a lot of compromises and considerable reduction in capabilities. As you can see in the illustration below, the RX0 Mark II’s body is tiny, although it’s quite solidly constructed.
This illustration shows just how small the RX0 Mark II actually is. (Source: Sony.)
The monitor can now be tilted up to face forwards for selfie shooting and vlogging and a new Soft Skin Effect mode can provide in-camera corrections to suppress minor blemishes and wrinkles. Sony has also improved colour reproduction in the new model.
Although the lens focal length is unchanged from 7.9mm ( 24mm in 35mm equivalent) its close focusing distance has been reduced from 50 cm in the original RX0 to 20 cm in the new camera, making it a better option for portraits and table-top photos.
Build quality is up to Sony’s usual standards, although the overall design of the camera makes it far from easy to operate, unless you’re happy to stick with fully-automatic shooting. The tiny monitor screen is much more difficult to ‘read’ in bright outdoor lighting than larger, 3-inch screens and the icons, letters and numbers identifying different settings are so small you almost needs a magnifying glass to recognise them.
Toggling through settings is visually challenging, even in ideal conditions because the menu and OK buttons and up/down, left-right arrows are too small to be operated by anything larger than the tip of a fingernail. This camera is unsuitable for anyone with poor vision or limited dexterity. But there are further (irritating) hurdles to overcome.
If you want to adjust ISO sensitivity you must shoot in Manual mode, which means you’re also required to adjust the shutter speed settings. You don’t get much help in gauging exposure levels since there’s no histogram display and the online manual warns that the display doesn’t necessarily reflect the true brightness level in the resulting image, something we discovered when taking our Imatest shots.
A zebra display is available to show areas in the scene that may be over-exposed. But you have to set a base exposure level first and, again, the small size of the monitor screen makes it difficult to see unless it covers a large area of the scene.
It’s difficult to hold such a small camera steady when shooting so we accepted the offer of the GP-VPT1 shooting grip (RRP AU$149), which also doubles as a mini tripod. It attaches to the camera via the tripod socket and a build-in USB cable, which is plugged into the slot on the camera (thereby negating its waterproof capabilities.
The GP-VPT1 shooting grip makes it easier to hold the camera steady when recording video or capturing still pictures in low light levels. (Source: Sony.)
It’s not specific to the RX0 Mark II so the mounting plate is on the large side. There are three controls on the grip for shooting stills, movies and zooming. But it can make the camera easier to shoot with, especially for recording movie clips. (See below for more information.)
Most of the remaining changes are internal and include the addition of 4K video recording, which distinguishes the new model from its predecessor. Two video file formats are available, Sony’s proprietary XAVC S format and the more widely-used AVCHD.
4K movies can only be recorded in XAVC S format and a Class 10 or higher micro SDHC/SDXC memory card is the minimum requirement. A UHS-I (U3) card is required for 100Mbps recording at the highest quality. You get a choice between 25p 100M and 25p 60M, and there’s not much difference between them.
Full HD (1080p) video can also be recorded in XAVC S format, where there are four options: 50p 50M, 50p 25M, 25p 50M and 25p 16M. AVCHD video is restricted to Full HD with a choice between 50i and 50p compression.
The RX0 Mark II can support internal 4K/25p recording with full pixel readout and no pixel binning, which captures approximately 1.7 times the amount of data required for 3840 x 2160-pixel resolution. This data oversampling reduces the visibility of moiré and jaggies and delivers smooth footage with detail and depth.
Support for Picture Profile, S-Log2 and Time Code / User Bit functions ensures maximum post-production latitude. The new camera can also deliver uncompressed 4K HDMI output to an external device and supports simultaneous proxy movie recording.
A new High Frame Rate setting is supposed to be able to record at up to 1000 fps for Super Slow Motion playback. But we didn’t have a fast enough microSD card to try it. Interval shooting has been added for time-lapse photography and the resulting files can be viewed and edited with Sony’s Imaging Edge software, which has its own issues (see below).
In-body electronic stabilisation has been introduced, although it works by cropping the frame. In addition, a new Movie Edit add-on application is available for providing further stabilisation when footage is exported to a smartphone or tablet. It also provides a new ‘Intelligent Framing’ function that keeps the selected subject in the centre of the frame. Image distortion is corrected in a final edit.
Other processing enhancements include an Anti-distortion Shutter similar to those in the latest RX10 and RX100 cameras and Eye-detection AF, which is similar to the function included in Sony’s interchangeable-lens cameras. Focus will lock onto the eye of a subject when the shutter is half-pressed and users can select which eye to focus upon in the menu and assign it to a custom button.
Rating and Protect functions have been added to the playback menu, allowing them to be applied in the camera. Up to five RX0 II cameras can be controlled wirelessly via Sony’s Imaging Edge Mobile application and an up-coming access point will enable control of between five and 50 cameras concurrently. The RX0 Mark II is also compatible with the Camera Control Box CCB-WD1, which enables up to 100 cameras to be connected and controlled in a wired multi-camera setup.
On the downside, the RX0 Mark II’s standard burst speed has fallen to 3.5 frames/second (fps), compared with 5.5 fps for the RX0. Both cameras have the same maximum continuous shooting speed of 16 fps with focus and exposure fixed on the first frame.
Who’s it For?
Photographers interested in the RX0 Mark II will likely be attracted by its small size and light weight, both of which make it a good option for travellers. Its waterproof, dustproof, shockproof and crushproof will also appeal to these buyers, while the 180-degree tiltable LCD monitor and the availability of the VCT-SGR1 shooting grip, GP-VPT1 grip/mini tripod and VCT-P300 mini tripod can make it useful for bloggers and vloggers.
The new model has the advantage of being able to record 4K (3840 x 2160) video at 25 frames/second (fps). However, you can’t control recording from a smartphone because the function is disabled in 4K movie mode – although, interestingly, not for FHD 1080i/p recording.
Although launching with an AU$100 lower price than the original RX0, both these cameras are quite pricey for what you get. A few local online re-sellers have the RX0 Mark II listed at just under $900. In contrast, the original RX0 can be found at prices between $600 and $700.
Sensor and Image Processing
The RX0 Mark II boasts a 1.0-type (13.2 x 8.8 mm) stacked Exmor RS CMOS image sensor that delivers an effective maximum resolution of 15.3 megapixels. It’s paired with an advanced BIONZ X image processor that supports both JPEG and ARW.RAW files for stills plus XAVCS and AVCHD (V.2.0) for video.
Four aspect ratios are available for shooting stills, with images sizes as shown in the table below. (The VGA setting in the 4:3 aspect ratio options harks back to an early TV format.)
|3:2||4800 x 3200||3408 x 2272||2400 x 1600|
|4:3||4272 x 3200||3024 x 2272||2128 x 1600||640 x 480|
|16:9||4800 x 2704||3408 x 1920||2400 x 1352|
|1:1||3200 x 3200||2272 x 2272||1600 x 1600|
Two continuous shooting settings are provided, although there’s not much information to help you decide between them in the user manual. As far as we’ve been able to determine, the regular continuous shooting mode can adjust focus and exposure from shot-to shot, while the Speed Priority Continuous mode can’t. Like its predecessor, the RX0 Mark II can support up to 16 fps in Speed Priority Continuous mode but only 3.5 fps for regular continuous shooting (compared with 5.5 fps for the RX0).
Playback and Software
Image playback is very basic, with only the standard view, enlarge, delete, index and group display options available for stills and play/delete for movies. Play options include the normal play, pause, fast forward/rewind and slow forward/rewind as well as jumping to the previous/next movie file and audio volume adjustment.
No software is bundled with the camera and you don’t even get a decent user manual. The printed document is a single (folded) sheet that provides a very basic start-up guide in small print. The user manual is online and not especially helpful.
We didn’t bother with the Sony RAW Driver since the RX0 Mark II is supported in the latest version of Adobe Camera Raw, our preferred raw file converter.
Wi-Fi is built into the RX0 Mark II, along with low energy Bluetooth so you’d think it would be easy to operate the camera remotely from the larger screens on phones or tablets. We tried to install Imaging Edge Mobile on both our Galaxy S7 phone and a Pixelbook tablet – to no avail. In each case, initiating the download pulled up the message ‘Installing’, which remained on the screen for more than half an hour without showing any progress for the installation – so we gave up.
The GP-VPT1 Shooting Grip
The GP-VPT1 combines a mini tripod with a shooting grip. The three tripod legs fit together to form a comfortable handle, on top of which sits a ‘camera seat’ with a ‘mounting knob’ that screws into the tripod socket on the camera body.
It’s designed mainly for camcorders and is a bit big for the RX0 Mark II, although it does provide some features that can make it easier to keep the tiny camera steady while shooting, particularly for recording video clips. A cable runs from the base of the camera seat assembly, ending in a USB plug that connects to the socket on the camera body.
Once the camera is connected, three basic controls are available via buttons on the sloping top of the largest ‘leg’ of the tripod: start/stop for video recording, zoom and photo button (for recording a still frame. Users can adjust the grip angle by pressing and holding down a large button opposite the cable anchor point.
The supplied instructions advise users to remove the camera from the grip when it’s not being used and carry the camera and grip in their supplied pouches. The grip adds about 116 grams to the overall weight of the camera.
Because of their differences in size, the RX0 Mark II looks awkward when mounted on the grip, although the assemblage is quite functional. Potential purchasers of the camera who worry about problems that might arise from its small size and tiny controls could find that grip useful, although the combination of camera and grip will be larger and heavier than a dedicated compact camera on its own.
We conducted our normal Imatest tests across the RX0 Mark II’s sensitivity range, which extends from ISO 80 to ISO 12800. Raw files from the camera were converted into 16-bit TIFF format using Adobe Camera Raw.
With a fixed lens aperture of f/4 and a minimum shutter speed of 1/4 second, there was little flexibility for low light exposures and no scope to explore any influence lens aperture might have had on imaging performance. As mentioned above, it was difficult to establish exposure levels so we ended up recording exposures at each ISO setting across three exposure levels.
Interestingly, we obtained the highest resolution at ISO 80 although, from the results we obtained through analysing converted raw files, it would appear the base ISO setting for this camera is around ISO 200. This figure that appeared as the reference ISO for all the TIFF images we analysed, regardless of the actual ISO setting when the exposure was made.
There wasn’t much difference in the results we obtained from Large/Fine JPEGs and converted ARW.RAW files, which suggests it might not be worth bothering with raw files when using this camera. The graph below shows the results of our tests.
Colour reproduction was pretty average, with both JPEGs and converted raw files showing slightly elevated saturation, as you might expect from a point-and-shoot camera. Colour accuracy was slightly better in the converted raw files, which had fewer and smaller colour shifts. But both file formats showed colour shifts.
Given the camera’s limitations it was difficult to carry out all our standard tests to the level we find satisfactory and provide viable assessments of the end results. The auto shooting modes appeared to set an upper limit of ISO 6400 by default and low light shots at that sensitivity were relatively free of noise. In very low light levels the 1/4-second shutter speed limit proved very limiting and recovering details from underexposed images resulted in very noticeable noise.
The auto white balance setting produced close-to-neutral colours under fluorescent lighting but, as expected, failed to eliminate the orange cast from incandescent lights and warm LEDs. The incandescent and fluorescent pre-sets tended to over-correct and, although manual measurement and colour adjustments are provided, the controls and small screen made them frustrating to use so we gave up after a couple of tries.
Autofocusing was much as you’d expect from an action camera; reasonably fast in bright lighting but a bit erratic near the camera’s exposure boundaries. This was true for both stills and video recording. Motion tracking when recording movie clips was quite good, aided by the relatively small sensor and small lens aperture.
The lens was flare-prone when pointed towards a bright light source, even at an angle. When the light was at the edge of the frame both veiling flare and bright streaks were relatively common in shots.
Video quality was good enough for everyday use but far from outstanding, even when recorded in 4K format. The soundtracks were slightly lacking in definition, which isn’t surprising for a camera of this size.
We didn’t run any formal timing tests because of the limitations imposed by the screen and the fact that the camera didn’t have an indicator light to show processing times. It was just too difficult to gauge figures accurately at the size at which they were displayed. However, we estimate the review camera took roughly one second to power up, once the memory card database had been ‘built’. Shot-to-shot intervals were also about one second, depending upon how fast and consistently one could keep pressing the shutter button.
The continuous recording times also appeared to be close to specifications, with a maximum burst speed of 16 fps in Speed Priority mode and 3.5 fps for regular burst shooting. Buffer capacities were close to those specified.
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Image sensor: 13.2 x 8.8 mm Exmor RS CMOS sensor with 21 million photosites (15.3 megapixels effective)
Image processor: BIONZ X
Lens: Zeiss Tessar T* 7.9mm f/4.0 lens (24mm equivalent in 35mm format)
Zoom ratio: Clear Image Zoom – 15M approx. 2x / 7.7M approx. 2.8x / 3.8M approx. 4x / VGA approx. 13x; Digital Zoom – 15M approx. 4x / 7.7M approx. 5.6x / 3.8M approx. 8x / VGA approx. 13x; approx. 4x digital zoom for movies
Image formats: Stills – JPEG DCF 2.0, Exif 2.31), ARW.RAW (V. 2.3) ; Movies – XAVCS, AVCHD (V.2.0) with 2 channel stereo audio
Image Sizes: Stills – 3:2 aspect: 4800 x 3200, 3408 x 2272, 2400 x 1600; 4:3 aspect: 4272 x 3200, 3024 x 2272, 2128 x 1600, 640 x 480; 16:9 aspect: 4800 x 2704, 3408 x 1920, 2400 x 1352; 1:1 aspect: 3200 x 3200, 2272 x 2272, 1600 x 1600; Movies – XAVC S 4K (3840 x 2160): 25p 100M, 25p 60M; XAVC S HD (1920 x 1080): 50p 50M, 50p 25M, 25p 50M, 25p 25M, 100p 60M, 100p 100M; AVCHD: 1920 x 1080 50i 24m, 50i 17M
Shutter (speed range): Electronic shutter (1/4 to 1/32000 second)
Self-timer: Delays of 10sec., 5sec. or 2sec. / 3 or 5 consecutive or bracketing shots with 10sec. 5sec. or 2sec. delay selectable
Image Stabilisation: Electronic stabilisation for movies
Exposure Compensation: +/- 3EV (in 1/3 EV steps)
Focus system/range: Contrast-detection AF with single-shot, preset and manual modes; range: 20 cm to infinity
Focus area selection: Wide (25 points), Centre, Flexible Spot (S/M/L), Expanded Flexible Spot; Eye AF available
Exposure metering/control: Multi-segment, Centre-weighted, Spot (Standard/Large), Entire screen Average and Highlight modes
Shooting modes: Program Auto, Manual Exposure, MR(Memory Recall) [body 3 sets / memory card 4 sets], Movie Mode (Intelligent Auto), Movie Mode (Program Auto), Movie Mode (Manual Exposure), HFR Mode (Program Auto, Manual Exposure), Intelligent Auto, Superior Auto
In-camera adjustments: Contrast, Saturation, Sharpness, Creative Style, Colour Space (sRGB / Adobe RGB), Quality (RAW / RAW&JPEG / Extra fine / Fine / Standard), Dynamic Range Optimiser (Auto/Level 1-5), Auto High Dynamic Range (Auto Exposure Difference, Exposure difference Level – 1.0-6.0EV, 1.0EV step)
Creative Style modes: Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Clear, Deep, Light, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, Night Scene, Autumn Leaves, Black & White, Sepia, Style Box
Picture Effect settings: [Still Image]: Pop Colour, Posterisation, Retro Photo, Soft High-key, Partial Colour, High Contrast Mono., Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Richtone Monochrome, Miniature, Watercolour, Illustration; [Movie]: Pop Colour, Posterisation, Retro Photo, Soft High-key, Partial Colour, High Contrast Mono.
ISO range: Auto, ISO 125-12800 selectable in 1/3EV steps with upper/lower limit; expansion to ISO 80, ISO 100 available for shooting stills
White balance: Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent (x4), Underwater, Auto, Kelvin Temperature/Filter, Custom; WB micro adjustment G7-M7 and A7-B7
Flash modes/range (ISO auto):
Sequence shooting: Speed Priority Continuous Shooting: approx. 16 fps, Continuous Shooting: approx. 3.5 fps
Buffer memory depth (based on tests): JPEGs, raw files, RAW+JPEG
Storage Media: micro SDXC/SDHC card (UHS-I U3 compatible), Memory Stick Micro
LCD monitor: 3.8 cm (1.5-inch type) Clear Photo TFT LCD with 230,000 dots
Interface terminals/communications: Bluetooth Standard Ver. 4.1 (2.4GHz band), USB 2.0 Multi/Micro terminal, Micro HDMI, 3.5mm Stereo mini jack for microphone, Wi-Fi
Power supply: NP-BJ1 rechargeable battery pack; CIPA rated for approx. 240 shots/ 120 min of video per charge; USB charging supported
Dimensions (wxhxd): 59.0 x 40.5 x 35.0 mm
Weight: 132 grams (with battery and memory card)
Distributor: Sony Australia; 1300 720 071; www.sony.com.au.
Based on JPEG files.
Based on ARW.RAW files processed with Adobe Camera Raw.
Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.
Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.
Auto white balance with warm-toned LED lighting.
ISO 80, 1/4 second at f/4.
ISO 160, 1/4 second at f/4.
ISO 800,1/4 second at f/4.
ISO 3200, 1/5 second at f/4.
ISO 6400, 1/8 second at f/4.
ISO 12800, 1/15 second at f/4.
Close-up; ISO 125, 1/200 second at f/4. Note the blown-out highlights in the foreground.
Close-up under artificial lighting; ISO 6400, 1/40 second at f/4.
Strong backlighting; ISO 125, 1/5000 second at f/4.
Flare; ISO 200, 1/25 second at f/4.
Flare streaks; ISO 200, 1/25 second at f/4.
4×3 aspect ratio with backlighting; ISO 125, 1/2000 second at f/4.
4×3 aspect ratio; ISO 6400, 1/80 second at f/4.
4×3 aspect ratio; ISO 125, 1/500 second at f/4.
16×9 aspect ratio; ISO 125, 1/1250 second at f/4.
ISO 2000, 1/50 second at f/4.
ISO 1250, 1/100 second at f/4.
ISO 400, 1/250 second at f/4.
ISO 500, 1/250 second at f/4.
ISO 160, 1/100 second at f/4.
Still frame from XAVC S 4K video clip; 25p 100Mbps.
Still frame from XAVC S 4K video clip; 25p 60Mbps.
Still frame from XAVC S HD 1080p video clip; 50p 50Mbps.
Still frame from XAVC S HD 1080p video clip; 50p 25Mbps.
Still frame from XAVC S HD 1080p video clip; 25p 50Mbps.
Still frame from XAVC S HD 1080p video clip; 25p 16Mbps.
Still frame from AVCHD Full HD (1920 x 1080) video clip; 50i at 24Mbps.
Still frame from AVCHD Full HD (1920 x 1080) video clip; 50i at 17Mbps.
RRP: AU$949; US$699
- Build: 8.7
- Ease of use: 8.0
- Autofocusing: 8.5
- Image quality JPEG: 8.5
- Image quality RAW: 8.6
- Video quality: 8.5