Gear, Travel

Review One Month in Tibet with the Sony RX100M2

Sony RX100M2

On June 27, 2013 Sony officially introduced the Cyber-shot DSC-RX100M2, the successor to their already highly acclaimed RX100. Sony Belgium was so generous to have lent me one for the whole duration of my four-week journey through Tibet (TAR: Tibet Autonomous Region). They received a few cameras days prior to my departure. The courier service delivered one the day before I left. Just in time.

This year, I decided to return to Tibet to visit some other parts of the country. A local travel agency in Lhasa arranged everything for the simple reason that travelling in Tibet is more convenient when an agency is occupied applying for all sorts of licences and permits. Depending on the region you want to visit, different kind of permits are requisite.

Waiting to board a Boeing 747 flying from Amsterdam to Chengdu.

As I was part of an organised group with a fixed schedule and I also wanted all my attention focused on the journey, I deliberately eliminated all excess gear, like laptop and tablet. I didn’t really need to edit images in the field. I only used the RX100M2 and a Moleskine notebook to keep a diary. This decision made the journey more intense, as I was writing all evening instead of staring at a computer screen. My intention was solely to enjoy this fascinating and adventurous tour without being concerned about gear. And much to my surprise, at no point during this journey was I worrying about gear, which was a great relief. I should do this more often, imposing myself with limitations. Beforehand, the Sony RX100M2 seemed to be a well-considered and justified choice as a pocketable carry-along camera. Afterwards, my judgment proved to be correct.

Tibet

I won’t bother you with all sorts of test images and other related charts, nor will I discuss all the technicalities in detail, as that kind of information can be found elsewhere. It is not my intention to write a regular review but rather to look back at how this camera managed to fulfill my expectations and my needs during this particular journey. In this short hands-on review I will share some of my experiences. I also have to mention that I didn’t try all the features, as I’m not interested in built-in Creative Styles, Scene Modes or iAuto to name a few. I always shot in RAW and only used the Aperture Priority and Manual Modes.

Tibet

Some specifications
– 20.2 megapixel 1″ (13,2 x 8,8 mm) Exmor-R Backlit CMOS sensor
– Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens (focal length equivalent 28-100mm, aperture F1.8 – F4.9)
– Auto ISO 160 to 12800 (expandable to ISO 100/125)
– Exposure compensation +/- 3.0 EV, 1/3 EV step
– Customizable buttons
– Built-in pop-up flash
– Built-in flash compensation +/- 2.0 EV, 1/3 EV step
– Multi Interface Hot Shoe
– 1080/60p/24p (1080/50p/25p) HD movie recording (NTSC/PAL switchable)
– Tiltable 3″ 1.229 million dot WhiteMagic LCD screen
– Aluminium body
– Built-in Wi-Fi with NFC (Near Field Communication)

Tibet

What I like
– Very straightforward and easy to operate. I was already familiar with the Sony RX1, so it didn’t take long before I got to know the camera as operation and menus are very similar.
– Light and compact design. Fits in your pocket. Despite its rather tiny size, I could easily walk for hours holding the camera in one hand. It never got uncomfortable.
– Unlike its predecessor, the RX100M2 features a tiltable LCD display allowing users to tilt the screen upwards or downwards. Remarkably, I really enjoyed this feature, albeit until today I have never owned a camera with such a tiltable screen. It appeared to be very practical and useful.
– Surprisingly, the battery life span is pretty good. I could easily shoot up to 300 images before the low-battery-indicator blinked. I carried two spare batteries with me because sometimes we were driving in remote areas for days where electricity was erratic or non-existent.
– Good quality at high ISO. Very usable up to ISO 1600 and even up to 3200 when carefully exposed.
– Reliable and fast autofocus. Even the tracking focus worked pretty well.
– Excellent image quality.
– Customizable buttons: Control Ring (front), some buttons on the Control Wheel, and you can assign up to seven different functions to the Fn button.
– Although the RX100M2 lacks a dedicated dial for exposure compensation, it never felt as a great loss. Exposure compensation is by default assigned to the bottom button of the control wheel. Operating this button while using the camera went quite smoothly.
– Built-in pop-up flash can be positioned upwards using your finger allowing you to modify the angle of light. The position of the flash cannot be locked.
– Built-in pop-up flash not very powerful, but more than adequate for portraits at a short distance.
– Focal length equivalent of 28-100mm is sufficient to cover most needs.

Tibet

What I don’t like
– When reviewing images on the LCD screen, I noticed clipped highlights while the histogram didn’t. Oddly enough, after importing them into Lightroom, exposure was shown correctly.
– The LCD screen is hard to use in bright daylight.
– The battery has to be charged while in the camera. There is no separate battery charger included. You have to buy one separately.
– Auto ISO doesn’t let you set a minimum shutter speed.
– Operating the Control Ring was somehow cumbersome. It didn’t turn very smoothly. I haven’t used it very long as most of the functions I needed could be assigned to other buttons.
– Protect Images is a rather time-consuming process with too many buttons that have to be pushed.
– No built-in neutral density filter, which limits the use of the widest aperture in bright daylight. Apparently, an optional filter adapter is available, although in my opinion this filter should have been built-in from the start.
– Optional accessories like electronic viewfinder, external flash, and stereo microphone (to fit the Multi Interface Hot Shoe) or separate battery charger will significantly increase the price tag.

Tibet

I can’t pronounce a verdict on video and wi-fi capabilities though, I only tested these options very briefly. I never had the intention to use this camera for video recordings but I found out that video quality is very good keeping this camera segment in mind. And as I don’t have an Android-based smartphone or any other NFC-enabled device at my disposal, I couldn’t try the Near Field Communication (NFC). On my iPhone I did try Sony’s PlayMemories App which seemed to work properly. This app allows you to transfer images from the camera directly to your smartphone.

Tibet

Conclusion
I really enjoyed using the RX100M2 during this adventurous journey! For my needs and intended purpose, this camera appeared to be the perfect all-round travelling companion. And yes, it has drawbacks, but they never disturbed nor distracted me. I can highly recommend the Sony RX100M2!

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