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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1 Review

November 2005 | By Phil Askey


Review based on a production Cyber-shot DSC-R1

In August 2003 Sony revealed the latest in a long line of split body swivel design prosumer digital cameras, the eight megapixel DSC-F828. Two long years have passed and it's time for the new Sony prosumer digital camera; the unique and radical Cyber-shot DSC-R1. The R1 drops the split body design of its predecessors in favor of an SLR-like fixed body which is remarkably similar to that of the then ground-breaking and some consider legendary DSC-D700.

However it's not the body design which makes this camera unique (many have copied the DSC-D700), it is the camera's sensor and lens. This is the first all-in-one digital camera to utilize a large (APS size) sensor, to be precise a 10.3 megapixel CMOS unit measuring 21.5 x 14.4 mm which is essentially a slightly smaller version of the sensor used in the Nikon D2X. It's also the first APS size sensor to provide full time live preview to the camera's LCD monitor or EVF (electronic viewfinder). This means that there's no mirror box or prism making the camera more compact and allowing the lens to be positioned much closer to the sensor. Equally as important and interesting is the lens which provides a 24 - 120 mm (equivalent) five times zoom with a maximum aperture of F2.8 - F4.8.

What makes the DSC-R1 unique

  • First non-SLR (fixed lens digital) camera to feature a large format sensor (APS-C size)
  • First use of a CMOS sensor in a non-removable-lens digital camera
  • First large format sensor to provide full-time live preview
  • Widest range of ISO sensitivity for a non-SLR camera; ISO 160 - 3200
  • First digital camera to provide a top-mounted LCD screen
  • First Sony digital camera to support Adobe RGB
  • First implementation of 'Auto Gamma Control' on a Sony digital camera

Sony's "flagship" prosumer line

As I've already mentioned the DSC-R1's body design is very reminiscent of the DSC-D700, a 1.5 megapixel SLR-like digital camera introduced in May 1999. Around six years ago the DSC-D700 would have cost you $1,699, today Sony are pitching the DSC-R1 at the $999 price point.

Advantages of a larger sensor

As noted above the DSC-R1 utilizes an APS size CMOS sensor which is considerably larger than that used in previous compact / prosumer digital cameras. The DSC-F828 for example had a 2/3" CCD which had effective capture area of 8.8 x 6.6 mm, the DSC-R1's sensor is approximately 2.4x wider and 2.2x taller. This larger sensor facilitates larger photosite's, the F828 had a 2.7 µm pixel pitch, the DSC-R1 has a 5.49 µm pixel pitch (and hence has lower lens resolution requirements).

Key technical advantages of the large CMOS sensor (supplied by Sony)

  • Five times the sensitivity compared to the DSC-F828
  • 2.5 times the dynamic range compared to the DSC-F828
  • No smear effect
  • Simpler imaging system for live view
  • Lower power consumption (200 mW vs. 750 mW)

Sony DSC-R1 vs. DSC-F828 specification differences

 
Sony DSC-R1

Sony DSC-F828
Sensor • 21.5 x 14.4 mm CMOS
• 10.3 million effective pixels
• RGB color filter array
• 5.49 µm pixel pitch
• 3:2 aspect ratio
• 2/3" type (8.8 x 6.6 mm) CCD
• 8.0 million effective pixels
• RGBE color filter array
• 2.7 µm pixel pitch
• 4:3 aspect ratio
Lens • 24 - 120 mm equiv. (5x zoom)
• F2.8 - F4.8
• Carl Zeiss T*
• Mechanical linked zoom
• 67 mm thread
• 28 - 200 mm equiv. (7x zoom)
• F2.0 - F2.8
• Carl Zeiss T*
• Mechanical linked zoom
• 58 mm thread
Image sizes • 3888 x 2592
• 3264 x 2176
• 2748 x 1856
• 2160 x 1440
• 1296 x 864
• 3264 x 2448 (plus a 3:2 setting)
• 2592 x 1944
• 2048 x 1536
• 1280 x 960
• 640 x 480
Image formats • RAW (.SR2)
• JPEG
• RAW (.SRF)
• TIFF
• JPEG
AF Illumination Orange lamp Hologram AF (laser pattern)
ISO sensitivity

• Auto ISO
• ISO 160
• ISO 200
• ISO 400
• ISO 800
• ISO 1600
• ISO 3200

• Auto ISO
• ISO 64
• ISO 100
• ISO 200
• ISO 400
• ISO 800
Aperture range • Wide: F2.8 - F16
• Tele: F4.8 - F16
• Wide: F2.0 - F8
• Tele: F2.8 - F8
Continuous 3 fps, up to 3 images 2.5 fps, up to 7 images
Color space • sRGB
• Adobe RGB
sRGB
Image parameters • Color mode: Std, Vivid, Adobe RGB
• Saturation: -, 0, +
• Contrast: -, 0, +, AGCS
• Sharpness: -, 0, +
• Color mode: Real, Standard
• Saturation: -, 0, +
• Contrast: -, 0, +
• Sharpness: -, 0, +
WB Fine Tune Yes, +/-3 levels No
Movies None 640 x 480, 30 fps, no limit *
640 x 480, 16 fps, no limit
160 x 112, 8 fps, no limit
* Can only be used with MS Pro
Flash compensation • +/- 2 EV
• 0.3 EV steps
3 levels
Flash sync • Front
• Rear
Front
Electronic viewfinder 235,000 pixels 235,000 pixels
LCD monitor • 2.0"
• ???,000 pixels
• Top mounted, flip-up and twist
• 1.8"
• 134,000 pixels
• Rear mounted, fixed
Grid line display Yes (option) No
Zebra display Yes (option) No
Weight (inc. batt) 995 g (2.2 lb) 906 g (2.0 lb)
Dimensions 139 x 168 x 97 mm
(5.5 x 6.6 x 3.8 in)
134 x 156 x 91 mm
(5.3 x 6.1 x 3.6 in)
     
Swivel body No Yes
Play mode Shooting priority via button On mode dial and 'Image Review'
Control dials • Thumb dial
• Rear control wheel
Thumb dial
ISO button Top of camera None
WB button Left of camera Top of camera
Power save option Yes No


If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of the image, clicking on the image will display a larger (typically VGA) image in a new window.

To navigate the review simply use the next / previous page buttons, to jump to a particular section either pick the section from the drop down or select it from the navigation bar at the top.

DPReview calibrate their monitors using Color Vision OptiCal at the (fairly well accepted) PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the (computer generated) grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally A,B and C.

This article is Copyright 2005 Phil Askey and the review in part or in whole may NOT be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author. For information on reproducing any part of this review (or any images) please contact: Phil Askey

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Comments

Total comments: 5
Sdaniella
By Sdaniella (2 months ago)

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1: 14.3-71.5mm f/2.8-4.8
Zeiss 73.8∠5.11 ∅ 2.8 ev (Wide)
Zeiss 17.1∠14.9 ∅ 4.8 ev (Tele)

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
biffy7
By biffy7 (3 months ago)

We use this daily (2014). It is slow, but with 2 x 285HV (Original), for product shots. It does a very good job. The color is slightly off. It sits upon a Tiltall tripod from about 25yrs ago. (spotting a trend here). I figure that if I have the equipment sitting around, might as well put it to use.

0 upvotes
Joe186
By Joe186 (3 months ago)

Who’s “we”? Do you have a mouse in your camera bag?

1 upvote
Pascal Parvex
By Pascal Parvex (6 months ago)

Had this camera before I bought my first DSLR, the 5D Classic. It is a capable camera, the first time I bought a Sony, as Canon did not have something comparable. I shot two Tokio Hotel concerts with this one, some pictures with 3200 ISO that turned out usable. Just the red tones are a little bit too speckled. Bought a DSLR afterwards because the R1 is quite slow.

0 upvotes
guyfawkes
By guyfawkes (4 months ago)

Agreed about the speed of handling, and by today's standards, the higher ISO settings are quite poor.

But where these aspects don't really matter, its IQ from the superb Zeiss lens can still give a modern dlsr a run for its money. And it would have to be a top of the range one as well, with top jolly optics.

1 upvote
Total comments: 5