The DSC-R1 provides a very Sony-typical (and honestly disappointing) three level adjustment for color saturation, contrast and sharpness. Come on Sony this isn't a consumer-grade camera, to be taken seriously at this price level potential buyers expect more control over image parameters than this.
Image parameter adjustments
- Saturation: -1, 0, +1
- Contrast: -1, 0, +1, AGCS
- Sharpness: -1, 0, +1
Sony's AGCS (Advanced Gradation Control System) is (according to their PR) supposed to, "optimizes image contrast, in order to avoid “blown out” highlights in high-contrast scenes and “crushed” blacks in low-contrast ones. AGCS evaluates the distribution of brightness and then automatically applies the appropriate gamma curve to achieve better pictures."
Looking at the example shown on sony.co.jp we assumed that this was intended as some kind of digital fill-flash feature as executed in different forms by other manufacturers (HP and Nikon come to mind). However we couldn't achieve anything like the example shown on sony.co.jp or anything which even demonstrated improved gradation or image brightness in a backlight situation.
Indeed while AGCS does deliver a slightly different result than using the -1 contrast setting it's so subtle as to be hardly noticed. As you can see from the example below Photoshop's Shadow/ Highlight adjustment feature does a much better job.
|Contrast: Normal||Contrast: -1|
|Contrast: AGCS||Photoshop Shadow/Highlight adjustment|
Adjusting the tone alters the shape of the 'S curve' used to map the linear image data captured by the sensor into the correct gamma. As you can see the DSC-R1's one level adjustment is so subtle as to be pretty much pointless, this much adjustment will make almost no difference in your everyday shots.
Color saturation adjustment
Saturation adjustment allows you to control the strength of color in the final image. As you can see from the crops below the latitude of adjustment is quite strong. I'll have to admit that I was quite surprised that Sony has chosen a 'consumer like' default saturation level, which can sometimes lead to oversaturated colors (especially strong reds; as below). A camera of this type and targetted at this kind of buyer should really have a more conservative color response. Again, not enough adjustment levels and not enough latitude of adjustment.
The DSC-R1's default sharpening level is about right in terms of the amount of sharpness it brings to detail but is noticeably unsophisticated compared to the kind of sharpening normally employed on digital SLR's. As you can see it leads to halos around black detail, you can avoid these buy setting sharpness to -1 but then you will have to post-process each and every image. Here the latitude of adjustment is fine but the number of steps insufficient (it would be nice to have this amount of adjustment on a -2 to +2 scale).
|Sharpness: 0 (default)|
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1 Digital Camera - Black (10MP, 5 x Optical Zoom) 2.0"