Compared to... (value, features & specifications)

Here's where things start to get complicated. The DSC-R1 has cleared a space for itself in the market, there's no other fixed lens digital camera which is anywhere near it, thanks to its unique design. Its price puts it squarely in the affordable digital SLR market but its pixel count nudges it ahead of several of those. The only cameras on hand which we can use for comparison therefore are the eight megapixel Canon EOS 350D (Digital Rebel XT) and the eight megapixel Olympus E-500 EVOLT.

Price / Value comparison

It's fair to say that on a value comparison the DSC-R1 wins straight off the line, there isn't a single digital SLR kit available right now for $1,000 which will provide you with a lens as good as that found on the DSC-R1. The standard kit lenses sold with the EOS 350D and the E-500 provide a three times zoom range but start around 28 mm at F3.5 compared to the DSC-R1's 24 mm at F2.8. The $200 saving you would make buying a digital SLR kit could be put towards another lens but that still wouldn't get you near.

So we move on to designing our own kits, the EOS 350D can be combined with the EF-S 17-85 mm IS lens, you get image stabilization and a 5x optical zoom range (although not as wide as the R1), on the downside you're getting a slower lens which isn't as good as the R1's lens and having to pay a $320 premium.

To get the same kind of lens quality and approximate zoom range on the EOS 350D our best choice were two Sigma EX DG lenses, a bundle which comes in around $730 more than the DSC-R1. If you prefer Canon lenses expect to pay more than twice the price of the R1. With the E-500 the options are limited by available lenses, the excellent 14-54 mm lens is easily as good as the R1 lens but would provide only a 3.5x zoom range and the total bundle price would be around $200 more.

As you can see the R1 is very well priced, a fair comment would be that the lens alone is worth a large chunk of the $1000 asking price and that if you don't need the flexibility of separate lenses then on price alone its very attractive.

Equivalent kits

Camera Lenses Max aperture Equiv FOV.
Total cost *
Sony DSC-R1 14.3 - 71.5 mm (fixed) F2.8 - F4.8 24 - 120 mm (5x) $1,000
Canon EOS 350D
(Digital Rebel XT)
EF-S 18 - 55 mm II (kit) F3.5 - F5.6 28.8 - 88 mm (3x) $790
EF-S 17 - 85 mm IS F4.0 - F5.6 27 - 136 mm (5x) $1,320
Sigma 17 - 35 mm EX DG
Sigma 24 - 70 mm EX DG
F2.8 - F4
27 - 112 mm (4.1x) $1,730
EF 17 - 40 mm L
EF 24 - 70 mm L
27 - 112 mm (4.1x) $2,630
Olympus E-500 14 - 45 mm (kit) F3.5 - F4.5 28 - 90 mm (3.2x) $740
14 - 54 mm F2.8 - F3.5 28 - 98 mm (3.5x) $1,200

* Prices correct at time of publication, rounded up to nearest $10

In favor of...

Next we approach the feature and usability advantages of each camera type. As you can see from the bullet point list below both camera types offer their own advantages. The annoying thing from our point of view is that several of the digital SLR advantages are due weaknesses in the R1's design, indicating clearly that it could have easily been a much stronger contender had these little niggles been addressed (continuous shooting capability, image parameter control, orientation sensor, RAW file size).

In favor of the DSC-R1

  • Excellent wide angle zoom lens much better than any D-SLR kit lens
  • All-in-one design, no need to carry other lenses
  • No dust issues (as sensor is sealed)
  • No mirror vibration issues (no need for mirror lock-up)
  • Quiet shutter release
  • 1/2000 flash x-sync (electronic shutter)
  • LCD monitor live view / preview
    • Manual focus magnification
  • Value for money (taking lens into account)

In favor of a digital SLR

  • Flexibility to use a wide range of lenses
    • Much easier if you want more than 120 mm or less than 24 mm equiv.
    • Better for macros
    • Can add lenses with image stabilization
  • Proper through-the-lens optical viewfinder (an EVF is no substitute)
  • Mechanically linked manual focus
  • Better continuous shooting capability
  • More flexible image parameter control
  • Orientation sensor in most current models
  • Generally better low light auto focus
  • Faster maximum shutter speed (typically 1/4000 sec)
  • Smaller RAW files, better media write speeds

Feature and specification comparison

Finally our now standard feature and specification comparison table. As noted above the DSC-R1 compares favorably to these 'entry level' digital SLR's, but in equal terms disappoints with issues which were designed into the camera such as continuous shooting capability, size of RAW files, the lack of an orientation sensor, the inability to delete images in record review and the power-to-shot delay.

Sony DSC-R1

Canon EOS 350D

Olympus E-500 EVOLT
Announced 8 Sep 05 17 Feb 05 26 Sep 05
Review You are here Click here Click here
Body Plastic Plastic Plastic
Sensor type 10 megapixel CMOS 8 megapixel CMOS 8 megapixel CCD
Sensor size 21.5 x 14.4 mm 22.2 x 14.8 mm 17.3 x 13.0 mm
Dust protection None None Supersonic Wave Filter
Lens mount n/a (non-removable lens) Canon EF / EF-S Four Thirds
FOV crop n/a 1.6x 2.0x (Four Thirds)
Shading comp. No No Yes, optional
Modes Auto, P, S, A, M, 4 preset scene Auto, P, A, S, M, A-DEP, 6 preset scene Auto, P, S, A, M, 5 preset scene (15 via menu)
Image params Auto
Sharpness (3 settings)
Tone (4 settings)
Saturation (3 settings)
Contrast (5 settings)
Sharpness (5 settings)
Saturation (5 settings)
Color tone (5 settings)
3 preset parameter sets
Gradation (3 settings)
Saturation (5 settings)
Contrast (5 settings)
Sharpness (5 settings)
5 preset parameter sets
Color space sRGB (2), Adobe RGB sRGB, Adobe RGB sRGB, Adobe RGB
ISO 160 - 3200 (1 EV steps) 100 - 1600 (1 EV steps) 100 - 400 (1/3 EV steps)
800, 1600 via boost
EV steps 1/3 EV 1/3 or 1/2 EV 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV
Exp. compen. +/- 2.0 EV +/- 2.0 EV +/- 5.0 EV
Flash exp compen. +/- 2.0 EV +/- 2.0 EV +/- 2.0 EV
Metering Unknown 35 area sensor 49 area sensor
Metering modes Multi-pat, CW Avg, Spot 35 zone, Partial, CW Avg ESP, CW Avg, Spot
Shutter 30 - 1/2000 sec 30 - 1/4000 sec 60 - 1/4000 sec
Flash X-sync 1/2000 sec 1/200 sec 1/180 sec
AF system 5 area
TTL CMOS sensor
TTL CMOS sensor
TTL Phase Differential
AF mode Auto, Single, Continuous One shot, AI Servo, Auto Single, Continuous
AF area mode Auto, Center, Spot flex Single, Dynamic Auto, Single
AF assist Orange lamp Flash strobe, must be up Flash strobe, must be up
Continuous *1 JPEG: 3.1 fps, 3 images
RAW: n/a
JPEG: 2.9 fps, 27 images
RAW: 2.9 fps, 6 images
JPEG: 2.7 fps, 15/∞ images
RAW: 2.7 fps, 4 images
Self-timer 10 sec 10 sec
(3 sec with mirror lock-up)
2 or 12 sec
Mirror lock-up n/a Yes, custom function Yes, with custom delay
WB Auto, 5 preset, Manual Auto, 6 preset, Manual Auto, 7 preset, Manual, Kelvin
WB fine tuning Yes Yes Yes
Bracketing AE AE, White Balance AE, White Balance, Manual Focus
Flash release Electronic (manual / auto) Electronic (manual / auto) Electronic (manual / auto)
Flash sync Front or Rear curtain Front or Rear curtain Front or Rear curtain, Manual control (4 levels)
Viewfinder Electronic Viewfinder
0.44" TFT LCD
235,200 pixels
(Unspecified dioptre adj.)
Eyepoint: 21 mm
Magnification: 0.8x
(-3.0 to +1.0 m-1 diopter)
Eyepoint: 16 mm
Magnification: 0.9x
(-3.0 to +1.0 m-1 dioptre)
Viewfinder view Medium Medium Small
LCD 2.0", 134,000 pixels 1.8", 115,000 pixels 2.5", 215,250 pixels
LCD live view Yes No No
Orientation sensor No Yes Yes
Custom functions n/a, 4 setup menus 9 functions with 24 settings n/a, 2 setup menus
Storage CF FAT16 / FAT32
MS / MS Pro
CF FAT16 / FAT32 CF FAT16 / FAT32
xD-Picture Card
Power Lithium-Ion NP-FM50 Lithium-Ion NB-2LH Lithium-Ion BLM-1
Connectivity USB 2.0 (Hi-speed) USB 2.0 (Hi-speed) USB 1.1
Play modes 3 display modes 3 display modes 7 display modes
Play edit Resize (copy), Rotate No RAW development
Review delete No Yes No
Text comment No Yes (set via PC software) No
PictBridge Yes Yes Yes
Dimensions 139 x 168 x 97 mm 127 x 94 x 64 mm 130 x 95 x 66 mm
Weight (w/lens) 995 g 724 g (w/kit lens) 814 g (w/kit lens)
Remote release Wired (optional) Wired (optional)
Infrared (optional)
Infrared (optional)
Vertical grip No Yes, optional No
Status LCD No (uses LCD/EVF) Rear of camera, backlit No (uses LCD monitor)
Command dials One top rear, One back One top One top
Power on 0.9 - 1.5 sec Virtually instant 1.6 - 1.7 sec
Shutter release Very fast Fast Very fast
Build quality Very good Good Very good
Grip comfort Good Poor Good

*1 Results of our own tests