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  Review of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1

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.

  • Sony DSC-D700: July 1998
  • Sony DSC-D770: June 1999
  • Sony DSC-F505: August 1999
  • Sony DSC-F505V: April 2000
  • Sony DSC-F707: August 2001
  • Sony DSC-F717: September 2002
  • Sony DSC-F828: August 2003
  • Sony DSC-R1: September 2005

Advantages of Large 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 m pixel pitch, the DSC-R1 has a 5.49 m 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 m 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 m 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


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