Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1 lens
The R1 employs a Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar T* zoom lens with a 35mm-equivalent
range of 24-120mm and an optically fast ratio of f2.8~4.8; the actual focal length
is 14.3-71.5mm. Like the F828 before it, the zoom is operated by a tactile mechanically-linked
ring, but the focusing remains electrically assisted. A decent lens hood is supplied
and the front lens element doesn't rotate during focusing, allowing the easy use
of polarising filters.
To illustrate the R1's coverage compared to a typical digital SLR, we took the
same photo from the same position on a tripod using the R1 and the Canon EOS-350D
/ Digital Rebel XT with its bundled 18-55mm EF-S lens. The photos below were taken
Zoomed-out to wide-angle, the R1 clearly captures a visibly wider field than the
28.8mm equivalent focal length of the 18-55mm on the Canon. Indeed it's comfortably
wider than any all-in-one or bundled digital SLR lens we've tested, and one of
the R1's greatest selling points.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1
Canon EOS-350D with 18-55mm EF-S
|14.3-71.5mm at 14.3mm, f8 (24mm equivalent)
||18-55mm EF-S at 18mm, f8 (28.8mm equivalent)
Below are examples of both lenses zoomed all the way in, again taken from exactly
the same position and minutes apart. The Canon 18-55mm EF-S offers an equivalent
telephoto focal length of 88mm on the 350D / Digital Rebel XT, but it clearly
doesn't get as close as the 120mm end of the Sony R1.
While the R1's telephoto capabilities are far below that of, say, the Fujifilm
S9500 / S9000 or the Panasonic DMC-FZ30, it's sufficiently good for general purpose
shots and decent portrait use. These images also illustrate how much more useful
the R1's range is than the 3x optical zooms typically bundled with budget digital
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1
Canon EOS-350D with 18-55mm EF-S
|14.3-71.5mm at 71.5mm, f8 (120mm equivalent)
||18-55mm EF-S at 55mm, f8 (88mm equivalent)
By eliminating the mirror and prism section of a traditional SLR, Sony has
also been able to implement a very short back focus where the last optical element
is positioned immediately in front of the sensor. Sony claims this has allowed
a reduction in chromatic aberrations, and after the performance of the earlier
F828, this is an area everyone will be checking very closely - check our results
pages to see whether the R1's optics can banish the spectre of its predecessor.
Its also means like other all-in-ones, the R1 operates in near silence, which
in certain environments can be a definite advantage over the audible mechanism
of an SLR.
Unlike traditional SLRs though, the R1's lens is of course permanently attached
to the body. While lacking the flexibility of a removeable lens system, the
R1's optics offer a wider and more useful range than the bundled lenses many
budget digital SLR owners never upgrade from, and at f2.8~4.2 is optically faster
too. The inability to remove the lens can additionally be spun as a benefit,
eliminating the risk of dust getting onto the sensor.
If the R1's range isn't sufficient though, you can attach optional 1.7x tele,
0.8x wide or macro conversion lenses. These are however unusually large, especially
the tele adapter which doubles the length of the camera and adds almost an extra
kilo in weight.
The most unique aspect of the R1 is of course its large CMOS sensor - the first
time an all-in-one camera has employed a digital SLR-sized sensor. The R1's
sensor measures 21.5 x 14.4mm, so is only fractionally smaller than those found
in most budget digital SLRs. Crucially though it's considerably larger than
the 8.8 x 6.6mm size of the 2/3in sensor in its predecessor and other high-end
The R1's sensor boasts 10.8 Megapixel resolution, delivering 3:2 aspect ratio
images with an impressive 3888 x 2592 pixels. This is a considerable step up
from the six or even eight megapixel resolution of the budget digital SLRs currently
in the market, and is unlikely to be matched at this price by budget SLRs until
well into 2006. The large sensor size has also allowed Sony to implement a wide
sensitivity range of 160 to 3200 ISO, which while unremarkable for digital SLRs,
is a significant improvement on the range of existing all-in-ones. Check our
results to see how the R1 compares on noise and resolution.
Files and memory
can be recorded at five different resolutions, each with the choice of two JPEG
compression levels. They can alternatively be recorded in Sony's SR2 RAW format,
which additionally captures a JPEG at the same time whether you want it or not.
Best-quality JPEGs measured between 4 and 5MB each, while RAW files weighed-in
at considerable 20.5MB each, which seems a little excessive given those for,
say, Canon's 12.8 Megapixel EOS-5D measure around 14MB each; RAW conversion
software is supplied.
Standard and vivid colour modes are offered based on sRGB, along with (for
the first time on a Sony camera) Adobe RGB. Saturation, contrast and sharpness
can also be adjusted by a notch in either direction. If you're used to consumer
cameras, the standard settings produce vibrant images out of the camera, although
those used to digital SLRs may prefer to take the sharpening down a notch.
Like the F828 before it, the R1 can take either Compact Flash cards or Sony's
own Memory Stick format - both standard and Pro sticks are supported. A switch
on the back of the camera by the memory door selects between the formats. A
USB-2 port is provided for transferring images, alongside a video output, accessory
port and DC input.
Image processing and handling
The R1 powers-up quickly and is ready to shoot in 0.68 seconds - this is a fraction
slower than the fastest digital SLRs, but certainly nothing to be concerned
about. During playback, a preview of the image appears almost instantly, then
sharpens up to the full screen resolution about a second later; note intelligent
buffering can allow images to load to full screen resolution instantly depending
on how you browse. The thumbnail option also loads all nine images almost instantly.
The camera also wakes up quickly after sleeping, but unlike the manual focusing
of an SLR lens, the R1 will need to be refocused. This only takes a split second
if using AF, but can be annoying if you're shooting the same subject from a
tripod and find you need to refocus every time the camera wakes up.
Burst mode capture up to three frames at 3fps, but then pauses for around three
seconds to record them to the card; you'll need to let go of the shutter and
repress it after recording these images if you'd like to capture any more. While
10.8 Megapixels is a lot of data to process and record, a three frame buffer
is quite modest compared to most digital SLRs.
Overall, for single shot use the R1 is sufficiently quick not to miss any action.
But if you need to capture more than three frames in a sequence or are shooting
the same fixed subject from a tripod, you'll probably find the R1 more restrictive
than a conventional digital SLR.