capsule review

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1 Bridge Camera

    TechHive Rating

    Delivers top-notch image quality, but the autofocus behaved unpredictably, the zoom range is limited, and the price is high.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1
Artwork: Rick Rizner, Chris Manners

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1 is an expensive and unique hybrid camera. The $999 model has features that are common among advanced cameras: a fixed-lens design, and the ability to frame images on its pop-up, twisting 2-inch LCD or through its electronic viewfinder. The DSC-R1 is also hefty, even compared to digital single-lens reflex camera, weighing a formidable 37 ounces. And it is the first model to feature a full-size APS-class 10-megapixel CMOS sensor, akin to the sensor you'd find on a typical digital SLR. The larger sensor should deliver, among other things, greater dynamic range and lower noise.

Like digital SLRs, the DSC-R1 lacks some features you'd expect from a point-and-shoot camera, such as voice annotations, copious scene modes, and a movie mode. It lacks image stabilization, too, which can be found on some advanced cameras. Instead, you get a camera that's like a digital SLR without the interchangeable lens design, offering extensive manual controls.

In the field, I found the DSC-R1's modest lens range (it maxes out at 120mm--the lowest reach of any recently tested advanced camera) to be acceptable. But the camera excelled at wide-angle photography, offering an enticing, landscape-friendly 24mm view--the widest of any camera we've looked at in this category. In addition, this model's wide (f2.8) aperture will help capture subjects in low light.

In our tests, the DSC-R1's image quality was exceptional. Images were sharp, with little distortion and accurate colors. The one weakness was in its exposures, which at default settings was sometimes a bit off. Its other weakness was difficulty in locking into focus under low lighting conditions. Battery life was superior: I could easily shoot 2GB worth of images on a single charge, with moderate use of the flash.

The camera was comfortable to use despite its body's off-balance appearance: The lens is flush left, a large electronic eyepiece protrudes from the back, and a sizable grip is flush right. As a digital SLR owner, I particularly relished the ability to stage my images through the LCD--something you can't do with an SLR. The R1's hinged and rotating LCD enabled me to achieve interesting angles and correct for the distortion of parallel lines that sometimes occurs when shooting at a wide angle (for example, when looking up at a tall building). I can't do this with my digital SLR, which requires me to frame images through the optical viewfinder.

Using the joystick and wheel to navigate the menus was easy. Occasionally, I found the menu design annoying, however: Menus for changing the megapixel resolution, picture quality, ISO, and compression type (RAW or normal) were separate from many other core controls, which could require a lot of flipping through the menus. And certain operations, such as changing the flash options, took two hands--an annoyance if you're trying to alter settings on the fly. Still, the menus permit superfast scrolling, and the joystick-and-wheel navigational controls make accessing most menu options an ergonomic breeze.

For people who can live without changing lenses, Sony's DSC-R1 makes a versatile alternative to an SLR--but you'll have to pay an SLR-scale price for it.

Melissa J. Perenson

This story, "Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • TechHive Rating

    Delivers top-notch image quality, but the autofocus behaved unpredictably, the zoom range is limited, and the price is high.

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