Sony Cyber-shot R1

The Sony Cyber-shot R1 was the World’s first APS-C CMOS sensor fixed lens camera released in 2005, it also provided the first “live view” of any APS-C / Large sensor camera, meaning it could display the output on the 2inch LCD or electronic viewfinder. It features a 10.3 megapixel sensor, ISO160-3200, and was priced at $999 US / £699 UK (inc VAT). Similar Digital SLRs were the Canon EOS 350D with an 8 megapixel APS-C sensor and ISO100-1600, and the Nikon D70, with a 6 megapixel sensor and ISO200 to ISO1600.

Sony Cyber-shot R1 Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* Lens

The lens is a 5x optical zoom Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* with f/2.8-f/4.8 aperture and the equivalent zoom of 24mm to 120mm, providing both a useful wide-angle lens and a decent amount of zoom. Click more below to continue reading…

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1 Specifications:

  • 10.3 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
  • 5x optical zoom lens, 24-120mm equivalent lens
  • Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* f/2.8-4.8
  • 2inch top mounted vari-angle screen (135,000-pixel)
  • Electronic viewfinder (235,000-pixel)
  • ISO160-3200
  • 3fps continuous shooting
  • 500-shot battery life
  • Focus assist light
  • Compact flash slot / Sony Memory Stick slot

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1

The lens extends when zoomed, and when holding the camera around the lens barrel, you can tell that this side of the camera contains the majority of the weight. It may even be more comfortable to carry it this way rather than carrying it using your right hand on the hand-grip. Although for photographs, the two handed approach is best for steady shots.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1

On the side is the manual zoom ring, manual focus ring, focus switch, flash button, WB button, and ports. When you are in manual focus mode, you can press the button in the middle of the switch to lock focus, and the camera will automatically zoom into the centre of the screen when you turn the focus ring. There’s a focal plane marker as well.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1

On the back are the majority of controls… including a manual switch to choose between the Sony Memory Stick or Compact Flash card. None of that clever auto switching here. There’s a control dial to easily set options, such as aperture or shutter speed when in the relevant modes, as well as a central joystick for moving around the options or picture (in playback mode).

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1 Top

On top is where you’ll find the power on / off switch around the shutter release, the ISO button, flash hot shoe, and the 2inch vari-angle screen.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1 Screen

The electronic viewfinder (EVF) has built in infra-red eye detection so that it can automatically switch to the EVF when held up to your eye. You can manually select whether to use the screen, the viewfinder or leave it on auto, with a switch underneath.

The Sony Cyber-shot R1 was significantly ahead of it’s time… in fact there have been and indeed were no other APS-C sensor cameras with a zoom lens built in, until the Leica X Vario in 2013 with a £2150+ price point. Other cameras either used smaller sensors with zoom, or used a fixed prime lens with an APS-C sensor, such as the Sigma DP1, (DP2, DP3 Merrill etc), Fujifilm X100/s, Nikon Coolpix A, Ricoh GR, etc.

Sony has recently introduced a similar camera to the R1, although with a much more conventional Digital SLR like styling, with the Sony Cyber-shot RX10, however this uses a 1inch, 20 megapixel sensor, and features an 8.3x optical zoom lens. The camera will be available for £999.

Sony Cyber-shot R1 Sample Photos:

Sony Cyber-shot R1 5x close-upSony Cyber-shot R1 outdoors-DSC03012

Sony Cyber-shot R1, a set on Flickr.

The Sony Cyber-shot R1, in my opinion, is likely to be a future classic, and it’s surprising that you can still get the camera second hand from around £110-£130 on ebay UK. Those that have used it would be wise to hang on to it, and it’s perhaps only the plastic body construction that is likely to let the camera down, however, if well cared for then it should last well.

Accessories available:
There were a couple of accessories available, including a Sony VCL-DEH08R 0.8x Wide End Conversion Lens, converting the 24mm equivalent to 19.2mm equivalent super wide-angle. There was also the 1.7x VCL-Deh17R tele-converter, which made the telephoto reach equivalent to 204mm – much like the Sony Cyber-shot RX10. Unfortunately these accessories were rather large! The 0.8x wide-angle conversion lens weighs 390g, and measures 115mm x 35mm, and the 1.7x tele-conversion lens weighs 950g, measuring 145x115mm – almost as much as the Sony R1 weighs with battery! These accessories are often available on ebay, for more than you would pay for the camera alone, and both of them require the VAD-RA adapter.

Pros: Large 10mp APS-C CMOS sensor, tilting screen, decent electronic viewfinder, bright at wide-end
Cons: Can’t shoot RAW+JPEG at the same time, not very bright at telephoto end of lens, large camera

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One Response to Retro: Sony Cyber-shot R1 Quick Review

  1. David says:

    “Can’t shoot RAW+JPEG at the same time” is just wrong. It can’t shoot RAW without JPEG, and when shooting RAW, it doesn’t do burst or exposure bracketing (or reduced resolution and/or any of the digital zoom options). The screen is not “tilting” but fully articulated. An obvious disadvantage would be the lack of image stabilisation. An obvious advantage is the excellent image quality of the lens.

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