capsule review

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1

The $999 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1 is a point-and-shoot with a slew of features that you’d expect on a digital SLR.

First and foremost, it’s the first point-and-shoot I’ve seen with a full-size 10-megapixel CMOS sensor—similar to what you’d find on a typical digital SLR. That sensor should deliver greater dynamic range and less noise. And in my tests, the DSC-R1 did indeed produce some exceptional images—sharp, with little distortion and accurate colors.

The camera excels at wide-angle photography, offering a landscape-friendly 24mm view, the widest of any camera I’ve seen in this category. In addition, this model’s wide (f2.8) aperture can help in capturing subjects in low light. Even though the DSC-R1’s lens range maxes out at 120mm, the lowest of any advanced camera I’ve tested recently, I found it acceptable in actual use.

Very advanced features

The DSC-R1 also sports some features I wish I could get from a digital SLR, but can’t. I particularly like the hinged, rotating LCD, which lets you frame some interesting angles and correct for the parallel line distortion that can occur with wide-angle shooting (for example, when looking up at a tall building). I can’t do that with my digital SLR, which requires me to frame images through the optical viewfinder.

Battery life is superior: I shot 2GB worth of images on a single charge, with moderate use of the flash.

The camera is comfortable to use despite its off-balance appearance: The lens is flush left; its sizable grip flush right; and its large electronic eyepiece protrudes out the back. The joystick-and-wheel navigational controls make accessing menu options an ergonomic breeze.

Inconvenient menus

Unfortunately, I occasionally found those menus annoying: Options for changing resolution, picture quality, ISO, and compression type (RAW or normal) were separated from other core controls, which can make for lots of menu-flipping. And some operations, such as changing the flash options, require two hands—annoying if you’re trying to alter settings on the fly.

The DSC-R1 also lacks some features you’d expect from a point-and-shoot camera, such as image stabilization, voice annotations, copious scene options, and a movie mode. I also found its default exposure settings a bit off on occasion, and the camera sometimes had difficulty locking into focus under low lighting conditions.

jury tests

Color Quality—Accuracy Excellent
Clarity—Detail Excellent
Clarity—Artifacts, Noise Excellent

Scale = Excellent, Very Good, Good, Flawed, Unacceptable

To gauge picture quality, we take a series of shots, with and without flash, at the camera’s highest resolution. We photograph a complex still life and a mannequin using automatic settings in Program/Full-Auto Mode to see how well each camera captures subtle color and exposure under its default settings. We then photograph the same still life and a resolution moiré chart with semiautomatic settings using aperture priority, custom white balance, and exposure bracketing. We pick the best shots of each of those two subjects for judging. We also test the camera’s capability for minimizing noise using a range of ISO settings. We review the on-screen and printed photos and assign image-quality scores. The image-quality rating of the camera is based on five categories: exposure, color, sharpness, distortion, and overall.—Tested in conjunction with the PC World Test Center

Specifications

Resolution 10 megapixels
Zoom/Focal Length 5X Optical
Maximum Aperture f2.8
Size (wxhxd) 5.5 inches x 3.8 inches x 6.1 inches
Weight 2.2 lbs

Macworld’s buying advice

If you can live without changing lenses, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1 makes a versatile alternative to a digital SLR—albeit at a DSLR price. You’ll get great image quality and wide-angle capability. However, you’ll lose out if typical point-and-shoot features such as a movie mode and voice annotation are important to you.

[ Melissa J. Perenson is a senior associate editor at PC World.]

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1
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