Customer Review

154 of 156 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unfair comparison (my other camera is a Hasselblad 501c), January 24, 2006
This review is from: Sony Cybershot DSCR1 10.3MP Digital Camera with 5x Optical Zoom (Electronics)
Many other users and serious reviewers have provided sufficient background on Sony's "top of the line" digital DSC-R1, so I'll steer clear of needless repetition and get right to my point: this is not just a great digital camera, it's a great camera by any standard. {credibility break, sorry} My background? 2,500 pictures in the R1, about the same in a Minolta A1 and another 3,000 or so in an older Sony (I forgot the model--it had a rotating lens) that spent 5 years on a boat with me in the South Pacific. Before that, over 40 years of serious photography with everything from pinhole cameras to the Hassey.

Here's the bottom line: the R1 is about the size of the 501c but less than half the weight with just the 'standard' lens. If I include all the extra lenses (I use a wide-angle and a moderate tele) plus the spare backs and film, the bag tips the scales at over 25lbs. Are the pictures as good? (trick question) Technically, no; there will be no razor sharp poster-sized prints from the R1. The truth is that many of the really great shots with the Hassey are still in my head: too much fussing with lenses, changing film, worrying about exposure and poof! The shot is gone. Of the thousands of digital images I've captured, there are many that would match the best from the medium format in terms of qualities that matter to me.

What's the best feature of the R1? Coming from the 501c, I really like the top-mounted LCD! It is much easier to use than even a tilting, back-mounted LCD (like the Minolta A1), particularly for candid shots. Plus when it's vertical, it's like a "sports" finder in that you can easily see both what's in the picture and what's not. Second best is the lens: I checked the Carl Zeiss site for info on their lens designs to compare to the 501c, but they haven't posted the specifics of the Vario-Sonnar in the R1. There are a few very good testing-oriented site on the `net that have uniformly lauded the lens design. As might be imagined, (or maybe not, judging from some uninformed whining about "features" elsewhere) designing and building lenses is not easy. To get a zoom lens that goes from 24mm to 120mm with a flat field and good color performance is nearly impossible, hence the almost unnoticeable barrel distortion at the wide end.

My third favorite feature is the CMOS sensor: it truly makes a difference in the quality of the mega-pixels not just the fact that there are over 10 million of them.

What's not to like? Well, several users have commented on the lack of interchangeable lenses, true, but to what end? To get a higher quality lens? Not likely. A larger aperture? Yes, you can, but not in a zoom. To get a really long telephoto or mirror lens? The only valid complaint, IMHO. So, there is the option of the 1.7 tele-extender that get's you something between 200mm and 400mm depending on how aggressively you manage the digital smart zoom feature. (Don't even think of complaining about the "extra" lens! This is about the lack of replacement lenses, remember.) I have one on order, so I'll save my comments for later.

There has been a lot of carping about the "noise" at high ISO (1600 and above) and it is true: if you try to hand-hold when you should use a tripod and fudge the ISO to overcome the shake, you will get noise. Mount your R1 on a tripod and shoot at 160 and the problem goes away because the built-in noise reduction kicks in. Even is you must shoot at higher speeds, using a tripod and setting exposure to take advantage of the noise-reduction program will make a big difference, from my informal testing. Photography is all about working with limitations, so consider it an advantage to own such an imperfect camera!

The only thing that I've found less than desirable is a compression of dynamic range when shooting Adobe RGB. It shows up as a right-skewed histogram, but post-processing in Aperture fixes it. The image is "muddy" but clears when the white slider is moved to the left in setting luminance. This could be due to several factors, so I'll do some testing and report back.

My summary is that this camera will not make you a better photographer, but taking lots of pictures and not showing the bad ones will help, and believe me, you will be able to take them with greater ease and enjoyment with the Sony DSC-R1 than with anything else on the market for the same price. If your excuse for not taking pictures is that there is either too much equipment or not enough, this one my dear Goldilocks, is "just right".
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 10, 2009 9:28:01 AM PST
Walte51 says:
Have you found anything comparable in the non-internchangeable lens category of camera that tops the DSC-R1?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 19, 2011 9:30:30 PM PST
Nope! I now use a Nikon for most of my work--primarily to use lenses outside the range of the R1--but still shoot the R1 at places where noise is an issue as it is so quiet that no one notices. My primary setup is a D7000 with a 16mm-85mm zoom. Looking behind the silly "35mm equivalent", the R1 has a 15mm-71mm lens; i.e. the same as my Nikon. That works well for weddings and parties. Even without VR, I get results like the Nikon and in lower light. The f/2.8 lens is superb.

Also, all the "special software needed" to shoot RAW is no longer an issue as Lightroom, Aperture, iPhoto all read the Sony format.
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