Upon taking the Sony R1 into your hands for the first time, you immediately feel the soundness and the highly solid build of the housing. The rather rigid handgrip makes sure the camera fits and lies securely in your hand, and combined with the support of the other hand under the lens, this ensures a perfectly balanced camera. The camera's unique design is guaranteed to make you forget every other camera experience you've ever come across. As far as weight is concerned, it is more than clear that the Sony Cybershot R1 is a far cry from a pocket-camera, let there be no mistakes about that! In comparison; a Canon EOS 20D body weighs over 200 gram less, and even the semi-professional Nikon D200 cannot come close to the weight of the Sony Cybershot DSC R1 (995 gram). It should be said however, that the comparison ends there, as a rather substantial part of the camera's weight is taken up by the lens.
Sony Cybershot R1 - Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar lens
The front side of the R1 is clearly determined by the large Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar lens, that has an optical range of 5x (24-120mm on a 35mm camera). Above the lens and right behind the brand name Sony, a large internal flash that folds up is located, with the AF assistance illuminator beside the lens. The large lens has a diameter of 67mm and is equipped with two rings for settings. The ring that has been placed in the middle of the lens is used for the manual zoom, which is ideal to work with and makes it possible to zoom in on the subject accurately. A second ring against the housing is used for manual focus. Both rings are covered with a rough rubber cover, which feels pleasant to touch. On the lens itself a screw filter (67mm) can be placed, same goes for a converter for an enhancement of the wide angle or tele possibilities.
Sony DSC R1 - LCD display at the upper side of the camera
When looking at the Cybershot R1 from above, we initially see a sober side of the camera, designed in black. This brings us to a remarkable feature of the camera, the display. After several years of having been used to a display located on the backside of the camera, Sony has managed to move it to the upper side. The display is standard protected by folding it closed to the inside, very handy indeed! The display can also be folded up and rotated approximately 270 degrees at the same time before folding it closed. This means you can turn the display towards you whilst folded out upwards, so that you can hold the camera right in front of you, but it also means you can shoot from the stomach. Besides this, the flexibility of the display makes it possible to capture an image from virtually any angle. At first this might take a little getting used to, but personally I found it a very handy feature when using the camera in practice. The handgrip of the camera is equipped with a shutter release button surrounded by a ring functioning as the on/off switch. In addition there is a small quick button for the ISO settings. A flash shoe for the connection of an external flash completes the picture.
Sony R1 - Universal tripod connection & Battery compartment
When turning the camera around to look underneath, we find a flat bottom side. The universal (metal) tripod connection is well positioned under the lens. This ensures the Sony R1 is reasonably balanced. Located in the handgrip in the very corner, we find the battery compartment behind a very solidly made lid.
When opening the lid, the costly InfoLithium battery cannot fall out by accident as it is blocked by a safety catch. The camera uses a NP-FM50 InfoLithium battery. When the camera is mounted on a tripod it is possible to change the battery, a very handy feature, especially for landscape and studio photography.
Sony Cybershot R1 camera - Memory card compartment
The side of the handgrip has an eyelet for a standard supplied strap. Below that you can find the lid to access the compartment for the memory card. Sony has chosen to supply the Sony Cybershot DSC R1 with two memory card slot, one for the CompactFlash type I & II and Microdrive formats, and one, naturally, for the Memory Stick memory cards.
Sony digital camera - White balance & Flash
When looking at the side from the lens, you will see it is equipped with several buttons. Two small buttons are used for setting the white balance and flash, right below a multifunctional button for various focus possibilities is located. Behind a solidly designed rubber lid several interfaces are located; such as the connection for an A/C power adapter, USB, Video out and DC-in.
Sony Cybershot DSC R1 - Electronic viewfinder
The back of the Sony R1 is the control centre of the camera. The electronic viewfinder is satisfactorily present and extends quite far backwards. The rubber ridge around the viewfinder is pleasant to the eye and for photographers wearing glasses. Right of the viewfinder the quick button for play mode has been located, in my opinion a position that requires a fair bit of searching. The small, blue-coloured symbol below the button is somewhat inconspicuous. Besides this, the buttons for the light metering, the menu, AE lock, display/monitor on, off or automatic and the kind of display information are located here, as is a mode dial on the side, holding the main programmes of the camera.
Sony R1 digital camera - Ergonomics
The camera's ergonomics require some getting used to. It does indeed lie perfectly in your hand, but takes some extra time to familiarize yourself with. Especially when looking at the back of the camera from above, several buttons can easily be missed. The buttons on the side of the camera will be used frequently, it is therefore wise to get accustomed to their position and use as soon as you can, so that there will be no need to repeatedly turn the camera to its side.