Return to the Future: Sony DSC-R1

In 2003 I first became aware that Sony was capable of truly ‘disruptive’ technological advances in photographic imaging. The DSC-R1 was a camera that looked like no other camera on the market but also, more importantly, was technically like no other camera on the market. It was the first Sony pre-production camera that I begged to review (code named the ‘Kaikak’) and that I truly got excited about. It was the precursor to the Alpha mirrorless cameras or ILCs we see today. It featured a APS-C CMOS sensor, EVF, swivel LCD and constant-aperture Carl Zeiss Zoom lens.I don’t think the DSC-R1 was a marketing success (although it deserved to be) but my respect for Sony as a photographic manufacturer was solidified at this point in time.

It came as no surprise to me, that 3 years later, it was Sony that ensured the technological ingenuity of Konica-Minolta survived (High-Res EVF and IBIS). In 2006 I attended the press launch of the Sony A100 (a camera I still own) in tropical Queensland and won the camera, which was a prize for the best photo at a competition held in a dark and damp rainforest (thank goodness for Steadyshot as I only had a kit lens). In many respects the A100 was a step back in some technical areas (CCD instead of CMOS and optical viewfinder instead of EVF etc.) but I liked showing photographers the Sony DSLR and watching their troubled faces at seeing the Sony brand emblazoned on top of the camera. Disruption is certainly unnerving for the staid – Vive la revolution!


What made the DSC-R1 unique

  • First non-SLR (fixed lens digital) camera to feature a large format sensor (APS-C size)
  • First use of a CMOS sensor in a non-removable-lens digital camera
  • First large format sensor to provide full-time live preview
  • Widest range of ISO sensitivity for a non-SLR camera; ISO 160 – 3200
  • First digital camera to provide a top-mounted LCD screen
  • First Sony digital camera to support Adobe RGB
  • First implementation of ‘Auto Gamma Control’ on a Sony digital camera

Mark Galer was made the Sony Alpha Ambassador for Australia in 2012