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Sony Announces 10 Megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-R1 with APS-C Size CMOS Sensor

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September 8, 2005 – Sony today announced a groundbreaking new high-end compact digital camera, the 5x optical zoom, 10.3 megapixel Cyber-shot DSC which utilizes an APS format sized CMOS sensor, a first for compacts digital camera. Just in time for the holiday shopping rush, the Cyber-shot DSC-R1 is expected in mid-November at an estimated price of $999.99.

The Cyber-shot DSC-R1 (spec sheet) joins a crowded field of high-end digital compacts, but it is unique in its inclusion of a large APS-C format sized CMOS sensor, technology that is far more common in high-end DSLRs.

The DSC-R1’s 21.5 x 14.4 mm APS-C format CMOS sensor is roughly 10 times larger than the CCD sensors used by its competitors and is coated with 10.3 effective megapixels of resolution. The sensor will likely produce images with far lower noise than the rest of those in the field, due to the large pixel diameter and the low noise capabilities inherent of current CMOS sensors.

Unlike the CMOS sensors used in DSLRs, the DSC-R1’s sensor is able to produce a "live" preview that is displayed on the camera’s swiveling 2-inch LCD screen, enabling image composition with 100 percent frame coverage. However, while the R1’s sensor has 10.3 megapixels of resolution, Sony formed the LCD screen with just 134,000 pixels, far below what is available on many of Sony’s consumer point-and-shoots. For instance, the slim Cyber-shot DSC-T5 and DSC-T7 feature larger 2.5-inch displays with 230,000 pixels – nearly twice the screen resolution of the R1. In addition to the camera’s LCD screen, there is also a 235,000 pixel, 0.44-inch TFT LCD viewfinder that offers 100 percent coverage.

The DSC-R1 brings Sony’s vast experience in CMOS sensors to bear on the compact digital camera market. Sony supplies most of the sensors for Nikon’s DSLRs, including the pro-level D2X, and last December the company invested 50 billion yen ($452.6 million) in a new Japanese manufacturing facility for CMOS chips.

CMOS sensors differ from the CCD sensors utilized in most consumer digital cameras chiefly in that they produce a digital signal and are able to incorporate the image processor into the sensor, rather than requiring an analog to digital signal converter and a secondary chip for image processing functions. This in turn leads to less power consumption by CMOS-based cameras, which Sony says will allow the DSC-R1 to take up to 500 shots on a single charge of its lithium-ion battery

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Along with its large, high resolution CMOS sensor, the Cyber-shot DSC R1 has a number of other features that should appeal to serious amateurs and prosumer level users. The camera boasts true manual focus via a lens mounted ring as well as full manual exposure controls in addition to shutter and aperture priority modes. In-camera image parameter controls are available, including contrast, sharpness, and saturation, as is a fully adjustable white balance control.

The DSC-R1 utilizes a 5x optical Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar lens with a 35mm equivalent range of 24-120mm. However, numerous competing offerings boast up to 12x optical zooms capabilities, including the 12x Panasonic DMC-FZ30 (which includes MEGA optical image stabilization), the 10.7x zoom Fuji FinePix S9000 and the recently announced 12x zoom Olympus SP-500UZ and 12x zoom Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z6.

The Carl Zeiss lens opens up to f/2.8 in the camera’s widest zoom, closing to f/4.8 in telephoto shooting, with a minimum aperture of f/16 across the zoom range. However, Sony’s previous top of the line offering, the Cyber-shot DSC-F828, offered a faster lens that opened to f/2.0 and zoomed up to 7x optically. However, the DSC-R1 does surpass the DSC-F828’s 100-800 ISO range, providing extended sensitivity in its 160-3200 ISO offerings.

Both the Cyber-shot R1 and F828 offer similar shutter speed ranges of 1/2000 of a second to 30 seconds, with the DSC-R1 adding a bulb mode. Both cameras also share similar 5 point auto focus systems with manually selectable focus points.

The DSC-R1 offers Adobe RGB among its three color space options and has a live histogram display. Files can be saved in either RAW file format or Fine or Standard JPEGs to a memory stick, CF memory card or Microdrive. There are no movie or audio capture capabilities on the DSC-R1, something that is offered on many of the cameras it is poised to compete against, as well as the DSC-F828.

The design of the 37 ounce, 5.5 x 3.875 x 6.125-inch Cyber-shot DSC R1 superficially resembles the Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z5 and is perhaps an indicator of what is to come from the partnership between the two companies announced in July.

Along with the range of high-end digital compacts available on the market, the DSC-R1, on the basis of its high price and resolution, is likely to also compete against entry level and mid-range DSLRs such as the Canon Rebel XT and Nikon D50 and D70s.

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