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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1

Sony "breaks the mold" with a unique SLR/all-in-one hybrid design.

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Page 5:Viewfinder

Review First Posted: 09/20/2005, Updated: 11/18/2005


The R1's electronic optical viewfinder (EVF) features a 0.44-inch full color TFT display, with 235,200 pixels. A set of sensors inside the eyepiece automatically switches the view from the LCD monitor to the EVF when it detects an object behind the eyepiece, if the Monitor switch on the rear panel is set to Auto. (You can also fix the display to Finder or LCD settings, something we found ourselves doing most of the time, to avoid the view from switching back and forth whenever we held the camera near our bodies.)

The EVF shows the same image and information display that appears in the larger LCD monitor, with a default information overlay that reports basic camera information such as image resolution and quality settings, camera mode, exposure mode, exposure information, the number of available images, AF area, and any other exposure settings.

As noted earlier, the LCD is one area where the Sony DSC-R1 differs significantly from any other camera currently on the market, the LCD screen being mounted on the top of the camera, rather than the back. The display deploys by tilting upward, and can rotate far enough to tilt downward just slightly. I'd really like to see it rotate a bit further down: As it is, it's definitely a help for over-the-head shooting, but it'd be much more convenient if it would just rotate another 10-15 degrees or so. Once tilted up, the LCD can rotate 270 degrees, to face front, back or to either side. The LCD can be folded down against the top of the camera, but facing up. In this position, the camera shoots a lot like a medium format film camera, but we found that the exposed LCD surface became an absolute magnet for fingerprints. Stowed facing the camera body though, the LCD is well protected, and the camera profile quite sleek.

Pressing the Display button on the rear panel controls the image and information displays. A single press adds a histogram and cancels the information overlay, while a second press disables everything but the AF area. A constant display at the bottom of the screen shows the aperture and shutter speed settings, as well as an EV indicator that shows the amount of over or underexposure for the selected settings. A Diopter Control dial hidden beneath the eyepiece adjusts the viewfinder to accommodate eyeglass wearers. If enabled via the camera's Setup menu, a "zebra" display will mark blown-out highlights in Histogram mode. Finally, the "Expanded Focus" setting on the setup menu enables a 2x magnification when focusing the camera manually, as an aid to determining proper focus. (I have to say though, that a 2x magnification on the LCD screen really isn't nearly enough to judge focus accurately enough for a 10 megapixel sensor.)

The pop-up, 2.0-inch, TFT color LCD monitor also offers a bright, clear image display. The LCD monitor lifts off of the top panel (just behind the flash compartment) and swivels a total of 270 degrees to face just about any shooting angle. You can also close the LCD monitor with the panel exposed, which aids in framing low shots, letting you look down onto the view as you would a standard viewfinder on medium-format cameras (such as the Hasselblad 500 series). A bonus with this design is that you can close the LCD monitor facing the camera and thereby protect it from incidental scratches and dust. We did find though, that the top-mounted LCD was an absolute fingerprint magnet, and fingerprints on its surface made it much harder to see the image in bright ambient lighting.

Like the electronic viewfinder, the LCD monitor displays the same range of exposure and camera information, controlled by the Display button. A Grid display option (enabled through the menu system) divides the image area into nine small squares, like grid paper, so that you can more easily align subjects.

Another interesting display mode is the Zebra option, set through the camera's Setup menu. When enabled, Zebra mode appears with the histogram display, and overlays a zebra pattern on the image area to assist with exposure compensation adjustments. Any portion of the screen with the diagonal zebra pattern indicates overly bright luminance values, or overexposure.

For flicker reduction when shooting under fluorescent lighting, the Monitor mode switch on the rear panel offers Framing and Preview settings. The Framing setting reduces the flicker that sometimes appears on LCD monitors under fluorescent lights, and brightens the LCD display somewhat in the process. Preview mode keeps the LCD at its normal brightness level, and doesn't reduce any flickering. Through the Setup menu, you can specify the flicker frequency (60 Hz in the US, 50 Hz in Europe), or set flicker reduction to Auto. (NOTE though, that the Framing option does increase shutter lag significantly.)

In Playback mode, the R1 optionally displays a fair amount of image information, which is again controlled by the Display button. The Self-Timer/Index button calls up an index display, showing nine thumbnail images at a time. Additionally, the Magnify button also enlarges captured images to 2x (JPEG only, not RAW format), so that you can more closely check on fine details, or you can turn the Sub Command dial to enlarge images as much as 5x. Pressing the Display button in the normal Playback display enables three histograms, showing the tonal range for red, blue, and green channels.


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