As many of you may know I recently picked up a Sony RX10 which is kind of an all-in-one camera with a one inch sensor and a very good Zeiss 24-200mm equivalent lens. This is not my first Sony all-in-one camera. That honor goes to the remarkable Sony R1. The R1 was the first fixed zoom lens camera with an APS-C lens. It used a sensor from the same family of sensors that was used in the Nikon D2X around the same time period. The lens was also designed by Zeiss and matched precisely to the sensor. Just like the RX10 the R1 sported an electronic viewfinder, although it was primitive by comparison.
I liked the camera a lot. Enough to purchase two of them and press them into many, many commercial projects. The images from this project date back to 2007 and were photographed for a capabilities (print) brochure for a national financial services company with a branch here in Austin, Texas. We made a lot of images during the course of a long day. I ran across a back up DVD this afternoon and wanted to try it in my main computer to spot check and see if we are starting to have an corruption issues with data stored on older, Kodak Gold DVDs.
Once I started scrolling through the files one thing led to another and I decided that I wanted to see if Adobe had made any improvements to the lens profiles and camera profiles in the latest revs of PhotoShop. I was happy to find that there was a complete profile for the R1+lenses that included updates for vignetting, chromatic aberrations and lens geometry. One click gets you a very clean and rectilinear file, whether you shot it raw or in Jpeg.
While the R1 is only a ten megapixel camera it does wide angle well and when used at its native ISO of 160 it makes nice files. Compared to the current Sony RX10 you can see some difference in the progress of noise reduction even at both cameras' base ISOs. The R1 has more, and more obvious color noise in the shadow areas. Noticeable at 100% but negligible at almost anything you'd do on the screen. On the other hand the files have rich colors straight out of the camera.
On this project we worked all day in mixed lighting and I thought the Sony did a great job sorting out color shifts and making good AWB selections. But whenever I had doubts I'd pull out a white target and do a custom white balance. The camera does not have image stabilization but it is an early example of mirror less and has a leaf shutter so there's no shutter shock and there's no real noise or vibration. I tend to shoot on a tripod. Go figure, I own five or six photo tripods and two different video tripods with fluid heads...
I doubt I would have jumped into purchasing the RX10 if I had not first worked with the R1 for nearly nine years. I trust that Sony has the sensor tweaked as well as it can be and I know I can claw out a lot of detail in the dark areas. I trust that Zeiss wouldn't allow their brand to be plastered on a lens if it didn't perform. I'm in the early days so far with the RX10 but I think it's the descendent of the R1 and I hope I get five or ten years of good photography out of it as well. It's all in the family.