2005’s Sony R1 All-in-One Was Late to the Party Yet Ahead of Its Time

A sony camera with a zoom lens, displayed against a multi-colored circular background. the focus is on the camera's professional features and design details.

As part of his retrospective Retro Review series, Gordon Laing of Cameralabs is looking at a very special Sony camera — the Cyber-shot R1. 19 years ago, it became the first camera Laing published on Cameralabs.

When the Sony R1 — a strangely modern-sounding name for a Sony camera launched in 2005 amid siblings like the Cyber-shot F828 — it did so at the tail-end of the all-in-one bridge camera’s heyday. This type of camera had ruled the roost for enthusiast photographers but was losing its vice-grip thanks to increasingly affordable interchangeable lens DSLR cameras.

Laing describes the R1 as facing an “existential threat” when it launched. With its newly formed partnership with Konica Minolta to develop a DSLR, Sony was also helping put the nails in the R1’s coffin.

If the R1 was going to stand a chance, it needed to pull out all the stops. And in many ways, it did. As Laing notes, the camera’s robust feature set makes it sought-after even today, nearly 20 years after it launched.

Close-up view of a weathered turquoise railing with a circular pattern framing a distant pier, sandy beach, and scattered visitors under a cloudy sky.

At the heart of the R1 is a large CMOS image sensor. At 21.5 by 14.4 millimeters, the R1’s sensor is only barely smaller than the APS-C sensor in Canon’s DSLR cameras and way bigger than the 8.8 by the 6.6-millimeter chip in the Sony F828.

As Laing notes, this was the first time an all-in-one camera could match a DSLR’s sensor size. Further, the R1’s 10.3 megapixels also bested the entry-level DSLR competition at the time.

A colorful carousel with elaborate horses on a seaside boardwalk under a cloudy sky. the horses are painted in bright hues with intricate designs and the carousel is framed by red and gold decorations.

Paired with the large sensor is a Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar zoom lens, which delivers a 35mm-equivalent focal length range of 24-120mm. The lens is also reasonably quick, ranging from f/2.8 to f/4.8. It’s a more versatile and faster option than DSLR kit lenses.

As illustrated by Laing’s images, both from his original 2005 review and new Retro Review, the Sony R1’s image quality holds up.

A nighttime view of the river thames in london, featuring the illuminated london eye and houses of parliament, with light trails from moving boats on the water.

The R1 offered some fantastic features, including proper live view, something DSLRs didn’t universally offer for years afterward. Thanks to its big sensor, the R1 also may have helped buy Sony a bit more time to release its first Alpha DSLR cameras. It will always remain a bit of an open question, but what is clear is that the Sony Cyber-shot R1 was a very interesting camera when it released in 2005 and it’s still fascinating today.

Many more details and sample images are available in Laing’s full Sony R1 Retro Review on Cameralabs and in his video review above. More of Laing’s retro-inspired content is available on his Dino Bytes YouTube channel.

Image credits: Photos courtesy of Gordon Laing of Cameralabs