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Wednesday, 04 June 2008

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Im with you 100% on this one. The F717 was my favorite digital -- that lens was just scary sharp. Add in the fact that the shutter is silent, you get infrared nightshot and the 200mm end of the lens still gives you f/2.8 and it was the perfect camera for shooting theatre.

That 90degree tilt lens also made it great for street work since again, it was silent and even if someone was looking at you, you could crank the lens out and act like you're just fiddling with the camera.

My only problem with it was the jpg algorithm threw really bad artifacts. Even blowing up a full-res image to 11x14 would show it. Shooting in TIFF didn't help, oddly enough.

I still use the '717 - still my favorite walk in the park/flower camera.

Is this a Sony-only lament? We have some nice cameras from Fuji and Panasonic that do similar functions.

One one hand I think the feeling of the manufacturers is that the swivel screens of the new DSLRs and a 28-200 (equiv) lens kind of take care of this issue - albeit at a cost of size and 1-2 f/stops?

On the other - Nikon makes no real equivalent to the 8xxx series nor did Canon produce a successor to the Pro1.

Sorry for the ramble...

Dear MIke,
I bought several of the R1's when they seemed destined to be discontinued and I adore them. I've used them in many professional assignments and find they are perfect for tabletop and architecture. The lens has very little distortion and it bitingly sharp. My only quibble is the slow autofocus under low light. For anyone who takes the time to learn the R1. Really learn the R1! The rewards are endless. I'd sooner loose my D300 than either of my Sony's.

Best, Kirk

Well . . . MY R1 was way too heavy and clunky.

I sold it back to B&H and got an Olympus E-510. Much more svelte and more all-around versatile.

The R1 was a great concept that was arguably before it's time. Too bad that there were too many niggles in the execution to make it truly stellar.

An 'R2' with interchangeable lenses and a few technical improvements would blow away most 'prosumer' SLRs. My personal prejudice is that most photographers are convinced that since the best film cameras were SLRs, the best digital cameral must also be SLRs. Ain't necessarily so.

The R1 is a member of a very exclusive club, along with the Sigma DP-1, the Epson RD-1, and Leica's M8. The name of the club, if anyone hasn't figured it out by now, is "non-SLRs with relatively big sensors". Did I miss any?

I haven't owned any of these cameras, but some day I would very much like to use a non-DSLR large-sensor digital camera.

With the demise of Minolta and integration into Sony, a similar fate awaited the Minolta A2, which must be the closest that digital ever came to the "persona" of a Barnack Leica.
Just a tiny bit of tweaking of the lens and an updated (same-size) sensor would have made it virtually a perfect camera for the generalist photographer.
But nobody asked me!

And for someone who gets lovely results out of these cameras, may I recommend Pascal Renoux. There are nudes in the series for those who would want to know that before clicking on the link.

http://www.pascalrenoux.com/

Last year, I found an F707 my newspaper had stashed away in a cardboard box on a shelf in the computer lab. I tested it and put it back into circulation for reporters. For the few who took the time to learn how to use it, it is far and away their favorite digicam of the many they have to pick from. It was SO far ahead of its time.

I have a KM A2 and wouldn't part with it, but four years on, the noise is now a bit high compared to my G9. But can I claim a new member of the club mentioned above? The Fujifilm S100fs. I've just bought one as a do-all travel camera for a 2 month long round world trip. The sensor is a 2/3" Super CCD, bigger than the usual tiny chips and features the Fuji dual photosites for highlight retention. The fs stands for Film Simulation. Since I like the Velvia look, it suits me. The LCD swings out from the body and can be used as a waist level finder, like the Sony R1. Feels good so far. See the DPReview review. And for once, praise be, the Aussie price was $760, roughly equal to the USA price.

Finally, if anyone still lusts after a Sony R1, I happened to notice recently that a white goods retailer in my town, Perth, West Australia, (who also sells computers and the full range of Sony) still has two R1s in his cabinets. Different cabinets, different prices (!), but one was A$938 and the other about A$960 I think. Anyone want to buy a new R1? Email me.

Pete (pjcroft-at-virginbroadbanddotcomdotau)

The F717 was my pre-DSLR camera. (Had a 1MP Kodak before that that produces poor 4x6" prints). For all the hand-wringing on the Minolta forums that went on because Sony was taking over the DSLR line, I have to say that I never had to open the owners manual for that F717 once. The zoom ring ... nice (and you could program it to zoom W-T or T-W). Of course, you could push button zoom if you're so inclined. And you could use that same ring for manual focus. The swivel body was brilliant.

Since getting a DSLR, I haven't used it to speak of - except to take out on the beach when I didn't want to expose my DSLR to the elements. It's not compact enough to ever want to carry instead of a DSLR (though the lens has great range). AF was slow, shutter lag was slow - half-press was essential to do much of anything with it. I have a couple of 128MB Memory Sticks that hold all of about 60 pictures each on high quality setting. But to this day, pictures from that camera somehow seem nicer in some way than those from my Canon A610 (which is also 5MP, but a slightly smaller sensor). Maybe it's the f/2 lens, I don't know. I let my now-5-year-old daughter try it and she decided it's hers :)

You left off the F505V which I own, it improved on the F505. I still have both these cameras along with a F707 and the F828. I don't use them very often anymore, but they are still my favorite cameras, particularly the 828, which was the only one to take 640 X 480 movies.

I still own and use my 828. It's by far my favorite digital, and maybe my all-time favorite camera. (The other contender, go figure, is my Deardorff.)

I've owned two DSLR systems since I bought the 828, but the Sony is still my favorite to use, provided the light is good and the subject will stand still.

If Sony had continued this line (or even the R-1) I might never have bothered with DSLRs.

What a pleasant dream, Mike! A camera with an R1 lens and a swiveling body and like the 828. Add Sony's Steady Shot, the R1's thumbwheel exposure compensation, and selectable vertical and horizontal cropping on a 6cm-square LCD. Sweet!

Mike,
After a disapointing period with a Nikon 990, I was backing away from digital until I found the 707. It felt comfortable in the hand, and was actually fun to use with the body tilted up like a waist level viewfinder. And the shutter lag wasn't near as noticable. The 707 is now converted to IR, and my 717 still gets a lot of use. I found that even when I had my Canon 20D, the 717 was the one that got carried everywhere. And as they say, the best camera is the one you have with you!

My mom owns a 707, now almost seven years old, and it was also the camera I used when I started to take photography seriously. It's pretty wonderful, has a good feel, and a highly useful set of features, many of which are left off of non-SLR cameras these days due to the changes in pricing. Yes, it's got its flaws (ISO 200 is quite visibly noisy, and it produces some quite odd color shifts) but if you give it the right scene it's fantastic! And the big lens and swivel back... I loved it.

Oh yes, the 707's other major limitation (not shared with the 717 or the 828)... it's only compatible with Sony's original Memory Stick format, meaning it can't handle cards larger than 128MB. Even with the 707's comparatively small JPEGs, an eighth of a gig gets cramped.

Very nice post, brings back some nice camera related memories. :) Sony's were my first (digi)cams, started to take photos with them.

I have had F505V, F717, F828 and R1. Still own the latter two and thinking about buying the first ones also, if I see them somewhere for sale... for old times sake. ;) Great cameras!

My F828 doesn't get much of a use nowadays, but I still use R1 for various occasions, for example strobist stuff... my D300 can't sync at high +1/1000 speeds with normal non-Nikon flashes, R1 does the job. :) And it's silent so I use it when photoing funerals & weddings etc..

Very nice camera, if they had made a "R2" with some improvements I also might never(?) bought a dslr..

- Hans

Great post, Mike. I love my R1 and have taken it everywhere in my travels. My favorite use for it is from a small airplane, where I can reach across the cockpit and shoot aerials at arm's length from any window, something that would be impossible without the digicam feature of a DSLR. Also excellent for portraiture work in waist level viewfinder configuration.

Also a shame that Sony didn't follow up on the DSC-V3, a camera which was in many ways superior to its Canon peer, the Powershot G6. Sony was on the right track with two lines of advanced non-SLR cameras and seems to have sacked both of them.

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