Today's smartphone cameras are pretty great. The iPhone 5, HTC One and Nokia Lumia 1020 are three smartphones with top-notch cameras. Sony wants to augment smartphones and give them even better image sensors with a wild new wireless lens-shaped camera.
Sony's DSC-QX10 and DSC-QX100 are two lens-shaped cameras that are designed to work with smartphones, not replace their existing internal cameras. Still confused? You can think of them as wireless lenses with their own image sensors that connect to smartphones (IOS or Android) with the DSC-QX10 considered the "low-end" and the DSC-QX100 the "high-end" model.
Essential Camera Features
As convenient as smartphone cameras are, they're lacking in four key departments: high-quality resolution, low-light sensitivity, optical zoom and optical image stabilization.
The QX10 and QX100 aren't mere wireless accessories. They each have their own individual CMOS image sensor — 1/2.3-inch 18.2-megapixel for the QX10 and a 1.0-inch 20.2-megapixel for the QX100. They both shoot 1080p HD video and they both have an optical zoom of 10x and 3.6x for the QX10 and QX100, respectively.
The two mobile lens cameras can be paired with smartphones either via Wi-Fi or NFC. The latter makes connecting the camera lens and smartphone as easy as touching them together.
When paired with a smartphone, the standalone lens cameras provide the high resolution users want with the familiarness and intuitiveness of a smartphone's touchscreen control. Smartphones are also better choices as camera "bodies" because they're Internet-connected, which means editing photos and sharing them via the myriad of apps available on Android and iOS is easer to do.
For solid low-light results, the QX100 is the better buy. Not only does it have that larger 1.0-inch image sensor, but it also has a wide f/1.8 aperture, which should deliver nice low-light photos and lovely blurry bokeh. The QX100 also one-ups the QX10 with a manual focus mode.
Photos and videos taken with the lens cameras are saved on a microSD card or Memory Stick Micro and to the smartphone, so there's no need to transfer images back and forth.
While the mobile camera lenses are dependent on smartphones in order to work, it isn't mandatory to have them attached to a smartphone. As mentioned earlier, both lens cameras are wireless, so as long as they're held within a close range of the connected smartphone, they'll function just fine.
The beauty to unshackling the camera lens from the smartphone "body" is definitely interesting. Users will be able to take photos and videos from all kinds of angles, including hard-to reach low and high angles. Selfies (as shown in the gallery below) should also be fun to mess around with. I imagine holding a Sony lens camera in one hand and a smartphone in another as a viewfinder will be similar to using the Wii's semi-separate Wii Remote and Nunchuk for the very first time; it should encourage different kinds of photos.
Of course, if keeping the lens camera attached is your thing, Sony's spring-loaded attachment works with any smartphone with a maximum height of 75mm. Sony says it will fit all of the most popular smartphones currently available, even Samsung's gigantic Galaxy Note II.
Coming Later This Month
The Sony DSC-QX10 and DSC-QX100 will be available later this month for $249.99 and $499.99 in black or white/gold. The price is a bit steep (nearly as much as a good standalone point-and-shoot with a 3-inch display), so it's probably in your interest to test them out in person first. It's such a weird product, and we really like it. It goes completely against conventional camera design, and yet, makes so much sense, given how much we use our smartphones now.
(All images courtesy of Sony.)