Well, these have been rumored for a while now, and have been greatly discussed over the last couple of weeks (or months?), thanks to all the image leaks and stuff, but now it’s official. A couple of days ago, Sony announced the new QX line of ‘lens cameras’ or ‘lens-style cameras’, and frankly, they’re quite unlike anything else I have ever seen. So before I go any further, a big bravo to Sony for their constant innovation in their photography department
Alright, now we ask the question: what IS a lens camera? Well, until Sony came up with the idea, no one really knew. But we do now – and I’m sure Sony will not remain the sole lens-camera-manufacturer for long. Even if it doesn’t turn out to be a hit (and I have a feeling it will, actually), there are other brands that are surely dying to put out something similar. Look out for those. But alright, what is a lens camera? Quite simply, it’s the lens+image sensor of a fixed-lens compact camera, along with the shutter mechanism and all of the other workings, but without the rest of the body. And how does it work? By attaching itself to your smartphone and using this phone as the rest of the body. They’re basically working cameras, with their own power source and memory, but without a control interface – and this interface is provided by the smartphone that most of us have today. Quite clever, isn’t it?
The practicality of such a device is yet to be found out. Only a handful of early reviewers have got themselves one of these cool new devices – this reviewer has not yet got one, I’m afraid – so only time will tell if the QX line is going to really work out or not; but for now, the sheer innovation and creativity deserves praise. And did I mention the wonderful specs, the innards of these QX cameras (especially the QX100), specs that have the potential for some serious photo quality?
That’s right – the QX100 has got some very impressive specs that can be summed up in these few words: it’s got the same lens as the Sony RX100 II and a similar 1” image sensor! Need I say more? Going for $499, it’s quite a bit cheaper than the RX100 II, although you DO need a smartphone for you to actually start taking pictures – and as you read deeper into the specs, you find out it is quite a bit less capable than the RX100 II in a few areas – but it’s definitely an option. And a very cool option at that. The QX10 is not bad either: it sports a 18.2 mega pixel CMOS sensor that is of the standard 1/2.3” size, and has a Sony G lens with 10x optical zoom
All in all, I’m very excited about this line, and I advise you to read on. I’ll be digging up all the information I can find on both these products, sharing it all with you in a way that hopefully gives you a better idea of how useful the QX line will actually be!
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Specifications You Would Want To Know
- Body: Compact, lens-camera
- Resolution 20.2 mega pixels (QX100) / 18.2 mega pixels (QX10)
- Sensor Size: 1” (QX100) / 1/2.3” (QX10)
- Sensor Type: EXMOR R CMOS (Both)
- Lens: Carl Zeiss 28-100mm f1.8-4.9 (QX100) / Sony G 27.5-275mm f3.3-5.9 (QX10)
- Image Stabilization: Yes, Optical SteadyShot (Both)
- Shutter Speed: Max 1/2000 sec, Min 4 sec (QX100) / Max 1/1600 sec, Min 4 sec (QX10)
- ISO Range (with expansion): 100-25600 (QX100) / 100-12800 (QX10)
- Video: 1080p @ 30fps (Both)
- Video Formats: MP4 (Both)
- Metering Modes: Multi-area (Both)
- Exposure Modes: Intelligent Auto, Superior Auto, Program Auto, Aperture Priority (Both)
- Built-in Flash: No (Both)
- Hot-shoe: No (Both)
- Autofocus: Contrast Detect (Both)
- AF Modes: Single Shot AF, Touch AF, Manual AF (QX100) / Multi-Point AF, Touch AF (QX10)
- AF Points: Unknown for both models
- Macro Range: 5cm (Both)
- Screen: Depends on your smartphone! The QX line has no screen, of course
- Viewfinder: None
- Max Drive Speed: Looks like both models do not have a burst/continuous shooting mode
- File Formats: JPEG only (Both)
- Connectivity: USB 2.0, WiFi, NFC (Both) – NOTE: No HDMI port
- Memory: microSD/microSDHC/microSDHC/Memory Stick Micro (Both)
- Dimensions: 63 x 63 x 52mm (QX100) / 62 x 62 x 30mm (QX10)
- Weight: 179g (QX100) / 105g (QX10) including battery/memory
Yeah, the specs look great. The QX100 in particular looks like it will be capable of producing some beautiful images – with its very large 1” image sensor, similar to the one found on the awesome new RX100 II and terrific Zeiss lens, I’m expecting some lovely images to come out of this package. The QX10 looks alright too, and should make some very nice photographs that should be far superior to most (or all) other smartphone cameras. With its own battery and memory card, it is pretty much completely independent in these areas, except of course that it won’t work without a smartphone attached to it! And talking of working with a smartphone, let me talk more about how this thing actually works…
So the cool thing is that it will work with almost any smartphone. I’m not sure about Windows phones, but it will work with all Androids and with iPhones; and considering how some new smartphone-accessory devices (I’m looking at you, Galaxy Gear) have very limited compatibility, this is very nice
Alright, you have your Android phone or your iPhone – all you need to do is snap on the QX camera to the back of your phone. That’s it. Remember that it’s a completely independent system, and does not have anything to do with your phone’s crappy little built-in camera. It just snaps on – I believe on certain Sony Xperia phones it is easier to fix – and that’s it. The rest is wireless connectivity: you download the Sony app that is required, and this will wirelessly connect your phone to the QX, allowing you to control the lens camera like it is a part of your phone. Very nice – very simple. I’ve not used it yet so I don’t know for sure how well it works in practice, but on paper, it seems super smooth. And based on early reviews, it seems to work like it claims to
So far, so good. The QX100 (as well as the QX10) packs a solid spec that should deliver great images – the system itself should work smoothly with your smartphone – and yeah, what else? Well, like I mentioned earlier, as you dig deeper into the specs (just look carefully at the above list) you start to notice a few little drawbacks. Comparing the QX line to a smartphone camera, you wouldn’t call these drawbacks at all – but compared to a high-end point-and-shoot camera, which is fair, considering the QX100 goes for around $499, you could definitely call these drawbacks of the QX system. Shooting modes for instance: there’s only an Aperture Priority, and Program Auto – no Shutter Priority, no Manual. Then there’s the JPEG only factor – if you’re thinking of shooting RAW, that’s not going to happen either. Slowest shutter speed? Nothing slower than 4 seconds. Built-in flash? Nope. Continous shooting? Don’t think so. Well, you get the idea
On first glance, the QX100 really seems to be able to replace a high-end point-and-shoot like the RX100/RX100 II, while the QX10 looks like it might be able to compete with cameras such as the Panasonic LX7 or the Canon Powershot S110. But as you take these little factors into account you start to realize that while these are really cool little gadgets, they probably won’t replace every aspect of a standalone camera. If you’re fine with the lack of a few little features, the ones that I just mentioned, you can definitely consider either one of the QX cameras, but if you’re a serious photographer who wants a compact camera, I think you will find the extra cash that the RX100 II costs to be quite worth it
In addition to these little issues, there’s also the practicality factor. Like I already pointed out, time will tell how practical the QX is to use, but right now, you can imagine for yourself what it’ll be like to use one. For instance, you’re never going to keep it attached to your phone, right? The lens, while reasonably compact as a device, is quite bulky when attached to your smartphone. You’re going to have to snap it on each time you want to take a quick picture, or if you’re out on a shoot, you need to attach it beforehand. As it looks pretty easy to attach/detach, I wouldn’t call this a real issue, but think about it. Other potential issues include battery drain on your mobile phone (it does use WiFi, as well as your smartphone’s screen), and handling. Again, I emphasize the fact that none of these are yet proven to be major issues – but if you’re planning on being one of the first users of this new product, think about it before dumping your cash!
For me, I really can’t wait to try one out. I love the idea, I love how unique it is, and I’m very pleased to see Sony continuing to push boundaries. So far, as you’ve probably understood as well, for someone who’s interested in taking quality pictures, the QX100 is the one to look at. The QX10 shares the same philosophy, naturally, but is aimed at people who want image quality that is slightly better than their smartphone. It lacks around a stop in ISO compared to the QX100, as well as Single AF and Manual AF modes – among other things. Anyway, they’re both pretty cool nonetheless – and now to the controls…
There’s obviously not a lot to talk about in this area, considering there’s no body to speak of – just the lens barrel – but I’ll go through whatever controls there are on both models
A quick note on handling, though: well, it’s going to be hard to judge how this device handles without actually using one, but based on what reviewers say (dpreview’s preview in particular) it seems to handle alright, with dpreview calling the handling unusual but not unpleasant. And that’s good to hear. I think it’d feel a bit front-heavy, if you know what I mean, what with new smartphones getting slimmer and slimmer, but that’s to be found out later on
Alright, let’s look at the controls then. The QX100 has these few controls on its barrel-type body: a power switch on the ‘top’ of the barrel, a little zoom rocker on the ‘side’ of the barrel, and a shutter button right beside the zoom rocker. It also has the RX100-esque control ring around the front of the lens that can be used to control zoom or focus (when in MF mode)
The QX10 has the exact same controls, minus the control ring
Since there’s hardly anything to talk of in terms of controls, let me describe the body a bit more. Both models are extremely similar in this case, so unless I specifically mention a single model, assume they’re both the same. Alrighty
The back of the lens opens up to reveal the battery compartment. Obviously, you insert the battery here. Also attached to the back of the lens is the mount or bracket or whatever you want to call it. This is the bit that is used to fix the QX camera to your phone. This mount looks like it simply clips on (solidly) to the back of the QX camera, and that’s that. Two little clamps unfold from the back of this mount – one of them is spring-loaded, and can be adjusted to the width of your particular smartphone. Clip it on and that’s it. The clamps should do a good job of joining both devices, although I’d advice you to hold onto both the QX and the phone at the same time. You don’t want to drop either in case the clamps give way, do you?
Again, I feel the handling might be a bit awkward and front-heavy, considering the difference in size between the rather bulky QX and the slim profile of most smartphones – but who knows, it might work beautifully if you get a feel for it. And as dpreview mentions, if you feel like using the QX separately, off-camera if you will, without mounting it to your phone, or if you want to shoot using your tablet, you can – and this requires no mounting at all. Not for everybody, but it might work nicely in a studio, mounted on a tripod, right?
Near the front of the lens, also on the barrel, is a little door that opens up to reveal the memory compartment. The microUSB port is also here, for recharging etc. You can choose if you want to save images to your phone’s memory or to the memory card inserted here. Or both. Nice
One last feature of the body of both these QX cameras is the tripod mount on the bottom. That’s a very useful feature that might easily have been omitted, and I’m glad to see it here. Really sets it apart from a regular smartphone, doesn’t it? Yeah
And that’s it for controls
Performance? I’m going to skip this part as I have no idea of how fast either QX camera will be, in any sense. AF speeds should be good, as Contrast Detect AF systems are very fast these days, but I can’t tell you for sure. I have no information on burst shooting rates of either QX – and as for general operational performance, it will be heavily based on how well your smartphone performs
And there you have it. A very unique, innovative pair of devices by Sony, devices that seem less of a gimmick and more like something you would actually want to use. Sure, they have their drawbacks and issues – like every other product out there – but if it works like it should (and people are finding out that they DO work like they should) it should be a very interesting little camera indeed
Without a doubt, the QX100 is the more impressive of the two. It’s got the large 1” sensor, it’s got the awesome Zeiss lens, it’s got a very useful control ring, more shooting options, better AF modes, greater ISO range, and all that. It’s more for the serious photographer. Paired with a good smartphone, it will do a lot. Will it replace a high-end compact camera like the RX100? No. But it does enable you to take very high quality images with your smartphone. Don’t take the entire ‘shoot high quality images with your smartphone’ idea too literally, though, as the QX camera adds a lot of bulk to your phone – meaning you end up carrying around the same bulk as an RX100 or LX7 or something; but you get the idea, right?
The QX10, while similar (or identical) in operation and concept, is quite different. It’s half the price, so it’s obviously different. It’s got a smaller, typically point-and-shoot sensor (1/2.3”), a Sony G superzoom-type lens, and lacks the fancier features like the control ring, more manual AF modes, and so on. It’s more for the person looking to get better-than-the-average-smartphone-type pictures, and will compare with mid-range compacts. It will definitely not replace a standalone camera. It’s still a good product though, and is quite a bit smaller than the QX100, and at a price of $249, it’s a pretty good deal
So yeah, the QX line is unique and innovative, it packs the internal goodies, it’s exciting, and it’s rather reasonably priced, in my opinion. I can’t really recommend it until I try one out for myself (I’ll probably review it then, so look out for that) and figure out how practical and easy it is to use – but I’m having high hopes, really. Good job Sony!
If you have any comments, thoughts, questions – use the comment box! And please use the links I’ve posted if you’re ordering one of these cool little things for yourself. Until next time
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By Heshan Jayakody All content is my own - except where noted. Images from Sony.com
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