September 4th, 2013

Sony Unveils Two Lens-Style Cameras For Smartphones

The Cyber-shot QX100 attached to a Sony XperiaZ smartphone.

The Cyber-shot QX100 attached to a Sony XperiaZ smartphone.

If you’ve been reading the rumor sites for the past several weeks, you won’t be surprised to learn that Sony just announced two “lens-style” cameras, the Cyber-shot QX100 and the Cyber-shot QX10. These devices function as both a lens and a camera for smartphones and tablets, connecting via wi-fi/NFC and the Sony Play Memories Mobile application. They are designed to bring higher quality optics, larger sensors and optical zooms to mobile photography.

The higher end of the two lens-style cameras, the QX100, is built around the same 1-inch, 20-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor as the Cyber-shot RX100 II camera. It is paired with an f/1.8, 3.6x optical zoom Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens with a 35mm-equivalent focal range of 28-100mm and a dedicated focus control ring.

The QX10 features a 1/2.3 -inch, 18 megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor and a 10x, f/3.3, 10x optical zoom lens with a 35-mm equivalent focal range of 25-250mm.

Both lenses are image-stabilized, accept Memory Stick Micro and microSD memory cards and are equipped with stereo microphones and mono speakers.

Images can be composed, viewed and captured using the screen on your smartphone or tablet as a viewfinder. The screen, in conjunction with the free iOS or Android Sony Play Memories app, operates the lens-camera remotely and allows users to trigger the shutter, start/stop video recording and adjust a wide range of parameters such as shooting mode, zoom, autofocus area and other settings directly on the screen. Still images and video clips are automatically saved to the lens-camera’s removable memory as well as the smart device.

The QX lens-cameras can be attached to compatible smartphones with a hard plastic adapter, which fits around horizontal edges of the phone. When used with a tablet or detached from a smartphone, the lens-cameras can be handheld, rested on a surface or placed on a tripod, while still maintaining on-screen control.

However, both lens-cameras are also self-contained and can function independent of a mobile device. They don’t have viewfinders, but each has a rechargeable battery, shutter release and memory card slot.

The lens-cameras are relatively small and lightweight: The QX100 measures 2 ½ x 2 ½ x 2 ¼ inches and weight about 6.3 ounces with battery and memory card. The QX10 is a little smaller at 2 ½ x 2 ½ x 1 15/16 inches and weighs 3.7 ounces with battery and memory card installed.

Initial impressions, after spending a little hands-on time with the lenses, are mostly positive. The QX100 and QX10 are certainly smaller and lighter than expected and since they come with their own cases, I can easily imagine stowing one or both in a handbag or jacket pocket to carry around for shooting with a smartphone. In addition to offering a surprising number of user-controlled camera settings, they seem to have very little shutter lag when triggering the lenses with a smartphone or tablet. It was hard to judge image quality without loading the images onto a computer for a detailed view but, given the specs—particularly of the QX100—I think these unique lens-style cameras will deliver some pretty nice images. The bigger question, perhaps, is who will buy them.

The QX100 and QX10 are available in black or white and will ship later this month. For more details and specifications, visit the Sony website.

Price:

Cyber-shot QX100: $500

Cyber-shot QX10: $250