Odds are the picture you posted on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr was taken with your smartphone. With the popularity of “smartphone photography,” fewer consumers are using portable, point-and-shoot cameras.
But smartphones are limited and don’t have the picture-taking functionality of a regular camera. It’s difficult, for instance, to take a post-worthy “selfie,” a close-up or a long distance shot with our cellphones.
Late last year at IFA, Sony introduced an entirely new type of point-and-shoot camera. The QX10 and its big brother, the QX100, are missing a built-in LCD. Instead, framing, image review, configuration and even storage are all handled on another device: your smartphone. These “lens cameras,” as they’ve become unofficially known, mount directly on a handset you already own, pairing with Sony’s PlayMemories Mobile app via WiFi. We had the QX10 over for review for the past two weeks, here are our first thoughts:
The QX10 comes across as a lens, but contains everything you might expect from a standard camera. It comes with a shutter button, 18.2-megapixel image sensor, processor, memory card slot and 10x optical zoom lens. However, the QX10 can act as a separate camera or attach to your smartphone. The QX10 and QX100 work with Android and iOS phones. For our review, I tried the QX10 on an iPhone 5 though we’d recommend sticking to a larger device if possible.
Instead of competing with high-powered smartphone/camera hybrids such as the Galaxy S4 Zoom or the Nokia Lumia 1020, the QX10 creates a new realm of photography with no competing comparative product. The benefits are considerable. The absence of a display allows for a more compact body, improved power efficiency and a lower price tag, the QX10 has a smaller footprint and an affordable R2999.00 price tag.
In the rounded box, you’ll find an instruction manual, the lens camera, a detachable smartphone mount with an extending arm, a wrist strap, an NP-BN battery pack rated for 200 shots and a micro-USB cable for charging and wired image transfers. There isn’t one accessory you won’t need, nor are there any critical components missing, with the exception of a microSD card. There’s also a sliding arm that’ll accommodate just about any current phone model, including the LG G2, and rubber pads positioned where the accessory meets your handset to eliminate any risk of damage when you attach and detach the lens. You can also use the lens on its own, though there aren’t many physical controls, and without a viewfinder to speak of, it’s a bit of a crapshoot. There are but three buttons: a power control on the top, then a shutter release and a zoom toggle on the left side of the lens. Any settings adjustments — and there aren’t many to choose from — are handled directly in Sony’s PlayMemories Mobile app.
The good: With Sony’s new system, users have the ability to take high-quality pictures and share them easily using the smartphone. It’s the best of both worlds.
The optical image stabilization and 10x optical zoom on the lens means less blurry results in low light. Because of its wider lens, QX also helps take better group “selfies,” without it looking as if you’re holding the camera at arm’s length.
The bad: Because there is no screen, you have to use the smartphone to see what you’re shooting. I found myself holding and aiming the QX10 in one hand with the smartphone-as-viewfinder in the other. We did run into some speed limitations with the app, but overall it did work well.
The QX10 does not come with its own a microSD card, so that’ll be an added cost. Yes, photos snapped by the QX10 can be autosaved to your smartphone, but at QX10’s full 18.2 MP resolution (or 13 MP if shooting 16 x 9) you’ll soon run out of memory space.
Even if you’re only after image quality, the other question any potential buyer must ask of themselves is “will I want to carry this thing around?” If you’ve got the spare space in your purse or bag, I say go for it. As the title of this review suggests, I see the QX10 as yet another stepping stone between mobile phone cameras and DSLRs. If you don’t like Point and Shoot cameras for some reason, can’t stand your phone’s camera, and want something that’ll give you decent images on the go, the QX10 probably fits. Just realize that you still won’t be capturing those fleeting picture-perfect moments in 18 megapixels – you’ll be too busy setting the QX10 up.