Sony's QX attachable lens cameras are among the oddest new products we've seen in a while. They are full cameras inside a lens body, can attach to your smartphone, and capture photos with Sony's Play Memories app.
The company announced two variants of the QX during their pre-IFA press conference – the QX10 and its higher-end counterpart the QX100.
Over the past couple of days, I've had the chance to live with the QX10, so I thought it may be helpful to share some initial impressions on the device and how it works.
First, let's talk specs. The QX10 carries with it a 1/2.3" 18.2 megapixel sensor inside a Sony G Lens with a maximum aperture of 3.3 and 10x optical zoom. It's got its own 630mAh battery pack that's good for around 200 shots or a couple of hours on standby with the viewfinder running in Sony's app. Situated near the battery on the bottom of the lens is a microSD card slot, in case you want to snap photos without a phone, or want to store them on a card rather than waiting for them to copy to your device.
The lens also houses an NFC chip, Wi-Fi, and a couple of microphones up top.
What it Looks Like
It looks just like a little lens, except that it's missing a typical camera mount. Instead, it's got a place for an adapter to snap on, allowing it to attach to just about any smartphone.
The adapter has two arms, one of which can be pulled upward to fit your phone.
There's a power button up top. Press it, and the lens will turn on and extend outward. There's a manual zoom control and shutter release on one side, and a small battery/memory readout on the other. On the bottom is a flattened portion that allows the lens to rest and a typical tripod mount.
How it Works
This is the interesting part. You can actually use the lens by itself, but we'll focus on using it with the app. To get things started, you just open Sony's Play Memories app (available on the Play Store), turn on the lens, and the app does the rest. The lens actually creates a direct Wi-Fi connection with your device, which allows it to transfer photos to your gallery after snapping them.
The one downside to this is that it takes a while. If you transfer photos at their full 18MP resolution, it will take about 5 or 6 seconds per photo to transfer, giving you a very high recycle time. The other option is to transfer tiny "thumbnails" at 2MP to your device, which lowers the recycle time to about 1 or 2 seconds. While it's easy to understand why this is the case, neither option is ideal.
This isn't the lens' only limitation, either. Let's take a look at the shooting interface.
Starting at the top left, we have a camera icon with a lowercase i. This changes the shooting mode. The shooting modes you have to choose from include Intelligent Auto, Superior Auto, and Program Auto. I haven't worked out the exact differences between Intelligent and Superior Auto, but Program Auto does allow for exposure compensation.
Unfortunately, that's the only hint of manual control I've seen with the lens camera. We already knew it wouldn't come with full manual controls, but it's still a bit disappointing to see exposure compensation and white balance as the only two control options.
Moving on, we have the "Mode" button, which simply allows you to toggle between video and still modes. We also have an overflow system button, which does the exact same thing as the wrench-and-screwdriver button in the bottom right. It opens up a panel of basic settings for auto timer, image resolution, and a few other things.
The W/T rocker is your zoom control. The Play button in the bottom left takes you to your gallery (after it disconnects your lens camera), and the arrow just hides settings.
I haven't had time to do an exhaustive test with the QX10, but early photos are looking pretty decent. Below are a few downsized samples with 100% crops inset.
My initial impressions on the QX10 are a little hard to sum up. It produces decent photos, and setup is an absolute breeze, but it's still an extremely odd concept to me, and a very limited product.
I think the rationale behind it is that ideally, our phone cameras would be this good, but since they aren't we can augment them with another device.
That logic kind of stumps me though, because carrying this lens takes about as much provision as carrying a small point-and-shoot, or even my Sony Alpha NEX 7. More than that, as I've already said, the device has very limited controls.
Still, maybe there's a market for this thing. My full review should be up soon. In the meantime, drop any questions in the comments below.