06
Sep
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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.

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The Specs

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.

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The adapter has two arms, one of which can be pulled upward to fit your phone.

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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.

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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.

Screenshot_2013-09-06-21-03-10 Screenshot_2013-09-06-21-03-26

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.

Screenshot_2013-09-05-10-50-18

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.

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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.

Screenshot_2013-09-06-21-20-12

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.

Image Quality

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.

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Final Thoughts

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.

Liam Spradlin
Liam loves Android, design, user experience, and travel. He doesn't love ill-proportioned letter forms, advertisements made entirely of stock photography, and writing biographical snippets.

  • Thatguyfromvienna

    Thanks for a quick first test.
    A test with lower light / higher ISO would be interesting.

    • http://AndroidPolice.com/ Liam Spradlin

      I'll definitely be running a broader battery of tests with the lens for the full review.

  • jamesfuston

    When you say 100% crops you are talking about using software to zoom in to the original picture, correct? Do you have any example photos of a shot taken as wide and as tight (10x) as possible? I think that was intended to be part of the draw here. Most phones (save the Lumia 1020) can't manage any passable form of zooming and that seems to be part of the gap that Sony was trying to close with the entry level QX10 model.

    • http://AndroidPolice.com/ Liam Spradlin

      That's correct. Right now I've only got the above preliminary samples, but I'll have full-zoom examples for the full review.

      • jamesfuston

        Great, thanks.

  • Seireitei

    How does it fit onto the HTC One? Do you need a flat backed phone to attach it?

    • http://AndroidPolice.com/ Liam Spradlin

      I haven't got an HTC One to try this on, but the attachment arms are pretty long, and have grips on the inside, so it should fit just fine.

    • jamesfuston

      Something like this. That looks to me to be a standard bumper case.

      • Seireitei

        Thanks. Should fit fine without a bumper too then

        • AtomicGadget

          They attached this to a HTC One on one of the "podcasts" on The Verge, and it fits just fine.

  • http://www.whatupgoingon.com Greg Macek

    Were the originals in JPEG format or PNG like you posted? If the former, do you think any quality was lost in the conversion? I personally like the idea of having the storage on the lens itself initially save stuff then I can copy over to the phone more selectively (at least that's my assumption based on the screenshot of copying to the device.)

    I look forward to hearing more about the QX100. Sony was clear the QX10 was more about zoom and ease of use then manual controls.

    • http://AndroidPolice.com/ Liam Spradlin

      Originals are stored in JPG format. In my full review I will be posting full resolution samples for inspection up close, but I think the quality of the samples here is representative of the originals.

  • mlj11

    Could you try fitting on the lens while your phone is in a case? I'd like to know if it still fits well in that situation, or whether we'd need to remove the case first.

  • marcusmaximus04

    From my experience with the wife's Sony point and shoot(I forget the model), superior auto is basically HDR, taking multiple shots with different settings and merging them into a single one that, in theory, looks better in software

  • catiremedina

    Can you disable the transfer of pictures?

    • Ricardo Neves

      That's what i want to know too. And if we save them to the microSD, can we do burst shots?

      • Bob G

        I know other sites that have had time with this have said that you can actually just use the lens alone and then later transfer all the pics/vids via the microsd card to another device if you wish. Sounds awesome to me.

        • Primalxconvoy

          How can you take pictures without being able to see a viewfinder? And why then pay money for a camera that hasn't got one?

          • Armando Rodriguez

            You can detach the lens from the phone and use it with remote viewfinder or just a standalone lens with MicroSD, example you can take photos where the phone cant get like small spaces.

          • Primalxconvoy

            How can you, without a remote viewfinder option used, take pictures that are in any way competent, if you can't see the picture you're taking while you've detached the lense?

  • poopedtim

    I have a Sony DSC-HX30V which I normally only use when I travel 3-4 times out of the year. Do you think this lens would be a good replacement and same quality? I like the idea just want the same quality and function really.

    • Lucian

      Well it looks like QX10 has the same sensor as your camera. So quality should be the same.

      • poopedtim

        Yah I saw that but was worried that the functions on it wont be the same. Idk i really like the idea and all just dont want to lose anything while switching.

        • poopedtim

          basically I just want the same thing in the QX10 loll

    • Thatguyfromvienna

      Judging from the small 100% crops above (which were taken in broad daylight, thus having low ISO), I'd stick with the DSC.

      • poopedtim

        yah I'm still up in the air I feel the DSC will have more functions but Idk I guess I'll wait till the full review

        • poopedtim

          basically I just want the same thing in the QX10 lol

        • Thatguyfromvienna

          I don't think this gadget would have any benefits for you.
          Its image quality appears to be worse. It's about as big as your P&S. You don't have manual control unlike on your P&S.
          The only reason I can think of why purchasing this device would make sense is when you plan to forget it in a women's fitting room. Accidentally.

          • poopedtim

            that happens more often than you realize

  • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

    I find the concept pretty intriguing, but I feel like the QX10 is less defensible than the QX100. I think there's a good argument for a device that turns your phone into something closer to a DSLR or, barring that, at least a mirrorless or MFT-style high-end small device. Having less to carry, and being able to piggy-back off a device I already own that can do all the screen viewing and sharing and other heavy lifting makes a lot of sense to me. I hope you get your hands on one of those as well.

  • andy_o

    Sony would have had instant winners with these even at those prices if they'd just open an API so other apps can add things like manual controls.

    • Craig

      They have, the API is beta though

    • Primalxconvoy

      Exactly, but this is Sony were talking about. They still think that propriety software/hardware is going to work in this post-Apple age as the public will eventually break down and pay the ludicrous prices they're charging for their limited hardware and poor-quality software.

      I mean, the PSV will eventually replace mobile gaming, right?

      • Alok

        What are you saying? They are opening up the full API. That means they DON'T intend to tie you up to their software.

        • Primalxconvoy

          When it's ready and is supported by the majority of camera apps, let's talk.

  • Eric G

    What about 3D photo's, connecting two lenses. Would that be possible? I had a HTC Evo 3D and loved taking 3D pictures. Only disapointed in the low resolution of the phones cameras. Always hoped on a new 3D camera phone with higher resolution.

    • http://AndroidPolice.com/ Liam Spradlin

      Right now that would be impossible, as the lens connects to the Play Memories app, which only connects to one device at a time.

  • http://www.toysdiva.com Toys Samurai

    You know, if it's not a lens, but an adapter that can connect to any E-mount lens, I will definitely buy one. I have a couple E-mount lens already, carrying say, my Sigma 30mm, out with my phone out isn't a big deal (the lens + my NEX camera is a different story.)

  • Primalxconvoy

    " 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."

    This is my thought about this product, and any accessories that are almost as big and/or take more time to set up than carrying the original product that it's trying to replace. That's why all of those gamepads that are out there are pure fail to me, as I might as well carry around my old psp and be done with it.

    accessories need to be easy to attach, stay attached and not impede the normal running of the object they're attached to. Otherwise, it's just a camera, Attached to a phone:

    - http://www.journography.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/flight0000039918_20070521171023.jpg

  • DoubleP90

    This would be a very nice device, if it had manual controls.
    In my opinion it's a nice device, instead of carrying a point and shoot you'd carry the lens, which takes less space, plus it has smart features, like sharing to a social network or editing the final image.

    But i don't know who they are trying to sell it to, for a casual photographer the standard phone camera is enought, and for an intermediate or pro photographer it would be a nice option for a portable camera, but again, without the manual controls it's pretty useless (i will just use the phone camera)

  • Primalxconvoy

    The only use I could have for this is to attach it to my old htc desire which has joined the "drawer of fail" (all my old crappy hardware is in there). That's if I cared enough to buy a lense for their along price, which I do not. If I did, I'd probably just go the extra mile and buy a dedicated digital slr.

    • dextersgenius

      Take your words back sir, the HTC Desire was one of the best phones in its time. It deserves to live in a drawer of win.

      • Primalxconvoy

        I will not, Sir. Hardly any internal memory, crippled by sense ui and bloat meant that I could hardly have enough space to install the basic working apps to replace the turds that came preinstalled, the worst battery life in the world (I had to charge it twice a day) and one paltry update. I think they're was more wrong with it, but I've moved onto my Galaxy Note 2 and I'm loving it.

        They tried to market the desire as an iphone killer even though the 4 was out by the time the desire came out, the desire struggled to impress even iphone 3c users. My friends were amazed at just how crap it was and I had to sit there and agree with them.

        It was probably one of the reasons htc is (thankfully) dying.

        WORST PHONE EVER.

  • Thatguyfromvienna

    My prediction: This will sell well! And it will change the market entirely.
    Not now in the initial phase. But in the long run, it will.

    First of all, Sony is by far the most innovative company among those producing serious enthusiast and pro cameras. They came up with SLTs! While this system and its EVF do have a couple of drawbacks, they also have huge advantages over SLRs with OVF and for me, they outweigh the disadvantages. Focus peaking through the viewfinder, anyone? Canikon can't do that! Whatyouseeiswhatyoushoot! You see the actual exposure through the viewfinder. No constant "Uh, is this lighter or darker than 18% grey? And if so, by a third or a full stop?" guesswork anymore.

    This gadget is cool and not too expensive.
    The picture quality will be better than what your phone can shoot natively.
    Yes, currently a proper P&S will make better photos. This gadget doesn't offer manual shooting or RAW, so no real photo hobbyist will purchase it to replace their camera, let alone any professional.
    But Sony will sell them and realize that the market is there.
    They will develop it further and further and at one point make P&S cameras obsolete, at least for the tech aficionados like us.

    Sorry for the tl;dr and any syntax or spelling errors. English is not my native language.

    • beomagi

      It sounds like you're talking more about Sony in general instead of this product. Focus peaking is primarily useful to interchangeable lens cameras where the display aids in focusing manually, and only if it's offered in the firmware. Sony has been offering it in some NEX cameras, the panasonic GH3 and the Olympus omd-em5. I don't see why this needs it as it's lacking manual control, even in focusing.

      Canikon lets you swap the focusing screen to much better manual focus screens - it's just not popular today. It's easy to focus with them. The big advantages of CDAF focusing over PDAF is no front/back focus problems associated with misaligned mirrors/focus screens, and there's technically a focus point wherever you want on CDAF.

      SLT is a marketing term for the use of the pellicle mirror that's been used before digital days. Olympus used a similar solution in their 330 in 2006/2007. Sony's just the only ones using it today.

      I think it's priced ok for what it SHOULD be - but it's not offering features and quality I'd expect at that price. You're buying a limited compact camera, with smallest of sensors, no screen, no controls but wifi. For $250, you can get large sensor compact with wider aperture .e.g. XZ-1 is F1.8-2.5, 1/1.7 sensor and ~$250. A comparable lens/sensor to the QX10 can be had in lower end canon powershots for under $120, and those have more features stock, and are extensible using CHDK.

      That said, I want one to stick on my radio controlled trucks, since I'd be able to use it to see from the remote POV and possibly take video. I just can't justify the cost for that level of camera.

      I can see this evolving into a gopro-like camera which wirelessly connects to your phone offering controls and real time streaming.

      • Thatguyfromvienna

        Yes, sure. You buy this product now, you pay the price an early adopter does.
        It's always been like that.
        That's what I basically said by the way; it's not a very attractive offer just yet. It's too limited but Sony will without a doubt develop it further and probably make it tempting even for the avid shooter at one point.

        Nonetheless it does have a novelty factor to it, making it attractive to geeks in general.

  • Mark

    A better option than wasting your money on a Lumia Pureview, but the reality is better of with a good smartphone (nexus4) and a good camera (like the NEX5R)

  • Ambroos

    Remember that the version of PlayMemories used in this hands-on is not officially compatible with the lens cameras. Before they ship an updated version will be provided with full control capabilities and a huge amount of options.

  • hyperbolic

    This is so exciting.
    Imo it's the greatest innovation of the year.

  • Krzysztof

    Will this only work with phones that have flat back? I really like them but my htc one is slighlty curved

  • Nir Galon

    In the full review there will be QX100 samples too? (or the full review will be just on the QX10?)

  • obarthelemy

    This device is competing against compacts, not smartphones. Please let your review reflect that...

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  • therealbiglou

    I'm actually wondering why these lenses--at least, the better model--are getting criticized so much. These seems like a perfect option for those wanting to get a removable lens camera but already have a smart phone. That's one less device you need to carry around. For those who are satisfied with a lower end camera, stick with the phone.

  • jurrabi

    I would consider that a valid option for something like my wifes nexus 7 (2012) that doesn't have a rear camera. But I'm guessing the mount is not thought for that purpose.

    I would find it a neat solution if it was good enough to pair the digital compact she carries when she wants to make better pictures that the ones I call "facebook" pictures and are produced by the average phone, but not wanting to take the reflex.

    But based on your review I would think the camera (based on the lack of manual options) is still very basic. At least too basic for it's pricetag.

    I guess I'll pass on this one and get a 2013 Nexus 7 instead...

  • http://www.70plus-feeling50.com/ millgate

    Hi,
    The larger of these 2 lenses would more than solve the lack of a rear camera on my 2012 Nexus 7 ... issue is, will the attachment 'claw' stretch to the either/both 2012/2013 Nexus 7 ?

  • http://www.70plus-feeling50.com/ millgate

    Hi,
    Will the mount fit the back of a Nexus 2013 ?