As the modern smartphone continues to evolve, so too do integrated cameras. Over the course of just a few years, sensors have grown and megapixels have increased almost exponentially. Samsung set a high standard earlier this year by equipping the best-selling Galaxy S4 with a 13MP rear-camera. Nokia’s Lumia 1020 blew the competition away with an enormous 41MP PureView sensor, though it has struggled with mainstream adoption (likely due in part to its Windows Phone OS).
In the not-so-distant past, many people carried both a mobile phone and a point-and-shoot camera. Now that smartphones have integrated point-and-shoot caliber sensors, compact digital cameras seem to be steadily becoming obsolete. While smartphone cameras and point-and-shoots will never replace the raw power of a DSLR, Sony may have created the next best thing in high quality photography that still manages to be light, portable, and beginner-friendly.
The long-rumored and frequently leaked Sony “lens cameras” were officially revealed at the Sony’s IFA press conference in Berlin on Wednesday. They will fall under the Cyber-shot brand, rather than branching off into a speculated “Smart-shot” subcategory.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Both of the two “Smart Lens” cameras will pair with Android devices using either Wi-Fi or NFC. They will also be compatible with iOS devices with a Wi-Fi connection (current iPhone models have yet to adopt NFC connectivity).
“These so-called lens-style cameras contain almost all the hardware you'd find in a Sony point-and-shoot – a zoom lens, image sensor and processing chips, a battery, stereo microphones, and even their own memory card slots – but omit the inclusion of a viewfinder,” said The Verge.
The premium version is called the QX100 – as previously rumored, it is almost identical to the critically acclaimed Sony RX100 Mark II point-and-shoot but with the whole package squeezed into the shape of a lens. It has a 1-inch, 20.2MP sensor with a Carl Zeiss lens (f/1.8-4.9 with 3.6x zoom) and BIONZ image processing. With a battery and memory stick (or microSD card), the QX100 weighs 179 grams.
“The camera shoots at a standard ISO of 100-3200 for stills. The key drawback is the camera's movie recording mode, which only shoots 1440 x 1080 at 30 fps. Worse, it also only records in MP4 instead of in Sony's higher-quality AVCHD codec,” said Gizmodo.
The QX100 will retail for $500 – slightly more than pre-IFA rumors suggested, but $200 less than the full-sized RX100 Mark II.
The QX10 is more entry level, sporting a much smaller 1/2.3-inch, 18.2 sensor with a Sony G lens (f/3.3-5.9 with 10x optical zoom). It weighs 105 grams with a battery and memory stick/microSD card. Suggested retail price is $250.
Both Smart Lens cameras will attach to handsets with an extendable clip. They can also be held away from the phone for taking shots from interesting angles or of difficult-to-access areas (a promotional video shows an actor stick his hand through a fence, QX100 in hand, to snap a photo of a shy cat hiding on the other side) – and don’t forget the “selfie” possibilities. A physical shutter button and zoom control is built into the lens camera itself, making one-handed operation easy.
As for battery life, both the QX100 and QX10 come with 630 mAh batteries and standard microUSB charging ports.
Sony’s Smart Lens cameras may not be able to stack up to the much more expensive, larger, and heavier DSLR options available – but at least the QX100 will replace even the best point-and-shoot out there.