Sony QX10 & QX100: compact lens cameras for iPhone and Android [video]

Sony Xperia Z1

Sony’s QX10 and QX100 lens cameras claim to solve the age-old problem of taking respectable photos with your smartphone. Cramming all the image-capturing quality of a compact camera into a portable lens, they work with either your iPhone or Android handset and are set to launch on 27 September 2013 in America with the UK release to follow soon after.

Read on for how Sony QX10 and QX100 shape up in terms of megapixels, optical zoom and pricing, as well as our first impressions of them.

Digital camera reviews – read our expert verdict on 170 digital cameras

Sony QX10 & Sony QX100- five key features

iPhone and Android compatible – what makes the Sony QX10 or QX100 special compared to any other compact camera? The fact they can connect to your iPhone or Android mobile via wi-fi or NFC. The idea is that you physically mount them onto your phone using their adjustable clamps and then snap away as you please.

QX10: 10x optical zoom and 18-megapixel lens – priced around the £200 mark, the Sony QX10 is the cheaper model of the two (i.e. the one you’re most likely to buy as a Christmas present). Its 10x optical zoom is aimed at enthusiastic point-and-click amateurs who want to capture a moment and move on. Thanks to an 18-megapixel sensor, the results are much better than you’d achieve with your phone’s inbuilt camera.

QX100: 20.2-megapixel and f/1.8-4.9 aperture – the QX100 is targeted at more discerning photographers who’d rather carry this in their rucksack than lug around a heavy DSLR camera. Its specs are equivalent to the Sony RX100 II, so the featured 20.2-megapixel sensor and f/1.8-4.9 lens should perform better than the QX10 in low light. The downside of this superior performance is the QX100’s £400 price tag.

Long-enough lasting battery life? – according to Sony, both lens cameras should offer a respectable 110 minutes battery life. Depending on how frequently you use yours, this could be just about enough time or slightly too little. We’ll know for sure when we get the products into our test lab.

HD video for all – as well as capturing photos, you can also use the Sony QX10 and QX100 to shoot video. They both capture high definition video at a 1080/30p framerate. If you film with the QX100, the video should look better due to the extra specification of the lens.

Expert verdict – ‘A novelty photographic stocking filler’

Rob Leedham profile imagePicture the scene: you’re on holiday with a beautiful sunset in front of you. To preserve this scene for eternity do you:

a) Whip out your smartphone and start snapping.

b) Whip out your smartphone and Sony QX10, wait for them to connect over NFC, open up the Sony PlayMemories app and then start snapping.

Instead of sticking with your phone, Sony thinks you’d rather pay a little more and wait a little longer for the privilege of getting a better photo at the end of the process. I’m not so sure.

There’s an undoubted ‘wow factor’ in using the QX100. It may be a bulky product to straddle on top of your phone, but you’d expect that for what is essentially a compact camera crammed inside the space of a lens.

More importantly, my hands-on experience showed QX100’s photos to be far superior to what you’d get with even an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S4; but aren’t their cameras good enough for most users? I suspect they may be, making it hard to see the QX10 taking off, even if it drops in price towards Christmas.

If the QX10 and QX100 perform as well as a compact camera in our testing, then I’d certainly recommend them as viable alternatives. Especially, as you’d be able to share your photos more easily using the likes of Instagram and Flickr.

The downside of this equation is battery life and it’s a problem that’s not restricted to these lens cameras themselves. If your phone is constantly linked to another device via wi-fi or NFC, that’s going to cause a steady drain on its power reserves too.
Rob Leedham, writer

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