Sony QX smart lens

Sony announced a new series of lens cameras, designed specifically as smartphone attachments. Each QX lens has no screen and no body. The camera smarts are inside the lens housing, communicating with the smartphone via WiFi. There’s an attachment that connects the lens to your phone, though that is not strictly necessary. The QX app converts your smartphone screen into a realtime viewfinder. When you press the shutter release on the lens, a compressed version of the image is sent to your phone’s image library. The full-size images are stored in a memory card on the lens.

I really like this idea, though it is hard to imagine mounting the lens on my phone every time I want to take a picture. Something you might get used to, I suspect, and worth it if the images are significantly better than any I can capture with my phone’s built-in camera.

One aspect that I find most intriguing is the fact that the app can control the lens remotely, with the ability to release the shutter, start/stop movie recordings, and adjust common photographic settings like shooting mode, zoom, Auto Focus area and more. This means I can mount the lens on a tripod, move to a comfortable position, make all my adjustments, then take my shot, all remotely. In addition, this lets me take my shot without touching the lens, avoiding vibrations that might affect focus.

  • Odi Kosmatos

    This sounds impractical, all in the name of subtracting a small camera body from the equation. So the high-rez images are stuck on a card inside the lens, and the smartphone only gets a reduced copy. This means you have to add steps in your workflow of getting your photos out of the lens. Furthermore, the author of this post says he can mount the lens on a tripod. If you are going to carry around all this equipment, the advantage of being connected to a smartphone vanishes.

    • DanielSw

      Your assessment is overly harsh and reactionary–especially since the product has yet to be released.

      First of all, you’re not going to want to “instantly share” the 20 MP images the camera takes. The compressed copies may be just fine for that.

      Second of all, if a shot requires a tripod, there’s no getting around that, no matter WHAT camera you have, so your gripe about having to carry around equipment is moot.

      I’m looking forward to examining these cameras. I want to see what they weigh, and I want to see what the latency is. If it’s reasonably low, and if the wi-fi range is good, then the QX100 could be quite useful for me.

      If the image quality is consistent with other cameras equipped with Zeiss lenses, that’s a big plus. So if I can get “remote control” and great images for $500, those are big pluses in my mind.

      • Odi Kosmatos

        You bet my reaction is harsh. Sony is trying to hard to survive and to become relevant again. This lens could have one thing going for it, convenience, otherwise it amounts to nothing more than another niche product which will not turn Sony around. It won’t sell Z1s, either.

        • DanielSw

          I’ve always wanted to do this: You’re missing the big picture (pun intended)! Don’t worry, I won’t waste too many words “explaining” to a skeptic like you who doesn’t just “get it.”

          “Sony is trying too hard to survive and become relevant again”???!!! Since when to you get to be Sony’s “executioner”? You bet they’re trying to become relevant again–like they were decades ago! This is one of their opportunities, and I’m all for it.

          You object to lugging around equipment. Who doesn’t? I personally want a camera which I can control remotely, and I’ve been looking at the Canon 70D with its built-in wi-fi and its iOS app for controlling the camera from a phone or iPad. But that 100-400 EF lens I have is big and heavy, which in turn requires a non-dinky tripod to keep it AND the camera steady.

          So if this new Sony gizmo can offer as good or better image quality with JUST a Zeiss lens, and if the software is useable, and if it’s light and compact like it looks to be, AND all for about $500, then I’m all for it–as I suspect many others will be. Then Sony will rightly deserve is newly-found relevancy.

        • Jonathan Morris

          It doesn’t have to sell Z1s though. It works with other devices, and that means a much bigger market is on offer to Sony.

          Of course, showing the Z1 in advertisements won’t do any harm.. many consumers might assume it’s designed to work with Xperia devices only.

          I had a play with the QX10 at Campus Party Europe earlier today and it’s pretty easy to carry (I presume it comes with a hard case or pouch) and just as easy to clip on to your phone.

          My only concern is the battery life, not just for powering the lens but the impact on your phone – but the Z1 has got the 3,000mAh battery.

      • hexx

        That Zeiss will good for nothing, you’re shooting JPEG and Sony’s JPEG engine isn’t really good. If they allowed recording of raw data instead it might have been good.

    • Photojustice

      Harsh, reactionary and unimaginative assessment. This is a game-changing product. The real questions surround implementation. Is there significant lag? How fast will the image transfer process take? Even the answers are not satisfactory, there will be improvement over time. We are seeing a somewhat new category of photography being invented here. Imaginative photographers can see this.

      • Odi Kosmatos

        If I have to use my imagination, then it is DOA.

  • Hrunga Zmuda

    I was skeptical at first, but as I think about it this could be a great copy camera for shooting flat art on a copy stand, or stick it near a birdfeeder and control it remotely. The possibilities are endless. But strapped to my iPhone? Not likely.

    Sony’s new video cameras are just as interesting for non-typical applications.

    • DanielSw

      There you go! A birdfeeder-type application would be an excellent use of the camera! Wi-Fi should give plenty of range. The small lens could rather easily be protected from the elements, and of course not scare away the wildlife.

  • DanielSw

    So, instead of objecting to extra equipment for tripod-mount applications, how about CONCENTRATING on such!

    If this works well for remote-controlled applications, then various questions arise: what is the operating temperature range? What about a jack for external supplementary power? Does the software offer time lapse shooting?

  • lkalliance

    I share the same hopeful enthusiasm as DanielSw. I’m not a professional photographer, but I know that if I want to get high-quality photos I’m going to take along with me my Canon DSLR, rather than just rely on my iPhone. This might be a good in-between.

    I also agree with the other poster here that suggested a birdfeeder use. That’s exactly the situation I’d find myself in: my current feeder is just a little too high for me to get a good angle using just my phone; it’s also a little too far away for iPhone video. I don’t always have my Canon lying around (though I should for just this reason)…running upstairs and grabbing it and coming back down means the shot is gone, of course.

    But to put this lens high on a tripod, and be able to grab my iPhone and get off a shot without having to move and startle the birds…that would be very nice indeed.

    There are other solutions to that specific problem, of various quality and cost. So I’d have to evaluate the following: Is this the only reason I’d get this device?

    I believe that I can do one of two things well but not both at the same time: experience an event or photograph an event. If I’m there for the experience, I’m not bringing my camera, and I’ll use the iPhone to get snaps. If I’m there to shoot, I’m not going to worry about experience and I’m going to bring my Canon. I’ve learned I can’t do both well at the same time; it’s very frustrating.

    So would this product be one that could bridge the gap? It appears a lot smaller and something I can bring with me and either use or not use, but I can have a better-quality option than just the phone. Would I do it? Would I be satisfied with the results? Would it be more convenient than taking my big camera?

    If the answer is “yes, I’d use it 99% of the time for bird feeder photography” then I’d have to evaluate the advantages (and there are some). It does leverage some of the things I already possess: iPhone, wifi, tripod.

  • jcgarza

    If you’re gonna be lugging around anything besides your phone, you might as well bring your “real” camera and spend $50 on an SD card that will automatically send the pictures to your phone:

    • DanielSw

      Disagree. If this Sony/Zeiss lens works well, it will reduce that lug-around burden significantly. This is another “mirrorless” camera, as well as being JUST a lens with no camera body/battery. It also repurposes your smartphone into the camera’s viewfinder, and once providing a very flexible viewfinder and camera remote control. “Real” cameras are NOT “just as well” as this in many possible applications.

      • hexx

        QX is camera without a VF – battery and card are inside. This is RX100 MkII without LCD, manual controls, raw data capture and who knows what else. You seem to be contradicting yourself when it comes to your previous comment regarding Canon and 100-400 lens (which on the 70D is 160 – 640mm)- can’t imagine how you can replace that with this – apples and oranges.

        I can see only few uses of these cameras – nightclubs, girls dancing on the tables, put these on the table and enjoy the view ;)

  • Moeskido

    A peculiar accessory, but I can imagine lkalliance’s event photography scenario getting better coverage if this device would eventually allow, say, one iPhone to control several lenses stationed around a room.

    • DanielSw

      Looking at the money involved, why not just get pairs of QX100s and Apple iPod Touches and get some sort of framework to hold the Touches next to each other?

      The lenses would have to be pre-composed before the event, as they probably couldn’t be re-composed during since they wouldn’t have their “viewfinders” nearby.

      • Moeskido

        I defer to anyone who has more experience with any of this kind of gear. Just spitballing.

        I was thinking of a setup that somehow allowed a single user to switch between multiple cameras while an event was taking place. You’d probably need an iPad-sized screen to see the multiple feeds as you change views. I have no idea if this is even possible.

        • DanielSw

          I’m not directly experienced, either, but, as I said, the cameras would probably have to be aimed and left alone for the entire event. Each could then be started and stopped from its respective iDevice. Each would capture the entire event, or could be turned on at off at appropriate points, and then you would edit together each camera’s footage in post. The sound would then have to be captured separately and then sync’d with the video on post. Whenever you go to multiple cameras, it gets a lot more complicated very easily.

          • Moeskido

            Granted. But how cool would it be if you could direct live tv coverage of an event from one iOS device while hooked up to multiple cameras?

          • DanielSw

            Well who knows, if this camera format takes off, I’m sure someone will come up with such a solution, as long as it somehow doesn’t require the compute power of a desktop computer. I just think it’s so elegant to use “just” a lens and rely on external components, repurposing an iDevice as a viewfinder. I’d love to be able to buy just a Zeiss lens which have appeared on so many high end cameras over the years.

  • Eugene Kim

    “An innovation that is disruptive allows a whole new population of consumers at the bottom of a market access to a product or service that was historically only accessible to consumers with a lot of money or a lot of skill.

    Characteristics of disruptive businesses, at least in their initial stages, can include: lower gross margins, smaller target markets, and simpler products and services that may not appear as attractive as existing solutions when compared against traditional performance metrics. Because these lower tiers of the market offer lower gross margins, they are unattractive to other firms moving upward in the market, creating space at the bottom of the market for new disruptive competitors to emerge.”

  • maniacfive

    We’ve got the demo units in our stores hero bay. and its very nicely done. The WiFi network the camera puts out seems stable, and its largely been repsonsive. Even when being remotely controlled by an iPhone across the shop floor.

    Bit creepy though, its already been dubbed the ‘Toilet Cam’

    Of course, this camera is free with the first 2500 Z1 pre-orders…. I wonder how many we would sell at the £180 list price as a stand alone accessory… Not many!

  • maniacfive

    We’ve got the demo units in our stores hero bay. and its very nicely done. The WiFi network the camera puts out seems stable, and its largely been repsonsive. Even when being remotely controlled by an iPhone across the shop floor.

    Bit creepy though, its already been dubbed the ‘Toilet Cam’

    Of course, this camera is free with the first 2500 Z1 pre-orders…. I wonder how many we would sell at the £180 list price as a stand alone accessory… Not many!

  • Dave Mark

    One use I’d see for this lens: I’m in a crowd, trying to get a picture. I hold the lens up over my head with one hand and use my phone screen (in the other hand) to frame the shot.