The Sony QX100 lens-style camera for smartphones

The Sony QX100 lens-style camera is a camera that you can pair with your Android or iPhone to for taking photos and is designed to bump up the image quality of what you can take with your mobile phone. It is a marriage between your rarely used point-and-shoot and with your most used everyday shooter, the smartphone.

The Sony QX100 lens-style camera mounted on an Apple iPhone 5s.
The Sony QX100 lens-style camera mounted on an Apple iPhone 5s.

This is not a proper technical review and is mostly just a quick and biased, first impression on the Sony QX100 lens-style camera. The QX100 is just like the Sony RX100 minus all the other parts that make it a regular camera. This thing has no viewfinder, no LCD, no hot shoe and no built-in flash. Basically nothing that would make it look like a point-and-shoot. The camera only has a shutter button, an optical zoom slider and a slot for a microSD card like on the ones you’d find on smartphones. The lens-style camera is so small, it actually looks more like a lens adaptor than anything else.

The device connects directly to any Android or iOS device via Wi-Fi, and using Sony’s PlayMemories Mobile app, you’d be able to preview and control the camera’s settings. Connecting is fairly simple, NFC-enabled devices have an advantage as it further simplifies the process. One tap between the two NFC labels will automatically pair the devices to each other over wifi.

An impulse buy.

I wasn’t really looking for the QX100 but instead was scouting for its bigger, or rather “much smaller” brother, the Sony ILCE-QX1, an interchangeable, e-mount lens-style camera, which unfortunately, was still not available in Singapore when I was there that second week of October. My original plan was to use lens adaptors for vintage lenses to make them work on the QX1. But then, I ended up with the QX100 since it was the only one available and I was already about to board my flight back home that afternoon.

And to add to all that, I found out that the QX100 costs exactly the same in Manila as it did in Singapore, plus with a few more freebies.

Pros

This thing is light and can be taken anywhere. It’s fairly easy to pair with an iPhone and definitely easier with any NFC-enabled Android device. It lets you take photos from angles that would otherwise break your back trying to crouch just to compose that impossible shot you’re trying to take. Do be aware though and be extra careful not to be mistaken for a perv taking upskirt shots when using this thing.

At 20.2 megapixels and with a F1.8 Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens, image quality is great compared to other smartphones and point-and-shoot cameras. It fairs well in low light situations and has 3.6x optical zoom. It’s like a tiny, power zoom kit lens but with Zeiss glass inside.

The QX100 is also a great conversation starter. There’s a certain curiousity factor with the idea of a lens that you can attach to basically any smartphone and for that it gets its own share of ooohs and aaahs.

Cons

This thing is slow. And I mean really slow, like pre-historic slow. Setting up to take the shot would end up with you missing an opportunity to capture a scene. It also has this annoying habit of disconnecting when your phone encounters interference. Taking it to a ball game or to places where there is a lot of interference can render it useless.

I’m not a fan of the Sony Playmemories app. I’m not saying it’s not good, but defintiely it is not the best app out there for taking photos using your phone and Sony can do a better job at making the API for this app to be more accessible and useful for app developers. So far only one app developer, Camera360, has made their app compatible with the line of Sony lens-style cameras but even that has not been interesting enough as a replacement to the Playmemories app.

Some good ideas

I was toying with the idea of taking the QX100 or the QX1 apart and putting its parts on any vintage manual rangefinder that I could get my hands on. This 18-year-old was able to accomplish this on an old Konica Auto S3 using parts from an NEX-5.

Overall

Given all the good and bad points, I would say that the Sony QX100 is still an excellent tool to add to your collection of iPhoneography gadgets. This lens-style camera from Sony has really improved the image quality of photos that you can take with your average smartphone and I wish I had it with me during my trip to Europe.

Most pros and serious hobbyists will not find this worth their time, but not all are pros and there is definitely a different market for this camera. I’d also look forward to Sony improving the wireless capabilities of this device and for them to provide more resources to app developers who could make better apps than what Playmemories can offer.

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