Lauren Goode

Recent Posts by Lauren Goode

Sony’s Head-Scratcher of a Camera: The Lens-Style Cyber-Shot QX10 and QX100

The worst-kept secret in Sony’s digital imaging line has finally been revealed.


Sony today announced its new “lens-style” camera at the IFA trade show in Berlin, Germany. The camera is both a physical and strategic attempt to bridge digital cameras and smartphones, as the latter category continues to adversely impact the digital camera market.

The lens-style camera, which comes in two models — the Cyber-shot QX10 and QX100 — looks just like a detachable lens, cramming a large sensor, optical zoom, HD video recording and Carl Zeiss lenses into the cylindrical body.

Then the lens is meant to wirelessly connect and physically attach, via a spring-loaded holder, to various smartphones — namely, iPhones and certain Android devices. The lens-style camera becomes a Wi-Fi access point, while the phone acts as the viewfinder, through a Sony camera app.

The end result? Your pretty-decent smartphone camera is transformed into a midrange camera with the help of a pocket-sized lens.

It’s either really nifty or a total gimmick.

The Cyber-shot QX100 is the higher-end lens of the pair. It has the same 1.0-inch, 20-megapixel CMOS sensor as Sony’s popular RX100 camera, along with a 28mm wide angle lens, 3.6x optical zoom and a handful of standard shooting modes, like Aperture Priority and Intelligent Auto. The less powerful Cyber-shot QX10 has a smaller 18-megapixel CMOS sensor, and is more lightweight than its fancier sibling, but it does have a 10x optical zoom Sony G lens. Neither have a flash; both work with microSD cards.

They’ll ship later in September, and will be priced at $500 and $250.


Interestingly, the lens can also act as a completely separate camera, complete with a shutter button. It will maintain a wireless connection to the smartphone even when the lens isn’t physically attached to your phone.

You can hold it in your hand to capture a steady shot, while you (or someone else on your safari trip or long hike or food excursion) control the shutter from the app on the phone. Or you can mount the lens on a tripod and control it from your smartphone.

Then you can share the pictures from your smartphone just as you would share pics taken with the phone.

Like I said before, without testing the new camera in real-life situations, it’s hard to say whether this is a flash of digital-imaging genius, or if it’s throwing a non-solution at a nascent problem. In other words, Sony is launching a product that means carrying two separate devices — the lens-camera and your smartphone — when the problem is … you already have to carry two devices if you want to capture great photos.

Other camera makers have, of course, tried bridging the gap by marrying mobile operating systems — think the Samsung Galaxy Camera, or the Nikon Coolpix S800c — with digital cameras. There’s also the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom smartphone/camera. And Nokia has approached this from the other side by adding large, high-megapixel sensors to its newer premium smartphones.

But Sony didn’t want to “make an RX100 that can text and browse,” as one Sony executive said in a media pre-briefing.

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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google