There’s been plenty of buzz lately about smartphones and the shift to using it as your primary camera. I’ve been using a DSLR as my primary camera, a Canon T2i, for some time now. When Sony announced the idea of introducing a lens, that could be paired to a smartphone, I was intrigued with the idea that it could replace my DSLR.
Sony has released two versions of this concept, the DSC-QX10 and the DSC-QX100 (pictured above). The idea is to attach a DSLR level lens and sensor to a smartphone. Thus giving a person a smaller footprint than a DSLR, but having the same image quality. I took the QX100 through some field testing to see if the concept lives up to the real world.
The contents of the camera package were pretty straight forward. The QX100 included:
- DSC-QX100 camera
- Camera battery
- micro USB cord for charging and/or connecting to a PC.
- Single leaf user manual
The QX100 includes a microSD/Memory Card slot to store captured images. You will need a card to capture and retrieve larger images. Without a microSD card, the QX100 will only capture and transfer over 2MP images.
Connecting to smartphone
Connecting the QX100 to my iPhone was pretty straight forward. The QX100 has its own wifi SSID and password. Simply turn on the QX100, enable the wifi on your smartphone, and enter the password. Once the wifi is connect, open the Sony PlayMemories app to sync the camera to your smartphone.
Once the app is open, you will get a live view from the QX100 on your smartphone’s screen.
Once connected the camera can be operated from either the physical button on the camera body or the soft button on the smartphone screen. The QX100 can transfer a 2MP image after each shot or that can be turned off. Users can manually select images, full size images, to be pulled off the QX100 and saved to your smartphone. While the process was manual, it was very quick thanks to the internal wifi process.
I believe that a future version of the Sony PlayMemories app will allow this function to happen with full size images in the background with iOS 7.
The QX100 has a variety of settings that make it an attractive option over your smartphone camera. The unit has eight image settings:
The 3:2 ratio is the common DSLR ratio and was the default I used for most of my test pictures. Also note the UI of the app on the iPhone 5s, it is still iOS 6. Again, I think some nice improvements to the app could be coming with background functionality in iOS 7.
The camera has four camera function settings:
- Intelligent Auto: Auto adjust exposure and ISO to get the best picture.
- Superior Auto: Same as Intelligent Auto, but the camera will take a series of images and then select the best one to be saved.
- Program Auto: Similar to a DSLR set to P-mode.
- Aperture Priority: Allows camera shooter to set the camera’s aperture and exposure.
The PlayMemories app also allowed for some settings to be adjusted from the smartphone screen.
The lens itself has a variable focal length, depending on the image setting: 
- 28–100mm @ 3:2 image ratio
- 29–105mm @ 16:9 image ratio
- 29–105mm @ 4:3 image ratio
- 30–108mm @ 1:1 image ratio
The lens has a variable minimal apeture range of f/1.8 (wide) to f/4.9 (tele). The lens seemed to fall off from f/1.8 to a smaller aperture fairly quickly when zooming out. I don’t have any tests to show the curve, but it did not seem to be linear.
The QX100 has three primary physical buttons - the power switch, image trigger and lens zoom.
Holding the QX–100 comfortably is similar to a DSLR, your left hand holds the lens and your right hand holds/controls your smartphone.
Getting comfortable with the QX100 never really happened. Notice where my fingers are (above pic) in relation to the buttons, they’re under my hand. A more functional way to hold the camera would be like this:
With this position I could control the zoom and take a picture with one hand, except now the photos would be portrait, not landscape. This isn’t a software function, it’s in the hardware due to the fixed orientation of the camera sensor in the QX100 body.
Taking pictures, hand position aside, was pretty straight forward. You use the screen on your smartphone to preview your shot and then push the button to take the picture. The image trigger had a soft press where you could go half way down on the button and get the QX100 to focus and adjust for exposure. This function is similar to any DSLR I’ve used before.
While taking pictures was relatively easy, the software would someitmes lose sync to my iPhone and look like this: