When you’re choosing a smartphone or tablet, you may be interested in the device’s photo capabilities, but no matter which one you choose, one thing is pretty much a given: the camera isn’t going to be all that outstanding.
That’s a matter of basic physics when it comes to the imaging inside your typical Android device: when you try to compress a camera down to fit into your device, you’re limiting the size of the sensor, the amount of light you can get to the sensor, and you’re limiting the size and the quality of the optics. The end result: okay images, but nothing too special.
Sony’s new QX lens accessories are meant to address that shortcoming. The 18.2-megapixel DSC-QX10 is the more compact of the two, with a 10x optical zoom and built-in image stabilization. The more expensive 20.2-megapixel DSC-QX100 comes with better Zeiss optics and a ring that can be used for manual focus or zoom, but it has a larger body, and only features 3.5x optical zoom.
Looking for all the world like an SLR lens, the QX lenses connect to any phone or tablet wirelessly. Once you’ve installed the PlayMemories Mobile app on your mobile device, you can then connect to the QX lens and use your mobile devices as a viewscreen.
If you’re using an Android phone or tablet, the app should automatically find the lens and ask to connect. (If you’re on another mobile platform like iOS, each lens creates its own Wi-Fi hotspot, which you can connect to manually to link the lens with the app.) You’ll need to enter the password, which is located inconveniently on the inside of the lens’ battery door…but more conveniently on the front of the instruction booklet.
The QX lens comes with a spring clip that allows you to clamp it directly to a smartphone, so you can pretend it’s an ultra-thin back to your point-and-shoot camera. If you’re using a tablet that’s too large to fit into the clip, or just don’t want to clip the lens directly to your phone, you can free-hand the lens or mount it to a tripod using the built-in screw mount.
When you’re using your Android device as the viewfinder for the QX, you have a number of controls right on the screen, including the shutter button, zoom controls, and the ability to switch the lens between auto mode and program or aperture priority mode. You can also go into the settings and adjust the resolution, focus mode, and a few other settings.
When taking a picture, a small copy of the image will be sent to your Android device’s Gallery app in a PlayMemories Mobile folder. However, the full-size image is saved directly on the lens, onto a MicroSD card. You can choose to transfer those full images over to your smartphone or tablet wirelessly, or simply use a card reader to move them directly to a notebook or desktop computer.
The big issue you’re going to have with these new lenses is: where do you keep them between uses? It’s a pretty safe bet that you won’t want to run around everywhere with one of the QX lenses strapped directly to your Android phone, which means you’re going to have to keep them safe inside your backpack or briefcase between uses. You’ll just have to decide whether it makes more sense to carry the QX lens or a separate point-and-shoot camera.