Surely no one can argue that Sony is not innovating lately. The super-cheap A3000 that ships this week, the SLT pellicle-mirror cameras, the world's smallest full-frame camera—you almost get the impression that Sony's camera division is a dynamic small start-up couched inside a large, staid old corporation. Meaning—a dynamic small start-up with lots of cash.
And surely the most "out there" of Sony's recent ideas is what is apparently to be called the "Lens Style" camera. They're small lens and sensor units not unlike the modules of the Ricoh GXR, but, instead of affixing them to a dedicated body shell, you clip them to your smartphone. Camera module and smartphone then interact wirelessly via an app. Up to and including the ability to edit and share photos instantly.
So for you double early adopters, they're here—the QX100 and QX10 are now available for pre-order. (I say "double" early adopters because you have to not only want to be the first to have a new camera, but the first to try out a new camera idea. An intrepid group indeed—not just mountain climbers, but the first to attempt the mountain.) And the price seems to be right: note that the QX100 has the same lens and sensor as the popular RX100II but costs $250 less. (What's this? Less for less? Clearly that company has not mastered modern marketing.)
I personally tend to be an ultra-late adopter (I bought my A900 just as it was being discontinued!), as well as a card-carrying member of the cellphone resistance (I might not even have one if it weren't for its usefulness as a texting walkie-talkie with my son, and for Siri's stellar car-navigating abilities), and I'm pretty sure the Lens-Style cameras are targeted at mobile-device fans and people who are primarily social-media aficionados.
But as devices they're pretty cool and as a trend it promises to be entertaining to keep an eye on. Sony Alpha Rumors is already reporting what it calls the "almost certainly correct" rumor that the two QX modules are already the most heavily pre-ordered Sony digital camera products ever in Asia, Europe, and North America.
And in case you're wondering what Sony might be cooking up next: rumor has it that Sony's working on a successor to the Contax AX that focuses the lens in the body by moving the sensor plane forward and back. Advantages: no moving parts needed in the lenses, and the new camera might be easily adapted to lenses from other makers.
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Kevin Purcell: "The QX100 has the same lens and sensor as the RX100II, but doesn't support RAW. I can see this sort of camera being useful for street photography. I'm sure someone's going to put it to creative use, but without RAW it's much less interesting."
Dan Gorman: "I've never been an early adopter either, but I gotta say, I am more than intrigued by this thing. I probably wouldn't buy one until they build in RAW shooting and focus peaking (or similar focusing aid), but it's a category I'll be watching with interest for sure. I hope enough people buy it to keep new models coming. All that said, it's still about the pictures. Gadgets are cool and fun, but will this gadget help you make better pictures? I'll look forward to finding out!"
Mick Ryan: "It's interesting but I don't really see any innovation here, I just see gimmickry. It seems counter-productive to me to produce a bulky add-on for a phone camera the ubiquity and success of which is the very fact that it is inside your slim phone which you (most of us anyway) always have with you. You might as well just carry an extra pocket camera with you."
T Bannor: "I'm not sure I see the point. If you're going to carry an additional item to your mobile phone, why not just get an RX100 II, which is probably easier to carry than these round things. You can still control it from your phone with Sony's app."