Monday, 28 October 2013

Sony smart lens QX10: great tech but who is it for?

I was fortunate enough to receive a "free" QX10 smart lens with my Z1 a few weeks ago. I say "free" because it's not really free is it? The price is built into the cost of owning the Z1. Anyway, I have managed to spend an hour with the device, and that's going to be the end of my contact with it.

Sony packed the Z1 in a very bland sort of way, none of the coolness that a new iPhone has associated with it. But the packaging of their accessories is a little better. The QX10 comes in a cylindrical box:

In the box: the lens itself, a microUSB charger (another huge plus for Sony products, I have so many of these microUSB cables around that finding a cable is not an issue at all), a wrist strap, and an adaptor to be able to strap the lens to a smartphone. This means that you can turn a smartphone with an average camera into a premium camera device.

Out of the box, the device needs about 3 hours to charge up the Li battery. Pairing with an NFC enable device such as the Xperia Z1 couldn't be easier: just tap and automatically the associated app fires up. This enables the functions of the lens to be controlled on the phone screen, including zoom, setting the picture size (both the number of megapixels and whether it is 4:3 or 16:9). There is also an option of saving directly to the smartphone, meaning you don't have to insert an SD card. Be warned though, this slows down your photographing considerably as it takes a while to save 18MP photos after each shot.

You can use this in two main ways: by just holding the lens to shoot while using your device screen separately as a viewfinder; or by attaching the two together and using it as a "normal" camera. The first method is so fiddly that it's ridiculous. It also feels very un-natural to use a lens without being able to view the image on the back of it.

So what about using this? It really all depends on how good your phone camera is and how keen a photographer you are. If you have the Z1, for example, and you are happy with the camera, then I don't think this offers anything...if you are a casual photographer like me that is. I'm sure that many will think it still offers more over and above the amazing camera the Z1 has, but only for a few users. When am I ever going to stop what I am doing, get the adaptor out of my bag and clamp it to my phone, then attach the lens (after pairing it via NFC of course) and then take pictures. And then go through this in reverse when I want to pack it away? 

For what it's worth, this is one of two pics I snapped with it:

Clever photographer types will, I'm sure, criticise my technique, composition etc etc !!

In my opinion, most people will either just use their phone camera without all this fiddling, or have a "proper" DSLR camera. Sony have attempted to fill a perceived gap between these 2 use cases but the market is very small. I suppose there will be people who see themselves as amateur-but-very-good-amateur photographers with compatible smartphones who can take this along on their holidays and find it useful.

Overall, a well made and innovative device but with a limited and narrow market at the moment.

If you're interested in taking mine off my hands, it's on eBay until Sunday 3rd November. 

by Vikas Shah