Lens-Camera Concept Coming Out Party?

On the heels of having done a piece in this space about the hard-charging smartphone market beginning to take aim at the high-end camera category (which produced some interesting reactions in our comments section), comes news from Sony that the charge continues.

First, a bit of back-tracking, as Sony came to market last year with their new lens-camera concept (essentially a camera attachment for your smartphone that already has a built-in camera) and the reaction was admittedly mixed. Early complaints centered around less than spectacular shooting performance, as well as issues connecting and maintaining the connection between the camera/lens and the particular mobile device you attached it too.

They have since ramped that effort up as they have now unveiled the ILCE-QX1  the latest lens-camera iteration with a small cylinder form factor that you can hold in your hand or clamp onto any flat-backed smartphone up to around 6-inches in size.

Sony explains that the QX1 combines a powerful BIONZ X processor to an APS-C sized 20-megapixel Exmor R CMOS image sensor. The pair help the QX1 deliver, “huge amounts of detail for landscape shots and beautiful ‘bokeh’ background defocus.”.

Sony has also included a built-in, pop-up flash to this one  to address illuminating portraits and other up close subjects.

Now, we realize, lens attachments for smartphones are certainly nothing new but when a major camera manufacturer such as Sony is clearly investing the kind of time and effort they currently are in this category, it’s clearly worth noting.  While we haven’t played with the new ILCE-QX1 just yet, the early reports around the web are quite favorable and again, Sony has apparently addressed the complaints that existed in the lens-camera system here-to-fore.

Again, the suggestion here isn’t that the DSLR (and others in the interchangeable lens camera category) should be running for cover. It’s just going to be very interesting watching how both other camera manufactures and end-users (that’s us) react to this kind of tech as the months and years roll along. Stay tuned.

 Photo: www.sony.com

Last updated 11. September 2014

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Author: Michael McEnaney

I am a veteran technology journalist with over 20 years experience covering consumer electronics and imaging tech as well as launching, editing/writing content, selling and marketing a variety of publications and websites. Most recently I helped NAPCO launch the Technologytell.com network of consumer tech websites and also helped launch the popular tech website TechTimes.com as well as launching his own website at www.your-digital-life.com that covers all consumers can do with their digital images and videos after they’ve captured them. My true passion has always been photography – both capturing life’s most precious moments as well as covering the pros that capture the world.

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Comments

  • TerryB

    Hi, Michael.

    As I type this I have my Sony Nex 5N to hand (I also use an A7) and I’ve always marvelled at the ability of Sony to miniaturise. I have their groundbreaking original Walkman cassette player from 1982, and their marvellous portable mini DAT recorder. Even so, this new shutter unit with image processing engine still has the power to amaze by its tube shape design that also houses the same battery as used in the 5N and A7 and comes with an APS-C sensor.

    I’m not going to knock this unit, as it seems capable of providing true high image performance coupled to a smartphone, but it does still point to some issues raised in your earlier article, namely that for a smartphone to compete there would be size implications that would limit what could be achieved unless users ignored the pocketability of the smartphone in exchange for proper camera performance. And, of course, this is what Sony is offering here.

    Smartphones can offer physically larger screens than any current camera and in full HD to boot, and I’d love to see my cameras’ performance shown on my HTC One M8. But with image quality issues a given, I’m a little apprehensive about the integrity of the lens/shutter combo (overall weight) once attached to a smartphone. And I note Sony does mention use of their AF lens adapters to use Alpha/Minolta lenses, thus lending even more argument to the bulk question.

    Other than a slight increase in pixel count over my 5N (up from 16meg to 20meg) the package won’t tempt me, but if I should ever lose my 5N…..who’s to say?