The Sony QX-10 is a curious device, but I'vequite fallen under its thrall.
To all intents and purposes, it’s a self-contained point and shoot camera, with an 18.9 MP image sensor and a 10 x optical zoom courtesy of a Sony G lens at an aperture of f/3.3 – 5.9.
Measuring just 1.5 inches tall and weighing just 105g, it still manages to cram plenty into the tiny body including a shutter button, zoom toggle, on/off button, stereo mics, battery indicator, tripod mount and Micro SD slot.
It’s a remarkable piece of engineering, with a solid black shell that looks like it could even survive a few accidental drops. Better still, Sony hasn’t skimped on the contents of the box, with a lanyard, charging cable (it uses Micro USB) and a clip on back which lets you attach the camera to any handset we tried – though smaller phones may have a looser fit.
And the QX-10 is all about making that connection as it’s intended to single handedly solve the problem of modern day smartphone photography. Anyone with even a small interest in taking decent snaps has had many moments where they’re frustrated by the muddy images from their smartphone lens, and that’s basically unavoidable when you’re trying to cram so much tech into one device.
Some manufacturers, like Nokia and Samsung, have gone the route of creating handsets with dedicated and bulky cameras (like the Nokia 1020 or ridiculous Galaxy Zoom) but Sony has seen a gap in the market really captured it – creating nothing less than a photo-focussed smartphone companion.
Low light and handheld, the QX-10 performs well Enlarge
Simply turn on the QX-10, pair it to your phone via NFC (or find it over Wi-Fi) and you’ll be ready to go – after a one time download of the PlayMemories app and inputting the password on your device. The view from the camera is displayed on your phone screen and you’ll be able to choose from a number of shooting modes, including full 1080p video, and get snapping.
Auto and superior auto give you a limited amount options to work with but they generally do a great job of selecting what setting you’ll need. The program mode isn’t that fully featured either but you can fiddle with exposure and white balance. The QX-10 is very much a casual camera, aimed at those who want the best results with minimal effort, and the results are generally detailed and acceptable, even in some low light situations.
Once you’re paired, the shooting experience itself can feel quite odd at first. Even with the relatively lightweight lens attached to your phone, it can feel cumbersome and you’ll have to find the best position for weight distribution. And, unlike your actual smartphone camera, there’s a certain amount of lag when using the device, making it a better fit for shooting landscapes or slow moving subjects.
While Sony might have intended the camera to be used predominantly while attached to your phone, personally I felt it really came into its own when freed from the its awkward smartphone deathgrip. My preferred mode of operation was to view the screen in one hand and use the camera in the other. Seeing a different live image on your phone as you move takes a bit of getting used to but allows for more creativity in your shots.
You obviously have to try this Enlarge
It’s just a more interesting device off structure, especially given the fact that the physical shutter and zoom buttons feel more responsive than the on screen versions. Other possibilities include setting it up with a compact tripod and easily framing group shots, then setting a countdown timer on your phone. And the more than adequate HD video opens things up still further, like the ability to record video interviews using some extremely lightweight kit.
Naturally, you can also spy on friends from another room (which we’re sure works a treat), gets a cat level view of the world or even just snap away without pairing to a phone, who knows what the shots will look like!? But the real benefit here is that the QX-10 is a genuinely portable device that is guaranteed to give you better shots than your smartphone, whenever you need it most, bolstered by a very impressive 10x zoom.
There are some quirks around the operation of this dinky little camera, notably in the way images are stored. You can use the QX-10 without an SD card inside and it’ll automatically send the images to your phone. Be warned though, by default it only throws a low quality 2MP copy to your handset and the copy process takes a second or so, meaning cycle time between shots is less than speedy.
To get the best out of the camera, you’ll need a good sized micro SD which will store the 18MP snaps (around 5MB) and you can even make it so that no image is copied to the phone, speeding up operation. Of course you can also take in the full res files to your smartphone, a fast enough process over Wi-Fi, though beware the data charges of trying to upload too many raw images.
You can even get DOF-y, if you're so inclined Enlarge
If you’re looking for negative marks, there are a few. Given the nature of the relationship between the camera and smartphone, there’s no way to fire the flash while shooting, meaning some situations will be simply too dark to work. And the Micro USB port is behind a fiddly door which I suspect would soon break off. And the images themselves won’t be the best you’ve ever seen, the colours are a little washed out and they’re not always that detailed but they still beat out the vast majority of smartphone snaps.
I really enjoyed my time with the Sony QX-10. What might have been a gimmicky reaction to the recent smartphone obsession with photography turned out to be a device that’s not only easy to use and fun to play with but also, importantly, will drastically improve your mobile photography. Highly recommended for photo fans.
The QX-10 is available now for around €250. The higher spec QX-100 – with an f1.8 lens and advanced optics – retails for around €500.
For the ideal companion to the QX-10, check out our review of the Sony Xperia Z1, you can even get a special case for easy pairing.