Sony QX1 is a lens camera... without a lens

Now you can get a round, LCD-free version of the A5000.

Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
Expertise Photography | PCs and laptops | Gaming and gaming accessories
Lori Grunin
4 min read

Sony's back with another version of its lens-style QX series of cameras, this time offering the 30X zoom QX30 to replace the QX10 , as well as a new interchangeable-lens model that takes E-Mount lenses. Like all the QX models, the ILCE-QX1 provides identical capabilities to its conventional counterpart -- most notably the ability to control it from your mobile device and simultaneously save photos to each. In this case it's the (of course now-discontinued) Alpha A5000 . It's just rounder and lacking an LCD display for the same money.

That money equals $400 (£249) for just the camera body, at least in the US and UK. Sony plans to do soft bundles with lenses, but as yet hasn't announced any particular configurations. (Australian availability and pricing were not available at press time, but a direct conversion would be approximately AU$430.) That will likely change between now and October/November when the camera ships.

Sony's lensless lens camera, the QX1 (pictures)

See all photos

The one thing this design has going for it is size; obviously, it's somewhat smaller than the standard version of the camera, and it's also smaller than the point-and-shoot QX models. That said, once you put any lens on it it's still too big to fit in anything but a jacket pocket, and in fact the A5000 is still smaller in the dimension that counts from that perspective -- thickness.

Sony claims to have addressed the most common complaints people had about the first generation of these cameras, including shooting performance, and connecting and maintaining the connection between the camera and various mobile devices. It also has beefed up its PlayMemories app to provide far more control over settings than the one that shipped last time did. Your A-series camera will benefit from those app updates as well.

However, I think Sony missed the opportunity to address some other issues. For instance, this device, which lacks a grip, could really benefit from sensor-shift stabilization (in Sony's case, SteadyShot Inside) rather than optical stabilization, which Sony incorporates into only one of its prime lenses. The company did create a grip that attaches to the back of the device, clamping into the spot where a phone would normally attach, but that's primarily intended to make selfies easier.

Some people think that these lens-style cameras revolutionized phone photography, and I'm sure they'll think that this is awesome and amazing, too. I'm just not one of them.

I do think that making an ILC version is an interesting exercise on Sony's part. But you get less for the money than from a comparable-in-every-way standard-design camera, and the option to attach it to your phone -- its one unique feature -- is a lot less convenient than it sounds on paper. To paraphrase our bottom line on the QX10: it might be a fresh take on an ILC, but the design will probably end up being a bit more trouble than it's worth. I'll see once I get a chance to try it out.

Comparative specifications

Samsung NX3000 Sony Alpha A5000 Sony ILCE-QX1
Sensor effective resolution 20.3MP CMOS 20.1MP Exmor HD CMOS 20.1MP Exmor HD CMOS
Sensor size 23.5mm x 15.7mm 23.5mm x 15.6mm 23.2mm x 15.4mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.5x 1.5x 1.5x
OLPF No Yes Yes
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 - ISO 16000 ISO 100 - ISO 16000
Burst shooting 5fps
(30fps at reduced resolution)
(3.5fps with fixed exposure)
(3.5fps with fixed exposure)
Hot shoe Yes No No
Autofocus 21-area contrast AF 25-area contrast AF 25-area contrast AF
AF sensitivity n/a 0 - 20 EV -1 - 20 EV
Shutter speed 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 4 minutes; 1/180 x-sync 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 sec x-sync 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 sec x-sync
Metering 221-segment 1,200-zone 1,200-zone
Metering sensitivity 0 - 18 EV 0 - 20 EV 1 - 20 EV
Best video H.264 MPEG-4
1080/30p, 25p
1080/60i, 30p @ 24Mbps
1080/30p @ 16Mbps
Audio Stereo Stereo Stereo
Manual aperture and shutter in video Yes n/a n/a
IS Optical Optical Optical
LCD 3-inch/7.5cm
460,000 dots
Flip-up touchscreen
460,800 dots
Memory slots 1 x microSD 1 x SDXC 1 x microSDXC
Wireless connection Wi-Fi, NFC Wi-Fi, NFC Wi-Fi, NFC
Flash Bundled optional Yes Yes
Battery life (CIPA rating) 370 shots 420 shots 440 shots
Size (WHD) 4.6 x 2.6 x 1.5 in
117.4 x 65.9 x 39 mm
4.5 x 2.5 x 1.5 in
109.6 x 62.8 x 35.7mm
2.8 x 2.7 x 2.1 in
74 x 69.5 x 52.5 mm
Body operating weight 8.1 oz (est.)
230 g (est.)
9.5 oz (est.)
210 g (est.)
7.6 oz (est.)
216 g (est.)
Mfr. price (body only)*
n/a n/a $400
Primary kit* $530
(with 16-50mm PZ lens)
(with 16-50mm PZ lens)
Alternate kit* $480
(with 20-50mm lens)
(with 16-50mm and 55-210mm lenses)
Release date June 2014 March 2014 October 2014 (UK)
November 2014 (US)
*not listed = manufacturer does not offer this configuration in those regions
n/a = the price is not available or we can't find this configuration (yet) in those regions