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Sony Cyber-shot QX100, QX10 cameras play nice with your smartphone (hands-on)

Basically point-and-shoots without screens and almost no physical controls, these Wi-Fi-enabled lens cameras aim to enhance your mobile photography.

Joshua Goldman Managing Editor / Advice
Managing Editor Josh Goldman is a laptop expert and has been writing about and reviewing them since built-in Wi-Fi was an optional feature. He also covers almost anything connected to a PC, including keyboards, mice, USB-C docks and PC gaming accessories. In addition, he writes about cameras, including action cams and drones. And while he doesn't consider himself a gamer, he spends entirely too much time playing them.
Expertise Laptops, desktops and computer and PC gaming accessories including keyboards, mice and controllers, cameras, action cameras and drones Credentials
  • More than two decades experience writing about PCs and accessories, and 15 years writing about cameras of all kinds.
Joshua Goldman
3 min read

Watch this: First Look: The Sony QX100 detachable smartphone camera

When multiple leaks started showing up for Sony's "lens cameras," they certainly created some buzz -- and a whole lot of questions.

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Are they cameras or just lenses? How do they work with a smartphone or will they require a specific one to work? Do they have their own batteries and storage or does everything rely on the smartphone? Well, now that they've been officially announced at IFA 2013, we have some answers.

The $499.99 QX100 has the sensor, processor, and lens found in the $750 Cyber-shot RX100 II. The lens-shaped body houses a 1-inch-type 20.2-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor paired with a Bionz image processor. A Carl Zeiss-branded 3.6x f1.8-4.9 28-100mm zoom lens is out in front.

It pairs with an iOS or Android smartphone via Wi-Fi. If you have an NFC-enabled device, you can use it for fast, simplified Wi-Fi pairing that automatically launches Sony's PlayMemories Mobile app for controlling the camera among other things.

Sony Cyber-shot QX100, QX10 are all camera, no screen (pictures)

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The camera comes with a spring clip that attaches to the back of the camera and grips onto your smartphone. That's the only physical attachment between your smartphone and the camera. If you want to shoot with it off your phone, you can. If you want to shoot blindly without connecting to your smartphone, you can do that, too.

The body basically has all the main parts you'd find on a point-and-shoot except for a display, most physical controls, and a flash. It does have a power button, shutter release, and zoom control. It has its own battery and a microSD card slot. Charging is done via Micro-USB and there's a tripod mount on the bottom if you want to setup the camera for self-portraits or just hand hold it (it has optical image stabilization).

Lori Grunin/CNET

If all of that sounds cool, but you're more about zoom range, there's the QX10. It features the 10x, f3.3-5.9, 25-250mm lens and 18-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch backside-illuminated CMOS sensor of Sony's ultracompact WX150 from last year.

It's geared more for automatic use, but otherwise works the same way as the QX100. Despite the longer lens, the QX10 is smaller and lighter, and less expensive at $249.99.

There are more hands-on details on the ins and outs of both cameras in the slideshow above, but in the end, I'm not really sure what problems these cameras are solving outside of making it a little easier to shoot and share.

For the QX100, you lose a lot of features and functionality of the RX100 II including raw image capture, a flash and a hot shoe, several shooting options including full manual control, much better video quality, and physical controls.

You still have to carry around a second device (that's not as easily pocketable as the RX100 II), and now you have two battery lives to worry about: the camera's and your smartphone's. And although you can turn it on and shoot without pairing, you have to pair it to actually see what you're shooting or change any settings. Not to mention a lengthy startup time of 6.9 seconds.

The QX10 makes a bit more sense because it's smaller, less expensive, and designed more for casual photographers who want some zoom range to supplement their smartphone photography.

But, again, it's still a second device and that's not what people want. They want these features -- zoom lenses, better photo quality, etc. -- in their smartphones.