You have to give Sony credit for trying something new to stem declining point-and-shoot sales.
The Cyber-shot DSC-QX10 and its higher-end linemate, the QX100, are essentially compact cameras redesigned for people who've forsaken standalone cameras for their smartphone's.
The cameras wirelessly link to your smartphone (or tablet if you want) via a direct Wi-Fi connection and, with the help of Sony's PlayMemories Mobile app (for now, at least), let you use your device as a viewfinder and interface for the camera.
Because of the way they look and physically attach to your smartphone, it would be easy to mistake them for some sort of add-on lens that works with your smartphone's built-in camera, magically combining all the strengths of its shooter with the power of a zoom lens.
There is no magic here, though, and perhaps that's what's most disappointing about the QX10.
Innovative in design, not in featuresIt's understandable why people are gobsmacked when they see the QX10. Here, in this small, lightweight cylinder, is not just a 10x zoom lens, but an entire camera. It has its own sensor and processor and battery and memory card slot. All it's really missing is a screen -- which you supply with an Android or iOS smartphone or tablet -- and some controls, which you don't need since most things are handled with your device's touch screen.
The need for a screen or viewfinder of some sort pretty much limits what you can do with a camera design. With no screen to deal with, you're just working the design around the lens. By going with the round body, it's not only more comfortable to hold when you're using it, but doesn't look too odd when attached to your smartphone. (If you're curious as to just how everything is stacked inside, here's a teardown video of the QX100.)
Beyond the design, though, it's just a basic ultracompact point-and-shoot. In fact, it's pretty much a lesser version of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX150 from 2012, but with Wi-Fi added.
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-QX10||Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX150|
|Dimensions (WHD)||2.5x2.5x1.2 inches||3.8x2.1x0.9 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||5.8 ounces||4.7 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||18 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch backside-illuminated CMOS||18 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch backside-illuminated CMOS|
|LCD size, resolution||None||3-inch LCD, 460K dots|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||10x, f3.3-5.9, 25-250mm (35mm equivalent)||10x, f3.3-5.9, 25-250mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (still / video)||JPEG/MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 (.MP4)||JPEG/AVCHD (.MTS); MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 (.MP4)|
|Highest resolution size (still / video)||4,896x3,672 pixels/1,440x1,080 at 30fps (progressive; 12Mbps)||4,896x3,672 pixels/1,920x1,080 at 60fps (interlaced; 24Mbps)|
|Image stabilization type||Optical and digital||Optical and digital|
|Battery type, CIPA rated life||200||240|
|Battery charged in camera||Yes; via USB to AC adapter or computer||Yes; via USB to AC adapter or computer|
|Storage media||Memory Stick Micro or microSD/Micro-SDHC||Memory Stick Pro Duo or SD/SDHC/SDXC|
|Built-in Wi-Fi||Yes with NFC||No|
By lesser version, I mean that the controls and features have been streamlined to just the essentials so shooting and sharing is as easy as possible. The camera's physical controls are limited to a power button on top that's flush with the body and a shutter release and zoom rocker on the right side. Once the camera is mounted on your smartphone, the controls can be difficult to find by touch until you get used to their placement.
A removable tension clip twists and locks onto the back of the camera and is what's used to physically attach the QX10 to your smartphone. Beyond the clip, which does strongly grip your device, there is nothing else securing them to each other.
It doesn't matter where you place the camera on the phone, or whether you attach it at all.
Also, there is no flash built into the camera and it doesn't tap into your phone's flash, either. If you do need some extra light, what you can do is turn on your smartphone's LED and then open Sony's app to control the camera.
Again, all communications between your smartphone and the QX10 are wireless, mainly Wi-Fi. The camera does have NFC, but it is only used to pair your device with the camera.
If you have a phone with NFC, you just need to unlock your device and touch the top of the camera to the back of your smartphone. Doing so will automatically turn on the camera, launch Sony's PlayMemories Mobile app (assuming you've installed it already; it will otherwise send you to download it), and begin pairing the two. Note, though, that if you store the two close to each other in a bag or wherever, the camera will turn on.
Using this method, it usually took between 10 and 15 seconds to get it connected and ready to shoot. (You can do it the old-fashioned way and just input the camera's Wi-Fi password found on the camera's battery compartment door.) However, there were several times during testing with a Samsung Galaxy S4 that it would say the two were connected, but the app would fail to bring up the viewfinder screen.
iOS works, too
Using the camera with an iPhone or iPod Touch requires a bit more effort than Android. After turning on the camera, you have to select it from the list of available networks in your device's Wi-Fi settings. Enter the password (again, it's on the battery compartment door) and the two should connect. After that, just go to the PlayMemories Mobile app, open it up, and it should give you a viewfinder for the camera.
Windows Phone a no-go
Sony has no plans to release an app for Windows Phone. Considering how good the camera is in the Nokia Lumia 1020, this probably isn't the end of the world. Sony's API platform is agnostic, though, so there's always a chance that a third-party developer will step up.