Richard Sibley explains why we should get over our fixed ideas of what a camera should look like. Read the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-QX100 and QX10 review...
Cameras in use
The cameras connect to a smartphone via a sprung folding grip that sits at the back of the camera. The arms of the grip stretch apart, allowing it to be used with smartphones with a width of 54-75mm and a maximum thickness of 13mm. I found that even with a fairly substantial case around an iPhone 5, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-QX10 and QX100 could be attached easily. The grip itself can be easily removed from the camera by pressing a catch and giving the lens a twist, in much the same way as a lens with a bayonet mount fits on a camera body. There is even a case for the Sony Xperia Z smartphone that has the QX bayonet built in to the reverse, so there is no need to use the grip. You just click the lens on to the camera case as if you were mounting the lens.
Connecting the QX cameras electronically to a smart device is surprisingly simple. If you have the Sony Play Memories Mobile app installed on your tablet or smartphone, and you have Near Field Communication, all you have to do is touch the QX camera to the device and the two will connect via Wi-Fi and the app will open automatically. I tested this function using a Sony Xperia Z1 smartphone and it worked flawlessly. I was able to connect and start shooting in seconds.
However, the QX cameras don’t just work with Sony devices. I connected both the QX10 and QX100 to an Apple iPhone 5, although without NFC it does require a little more effort. First you need to go to the phone’s Wi-Fi settings and select the QX camera. You will then be asked for the specific password for that camera, which can be found printed on the inside of the camera’s battery cover. With the camera and phone connected via Wi-Fi, all that is required is the app to be opened. It will take 1-2secs to load, but once the final connection has been made the live view from the camera is streamed to the display.
I was expecting the on-screen display to lag a little behind any movements I made to the QX camera but, generally, the screen is responsive. You are never going to shoot sports or fast-moving subjects with such a device, but for travel images, portraits, documentary and landscape images the streaming is more than fast enough to be classed as ‘in real time’.
Of course, the connectivity works two ways. When I pressed the on-screen shutter button I expected the camera to take a second or so to respond to the command. Again, I was pleasantly surprised by the responsiveness of the on-screen shutter and zoom buttons – there was only a slight lag. However, with zoom controls and a shutter button on the camera itself, this is a far better way of taking an image. The camera reacts as quickly as it would when using any compact camera, so if the timing of a shot is absolutely critical I would recommend using the shutter button rather than the virtual on-screen button.
For me, the real beauty of the QX cameras – particularly the QX100 – is that they don’t have to be tied to the smart device. It takes a while to get used to the idea of holding the camera in one hand and the screen in the other, but once it sinks in it is quite liberating when it comes to composition. Holding the camera at arm’s length, way above my head, and composing an image was easy, and so too was placing the QX100 at ground level and composing.
At one point I was shooting a landscape image and set the QX100 on a tripod, while reviewing the composition on a tablet with a 9in screen. It felt a lot like using a large-format camera, and I was able to really fine-tune the composition as all the key elements were clearly visible on the screen. However, the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to work the opposite way, with the tablet screen static and the camera free. In this way I would have the freedom to move around and compose the images precisely, as well as explore angles that would be difficult for my tripod to achieve, while keeping half an eye on the large view provided by the tablet.
Of course, these features aren’t anything new – Wi-Fi connectivity for live view shooting has been around for a few years – but the lack of viewfinder or screen actively encourages you to remove the camera from the display and explore different compositions.
Image: Shot on the QX100 and edited in Adobe Photoshop Touch, a lot of shadow detail was recoverable from shadow details in this image