Is the DxO One the perfect camera upgrade for iPhone users? Andy Westlake finds out.
DxO is a French company that’s best known for its imaging software. This includes DxO OpticsPro, a fully featured raw converter that’s based around profiled lens-correction modules; DxO FilmPack, that emulates the look of analogue film; and DxO ViewPoint, for correcting perspective and wideangle distortions. The company also makes the DxO Analyzer image-analysis system, and runs the DxOMark website that assesses the technical image quality of cameras and lenses. It is also a supplier of image signal processors (ISPs) to mobile device manufacturers.
We’re constantly being told that the camera market is in decline, with sales falling dramatically, particularly in the inexpensive zoom compact sector. Despite this, more pictures are now being taken than ever before, and shown to a larger audience through social-media channels such as Instagram and Facebook. This is all down to smartphones, of course, because since the advent of the iPhone 3G in 2008, smartphones have become the picture-taking tool of choice for many people. Indeed, with the excellent image quality possible from recent generations of smartphones, it’s now only enthusiast photographers who see the need to own a separate camera.
Yet smartphone cameras have their limitations. Sure, they’re slimmer, easier to use and deliver better image quality than most point-and-shoot film cameras ever did, but with their small sensors and tiny non-zooming lenses they have poor low-light image quality and allow little scope for compositional flexibility. DxO is aiming to address this with the One – a camera that plugs into an iPhone via its Lightning connector, and uses a 1in-type sensor and fast 32mm equivalent f/1.8 lens to deliver much better image quality.
Various attempts have been made to address the shortcomings of smartphone cameras, most notably by Sony with its ‘lens-style cameras’, which have in turn been imitated by several other companies. These, in effect, are camera modules consisting of a lens, sensor, processor, battery and memory card, which are designed to use a smartphone as both screen and control unit, connecting via Wi-Fi. This may seem like a good idea at first, but it turns out to be less practical in reality. The Wi-Fi connection complicates image sharing from the phone, and drains the batteries of both devices, while the cylindrical shape isn’t particularly convenient to carry around, which rather negates the whole point.
DxO’s solution is to use a direct physical connection between the camera module and the phone, and make a much smaller device that’s genuinely pocketable. This immediately makes for a much more practical system than the Wi-Fi-connected devices we’ve seen until now. But is this enough to make the DxO One a must-have accessory for iPhone users?