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Sony Cyber-shot QX10 First Impressions Review$249.99
Sony paves its own road with the QX smartphone attachment cameras.
Our First Take
If you're like most people interested in buying a digital camera, you probably already have a smartphone in your pocket. That smartphone lets you take decent photos, but with plenty of limitations: There's no optical zoom, you can't save photos to a removable memory card, and it doesn't provide the benefits of optical image stabilization. For a lot of people, those compelling aspects of a dedicated digital camera still aren't enough to overcome the hassle of carrying around extra bulk or learning a new operating system.
Sony has a pair of solutions for just those consumers: the Cyber-shot QX10 (MSRP $249.99) and Cyber-shot QX100 (MSRP $499.99). These hockey puck–shaped half-cameras live their entire lives tethered to your Android or iOS smart device. Where other camera-makers have tried to stuff camera guts directly into a smartphone, Sony has taken a different path by turning the camera into an accessory.
NOTE: We've already posted a First Impressions Review of the QX100, which has a lot in common with the QX10. As such, the bulk of this review will focus on how the QX10 differs from its big brother.
Design & Usability
A new paradigm in camera design
One of the key advantages of the QX10 over the QX100 is its size. It's a good deal smaller, though the difference is almost entirely in depth (the QX10 is almost an inch shorter). It's also significantly lighter at 105 grams to the QX100's 179g. Ultimately, though, the camera is still bulky enough that you'll probably want to carry it in a bag or large pocket. You definitely can't leave it attached to your phone all the time.
Since it's the same width as the QX100, the QX10 also fits into Sony's optional case for the Xperia Z Android smartphone. For those who prefer a different make of phone, it also has a spring-loaded universal clamp attachment. We found it to be incredibly sturdy once attached. In fact, the spring is so strong that it's tough to get the phone in there in the first place.
Despite its light weight, the QX10 is heavy enough to make just about any phone feel severely imbalanced. The combo wants to tilt forward at all times, meaning that the best and most secure way to hold this crazy amalgamation is to cradle the QX10 in the palm of one hand and manipulate the screen with the other. The lens telescopes out far enough to double the depth of the camera unit when it's at full 10x telephoto, but the shift in the center of gravity is minimal.
Simple, to the point
Where the QX100 takes after the Sony Cyber-shot RX100, the QX10's guts look a lot like last year's WX150 point-and-shoot. The sensor is an industry-standard 1/2.3-inch chip pumping out 18.2 megapixels, while the lens is an optically stabilized 10x optical zoom that goes from 25-250mm in film terms. Those aren't exactly earth-shattering specs, but the lens in particular is a definite step up from what you'd find in most phones.Apple App Store and Google Play). Once it's installed, you simply turn on your phone's WiFi, start the app, and power up the camera—the two devices will magically find one another. Just input the password stamped on your manual (and the underside of the battery cover) and you're good to go. (Remember, Android owners can use the NFC shortcut.)
We've seen a lot of iffy attempts at smartphone control in standalone cameras, so we were understandably skeptical about the QX10's ability to push a smooth live view image to our phones. As it turns out, our reservations were largely unfounded: the Sony PlayMemories app provides a shooting experience that, at its best, is virtually identical to shooting with your native smartphone camera app. There's virtually no lag in the display, tap-to-focus is quick and accurate, and you can capture a shot by tapping the on-screen shutter button if you don't want to use the physical one. Zooming is a bit jittery, but no worse than many cheap compact cameras.
Though the QX10 saves every photo in full resolution to a removable microSCHC card in the camera, it also transfers a copy to your phone's internal memory via. By default, the transferred images are downsized to 2 megapixels, but you can force the camera to send the full-res versions by setting an option in the app menu.
The QX10 might still be a tough sell, even at $250.
Ultimately, we were surprised by how intuitive the QX10 is to use. Connecting the camera is a breeze compared to other camera-based WiFi implementations; the PlayMemories Mobile interface is solid if simple, and the camera's physical controls are responsive. The design is also wonderfully compact, though obviously you can't pocket your phone when it's attached.
We're not sure the QX10's asking price will fly, though. Even at the $250 MSRP, it's quite a bit more expensive than the comparable traditional Sony compact (the $160 Cyber-shot WX80) and arguably a bit less comfortable to use. Of course, the biggest argument in favor of the QX10 is that your high-quality shots are saved directly to your phone or tablet, so you can share them directly to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media services—something the WX80 definitely can't do. Whether that functionality is worth an extra $100 is up to you.