Sony puts the zoom into smartphones

CLIP AND ZOOM: Sony's camera-lens attachment for smartphones, like the DSC-QX100 above, is a fully functioning standalone camera designed to attach magnetically to an iPhone or Android phone.


    Aug 26, 2013

    Sony puts the zoom into smartphones

    The Brunei Times/Asia News Network

    BY NOW, our smartphones have become our primary cameras. Their rise and ability to share photos instantly have made photography accessible to everyone.

    Many of us are already ditching digital point-and-shoot cameras and DSLRs for the convenience of our smartphones.

    The HTC One has the highly sensitive ultra-pixel sensor which makes taking photos in low-light conditions possible, while the Nokia Lumia 1020 packs in a whopping 41MP camera that gives users the ability to capture highly detailed shots and then crop-to-zoom the subjects later.

    But ultra-sensitive sensors and large megapixels aren't enough to deliver a true digital-camera experience. One of the things that smartphones still fall behind against a standard digital camera is optical zoom.

    Fitting a wide-aperture lens is as far as smartphone manufacturers can go when it comes to lens improvements on smartphones as they are still trying to figure out how to cram in zoom-lens functionality in a slim and pocketable form factor.

    Samsung has already experimented this with its Galaxy S4 Zoom, but the protruding lens adds bulk to the device, compromising on portability and that sexy slim design we are used to.

    Meanwhile, Sony has come up with its own solution to this limitation. Over the past week, promotional photos and manuals of what seems to be a camera-lens attachment for smartphones have been leaked online.

    It was revealed that the lens system, which is crafted by Sony, is a fully functioning standalone camera designed to attach magnetically to an iPhone or Android phone. The accessory communicates with the smartphone by connecting to an app via Bluetooth.

    The system comes in two options. One comprises a high-end 20.2MP sensor and an f/1.8 Carl Zeiss lens with 3.6x zoom and a ring control, similar to that of the remarkable Sony RX100 II point-and-shoot camera. This model is dubbed the DSC-QX100. There's also a smaller lower-end model, the DSC-QX10, which includes an 18MP Cmos sensor and an f/3.5-3.9 lens.

    While the idea isn't really having a permanent zoom-lens system crammed into a smartphone like the dreadful Galaxy S4 Zoom, the fact that they are accessories that you mount on your device only when you need them is actually quite intriguing.

    Technically, the system is an entire camera (with Bluetooth) built into a lens housing - quite an impressive technological breakthrough on Sony's part.

    Sony has never failed to impress in the camera division in recent years; its NEX camera has helped bring mirrorless camera systems to the mainstream, and its RX100 II is a beast of a point-and-shoot digital camera that can produce image quality rivalling that of a DSLR. Sony has also been able to cram a full-frame sensor into its point-and-shoot RX1.

    No doubt Sony will continue to wow us when it unveils the QX100 and the QX10 next month. The technology looks promising, and it will certainly appeal to a wide audience who crave optical zooms in their smartphones.