by Rom Feria
Just before Christmas 2013, I received two rather unconventional cameras, one is part of the TechNews lab and the other is a personal purchase (thanks to the Black Friday sale in the US). The first camera is the Sony QX-10, a camera that boasts of a Sony 10X lens with no viewfinder or display. This Sony product, along with its more expensive sibling, the QX-100, are intended as an extension to your iPhone or Android smartphone. The QX series looks like an ordinary lens for a DSLR or mirror-less system, but instead of the standard camera mount, it has a clip that allows you to connect it on the back of your smartphone. The QX-10 supports ISO 100-12800, 18Megapixels, f/3.3-f5.9 aperture range, 1080p HD video, multi-point auto-focus system and image stabilization!
The QX has built-in protected WiFi network, which accepts your smartphone. There is an accompanying app, both iOS and Android are supported, that allows you to connect to the camera and use your smartphone’s display as viewfinder. You also use the smartphone to zoom in and out (10x!), configure settings, use the camera autofocus and shoot a photo (or video). The smartphone will provide the image preview, with the option to transfer the image (original or lower resolution) from the camera’s microSD to the phone. Videos, however, is a bit tricky — you either tether or you use a microSD card reader to transfer.
The QX-10 is actually a stand-alone camera without a viewfinder. The hardware shutter button and the zoom controls allow you to take photos even whilst your smartphone is untethered and in your pocket or bag. The photos will be saved in the microSD card for later viewing and transfer. It takes getting used to when aiming and framing your subject without a viewfinder, but it is not that difficult.
Using the smartphone is a better experience – with the QX-10 connected or used separately (like taking photos of subjects that are otherwise difficult to do with a viewfinder) – for framing shots.
I almost bought Lytro when it was announced, but decided against it because of the price (USD399). However, the recent Black Friday deal dropped its price by 50%, so I quickly bought one. This is the first Light Field Tech-based consumer camera.
Light Field technology allows the camera “to take in all of the light in the scene, capturing information on the direction, color, and luminosity of millions of individual rays of light.” What it brings is the ability for the user to interactively determine the focus point on any photo (requires special viewer) after it was taken — ergo, forget about auto-focus or manual focus, when you can focus all you like AFTER you have taken the image.
The Lytro has a constant f/2.0 8x lens that captures 1080 x 1080 pixel images. It also comes with a touch-screen display for framing and also for viewing, etc. The Lytro comes in 8GB and 16GB storage options. Both models support ISO 80-3200 with full auto and full manual exposure control.
The camera form factor (like a candy-bar) takes some getting used to, but you will get a hang of it after a few photos. The touch-screen is a joy to use, but it is a tad small. Capturing images and zooming in and out are done via dedicated buttons and not on the touch screen.
After you have taken the image, the “fun” follows — there is an accompanying iOS app that allows you to tether the iPhone with the Lytro, but only to view and transfer images. You cannot use the iPhone as a viewfinder. You have the option of tethering the camera to your computer (Windows and Mac) using a USB cable, too.
Anyway, the iOS app is sufficient to view, manage, process, transfer and share images – so no need to use the USB cable.