Sony has introduced an entirely new category of cameras with the Cyber-Shot QX10 and QX100. Dubbed "lens-style" cameras, these devices (which start at $249) are essentially camera lenses without the body, and are designed to be paired and controlled by a smartphone via Wi-Fi.
The $249 Cyber-shot DSC-QX10 is the entry-level model, and has an 18.2-megapixel Exmor RCMOS sensor, 10X optical zoom, and optical image stabilization. At 2.5 inches in diameter and 1.3 inches long, it fit comfortably in our hand, and at 3.7 ounces, is fairly light, too. Sony clearly has iPhone users in mind, as the QX10 is available in black or white with gold accents.
The Cyber-shot DSC-QX100, which costs $499, has the same specs as the $750 RX100M point-and-shoot; namely, a 20.2-MP Exmor RCMOS sensor, Carl Zeiss T*lens with 3.6X optical zoom, and a BIONZ image processor. It can also record 1080p video at 30 frames per second. Like the QX10, it's 2.5 inches in diameter, but at 2.1 inches, is nearly twice as long. With the battery and memory card, it weighs 6.3 ounces. That's heavier than most smartphones.
Using the Sony PlayMemories Mobile app (for Android and iOS), consumers can control the camera wirelessly. While the camera is designed to latch onto your smartphone, you can also set up the camera remotely and view and snap photos and video through the smartphone app.
On the right side of each camera is a zoom switch and a shutter button, so you don't need to rely on the PlayMemories' on-screen controls. The left side of the camera has a tiny LCD panel showing how much battery life is remaining. When you need to recharge the camera, a panel on the back pops open to reveal the battery and microSD card slot. There's even a tripod mount on the bottom.
Using the included universal clasp, it was easy to attach the cameras to both an iPhone 5 and a Sony Xperia Z. We also like that, while you can store images on the camera itself, the PlayMemories app lets you transfer them to your phone to be uploaded to the Web.
While strapping a large lens to your smartphone seems awkward, the QX10 and QX100 may prove to be a more practical solution than camera-centric smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy Zoom because the camera portion is detachable. We're looking forward to putting the QX10 and QX100 to the test when they ship at the end of September.