Sony Lens Cameras: If you can’t beat them, join them

Ed Lee
Sep 16, 2013

On September 4, Sony held a press conference in New York City to announce a multitude of new products for the fall season. Two of the more intriguing ones were the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-QX10 and QX100 lens-style cameras. These products are self-contained cameras with the exception of an LCD screen. Embedded in the lens are the image sensor, a battery, and a microSD slot. The devices connect to smartphones using Wi-Fi and then Sony’s PlayMemories Mobile app turns the phone’s LCD screen into a viewfinder.

Sony Cyber-shot QX10 and QX100 Lens-style Cameras

 

Users can then control the shutter release; start/ stop movie recordings; and adjust settings like shooting mode, zoom, and auto focus area. In addition, images and videos from the camera can be saved on the camera’s memory card or the phone to be shared instantly via social media or other mobile applications. The cameras can be clipped to a smartphone or used separately from the phone.

The DSC-QX10 houses an 18.2 megapixel sensor and a 10X optical zoom, and includes optical image stabilization. It weighs less than 4 ounces and measures 2.5 x 2.5 x1.3 inches. The QX10 costs $249 and is available in black or white. The DSC-QX100 is a premium product. It houses a 1.0-inch 20 megapixel sensor, which is identical to the sensor found in the Cyber-shot RX100 II camera; a Carl Zeiss lens; and a 3.6X optical zoom lens. At $499, the QX100 is targeted at photo enthusiasts.

InfoTrends’ Opinion

The concept of a lens camera is an intriguing one. Sony is not the first company to house an image sensor in a lens. Ricoh’s GRX series cameras have offered interchangeable slide-in mount lens units since 2009, and Polaroid previewed its version of a sensor in a lens camera, the iM1836 Android camera, at CES in January this year. Nevertheless, Sony appears to be the first to offer a self-contained unit that will still take a picture regardless if it is attached or tethered to a “camera body” or not. However, if users take a photo while untethered, they will not know exactly what the photo looks like until it is viewed on a screen.

The QX10 and QX100 are not without challenges. Sony is targeting mobile phone-centric users who are photo enthusiasts. While we believe that people who only own a phone are one of the prime target segments, our recent analysis The Photo-centric Phone Market Opportunity (available to DPT service clients only) shows that the market opportunity for photo hobbyists and family memory keepers who own a mobile phone and a digital camera is over seven-times and almost six-times larger, respectively. Sony should make sure that its marketing messages speak to all photo enthusiasts, regardless of whether or not they are using a digital camera.

It is good to see that camera vendors are adjusting their product designs to acknowledge the competition from smartphones. The opportunity for camera vendors lies in creating improvements to the smartphone photo experience. Sony may appear to be taking a big risk in marrying high-end camera technology with smartphones. When put in context of continued growth in smartphone shipments and significant declines in the digital camera market, however, this approach makes sense. Separating the camera from the phone allows consumers to have the best of both worlds: a camera with exceptional quality and a large viewfinder with instant sharing capabilities. We look forward to seeing more innovation in the cross-section between smartphones and conventional cameras.

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