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Sony's Leaked Cameraphone Clip-On Lens Confounds

By Norman Chan

What the what.

We can't judge a product before actually using it, but I'm struggling to wrap my head around the logic of these Sony smartphone lens accessories that just leaked on SonyAlphaRumors. Dubbed "lens-cameras," this appears to be a new line of accessories for smartphone users who want to take dedicated-camera-quality photos with their phones. But unlike Samsung's Galaxy Camera approach of putting a bigger camera sensor and high-quality lens on a smartphone form factor (and running Android on it), this isn's a so-called smart camera. According to leaked details, the DSC-QX10 and DSC-QX100 accessories are self-contained lens and sensor units, complete with its own image processor, battery, and even SD card slot. That means they have all the hardware of a dedicated point and shoot, minus an LCD display.

And that's where your smartphone comes in. These accessories will reportedly attach to smartphones with a magnetic connection, and connect to the an app on the phone over Wi-Fi or NFC.

The leak reveals two models--one with the same 20MP sensor (1-inch size) and Carl Zeiss lens as the highly-regarded RX100 Mk II point and shoot, which alone retails for $750. The second lens-camera reportedly will use a 18MP 1/2.3-inch sensor and a lens with 10x optical zoom. No details about pricing or availability, however, nor is there any information about what phones (iOS support would be surprising) or software will be compatible with these accessories.

While the sensors and lenses on these lens-cameras look like they'll dwarf the photo capabilities on existing smartphones, if the pricing is comparable to a dedicated point-and-shoot, I don't know why someone wouldn't just buy a camera like the RX100. From a smartphone user's perspective, these accessories look too bulky to carry around at all times, defeating the purpose of having a smartphone camera at the ready for any occasion. From the point-and-shoot user's perspective, requiring a smartphone to operate these sensor-lenses detracts from advantages offered by a dedicated shooter--durability and reliability. This just doesn't look like a device with mass market appeal, but I'm happy to be proven wrong.