We’ve already had the opportunity to experience this concept when we reviewed Sony’s QX10. It seems that Sony’s new concept is the solution to the fall in sales of compact cameras. The sector has been affected by the improvements of tablet’s and cellphone’s cameras, let alone the advances in image processing, which makes it possible to take pictures with similar quality (or in some cases superior quality) to compact cameras.
Sony’s concept consists in connecting an extra camera to the smartphone, making it possible to improve the image quality. Despite the fact there are a lot of people who consider the QX30 as a smartphone add-on, truth is it’s much more than that— i.e., it’s a real, fully operational camera. The smartphone is nothing but the interface you use to control the camera, look at the pictures, and share them with your friends.
If we take a look at the history of QX cameras, we’ll see that this serie is a success, since Sony already released two new models after the first one of the came out.
Sony QX-30 is built with a 11/2.3 CMOS sensor and 20.4 millons pixels. The 30x zoom takes high quality pictures, even when the object is far away from the camera.
It’s made to be used with or without a smartphone
It’s possible to use the QX30 in two different ways, since Sony doesn’t force you to use it with a cell phone. However, it’s recommended to be used with a cell phone in order to get pictures with high resolution.
First of all, and this is perhaps the commonest way of using this camera, one will attach the QX30 to a smartphone or tablet. The camera and the mobile device are connected via wireless, which means the internet may become unavailable when you are using the QX30 if you’re connected to the internet via wireless at the moment. To pair the devices you have to get them close to each other, so the NFC can start working, and then you follow the steps which are displayed on the screen. When you use it for the first time you have to install the Sony’s app PlayMemories, since all communication between devices is made possible thanks to the app. On the app you can set up the camera, observe what is being photographed, monitor the camera, and see the photos later. The QX30 is still fully compatible with your device, even if you don’t have NFC installed on it. After installing the PlayMemories you will have to read your camera’s manual in order to find out the wireless password your camera generated.
Once you have the camera and mobile device synchronized, you have two options: save the photos on the cell or tablet (which will be transferred via wireless) or saved in the microSD card. If you want to shoot a movie, you have to make use of the microSD card, since this is the only way you can use the camera on this module.
However, it’s possible to use the camera without a mobile device connected to it. Insofar as the camera is the responsible for the image processing, all we need is to have a memory card in it, and then press the button to record a movie or to shoot a photograph. Nonetheless there’s an issue when using the camera this way: we cannot see what we are filming or photographing, since there isn’t any screen or viewfinder on the device.
Design and Ergonomics
The QX30 is significantly bigger than the Sony QX10. For example, it’s impossible to put it in the pocket, and it’s quite difficult to hold it with just one hand while you handle the phone with the other. It is so because of the size of the 30x zoom mechanism.
As on the QX10, it is possible to clip the camera to the cell phone, making it much simpler to handle the device. However, it doesn’t work with all kinds of equipment, in some cases not even with Sony’s, since the clips can only hold 76mm-width devices at the most. For example, the LG G4 is on the limit line, while the T2Ultra exceeds it.
When it’s not possible to attach the cell phone to the camera, one can always use a tripod to stabilize it when taking pictures.
Despite being possible to control the camera through PlayMemories, even so the camera has a few buttons. Besides the on/off button, there are also two other ones: one controls the shutter and the other is responsible for the zoom in and out. Even if it’s possible to use the app to control the camera, the truth is, it is better to use these buttons, especially because it’s much faster to operate the camera this way than using the app. We’ll talk more about this later.
We’ve already explained how the connection between devices is made, and all we can say that NFC is a very interesting, simple, and easy solution. However, it’s not perfect.More than once we had problems in connecting the camera to the cell phone/tablet due to connectivity issues. The only solution we could come up with while testing the camera with different devices was to disconnect the camera and then reestablish the connection.
Using the camera can be a bit frustrating if you operate making use of smartphone and PlayMemories . There’s a lag between the instant the picture is taken and its being displayed on the screen, since the whole process is done via wireless connection. However, this is not the only problem. The real problem is that the lag also affects other actions as shooting a picture or zooming the camera. And this is a problem when you are trying to take a picture of something which moves fast. My advice to situations like this is, disconnect the camera from the smartphone; use the buttons on the camera, checking out the picture on the camera’s screen. It’s true that the camera is bit a too slow, but it’s guaranteed that when you shoot a picture or zoom in, it’ll respond immediately.
If the user has some advanced knowledge in photography, he can use the PlayMemories options to improve his photos, since it’s made available some advanced set-ups which make it possible to choose the time of exposure, the aperture, or the ISO. You just need to press the configuration bar, slide it to the intended position, and then take pictures. The autofocus is simple to use; all you need to do is to touch where you want to focus, and then the QX30 take care of rest.
However, PlayMemories is very a limited app for the more creative photographers, since it does not have digital photographic filters (as Instagram does) or even a panoramic mode.
And so far it’s not possible to use the QX30 with other apps. This can be frustrating for those who want to share their pictures on Instagram or Facebook. That means that every single time you decide to share a picture, you need to open the PlayMemories, take the picture, and only then go to Instagram to share the image.
When the words Sony and Photograph are mentioned, we already know what comes to mind. Usually Sony does not make mistakes on this area, manufacturing cameras, smartphones, and tablets that take high-quality photos. Besides that, having good cameras on mobile devices is one of the things Sony has valued lately, and the XperiaZ3 proves it.
That does not change with QX30. The photograph colors taken with the QX30 are bright and shining, and the images show great detail, even when zoomed in. Of course, if you take pictures in a poorly lit environment, there will be some noise on it.
The automatic white balance settings works pretty well, and handle well mixed or artificial lights. However, if you notice that the camera is struggling to get the right colors, you can easily adjust the white balance manually, assuring it will fit better the light conditions you have in hands.
As mentioned before, taking pictures is a slow process when you are using the app, wich can affect the pictures quality, especially if the object is moving. The focusing time is very high in poorly lit environments, and it slows down the process even more.
The zoom performance is incredible, and it takes exceptional zoomed photos. Thanks to the image stabilizer, even using the zoom to its limit, the pictures are incredible and without any noise. See a few examples in photo gallery:
The images above are redimensioned. If you want to see the pictures in their original size, go to this place:
When comes to battery, QX30 has a good battery autonomy. More than 100 photos were taken and the battery meter still indicated full charge. However, the cell’s battery does not last for too long, since it’s on at all times, transferring images via wireless to the camera.
Despite QX models seem to be the future of camera market, they are not free from big problems. No doubt, the improvement in image quality over the regular smartphone cameras is a strong argument in favor of QX30, especially when the zoom comes to equation.
However, there are problems that we should mention. Firstly, this is not a camera for quick photos, i. e., it’s not for those moments somebody wants to grab his cell phone, point to scene, and take a picture. That’s not possible withQX30, since you need to turn the camera on, start the app on the cell phone, and connect it to the device. And during the whole photographing process, you have to deal with constant connection issues, which are more frequent than it should be.
Another problem is the camera size. It’s too big to carry in the pocket, and too big to attach to the cell phone. However, that’s not bad for someone who wants high-quality pictures and a powerful zoom.
- 30x Optical Zoom
- Image Quality
- It’s too big
- Flaws in the camera/device connection
- Delay between the camera/mobile device connections slows down camera’s readiness for action
Note: Review made by João Mateus in android-emotions.pt and translated by Anderson Antunes