Sony QX10 hands-on: Give your smartphone 10x optical zoom

It's fair to say that everyone knew Sony had something special lined up for the IFA 2013 reveal and for those interested in better smartphone photography, the new lens-style cameras are pretty special. Well, they're unique and a sign that Sony is still prepared to try something new and we're always in favour of that.

The Sony QX10 is the smaller of the two new lens-style cameras. Where the QX100 offers a 1-inch, 20-megapixel sensor with a Zeiss lens, the QX10 is a smaller 1/2.3 type sensor, the sort of thing you'd find in a typical travel zoom compact camera.

READ: Sony QX100 pictures and hands-on

That's because, basically, it's a Sony Cyber-shot WX200, but without the body. The Sony G lens glass and sensor stays, while the rest is ditched, apart from those essentials needed to connect this lens to the smartphone controlling it, and the memory and battery that power it.

The big sell of the QX10 is the 10x optical zoom, along with optical image stabilisation. This practically gets around the ills of digital zoom, by giving you a lens that can do it properly, without the typical loss of quality that digital zoom brings.

We got the chance to play with a prototype of the Sony QX10 and the QX100 before their announcement, although we weren't able to take away any images for closer examination: that will come in the full review as soon as we can.

However, we did get to sample the connection and attachment process. The wireless connection is simply a case of tapping your NFC-enabled device against the QX10 to trigger connection. The Sony PlayMemories Mobile app then swings in to take over control of the lens accessory. The app is available for Android, iOS and Kindle, so you'll be able to use a range of devices with the QX10.

As for attachment, the QX10 comes with a mounting bracket. This will attach to your smartphone, supporting devices up to 13mm thick and with a width between 54 and 75mm, so will accommodate phablets and some tablets too.

This mount can be left on your device, ready to accept the lens when you want to attach it, at which point you effectively have a compact camera, with the smartphone providing all the settings and controls.

This arrangement means you can easily separate the two components too, and as the QX10 is connected wirelessly, it doesn't have to be physically attached to use it. That makes it ideal for using remotely, perhaps for setting up shots in tight spaces, or triggering capture remotely.

There's a battery and a microSD card packed into the QX10, along with a zoom toggle and shutter button on the barrel of the lens for independent use. 

With a compact camera sensor and proper lens at its heart, we'd expect the performance to be better than your average smartphone, but the real sell is that zoom: head to the zoo, or that BBQ, and you'll be able to get closer to the action with ease. 

While the QX100, the more expensive of the lens-style cameras pair, will put quite a bulge in your pocket, the slimmer and cheaper Sony QX10 is probably small enough to slip into a jacket pocket without really noticing it. 

Priced at £179, it's a fairly hefty price tag, but it will effectively replace your compact camera entirely. We like the bold moves from Sony, but we'll need to live with it for a while before we decide whether it's the solution we really want.