Sony Releases Stand-Alone Imager


Less than one month ago I predicted that eventually DSLR's as we know them will disappear, and instead you will buy lenses with the imaging chip (CMOS) built right in to the back of the lens.  Then you will only attach a simple body to it that gives you IO and a viewing monitor.  This is because CMOS chips are constantly coming down in price, but the really important part, the glass, will always be expensive.

This is an interesting idea for us because it will allow us to lift only the imager section, without carrying the weight of the DLSR body, which will cut in half the weight of a quality imager.

Well, it is already starting.  Sony have just released the QX10 and the QX100.  Both are basically intended as high(er) quality imagers, for use with your existing smart phone. They sort of clip on front of the phone, and you use the smart phone as the IO system.  They can apparently operate independently as well.

The QX100 is particularly interesting, because it weighs only 179g, but gives you a 1" CMOS chip, along with some decent quality glass.  Pretty amazing.  You can imagine building a nice little brushless gimbal around this thing and have a pretty nice setup for only about twice the weight of a GoPro.

However, I must say that I am quite disappointed in some of the specs.  Sony seem to have dumbed down performance, particularly video, as it's only capable of 1440x1080 at 30 FPS whereas the RX100 which uses the same chip can do 1920x1080 at 60FPS.

But still, this is a very interesting development for aerial photography.

Otherwise, I imagine this will be a market flop as it doesn't really make a lot of sense.  It's 2/3rd's the price of an RX100, but doesn't have the same performance or features (limited manual control). Every time you want to use it, you have to pull it out of your pocket, attach it to your camera, flip to the camera app...  Meanwhile somebody with a stand alone camera could have turned it on and snapped several pics already.


Maybe the QX10 is actually a more interesting candidate for aerial photography.  The lens and imager on this is the same as Sony's mid-range point and shoots.  In reality, the image quality is quite good.  And at 105g, it's only slightly heavier than a GoPro.  You could mount this on any tiny quad, and get pretty good photos and video. (no GoPro fisheye!!!).  It also has optical image stabilization.  

I'm not sure this will be a home run product either.  But both units are signs of more interesting things to come in this market.

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  • Problem with the QX30 as I see it, is that lens.  It's a high zoom lens, and sacrifices speed.  Maximum aperture is only f3.5, which in my experience is not good enough.  f2.0 is almost a requirement for me.  

  • The QX 10 is probably not the best choice because of reduced functionality (no shutter speed priority). The QX 30 is a good candidate. I must admit at this stage i am more impressed with the quality of images from a A2500 Canon. We are using the Spark Core microcontroller with WiFi to trigger the camera when a signal is received from the pixhawk. The trigger works fine but now we are just trying to get decent images. Shutter priority is definately a must and the QX10 does not have it. There may be a work around but we are using the QX30 

  • I don't really have room to speak, because I use a cheap camera on a cheap quad. For what I want to do, it works. I dislike the idea of building and flying a large quad/hex/octo with a dslr onboard. Too much money. Too much weight. Too high of stakes for me. I think there is a future for small lightweight quad/camera setups. Something smaller than a Phantom even, evetually. With the race for better camera phones, we are seeing higher quality sensors and optics in smaller forms. This is a good thing. Much like photography, there will always be higher end gear, and some will go that route. But, for many, a point-and-shoot version of a quadcopter will be good enough. I think something like this system could be a good start down that road.
  • Developer

    @Randy there is new api from sony

  • I actually work for Sony, and obviously being a Sony Fan, I cant wait to get my hands on a sample...imagine a full frame version!

    If this takes off as its market are Smartphones....then the future will be bright!

  • what camera do you recommend today. I find the go pro nice but really subject to rolling shutter.

    while my sony DSC20HV is super nice with a good zoom but get jammed because of sand!



  • Maybe a bit too harsh, after all Sonys market is primarily consumer cameras and these are specialty items and that QX100 looks very pro with Zeiss written all over it and a nice heavy duty looking aluminum body.

    There are probably some legitimate applications for it, but kind of hard to see what they are from these two examples.

    I would guess that a whole range of cameras that are designed to use your Nexus or IPhone as the viewfinder will start coming out and these are just the first out of the gate for the early adopter.

    And possibly these are suitable for aerial phoitography if not videography.

    There will likely be ones more suited or adaptable to our uses that will be lighter and higher performance.

    One of the things I really like about GoPro is that the high resolution sensor they use allows them to have 3 different no loss zoom levels at 1080P without having to have an optical mechanical zoom.

    One of the things I would really like to see on the GoPro is the ability to change the main lens.

    And I do know about the little horribly over priced re-manufactured GoPro that is basically a really pro looking aluminum box that permits this and that isn't it.

    In any case better sensors and better lens's are bound to be good things and over the next few years there should be plenty to choose from.


  • Developer

    I wonder what kind of api the camera has, maybe LANC?  Certainly one of the next steps that will happen is closer interaction between the flight controller and the camera.  There's is already this wiki page for a somewhat hack-ish method to get the APM to control a canon.  It's a first step I think and tighter, more elegant interaction is in all of our futures.

  • Well, hang on a second... before we get TOO critical.

    I have a Sony WX10, which has similar optics and chip as the QX10 will have.  It takes very nice photos.  It got to the point where I was using it all the time instead of my Canon 350D, because the picture quality difference was pretty small, and the WX10 is just so convenient to slip in a pocket.  

    And the QX100 is the same lens and chip as the RX100, which has received quite an enthusiastic response from other pocket camera fans.  It's really excellent.  

    So nowhere did I suggest that *these* will replace DSLR's.  They're not that good.  But they could be very interesting for lightweight AP cameras.  Not only are they light weight, but the form factor is very very nice.  It's much easier to build a nice stiff gimbal for something like this than it is a square camera.  

    The multi-function jack is interesting too.  I wonder if that is the same as on my WX10.  It's a USB/AV out jack.  If so, it leaves only two serious bummers for me.  1) do we have to actuate the servo with a shutter?  And 2) the video quality.  I don't think I'd be shooting RAW anyway. So that's not a problem for me.

    How much is that Ricoh?

  • Hi Robert,

    These are "nice", but dumbed down and sub-performing, apparently as Robert intimates, on purpose.

    I guess they represent tentative entries into a market by Giant Corporations looking more for an excuse to drop the whole thing than a major success. 

    Sort of like IBM moving the whole PC team to Boca Raton to get rid of them so they could get on with the business of building "real" computers.

    In the end, little bluetooth high performance sub miniature video cameras with really high performance are bound to be everwhere.

    In the meantime we have these high quality but second rate and over priced entries to look at.

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