At IFA 2014, Sony is launching a couple of new mobile cameras called “lens-style camera” and the Sony QX1 ($399) is the high-end one. It features an astonishing 20.1 Megapixel APS-C sensor (the same size sensor as used in many big DSLR cameras) which is linked to a Sony BIONZ X image processor which will decode, process and enhance the images in real-time.
Among the benefit of this new hardware, users will be able to enjoy effects previously reserved to bigger cameras such as “Bokeh” (very nice blur on out of focus sections of the image) and low-light image quality. There are typically dependent on having a large lens, with a large sensor, and while smartphones can compensate for some of it by using computational photography techniques, there are physical limits that are not easy to work around.
The QX1 also has interchangeable lenses which use the Sony E-mount system, which means that Sony NEX camera lenses can be utilized at will. This is fantastic if you happen to have invested in those already. If not, that opens options that were previously not available.
Because of the high-quality image input, Sony has made it possible to capture images in both JPG and RAW format. RAW is convenient because it lets photographers shoot without having to worry too much about many settings, because the “raw” sensor data is captured, and you can correct exposure and white balance later on a computer. For instance, JPG captures 256 levels of light information for each red/green/blue pixel value. RAW can store as much as 16384 levels.
Raw is also uncompressed, so all the original sensor detail is present. On the contrary JPG is compressed, so there is a level of loss in fine details that cannot be recovered post-compression. The difference of course, is that JPG is usable right away if you want to share it, and JPG is also much smaller, thanks to its compression. The solution is to capture both files at the same time, and storage capacity is your only limit.
The QX1 is relatively small and light (158g), but it is getting a built-in Flash, and this is a feature that has been in high-demand according to Sony. This is most useful when a subject is posing in front of a relatively bright scene (think city street at night).
But since mobile photography still needs to be relatively spontaneous, Sony has integrated a Superior Auto which tweaks every settings for you. If you want to, it’s also possible pick one of 11 presets ranging from “Night Portrait” to “Backlight”. If you have used a Sony camera in the past, you should be familiar with the concept. If not, well, just point and shoot.