Ready to shoot via Wi-Fi from a smartphone,
Sony QX cameras are shaped
like interchangeable lenses.
They may defy traditional
notions of cameras,
but behind the novelty lies quite
a solid product concept.
Now that smartphones have made photo-sharing so enjoyable, people are shooting more than ever. Although smartphone cameras are also more advanced than ever, they can’t quite match the performance of dedicated cameras in zooming or low light. Isn’t it time for a new category—cameras designed to be used with smartphones? This thinking inspired several ideas at Sony. As we explored them, we found ourselves diverging from traditional camera shapes, on a path never taken in camera design.
To say the format would be innovative was an understatement. This product had never existed before. How would this kind of smartphone companion be used? We had to imagine everyday scenes. Designers participated from the planning stage by turning our thoughts about the user experience into concrete images. Soon, we were considering scenes with people shooting on trips, at cafés, and at parties, as we 3D-printed mock-ups and discussed what format would suit these real-world situations. Ultimately, the most compelling form for the camera resembled a kind of interchangeable lens for smartphones. People would intuitively want to attach a lens-shaped camera to their phone, and immediately knowing how to use this new product was important to us.
Another task remained—deciding how this cylindrical, lens-like body should attach to phones. Smartphones come in all shapes and sizes. A square mount or big clips would help it fit many phones but would stick out awkwardly from the round camera body. A mount that didn’t match the cylindrical camera would undermine the image we sought. Through trial and error and many refinements to the attachment mechanism, we perfected a cylindrical mount that forms a lens-like shape with the camera.
The QX series may be a revolutionary format, but it also pays homage to classic camera styling. We made sure the camera gave the right impression—that it’s capable of great shots—by applying considerable expertise in lens design. Knowing that the slightest difference in reflections on the lens radically alters the lens appearance, we made adjustments on a level of hundredths of a millimeter. The smooth lens surfaces recall high-quality Sony G and Carl Zeiss lenses. And to avoid complexity next to the straightforward shape of smartphones, we eliminated any needless structural elements. In this shape so closely resembling a camera lens, lens quality is clear.
On a smartphone, the camera should seem natural to use for those familiar with SLRs. This goal revealed the most convenient positions for buttons when you’re holding the camera to shoot. You may also notice a resemblance to SLRs in the position of the Sony logo, atop the mount where a pentaprism would be. We even sought a sleek-looking format on the go, so the folding mount merges seamlessly with the compact, cylindrical camera body. The lens-style camera twists on and off the mount, just as interchangeable lenses are used with SLRs. In this way, the design is quite practical and reminiscent of SLR design in many details.