The smartphone and the point-and-shoot are not, by nature, natural companions. One takes better pictures than the other but has difficulty sharing them. The other takes less inspiring images, but can share them instantly. One is easy to leave at home by accident, and the other is in your pocket at all times.

Camera manufacturers have been trying for some time to make compact cameras more like smartphones by adding Wi-Fi connectivity, but no attempt to date has been quite as bold as Sony's latest effort: the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-QX100 and QX10 are sensor/lens modules designed explicitly for use with smartphones. Each unit contains a lens, sensor and processor and your smartphone provides the user interface.

With a shutter button and zoom toggle the QX100 and QX10 are able to operate as standalone cameras (albeit without an LCD or any way of checking composition) but they're designed to work in concert with a smartphone by way of Sony's PlayMemories Mobile app. Establish a connection between the devices, open up the app and your mobile device acts as the camera's LCD. Included with each unit is a mount that clamps to the backside of a smartphone.

The QX100 is the high-end model, and it's quite a step up: at its core are the best bits of the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II, based around the same 20MP 1-inch sensor and fast (at the wide end) Zeiss-branded zoom lens. The RX100 II's predecessor won a DPReview silver award when we reviewed it, and its excellent image quality was a major factor. In the RX100 II, Sony added a backside illuminated sensor to improve already good low-light performance, and our initial impressions of the updated model have been positive.

Sadly, although not surprisingly, the QX100 is a JPEG-only device. And not only is RAW mode unavailable, manual exposure control is limited too, to aperture priority and exposure compensation. There's no shutter priority mode here, nor fully manual (even though we can't see why there couldn't have been). HD video recording is available at 1440 x 1080 resolution, reduced from the standard 1920 x 1080 found in most compact cameras (including the RX100 II).

The RX100 II currently sells for $750; the QX100 has been introduced at $499.95. That's a sizable discount if you can live with the trimmed-down feature set.

Key specifications:

  • 20.2 effective megapixel 1.0" Exmor R BSI CMOS sensor
  • 28-100mm equivalent 3.6x optical zoom F1.8-4.9 lens
  • Limited manual control - aperture priority, auto and exposure compensation
  • Optical SteadyShot image stabilization
  • MicroSD card slot
  • NFC and Wi-Fi connectivity

Camera manufacturers are doing their best to make nice with mobile devices by adding Wi-Fi and NFC, but nobody has solved the dilemma yet. Sony's bold attempt with the QX100 isn't just to work with your smartphone, it's designed to become part of your smartphone. The QX100 aims to produce better photos and facilitate easier sharing, all from one device.