I like taking pictures. And I require really good pictures, the sort I can print and frame if I ever want to. But when traveling, there is this aspect of space and weight. One thing that always for me takes a bit too much space is a great camera. A SLR shoots the best pictures (if you know how to use it), there is no denying that. But too often, I am not packing it when leaving the house, just because it’s rather clunky and also because I don’t always want to be instantly spotted as a tourist carrying a big camera bag that doesn’t fit my purse.
Even though phone cameras improved a lot over the last years, they aren’t good enough to be a solid alternative. Neither are compact digital cameras. I want pictures I can work with afterwards, yet I also like having my pictures on my phone to show them around, upload them to social media, etc. It used to be quite a trade-off. A couple of months ago, I found a great solution for myself. I am now using the Sony ILCE-QX1 as my travel camera.
A lens-style camera for your smartphone
The Sony QX1 fills the gab between SLR, digital point-and-shoot and phone cameras. It can equip different lenses, so it’s more like a bridge or genuine digital pocket camera. Yet – instead of mirrors- it only uses digital technology to process the pictures, so it’s not a SLR. Furthermore it uses the phone screen as a screen literally.
While it is already great to be able to use different lenses, the real speciality of this camera is the body. The camera body usually is the biggest and heaviest part of a camera. Sony just got rid of it. Instead of having a display and all the buttons for settings etc, the small body only has the battery and the ability to create a wifi or NFC network with a 5m radius. This network is used to connect your smartphone to the camera. With their app, you can connect to and access the camera; using your phone as screen. From there, you can take your pictures or access settings. All data is transferred from the camera to your screen and the other way around.
The pictures themselves can be saved in high quality up to .raw-format on the inserted SD card, but they also get immediately transferred to your phone in lower quality. Subsequently you end up with both; the real picture to work with on your laptop, and a good quality shot on your phone to post online and to show around instantly.
The camera is equipped with a flash for low light photography, which I honestly never have used so far. But it also a very good automatic mode, that even shoots great pictures at nighttime. The automatic mode uses serial pictures, HDR, face recognition and all the common features to get the best picture possible. You will find most common features in there, just like with any other Sony camera. If you want a more “hand-on” approach, it also offers manual control mechanism like on a DSLR. You can decide on the f-stop, shutter, focus and so on and the app allows you to easily change between options.
Using the camera
The camera comes with a mounting part for your smartphone, so you can easily attach the phone and use it just like a lightweight normal camera. You can then either use the screen to take the picture, or the shutter release on the camera itself.
But the real fun starts, when you also use the effects created by the wifi/NFC connection. You have a 5 meter radius around your camera. So just dismount it, take it in your hand, point it at you and take a great selfie. Or, even better, point it sideways and use it as a spy cam 😉 (Just please do respect the privacy of others always.)
But that’s not using the 5 meters to its full extent yet. Mount it on a tripod, walk away and take a shot from quite a distance, while still knowing exactly what the picture look like. It’s fun, it helps creating different styles of pictures and you won’t have to ask strangers for help anymore.
I have to admit, it’s not a perfect tool. The most obvious problem is, that you cannot take good snap shots fast. Whenever using the camera, you have to connect your phone with it and access the app. When walking around, I often leave the camera turned on and just lock the phone screen. But still, it will take a couple of seconds to reconnect and the snap-moment might already be gone by then. In these moments, I still use my normal phone camera.
When trying to work with manual focus, patience is needed, as it’s sometimes hard to see on the screen if an object actually is in focus or slightly out of it. The wifi signal doesn’t transmit fast enough sometimes. And then you will only see the perfect picture after using the shutter and having it transferred.
Also, it definitely drains your phone battery as you need your phone screen active whenever taking a picture.
One other side-feature that automatically comes with the camera: Almost everybody on the street will ask you about your camera. Be ready to explain what it is, how it works, and where to get it – always ;). It is definitely is a good conversation starter.
Interested? Check the travel camera here: